Battle Weary

Recent posts by bloggers Bergman, Mottle, Carroll and Woit suggest a mood of weariness in the physics blogosphere. The latter cannot even be bothered to write anymore and has resorted to phrases like, “blah, blah, blah, this pseudo-science is on hep-th because of blah, blah, blah.” But the demise of the arxiv is nothing new and the game is just beginning! Heck, I’ve barely warmed up.

17 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said,

    08 21 07

    Hey Kea:
    Thanks for paying me a visit today. Regarding the weariness of the physics blogosphere, a coupla folks who you have cited never said anything of consequence anyway so screw them!!!

    Er ah, I wanted to thank you for linking to the Everything Seminar. I find it to be an enjoyable breath of fresh air. BTW Marek Wolf is the man that connects number theory to physics ala BL Julia;)

  2. 2

    Kea said,

    Hi Mahndisa. Good point. Yeah, the Everything Seminar is just amazing. OK, now I see who Wolf is – thanks.

  3. 3

    Anonymous said,

    Kea, I just atttempted to post a comment on Peter Woit’s blog that I think might also be relevant here. Here is my coment:

    D R Lunsford said “… What a mess. I still can’t believe this is happening. This entire scenario needs to be exposed by a deep historical analysis of what went wrong in academia. …”.

    Over on Sean Carroll’s blog Count Iblis said that in the hep-th paper 0708.2743 Albrecht and Inglesias (of UC Davis)
    “… point out that by messing with time you can map a particular set of laws of physics to any other laws of physics. …”.

    In their paper, Albrecht and Inglesias say:

    “… We are used to doing physics by stating the physical laws which we believe may be true, and then calculating predictions based on those laws in order to test them against observations of the physical world.

    The clock ambiguity appears to completely undermine this approach to physics. …

    This work was supported in part by DOE Grant DE-FG03-91ER40674 …”.

    Therefore, my tax money is being used by DOE to fund a paper saying that efforts to do physics by:

    1 – constructing physical-law models
    2 – and calculating predictions based on those laws
    3 – in order to test them against observations

    is “completely undermine[d]”

    Although they do have some fine print (in the body of the paper but not in its abstract) involving “the continua we use to construct theories of fundamental physics” and their use of “freedom to choose a clock subsystem arbitrarily” and “use of the covariant approach”,
    it seems clear to me that an attack on the scientific methods used by scientists from Kepler to Feynman as being “completely undermined” is
    the basic thrust and purpose of their paper.

    I think that it is a shame that their attack is accepted by the Cornell arXiv as OK for hep-th, while I am blacklisted from posting new results of my physical-law model which allows computation of particle masses, force constants, etc, that are testable against observations.

    Tony Smith

    PS – Albrecht and Inglesias are not alone in attacking the Kepler-Feynman way of doing physics. The Resonaances blog in a 1 July 2007 post entitled “Nima’s Marmoset” said:
    “… Nima Arkani-Hamed [formerly at Harvard and now at Princeton IAS]… gave another talk …[at]… CERN … advertising his MARMOSET … a new tool for reconstructing the fundamental theory from the LHC data … Nima pointed out …[that]… at the dawn of the LHC era we have little idea which underlying theory and which lagrangian will turn out relevant …”.
    In short,
    Arkani-Hamed says that the Standard Model Lagrangian should be ignored because
    “… we have little idea which underlying theory and which lagrangian will turn out relevant …”
    even though the Standard Model has passed EVERY experimental test for over 30 years, and there is NO experimental observation whatsoever indicating that the Standard Model is not the relevant “… underlying theory and … lagrangian …” for physics at the LHC.
    I would add Harvard and Princeton IAS to the list of institutions that should hang their heads in shame
    supporting attacks on the process of building physics models in the old-fashioned way of requiring inclusion of the Standard Model and Gravity as subsets and demanding calculability of observable quantities such as particle masses, force strength constants, etc.

  4. 4

    Anonymous said,

    Mahndisa and Kea, thanks for the link to the Marek Wolf stuff.

    Also, as I said in my immediately previous comment, “… I just atttempted to post a comment on Peter Woit’s blog …”.

    I just now got a message saying:
    “… Your comment is awaiting moderation …”.

    It is interesting that a comment from me seems to be thrown into the “subject to moderation” pile (sort of reminds me of the Cornell arXiv),
    it might be interesting to see how it is “moderat[ed]”.

    Tony Smith

  5. 5

    Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said,

    08 21 07

    Hello Kea and Tony:
    Kea, if you peruse his papers, you will love every minute of them! Tony, hopefully you will also find his papers a nice treat, although you may far exceed the knowledge base…

    Anyhow, as I get on Matti sometime, physics is the most important thing, along with family and dog;) So no need to waste time passing pearls to swine, as Grandma always said;) Have a nice weekend guys!

  6. 6

    Anonymous said,

    My apologies for misspelling the name “Iglesias” in my comment here.

    Tony Smith

    PS – My comment was allowed on Peter’s blog.

  7. 7

    Kea said,

    My comment was allowed on Peter’s blog.

    Yes, Tony, so long as you don’t say anything critical of Woit or his ideas (and in fact what you said supports him) he will usually allow the comment.

  8. 8

    L. Riofrio said,

    But the demise of the arxiv is nothing new and the game is just beginning!

    It is tempting to wish ill things of the arxiv, but it appears to be self-destructing anyway.

    Patience with hhumans is a virtue. One author of the paper Tony cites once threw me out of his office for suggesting that c slows down, but more recently walked up to me, said “Hi my name is Andy” and proceeded to be very nice.

  9. 9

    Anonymous said,

    you may be right that I should not have “waste[d] time passing pearls” by posting on Peter Woit’s blog.

    Although he did allow my comment to be posted,
    it was followed by these two comments:
    by anonymous “european observer” who said:
    “Tony … Where do you believe that … the marmoset people … said to forget the SM?
    … I think you are misreading the Lagrangian comment,
    and it should be interpreted as the beyond the SM theory/lagrangian that is unknown.
    … be more polite
    not make grandiose statements about institutions based on remarks in an anonymous blog.”
    by Peter Woit who said:
    Please don’t post such far off-topic comments.
    Marmoset has nothing to do with the posting,
    and a tendentious discussion of it here is way out of place.”.

    So, an anonymous “european observer” criticizes me for commenting based
    on the “anonymous blog” Resonaances,
    tells me to “be more polite”
    “not make grandoise statements” critical of Harvard and Princeton IAS
    tells me that marmoset is based on the SM lagrangian,
    Peter Woit (who controls his blog) tells me to shut up about marmoset etc,
    thus preventing me from replying to the attack on me by the anonymous “european observer”.

    By doing so, Peter Woit and the anonymous “european observer” manage to characterize
    me as impolite, gullible, ignorant, and wrong.

    if Peter Woit had not tied my hands by telling me to shut up, here are some points that I could have made on his blog:

    1 – Peter Woit himself, on his blog, described the Resonaances blog favorably, saying:
    “… There’s an interesting new particle theory blog, called Resonaances, and written by someone in the CERN Theory Group (who for now is operating anonymously as “Jester”, also commenting here). …”.

    2 – An anonymous commenter has poor grounds to complain that I refer to an anonymous blog.

    3 – I don’t think that any institution (including Harvard and Princeton IAS) or any individual (including Nima Arkani-Hamed) should be exempt from criticism.

    4 – As to my position that marmoset is not based on the Standard Model Lagrangian approach,
    here are quotes from Resonannces (dated 1 July 2007):
    “… The new framework is called an On-Shell Effective Theory (OSET). The idea is to study physical processes using only kinematic properties of the particles involved.
    Instead of the lagrangian,
    one specifies the masses, production cross sections and decay modes of the new particles. … MARMOSET is a package allowing OSET-based Monte Carlo simulations of physical processes. …”.
    here are quotes from the MARMOSET paper by Nima Arkani-Hamed et al at hep-ph0703088:
    “… We propose and develop … a coherent strategy for going from data to a still-unknown theory
    … using On-Shell Effective Theories (OSETs) as an intermediary
    between LHC data and the underlying Lagrangian …
    Instead of attempting to reconstruct the TeV-scale effective Lagrangian directly from LHC data, we propose an On-Shell Effective Theory (OSET) characterization of the new physics in terms of new particle masses, production cross sections, and branching ratios as a crucial intermediate step. …”.
    In other words,
    the anonymous “european obsersver” is correct that the aim of marmoset is to describe new physics beyond the Standard Model,
    I think that I am correct in that marmoset explicitly avoids working with Lagrangians that include the Standard Model as a subset
    therefore marmoset rejects physical intuition based on the Lagrangian point of view that uses the Standard Model Lagrangian as a starting point.
    My complaint is against such an abdication of physical intuition,
    which in my view is similar to the abdication of physical intuition that is present in the Landscape approach to superstring theory and
    in the Albrect-Iglesias “clock ambiguity” attack on the Kepler-Feynman approach to physics which is:
    constructing physical-law models and calculating predictions based on those laws in order to test them against observations.

    5 – As to whether I should be “more polite”, I contend that I am indeed much “more polite” than Resonaances (a blog, although anonymous, that has been cited favorably by Peter Woit) which said:

    “… When you ask phenomenologists their opinion about MARMOSET,
    officially they just burst out laughing.
    Off the record, you could hear something like
    “…little smartass trying to teach us how to analyze data…” often followed by *!%&?#… …”.

    Tony Smith

    PS – As Louise says, “… the game is just beginning! …”.

  10. 10

    Kea said,

    Tony, you are most welcome to post your thoughts on my blog. Although I’m sure Mahndisa is right, as Matti and you and many of us have found, it seems necessary to protest sometimes, simply because somebody has to be willing to protest.

    In fact, would you like to write a guest post? If you email me a post at I will post it.

  11. 11

    CarlBrannen said,

    Disregarding the details, I heartily approve of the concept of getting away from Lagrangian formalism.

    I don’t think a Lagrangian underlies anything physical. I think that the usual Lagrangian is a guess at the conserved quantities of nature, and that one would do better by guessing the equations of motion of nature, and from that guess, calculating the Lagrangian.

    I don’t believe in “laws of nature”. I believe in “nature”, and that she can be described by some simple differential equation, and from that equation, and its solutions, we will be able to find conserved quantities, approximately conserved quantities, etc., but at the fundamental level, nature is not a bunch of laws any more than the waves on the ocean are a bunch of laws.

  12. 12

    Kea said,

    Well said, Carl, although I’d like to note that the idea of ‘equation’ should probably be weakened to ‘categorical relation’ or ‘coherence law’ which are really just kinds of equation using diagrams.

  13. 13

    Anonymous said,

    Carl Brannen said that he “… heartily approve[s] of the concept of getting away from Lagrangian formalism …”.

    My physics model is fundamentally based on a generalized hyperfinite II1 von Neumann algebra factor whose basic building block is the real Clifford algebra Cl(8),
    so it is really an Algebraic Quantum Field Theory with a nested category-type structure that comes from the generalized hyperfinite II1 von Neumann algebra factor.

    As Kea said on Peter Woit’s blog (in conversation with Bert Schroer on 27 May 2006, where Bert Schroer had used the term “monade” for the hyperfinite von Neumann factor algebra that he used for AQFT):
    “… certain instances of the category theoretic monad share many of the deep properties that you attribute to your monade. I do not think that this is a coincidence. …”.

    Also on Peter Woit’s blog (on 2 November 2006) Arun said that if AQFT (or anything else) “… claims to supplant the Lagrangian/ path-integral/ perturbation-theory Standard Model of electro-weak & strong interactions, which is our most successful theory so far,
    [ then it ] needs to show how, in the appropriate limit, the Standard Model emerges. …”.

    Since the Standard Model is written in Lagrangian formalism with path integral quantum theory,
    it seems necessary,
    not to “get… away from Lagrangian formalism”
    to show how the Standard Model Lagrangian formalism with path integrals fits inside the more fundamental AQFT based on a hyperfinite von Neumann factor algebra “monade”.

    Here is how I think it works in my model:

    My idea about the physical utility of hyerfinite II_1R is that each little basic component Cl(8;R) describes Lagrangian physics in one little location.

    Each Cl(8;R) contains the basic structures used to formulate local Lagrangian physics:

    a 0-grade 1-dim scalar;
    a 1-grade 8-dim vector spacetime base manifold;
    a 2-grade 28-dim bivector gauge Lie algebra;
    a +half-spinor 8-dim spinor fermion particle representation; and
    a -half-spinor 8-dim spinor fermion particle representation.
    Given those structures, it seems clear (at least to me) how they fit together to form a Lagrangian
    and its related path integral quantum theory.

    If you consider the 8-dim spacetime to only exist at high energies, and at low energies (where we do experiments) “freeze out” a preferred quaternionic submanifold that splits the 8-dim spacetime into a Kaluza-Klein type 4-dim physical spacetime and a 4-dim CP2 internal symmetry compact space, then (in a complicated but in my opinion realistic way using some gauge field geometry of Meinhard Mayer)
    you end up with the Standard Model plus Higgs plus MacDowell-Mansouri gravity
    using some geometric techniques similar to those pioneered by Armand Wyler, along with some simple combinatorics, you can calculate realistic particle masses, force strengths, K-M parameters, etc. They turn out to be pretty much realistic.

    I think that a Lagrangian formalism is implicit in a physically realistic AQFT (and related category theory),
    and it can be shown (at least in the concrete example of my model) how the Lagrangian fits inside the AQFT in a consistent way,
    so the AQFT viewpoint and the category viewpoint and the Lagrangian viewpoint are ALL useful ways of describing the SAME fundamental physics of our world.

    Tony Smith

  14. 14

    island said,

    Yes, Tony, so long as you don’t say anything critical of Woit or his ideas (and in fact what you said supports him) he will usually allow the comment.

    I must say that I am most impressed with the way that Woit allows unsubstantiated, unsupported, willfully ignorant shots at people like, Brandon Carter, but won’t allow anybody to hit these losers back for it.

    I doubt that asshole will let me say anything after the crap that I called him today… 😉

  15. 15

    Kea said,

    Welcome, Island! Oh dear, I think you just ruined my G rating, but that’s OK. Lol.

  16. 16

    island said,

    Hey, at least I didn’t write down the “crap” that I really called him… 😉

    Sorry, Kea, but I’ve been a supporter of Peter’s basic position for a long time, (years), before he ever officially began his “revolution” against string theory. And now I see that he’s just a politician like most everybody else doing “science” these days.

  17. 17

    Kea said,

    Yes, Island, revolutions in science require scientific ideas, not mud slinging.

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