String “theory” versus physical facts (updated)

Update: First, Professor Clifford Johnson on his blog Asymptotia has recently (4 Sept.) commented in response to a science writer on his blog in part that:

I’m not sure that you really appreciate just how incredibly severe the problem of women and minorities in physics actually is. …

The problem is expressed in the same thread on his blog, where Clifford makes statements about Louise’s and then Kea’s physics research as follows:

‘In fact, we’ve had very long discussions here about your [Louise's] approach to general relativity to “derive” a varying speed of light - an approach which is fundamentally flawed. Why do you find it so easy to simply claim that your being picked on because you’re a woman? Your physics arguments are flawed, and you insist on coming in every time there is a discussion on aspects of cosmology and simply interjecting into the conversation that we’re all wrong because we’re ignoring your idea. An idea that has been debated many times and found wanting. So far. Maybe in the future you will find wonderful new arguments that will prove us wrong. Great. Right now however, you’re treated on the basis of your arguments.  …

‘As I’ve said to both of you before – extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you make a strong claim, back it up with more than vague suggestions, sloppy reasoning, manifestly wrong interpretations of physical principles, and now, accusations that the person you are arguing with is sexist.’

The varying speed of light solution is just one possibility from Louise’s equation, as explained previously here and in other posts on gravity on this blog, but that doesn’t mean that her equation is wrong: that’s just one possible solution, and another one exists!  There is no substance, no physics, in what Clifford is writing: he is not judging women on the basis of their arguments; he is rather ignoring the physics and pretending it doesn’t exist, then making up justified statements about the harm that nonsense hype does in physics circles, which would be justified if it was attacking the major source of trouble (string theory) but is inexcusible when fired at minorities.  He doesn’t use facts to dismiss them, he just claims vaguely that other ideas have been debated and found wanting.  Debated where?  In what way?  Found wanting by whom?  By someone who hasn’t bothered to read it and check it carefully?  In that case, so what!  Science is based on experimental evidence: no theory is substantiated without it.  Theories either need to be based on empirical facts (experimental or observational data from the world) and then continually checked for extrapolation errors, or if based on guesses instead they must make checkable predictions that can be validated in the real world.  This includes string theory, Clifford’s area of research.  Then he denies hypocrisy, and claims ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’  Well, first apply that to string theory, Clifford, ridicule it as nonsense and ‘wanting’ speculative ‘manifestly wrong interpretations’ (10/11 dimensions etc.) which doesn’t deserve any attention until it is shown to agree with nature, and then we’ll know you are being fair.  Otherwise it’s clearly a case of double-standards.

Clifford in this case has totally misinterpreted what others are saying, and then he has in fcat just denounced his own misinterpretation, but done so using language which misleads the reader into thinking that he actually has solid scientific reasons to dismiss the work of others.  When I added an update to this post I thought he had written what he did in error in a hurry, but since then he has written more of the same.  It makes me very angry to see physically false, harmful remarks, although since Clifford, a physics professor, is normally by far the most courteous and friendly string theorist there is, it turns out that little that can be done about it beyond complaining here.  Some things cannot be resolved by rational argument, because one side is so prejudiced it ignores the empirical evidence and drowns out discussion with its speculation.

I agree with Clifford that there are ‘incredibly severe’ problems for ‘women and minorities’ in physics; however as I see it, the women and the minorities with the incredibly severe problems are those tackling prejudice arising from mainstream string theory, not those doing it.

I’ve written elsewhere about my severe problems with prejudice which resulted from merely a simple hearing problem as a kid; it affected my speech and slowed down my learning.  I just couldn’t communicate by sound properly: I could only hear low frequencies and that meant that I couldn’t understand many words spoken (regardless of how much people shouted them), and when I copied sounds I heard, the results sounded moronic (not the way other people speak).  It’s just laziness on the part of the teachers and doctors not to diagnose and correct this sort of thing for years.  I was about 10 before the hearing problem was completely sorted out and the speech problems persisted for years after that.  Before then, teachers were suggesting I’d be better off in a school for mental retards, without bothering to try first establish the solid facts.  (String theorists now treat me the same way, so in a sense at least I can tell – through bitter experience – when people are just pandering to prejudices, and are not basing their statements upon solid facts.)  By the time you are able to really get going after that sort of abuse, you are many years behind the others, and as a result the new school teachers you meet automatically deduce that you are a retard or whatever just from taking a one second glance at your latest exam results.  You also get an enormous amount of ignorant, verbal abuse from bigoted people who don’t want to do what they are paid to do, i.e., who refuse to find out the facts before they arriving at their conclusions; not to mention that from other kids on their own or in gangs who are not exactly friendly towards minorities of any type, e.g. those who can’t speak properly.  My experiences with the type of bigotry expressed by school kids and teachers is exactly the same as that I’ve had with physics later in life; many people may develop better acting (‘social’) skills as they age, but then it gets down to facts that disagree with prevailing fashions, you end up with the same childish ham-fisted insults and tantrums from most people who make out that they are ever-so-brilliant because they can shout down or insult other people.  It’s the same as you see from dictators, elected politicians, et al.  They think everyone else is stupid (although they may put on a nice act for the cameras and pretend otherwise to get votes) and they enforce their crazy ideas by ignoring the facts, by using sheer force of attack and abusing their powers, not by factual evidence that we can all check and confirm.

So I agree there are problems for minorities in physics.  I just think Clifford, Lubos, and other people might care to check that their bomb-sights are set on the best possible targets …

My second brief update concerns Peter Woit who together with Lee Smolin has written a book about string theory being a failure.  The latest offering from Woit’s blog explains why PhD’s like himself (Peter Woit) and Lee Smolin have not gone far enough in trying to get people to see why string theory is a failure: they don’t make a convincing enough case to appeal to the editor of The News of the World or indeed Physics World.  Instead, they write popular books dissertations, not lucid one-sentence summaries that the average string person can recall.

String theory fails at a vast number of scientific levels (beyond the very fanciful nature of string which is supposed to have zero spatial width, and extra dimensions):

  • It isn’t entirely based on empirical evidence; instead, it includes speculations
  • It can’t make falsifiable predictions because of the vagueness of the landscape of 10^500 metastable vacua (or more) it predicts.
  • In principle, to get falsifiable predictions about particle physics requires a knowledge of a hundred moduli describing the parameters of 6 postulated spatial extra dimensions assumed to be manifested at the Planck scale.  You can’t do this experimentally (the particle accelerator would need to be the size of the solar system).  Nor can you get this data by working backward from observed physics, because the landscape doesn’t necessarily have just one point for each set of parameters which correspond to existing physics data (particle masses, interaction couplings, etc.).  There could be many different sets of moduli (i.e., another landscape) describing a Calabi-Yau manifold which all fit the existing Standard Model, but which all give slightly different alternative predictions.  After all, the existing string theory landscape contains somewhere between 10^500 and infinity models, so it is quite conceivable that even if you could solve the mathematical problem of identifying all the models in the landscape which fit existing physics, you won’t get 1 result.  More likely (I have specific reasons for arguing this which I’ll discuss below), you will get either zero or a great many results (another landscape).  Hence, the anthropic principle idea that you can solve the string theory landscape problem by simply selecting from the landscape of 10^500 solutions ‘the one’ which corresponds to the real world, then identify the moduli of that ‘one’ and then use that data as input to make falsifiable predictions about additional (so far unobserved) physics, is probably false.  The reason why the number of ‘correct’ string theory moduli is likely to be zero is explained in the previous post: the whole approach of string is missing the physical dynamics, which contradict the speculative assumptions of string theory.  The reason why a great number of false ad hoc models may arise from string theory is that the landscape of solutions is simply so vast that it is statistically not likely to only contain precisely one model that fits the physics data to the accuracy levels we have already.  If it works at all (and it might not, hence the possibility of zero fits), it is more likely to have a great number of vacua fits than just one.  Each of these will predict different additional physics, making different predictions.  If the number of predictions and the range of predictions is great, then it’s not an impressive or useful prediction; certainly it is not falsifiable.  If you gamble both that a coin will land heads than that it will land tails, you’re not doing impressive guessing, let alone impressive physics.  Ptolemy’s ad hoc epicycle system of an earth-centred world could ‘predict’ the planetary motions accurately in its time.  So what.
  • Even if, against mathematical difficulties way bigger than Dr Witten can even dream about, you can identify a single set of string moduli for the Calabi-Yau manifold which agree with the existing physics data entirely and which make additional predictions, it is still just a mathematical model that is not built on facts, so you can never accept it as being fact: it must eternally be checked for fear it will turn out false in the next round of tests (like Ptolemy’s model).
  • All this concentration on string detracts attention from extremely different alternative ideas which are based on facts.  Smolin shows that the Einstein field equation can be given by a path integral which is in effect the summation of lots of individual interaction graphs in the spin network: this is the ‘Loop Quantum Gravity’ approach. This needs to be rebuilt more simply: the physical exchange of gauge boson radiation is a simple interaction and summing all individual exchanges gives quantum field theory, including quantum gravity.

***(End of 4th Sept. update as amended slightly on 17 Oct.) ***

When war was declared in September 1939, the King of England made a statement about the justice in fighting the enemy’s ‘primitive doctrine that might is right.’

But there was a weak point in his argument: never mind dictatorships, even in any democracy, might is right (the mob with the biggest number of votes behind it becomes the elected government).

So what attracted me into science was that, by contrast to groupthink rubbish which is the basis of fascism and communism, the basis of fashions, the basis of politics generally, and the basis of religious bigotry and so on, science is supposedly above groupthink, above fashion, above fascism, above gentlemen’s clubs and old school ties, above all that political abuse, and instead is based on natural facts.  In science, any groupthink or ‘speculative consensus of experts’ is treated in a different way to solid empirically confirmed facts:

‘Science is the organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion.’ – R. P. Feynman (quoted by Smolin, TTWP, 2006, p. 307).

‘Science is the belief in the ignorance of [the speculative consensus of] experts.’ – R. P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, 1999, p187.

Has quantum gravity been tested?

Check out the publication in 1996 of the proof that quantum gravity requires an accelerating universe, and the fact was observationally confirmed in 1998 when this acceleration – unfortunately accompanied by unhelpful speculative interpretations in terms of the mainstream orothodoxy – was discovered by Perlmutter et al.:

Galaxy recession velocity: v = dR/dt = HR.

Acceleration: a = dv/dt = d(HR)/dt = H.dR/dt = Hv = H(HR) = RH2 so: 0 < a < 6*10-10 ms-2. Outward force: F = ma.

Newton’s 3rd law predicts equal inward force: F = -F.

But non-receding nearby masses don’t give any reaction force, so they cause an asymmetry, producing gravity. It predicts particle physics and cosmology. In 1996 it predicted the lack of deceleration at large redshifts.

All this was inspired by the first atomic bomb’s implosion assembly: TNT surrounds a plutonium core. The TNT is exploded. Half the force of the explosion initially goes outward, and by Newton’s 3rd law, half the force goes inward.  (Pressure is force divided by area acted upon by the force.) The inward half of the force creates an implosion wave. Due to general secrecy and ignorance of elementary physics, many popular books on the subject claim that the TNT implosion wave just burns inward, which is false. Actually, although you can focus any detonation wave (like a shock wave), Newton’s 3rd law is not violated and the TNT does act outward (against the outer bomb case, etc.) while burning inward. This kind of simple physical mechanism is totally at odds with the kind of exceedingly advanced mathematical physics being done by virtually everyone who is claiming to be a serious researcher on quantum gravity.

Update 17 Nov. 2007: I wrote some articles in Electronics World about Ivor Catt, e.g., http://www.ivorcatt.com/3ew.htm and have met him several times since 1996. My comments on his work and particularly that of his co-authors Malcolm F. Davidson, David S. Walton, and Michael Gibson (parts of which are significant for understanding the physical mechanism for the gauge/vector bosons of electromagnetic fields in quantum field theory) are in my several of blog posts like https://nige.wordpress.com/2007/06/20/the-mathematical-errors-in-the-standard-model-of-particle-physics/ and https://nige.wordpress.com/2007/04/05/are-there-hidden-costs-of-bad-science-in-string-theory/ . Ivor is now in intensive care at the Watford general hospital (he has been there since 6 Oct., i.e. about 6 weeks).

Notice that my work treats U(1)/QED electromagnetic gauge/vector bosons as composites. So in place of the one massless uncharged photon of U(1) there are really two charged massless photons which give electromagnetism, while an uncharged massless spin-1 photon (not spin-2) is the “graviton”.  E.g., the exchange of gauge bosons between charges A and B means that charge A is transmitting radiation to charge B while charge B is transmitting radiation to charge A. The overlap cancels the magnetic field vectors (curls) that result when charged radiation propagates. You cannot send an electrically charged, massless particle from point A to point B unless the magnetic field (with its associated infinite self-inductance) is cancelled. Yang-Mills radiation ensures that this problem never arises, because the magnetic field of electrically charged radiation going from A to B is automatically cancelled by the magnetic field of the similarly charged exchange radiation which is going the other way, i.e., from B to A.

This subtle point is overlooked by mainstream theorists who concentrate on abstract mathematical models and don’t give a damn about the physical mechanism of the exchange radiation, how forces result physically, etc.

Nobody (myself included) will start any progress in science by focussing physicists’ attention on the facts because of such deceptions as mainstream hyped ‘string theory’:

‘For the last eighteen years particle theory has been dominated by a single approach to the unification of the Standard Model interactions and quantum gravity. This line of thought has hardened into a new orthodoxy that postulates an unknown fundamental supersymmetric theory involving strings and other degrees of freedom with characteristic scale around the Planck length. … It is a striking fact that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for this complex and unattractive conjectural theory. There is not even a serious proposal for what the dynamics of the fundamental ‘M-theory’ is supposed to be or any reason at all to believe that its dynamics would produce a vacuum state with the desired properties. The sole argument generally given to justify this picture of the world is that perturbative string theories have a massless spin two mode and thus could provide an explanation of gravity, if one ever managed to find an underlying theory for which perturbative string theory is the perturbative expansion.’ – P. Woit, Quantum Field Theory and Representation Theory: A Sketch (2002), pp51-52.

‘String theory has the remarkable property of predicting gravity.’ – E. Witten (M-theory originator), Physics Today, April 1996.

‘50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.’ – J. Baez (crackpot Index originator), comment about crackpot mainstream string ‘theorists’ on the Not Even Wrong weblog here.

‘It has been said that more than 200 theories of gravitation have been put forward; but the most plausible of these have all had the defect that they lead nowhere and admit of no experimental test.’ – Sir Arthur Eddington, Space Time and Gravitation, Cambridge University Press, 1921, p64. (Here is a link to checkable quantum gravity framework which made published predictions in 1996 which were confirmed by observations in 1998, but censored out due to the immensely loud noise generators in vacuous string theory.).

Last October (2006), I highlighted the crazy pro-string ‘theory’ propaganda coming from the then Assistant Professor of Physics at Harvard University, Dr Lubos Motl.  I also launched an internet domain against mainstream string groupthink, called http://quantumfieldtheory.org/.  Since then, Dr Motl has returned to the Czech Republic.  But fortunately, he is still representing the arrogance and ignorance of mainstream physicists on his blog:

‘Can we imagine that special relativity is not exactly true? Even though it looks like returning before 1905, the answer is: Yes, of course, we can. Just add the small symmetry-breaking corrections. Can these hypothetical corrections be associated with other physical phenomena? Maybe. If they’re associated e.g. with the quantum gravity scale, you may obtain an order-of-magnitude estimate how large these violations should be.

‘… Smolin’s implicit assertion that he has done something important in the context of Lorentz violation is a lie. … the statement that “doubly special relativity” can give some constraints on physical theories that are somewhere in between broken and unbroken Lorentz invariance is mathematically flawed. There doesn’t exist any set of conditions restricting a theory that would be somewhere in between. A theory is either Lorentz-invariant or not. Everything else that you can read in the media is a result of sloppy maths or an attempt to confuse the public (and sometimes the authors themselves).

[Lubos' assertion that you can't have a theory which is Lorentz invariant on large scales and not Lorentz invariant on small scales because such a theory would be somehow 'mathematically flawed' is wrong.  Of course, if the Lorentz invariance is due to a physical mechanism - namely, the effects of pressure from gauge boson gravitational field exchange radiation in the vacuum upon moving matter (contracting it physically in the direction of motion, etc.) - then it is quite possible that the Lorentz contraction will break down on the size scale of the vacuum grain size.  This is not a 'mathematical flaw' but a flaw in the existing use of mathematics to model the physical situation.  Similarly, particle-wave duality is not a mathematical flaw in physics; instead, it just shows that the physical properties of a vacuum containing many virtual particles (which cause chaotic or wave effects on the small distance scales, such as inside an atom), means that classical physics which is based on large scales (where the randomness due to a statistically vast number of virtual particles cancel out in path integrals, yielding simple laws) can't apply accurately to atomic and nuclear/particle physics.]

‘An order-of-magnitude estimate leads to a specific prediction of the magnitude of these Lorentz-violating effects. But do these effects actually exist? Are they nonzero?

‘According to string theory, the only consistent theory of quantum gravity we know, these effects don’t exist. That’s a consequence of the equations of string theory as I understand them. Even in general quantum gravity, the local Lorentz symmetry is a crucial ingredient in the whole framework. Needless to say, most string theorists agree.

[Who cares about what they agree with, science is not a religion based on consensus.  Lubos is wrong or making up propaganda: mainstream string theory doesn't predict Lorentz invariance; instead, it is just based on Lorentz invariance as an input assumption.  The assumption that Lorentz invariance is true is typical of the great many untested speculations poured into mainstream string speculation, none of which is a falsifiable prediction coming from the theory.]

‘… But whether most string theorists agree or not is scientifically irrelevant. We don’t have the full answer to everything and we might be very well wrong and the list of people above who have written vague, mathematically loose papers may be right. If experiments show that the Lorentz invariance is violated exactly in the Nanopoulos-like way and if a more complete theory emerges or if it is even reconciled with the detailed rules of string theory, then we will have to shut up. We will be proved wrong. Prof Nanopoulos is surely not among the most respected string theorists even though he is in the top 5 of most cited particle physicists. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be right.

‘In the same way, if experiments demonstate a marriage of loop quantum gravity and doubly special relativity controlling our Universe, we will also have to shut up. So far it is not even clear what the previous sentence could possibly mean. But someone may give it a meaning in the future and experiments could hypothetically confirm this meaning: it is just superextremely unlikely right now.

‘Some people just don’t seem to be capable to understand this basic mechanism of science: evaluating hypothesis by looking at more detailed evidence.

‘The four-minute delay seen by the MAGIC collaboration is exactly of the right magnitude that could be derived from Lorentz-violating effects suppressed by the string scale (which is close to the Planck scale). So if Nanopoulos, Mavromatos, and Ellis really believe their scenario, they must be pretty excited. I am not that excited because I think that this effect will be explained by local dynamics of the source and their explanation will go away. The four-minute delay is also of the same magnitude as the duration of the flare itself which suggests a local explanation. Most likely, one of us is right and the other is wrong. More precisely, I am right and Nanopoulos is wrong but unless you copy the whole content of my brain into yours, you can’t really know it for sure at this moment. ;-)

‘Is there a way to decide? Sure, there is. Repeat similar observations with other, more distant galaxies. Try to increase the delay relatively to the length of the flare. If their ratio can be increased and if the scalings quantitatively agree with a Nanopoulos-like theory, all of us will have to pay some attention to their so-far unusual and so-far unconvincing theories. If the delay is always comparable to the length of the flare, it means that the origin of the delay is local in character. The delay of the high-energy gamma rays has something to do with the source.

‘That either means that the high-energy gamma rays are emitted after the low-energy ones – for example because the electrons that emit them are slower at the beginning of the flare and gradually accelerate – or it means that the high-energy gamma rays arrive from a greater region because of some dispersion or scattering (this hypothesis predicts a wider spread of the high-energy gamma rays). At any rate, experimenters can converge towards the right answer in a finite amount of time. There is absolutely nothing untestable about this situation and only complete morons could suggest that the hypotheses here are untestable.

[If the delay time between low and high energy gamma rays is similar for comparable gamma ray bursters regardless of their distance, then in that case the mechanism for the delay is local in character and depends on the physics of the gamma ray emission process.  But if the delay time increases in proportion to the distance that the gamma ray burster is from us, then the mechanism for the delay is that the speed of the gamma rays depends on their energy, so that over bigger distances there is more delay between high and low energy gamma rays arriving here on Earth.]

‘The only thing that I find morally problematic about the recent paper is that those 100+ experimenters were forced or convinced to believe and promote a particular theoretical explanation that is prominently featured in their paper. I don’t believe that these 100+ experimenters universally started to believe that this explanation is correct or likely, especially because the same team of 100+ people has published a previous paper with a completely different explanation half a year ago.’

[This is the key problem with the scientific method.  You do a scientific experiment, say the Michelson-Morley experiment or whatever.  The results have many possible interpretations theoretically, such as a spacetime fabric (gauge boson) radiation field causing contraction of moving bodies in the direction of motion as they approach the speed of the radiation field.  But instead, one particular interpretation by Einstein is adopted and all more physical explanations are ignored.  That road is the road to religion based on consensus and groupthink.]

‘… Instead of looking at physics, Woit is irritated by a Slashdot headline that says that this anomaly could test string theory. The Slashdot headline is clearly correct. If this experiment really measured Lorentz-breaking terms in the effective action suppressed by the Planck scale, it would surely say a great deal about string theory to the string theorists and about quantum gravity to all researchers in the field of quantum gravity. We would immediately start to ask detailed questions – how these terms actually look like and what is their origin. We would suddenly consider these far-fetched vague papers by Nanopoulos et al. in a more serious light. Things would change. If this ambitious interpretation is refuted, we will learn something, too. It will only be less surprising. ;-)

[Lubos is spreading disinformation: Lorentz symmetry breaking would just disagree with one of the assumptions of mainstream string theory, not a falsifiable prediction of mainstream string theory.  Mainstream string theorists would be able to add complex 'epicycle' type 'corrections' to their useless, non-predictive model.  They have already done this when they added extra dimensions in the first place, and again when they added Rube-Goldberg machines to stabilize the vacua!  The entire history of mainstream string theory is that of adding ad hoc modifications to the theory every time it disagrees with reality.]

‘Every sane person knows that testing quantum gravity is probably difficult but certainly possible in principle. And if there are effects that influence long-distance physics, such as these Lorentz-violating effects, then testing quantum gravity is not only doable in practice but it will be done in the near future.

[Lubos is correct here in asserting that quantum gravity can be tested: quantum gravity has been tested. Check out the publication in 1996 of the proof that quantum gravity requires an accelerating universe, and the fact was observationally confirmed in 1998 when this acceleration - unfortunately accompanied by unhelpful speculative interpretations in terms of the mainstream orothodoxy - was discovered by Perlmutter et al.: Galaxy recession velocity: v = dR/dt = HR. Acceleration: a = dv/dt = d(HR)/dt = H.dR/dt = Hv = H(HR) = RH2 so: 0 < a < 6*10-10 ms-2. Outward force: F = ma. Newton's 3rd law predicts equal inward force: non-receding nearby masses don't give any reaction force, so they cause an asymmetry, gravity. It predicts particle physics and cosmology. In 1996 it predicted the lack of deceleration at large redshifts.] 

‘Peter Woit has written about 591 nearly identical blog postings. In each of them, he repeats the same lie – the same idiocy – that string theory can’t ever be tested. He relies on Goebbels’ rule that if a lie is repeated 591 times, it becomes the truth. And indeed, there exist hundreds of ignorants and morons who keep on reading the junk that he keeps on producing. Woit is scared by any indication of progress in science because his goal is exactly the opposite. His goal is nothing else than the destruction of theoretical physics.

[Mainstream string theory can't ever be tested as a scientific theory because of the speculative 6-compactified extra dimensions in the Calabi-Yau manifold which even in principle can't ever be observed, or experimentally studied, but falsifiable predictions of what would be useful physics from string theory require a knowledge of those compactified extra dimensions.  There is no way to get this information, and there are about 10^500 possibilities. All superstring theory does is to fail to reverse the scientific process: the scientific process is theorizing based on solid experimental data. Superstring tries to take the old route of basing physics on speculative theology. It then fails to predict anything falsifiable, which of course is a selling point, because people joining it think they are safe to invest time and effort in string without risk of it being debunked tomorrow morning. It's religion.  Even with a particle accelerator the size of the solar system, you could not get the information on the Planck-scale compactified extra dimensions that they need as input parameters to make falsifiable predictions about particle physics: the uncertainty principle would prevent precise data from being obtained about the extra dimensions in the Calabi-Yau manifold!  You need to know the precise sizes and shapes of those extra dimensions to make falsifiable predictions from string, otherwise you have 10^500 different models which is vague and non-scientific (like someone "predicting" that every conceivable possibility "might occur in an experiment", it's just not a useful or impressive "prediction").  I'm building a site here about the hype.]

‘While I am happy that George Musser blogging for Scientific American has understood how Woit has been working in this case, I am always flabbergasted by the stupidity of the people who still haven’t understood, after more than 3 years, that Woit’s writings are 100% vitriolic junk that has nothing to do with science. They haven’t understood that Woit has no idea about science whatsoever and the only thing that he is doing is to invent emotional and usually hateful fairy-tales about the sociology of every event in science, fairy-tales that are consistent with his primary idiotic opinion, namely his opinion that modern theoretical physics is no science. Every other drunk hateful high-school student would be able to do the same thing as Mr Woit.

‘Woit only repeats selected quotes of others and gives them an anti-string-theoretical flavor and spin. He never offers any meaningful idea himself. This is my theory how this primitive animal works. It is a falsifiable theory: show me a single text written by Woit that disagrees with my thesis if you want to falsify it.

[OK, Lubos, take a look at Dr Woit's posts on new ideas such as http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=3 where Dr Woit writes: 'An idea I’ve always found appealing is that this spontaneous gauge symmetry breaking is somehow related to the other mysterious aspect of electroweak gauge symmetry: its chiral nature. SU(2) gauge fields couple only to left-handed spinors, not right-handed ones. In the standard view of the symmetries of nature, this is very weird. The SU(2) gauge symmetry is supposed to be a purely internal symmetry, having nothing to do with space-time symmetries, but left and right-handed spinors are distinguished purely by their behavior under a space-time symmetry, Lorentz symmetry. So SU(2) gauge symmetry is not only spontaneously broken, but also somehow knows about the subtle spin geometry of space-time. Surely there’s a connection here…  This idea has motivated various people, including Roman Jackiw, who has several papers about chiral gauge theories that are very much worth reading. The problem you quickly get into is that the gauge symmetry of chiral gauge theories is generally anomalous. People mostly believe that theories with an anomalous gauge symmetry make no sense, but it is perhaps more accurate to say that no one has yet found a unitary, Lorentz-invariant, renormalizable way of quantizing them. In the standard model, the contributions to the anomaly from different particles cancel, so you can at least make sense of the standard perturbation expansion. Outside of perturbation theory, chiral gauge theories remain quite mysterious, even when the overall anomaly cancels.  So, this is my candidate for the Holy Grail of Physics, together with a guess as to which direction to go looking for it. There is even a possible connection to the other Holy Grail, I’ll probably get around to writing about that some other time.'  Dr Woit also has written up other ideas of his in quantum field theory in papers such as http://www.arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0206135 (see pages 50-51 for where it its practical results in the modelling of particle physics).]

‘It seems to me that you don’t have to understand any physics if you just want to understand why Peter Woit’s “work” is pure garbage. Just look at his postings: there is not a single physics-related idea, and if there is one, it is always copied from a convenient “authority”. What he cares about is to transform people into fanaticized imbeciles – imbeciles who are never willing to learn the truth or understand details about any question. Imbeciles who can’t listen and who only know how to attack and intimidate people whose IQ is roughly 40-60 points above the imbeciles’ IQ.

‘I must tell you: these aggressive imbeciles have already intimidated a huge portion of smart people – scientists who are afraid to say what science has actually found because they would be instantly attacked by Woit and his trash fan club. Unless we do something about this scum, they will soon control the whole scientific community.’

[Maybe they do already control the scientific community using intimidation and groupthink, but 'they' are the mainstream string theorists, et al.  It's surprisng that when you argue for fact based physics, you are attacked (falsely) for allegedly being an anarchist.  But you're the opposite of an anarchist.  The building of theories upon solid foundations and the insistence that speculative ideas should produce solid evidence before being widely hyped and celebrated as the 'only self-consistent theory' (etc.) is not a call for no regulation ofwildly speculative ideas.  It's quite the opposite: it's the call for tougher regulation but regulation based on scientific factual criteria rather than consensus and majority voting about which fashion they are prejudiced in favour of; it is a need for regulation to be applied fairly and discriminately in the benefits of factual science, rather than groupthink speculative and fanciful 'science'.  It's clear that Lubos is deluding himself: string theory isn't science, it is a failed idea that is being painted as gold-standard science and defended like a religion, but the nice gold paint keeps flaking off it.]

‘… I am not choosing answers to questions in order to agree or disagree with a particular irrelevant parody of a human being. I am choosing my opinions by rational arguments.’

[Nice words Lubos, a pity you are prejudiced.]

What’s interesting is that Lubos is being supported in an update to a blog post by George Musser, an editor at Scientific American, (Musser calls him ‘the inimitable Lubos Motl’), and Musser adds that Woit’s ‘comments miss the point somewhat. Like Samuel Johnson’s walking dog, the fact we can talk about empirically probing quantum gravity at all is remarkable.’

If it is so remarkable, then please explain to me why quantum gravity predictions and experimental tests are censored out due to the groupthink prejudice of mainstream string theory?

The mainstream “explanation” of quantum gravity which is also a starting point for mainstream string theory (M-theory gives a landscape of 10^500 models of spin-2 graviton theories) is that the cause of gravity is basically that given in chapter I.5, ‘Coulomb and Newton: Repulsion and Attraction’, in Professor Zee’s book Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell (Princeton University Press, 2003), pages 30-6.

Zee starts with a Langrangian for Maxwell’s equations, adds terms for the assumed mass of the photon, then writes down the Feynman path integral, with a Lagrangian based on Maxwell’s equations for the spin-1 photon and a mass term to make the maths work out without using the principle of gauge invariance. Evaluating the effective action shows that the potential energy between two similar charge densities is always positive, hence it is proved that the spin-1 gauge boson-mediated electromagnetic force between similar charges is always repulsive. So it works.

A massless spin-1 boson has only two degrees of freedom for spinning, because in one dimension it is propagating at velocity c and is thus ‘frozen’ in that direction of propagation. Hence, a massless spin-1 boson has two polarizations (electric field and magnetic field). A massive spin-1 boson, however, can spin in three dimensions and so has three polarizations.

Moving to quantum gravity, a spin-2 graviton will have (2^2) + 1 = 5 polarizations. So you write a 5 component tensor to represent the gravitational Lagrangian, and the same treatment for a spin-2 graviton then yields the result that the potential energy between two lumps of positive energy density (mass is always positive) is always negative, hence masses always attract each other.

I think this kind of “explanation” is not explanation but just a mathematical model for a physical situation.

It doesn’t tell you physically in a useful (i.e., gravity strength predicting) way what is occurring, it doesn’t explain the mechanism behind gravity in dynamic terms.

It’s just an abstract calculation which models what is known and says nothing else that is easily checked.

For contrast, consider the physics of the acceleration of the universe. Mass accelerating outward implies an outward force (Newton’s 2nd empirically-derived law) which in turn implies an equal and opposite reaction force (Newton’s 3rd empirically-derived law), 10^43 Newtons. From the Yang-Mills theory, if gravity is a QFT like the Standard Model forces (Yang-Mills exchange radiation mediated forces) then the gravitational influence of surrounding masses on us and vice-versa is mediated by the exchange of gravitons.

By using known physical facts to eliminate other possibilities, you find that the 10^43 N inward force is likely mediated by exchange radiation like gravitons. This predicts gravity.

Galaxy recession velocity: v = dR/dt = HR. Acceleration: a = dv/dt = d(HR)/dt = H.dR/dt = Hv = H(HR) = RH^2 so: 0 < a < 6*10^-10 ms^-2. Outward force: F = ma. Newton’s 3rd law predicts equal inward force: non-receding nearby masses don’t give any reaction force, so they cause an asymmetry, gravity. It predicts particle physics and cosmology. In 1996 it predicted the lack of deceleration at large redshifts.

However, there is zero interest in physics, mechanisms, etc. Nobody wants to know facts, they want to read science fiction or fantasy.

The only big mainstream gravity journal to even have my paper refereed was the UK Institute of Physics journal, Classical and Quantum Gravity, (where I submitted at the suggestion of Dr Bob Lambourne of the physics dept, Open University) the peer-reviewers of which rejected my paper as being “speculative” (yes, falsifiable predictions are speculative before they are experimentally or observationally confirmed, but the theory is fact-based) while having the temerity to (at about the same time) accept the Bogdanoff’s nonsense (which they later retracted after printing it), “Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime,” Classical and Quantum Gravity vol. 18, pp. 4341-4372 (2001).

Physical Review Letters’ editor Brown emailed me at university that the paper was an “alternative” idea and consequently unsuitable for publication. After lengthy correspondence, he forwarded me a report from an associate editor which claimed that some of my “assumptions” (actually the theory was based solely upon physical facts based on well-accepted observations and well-accepted mainstream theories) were somehow questionable, but went silent when I asked which “assumptions” (solid mainstream facts) he was referring to.

These people are so certain that there is zero probability that the mainstream speculation is needlessly complex and wrong, and they are so certain that individuals can’t have anything interesting to say, that they don’t bother listening.  They try to talk in a sneering way about people with ‘alternative ideas’ generally, instead of talking about science.

It is actually clear what is occurring here. The required physical ideas aren’t that clever, but the mainstream is convinced that the shape of the missing dynamics for gravity will be some amazing really hi-tech mathematical physics (a step forward coming from an abstract mathematical paper).

This has two effects: (1) it prevents the mainstream looking at natural questions which suggest find the required evidence, and (2) it means that anybody who does stumble on the missing facts (as I have) isn’t able to publish properly in a mainstream journal.

I have published the paper elsewhere (Electronics World & Cern doc server). But even if I did get it in a mainstream journal, that wouldn’t necessarily have any impact: people are good at ignoring new ideas they can’t or don’t want to understand (Boltzmann, Galileo, Bruno, Jesus, etc. being some examples).

One dubious advantage of this situation is the low plagiarism risk: anyone trying to steal really radical ideas will have the same problems. I don’t think that even a top ranked physicist would have an easy time convincing others of facts; there is just too much prejudice out there against any ideas coming from the wrong people, the wrong institutions, the wrong this, the wrong that.  They don’t care about facts but about speculative ideas they can use in mainstream conferences which are basically fashion shows.

It’s not the mythical situation that you publish and everyone slaps their forehead and asks “why didn’t I think of that?” Quite the opposite: people try not to think about things that lead somewhere, and if they think about anything at all it is drivel (non-fact based speculation).

Point that out, and you are accused of being “rude” when all you are stating is a provable fact!  If you want to see real rudeness, try reading mainstream responses to facts! They believe in shooting the messenger, big time.  That’s why you don’t want to innovate outside of the mainstream theory…

Update (30 August): Professor Clifford Johnson has been dismissive towards two female physicists with radical but physically interesting ideas, in his post http://asymptotia.com/2007/08/29/still-so-far-to-go/.  Clifford wrote a response (comment number 18 there) claiming that “extraordinary ideas require extraordinary evidence” and throwing up a list of generic slurs about their research (generalizations, no specific cases of disagreement given).

The extraordinary evidence requirement is a claim which doesn’t seem supported by string theory.  It seems as if there is some delusion and hypocrisy going on, although it is possibly not simple sexism.  The Knights who defend damsels in distress need to be careful to defend all damsels, not just the ones for which they will pick up the most kudos for defending.  If you just want to defend one of them, you are not really (despite your protests to the contrary) anti-sexist, you just have a favoritism.  The fact that you are or were married or that you defended this or that woman, does not prove you are not sexist.  The fact that you have launched an false attack on women’s physics (using pseudo-arguments against that physics) is not discredited by your claim that you are similarly rude to men.  That may sound like a good off-the-cuff excuse, but it’s just a pathetic excuse.

Clearly, more work needs to be done to make the case convincingly for new ideas, but the double standards at work are shameful.  Clifford should really be ashamed to demand “extraordinary evidence” for alternative ideas, when mainstream string theory which he works on is a complete failure and has not a shred of objective evidence to back it up.  However, he was possibly very busy when writing his comments so I won’t press the point (some of the above comments are written slightly tongue-in-cheek, due to the unfortunate fact I have a dry sense of humor).  The event does, however, show the hypocrisy in physics and the immense problem for alternative ideas.  They need more behind them than mainstream orthodoxy, to be taken seriously.  That’s certainly a double-standard, but there it is.  That’s the way things are.

For a discussion of Louise Riofrio’s excellent ideas see the posts:

Gravity Equation Discredits Lubos Motl

Kepler’s law (following on from previous post)

Marni Sheppeard (Kea) works in Category Theory, a relatively new branch of mathematics which deals rigorously with the ordering of groups and seems an interesting way to approach various problems in quantum field theory.  I’m interested to know what it can be used to say about the relations between the various groups in the Standard Model of particle physics (or rather, a corrected version of that model which includes gravity), because of the way forces unify.

Update (1 October):

Louise has an interesting post about the situation in Burma, where blogging the facts is deemed a crime against the state.  It’s tempting to draw parallels between the treatment of physicists with ‘heretical’ (factual) ideas by the string theorists at the head of the dictatorial establishment, and the situation in Burma.  What you commonly get when comparing Stalin and Hitler as of say 1935 or so with some dictator in ‘science’ (pseudo-physics that isn’t tied down to observational evidence) today is propaganda that Stalin and Hitler murdered millions, and the string theorists allegedly have not – I use allegedly because all science is interconnected to technology and suppressing the facts leads to deaths as people well know (see my earlier blog about an Electronics World opinion page I wrote and the related article on air traffic control).

In any case, the comparison with a dictator like Stalin or Hitler refers to a period before they murdered millions, and the purpose of it is to point out strongly that the lesson of history is that you need to avert disasters before they get to the stage of millions being hurt by neglect (a great many of Stalin’s and Hitler’s victims were killed by starvation and disease in squalid conditions).  When you get down to the hard facts, you find that one or two dictators did not personally shoot or gas millions – there was a vast groupthink consensus enforced by a conspiracy fed by fear via propaganda.  This mechanism is the focus of the analogy for the reason why fundamental physics is stuck in a drain, while people die who need not die.  See: http://www.ivorcatt.com/3ew.htm

We all remember the now obsolete parallel printer cables which contain many wires (requiring large connectors), and have been replaced by USB, a serial cable system (universal serial bus).  This is the living proof for the basic fact I’ve been explaining on this blog, that there is a crisis in electromagnetic theory.  Back in 1967, Catt proved that logic pulses can be sent faster by serial cable than by parallel conductors.  Naively, parallel allows lots of information to be sent simultaneously, but this is actually slower because cross-talk (mutual inductance) between the different conductors causes glitches now known as bit-flips.  Why was it not until 1996 that USB was certified?

The answer is there in the IEEE journals!  Compare Catt’s 1967 IEEE paper linked here to his 1987 paper, 20 years later (co-authored with Mike S. Gibson) in an IEEE journal, linked here.  In the meanwhile, between 1967 and 1987, Catt had to publish his papers as Wireless/Electronics World articles and as textbooks by popular publishers like Macmillan: because these weren’t refereed by peer-reviewers (due to the fact that Catt and his colleagues had no peers at all who were expert in the field), the papers and books were not critically checked and do contain many errors and omissions of mechanisms.

He was censored out because the ‘experts’ of the field thought Maxwell had solved all such problems with his equations in 1865.  Wrong.  Maxwell’s equations don’t by themselves tell you the mechanism by which electricity propagates: as Maxwell himself admitted in the final edition of his Treatise (1873, 3rd ed.), his equations don’t even tell him how fast electricity goes.  He certainly did not predict that electromagnetic gauge bosons carry essentially all of the energy delivered by electricity, allowing light velocity propagation for the insulator between and around the conductors, see Article 574: ‘.. there is, as yet, no experimental evidence to shew whether the electric current… velocity is great or small as measured in feet per second.’  There was no theoretical prediction by Maxwell!  The thing he claimed to predict was the already-known velocity of light, not electricity.  So there is an enormous gap between classical electromagnetism and the real world.  It is the easiest thing in the world to correct classical electromagnetism by quantizing it correctly.

While on the subject of groupthink paranoia and delusion being used to abuse journalists and ‘shoot the messenger’ instead of investigating and checking the news, let’s return to the politics of Burma.  This example proves that the world in 2007 is not anywhere near free from political dictatorship politically, just as it isn’t anything near free from scientific dictatorship.  Louise writes:

  • Bloggers in Burma are under intense assault for the crime of reporting the truth. Reports have thousands of protesters dead. Out of sympathy and solidarity, this message is posted. How to participate:1. Copy the following post to your blog, including this special number: 1081081081234ia

    2. After a few days, you can search Google for the number 1081081081234ia to find all blogs that are participating in this protest and petition.

    Text below the fold:

    The situation in Burma is increasingly dangerous. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed peaceful protesters, including monks and nuns, are risking their lives to march for democracy against an unpopular but well-armed military dictatorship that will stop at nothing to continue its repressive rule. While the generals in power and their families are literally dripping in gold and diamonds, the people of Burma are impoverished, deprived of basic human rights, cut off from the rest of the world, and increasingly under threat of violence.

    This week the people of Burma have risen up collectively in the largest public demonstrations against the ruling Junta in decades. It’s an amazing show of bravery, decency, and democracy in action. But although these protests are peaceful, the military rulers are starting to crack down with violence. Already there have been at least several reported deaths, and hundreds of critical injuries from soldiers beating unarmed civilians to the point of death.

    The actual fatalities and injuries are probably far worse, but the only news we have is coming from individuals who are sneaking reports past the authorities. Unfortunately it looks like a large-scale blood-bath may ensue — and the victims will be mostly women, children, the elderly and unarmed monks and nuns.

    Contrary to what the Burmese, Chinese and Russian governments have stated, this is not merely a local internal political issue, it is an issue of global importance and it affects the global community. As concerned citizens, we cannot allow any government anywhere in the world to use its military to attack and kill peacefully demonstrating, unarmed citizens.

    In this modern day and age violence against unarmed civilians is unacceptable and if it is allowed to happen, without serious consequences for the perpetrators, it creates a precedent for it to happen again somewhere else. If we want a more peaceful world, it is up to each of us to make a personal stand on these fundamental issues whenever they arise.

    Please join me in calling on the Burmese government to negotiate peacefully with its citizens, and on China to intervene to prevent further violence. And please help to raise awareness of the developing situation in Burma so that hopefully we can avert a large-scale human disaster there.