Saturday, February 02, 2019

Particle physicists surprised to find I am not their cheer-leader

Me and my Particle Data Booklet.
In the past week, I got a lot of messages from particle physicists who are unhappy I wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times. They inform me that they really would like to have a larger particle collider. In other news, dogs still bite men. In China, bags of rice topple over.

More interesting than particle physicists’ dismay are the flavors of their discontent. I’ve been called a “troll” and a “liar”. I’ve been told I “foul my nest” and “play the victim.” I have been accused of envy, wrath, sloth, greed, narcissism, and grandiosity. I’m a pessimist, a defeatist, and a populist. I’m “to be ignored.” I’m a “no one” with a “platform” who has a “cult following.” I have made quick career from an enemy of particle physics, to an enemy of physics, to an enemy of science. In extrapolation, by the end of next week I’ll be the anti-christ.

Now, look. I’m certainly not an angel. I have a temper. I lack patience. I’m “eye-for-eye” rather than “turn the other cheek”. I don’t always express myself as clearly as I should. I make mistakes, contradict myself, and don’t live up to my own expectations. I have regrets.

But I am also a simple person. You don’t need to dig deep to understand me. To first approximation, I mean what I say: We currently have no reason to think a next larger particle collider will do anything but confirm the existing theories. Particle physicists’ methods of theory-development have demonstrably failed for 40 years. The field is beset by hype and group-think. You cannot trust these people. It’s a problem and it’s in the way of progress.

It hurts, because they know that I know what I am talking about.

Thursday, I gave a colloquium at the University of Giessen. In Giessen, physics research is mostly nuclear physics and plasma physics. They don’t have anyone working in the fields I’m criticizing. Nevertheless, it transpired yesterday that following my Op-Ed some people at the department debated whether I am a “populist” who better not be given a “forum”.

For starters, that’s ridiculous – a physics colloq at the University of Giessen is not much of a forum. Also, I have been assured the department didn’t seriously consider uninviting me. Still, I am disturbed that scientists would try to shut me up rather than think about what I say.

I didn’t know anything about this, however, when I gave my talk. It was well attended, all seats taken, people standing in the back. It was my usual lecture, that is a brief summary of the arguments in my book. I got the usual questions. There is always someone who asks for an example of an ugly theory. There is always someone who asks what’s wrong with finding beauty in their research. There’s always someone who has a question that’s more of a comment, really.

Then, a clearly agitated young man raised his arm and mumbled something about a heated discussion that had taken place last week. This didn’t make sense to me until later, so I ignored it. He then explained he didn’t read my book, and didn’t find anything objectionable about my talk. Must have been some disappointment, I guess, to see I’m not Rumpelstiltskin. He said that “everyone here agrees” that those failed predictions and the hype surrounding them are a problem. But, he wailed, how could I possibly go and publicly declare that one cannot trust scientists?

You see, the issue they have isn’t that I say particle physics has a problem. Because that’s obvious to everyone who ever had anything to do with the field. The issue is that I publicly say it.

Why do I say it? Because it’s true. And because the public needs to know. And because I have given up hope they will change their ways just because what I say is right. You cannot reach them with reason. But you can reach them by drawing attention to how much money is going to waste because scientists refuse to have a hard look at themselves. Lots of money. Money that could be put to better use elsewhere.

Now they are afraid, and they feel betrayed. And that’s what you see in the responses.

The first mode of defense is denial. It goes like this: Particle physics is doing just fine, go away, nothing to see here. Please give us more money.

The second mode of defense is urging me to stay in line and, at the same time, warning everyone else to keep their mouth shut. Over at Orbiter Magazine, Marcelo Gleiser and some other HEP people (who I don’t know), accuse me of “defeatism” and “sabotage” and express their grievances as follows:
“As a community, we must fight united for the expansion of all our fields of inquiry, working with the public and politicians to increase the research budget to accommodate different kinds of projects. While it is true that research budgets are often strained, our work is to convince society that what we do is worthwhile, even when it fails to deliver the big headlines.”
But no, just no. My job as a scientist is not to “convince society” that what other scientists do is worthwhile (regardless of headlines). My job is to look at the evidence and report what I find. The evidence says particle physicists’ methods for theory-development have not worked for four decades. Yet they continue using these methods. It’s bad science, it deserves to be called bad science, and I will continue to call it bad science until they stop doing it.

If I was a genius, I would be here telling you about my great new theory of everything. I don’t have one. I am a mediocre thinker. I just wish all those smart people would stop playing citation games and instead do their job so we would see some real progress. But I’m also a writer. Words are my weapons. And make no mistake, I’m not done.


  1. Sabine, cheer up! You are fighting a good fight. I root for you. You are a self-correcting force within fundamental physics. A very formidable force, indeed! If you win this fight, probably there won't be a next big collider in coming decades. Experimenters would disperse to industries, theorists would take shelter in other promising subfields. Then when time comes, they or descendants of them would gather again with fresh ideas and broader perspectives. To make particle physics great once again! History shows progress is not linear. Maybe now is the time for long hibernation and serious self-reflection. It will be only a blip in the history of mankind.


  2. From a 'no-one' from your 'cult following'y opinion is of little value - NO.
    Speak the truth. Stay strong.

  3. bee:

    as the saying goes, one must 'fight the good fight' (ἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα τῆς πίστεως).

    once the battle is won,, we can then address other, even more fundamental, questions, such as: (1) is it acceptable for scientists to ask for or accept taxpayer money to fund scientific research, (2) has the reductionist agenda of physics failed and if so, should it be replaced by the 'emergent' view of physics, (3) do theoreticians look for the truths of nature in their theories or simply create models that represent certain parts of nature.

    naive theorist


  4. hi Sabine,

    you link to a text by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein with title "Particle Physics Is Doing Just Fine". This author (218 citations on is the same that is trying to de-platform me with a "community statement" that contains false libellous statements. You don't need to destroy particle physics, it is doing just fine.


    1. Sorry to hear about your troubles. But what do her citations have to do with anything?

    2. Science deserves to be funded as long as it gives us universal truths thanks to hierarchies of competence. This ethics allowed to solve past disagreements without degenerating in political wars.

  5. naivetheorist, I believe your fundamental questions are quite easy to answer.

    (1) It is not only acceptable to ask or accept public fundings. It is essential to the development of new knowledge and to the preservation of old one. What is however preferable, in my opinion, is that the vast majority of efforts do focus on energy/scales ranges which are somehow (possibly in a rather vague sense) relevant for the ones in which we live.

    (2) They are both important, of course, and one needs to recognize not only the great successes of the reductionist approach but also its limitations. The attempts of the high-energy community to label other fields as less fundamental or even derivative are rather childish (and of course misinformed).

    (3) In all evidence, we create models and theories that represent nature. In order to believe that there exist an inner fundamental truth which we can fully access one has not only to be deeply religious, but also to have faith in a divine clock-maker that is so kind to have devised a universe that can be fully grasped by our human finiteness.

  6. Hi Sabine,

    very nice post again. Please continue making truth public.

    I thing you are wrong with one thing: "Money that could be put to better use elsewhere." This is absolutely unimportant - and who decides what 'better use' is? How about building a wall?

    In my opinion, the true problem is the incredible amount of talents wasted. That is the true limited resource.


    1. akidbelle,

      It is important. It's an investment into the future, and it's not a good investment.

    2. "For many people, it‘s not understandable why so much money from taxes is investet into foundational research such as particle physics. Especially not as long they themselves or their children suffer from other deficiencies e.g. in schools."

      You are implying that there is money lacking elsewhere because it is invested in fundamental research. This is wrong. Look at the budget of any country. Money for basic research is a very small bit. Basic research or better schools, or whatever, is a false dichotomy.

  7. The best response to what you say would of course be a reasoned argument explaining why your cost-benefit analysis of a new collider is unduly pessimistic. Has anyone attempted to provide such an argument? I find what you write quite convincing (so far just your blog posts -- I haven't read your book) but I'm conscious that I haven't seen any counterarguments, other than the how-dare-you-open-your-mouth ones that you have told us about. I'd be interested to know what you regard as the most convincing, or perhaps I mean least unconvincing, counterargument you have read.

    1. No, they have just complained that I have not provided a cost-benefit assessment of every other experiment under consideration.

      The most convincing counterargument (for building a larger collider, I assume). Ah, yes. Very clever, asking me to argue against myself.

      Well, good. Here we go. It is true, of course that the Higgs is a special particle, different from every other particle we know, and yet we have not studied it all that much. The LHC will now study it for another decade or so, but a larger collider would do it better.

      It is also correct that slimming down a research area and then building it up again costs time and money too. So one could try to make a case that under the assumption that some other experiment will make a new discovery in XX years, which then must be followed-up on with a particle collider search, one might be better off at least investing in the slimmed-down version of the collider to keep the community together and "ready to act". Alas, this situation would require an entirely different study than the present FCC study. I don't know whether such a scenario will be under discussion at the upcoming strategy meeting.

  8. I admire your courage. I am a former astrophysicist and I always thought I would write a book about all that goes wrong in my field, but I don't have the courage and also more interesting things to do by now. :) I think you really are an idealist and you just want the public to make informed choices about where they should invest the funds. I am sorry that you get attacked so nastily... I would love it if someone publicly criticized dumb things in my field like the way simulations are done in astrophysics, and why we put all our hopes on JWST which has high probabilities of failing but cannot be repaired etc. Also group-think and citation bandwagons are a huge problem as well in our field and it is very hard for young people who try to do something only slightly more original than what the established professors consider the right direction of research (which is always confirming the theories that they put forth when they were young)... I wish there was a pot of money for people who try out slightly more original things but there isn't, and instead the money should be poured into another collider...? Well I just wanted to wish you a lot of strength to withstand those attacks, I have some faint idea how this might feel, since I wrote some slightly critical papers during my time. It really sucks to be an idealist as a researcher, while the opportunistic and cynical people have a much easier time. The cynicism of my colleagues was actually one of the reasons I had to leave, it was just bad for the soul. When you get too fed up to continue, maybe it helps to know that there are jobs out there which are better suited for idealists. :)

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Sorry to hear that astrophysics isn't doing much better. I was guessing that much because Avi Loeb wrote about this some while ago, eg here. Is this what you have in mind?

      Job-wise. I've had one leg outside academia for several years now as with my writing and such. If necessary, I can shift weight and stand on that, at least until something better comes to my mind. So I'm not terribly worried.

  9. We do not even see what the real problem is yet. It was never about just "science" as some special activity outside the overall cultural frame. It was always about the continuing decline of so called "Western civilization", that remnant of Greco-Roman antiquity that turned into an endless arena of colonial gladiators. And all these "know it all" boffins that think they will escape death by fame and prizes. Let's wait to start raining bombs in Venezuela and our little Europa being ripped apart after May's election and we shall know for good what it means when real money starts the real talking!

  10. Dear Sabine,

    You are a prophetic voice - for lack of a better term - a prophetic voice in your field. And they hate you for it. It's a harsh and lonely road. It would be the same in another discipline. Yet, you have now taken up the mantle of a champion of truth. You can not go back, you can only move forward. And you will be remembered as one who fought for science and for integrity. On the way, a group of interested people starts to join you. And if that is a cult, what to say of those who kick on the multiverses and extra dimensions supplied by their angelic cheerleaders ? Better be on the side of reality. Science will overcome delusion.

  11. Sabine, your critics can't be very good scientists if their only recourse is to attack your premises, rather than prove their claims are right.
    It's very human of them to protect their territory, and I wish more money would solve the problems of elementary particle physics, but if money could be better spend on other areas of science research, they should lose their funding.
    You will certainly be unpopular, but truth is more important, hopefully. Sadly, you will suffer for going against the vested interests of the crowd. Your only reward is likly to be unpopularity.
    Have strenght in the courage of your convictions. Be well, and good luck.

  12. Good heavens Sabine...

    and you moved to the quantum...

    ye, I Think you are right. LHC of today has taken so much Money, why build a new one, bigger? First see if the same info can come from some cheaper source. Or use the info LHC has collected, analyze it properly first.

    And MAYBE use something else than string theory too? It leaks too much.

  13. Funny that it is hardly any different among scientists than in parties, religions, tribes, when the mirror is held up to the men and they have no arguments. By a woman. After the loud silence on your book, you now have the storm that the matter deserves.

  14. Good post Dr H.. Stiff up lip, keep fighting the good fight. My suggestion to you - focus on something else for awhile to clear your mind. Would love to see a post on Lambda and the Hubble-(not-so?)-constant

    1. Hi Sandy, I wrote about this here some while ago. For all I can tell not much has changed since.

  15. Sabine, the mythological Cassandra. Her prophecies always accurate, but never believed. Thanks for you service!

    I think there is one other element you left out: egotistical fervor. I've seen professors toil away careers on subjects that, even if they were successful, were never going to make them household names or world-famous.

    My mythology professor is never going to be hailed as the new Einstein of Greek Mythology. In fact, he financed some of his research, every summer, as a tour guide in Greece or other sites, able to reel off the stories, what they meant, and able to answer questions on the fly.

    Most professors aren't out to solve the whole universe, and have no expectation of being hailed as a god-like figure on Mount Olympus next to Newton, Einstein, Feynman or Hawking.

    What they study will not redefine the universe, time and space and matter. But that is true for physicists, and when you (rightfully) criticize them as approaching the problem all wrong, in a way that they feel threatens the funding for eventual fame, they attack you for trying to destroy their dream.

    Nuclear Physics, like "Rocket Scientist" before it, has become synonymous to the public with extraordinary intelligence and intellectual respect. When you publicly point out they are behaving like children and engaging in magical thinking (naturalness, beauty), you threaten the public perception that they know what they are doing, threaten the cachet of their job and value to society, and this also threatens funding, and their jobs.

    I think Ego is a large contributing factor to their hostile response. Everybody hopes to claim their seat in Olympus, as one of the world-famous Gods of Physics. IMO that kind of thing is not even a goal in most academic fields. You could solve a Millennium Prize Problem, or prove P <> NP, without making the cover of Time Magazine. There's just something special about fundamental physics that offers physicists their own little shot at immortality.

    1. > There's just something special about fundamental
      > physics that offers physicists their own little
      > shot at immortality.

      Yes. Bombs. Robert Oppenheimer said so.

  16. Concerning the necessety for a new, larger accelerator, it's the same thing as with the global warming lie, the evil diesel slander and so many other mainstream items: a large-appearing group of conspired pseud-scientists or actual scientists try to secure their incomes by chatting up the oublic opinion by means of poor informed and badly skilles media and well-bred politicians. THX for your personal courage and endurance! :-)

  17. “The reason that university politics is so vicious is because stakes are so small”

    ― Henry Kissinger

  18. I have been to a degree on fence with respect to this. I can see either side in the argument. The negativity against Hossenfelder is clearly similar to the anger one gets from the union membership of some company that is cutting back jobs. It is the same; we prefer to have our careers or jobs maintained.

    I would say the most likely positive thing to come is more precise measurements of masses, such as the Higgs particle mass. We will also have a fair amount of data on the renormalization group flows of running parameters into a higher energy scale. This will not likely produce some big Nobel Prize winning discovery. I would say the physics is likely to be standard model all the way up to 100TeV, where the prospects for some SUSY are small. However, this will constitute physical information and data.

    The other positive thing is there will be a population of people who do graduate work who will for the most part be employed in technology firms. This will keep the EU and maybe the western world at the lead in technology. We have a serious challenge from China, where the government there has clear goals of monopolizing the technosphere. They are also making other power moves. So the EU and maybe by some extension the US or even Latin America can hold some edge here.

    The negative thing is this FCC means a large amount of science dollars are pooled into one program. If science funding in general where fungible to such changes that might be one thing. However there is a tendency when big programs get going for smaller programs to get pushed to the side. Is filling out the RG flow of the standard model more important that research on edge states and symmetry protected topology in the phase structure of matter? On a far bigger scale this is one reason I groan ever time I hear about big space programs to send astronauts to Mars. We must never forget that funding for science programs, in particular big programs becomes political.


  19. Hi Sabine. Being called a "populist" aligns to Martin Gurri's book the Revolt of the Public. His thesis is that in the older Industrial/Mass media age, media was broadcast out to the public, so it was possible to have a single narrative of the truth. People in power made mistakes, but they were left quiet to keep faith in the elite.

    In the digital media age, everyone can go on facebook or have a blog. And run around the gatekeepers. So the populist revolts in the Arab spring, french yellow vests, and yes, Donald Trump, all have this in common.

    I know you're busy, but I think it's an excellent book, and since you're getting attacked in exactly this manner, you may find it both an interesting and a useful read.

  20. Sabine,

    Thanks for taking a stand on this. I'd be willing to bet a large portion of people's unwillingness to openly discuss your observations is tied to the same rationalizations that have gamblers throwing more money when they're losing, because "my luck will change any time now!" As an inherently self-centered species, we seem to feel we're owed something by the universe; the more we've invested into a project/gamble/career/etc, the more desperately we cling to the belief it's all worth it and the highest win is just around the corner (dark matter research, anyone?).

    Now look. I'm just a disabled veteran layman, whose highest academic achievement is becoming a Master ASE certified automotive technician, so my words likely wouldn't carry much weight in Ivory Tower Academia. However, one of the fundamental principles behind becoming a technician is the ability to develop logic and trace problems in an organized manner. What particle physics as a whole seems to do is what in the mechanical world we call "loading up the parts shotgun and blasting away." In other words, instead of taking more time to critically think about the problem and how to diagnose it, throwing money/parts at the issue and hoping you get lucky.
    Long-winded way of saying, I agree with you, and while it might not matter much in the long run, you've got my support.

    1. Thanks. Yes, I agree with your diagnosis, they hope that throwing more money at the problem will solve it.

  21. Hi Sabine,
    Taking the heat for being Cassandra, and calling out the entrenched interests is essentially a negative message - and you will likely be criticized for negativity.

    Perhaps a go-foward strategy for you blog would be to highlight the work of those scientists with good ideas that haven't gotten much traction because their ideas aren't mainstream.

    I know that there are many of those out there that are demonstrably serious and credible

    1. Thanks. I do highlight ideas I find noteworthy but haven't gotten much traction. Please note, however, that if anyhow possibie I try to not do this on my blog, but on a medium that reaches a larger audience. I have eg written about superfluid dark matter (for Aeon and Scientific American) and Asymptotically Safe Gravity (for Quanta Magazine) as well as quantum simulations in more general (various places), emergent gravity (ditto) and ways to experimentally probe quantum gravity (Nautilus).

      What you find on this blog is, basically, stuff I can't pitch. Summaries of papers I've read. Comments on other people's papers or articles. Random thoughts. Personal matters. General writing overspill.

    2. I really don't get this Negatively criticism. I've read you book and follow the blog and all I see is positive exasperation.

      Saying that something is wrong or that you shouldn't do something isn't negative, any more than telling someone not to walk into a burning house is.

  22. Nice essay Dr. H. You are not a mediocre thinker and I know you understand (meaning knowing what motivates them) the reactions to your views. Every mature field becomes self reinforcing and loses perspective. A voice pointing this out is always good for the discipline eventually, but not always for the one to whom it falls to speak it.

    1. Calling particle physics mature is an interesting choice. It is by no means mature we are missing key components in just about every theory.

  23. Thank you for posting about theoretical developments for physics nowadays. That methods have not worked for decades is not something a physicist likes to hear. But it seems to be the truth indeed! I am a physicist following a very mediocre phenomenological approach. What is the situation now for physics?
    What if all physicists are looking in the same theoretical direction interpreting the results of a measurement stay within or at the borders of today´s paradigm. To get really new ways of thinking one can change one of the fundamentals of the theory or construct better apparatuses. For instance a different better working apparatus ( like or not just ) a Collider for particle physics or better nano- photonic materials or whatever. One has to cross borders of todays paradigm. This paradigma forces everybody to see only limited possibilities to construct or interpret measurements anew and get new ideas for future developments.

  24. One area of research at CERN that I find particularly interesting is the ongoing investigation of the quark gluon plasma in heavy ion collisions. It is a laboratory reproduction of the entire universe at about 1 to 3 microseconds after the big bang. The experimental results, based on the Landau hydrodynamic model, suggested at first that it behaved like a perfect classical Eulerian liquid to a good first approximation. As far as I understand, this behavior is incompatible with the models that are being used for inflationary cosmology. So I think that inflationary cosmologists think that (or hope that) the quark-gluon plasma will eventually (at higher energies) become asymptotically free and behave more like a gas than a liquid. In addition, the early work on modeling in the standard model suggested that thermalization was occurring faster than the speed of light allowed in the quark gluon plasma. This was precisely the same reason that inflation was originally proposed for the early universe. I don't know if rapid thermalization is still a problem with the most recent studies of the quark gluon plasma, but if it is, this seems to be extremely important. It probably makes sense to delay a next generation accelerator to allow Moore's law and technology advancements to occur that could make the next generation much cheaper than it is now though. Quantum computing could potentially greatly impact the ability to process the data and simulate Lattice models for example. There are arguments too that space-based accelerators could be constructed much more cheaply than land based ones at very high energies. Perhaps particle physicists should work on that idea for a while before committing to another land-based concept. But I think it would be a shame not to ever know what lies next around the next corner.

  25. gowers
    "The best response to what you say would of course be a reasoned argument explaining why your cost-benefit analysis of a new collider is unduly pessimistic. Has anyone attempted to provide such an argument?"

    There are counter 'arguments' - see e.g. CERN website for the next generation collider concept design report and short facebook(?) presentation.
    However obviously difficult to present a theoretical counter argument since pretty much all the theory has been developed using the concepts of naturalness and beauty that Sabine argues against. There is a recent paper by Baer et al. which suggests that the LHC results so far (no SUSY, Higgs at 125eV..) can be 'postdicted)(the paper argues predicted) using naturalness and the anthropic principle along with string theory. It may be correct, it may be a pile of junk, but it's an hypothesis that at least deserves attention.
    Unfortunately the predictions made in the paper would require higher energies or luminosities than the LHC currently achieves in order to prove or falsify. Which brings us back to where we started Sabines argument verses 'more energy please'.

  26. I find the idea that other people might disagree with what you have to say ordinary and reasonable.

    I find the fact that their response might be to try to silence you explicable but disgusting. If science is about anything at all, it is about being honest with ourselves. Attempting to silence dissent on the basis that we can't allow the hoi polloi to hear about the existence of an honest dispute has no place whatsoever in the scientific enterprise.

    1. Perry
      Excellent comment. I was about to say much the same.

  27. I think we've reached the limit of practicality for particle accelerators using conventional technology. My hope is that laser or plasma acceleration will eventually allow for dramatically higher energies with much smaller machines. Certainly looking to see if anything new turns up at higher energies is worthwhile provided it doesn't break the bank.

  28. Sabine,

    You are brave to give out a bleak but true message to your colleagues.

    I am sure high energy theorists are not the only group of scientists who deserve such a message. For example the medical scientists chastised by Richard Harris in his book "Rigor Mortis", must have loathed him even more!

    It was interesting that some did not even cloak their opposition to your views in technical arguments - they just hated your message!

    I hope that your stand may encourage others in the know to come out in yet more areas of science that suffer from analogous problems (I can think of 2 or 3!).

    BTW, I like the new blog format.

    1. You mean the threaded comments? Apparently Google introduced that option a while ago, but I didn't notice until someone told me yesterday! I hope it will declutter the comment sections somewhat. Though the formatting is somewhat screwed up, it seems to me.

      In any case, thanks for the kind words. Richard Harris is a journalist, so while I am sure some medical scientists were pretty unhappy he'd publicly document the miserable quality standards in their fields, it's somewhat of a different situation.

    2. I realised there is a difference, but medical journalists don't like to upset the researchers, or they won't get the next scoop.

      I dare say something similar operates in HEP - I think it is another part of the problem. Also, I suppose it is much more attractive for a journalist to write about other universes, than explain that maybe the equations don't describe reality!

  29. Dear Sabine,

    I do not know You in person, but as I can see from your publications list, you specialized in Quantum Gravity and even made some predictions for black hole detection at LHC. For me it is not suprising your current personal disappointment in High Energy Physics, but please take into account that High Energy Physics includes dozens of directions, and the fact that some QG or BSM predictions were not discovered by LHC really doesn't make any problem; there are a lot of important developments within Standard Models, especially its strong sector. Just to mention exotic multiquark hadron searches at LHC, QGP-related studies. And even within SM framework, above 40 TeV we expect that various SM solitons should be discovered (if not, it will be a blow to SM). Besides, we have an Intensity Frontier, and several accelerators working in that direction. For this reason, I hope You will agree that your crusade against High Energy Physics "as a whole" is not well motivated. If You are interested, I have several new ideas "on hold" due to lack of time, and could help You to switch to our QCD field.

    I agree with You that the scientific society should "stop playing citation games"-I do not play it, and find it a bit funny to hear during discussion that somebody's paper is wrong just because it got low citation score. Or when the anonymous referee, instead of constructive critics, requires You to cite his/her papers not related to the topic. But please note that this problem exists not only in HEP, nor is the fault of the HEP society alone-it is a general problem which appeared when the funding agencies started using this metrics for ranking the research projects. What we see now are the classical manifestations of the so-called Campbell's or Goodhart's laws in action. Maybe we should rethink how (as a society) we accumulate and rank the new knowledge, and if the classical publication processes might be improved in the fast-paced and interconnected 21st century. If Your attempts to modernize relationships of HEP science with society are honest (and not just a publicity stunt to sell your book), maybe we could discuss in details how this could be done.

    1. "Unknown"

      First, could you please sign with a name. You sound like a particle physicist.

      Second, that's right, I once did BSM pheno. If you look somewhat closer at my publication list, however, you will also notice I stopped working on this in 2005, before the LHC even turned on. The reason is that I came to the conclusion naturalness-based arguments are unreliable. (I tell the story in my book.) So my personal involvement with the current data situation is very limited. I am disappointed because I guess I was hoping I'd be wrong after all.

      Third, you are right of course that the organizational structure that results in the amplification of hype and social reinforcement, especially citation games, are not specific to HEP. These problems exist in pretty much all scientific disciplines. I say this explicitly in my book.

      This does not mean, however, that HEP is excused. As the German saying has it, you sweep your own doorstep first. Someone has to start. And HEP has a reputation for being ahead of the rest of science.

      No, this is not a problem that is handed down from funding agencies. This is a myth that I hear all the time (I address this in my book). It's an attempt to refuse to take responsibility. Funding agencies have no reason to want to make bad investments. They rely on reviewers. It's the reviewers who pay attention to oversimplified measures of scientific impact. As a matter of fact many funding agencies now ask applicants to only list 5 or 10 publications that are relevant to the proposal or such, in an attempt to prevent this. (Needless to say, that's rather pointless, if you can jut Google the applicant's name and get their full record.)

      Yes, I would be more than happy to discuss what can be done about this in a practical way. (I have some general recommendations in the appendix of my book, but some more specific ones which are not in the book.) But not with an anonymous commenter on my blog. That does not look like a good investment of my time. I hope you understand.

  30. It is sad to see the mud-slinging going on. Science should remain science and not turn into politics.

    I don't always agree with your views but as far as questioning a new accelerator is concerned, I think you have done a huge favor to the scientific community. The onus is on the particle physicists to explain and convince the community, and the society as a whole, as to why it is absolutely necessary to do what they have are doing. If I was one of them I would have been rather excited that I am getting a chance to engage with a fellow, and a well respected, physicist at a broader platform. I would like to see more scientific arguments from both sides rather than unnecessary slandering. Having said that I feel you are doing your job just fine.

  31. Not to mix metaphors, but your contribution to discussions of both fundamental and applied physics are a light in my lane.

  32. "it transpired yesterday that following my Op-Ed some people at the department debated whether I am a “populist” who better not be given a “forum”."

    I find it disturbing that the culture of censorship and practice of "deplatforming" now appears to be making inroads into physics, the hardest of the hard sciences.

  33. As I said in alternet, it is a good thing Hossfelder isn't in charge of the budget appropriations for the future collider.

    Though history there have been many Hossenfelders who their there handa up and exclaim we have reached the end! We know all, everything! All we can do now is refine our measurements!" (I'm thinking of one famous person in particular, bit there were many) so what if we stopped every time this was exclaimed? Where would we be? The only people who think there is no need for the future collider are the ones who lack imagination.

    1. David,

      This misrepresents my opinion badly. As the AlterNet piece says very clearly (ICYMI, it's in the subtitle), I am optimistic about the future of the foundations of physics. We do not know everything. There is more to find.

      What I am saying is that, at the current state of knowledge, a larger particle collider is not a promising way to find it. It is not the best way to invest such a large amount of money.

      In my impression it's the particle physicists who believe that the best we can do with $20 billions is measuring some constants to the next digit are the ones who lack imagination. But then again, that may just be my impression.

  34. Sabine wrote: Now, look. I’m certainly not an angel. I have a temper. I lack patience . . .

    When people are in conflict with each other, and one or more sides is playing dirty (ad hominem, accusations, etc.), it's difficult to figure out how much is really due to "bad temper" and "lack of patience" (among other faults), and how much is due to justifiable frustration. It's natural and normal to get frustrated when dealing with difficult people. It isn't natural for humans to respond like emotionless robots.

    Complicating matters even further, you're a woman. Men can get away with being more assertive and blunt, and they can even get away with more personal attacks, which is why we don't often see men conceding that they're not angels, have a temper and lack patience.

    I'm currently reading about Socrates and Peter Abelard, two geniuses who pissed people off. Abelard got castrated, but even that didn't stop him. Just this morning I read about the defense Socrates offered at his trial and I was very moved by it, especially in the context of the current political situation in America. On the chance it might offer some inspiration for you, I'll quote it. I think it applies equally well to your situation:

    "I am the gadfly of the Athenian people, given to them by God, and they will never have another if they kill me. And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God by condemning me, who am his gift to you. For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long 1and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. You will not easily find another like me, and therefore I would advise you to spare me."

  35. zinemin wrote: I think you really are an idealist

    I understand why you're saying that, but I disagree. Consider the definition of idealist: a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations.

    From my perspective, Sabine is guided by practical considerations. The entire foundation of her argument is based on practical considerations.

    I agree that it takes courage and integrity to do what Sabine is doing, two qualities that are often associated with idealists.

    Now that you've got me thinking, I'll give some thought to Martin Luther King. When he worked for basic civil rights and decency, was that idealism or pragmatism? I suppose "practical considerations" can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder. :-)

  36. "...our work is to convince society that what we do is worthwhile, even when it fails to deliver the big headlines.”
    Dead wrong. Our job is discovery, evidence, analysis and good science. I'm not an entertainer or a politician, although there are many in this field.
    Motto: Call it like you see it. Defend your position.
    Keep chargin'!

  37. Those things people have called you in the second paragraph. I hope it was only from Motl.

    1. Nope. Almost of that came from particle physicists. Some of them I have known for quite a while, the others I checked. No cranks, normal researchers in the field. The exception is the remark about "nest fouling" which came from someone who works primarily in GR.

      Most of this exchange is public, btw, you find it on my facebook timeline or in my twitter feed. Plenty of witnesses for that too.

  38. I am not a worker in HEP, I am a Ph.D. research scientist/engineer in plasmas, spectroscopy, and supersonic combustion for high speed air breathing propulsion. I did work at Ohio State HEP as an undergrad tech in the he late 1980's, and I learned exciting things firsthand about HEP. So, with that said, on one hand I applaud the work performed on the Standard Model (neutrino mass, Higgs, etc). I am very grateful as a watching layman. However, I am becoming more and more dissolutioned with the theoretical particle physics community. Example: the EM-Drive generated a lot of theoretical papers on how it COULD work and then recently, a group in Germany has experimentally shown that the NASA thrust stand data is probably corrupted by the Earth's magnetic field, leading to a false positive that the EM-Drive produces net thrust while breaking Newtons' 3rd Law. As a scientist and reviewer of preemminent journal manuscripts, I understand that this is "how science works" and is self-correcting. However, what bothers me is that the theory papers published will remain in the annals of the human knowledge and the authors allowed to cite (and gain citations) for what is probably crap speculatory research...young tigers at University needing publications or jumping to be the next Einstein. It sickens me that those particle physics papers with citations on the EM-Drive will not be retracted if the jury finally nails the coffin shut. In terms of HEP, I have noticed the same movement as an xcited but cautious observer. I have a quote I think may be my own: "Nature Doesn't Care What You Think". In other words (similar to R.P.F. the easiest person to fool is no yourself). Nature seems to have no preference in my work whether I think a scramjet engine is "beautiful", therefore it is truth. I find HEP physicist's sentiments for "Beauty" to be laughable!! It's pure arrogance, and anthropomorphic. And these are the people who claim there is no God, and herald themselves as beacons of "Truth". I think that some are falling into the human trap of "getting high on their own supply". Thank you for trying to keep all of our feet on the ground! Per aspera, ad astra!

  39. As A last paragraph shows you are basically explaining people smartet than you how they should do their job.

  40. Sceincs has replaced religion
    Scientis has replaced Priest, ribby, ETC. Please keep up the good work of getting science back to science

  41. The situation reminds me a lot of what Robert Zubrin says. Space Exploration has been nobbled by cost plus research, the incentive is for all the companies to up their prices to increase their profits. Zubrin, head of the Mars Society, came up with the Mars Direct idea of getting to Mars much more cheaply. Perhaps the problem is not the higher energies but finding some entrepreneur to do it more cheaply. They said that was impossible with space exploration, but this was the result of their own expensive approaches to the problem.

  42. Sabine, for those 'civilians' who love science but lament its descent into the realms of belief in the eyes of the public, you are a breath of fresh air. The problem you are encountering is fear that the image of science is more important than its achievements, that the public will begin to question its assertions. And who are we to commit such blasphemy..?

  43. I don't normally comment because I don't think I know enough to add something useful to these comment threads, but this time I would like to comment on your post (more accurately, a frequent thread in your posts).

    It has to do with the increase in group-think and Aristotelian thinking in certain branches of physics (and really, in most branches of science) over the past 40 years.

    I have seen many breakthroughs in science that were bitterly fought against, long after they should have been seriously considered. Instead they were branded as "pseudoscience" and their originators had their academic careers virtually destroyed. A good example is Carl Woese, who proposed a third branch of protoplasmic life, now called the Archaea. For decades after he proposed the Archaeobacteria (as he called them), he was subject to constant attacks and professional slights from his peers. In his interviews later in his life, he was clearly very bitter about his treatment.

    Of course many or most theories attacked as pseudoscience actually ARE pseudoscience, but it has always seemed to me that the difference is relatively easy to spot. Is the theory based on a physical model? Does the model produce falsifiable predictions? How many free parameters are there in the model? (The fewer the better, best of all would be ZERO free parameters.) How physically plausible is the model? And so on.

    One example of a theory that is being regularly called pseudoscience, but which seems to me to be a genuine physical theory, is Mike McCulloch's "Quantized Inertia" theory. I admit that I do not have enough expertise to judge its truth or falsity, but I do think that the abuse it has been getting is professionally unbecoming at a minimum.

    AS you have stated in earlier posts, "Dark Matter" has so many free parameters that it's effectively worthless, since you can "predict" almost any rotation curve by varying the parameters -- and this in fact has to be done for each individual galaxy. So it's not falsifiable and therefore is not a true physical theory. MOND is better, since it requires only one free parameter, but it is not based on a physical model, being entirely phenomenonogical. Again, not a true physical theory.

    McCulloch claims that Quantized Inertia is based on a physical model with ZERO free parameters, and produces quite accurate predictions over a very wide scale, from galaxy clusters to galaxies, globular clusters and wide stellar binaries. He additionally claims success in explaining a variety of other anomalous observations, including cosmic acceleration, usually explained with "dark energy".

    I don't know if it is true or not, but I do think it deserves careful consideration. But it does not appear to be getting any. There seems to be a very visceral hostility to it, based as far as I can tell much more on emotion than on logical objections. Understandable, since if you have spent your career working on Dark Matter theory, you do not want to hear that your entire career was spent barking up the wrong tree, but not justifiable in my opinion.

    Finally getting to my point, have you looked in Quantized Inertia? If so, did you spot any unfixable flaws? One common accusation is that it violates the Principle of Equivalence, but McCulloch says that in fact it does not, since the calculated modification to acceleration does not depend on mass.

    1. "One common accusation is that it violates the Principle of Equivalence"

      Even if it does, what's wrong about it? The nature doesn't have to obey any principles made up by people.

    2. I think you are repeating a common misconception about CDM (Cold Dark Matter); it’s not just about galaxy rotation curves, but also why galaxy clusters seem to be gravitationally bound, the acoustic peaks in the CMB, strong gravitational lenses, and so on.

    3. Actually, McCulloch claims that Quantized Inertia does address all anomalous gravitational accelerations including galaxy clusters, globular clusters and especially wide stellar binaries (which Dark Matter completely fails to explain).

    4. I am unaware of any well documented anomalies re “wide stellar binaries”. Do you have some references? Also, I do not know of anything anomalous re globular clusters; again, do you have some references? Finally, you did not mention the CMB; why (it’s one of the most impressive pieces of evidence)?

    5. Mongo,

      I looked into both the globular cluster and wide binaries claims. I found only a couple of rather old papers on the former (none particularly convincing), and quite a few on the latter: even with GAIA DR2 results, the case for significant anomalies seems weak. Also, hasn’t McCulloch’s idea been shown to be inconsistent with observation, in that the Pioneer anomaly now has a “boring” explanation? Finally, McCulloch says nothing about the CBM, a rather strange omission, wouldn’t you say?

  44. Bee,

    Do you think the Higgs and its sensitivity to cut off scale, is fine-tuned, composite, conformal, extra dimensions, or no new physics from fermi to planck scale?

    1. As I said many times before, I don't think the sensitivity of the Higgs mass to the cutoff scale is a promising topic to work on. I don't know whether there is new physics to find below the Planck scale.

  45. Hi, historian of modern physics here. Kudos for your groundbreaking “emperor has no clothes” work. When actual budget requests come up you will find ample support from non HEP scientists... I hope you have read “Tunnel Visions” on the history of the SSC...
    But as you respond to attacks I hope you will be careful about the argument that “they’re just trying to get money” — I notice one of your commenters brought up the lie that climate scientists warning about global warming are just out for money etc., and that weapon has also been deployed by anti-vaxers and others. Well, to be sure, scientists want a salary (and respect, and students). The trick is to avoid “nothing but” arguments, e.g., HEP (or climate science or whatever) is nothing but a scam or a power grab or whatever. Respect the good motives of opponents, the desire to defend the scientific enterprise in general, the horribly frutrated yearning for something cleaner than the standard model, etc. You can point out their errors without descending, tempting though it may be, to ad hominem comments on their less admirable motives.

  46. If you start to make enemies, it is a sure sign of success. Such we are, humans.

  47. For you information. I have found a book written by a physicist:

    Martín López Corredoira, The Twilight of the Scientific Age Paperback, 2013

    I do not know if you have seen it. If not, it could be of interest. There is a short summary on I have just read it.

    Corredoira's pessimism has some other origin but he also complains about the modern scientific structure.

  48. One thing that people spend a lot of time doing is “holding court” on others. Many not doing that waste their time comparing themselves to others. This is the sort of rubbish people really need to avoid doing. There are of course a couple of people on the science blog-o-sphere who are notorious for this sort of holding court silliness, we know who they are but they should be ignored.

    I wanted to give a shout out to Davidson on the heavy ion work at the LHC and ALICE. This work give 13TeV per nucleon with lead ions. The process produces a quark-gluon plasma. From the time of the Brookhaven RHIC there are signatures of AdS ~ QFT physics here with holographic implications.

    It is not hard to imagine the future of colliders under the best of circumstances. This FCC might be built and running the 2030s. I suspect if anything comes of this that is really new physics it might come from a heavy ion detector. Otherwise I think this will be largely standard model physics.

    What could possibly come next? We can imagine further calls for colliders by mid century. Maybe the Chinese will build a 500 or 1000 TeV collider. This may end up giving more standard model and more information on running parameters. This sort of machine would encompass much of an average European state! It it doubtful we could build beyond this no matter how much we would want to.

    We may not be able to chase supersymmetry this way. Supersymmetry is broken for a vacuum energy larger than zero. The inflationary period of the world involved a vacuum energy density of ~ 10^{100}GeV^4, where clearly SUSY was not just broken but extremely broken. This went on for 60-efolds or an expansion of about 10^{26}. This started at around 10^{-36}sec after the initial quantum event giving rise to the observable universe and lasted some 10^{-30}sec. So a region about 10^{-25}m in scale inflated to about a meter and this large amount of vacuum energy collapsed to the tiny cosmological constant today plus around 10^{90}GeV of radiation and particles, which corresponds well to the matter we observe in this cosmic “bubble.”

    Did supersymmetry recover with this reheating process that collapsed the vacuum? Maybe, but remember we are really talking about a complex phase structure. Water can remain in its liquid state down to very cold temperatures if there are no nucleation sites, and the rapid occurrence of reheating may have stranded highly broken supersymmetry. SUSY may not partially recover at all except at very high energy compared to TeV colliders.

    The ANITA cosmic ray events at 10^6TeV or more have been suggested to be s-tauons or the SUSY pair of the tauon particle. I know this is maybe premature to call, but I keep it logged away in my mind. More data may come in the future.

    With the end of colliders clearly apparent, even if we build the FCC, or there is some Chinese “dream machine” after that, it is likely the end of this sort of physics is doomed to come. The connection of particle physics to cosmology and quantum gravity is going to be difficult to nail down. BMS symmetries or connections of BPS charges on near extremal black holes may give some hints on the connections between quantum gravity, say with holographic screens, and particle physics. The e-LISA system may open windows there.

    No matter how much particle physicists scream for the need of new and bigger colliders the end of this process is very evident. Even with the FCC it is most likely this will be the end, and even if there is a Chinese “Inner Mongolian” machine that will probably do little but as they say guild the lilly.

  49. The "big-money-science-community" seemingly starts a new propaganda campaign for more money for more bigger toys for them.

    see e.g. here:

    Money makes their world go round - not reasoning.

  50. @Sabine
    In your criticism of the FCC, you seem to switch from criticizing theorists to criticize experimentalists. Let me say a few things:
    1) As other people said before, the main rational to build the FCC is experimental. Historically, we have always made progress in particle physics by going to higher energies.
    It is thus reasonable to make a further step.
    2) It is meaningless to call the FCC expensive if you do not compare it to other similar endeavors. For a multinational project on several years, it is not so expensive.
    It is a small fraction of what a single country (USA) spens on the military. Or if you prefer, it is just 100 times more expensive than the price FC Barcelona (just one football club!) paid for Neymar.
    Given this fact, do we really have to rely on a shopkeeper mentality of counting every penny?
    3) If it is scrapped, there is absolutely no reason to believe the money will go to smaller physics projects, let alone your pet ones.
    4) Theorists do what they can. By definition, fundamental theoretical physics explores unchartered territory. One may have guiding approaches (naturalness, aestethics) but never any certainties.
    If we were certain to find new particles in that energy range, the whole thing would be rather boring.
    5) On one point I agree with you: the guiding ideas should be many and diverse, and not focus excessively on naturalness. But, as I said, theoretical considerations are not the main issue.
    That the concocted theories are beautiful or ugly does not matter in the end. What matters is which theories are true, and for that you need an experiment!
    7) You are a science communicator by now. Your message to political decision-makers will be, and already is: physics is in a crisis, don't fund it. They will not give a damn about your distinctions
    between valuable and less valuable experiments, the message will just be: physics, thumbs down!

    1. 1) So far, there has always been a reason to expect new discoveries the next larger collider. Now the standard model is complete. There is no reason to expect anything more, not until we hit the Planck scale.

      2) It's the most expensive proposal on the table (not counting, possibly, a telescope on the moon). There is no good reason to think it will do anything but measure more precisely the parameters of the standard model. Some experimental avenues have a larger potential to benefit theory development and a lower cost. These should be done first.
      3) That's why the community should first decide what they want, and then ask for money. Not first ask for money for a collider and then, if that doesn't fly, ask for something else.
      4) As long as scientists do not address social and cognitive biases they are not doing the best they can.
      5) Yes they are. When it comes to the search for physics beyond the standard model we have seen only null results for 40 years. That is because we have tested ill-motivated theories. Physicists should learn from those failures. They don't.
      6) Why is there no 6?
      7) Most politicians are not remotely as dumb as most scientists think they are. Also, this is very clearly an attempt to get me to shut up.

      I have repeated all of this dozens of times by now. I do not get the impression you are listening.

    2. 1) "The standard model is complete. There is no reason to expect anything more" (SH, 2019). Oh yeah, and "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now" (Lord Kelvin, 1900).
      2) Look, following the protests of less than 1e5 people in France, President Macron delivered 10 billions euros in various programs. Half of the FFC, just like this, almost as an afterthought. And that's just one country, not even the biggest. Whoever is claiming that the FFC is soooo expensive is just short of more serious arguments.
      3)The community should ask for money for big projects like the FFC, AND money for smaller-scale projects. Why this self-censorship?
      4) AS I said, I agree that theorists should develop a variety of strategies, so I don't see any real disagreement here.
      5) "When it comes to the search for physics beyond the standard model we have seen only null results for 40 years. That is because we have tested ill-motivated theories.". We have seen null results because there happened to be no particles there, not because of what theorists predicted! Don't you see your big logical fallacy? It's Nature that decides, not theorists. One thing you do not understand is that, in fundamental physics, theorists are not there to say: "Focus your microscope there ad you will see something, 100%". No. they propose predictions so that, if experimentalists see something unusual, then they will be more likely to think "Aha! that might be an interesting bump in the data", rather than dismissing it as a fluke.
      6-7) Never said that politicians are dumb. But you seem not to realize how they work. They get hundreds of requests for funding: more roads, schools, hospitals, museums, exhibitions... They need to choose, and since most projects are actually valuable for that they look for good arguments to scrap some of them. You are just feeding them good reasons to scrap big physics.

    3. 1) That is a deliberate misquotation. The full sentence I wrote is "There is no reason to expect anything more, not until we hit the Planck scale." I do not know what you think this has to do with Kelvin. If you know a reason, then tell me a reason.
      2) Irrelevant.
      3) You gave yourself the reason.
      5) Of course predictions are not 100% certain. If you look at the history of science, the theoretical predictions that were successful were those which resolved mathematical inconsistencies. That's what we used to do. We should learn from the past 40 years.
      6) I understand that you do not like what I am doing. Please understand that I don't care at all whether you like it.

    4. I assume that the quote attributed to Kelvin, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now" (actually from Michaelson) was mentioned as it isn't too far away from your statement that we have no reason to expect anything more until we hit the Planck scale.

      I still don't follow your logic that there is no good reason to expect anthing new at, eg, a FCC. Naturalness and WIMPs haven't failed. They are not precisely formulated predictions. SUSY or WIMPs could show up at a future collider and with properties consistent with the arguments used to motivate them.

      The fact that a bunch of theorists seemed to adopt a strange approach to, eg, the extent of the fine-tuning Nature would allow (which seems to whatever could be found by Run 2 LHC) is irrelevant. WIMPs and naturalness give orders of magnitudes predictions. You can choose not to buy into WIMPs or naturalness if you want (I certainly sit on the fence here). It is, however, not correct to state that they have failed. A simple factor of 4pi-cubed in a formula could sent a sparticle to 20 TeV.

    5. No, that misrepresents my position. We know that there are new things to find. The theories we currently have are not the last words. I am saying we currently have no reason to expect anything new in more highly energetic particle collisions, not until we hit the Planck scale.

      Naturalness arguments (and the numerical WIMP arguments) have either failed or they are unfalsifiable. Take a pick. In neither case should they still be used by scientists.

    6. I don't think it represents your position but its not too far away from it either.

      Its difficult to call naturalness and WIMP arguments unfalsifiable. Eg no new physics up to 10000 TeV would falsify naturalness.

      In any event I would think that no new physics up to the Planck scale is a fairly unrealistic assertion given the history of discoveries as energies are increased (some predicted and some not). Agnosticism seems to be best bet here.

      I really don't understand your position. It seems as fundamentalist in its own way as listening to theorists preaching naturalness prior to the turn-on of the LHC.

    7. "Eg no new physics up to 10000 TeV would falsify naturalness."

      If you would try to prove this you would notice it's not possible. That's why particle physicists now cannot get themselves to say that naturalness has actually been falsified, though thousands of predictions based on it have been falsified.

      "In any event I would think that no new physics up to the Planck scale is a fairly unrealistic assertion given the history of discoveries as energies are increased (some predicted and some not). Agnosticism seems to be best bet here.

      I really don't understand your position."

      So far we have always had a reason to expect new discoveries at a larger collider. With the standard model complete, this is no longer so. The situation now is not the same as it was 50 or 40 or 20 years ago. In addition, there has not been much progress in collider technology to really advance the experimental side.

      I am not saying that this is a route which should be discontinued. I am simply saying that it is not presently a promising route to continue. We risk that in 30 years the only thing we get is further null-results. We would be better off investing time and money to focus on areas where we do have reasons to expect results that can move us forward.

  51. Sabine, reading you is like seeing the first green things in Spring! It makes me happy!

    You have done an amazing job of delineating the problem - but so far, I don't see much discussion of the origin of the problem, which I see as this - in the Sputnik terror, much societal effort was thrown into bringing people into academic life who, to put it honestly, should have been lawyers or accountants. The system that emerged rewarded the competitive and penalized the thoughtful. Those who profited from this inversion of intellectual life (or should I say, conversion into something more like business or sport) assumed positions of power in which this system could be made intractable through abuse of anonymous peer review. In Einstein's day, a young person with promise was promoted via word of mouth and direct recommendation by esteemed peers. One didn't get to be esteemed by writing vapid potboilers and publishing them in journals that were never even opened, much less read with any interest. Racking up citations was not the way to advance. Advancement was based on actual merit - and because the community was rather small, everyone knew everyone else, and one didn't have to be an Einstein or a Dirac to do useful work within this community. That all changed in the 1970s. We must be rid of the awful system of advancement through empty citations of meaningless work based on anonymous peer review! If you get some nasty responses, I can guarantee you that nastiness is emerging straight from the id of the nastroid, whose primal fear of being exposed as a fraud has been realized :)


  52. Just out of curiosity how sure are particles physics that a larger particle accelerator won't find anything? ( I'm a chemical engineer not a physics guy) Also what are these methods that they've beet using that haven't been working? I try to research this myself but I can't really "Google" particle physics and get the answer.

    1. We do not know whether it will find something. What I am saying is that we have no reason to think it will find something. This situation is different now from before.

      The methods that aren't working are arguments from beauty, notably unification and naturalness. I explain this in great detail in my book. If you search this blog for "naturalness" you will get an idea what this is all about.

  53. Sabine,

    What do you say to this letter to New York Times by Lisa Randall in response to your Op-Ed?

    I’m a fan of Lisa Randall but I don’t think dark matter killed the dinosaurs. Lisa said “Research is worthwhile only when the outcome is uncertain.” Okay. The outcome of SETI is uncertain. Why aren’t NASA and ESA funding SETI? SETI astronomers say the reason they haven’t found ET is they don’t have enough radio telescopes. I told Seth Shostak at the rate they are searching for ET, the probability of finding it in a year, assuming it exists in our galaxy, is approximately equal to winning in a lottery. If you buy one lottery ticket per year, when will you win? Probably not in your lifetime.

    If we spend $10 billion on radio telescopes vs. FCC, is it more likely to find ET or sparticles? Without comparisons with other scientific researches, FCC is like a Miss Universe contest with only one contestant.

    1. Enrico,

      I've seen it. These two responses are so low quality I am hesitating whether I should even comment on them. As you notice, Randall doesn't seem to get the point. Sure, research is worthwhile also when the outcome is uncertain. That doesn't mean a larger particle collider is the best way we can invest research funding.

      Yes, haha, "a Miss Universe contest with only one contestant". That's a pretty good summary, I like that.

  54. "There’s always someone who has a question that’s more of a comment, really."

    I've almost finished reading Kragh's biography of Dirac. He tells a story that after one talk, someone said "I don't understand the derivation of...." Dirac just sat in silence, even though it had been agreed with his host that he would answer questions after the talk. After a while, the host asked Dirac if he would like to respond to the question. "That was a statement, not a question", he said. :-)

  55. Sabine, I think you are mischaracterizing Popper in some ways.This is perhaps causing you some trouble when making these arguments, a lot of these physicists are devotees of Popper. I recently did a philosophy of science course, the professor was a physicist and was at the same workshop in Germany you gave a talk at.

    According to the course Popper didn't believe in probability in science at all, so he also didn't accept the notions of beauty and naturalness as support for a hypothesis. However he had no objection to scientists using any criteria to earn a living, as long as they didn't call it science. When physicists say they are seeking a natural hypothesis they are saying it is more probable to be true. This gives them a way to keep throwing money at the problem in the guise of falsifying it.

    But this is the opposite of what Popper said, a hypothesis must take risks to be falsifiable or it is pseudoscience. Building colliders takes no risks, they just build a bigger one and try other hypotheses. Popper said this was not science, the idea of changing the goal posts constantly to avoid admitting failure. So you can accuse them of forsaking Popper here, which some of them might find more persuasive.

    Also Popper did not say falsifying a hypothesis proved it, he said it just allowed for other possible refutations to be tried over and over. This happens with relativity and EPR for example.Why do they falsify Einstein's ideas properly? The whole idea of the collider is against Popper, they are trying to prove an ever mutating swarm of notions right not falsifying anything. As you and he said, this could go on forever.

    He would not even say they discovered the Higgs Boson as it was at the wrong energy, he would say it was just a target to be attacked some more.

    So your attacks are just what Popper advocated, that others are offended by these attacks would have made them pseudoscientists according to Popper. Attacking hypotheses is the whole point of science.

    Anyway that's what I understood from the course. I said this in an essay and got a good mark for it, so it seemed to be accurate.

  56. Is there a more direct perception than all the math?

  57. For a while now it has seemed ironic that physicists have hurt their funding prospects by overselling the Standard Model (or at least their understanding of it). QCD and its implications for things we care about (protons, nuclei, the early universe) is in no way nailed down. There are old anomalies (e.g. the Kristch findings on transverse polarized proton beam collisions) and new things being found at the LHC with new quark states and such. The theory itself is subject to a Millennium Prize because of mathematical unknowns. But all this gets swept aside as somehow not "fundamental".

    There may or may not be a good case for a higher-energy lepton collider to do precision measurements of the Higgs, find out if it has substructure, etc. But the case for spending money to probe further into the mysteries of the strong force looks pretty strong to me.

  58. If you didn't matter, if you were not respected, if your opinions were easily refuted - nobody would mind, nobody would be rude.

  59. "You see, the issue they have isn’t that I say particle physics has a problem. Because that’s obvious to everyone who ever had anything to do with the field. The issue is that I publicly say it."

    No, that is precisely not the point. You said, that physicists can't be trusted anymore and you still didn't answer what you meant by this and why you make this claim. Please, finally answer this.

    1. Hello film-And-music-reviews,

      You are wrong in claiming that I did not answer this question. I have answered it many times. As long as scientists do not take measures to prevent that social biases affect their judgement, scientists cannot be trusted. I most recently wrote about this here. I not so recently wrote a whole book about it. In case you still do not understand what I say, please feel free to ask and I will be happy to explain it one more time.

  60. So what is the conclusion? I'm a scientist. Therefore should my boyfriend leave me, because >I< can't be trusted? Should I stop teaching, because >I< can't be trusted? I can't help but feel offended by this. I also don't like you trying to get me to buy your book. I understand that you're probably trying to provoke and it obviously works, but I think you overshoot the mark.

    1. my-film-and-music-reviews,

      The reason I keep mentioning my book is that for the book I made a lot of effort expressing myself as clearly as possible and added hundreds of references. I cannot put the same effort into each of my blogposts and certainly not into the comments.

      I am not "trying to get you to buy my book" - that would be an exceedingly inefficent method of increasing my sales rate. I am merely pointing out that your complaint that I supposedly do not "answer question" that I have answered many times, both in my book and in public writing on this blog, is wrong. It is an accusation that demonstrates your own lack of interest, not my lack of response.

      Needless to say, when I say that scientists cannot be trusted, I am referring to statements about their research. Frankly I think you know this very well. This comment demonstrates to me that you are deliberately pretending to not understand what I say. You should do some thinking about what you are trying to achieve here.

  61. Thank god you are taking the flak, it seems that you're able to handle it.
    As a person who DID read your book, thanks. Small-minded, short-sighted, self-centered people who are critisizing you from specious motives ought to be ignored, though they're capable of harming the advancement of physics, imho.
    On a personal note.... your command of english idiom is awesome, considering that I was assuming you to be native-born german speaker. Perhaps I am wrong, or you have language skills to be envious of. So, please keep using those words to be the voice of reason this scientific (!) field deserves.


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