## Thursday, September 09, 2010

### Sabine Hossenfelder's "most courageous postdoc" prize

Sabine Hossenfelder, whom I sincerely wish a higher pressure, has announced her
\$1,000 special prize for the most courageous postdoc (FQXi: click),
also known as Sabine's crackpot prize. A postdoc may receive this modest contribution if she or he
• has a PhD in physics or related field, but not have reached faculty level.
• No self-nominations!
• The candidate shall have demonstrated extraordinary passion for unraveling the secrets of the universe and big unsolved problems in FQXi's focus areas. Via:
• Dedicating time and effort to develop own theories despite this bringing great risk and not being helpful to one’s career;
• Following one’s interests in fundamental physics despite the local environment being unsupportive or even outright discouraging;
• Disagreeing on the consensus despite the likeliness of being ridiculed; and,
• Publicly demonstrating one’s passion.
In other words, the winning candidate has to be someone similar to Hossenfelder herself when she was a postdoc - someone who can climb as deeply to Lee Smolin's anus as possible, who uses a nearby organ as a proof of her special scientific abilities, and who repeats vacuous and politically correct clichés all the time in order to elevate her or his status in the community.

Note that if the criteria were genuinely followed, the winner would simply have to be someone like your humble correspondent (who is not eligible because of a higher status). I came from a half-continent that had no clue about string theory (and whose "representatives of physics" were mostly as hostile to any valuable physics as Swolins and Smoits of this world), learned it, did important contributions to it, and then faced nothing else than ridicule from thousands of lesser minds, if I have to avoid the more technically accurate term for the scum, namely "breathtakingly fucked-up imbeciles."

Thousands of these parodies of the concept of a human being are constantly producing lies about myself. Personalities such as extra-terrestrial abductee Jack Sarfatti or Peter Woit owe everything to me. They would be absolutely nothing if they couldn't periodically spit lies about my field and about myself personally that are always guaranteed to be appreciated by the stinkiest bottom layers of our society.

Will at least a string theorist get her prize because string theory and string theorists - arguably the smartest community on this planet - have faced the kind of treatment that Hossenfelder's document describes? My guess is No. Such political prizes never reward the right people. They're always designed to lionize cowardly individuals who are politically convenient for the person(s) who announced the prize in the first place.

Even if such a prize were measuring the courage of the candidates in an objective way, it wouldn't be a good tool to help science. Just like science is not an organized process of repeating things that other people keep on repeating, it is not an organized process to contradict everyone else, either. The genuine scientific criteria are completely independent of these sociological issues - that's the very point of science. Ms Hossenfelder seems to misunderstand this basic point and she's not the only one.

But if you allow me to return to the previous point, I am shocked how the likes of Lee Smolin have managed to convince many people that they're the "brave mavericks". In reality, Lee Smolin represents a comprehensive incarnation of all the wrong people who have pretty much taken over the Academia - the people who have never contributed anything that has any value but who, directly or indirectly, dictate what is allowed and forbidden in the community.

Such people who enjoy anti-establishment, anti-civilization, postmodern, and hippie babbling are no exceptions in the Academia. Quite on the contrary, they are the norm. And they have been the norm for decades. They're exactly the type of deposit that the Academia has to get rid of if it wants to increase its efficiency and fresh or independent thinking.

The "seers" that Smolin would promote have almost universally been ass lickers, and once they would cease to be ass lickers, he would quickly terminate his support for them. But once again, these are sociological observations that have nothing to do with the merits of science. The reason why proponents of variable speeds of light, discrete models of gravity, and many other widespread laypersons' ideas about physics are wrong is not that they're ass lickers, or they're not ass lickers, from one viewpoint or another, but because the technical arguments show that their theories can't work.

String theorists may look like a dominating community in theoretical physics for those who look at the papers. Indeed, most of the activity has some relationship to string theory because nothing else makes sense so if you work on anything else, you will eventually realize that it is a waste of time and you can never build upon the previous results because they don't fit together.

However, when you count the individuals, you will find out that even within the theoretical and high-energy physics communities, string theorists are a rare minority. After all, there can be something like 1,500 people who could be classified as string theorists on this planet.

It's 2 string theorists per 10 million people - for example, 2 string theorists per the Czech Republic. Such an estimate is not far from the actual number you can measure otherwise. It's an extremely lonely business for someone to belong to this group. The idea that these people suffer from "groupthink" is preposterous beyond any imaginable proportions.

Quite on the contrary, it's the people who have doubts about string theory who represent one of the best examples of an aggressive groupthink - a force that gives self-confidence to millions or billions of idiots just because there are millions or billions of other idiots around them.