Saturday, March 16, 2019

Particle physicists continue to spread misinformation about prospects of new collider

Physics Today has published an essay by Gordon Kane about “The collider question.”

Gordon Kane is Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan. He is well known in the field, both for his research and his engagement in science communication. Kane has written several well-received popular science books about particle physics in general, and supersymmetry in particular.

In his new essay for Physics Today, Kane mentions “economic considerations” and the possibility of spin-offs in favor of a larger collider. But these are arguments that could be made about any experiment of similar size.

His key point is that a next larger collider is needed to answer some of the currently open big questions in the foundations of physics:
“For our next colliders the goal is to provide data for a more comprehensive theory, hopefully one that incorporates dark matter, quantum gravity, and neutrino masses and solves the hierarchy problem. But what does that mean in practice?”
He claims that:
“It’s been known since the 1980s that a mathematically consistent quantum theory of gravity has to be formulated in 9 or 10 spatial dimensions.”
This statement is wrong. It is known that string theory requires additional dimensions of space, but physicists do not presently know that string theory is the correct theory for quantum gravity. They also have several other, mathematically consistent, approaches to quantum gravity that do not require additional dimensions, such as asymptotically safe gravity, or loop quantum gravity.

Kane then refers to an earlier article he wrote about his own models for Physics Today and claims:
“They predict or describe the Higgs boson mass. We can now study the masses that new particles have in such models to get guidance for what colliders to build.”
Note the odd phrase “predict or describe the Higgs boson mass.” The story here is that in 2011 Kane and collaborators, a few days before CERN collaborations released first results of the Higgs measurement, published a paper claiming they can predict the correct Higgs-mass. Kane later wrote a Comment about this for Nature Magazine. All particle physicists I ever spoke with about Kane’s prediction suspect it was informed by rumors about the Higgs mass and then, consciously or unconsciously, backward constructed.

In his Physics Today essay, Kane then goes on to write that his models “generically have some observable superpartners with masses between about 1500 GeV and 5000 GeV” and argues that:
“Such theoretical work provides quantitative predictions to help set goals for collider construction, similar to how theorists helped zero in on the mass of the Higgs boson.”
Gordon Kane has made predictions for the appearance of new particles at colliders for 20+ years. Every time an experiment fails to see those new particles, he adjusts the masses so that the theory is still compatible with data. For references, please check out Will Kinney’s recent twitter thread.

Among particle physicists, Kane is somewhat exceptional by his public presence and the boldness of his assertions. But his method of making predictions is typical practice in the field. Indeed, by the current standard in particle physics, his research is of high quality. Kane’s models are well-motivated by beautiful ideas and, together with his collaborators, he has amassed a lot of impressive looking equations, not to mention citations.

This does not change the fact that those predictions are worthless.

Allow me an analogy. Forget for a moment that we are talking about particle physics, and think of climate science. That’s the stuff with global warming and melting ice sheets and so on, I’m sure you’ve heard. Now imagine that those models could predict literally any possible future trend. That would be pretty useless predictions, wouldn’t you agree? It wouldn’t be much of a science, really. It would be pretty ridiculous, indeed.

Well, that’s how predictions for new particles currently work. The methods of theory-development used by particle physicists can predict anything and everything.

You do not have to take my word for it, you only have to look at this paper about “ambulance chasing”. Ambulance chasing is the practice of particle physicists to cook up models to explain statistical fluctuations that they hope will turn out to be real particles. With the currently accepted methods of model-building, they can produce hundreds of explanations within months, regardless of whether the signal was actually real or not.

You do not even need to understand a single word written in those papers to see that one cannot trust predictions made this way.

I don’t want to pick on Kane too much, because he just does what he has learned, and he does an excellent job at this. But Gordon Kane is to particle physics what Amy Cuddy is to psychology: A very public example of scientific methodology gone badly wrong.

Like Cuddy, the blame is not on Kane in particular, the blame is on a community which is not correcting a methodology they all know is not working. The difference is that while psychologists have recognized the problems in their community and have taken steps towards improvement, particle physicists still refuse to acknowledge their field even has a problem.

The methods of theory-development used in particle physics to predict new physics are not proper science. This research must be discontinued. And it should certainly not be used to argue we need a next larger collider.



Correction, March 18: I have been informed that Physics Today is not the membership magazine of the American Physical Society, it is just that members of the American Physical Society receive the magazine. I therefore rewrote the first sentence.

62 comments:

  1. A few questions:
    Will the new collider cost significantly more than just keeping on running the LHC?
    Is there any scientific value to just keeping on running the LHC (forget the new collider for now, unless evidence turns up the new collider would be useful)?
    Has Phillip Helbig found any *physical* evidence of the Cosmological Constant being different to the one measured in this universe? Any update there yet?
    Is Steven Mason still around, who argued for about 30 posts that if you could change the Cosmological Constant in a model then you could look at the consequences of that and pretend it applies to physical reality? Christ, that guy was annoying. Though this describes Luke Barnes' research program - $340,000 from the Templeton Foundation to make lots of universes on his ZX Spectrum to "prove" that baby Jesus' papa made the universe...Lots and lots of cranks in Physics these days.

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  2. There are aspects of the Higgs-Boson-mass predictions which are barely known.

    David and Sid Kahanas predictions about the Higgs-Boson-mass and the Top-Quark-mass (1993!!!) in a “parameter free fashion” are very precise. Source: https://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-ph/9312316.pdf

    According to the standard model (SM) predictions are not possible. How do you explain the obvious discrepancy?

    Peter Higgs knew about their work … he said, “You’re from Brookhaven, right. Make sure to tell Sid Kahana that he was right about the top quark 175 GeV and the Higgs boson 125 GeV” [Kahana and Kahana 1993].”… Source:https://arxiv.org/pdf/1608.06934.pdf

    One would assume that highly accurate calculations about the Top-quark-mass and the Higgs-mass are remarkable. Why didn’t the “Kahanas” get the “proper” attention? Why is there no adequate mention about these theoretical achievements?

    I strongly believe that Sidney and David Kahana’s predictions need to be published and discussed again. With reference to Nambu Y and Jona-Lasinio G 1961 Phys. Rev. 122 (1) 345-358 (https://journals.aps.org/pr/pdf/10.1103/PhysRev.122.345) it seems that the entire SM-project had already been completed (…“methodical circular conclusions") at the beginning of the 1960s.

    For further reading see https://arxiv.org/pdf/1112.2794.pdf ... "predictions by the authors D. E. Kahana and S. H. Kahana , mH = 125 GeV/c² uses dynamical symmetry breaking with the Higgs being a deeply bound state of two top quarks. At the same time (1993) this model predicted two years prior to the discovery to the top its mass to be mt = 175 GeV/c²..."

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    1. Everyone and their grandmother predicted the mass:
      https://arxiv.org/pdf/1212.5716.pdf

      and they write " Thus a picture with all new physics postponed to being only close to the Planck energy scale, "

      Jon Butterworth wrote in the "Guardian":
      "The LHC can probe structures about a hundred-million times smaller than an atom. The scale at which problems with quantum gravity definitely become unavoidable is about 10^17... smaller still. There are good reasons to think that this gap is not entirely empty, but it is still a vast gulf beyond our current reach, in which new physics may hide."
      https://www.theguardian.com/science/life-and-physics/2017/mar/12/is-the-standard-model-isolated

      Seems like a lot of money for looking at an almost 0% portion of "good reasons" for "not entirely empty"...

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    2. Steven Evans,
      there is just one outstanding »prediction paper« (1993 https://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-ph/9312316.pdf) which leads to the Higgs-Boson-mass and the Top-Quark-mass with the same theoretical approach prior to the experimental confirmation in 1995 (Top) and 2012 (Higgs). If you know better please let me know by mentioning the source.

      Incidentally the list of 96 Higgs-mass predictions by Thomas Schücker (https://arxiv.org/pdf/0708.3344v8.pdf) is a “good” reference of how and when predictions were made.

      Delete
    3. This is very interesting. I have now read the Kahana's paper, and also the paper by Nielsen (which looks sloppy but contains many interesting ideas, specifically the idea that rather than trying to avoid finetuning, a 'method of finetuning' is needed)

      I would love to know whether @Dirk Freyling is right or @Steven Evans (anyone and their grandmother...)

      To me, intuitively, I would think the Kahana's must simply be right. They PREdicted the top mass and Higgs mass. Statistically, even with 96 attempts (many post top mass measurements btw) it seems extremely unlikely to just pull the right numbers out of your ass.

      Which makes me think their entire method, and predictions, are simply right.
      If I have understood correctly, they predict no 4th generation and even more interesting, the Higgs is "just" a tt(bar) condensate, so in fact a composite particle, not elementary? A meson, in fact?

      Please correct me if I am mistaken in my interpretation.

      How do I reconcile this with recent (anno 2018) research that found higgs-t interaction. The explanations given by LHC on their website seem to say they expect a fraction of the Higgs's to come from (be?) tt(bar). So the other, greater percentage is what then, "elementary Higgs's"?

      Anyone care to elucidate?

      Delete
  3. I don't think this is a very fair criticism. Everybody outside and inside of particle physics has known that Gordan Kane is obsessed with tweaking SUSY models so that SUSY is right around the corner. He's been doing that for decades. I heard jokes about this back in 2012, even before much LHC data had come in.

    Neither theorists nor experimentalists take this that seriously. The actual case that CERN is making, to actual funding agencies, doesn't contain anything like this.

    This did get published in Physics Today, but I think there are a lot of bad takes there, both by particle physicists and others. And you have more reach and influence than a typical Physics Today column.

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    1. Kevin Z,

      "Everybody outside and inside of particle physics has known..."

      You miss the point. I know that, you know that, anyone who knows anything about particle physics knows that. But the public does not.

      I have interviewed various people who said clear words about Kane, but (with the exception of Garrett Lisi) in the end no one wanted to be quoted about it. For the public, Kane is a highly respected top researcher in his field. His word carries authority. This is how hype happens. Do something about it. You are refusing to take responsibility.

      "The actual case that CERN is making, to actual funding agencies, doesn't contain anything like this."

      Funding agencies will not make this decision. Amounts like this have to be approved by policy makes. Politicians care that their decisions look good in the public eye. This is why particle physicists are, and should be, worried about their public image.

      More interestingly, isn't it funny that if I go an write that particle physicists are deceiving the public, that's a big deal because it supposedly raises a false impression, but when a particle physicist does that, that's okay, because everyone knows what they write is bullshit? You should do some thinking, Kevin.

      "And you have more reach and influence than a typical Physics Today column."

      Physics Today has millions of followers on facebook. It is one of the most popular science pages on the planet, believe that or not. Nothing I write on my blog will reach even a percent of the people who read Kane's column. This is real damage.

      Delete
    2. Sabine, since you were called out (well not in name but in deed) in the Physics Today (PT) article. You should definitely write a reply to PT. (And sneak in a reference to your blog.)

      Delete
    3. yes - that is true Sabine but to extrapolate from one particular theorist to the entire field is also very deceptive.

      Delete
    4. kbot,

      I have not extrapolated from Kane to the entire field. In very contrast, I explicitly stated that Kane is somewhat exceptional.

      Delete
    5. to the contrary to quote yourself " i understand that, you understand that any one who knows anything about particle physics knows that but the public does not"


      Well, that’s how predictions for new particles currently work. The methods of theory-development used by particle physicists can predict anything and everything.

      You do not have to take my word for it, you only have to look at this paper about “ambulance chasing”. Ambulance chasing is the practice of particle physicists to cook up models to explain statistical fluctuations that they hope will turn out to be real particles. With the currently accepted methods of model-building, they can produce hundreds of explanations within months, regardless of whether the signal was actually real or not.

      You do not even need to understand a single word written in those papers to see that one cannot trust predictions made this way.

      what do you think the public thinks you are saying?

      Delete
    6. in particular"Well, that’s how predictions for new particles currently work. The methods of theory-development used by particle physicists can predict anything and everything. "

      that may be true for some theories but certainly not for all theoretical predictions in particle physics. You are guilty of exactly what you are constantly trashing particle physics for. Lying.

      Delete
    7. kbot,

      First, if you want to accuse me of lying, I expect you to provide your real identity. I will not publish further anonymous comments that raise false accusations.

      Second, if you think that what I quoted is incorrect, you clearly do not understand how theory-development works in this field.

      This is not an "extrapolation" from Kane - as you wrongly say - this is me having worked in the field myself for many years and still following the literature. You can look at the literature yourself if you cannot believe it. Or, save yourself some effort, and look at the paper about ambulance chasing that I quoted.

      Kane is exceptional in his public presence and the boldness of his assertions, as I have spelled out very clearly. You are the one who is wrong. I rest my case.

      Delete
    8. what do you think the public thinks you are saying?

      Being one of the “public” I interpret what Sabine often says as:

      Too many scientists are unaware and ignore how much common human behavior and bias creeps into and influences their work. It not only corrupts the scientific method, it unnecessarily slows progress and perpetuates the status quo. Even when evidence and rational arguments show its effect they are summarily dismissed and those researchers continue business as usual.

      In my opinion this is a very natural human behavior in all aspects of life however being held to a higher standard, the scientific method, scientists are mostly in denial and believe their work and beliefs are objective and pure when most often they are not.

      Delete
  4. Gordon Kane is making a pitch for his own work on low mass SUSY partners of known elementary particles. In one sense he is sticking his neck out to say these should be tested at the next order of magnitude in interaction energy. If his theories are falsified, which is entirely possible, then in many ways that is progress. The existence of this desert from the EW scale to the GUT scale is really a theoretical prediction itself. This is based on theories, largely taken from the 1970s, of the standard model and the SU(5) GUT. We know the basic GUT theories can't be entirely right, for they predict proton decay wrongly. So we really do not know for sure about this scale of particle-field interactions.

    There are some strange issues with the Higgs field. It is a field with the kinetic part of the Lagrangian density ½|∂φ|^2 so this in the action S = ∫d^4xL that in natural units is dimensionless means with [∂] → L^{-1} that in turn [φ] → L^{-1}. Then the potential V(φ) = -μ|φ|^2 + λ|φ|^4 that the quartic coupling constant λ is unitless. This is a very interesting fact, for it means if we turn off the quadratic part of the potential with μ = 0 or by assuming λ|φ|^4 >> μ|φ|^2, that this potential has a scale invariance with respect to RG flow of λ. The propagator is a 4-point interaction, where the gravitational interaction between fermions is also ~ G\bar-ψ ψ\barψ ψ. This is interesting with respect to conformal gravitation, for this scale invariance appears to be mirrored in some ways by the scalar field. I have always thought that the Higgs field is related to gravitation in some way. Also of course a scalar field and fermion field can be related by supersymmetry.

    The inclusion of the quadratic term means the potential have minima at ∂V(φ)/∂φ = 0 ==> φ = 0 and φ = sqrt{μ/2λ}. This is the degenerate zero of the field. Around the Mexican hat potential, here with φ = φ_1 + φ_2, the field can move on this second minimum. So this is a degeneracy that defines a condensate of fields that can couple with other fields, in particular the EW Z and W^± bosons and fermions. So this gives a mass to particles. This also breaks that nice scale invariant property of the potential. Gravitation also does this, where the Planck mass violates conformal symmetry. In fact with string theory there is a rather “ugly” issue of generalizing the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. This is one motivation I have for defining the unitless gravitational coupling constant with the Higgs mass and Planck mass as α_g = (m_h/m_p)^2 = Gm_h^2/c^2 = 1.6×10^{−35}. This is a measure of how much the universe deviates from conformal symmetry.

    So might there be stuff going on at the next 100TeV of energy? Maybe. We can't know unless we look.

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  5. It's interesting that intransigence can sometimes be
    useful: Einstein at least gave QM a good old review
    expensive: CERN physicists' insistence on continuing the Good Life for no reason
    extremely annoying: Steven Mason insisting in 30 comments that if you can change a value in the model you can change it in reality
    profitable: Luke Barnes getting $340,000 from the Templeton Foundation to search for baby Jesus' daddy in simulations of the universe on his TRS-80.

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  6. I am afraid that particle physicists are prejudiced as to the nature of what they think they are examining: debris.

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  7. You are a bit too harsh about ambulance chasing. Yes, it is slightly ludicrous and does not make participants look at all dignified. But it is a perfectly valid application of the scientific method, i.e. creative theory generation inspired by experiment followed by winnowing of the ideas by new experimental information. Usually the ideas are winnowed to zero when the original anomaly proves a statistical fluke. But if the anomaly is real further experiments (and more careful analysis) eventually end up with one or a few plausible new theoretical ideas. Case in point, the solar neutrino anomaly where the original large number of models has lead to the current picture where there are still a few open questions (Marjorana or Dirac neutrinos?) but we have unquestionably gained knowledge and even extended the supposedly unchanging standard model. In my own field of astrophysics I can point to dozens of similar cases.

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    Replies
    1. Paddy,

      You are missing the point. I am not saying that generating hypotheses to explain anomalies in data is unscientific per se (though one can quibble about what significance justifies the effort). I am using the large number of models that can be produced in a small amount of time to demonstrate that the current methods that are being used to develop those hypotheses do not result in reliable predictions.

      Delete
    2. All it proves is that it is fairly easy to model a low-significance anomaly, which is not surprising since by definition the evidence is not at all constraining. Your point would be well taken if many of the theories proposed continued to fit the data after the anomaly had vanished, but I don't think particle physics has descended to that pathological level.

      And yes, lots of people chasing marginally significant peaks does tell you that this is a field starved of interesting experimental data.

      Delete
    3. Paddy,

      The reason physicists stop working on models that they produced to explain certain anomalies after the anomalies vanished is not that this would not be possible. It's that it would not attract attention any more, it would not gather citations.

      And no, this really has very little to do with the significance of the anomaly. If you need an example for this, take the OPERA anomaly. That was more than 5 sigma, and it likewise attracted hundreds of "explanations" (though not all of those where HEP, so the example is somewhat off-topic). The reason the significance doesn't really matter all that much is that all those models have parameters that allow you to make the signal harder or easier to detect. The obvious example is turning down a coupling constant.

      And, yes, of course this problem is driven by lack of data for new phenomena. This is exactly why I am saying we need to be careful with deciding what experiment to make, so that we minimize the risk of more null-results.

      Delete
  8. "Every time an experiment fails to see those new particles, he adjusts the masses so that the theory is still compatible with data."

    But that's just the way theoretical physics rolls these days, isn't it? Defining detectability as either over the next horizon or impossible, is the modus operandi, the secret escape hatch, whenever theorists paint themselves into an empirical corner. (c.f. dark matter, dark energy, gravitational waves, cosmological homogeneity, quarks, etc.) To single Kane out for this behavior is to make a distinction without a difference.

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    Replies
    1. Bud rap,

      It is correct that similar things are going on in other areas in the foundations of physics (notably astro/cosmo), but that doesn't make it any better.

      Delete
    2. No, of course it doesn't make it better - it means the situation is much worse than if Kane were an outlier. It implies that there has been a systemic breakdown in the way the scientific academy does science.

      You, Lee Smolin, Peter Woit, and Stacy McGaugh, all complain about various instances where, models or modeling approaches, are held onto despite their obvious inconsistency with strongly negative empirical observations. Generally, I agree with your analyses.

      Where we don't seem to agree, is that I see the problem as extending beyond the specific instances you cite, into both of the standard micro- and macro- cosmic, models. These are replete with entities and events that are not directly observable/detectable in physical reality. In some cases they are undetectable by definition, (the big bang event), in others, they are cloaked undetectable by theory (quarks), or are simply undetected (dark matter).

      I attribute this situation to, an effectively mathematicist, culture in the modern science academy, and its tendency to devalue negative empirical evidence relative to a preferred mathematical model. You don't seem to agree with that broader view, is that correct?

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    3. Bud rap,

      While mathematical modeling may reach its limits one day, we are far from having reached these limits. Currently we would be helped if theoretical physicists would pay more, not less, attention to mathematics. In brief, no I do not agree with you that "an effectively mathematicist culture" is a problem.

      Delete
    4. Currently we would be helped if theoretical physicists would pay more, not less, attention to mathematics.

      I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Could you give a specific example of a situation where more attention to mathematics would be helpful to physics.

      "In brief, no I do not agree with you that "an effectively mathematicist culture" is a problem."

      I want to be clear here about the distinction between mathematics, the abstract logical discipline based on counting, and mathematicism, a belief about the relationship between mathematics and physical reality. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematicism)

      So, are you saying that a mathematicist culture doesn't exist or only that its existence isn't a problem in academic science?

      Delete
    5. Bud rap,

      Thanks for the link, I didn't know this was the definition you used.

      As I said above, while this mathematicism may become a problem at some point, I do not think that in the foundations of physics we are anywhere close to reaching this point. We are still in a phase where we just need better math.

      "Could you give a specific example of a situation where more attention to mathematics would be helpful to physics."

      Sure, the best example are arguments from naturalness that led to all the wrong predictions for new particles at the LHC. (Not the prediction of the Higgs-boson, I must stress - this was based on a different method.) These naturalness arguments are mathematically ill-defined. If physicists had made more effort writing down their assumptions they would have noticed that. They did not. They still do not, btw.

      Delete
    6. Sabine,

      Mathematicism is a philosophy, it is neither mathematics nor science. You seem to accept its preponderant role in the scientific academy when you suggest it is not currently a problem. My own view is that it is the problem underlying the general sense that theoretical physics has stagnated over the last 40 years.

      I would argue that it was in that time frame that mathematicism became the default, operational paradigm of theoretical physics. When mathematical models were allowed to override negative (and in some cases positive) empirical evidence, the fundamental rules for doing science changed. The fundamental role of empiricism in science was set aside.

      If a theoretical model said certain entities or events existed, the absence of direct empirical evidence was treated as inconsequential (quarks, dark matter & etc). The standard models of theoretical physics simply wandered away from the empirical foundation of science.

      We now have standard models that do not resemble, in their particulars, the physical reality that we are able to directly observe/detect. This is the inevitable consequence of the sway the mathematicist philosophy now has over academic science. Mathematics, in this brave new world, has become the determinant of reality, empirical reality has become an afterthought. Science cannot proceed on this track, it is a dead end.

      The Philosophy of Mathematicism is not widely and publicly propounded in the academy, Max Tegmark being the obvious exception. Unfortunately, this means that the extent of mathematicism's role in science has not, to my knowledge, been widely acknowledged or debated at any time over the last 40 years. That debate desperately needs to be had.

      For instance, I don't think you hold the same mathematicist views as Max Tegmark; you probably don't subscribe to his Mathematical Universe Hypothesis. But then, this begs the question, to what extent does the philosophy of mathematicism affect your (and every other scientist's) approach to science. How many Tegmarks are out there and how many variants of the philosophy are in play? I'm not sure anyone knows.

      Delete
  9. These people will be going on and on even when walking with a rollator, Sabine.

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  10. Kane is positively Trumpian is his statement that:
    “It’s been known since the 1980s that a mathematically consistent quantum theory of gravity has to be formulated in 9 or 10 spatial dimensions.”

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  11. Great article as usual.
    If you ever get a chance could you please review the following book.
    The Higgs Fake - How Particle Physicists Fooled the Nobel Committee by Alexander Unzicker

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    Replies
    1. Mike,

      I also found that book intriguing, although the author does himself no no favours with his cocky, aggressive style. However, style is one thing, substance is another.

      I'd particularly like to see someone attempt to answer the set of questions that he poses at the end of his book.

      Delete
  12. Thanks for your incisive insights into the Kane piece. I knew you would do it justice!

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  13. I hope Kane, Nima and other real physicists put a demand on you by diffamation, since it is the only kind of argumentation that you know.

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    1. Ahab,

      You are raising unfounded accusations. I am explaining scientific facts. It just so happens that a lot of people dislike those facts very much.

      Delete
  14. What kind of defect causes the human civilisations at some points of evolution to develope complete wrong-going.

    I think of the time around the start of 20th century, I think of nowadays.

    Why mass of people lose any contact to real world? And why there are so few which opposite.

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    Replies
    1. @weristdas

      Because, Adaptation to the Environment is a more strong behavioral pattern in Apes, more strong that "Pursuing Truth" ... In fact, to pursue truth is very far to become a behavioral pattern in the specie ...

      An Abstract Ideal can not compete with Natural Selected behavioral patterns ...

      ... The only way that Ideas defeat behavioral patterns is where/when those ideas get an effective and powerful physical crystallization ...

      Then, The Apes tends to change their behavioral patterns by fear of perishing ( less adaptable to a "new environment" )

      Don't Expect too much from Talking Primates.

      Delete
  15. Forget it Sabine, you lost! It is too naive to argue against a theory which stays "valid" in 10^272000 Univeres ;-)

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  16. It's hard to believe people would continue to buy into this...between the SSC, the LHC and associated upgrades there has been one canceled project (SSC), one project that found one new particle (LHC) and no technological spin offs that I know of. With the current US deficit and slowdown in China, is there really a chance this machine could get funded today?

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    1. "No technological spin offs that I know of".
      A simple web (where did the WWW originate?) search will enlighten you.
      Try, for starters:-
      https://home.cern/tags/knowledge-transfer-0

      Delete
    2. RGT,

      If you think the www is the best thing that came out of particle physics, then you are really arguing that we should instead invest money into the development of data infrastructure and data technology.

      Let me also mention that Berners-Lee had been thinking about developing what is now called the www before he worked at CERN, and so had some others. If he had not developed it then and there, someone else would have done it soon thereafter. This spin-off had very little to do with particle physics. It is not an argument that works in your favor.

      Delete
    3. Sabine, do not deny the facts. Berners-Lee developed the WWW while working at CERN and for CERN use. CERN obviously provided the right environment so that this spin-off could become reality.
      And yeah, he was "thinking" about it before (I'm also thinking about a lot of things...) and "someone else would have done it soon thereafter" (and if Einstein hadn't done it, someone else would have invented GR).

      Delete
    4. Opamanfred,

      I have not "denied" any fact, as you would have noticed if you read what I wrote. I am tired of having to point out that you constantly raise false accusations. If you continue with this nonsense I will no longer approve your comments - I don't have time for this nonsense. That Berners-Lee happened to work at CERN when he invented the www is the most stupid of all stupid arguments for building a next larger collider.



      Delete
    5. Sabine,
      Addition to my previous reply and hopefully clarify my position.
      To achieve it's aim (LHC etc.) CERN has had to enhance existing, and develop new, technologies some of which have spun off to the commercial world. But this is secondary to the primary aim of CERN. It would be inappropriate to use existing and potential 'spin offs' to justify further developments at CERN. These developments should stand or fall on their scientific merits alone.

      Delete
  17. If you rejected this post a few days ago, just delete this one also and I won't trouble you again. I sent the other post from a different computer and, since I can't think it objectionable or off topic, I thought I'd try once more.
    ......

    Bert Kortegaard, retired Engineer

    Dr Hossenfelder,

    Fusion energy is one area competing for scientific research funds. E.g., programs using modular modular systems combining relevant research and known technologies aimed at delivering useful electric power to the grid. E.g., laser ICF and linac colliders. ThisWasAttempted aas late as 1985 with the Los Alamos Aurora program, with only partial but significant success.

    Doesn't modern technology and more mature physics offer worthwhile alternatives to available funding as well as the projected results of the LFC?

    Have you any suggestions about such possibilities?

    Thank you.

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  18. Anecdote from a CERN experimental physicist. He gave a graph of experimental results to a theoretical physicist. The theorist held the graph and explained why the results should look like that. After a lengthy explanation, the experimenter said you are holding the graph upside down. The theorist turned the graph right side up and explained why the results should look like that.

    With plasma wakefield accelerators, soon we can have LHC in a shoebox

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    1. "With plasma wakefield accelerators, soon we can have LHC in a shoebox"

      Sure! And the elephants will fly flapping their ears!
      Plasma acceleration with luminosities similar to present-days accelerators is decades away at best.

      Delete
    2. "With plasma wakefield accelerators, soon we can have LHC in a shoebox"

      Honestly, I heard these things told by experts on wakefield accelerators in the mid 1990s...

      Delete
    3. I've participated in the construction of the latest wakefield accelerator, AWAKE...
      The performance in terms of accelerated beams is still equivalent to that of conventional e- accelerators 50 years ago?...
      There are 1000s of issues to solve, and not easy ones!... even "simple" ones like measuring the position of the e- beam, in the midst of the p cloud which generates the plasma... see arXiv paper.

      Delete
  19. Shrodinger's paticle accelerator...are the angels dancing on the head of a pin alive or dead?

    Theoretical physics needs a time out. Everybody take up fishing, photography, oragami or 'whatever' for a year.

    ReplyDelete
  20. regarding reliability of predictions for values such as Higgs mass:

    Did anyone care to plot a binned probability density distribution of all predicted values between 1950-2011 ? Although the indivifind predictions bear little significance, there might be some swarm effect leading to lroper mean values?

    ReplyDelete
  21. I see something similar in the currently popular "evolutionary psychology". Almost anything about human behavior can be explained by a story that begins with "well, when we lived as hunter-gatherers we obviously needed to..." or "it was clearly an advantage to...". It sounds good, it seems convincing because we know that we once lived that way and, well, here we are today. But it's all ad-hoc, after-the-fact and just a bit too easy. Many other stories are possible, having the same endpoints.

    ReplyDelete
  22. “…his method of making predictions is typical practice in the field.”

    “…Now imagine that those models could predict literally any possible future trend…”



    This sounds like such a useless methodology for professionals who purport to practice science it’s a little difficult to believe. If there is a lucid argument in defense of it I’d like to hear it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Louis,

      The defense that I get to hear most frequently is that this good science because the so-produced models are falsifiable. However, as I pointed out before, just because a prediction is falsifiable doesn't mean it's good science.

      The next common justification I hear is that one needs example models to learn how to extract a signal from the data. This is correct, but one doesn't need tens of thousands of models for that, and in fact most of these models are never put to any use.

      The third justification is that it's somehow a good brain exercise for theorists. I hear this commonly in defense of ambulance chasing.

      Finally, I get accused that I have no better suggestion to offer what should be done, which is wrong. I have made very clear suggestions for improvement, it's just that particle physicists do not like to hear my answer. I get this so often, that I previously wrote about this here.

      Delete
    2. sorry, typo: "that this good science" should be "that this is good science>

      Delete
    3. Perhaps I don't understand enough of the science to discuss the "one needs example models" defense however; it seems if a model can predict anything and everything it can't possibly mimic nature because we've never observed nature to do anything and everything. This begs the question; even when you get some results that correspond to nature, what good are they if the model didn’t also represent the way nature produced those results?

      I don’t mean that accurate predictions aren’t useful, I’m talking about learning/understanding more about how nature works, which is what physicists are supposed to be doing, right?

      Delete
    4. Louis,

      I think this is a misunderstanding. What this point refers to is that prior to analyzing the real data from an experiment, you will do a computer simulation of the experiment and inject a fake signal. You then try to find a good algorithm for data analysis that allows you to truthfully recover the signal. For this, you need some example signals. In particle physics these examples come from from models.

      Concretely, you may want to make a simulation for pp collisions at LHC energies with the assumption that some supersymmetric particle is produced. Then you analyze the fake data that you have produced this way, and see if you can figure out that this particle was in it. You do this to understand if your analysis method is any good.

      Of course, ideally you want an analysis method that is good for any kind of deviation from the already known theories, but you'll still need some examples to make sure that your code is working as desired.

      Now, what I was saying is simply that for this you don't need ten-thousands of models. In fact, there are but a few models that are commonly used for this, so it's a lame excuse.

      Delete
    5. I did misunderstand thank you for clearing it up.

      Delete
  23. Any comments on this Nature Comment? :)
    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00927-y

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugis,

      I've seen it, thanks. I don't have time right now, but will comment later.

      Delete
  24. So, Fermilab is in a U.S. state called Illinois.

    A Republican President moved the collider program from Fermilab in Illinois to Texas in order to help his political friends.

    A Democratic President canceled the program because it helped opposition contributors and because it made it easier to address the budgetary constraints demanded by opponents who accused Democrats of "tax and spend" policies.

    Naturally, some naive geek actually believed rhetoric about alternative funding possibilities. The money has to actually be allocated to science programs generally before there is a competition between science programs.
    That is not how this works.

    Today, the U.S. has another President that is pro-business. After promoting a tax cut, he is cutting spending to demonstrate his fiscal responsibility. And, government-funded science is targeted along with social programs.

    Business people do not appreciate anyone who spends "other people's money" -- especially when they perceive that money to be their own taken by government taxation.

    Science cannot be about both utility and understanding. Ultimately, the two come into conflict for economic reasons. And, those pesky businessmen are hiring almost as many Ph.D.'s as government-subsidized educational institutions. The rule-of-thumb is to not bite the hand that feeds.

    Want a particle accelerator? Figure out how to make a couple of billion dollars and then spend your own money.

    ReplyDelete

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