26 April 2012

Siegel has given up

Warren Siegel is a physicist famous for his aggressive comments and his small stature. As a woman, I do not like nasty bearded dwarfs, so I admit being partial. Siegel works on strings and supersymmetry. His aggressive behavior against other people searching for a final theory is well-known. Besides, Siegel probably is the only person in the world claiming in writing that supersymmetry is predicted by experiment. Despite his religious devotion to supersymmetry, since many years, his papers lack any physical idea, any notable advance and any relation to experiment. And every new paper he writes is less interesting than the previous one. His last paper shows that he has effectively given up. This is understandable: the LHC has shown experimentally that most supersymmetric models are mistaken. Siegel has become a typical modern particle theoretician: with strong opinions that are wrong. If he is consistent, he will now start making nasty comments about his own work. That will be fun to watch. But it will make him more human, and more likeable.

22 April 2012

Men, women and passion

Weinberg, one of the most successful physicists ever, is now an old man. And he is sad and bitter that large particle experiments are so expensive and so tough to get funded. But why? Because his own passion took the wrong turn.

We women like men with a passion. We often are less passionate than men on issues, and are more passionate on human relations. We admire men with their abstract passions. Weinberg is such a man. He is passionate about particle physics since many decades, and has been an example to many.

Since 50 years he goes around saying: "Symmetry is the way to go forward! Look for larger symmetries, such as supersymmetry! The final theory will be found in that direction!" And essentially everybody agreed for 50 years. All particle physicists across the world followed him. But there is a tiny problem: he was wrong. The followers were lemmings.

Now Weinberg is sad. If he were a really great man, he would say: "Search elsewhere, I was wrong!" Instead, he is just a normal man, and goes on saying "Search harder! Spend more money!" His passion took the wrong turn. He is getting sad and bitter. And this despite the fact that everybody did what he wanted! How can such a successful man end up in such a mess?

Men need women who help them to remain sane and retain their good mood. And we need men for the same reason. My man will not end up being bitter and sad. We will take care together that our life, our deeds, our guiding principles and our successes do not lead us into a web of self-deception, despite all things that happened and that will happen.

Theoreticians, especially passionate ones, are in danger of getting entangled in falsities. Even more so when their environment agrees with them. Success is dangerous. But we all need to be careful, whether successful or not.