31 December 2010

The curse of experiments - and the hope for 2011

Many experiments, at the LHC and elsewhere, have been performed in 2010. Result: the standard model rules. Nothing new. Nothing! A really bad situation. Nobody expected this. Let us hope that something new is found in 2011!

However, there is reason to doubt that anything new will be found. So my prediction for 2011 is simple: the standard model will remain untouched. But I still hope for something new.

30 December 2010

On the multiverse

If the universe is defined as all there is, what can a "multiverse" be? Just bullshit. Nobody is his right mind can say that there is "more" than all there is.

How can people get away with such bullshit? Because they have no real friends who tell them. And because such people have no bosses who tell them. And because they are surrounded by people who depend from them. And, most of all, because they do not follow reason. One scientist that does not follow reason - that might be a tragedy. But dozens of such scientists - that is fraud covered by corruption.

The scientists who talk about the "multiverse" are paid by universities, by student fees. In the past centuries, scientists worked hard to get rid of the influence of the church, and to get rid of the influence of the state and politicians. Scientists always said that they were entitled to do so, because they were only following reason. But now we have scientists who are taking advantage of the system, and who are not even following reason itself. They are fraudsters.

The universities are paying these fraudsters. The students are paying them. The deans, colleagues and students allow the fraud to go on. That is corruption.

No it is not a conspiracy. It is fraud covered by corruption. Check your own university.

29 December 2010

Why GUTs do not work

In the standard model, the origin of the values of the coupling strengths is mysterious. It takes only a few seconds to understand that GUTs do not solve the problem; they just shift the solution away. The same is true for supersymmetric GUTs.

Also the number of particle generations is not explained. Of course, one can claim that the number comes from the GUT Lie group [insert you favorite one here]. But what determines the Lie group? GUTs do not provide an answer. Again, the solution of a problem is just shifted away, into a region of higher abstraction.

GUTs also have another tiny issue: all GUTS that have been tested contradict experiment.

Thus, GUTs do not solve any problem of the standard model. So why are they popular? Because there is a lack of better ideas. But if an idea does not work, we should drop it, not continue to pay attention to it.

28 December 2010

Conjectures vs prejudices

Let me be clear: Conjectures are untested ideas. Prejudices, in the sense of this blog, are wrong ideas that people continue to hold.

The list of prejudices on the right gives wrong ideas. The are known to be wrong.

Take the idea that space is made of points. If we combine general relativity and quantum gravity, we know that at small distances, space is decribed by quantum foam. We do not know how to describe quantum foam (do you have any conjecture?); but one thing is sure: space is not made of points, and  nicely arranged in three dimensions.

Take the idea of supersymmetry. Every single prediction it made (sparticles, light Higgs, high electric dipole moments, new decays, new reactions) contradicts experiment. Supersymmetry is wrong.

Take the idea of GUTs. Every single prediction they made contradicts experiment. GUTs are wrong.

Bill K writes that theoreticians should word on conjectures. I agree. But they should not work on wrong ideas. Bill K's comment could be read to suggest (though he is not so clear on this point) that it is ok to work on wrong ideas if one has no correct ones. Well, the point of this blog is that a way to find the correct ideas is to get rid of the wrong ones. Riding dead horses does not help.

I take the approach of Peter Woit to its logical completion. Let's get rid of all wrong ideas. Not only string theory, but also the other ones. Woit did not present an alternative to string theory, but we cannot blame him for that. His aim is to point out what is wrong.

My hope goes further. If we point out all wrong ideas, there is so little left that we will get into a crisis. And then only will we find the right idea. I like crises. They are chances for progress. Of course, people have all the right not to like crises, and have all the right to cling to false ideas. Mike Duff is a good example. So is Lubos Motl. But that is not where progress will come from. (And anyway, I think they will change their mind as soon as they see that their ideas do not work.)

If you like solving problems, you will remember that before finding a solution, you are in a sense of confusion. During the confusion state you are tense. After the solution appeared, you are relaxed. The tense confusion state is the crisis situation. If we want to find the solution, we need a crisis first. If we keep on saying that we have the solution while we have not, we are taking the wrong path.

27 December 2010

What remains?

On the right, I have added a list of prejudices in fundamental physics that contradict experiments. The list is deeply depressing. The arxiv, especially the section hep-th, shows that practically all preprints adhere to at least one of the prejudices. I might have missed a few exceptions. So let me say, to be on the safe side, that 99% of all hep-th preprints are based on incorrect prejudices.

This is a disaster. What will historians of science say in 50 years? They will write that 99% of all researchers in fundamental physics in 2010 work on ideas that contradict experiment. And they will conclude that 99% of researchers in fundamental physics in 2010 are in a state of collective delusion.

A simple test confirms this collective delusion. Read Peter Woit's blog Not Even Wrong. Peter Woit is a hero, because he helped destroying the delusion of string theory. Go to his blog and add a relevant comment that questions either supersymmetry or higher dimensions, in the same way that he himelf questions string theory. What happens? He will delete your comment. Even though these two ideas are the basis for string theory and the reason for its failure, Peter Woit will not criticize them. So we are in a situation that even the harshest critic of string theory agrees with some of its prejudices. This does not take anything away from Peter Woit's heroism, but it shows how deeply ingrained some of the prejudices have become.

What remains? There is almost no research in fundamental physics that proposes a way out of all these ideologies and delusions.

Yes, there is the idea of entropic gravity. But what did it bring? No new results. No new predictions. No answer to any problem.

No, Steven Weinberg's idea of asymptotic safety does not count: it assumes that space is made of points. Anyway, it did not bring any new results, any new prediction, and any answer to the problems of the standard model.

So we have to answer: In theoretical fundamental physics, in the years from 1975 to 2010, nothing of lasting value has been produced.

Thirty-five years of failure by thousands of researchers, arguably among the smartest people on the planet. What a depressing disaster.

26 December 2010

The failure of loop quantum gravity

Loop quantum gravity has been  failure. Let us be honest: it has not increased the understanding of gravity, nor that of the standard model. Hundreds of man-years wasted. That is a small amount when compared to string theory, but a failure remains a failure.

Here is the proof: http://arxiv.org/abs/1012.4707, by Carlo Rovelli: "Loop quantum gravity: the first twenty five years". It describes twenty-five years of failure. The author does not describe it that way. But that is the essence of his paper.

For many years, string theory was the only candidate theory of everything. Then, for many years, loop quantum gravity was the only alternative. The truth is simple: neither of them is the right way. Fundamental physics is back at the beginning. The toe is elsewhere.

25 December 2010

Supersymmetry - the oldest prejudice

Supersymmetry was invented in the 1970s with the aim to find a symmetry that contains both gauge symmetry and space-time symmetry. To achieve this combination, supersymmetry assumes the existence of fermionic coordinates. This assumption is so bizarre, so unrelated to experiment, and so frequently repeated, that it has to be called a prejudice.

The issue that supersymmetry tried to address, the combination of gravity and gauge symmetry, remains important, of course. But the last 4 decades have clearly shown that supersymmetry is the wrong solution to the problem. Why is it wrong? It is wrong because coordinates are not fermionic; supersymmetry is the wrong solution to the problem. But supersymmetry is also wrong because it is born from the prejudice that fundamental physics need to search for higher symmetries; supersymmetry adresses a problem that is itself born from a prejudice.

Fundamental physics will not get out of its present impasse until people recognize that theories have to be built on data, not on prejudices.

24 December 2010

Hermann Nicolai and points

Hermann Nicolai knows all people working on fundamental physics and is respected by all researchers for his work and insights.

In his presentations, he always stresses that a theory of everything must get rid of points in space; he explains that keeping the concepts of point and continuity is the reason that quantum theory and general relativity cannot be unified. In the tone of this blog, points and continuity are prejudices that have no experimental and theoretical basis.

Many people cannot agree. Among them is Nicolai himself. His own work on unification, around the Lie group E11, is based on points and continuity.

The moral of this story? Getting rid of points and continuity, and of prejudices in general, is tough.

23 December 2010

Weinberg and the Higgs boson

In the December 2010 issue of Scientific American, Weinberg is asked: Does the standard model require the Higgs boson? He answers more or less: [the standard model] requires SU(2) to be broken.

In other words, the standard model does NOT require the Higgs boson. Wow, this is quite a blow to many people, and to their prejudices. Let us see what results all the ongoing experiments will bring us.

22 December 2010

The false beliefs of Mike Duff

Mike Duff, a seasoned string researcher, has now proven publicly that he prefers wrong beliefs over facts. As Peter Woit points out, Duff writes in letter to New Scientist:

... the modern-day ramshackle alliance between unqualified scientists, the blogosphere and many science journalists when confronted with the academic consensus of superstrings and M-theory as the most promising candidates for unifying gravity with the other forces of nature. These people are quick to cry "this is not science", while themselves resorting to pseudoscientific alternatives. 

There is no "academic consensus" on string theory. In fact, physics is about agreeing with experiment, not with "academic consensus". This way of reasoning - by the authority of the consensus - is typical of the times before modern science existed. No true scientist reasons in this way.

Worse, this complaint is written by somebody who in his talks always mentions the "multiverse", the most stupid concept ever introduced: a concept that cannot be defined properly (what is the difference between this universe and that universe?) and that cannot be proven by experiment. Whoever believes in the "multiverse" is an unqualified crank, not a scientist - and not even a pseudoscientist.

Obviously, Duff is nervous, because string theory is a failure, and he has devoted his life to it. We see from his writing that string theory has become a religion; nobody drops a religion if it makes wrong statements, because a religion is part of your value system and gives you strength and hope. But does string theory really deserve to be a religion? Why do so many people promote it to a belief system? Any pastor, rabbi or priest would be apalled when seeing this.  "Thou you shall have no other gods before me." Nevertheless, for some people, string theory has become another god.

21 December 2010

Mathematical difficulty

It is repeated over and over that the theory of everything requires complicated mathematics. This belief is so common and so deep that it is rarely challenged.

Why do people believe this? Is there the hidden idea that the world is complicated and difficult to understand? In the past centuries, physics has shown the opposite: time after time it was discovered that the world is simple. So the evidence points in another direction.

The belief that the theory of everything is complicated to understand is yet another type of ideology, contrary to all evidence known so far.

20 December 2010

Stringy black holes

In his latest post, Motl concludes:

String theory predicts that the light black holes have masses that are almost certainly relatively close to the Planck scale, to say the least, and will never be produced by particle accelerators. It's the other "alternative" theories that are driven by hype rather than good science and that have predicted lots of flashy phenomena - that are not being seen and won't be seen as the dust is settling and string theory is proving to be the only beyond-QFT framework with a lasting value.

Ideology is rampant again.

First, every serious theory of fundamental physics predicts that black holes have masses above the Planck scale. Second, string theory is not the "only beyond-QFT framework with a lasting value": there are many more. In fact, string theory is based on the assumptions of supersymmetry and of higher dimensions, both of which have no experimental basis. String theory itself is not of lasting value.

A faithful reader of Motls blog once emailed in disbelief: Motl is not able to explain to a normal reader with a physics degree where the assumption of higher dimensions comes from. My answer is simple: if higher dimensions cannot be explained to your own faithful, who is suppose to believe in them? "Believe" is the right term here, as experiments give no hint at all.

But this does not mean that Motl is always wrong. In fact, many of his arguments against other "theories" of fundamental physics are correct. His "down-to-earth" approach of physics is shared by many great physicists.

About the electroweak "unification"

Libraries are full of books claiming that the electromagnetic and the weak interactions have been unified. That is wrong! The two interactions mix, but they are not unified. They are different things, remain different, and their coupling strengths remain described by two independent parameters.

This widespread mistake had disastrous consequences. People went around for 40 years saying: we have unified the first 2 interactions, now we will unify them with the 3rd, and then we will include the 4th. Unfortunately, this approach cannot work, because the first 2 interactions have not been unified to start with.

Despite this false direction, unification is what fundamental physics is about. But so far, nothing of the sort has been achieved for any of the four interactions. The idea that the electromagnetic and the weak interaction have been unified is an example of ideology: it contradicts the facts.

19 December 2010

Garrett Lisi and the TOE

Garrett Lisi is a hero of theoretical physics. He is a hero because he is one of the few that has a clear and open goal: to find the theory of everything.

Why does this pursuit make him a hero?  Because there are hundreds of people who pour their vitriolic comments over him. Despite them he goes on working, undeterred by this hostile environment, and pursues his goal.

The most despicable people are these commentators. They are jealous of his dedication, of his optimism and of his courage. And they are full of ideology: they dislike his approach because it does not contain supersymmetry, higher dimensions of space or some other of their pet ideas that are unsubstantiated by experiment.

In contrast to string theory and all those other "theories", Lisi makes predictions that can be compared with experiment. Let us see what comes out of it. We should always remember that Lisi is honest, open and willing to confront reality. His critics are not.

18 December 2010

The theory of everything and God

Why is it so hard to find the theory of everything? There are two main reasons.

One reason is that researchers must conform to the research topics that are fashionable, in order to remain accepted. Peer pressure is an extremely powerful force, and it is often underestimated. This is ideological pressure, of course.

The other reason is that researchers have been imbibed with ideas such as the following: "Whoever finds the theory of everything has read the mind of God." This sort of statements go back to Einstein himself, and they really are among the most stupid sentences one can make about God and about the theory of everything.

Mixing the TOE with God is stupid, because every theologian will tell you that you can read the mind of God by looking at your  neighbour in the eye, or by praying, or when walking in a beautiful landscape. There is no need for a theory of everything to do that.

Mixing the TOE with God is also stupid because it puts the researchers under the impression that they are nearer to God than anybody else. Or that they must get nearer than anybody else. Or that if they succeed, they are chosen by God. Or alternatively, that if they fail, God did not want them to succeed. What a nightmare! This is the worst psychological environment one can create; with so much pressure, it becomes almost impossible for anybody to think about the problem normally, let alone to solve it.

Modern researchers have put themselves into a tough situation for finding the TOE. And the reason is always the same: there is too much ideology attached to the problem. If you look at the huge load of ideology, it is most probably that the TOE is found by somebody who does not believe in God at all.

David Gross and supersymmetry

The latest LHC results, published yesterday, show that supersymmetry has been excluded at the LHC over a large parameter range.

A few months ago, in summer 2010, David Gross, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics for his research on the strong interaction, stated that if the LHC does not find supersymmetry, this does not disprove the idea. Technically this conclusion is correct. But it is also true of the idea that elementary particles contain little green men from Mars. Indeed, if the LHC does not see the little green men, technically, this does not disprove the idea.

So we are in a situation where a well-known theoretical physicists is not ashamed to speak about little green men – sorry, I meant to say supersymmetry – and nobody dares to say that this is a deeply ideological attitude.

Nobody? That is not true. A little village of disbelievers is left over. We will see who is right...

17 December 2010

Ideology, Steven Weinberg, Peter Woit and Lubos Motl

For me, Peter Woit is a hero of theoretical physics. By patiently asking about the correspondence with experiment, he has, almost single-handedly ensured that string theory, M theory and the related theories were exposed for what they are: castles in the air.

Of course, Peter Woit also dreams of the theory of everything. In the 1980s and 1990s, Steven Weinberg held a seminar after the other, across the world, stating that the key to the theory of everything is to find the underlying symmetry. This might be right, but Weinberg spread a second, much more powerful idea: we do not know all the symmetries of nature.

The prejudice that we do not know all symmetries was exactly what everything hoped to hear: Thus we do not know everything, and we know why we don't! For decades, researchers spent their efforts to find more symmetries. The explored GUTs based on SU(5), SO(10) or worse, supersymmetry, theories based on E6, E8, E10, E11, and many more. The result? No higher symmetry was found. Every experimental test disagreed with the theories.

Worse, Weinberg now is backtracking; he suspects that all symmetries are already known. But all the researchers that now are in their 30s, 40s and 50s, including Peter Woit and Lubos Motl, to whom Weinberg was a superstar, did not backtrack. The search for more symmetries became their mantra. In this case, ideology has wasted a whole generation.

So we have two people here, Woit and Motl, who dislike each other's ideas wholeheartedly, but who are united in their ideology that more symmetry is the way to go. But unfortunately, both are equally wrong when they suggest this as the direction that needs to be followed in order to find the theory of everything.

Again, both do not follow experiment; they follow an ideology. Even a hero like Woit has his weak spot. Motl, of course, is not a a hero, but a declared follower of ideology. His role has been described by Augustine already 1600 years ago: "If it weren't good that evil exists, evil would not exist."

Motl and Jacobson

In a recent post, Lubos Motl discusses a paper from 1995 by Ted Jacobson. That paper makes an important point: gravitation is a consequence of the thermodynamics of space-time. The paper does not explain what the microscopic degrees of freedom are, but it makes the point that gravitation derives from them.

The argument is old and simple. But Lubos cannot live with it, because he believes that gravity is a phenomenon due to higher dimensions and supersymmetry. He has a problem though: there is not a shred of evidence for either assumption. Both assumptions are ideological.

On the contrary, there is a lot of evidence for Jacobson's argument – the entropy of black holes, for example. Worse, Jacobson makes the point that gravity is due to thermodynamics in three space dimensions. Obviously, anybody who makes such patently false statements (:-) makes Lubos's hormones go ballistic. He writes:

 "First of all, the entropy associated with the Rindler horizon is not "objectively real". It only exists relatively to an accelerating observer who decides not to ever see the space behind the horizon. From the viewpoint of the whole spacetime and coordinates that cover the whole spacetime, random areas in the spacetime obviously carry no entropy!"

Here you see what happens when ideology guides reasoning. In other words, if one observer measures something, and another not, obviously the first one is wrong, says Lubos Motl. Following this reasoning, black holes have no "objectively real" entropy, because an observer falling into a black hole does not see a horizon.

But read for yourself and enjoy how the false conviction that an argument in agreement with experiment cannot be correct makes a theoretical physicist go completely bonkers.

What happens if a researcher does not believe in ideology

In several of his blog posts, Tommaso Dorigo (his blog is in the blog list to the right) has explained that he does not believe that the Higgs boson or superymmetry exist. This view is shared by Tini Veltman, who won the Nobel Prize for physics for his work on the standard model.

It is also worth mentioning a small detail: the view is confirmed by all experiments so far.

What happens to physicists that make statements that agree with experiment but disagree with the ideologies that are common since 30 years? All reactionaries arise and start calling such ideas 'nonsense' and the people behind them 'crackpots'.

The German philosopher Hegel was once told that his theory was in contradiction with the facts. He answered: "All the worse for the facts."

Voltaire said: "It is dangerous to be right when the established authorities are worng." The saying is old, but who woud have believed that it would ever apply to physicists themselves?

Against Ideology in Fundamental Physics

The twentieth century was the time when ideology was rampant. Is the twenty-first century better? Yes and no. There are fewer wars based on ideology, maybe. But ideology has permeated all aspects of life, even aspects where it does not belong.

It is particularly sad that fundamental physics is completely driven by ideology. As I will argue in the coming posts, this is also one of the reasons that theoretical fundamental physics has made no progress since 1967, when the idea of electroweak interaction was born.

Since then, no new idea in theoretical fundamental physics was free of ideology. GUT, supersymmetry, strings, membranes, axions, preons, technicolor, multiverse, anthropic principle, etc.: all these ideas are based on ideology, and none on experiment. How could this sad situation occur?

In the following posts, I will explore these issues, using as examples the topics that are popular at the moment.