The Trouble with Physics – Another branch of science captured by groupthink

group-thinkingThe failings of Climate Science are not exceptional – nor unique |

Guest essay by Eric Worrall – One of the most common arguments against suggestions that Climate Science is dysfunctional, is an attack on the credibility of the suggestion, that a large group of scientists are wrong. Why, of all the fields of science, is Climate Science special? Why is it different? How can it be credible to believe that mainstream Climate Science produces defective results, when the scientists involved are as much a part of the scientific establishment as any other mainstream branch of science?

The answer, of course, is that the failings of Climate Science are not exceptional.

“The Trouble with Physics” is a controversial book by one of the giants of Quantum Physics, Lee Smolin. In an eerie parallel to the failings of climate science, Smolin argues that a fundamental error at the heart of String Theory, and rampant groupthink, has diverted uncounted scientific man hours of effort down a blind alley. Physicists are wasting lifetimes of effort constructing ever more elaborate mathematical models, models which can never hope to be reconciled with real world observations.


The fundamental error, according to Smolin, is that String Theory is background dependent. String Theory assumes a Universe in which time and space is constant – a Universe in which Einstein never discovered General Relativity.

The reason for this error goes back to the origins of Quantum Physics. The pioneers of Quantum Physics had to do their calculations by hand – horrendous mathematical transformations, which in some cases took weeks of effort to perform, even when attempted by the most capable mathematicians and scientists on the planet. Adding General Relativity to the mix made the equations impossibly difficult – and for most purposes at the time, for say calculating the shape of the electron field around a hydrogen atom, or designing a transistor, the effect of Relativity on the calculated result was so small that it simply didn’t matter.

The problems with this convenient simplification only emerge when you attempt to reconcile Relativity and Quantum Physics – when you try to create a theory of everything, to calculate what happens in the vicinity of a black hole, to work out what really happened during the Big Bang, to understand why physical constants have those particular values, or say try to build a wormhole – a gateway through time and space, and a possible solution to interstellar travel. In these extreme conditions, a background dependent theory simply doesn’t work.

It is at this extreme edge of reality that String Theory begins to break down – it produces (or fails to produce) solutions which have no applicability to the real world. Trying to eliminate the paradoxes it yields spawns the need to pile on ever more complicated additional dimensions and forces, artefacts which, so far at least, cannot be reconciled with observations.

So String Theorists go model happy. They play with the giant atom smashers when they can, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter that the String Theory models cannot be reconciled with observations, because String Theory is almost infinitely adjustable. Somewhere, researchers hope, in the unimaginably vast landscape of possible adjustments, at the core of this gargantuan edifice of ever more intricate and complex theory, is the kernel of truth which will unlock the final secrets of the Universe.

One of the themes of Smolin’s book, is the unfortunate way that String Theory has choked off other and potentially more profitable lines of inquiry – efforts to go back to the foundations of Quantum Physics, and try to incorporate Relativity into the fundamental assumptions. Because String Theory utterly dominates the Quantum Physics effort, because so many senior professors built their reputations on their contribution to String Theory, anyone who questions String Theory, or challenges it, is looked on as a crank, an outsider. It is much easier to secure tenure and funding by enthusiastically embracing String Theory, than by challenging it, or by pointing out that for the last few decades, Theoretical Physics has stalled.

The truth is, scientists are human, they have the same triumphs and weaknesses as the rest of us. The image of science and scientists as objective seekers of truth was only ever an ideal. Science, it is true, has mechanisms for self correction which are unique in human endeavour – but those mechanisms rarely work smoothly.

For example, scientists were aware of the paradoxes which produced the need for Einstein’s Relativity since at least the 1860s, when Maxwell formulated his famous equations – equations which implied the speed of light is constant, no matter what the location and velocity of the observer. Scientists ignored this issue, or tried to disprove this implication, by testing whether the speed of light varied if you were moving towards or away from the source. It took Einstein, working in the early 1900s, to resolve the paradox, and finally lay the issue to rest.’s_equations

Climate Science will eventually become a science again. The wider world of academia is becoming increasingly aware of the embarrassing failures and poor practices. Sooner or later students will tire of producing the same defective results, year after year, and someone, somewhere will make the leap – will find a way to produce a model which works, an Einstein moment which transforms our understanding of global climate.

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October 12, 2014 6:45 am

OK. I stopped reading when I hit “one of the giants of Quantum Physics, Lee Smolin.”
Ever hear that guy talk? He’s a certified crackpot.

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 7:04 am

Ever hear Stephen Hawking talk, does that make him also a certified crackpot.
The crackpot certification authority is John Baez at UC Riverside. You might see what he has to say.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 12, 2014 9:24 am

While I like Baez’s music … oh wait … that’s Joan Baez. Sorry. 😉
Yeah, Baez certainly would be an authority on what is a crackpot. He pegs the loon-o-meter himself.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 12, 2014 10:35 am

That Joan Baez comment — perhaps funny to you — reveals a anarchistic arrogance

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 12, 2014 10:46 am

DEEBEE – No, it reveals that I have a sense of humor. Your comment is also quite revealing.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 12, 2014 1:39 pm

Personally, I think Stephen Hawking is not all there. I think his “assistants” are giving us their thoughts and attributing them to Hawking. No one could decipher the gutteral sounds Hawking makes.

James (Aus.)
Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 12, 2014 7:27 pm

Phony Joanie will always remain just that.

george e. smith
Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 13, 2014 4:35 pm

Well Joan Baez, was just a re-incarnation of Irish folk singer, Mary O’Hara. Even sang a lot of the same, or same sounding songs. I guess she hoped there would be nobody around, who ever heard, or heard of Mary O’Hara. She played a real Irish harp too. Well imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

george e. smith
Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 13, 2014 4:48 pm

I think Ghandi never went to a Steven Hawking lecture.
He makes no sound at all.
And just who could collect their thoughts, while having brain dead news photographers standing right in front of them, and firing off flashbulbs in their face, while they are trying to direct their eyes at a single character on the screen, so that the camera system, can decide which character, they want to type, into their message.
And talking of collecting one’s thoughts; Hawking does have to do and remember in his head, every line of reasoning, he has to go through to come up with some equation, that he wants to relay to other in his field, for them to read.
So who do YOU know, who deals with such adversity.
And that “guttural sound” is universally recognized as “the voice of Steven Hawking.”
They could make him sound like Bo Derek, or Brigitte Bardot, any time he wanted them to.

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 1:08 pm

It’s worth noting that Lubos Motol (, a competent quntum physicist, (a) is a well known warming skeptic and (b) has long called Lee Smolin a crackpot.

Reply to  NeedleFactory
October 13, 2014 2:58 am

It should be noted though that Motl is a string theorist.
It does not speak well of those physicists to engage in ad hominems against those who propose a different theory.
Bob Clark

Reply to  NeedleFactory
October 17, 2014 8:44 pm

Smolin is a crackpot. He simply lies.

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 1:33 pm

Argument ad hominem, the first resort of someone without facts or argument, like most climate scientists.

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 2:39 pm

Hmm, ignore his thoughts and attack the man. Sounds quite familiar here.

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 2:41 pm

I could help out the Quantum Physic guys but I would probably be labelled a certified crackpot or even uncertified crackpot and worse so I won’t even bother.

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 3:31 pm

Brian, You comment is a good example of the problems described by the Author. To quote: “…anyone who questions String Theory, or challenges it, is looked on as a crank, an outsider”.

Reply to  Brian
October 13, 2014 6:42 am

Lee Smolin is a top scientist. A member of the Canadian Perimeter Institute and an independent thinker. Apart from countless papers, he has four books published. His objections to string theory are well known and well justified.
Physicists, unlike their “climate science” colleagues, do know the importance of experimental verification of their theories and so, even those working on string theory, are open to the possibility that the theory may be wrong. So far it has not made a single prediction that would have been experimentally verified. Furthermore, in physics, there are no banned theories. To this day people publish papers on Einstein’s non-symmetric field theory, sometimes in top physics journals even. A theory of physics has to be shown to be incorrect, by making a verifiably false prediction, to be discarded.
But by the same virtue, a theory is not accepted, even a theory as strong as the theory of electro-weak interactions, until all its predictions are verified experimentally.
Lubos Motl, mentioned here, a fine chap that he is and an incisive writer of climate stories, I think, is too hasty in some of his comments about alternatives to string theory, and people working on such alternatives. Until string theory is confirmed by experiment, which is far from being the case today, or ever, all alternative ideas are just as valid.
My favorite regarding gravity is Verlinde’s theory: it’s neither strings nor loops, incidentally, instead gravity is seen as an entropic force, that is, not a fundamental interaction.

george e. smith
Reply to  Gus
October 13, 2014 5:03 pm

I have a natural reluctance to consider anything that wiggles as somehow fundamental.
To wiggle, you have to be constructed of even more fundamental pieces, that are assembled to make one of your gizmos; in this case a string.
So nyet on strings for me.
But I’m open minded. So I will await the experimental evidence, before rejecting it outright. I feel the same way about multiverses, or parallel “universes” or hyperdimensional physics; whatever that is. There seems to be something singular about the concept of “UNI” verse, as if there can be only one. (that we can observe)
There are enough crazy ideas to go around, for everybody to have a favorite one. Not that it matters, if an idea is crazy. It just has to explain the observable facts; that’s all.

Reply to  Gus
October 17, 2014 8:45 pm

It is not possible for gravity to be an entropic force. Learn Physics.

Reply to  Brian
October 13, 2014 11:25 am

Former Cern physicist Dragan Hajdukovic is not, however, and as the former NASA scientist who discovered active volcanism on Jupiter’s moon Io, my most recent paper, which is synergistic with Eric’s says the very same thing. Don’t stop reading this one.

David Mack
Reply to  Brian
October 13, 2014 7:01 pm

Smolin is just another mystic; no different to Hawking. Here are recent releases that expose the mystics:

October 12, 2014 6:47 am

It’s an interesting book but a bit heavy going on string theory itself IMO.
Looking around, there may well be other branches of physical science that have been, let’s say, ‘struggling’ in recent times.

Reply to  oldbrew
October 12, 2014 10:32 am

Recently in the news: Red meat and butter are not so bad for us after all.

October 12, 2014 6:47 am

Very interesting. In the TV show The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon recently abandoned his pursuit of String Theory and became a travelling hobo. Maybe we should get more TV network executives into theoretical physics 😉
Even the Theory of Everything presupposes that it’s relativity and quantum mechanics that need to be unified. There may be an unknown number of other fields of science to be discovered first before they can be unified.

Reply to  mad GP (@madashellGP)
October 13, 2014 3:21 am

Also amusing on that show is that Sheldon’s nemisis is a loop quantum gravity expert. Whenever they see each other they just exchange insults.
Bob Clark

October 12, 2014 6:50 am

Apparently Maxwell was troubled by another flaw in classical physics: the specific heats of gases didn’t make sense. It was Planck’s advance that explained that.

Reply to  dearieme
October 12, 2014 11:48 am

Having been through electronic engineering I remembered the “4 Maxwell equations” but was later shocked to learn that those 4 were derived from his work which had 20 equations. One of the people was a self taught electrical engineer, mathematician, and physicist named Oliver Heaviside.
He also adapted complex numbers to the study of electrical circuits, invented mathematical techniques for the solution of differential equations (later found to be equivalent to Laplace transforms), reformulated Maxwell’s field equations in terms of electric and magnetic forces and energy flux, and independently co-formulated vector analysis.
Quite the pair he and Maxwell were. We have a lot to thank them both for.

Brock Way
Reply to  TRM
October 12, 2014 7:42 pm

Have you lost your mind? I took pchem and you think I am going to thank Maxwell for ANYTHING?

Martin A
Reply to  TRM
October 13, 2014 1:59 am

Oliver Heaviside has been my hero ever since as a 1st year undergraduate I was trying to understand Laplace Transforms and somebody introduced me to Heaviside’s idea of Operational Calculus.

Reply to  TRM
October 13, 2014 5:32 am

Amen to that. I absolutely love the Laplace transforms. I once wrote software that given an S-domain system function, would perform an inverse Laplace transform, and plot the time domain function.

george e. smith
Reply to  dearieme
October 13, 2014 5:13 pm

We must read the same books.
I seem to recall, in my Physics classes, that we studied Sir James Jeans derivation of the specific heat of solids; I think maybe at low Temperatures. As I recall, to simplify the math, he cancelled out a factor that was the square root of Avogadro’s number; and simply called it approximately one.
Well the expression that it was a factor of, included the quantity; factorial of Avogadro’s number.
I guess almost any number approximates unity, compared to that number. Had to do with computing the number of degrees of freedom, in a mole of substance, to assign an equi-partitioned kT of energy to.
It was Einstein, I believe who suggested that the specific heats of all solids must go to zero at zero K.

October 12, 2014 6:50 am

Lets see what group think does with this…. In addition there is the MIT program with JET energy. And I personally think there are cheaper and higher density energy sources than oil out there waiting to be discovered…
It just wont go away….
Cold fusion reactor verified by third-party researchers, seems to have 1 million times the energy density of gasoline

Reply to  Brant Ra
October 12, 2014 7:44 am

Check out my post and links at
The new report was done by the same crew who did the last one, so it’s not as independent a report as I would like to have seen. The power output is old hat by now, the assay of the fuel in and the ash out is new and interesting – and there are claims that Rossi recently bought some 62Ni, one of the key finds in the ash….

Reply to  Ric Werme
October 12, 2014 7:48 am

I still don’t see Rossi’s e-cat as credible. There is still a lack of truly independent review IMHO. It still looks waaaay too much like some of the laughable claims of the past. I’m skeptical.

Reply to  Ric Werme
October 12, 2014 8:11 am

A commenter on E-Cat World said that if Rossi’s E-Cat is a hoax, it’s as great an achievement as if it is the real thing!

Reply to  Ric Werme
October 12, 2014 9:34 am

“if Rossi’s E-Cat is a hoax, it’s as great an achievement as if it is the real thing!”
Yeah, Houdini’s achievements were pretty darn spectacular too.

Reply to  Ric Werme
October 12, 2014 12:39 pm

While I’m still sceptical of Rossi I’m much more inclined to accept that there is something worth pursuing in the LENR field. Others like Brillouin seem to have much better control of the reaction (or whatever) as they can turn it up or down in a controlled fashion. Very interesting field.
2 MIT profs have been putting on conferences for 3 years now going over the theory that prof Hagelstein has come up with (no new physics required!!) and the demos that are put on by prof Schwartz that have worked repeatedly showing massive excess heat.
Now can they or someone make it into a workable product? That is the acid test. How much electricity in and out. We shall see.

Reply to  Ric Werme
October 12, 2014 1:00 pm

My biggest problem with e-cat is the way they try to explain the lack of neutrons from the tritium fusion they claim to be inducing.
Normal deuterium tritium fusion creates a blizzard of neutrons – around 100x the neutron flux of an equivalent fission burn. So much that finding a core construction material which won’t crumble into dust under normal use is one of the big unsolved problems of the ITER project.
Rossi’s e-cat experiments, in which he claims calorific gain, should be killing everyone in the demonstration hall from radiation poisoning, and possibly people in the street outside.
When you look at Los Alamos criticality accidents, the brave scientists who pulled the accidentally critical nuclear cores appart with their hands described the core material as “warm”. It disn’t even get hot enough to burn them with heat, only with lethal doses of radiation.
Rossi’s explanation that the lack of neutrons is due to a “new kind” of fusion is IMHO barking.

Reply to  Ric Werme
October 12, 2014 2:59 pm

There have been many experiments over the last 25 years that demonstrate: excess heat; transmutation products and, occasionally, radiation but at levels far, far below anything that “conventional physics” can explain. The sheer number of these experiments, and the wide variety of laboratories that have conducted them in many different countries, put beyond reasonable doubt that some form of unexplained reaction can occur in solids, be it in palladium/D2O in electrochemical cells or in nickel/hydrogen systems.
And yet, despite what Richard Feynman suggests – if experiment contradicts your, it’s your theory that is wrong – we still hear the need for vast quantities of radiation to accompany these unexplained reactions: no radiation must mean that all these experiments are wrong.
As a sceptic of catastrophic human-caused global warming, I look to the observations rather than the theory (again not understood). Similarly with cold fusion – observations tell us more than any theory which does not fit.
The true test of Rossi’s E-Cat will be a working system providing a company with a return on their investment – no number of laboratory tests will convince the “sceptics” who (a) use theory to discount observations, (b) use ad hominem attacks against the inventor or (c) unjustifiably criticise the experiments performed.

Reply to  drjohngalan
October 12, 2014 11:34 pm

Very well put.
The critics invoke an unexplained scam and so decry the experiment. I would be far more interested in an explanation of how such a scam could be pulled and then a redesign of the experiment to exclude any such trickery.

Dan DeLong
Reply to  Ric Werme
October 12, 2014 5:07 pm

Regardless of Rossi’s claims and performance, there is quite a lot of real science and experimentation happening in the cold fusion arena. It’s a real slog, but Edmund Storms has complied several hundred references in his “The Explanation of Low Energy Nuclear Reaction.” The book catalogs both experimental results and proposed theories on what is happening. Rossi is included, but only as one of many different sources. Unfortunately, researchers in this field cannot get published in mainstream science journals for the same reasons that skeptics of String Theory cannot.

george e. smith
Reply to  Ric Werme
October 13, 2014 5:42 pm

So Eric (Worrall)
Just where does anybody in the fusion energy camp, imagine they are going to come up with the tritium, to run a tritium-deuterium fusion reactor ?
Isn’t D-D the only reaction for which there is fuel available.
Way back when we (not me) fired deuterons at a heavy ice target, frozen on a rotating copper substrate, in a 600 kV Cockroft-Walton accelerator, and generated beams of polarized neutrons, and I think protons too, with about 14 MeV energy. I had to build a tissue equivalent neutron monitor, to keep track of those neutrons, even as they got down to thermal energies. I also built a scintillation neutron detector, based on a Stilbene crystal. Unfortunately, it also detected gamma rays (from electrons), so I developed an electronic discrimination system, that compared total pulse charge, to pulse peak voltage, because the scintillation pulses had different pulse shapes, depending on the particle (electron /proton/alpha).
So apparently D-D fusion would also generate screeds of fast neutrons. Don’t quite understand why, but we got plenty of them.

October 12, 2014 7:02 am

LOL Ad homina much?
The contrast between Lee Smolin and Leonard Susskind must not distract from their principled positions. Susskind is a fantastic lecturer, which I have attended tens of hours. He is also an accomplished explainer and narrator of his position. Contrariwise, Smolin asks where are the Emperor’s new clothes, no longer new as string theory is twenty years mature?
Lee Smolin and Roberto Mangiebera Unger have The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time: A Proposal in Natural Philosophy due out in six weeks that will hopefully address the effect of the Higgs Field on his advocacy of a background-independent physics.

Doug Ferguson
October 12, 2014 7:06 am

Interesting article and I’m sure it describes an phenomena that applies to many fields of human endeavor. However, in recent history such a miscarriage of science has never had such an enormous effect on the direction of western government’s allocation of resources, restrictions of freedoms and quests for centralized power as the man-made global warming hoax has done. Not all erroneous scientific theories are equal.

Reply to  Doug Ferguson
October 12, 2014 7:46 am

Absolutely apropos theory in climate science.
Same for plate tectonics which replaced the theory of geosynclines that was formerly used to explain mountain building.
Plate tectonics is a better theory but the impact of that revolution in Earth science has had little impact on society compared to the theory of AGW which has overthrown the idea that nature determines climate rather than mankind.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Fred Colbourne
October 12, 2014 9:12 am

Fred, you still need a basin to accummulate kilometres of sediments to buckle up into mountains.

Reply to  Doug Ferguson
October 12, 2014 7:55 am

Amen. The arguments surrounding resources given to String Theory supporters or skeptics don’t keep billions of human beings living in the Stone Age because of the politicization of Quantum Physics. Climate “science’s” flaws and “fixes” are really killing people as I type this. There is no comparison. I would argue that if Africa had been “allowed” to build power plants and use their own natural resources that Ebola outbreak would have been far smaller than it currently is. Advanced societies deal with crisis better and global policy, driven by the false “science” of the Climateers has done a fine job of preventing those “third world” societies from advancing. It makes me sick!

Reply to  nielszoo
October 12, 2014 10:42 am

Preventing the Third world from progressing is the intent of politicians. CAGW theory is the means to that end. Science in this case, Climatology, has been co-opted. The phenomena of scientific group-think elucidated in this post is being used by politicians. The CAGW meme was paid for by governments. The consensus is needed to further the ends of Central Planners. The actual science is irrelevant.

October 12, 2014 7:09 am

Here are Smolin’s articles on arXive I recommend number 4 Temporal Naturalism
Here are Susskind’s 104 articles at arxive

October 12, 2014 7:19 am

I have posted this link on WUWT before and will continue to do so where applicable. I doubt that many can read all of the posts and there are always new visitors so it is worth re-posting. The article below does the equivalent of an autopsy on the scientific method, science funding and peer review using the second-generation antipsychotics (Abilify, Seroquel, Zyprexa…) to reveal how our current approach to science has insufficient protection from human nature. While climate science is never mentioned, it’s relevance is obvious.
It is a lengthy but worthwhile read called “The Truth Wears Off… Is there something wrong with the scientific method?” from the New Yorker, December 2013 that I archived at webcitation. It begins…
“On September 18, 2007, a few dozen neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and drug-company executives gathered in a hotel conference room in Brussels to hear some startling news. It had to do with a class of drugs known as atypical or second-generation antipsychotics, which came on the market in the early nineties. The drugs, sold under brand names such as Abilify, Seroquel, and Zyprexa, had been tested on schizophrenics in several large clinical trials, all of which had demonstrated a dramatic decrease in the subjects’ psychiatric symptoms. As a result, second-generation antipsychotics had become one of the fastest-growing and most profitable pharmaceutical classes. By 2001, Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa was generating more revenue than Prozac. It remains the company’s top-selling drug.
But the data presented at the Brussels meeting made it clear that something strange was happening: the therapeutic power of the drugs appeared to be steadily waning. A recent study showed an effect that was less than half of that documented in the first trials, in the early nineteen-nineties. Many researchers began to argue that the expensive pharmaceuticals weren’t any better than first-generation antipsychotics, which have been in use since the fifties. “In fact, sometimes they now look even worse,” John Davis, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told me”
Michael Crichton discusses this as well and provides at least part of the solution in his “Aliens Cause Global Warming” speech, another extremely worthwhile read that can be downloaded here:

Reply to  thallstd
October 12, 2014 7:42 am

I’m rereading the New Yorker article for the first time in a while and must first say that there are many examples beyond pharmaceuticals where “the decline effect” is found. But mostly I wanted to provide this quote from the article:
“[Publication bias] was first identified by the statistician Theodore Sterling, in 1959, after he noticed that ninety-seven per cent of all published psychological studies with statistically significant data found the effect they were looking for. ”
How about that? 97% find the effect they are looking for. Take that John Cook and others !!!

NZ Willy
Reply to  thallstd
October 12, 2014 11:07 am

Perhaps climate science qualifies as a subdivision of psychology? Maybe Lewindowski is a bona fide member of the Team after all.

Reply to  thallstd
October 12, 2014 1:47 pm

NZ Willy says: October 12, 2014 at 11:07 am: “Perhaps climate science qualifies as a subdivision of psychology?”
Or perhaps climate science qualifies as a subdivision of psychosis?

Reply to  thallstd
October 12, 2014 10:26 am

THIS! Is precisely why I read this blog every day. The minds that aggregate at this site are truly amazing. The rule that generally all non ad hominum comments are allowed to procede to the page is precisely why this is such a great blog. The links in the comments have led me to many great avenues of thought. ( Simon Shnoll ) For me, science is all about the pursuit of truth, and hopefully the understanding of it Unfortunately many in the professions discover that the more esoteric ones’ field is, the easier it is to rule by perspicacity in the use of a gallimaufry of obfucatory arcane terms of reference. Untruths are the lingua franca of the media. Watch the news on any channel and you will see the force of the implementation of McLuhan. We are driven to an industrial analogue of tribal mentality, what he termed “the global village”. From experience I know that everything, and I mean everything that you experience from the media has been manipulated to alter the lede and the takeaway. Fear is the great driving force for humans, when all is well we lounge on the couch with a beer, when the wolf is at the door, lookout! ” We live in a single constricted space resonant with tribal drums “. These drums may be used to stampede the herd to the exits, letting them jump off the buffalo jump, and then check the pockets for loose change. Terror science enthralls the media, if it bleeds it leads. If you may have a subject that is so insainly complicated that it is impossible to fully describe or understand, all the better. There is no one to disprove your hypothesis. All it has to do is threaten the children. We will throw all manners of wealth at those who profess to protect ouselves from ill fate. Power, profit and wealth, great motivators. When your field of science is the news story flavour of the day the dollars flow, damn the hard work, there is money to be made and one has to make hay when the sun shines. The factual basis for the physics of the phenomena can wait, we all know that ” without bucks there is no Buck Rogers “. Basic science is usually dry and dusty, very hard work, with many nights spent on a cot at the lab to make sure the experiment did not conclude at an unseen hour. Not much newsworthyness or fame there.

Reply to  Bill McCarter
October 12, 2014 10:46 am

Bill, there is science and then there is institutional science. The first is pure, the second is bought and paid for.

Reply to  Bill McCarter
October 12, 2014 11:43 am

I read somewhere a long while ago that Communism is a much better framework for pure science than Capitalism since there is no profit motive to contend with. There is still of course the desire to be right and to contribute something of consequence which is sufficient to skew results. And no, I’m not advocating that we should swap out capitalism for communism but I think there is truth to that statement.
Somehow we need to separate science from science funding and Crichton (see link above) has proposed the best solution I’ve seen – independent teams each working on a different aspect of the experiment or study, none know what the other teams are doing or who is on them or the purpose of the study or experiment. In this framework I think only the funders would know the purpose and they would need to be hands-off, delegating every aspect of the experiment or study to a different team lead with one team designated to gather and report the findings, still unaware of the purpose.
This, or something like it, would keep the bias out of the experiments and those results. As for the gatekeepers, I think the new open review process that was posted here last week or so may be the answer to that…

Alan Esworthy
Reply to  Bill McCarter
October 12, 2014 12:16 pm

October 12, 2014 at 11:43 am:

I read somewhere a long while ago that Communism is a much better framework for pure science than Capitalism since there is no profit motive to contend with. There is still of course the desire to be right and to contribute something of consequence which is sufficient to skew results. And no, I’m not advocating that we should swap out capitalism for communism but I think there is truth to that statement.

You are assuming that the “profit” in the “profit motive” is financial. People act when they believe that their actions will gain them, for lack of a better term, psychic or emotional profit. This effect is universal and it makes no difference whether the umbrella system is capitalistic or communistic or anything else you might suggest.
The problem here, as it is in many human problems, is one of motivations. What are we trying to achieve, and what methods do we see as suitable to achieve our goals?

Reply to  Bill McCarter
October 12, 2014 12:39 pm

October 12, 2014 at 11:43 am
“I read somewhere a long while ago that Communism is a much better framework for pure science than Capitalism since there is no profit motive to contend with. ”
This has been disproved by Lysenko. (Lysenko’s existence sufficed to disprove it)

Reply to  Bill McCarter
October 12, 2014 6:40 pm

“I read somewhere a long while ago that Communism is a much better framework for pure science than Capitalism since there is no profit motive to contend with. There is still of course the desire to be right and to contribute something of consequence which is sufficient to skew results. And no, I’m not advocating that we should swap out capitalism for communism but I think there is truth to that statement.”
Anyone thinking this should read Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s “The First Circle”.

October 12, 2014 7:23 am

The author:

…anyone who questions String Theory, or challenges it, is looked on as a crank…

The first commenter:

OK. I stopped reading when I hit “one of the giants of Quantum Physics, Lee Smolin.”
Ever hear that guy talk? He’s a certified crackpot.

I’d say that made the author’s point pretty well.

Reply to  JamesS
October 12, 2014 9:16 am

Exactly. Even Smolin realizes he’s a crackpot, but he’s making too much money selling books that appeal to crackpot-wannabes to stop now.
If you actually read his books, you’ll realize that he’s also a climate-change alarmist. It’s just not his main thing.

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 10:40 am

Did you re-read your comment. It at best is juvenile. Smolin would be less a “crackpot” as he was a skeptic?

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 10:52 am

DEEBEE – It’s just additional information. I figured that such information is relevant to an article that begins, “the failings of Climate Science are not exceptional.” The irony that Lee Smolin, given his opinion of climate science, is the main person highlighted by the article is quite amusing.
I guess what is “failing” depends on whom you ask.

October 12, 2014 7:34 am

I wonder how much of group think is a product of funding. The more united you are, the more funding you get.

Reply to  Dave
October 12, 2014 7:58 am

The article I post to above (Oct 12 @ 7:19) goes into this subject at great length…

October 12, 2014 7:42 am

String theory puts all unknowns in another dimension. So it’s not science, it’s the easy way out.

Reply to  Hans Erren
October 12, 2014 7:49 am

A good point, but that may be dismissed as falsificationism. Popper’s falsification (Smolin cites Popper) being the demarcation between science and supernatural non-sense. What is the differentiation between universes but causal disconnect and unfalsifiability.
Smolin maintains that no string has been observed and no test that can be performed has been proposed.

October 12, 2014 7:42 am

The narrative fallacy is the witch doctor’s tool.
The link between funding and conventional wisdom/conventional career paths is an essential point in Smolin’s argument.

October 12, 2014 7:46 am

Steven Hawking says that infinity has an infinite number of centers. I say show me infinity.
Now tell me, which viewpoint is correct?
When I was a student a century or so ago, I read an essay that identified a dichotomy in science: those scientists who thought mainly in theoretical terms and those who gave precedence to empirical observations . His point as that many scientists were stuck on theory and had difficulty assimilating observations to their views.
Mathematicians are prone to this affliction, I believe, because the study deals not with empirical data. Empiricism is a matter of approach, a habit of thought that comes with practice. Yet it depends on the individual and many mathematicians are also fine empiricists. Many phycisists likewise espouse the empirical approach. But I have to believe that most of the modeling fraternity abhors empiricism because they seem to hate the idea of accommodating their theory to observations.
Michael Faraday is worth quoting in this regard:
“When my observations are contrary to what my theory predicts, I modify my theory to accomodate those observations. What do you do, sir?”
Faraday once wrote a treatise that presented over 50 discrete observations he recorded in the study of a candle flame.

Reply to  mpainter
October 12, 2014 8:06 am

By the way, Faraday was no mathematician. His theory was formulated mathematically by a sucessor, Maxwell, another great name in electromagnetism.

Reply to  mpainter
October 12, 2014 9:42 am

If, as Einstein said, the Universe is a sphere of infinite radius, everything is at the centre of its own universe. Each one of us is at the centre of the universe as it applies to us. This is just one of what I expect are many intriguing consequences of Einsteinian physics.

Reply to  Keitho
October 12, 2014 1:57 pm

Hence the meocentric generation, a social phenomenon.

Anna Keppa
Reply to  mpainter
October 12, 2014 2:21 pm

Variations of that Faraday quote have many other attributions.

October 12, 2014 7:51 am

That may all be true. The difference is that no agency as of yet is trying to shove a crippling economic or liberty killing policy down our throats based on a string theory model. So while physics may have its groupthink troubles and therefore inefficiencies, it has no real world impact on the rest of us other than we may have to wait longer for interstellar travel or hovering skateboards.

Reply to  LogosWrench
October 12, 2014 11:45 am

It has an impact. It conforms to the general atmosphere of fundamental dishonesty in academia, which, in turn, contributes to ignorance and dishonesty in politics, which, in turn, gives us obamas and kerrys, which, in turn… hey, where’s my wallet?!

Mike H.
Reply to  Alexander Feht
October 12, 2014 6:15 pm


October 12, 2014 8:04 am

“What we haven’t had is an original Einstein-class theory emerge from academia for nearly four decades. It’s all been refinements. Given an agreement with that assessment, you either assume we’ve discovered every one of the big secrets of the universe, which would be a first in the whole history of science, or something is very seriously wrong.”
We’re reduced to social science making Earth shattering discoveries in the mensurate disciplines and calling it progress. Give me a break …

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Pointman
October 12, 2014 9:18 am

Only 4 decades? What was it?

Reply to  Pointman
October 12, 2014 11:56 am

Well to be fair, the time span between Newton and Einstein was also a tad more than four decades.

Ian L. McQueen
October 12, 2014 8:07 am

On the subject of “groupthink”, a friend told me years ago about the search for the value of a particular constant; he was studying physics at the time at McGill University and I trusted what he told me . (And at this point I have to say that my friend does not recall the story from nearly 50 years ago and cannot say what the constant was; I suspect that it was the Hubble constant.) According to the friend’s story, one famous person came up with a value (presumably determined experimentally; we’ll call it “A”); this was followed by a number of other workers in the field who determined a value similar to “A”. But then another worker, more famous than the first, came up with a different value of the constant; we’ll call it “B”. This was followed soon afterward by a cluster of determinations close to value “B”. I don’t know how many “C”, “D”, and other values appeared over time. Presumably the value now in use has been checked!
If anyone is familiar with this story and can confirm if it, please help me out!

Reply to  Ian L. McQueen
October 12, 2014 8:23 am

I have o knowledge of this particular example but if interested in a thorough discussion of it and other human nature related problems with science, the article I post to above (Oct 12 @ 7:19) will be an interesting read for you.

View from the Solent
Reply to  Ian L. McQueen
October 12, 2014 9:48 am

Sounds like it could be the Millikan oil drop experiment to measure electron charge. He was a ‘name’ so his value was accepted. It was innacurate. But the currently accepted value was only arrived at by gradual changes, nobody was prepared to stand up and point out his error so it was corrected little by little.

Reply to  View from the Solent
October 12, 2014 11:24 am

Irving Langmuir gave examples of experiments that were accepted based on the name of the experimenter or other irrelevant criteria. I don’t feel like looking through this link again to find them, but they are under the general heading of “pathological science”. One of the links at the bottom of the page has the info.

Reply to  View from the Solent
October 12, 2014 12:45 pm

I saw a program several years ago where it was claimed Millikan’s own notebooks indicated he was fudging his observations until he came up with the value he was looking for.
I can’t speak to that one way or the ‘tother, but it was interesting.

Reply to  Ian L. McQueen
October 12, 2014 9:53 am

Constants are so much fun. The glorious fudge factor is all science. This is my favorite:
“The speed of light in vacuum, commonly denoted c, is a universal physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is exactly 299,792,458 metres per second because the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time.[1]”
~ Wikipedia
“The metre (BIPM spelling), or meter (American spelling), (SI unit symbol: m), is the fundamental unit of length (SI dimension symbol: L) in the International System of Units (SI).[1] Originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the distance from the Earth’s equator to the North Pole (at sea level), its definition has been periodically refined to reflect growing knowledge of metrology. Since 1983, it has been defined as “the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.”[2]”
~ Wikipedia

Reply to  Alan Poirier
October 12, 2014 10:23 am

No no no . . you are just taking the p . . surely. They define the speed of light by using the defined speed of light. That isn’t very . . . scientific is it?

Reply to  Alan Poirier
October 12, 2014 11:17 am

The metre isn’t a constant. More precisely, it hasn’t been a constant, it’s been adjusted over time from a specified fraction of the distance between the North Pole and equator to the current definition. It has to be defined in a manner that allows it to be reproduced anywhere on the planet, and the speed of light is an easy way to do that.
Sure, they could have shrunk it to make it 1/300,000,000 of the speed of light, but that change would be big enough to cause all kinds of incompatibilities with existing metric measure. So we’re stuck with this clunky version unless the speed of light changes.

Reply to  Alan Poirier
October 12, 2014 11:27 am

So can we use the speed of light to find the length of a meter? ☺

Reply to  Alan Poirier
October 12, 2014 11:40 am

This made me laugh (a rare event, with a far-stretched event horizon). Thank you.

Reply to  Alan Poirier
October 12, 2014 11:50 am

Actually it was quite sensible to redefine a meter in this way since we can measure time with vastly greater precision than length, and the speed of light in vacuum is the most fundamental constant of all.

Reply to  Alan Poirier
October 12, 2014 12:42 pm

Neither the pace of time nor the speed of light in vacuum are certainties.

Reply to  Alan Poirier
October 12, 2014 12:46 pm

October 12, 2014 at 11:50 am
“Actually it was quite sensible to redefine a meter in this way since we can measure time with vastly greater precision than length, and the speed of light in vacuum is the most fundamental constant of all.”
And if it isn’t we’ll never notice.

Reply to  Alan Poirier
October 12, 2014 2:04 pm

Reminds me of the glossary entries I once found in a text book:


Dr S.
Reply to  Ian L. McQueen
October 12, 2014 11:22 am

I believe the constant was the charge on an electron. Millikan’s original oil drop experiment included an error that was only gradually eliminated over time as later experimenters found ways to include Millikan’s result within the error bounds of their own results.

george e. smith
Reply to  Ian L. McQueen
October 13, 2014 6:28 pm

Well let me take a guess, Ian at your puzzle.
My guess, is that the missing constant, was the “fine structure constant”, an important fundamental constant of physics, that is involved in atomic spectra. Usually designated by alpha, the fine structure constant has the value : e^2/(2hc[epsilon nought]) = 7.29735308E-3 (a number), where (e) is the electron charge, and epsilon nought is the permittivity of free space, that shows up in the value of (c).
Alpha is usually stated as 1/alpha =137.0359895 (0.045ppm)
So it used to be that the best experimental measures of 1/alpha were quite close to 136.
So Arthur Eddington, did a computation from a theory of his own creation and “proved” that the value of 1/alpha was indeed “exactly” 136. Nobody really could say they understood his theory, but it did compute 136 exactly.
Well the trouble was, that as measurements of alpha, or its other fundamental constituents, got more and more accurate, the value of 1/alpha drifted a lot closer to 137, than it was to 136, and Eddington’s 136 could not be sustained.
Then Eddington did a re-evaluation of his theory, and revised it, to another still not understandable idea, but it predicted a value of exactly 137, instead of exactly 136. But the experimental errors were not large enough to sustain 137 either.
So The poor chap ended up with egg all over his face, and they started referring to him as “Professor Adding one”
In the 1960s, there was another fine structure brouhaha, where somebody claimed that he calculated 1/alpha from a form (pi^a.b^c.d^e.f^g)^0.25 where a through g were small integers, not necessarily all different.
His expression calculated 1/alpha to about 2/3rd of the best experimental standard deviation (about 30 ppb), so it clearly had to be a correct theory. But nobody could figure out how the theory connected to the physical universe. No observable quantities went into the theory. It was all mathematical. But oh so accurate.
The furor lasted a month or so; I think it was in “Applied Optics”, or the Journal of The Optical Society of America.
Then some computer geek, got hold of it, and he did a search of all of the possibilities, in that form with parameters a through g, for all integers up to about 19.
He came up with a list of about 8 combinations, that were all less than the standard deviation away from the best experimental value, and one of them was about half the error as in the original paper.
There was a more scholarly execution later,that I won’t bore you with, but everybody had egg on their faces, for believing something, that relied on no observable input measured data.
So I guess you can get ANY answer you like, by simply ****ing around with numbers.
So watch out.
But your friend’s story, might be a different one.

Ralph Kramden
October 12, 2014 8:10 am

Anyone remember the movie “Awakenings” with Robin Williams?
Dr. Sayer: “I was on a project for 5 years. I was the only one who believed in it. Everyone else said it couldn’t be done.”
Dr. Kaufman: “It can’t.”
Dr. Sayer: “I know that now. I proved it.”
I think this happens more than we suspect in science.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Ralph Kramden
October 12, 2014 1:15 pm

Yes, Mr. Kramden, I do. Powerful, tragic, movie. I don’t want to watch it again, but, I’m glad I saw it. I can still see that big male patient catching that ball… .
Good point. There is an enormous difference (usually years of blood, toil, tears, and sweat) between:
A. “I say it can’t be done.”
B. “I know it can’t be done.”

Reply to  Ralph Kramden
October 12, 2014 2:07 pm

It certainly happens more often than it’s reported. Science is also about what we tried that didn’t work.

Reply to  jorgekafkazar
October 12, 2014 6:23 pm

Trial and error will usually have more errors than successes. That’s trial and error.

Bob Johnston
October 12, 2014 8:22 am

Climatology and physics are pikers in terms of group think when compared to medicine and nutrition. For 60 years millions of people have needlessly died young or had terrible quality of life because of science’s focus on cholesterol as the buggaboo that causes health problems. Fortunately the truth is emerging but I shudder to think of the cost in lives and money that’s been wasted.
I ran across this video yesterday, I think it clearly demonstrates the problem.

Reply to  Bob Johnston
October 12, 2014 2:48 pm

That is not a sensible summary of the situation. The metabolic aberrations that lead to type 2 diabetes and to atherosclerosis are not yet fully understood, and most scientists in the field would acknowledge that. At the same time, the significant role of cholesterol is evident from the greatly increased atherosclerosis risk in familial hypercholesterolemia, a gene defect that leads to the accumulation of cholesterol-rich LDL particles in the blood, and from the success of cholesterol-reducing therapies (particularly statin drugs) in these and other patients.
Paradigm changes are easier to accomplish in medicine than in physics not because MDs are smarter, but because their theories are not the same breed of all-encompassing first-principles affairs as in physics. Changing one or two dogms at a time is easier than to tear down the entire building and start from scratch.

Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 12, 2014 6:54 pm

Paradigm changes are more common and profound in medicine because so much medical research has been poorly designed, poorly controlled, poorly interpreted due to lack of math skills, garbage. There are many, many examples.

Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 6:13 am

While being all positive aobut how great those cholesterol focused M.D.s are: Please remember that for a few decades they propagandized everyone to eat margarine and avoid butter. Margarine that was about 1/3 or so Trans Fat. Stuff that is now known to be much more causal of heart disease than saturated fats (that are neutral).
Then tell that to my friend who had a heart attack (survived with stents) after following that advice… while me, taking my Dad’s lead and thinking margarine tasted of road oil…, have had a life time of delicious butter and joined the French in being an “anomaly” with no cholesterol problems while eating the “bad” diet…
The simple fact is they ‘screwed the pooch’ by classing Trans Fats in with other solid (saturated) fats during the tests and trials and were flat out wrong about animal fats and horridly wrong about tropical solid oils (coconut and plam oil – where islanders were living long and happy lives eating lots of them… short chain length makes all the difference…)
I’m still waiting for the ‘medical establishment’ and related folks to stand up and say “We were wrong, margarine was killing people, and butter was just not a problem.” (Butter also has short chain fatty acids that bypass that cholesterol process. Thus both the French and Islander ‘anomalies’ and thier health and longevity.)
Yes, I’m a bit grumpy about this since it has killed off a couple of my friends. (While my Amish high animal fat loads of butter familial diet has left me just fine… Plastic Fats? Just say NO!)

Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 6:53 am

@barchester – there is enough poorly designed and executed research for all disciplines to go around. Some of the worst I encounter as a journal reviewer is from physicists who work on some biological problem. A common error committed by these physicists is to make unjustified simplifying assumptions in order to make complex system tractable with simple math. Another common mistake, committed by both physicists and chemists, is to not even bother to properly understand the problem in the first place. I can’t begin to tell you how much absolutely inane “research” I have seen from both disciplines on the fashionable topic of “drug delivery”.
@ E.M. Smith – Notice that I did not comment on margarine vs butter. The main source of cholesterol in our bodies is not the diet, but our endogenous biosynthesis. Accordingly, the most effective drugs available so far are inhibitors of HMG-CoA reductase, the key regulatory enzyme of this pathway. Limitation of cholesterol intake is of secondary importance. Its significance may have been overstated before synthesis inhibitors became available. However, I did not witness any “margarine propaganda” at med school or during my limited clinical experience. Hint: The interested party in such propaganda might be those with a product to sell. MDs typically don’t run grocery stores on the side.
You overstate the significance of short chain fatty acids. The trans-fat scare is also unfounded. Again, who might be the interested parties …

October 12, 2014 8:26 am

String Theory assumes a Universe in which time and space is constant
Same with Dark Matter. As I understand it, if you make gravity (g) vary with distance, then the need for Dark Matter dissappears in a puff of revised logic.
Lief alert……….

Reply to  ralfellis
October 12, 2014 11:37 am

Yes, assuming that G changes with distance, there is no need for “accelerated expansion”, “dark matter” or Creation of the Universe out of nothing. Sounds crazy but it may very well be that Vatican played an important role in stalling the development of physics. Old traditions die hard in Rome…

Reply to  Alexander Feht
October 12, 2014 3:01 pm

If you don’t assume that gravity is the driving force in the universe, and use something like, say, electricity, dark matter also disappears.

D Johnson
October 12, 2014 8:32 am

You might want to see what Lubos Motl has to say about Smolin, if you can tolerate strong language.

Reply to  D Johnson
October 12, 2014 11:34 am

I would never ask Lubos Motl about anything, after he professed that he is a spineless coward and Putin’s back-kisser.

Clay Marley
October 12, 2014 8:36 am

Scientists ignored this issue, or tried to disprove this implication, by testing whether the speed of light varied if you were moving towards or away from the source.

In this case I think it was entirely reasonable to expect that light, behaving as a wave, should have some medium through which the wave propagates – an æther. All waves travel through a medium – sound travels through air, waves on water, stadium waves travel through, well a stadium. But the particles have very little movement. So why would light be any different? No such æther was found of course, but sometimes I wonder if we are still missing something fundamental.

Reply to  Clay Marley
October 12, 2014 9:39 am

I have always liked the idea of an aether too. Just because we cannot detect it, does not mean it is not there.
And of course if the aether manifested itself as mass in some manner or other, we could give it a better name. We could call it —- errrr —– Dark Matter.

Reply to  ralfellis
October 12, 2014 10:06 am

ralfellis, look at this:
It’s more than one page, so page thru to see it all. It is a type of “aether” theory.

Reply to  Clay Marley
October 12, 2014 11:31 am

Add me to the list as another one who suspects that there is a medium through which light travels…

anna v
Reply to  Clay Marley
October 13, 2014 4:25 am

People have to realize that it is the lorenz transformation incompatible aether that the Michelson Morley experiment debunked. In particle physics second quantization has introduced the vacuum , teeming with virtual particle antiparticle pairs. This vacuum is lorenz compatible but can be considered as another reincarnation of “aether”, though it is not a useful concept. Most of you know it from the Hawking radiation coming from a black hole horizon .

Janice Moore
October 12, 2014 8:43 am

“What is truth?” (Pilate, Procurator of Judea, c. 33 A.D.)

“… their reputations… .”

Albert Einstein was theoretically crucified by his fellow German physicists (Einstein refused to be known as a German, but, rather as Austrian)…. because he challenged the status quo and…. I daresay, because he was Jewish…. .
Ego and lust for power and or money trump truth….
… in the short run.
In the end, HOWEVER!
To wit: We are discussing “Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity,” not
“Deutsche Physiks Version of Reality.”
Truth wins.
In the end, truth wins. Every — time. Time after time…. after time….
Lesson: HANG IN THERE, AN-TH-ONY and all of you wonderful WUWT scientists for truth! Your message IS getting out and, in the end, will save the PEOPLE of the planet from the solar panel-windmill investors’ greed.

Reply to  Janice Moore
October 13, 2014 3:18 pm

Albert Einstein was theoretically crucified by his fellow German physicists (Einstein refused to be known as a German, but, rather as Austrian)…. because he challenged the status quo and…. I daresay, because he was Jewish…. .

Einstein was pilloried in 1921 after the Nobel committee announced Einstein would get the the prize for discovering the theory of relativity. This is completely documented in letters to the editor, and in articles, in The Times of London, now under a paywall.
Scientists from across Europe (Jew and Gentile alike) raged at the Nobel committee that Einstein’s 1905 paper failed to present the proper references to Poincaré and Lorentz, that Poincaré was not only the first to enunciate the principle, but that Poincaré discovered in Lorentz’ work the necessary mathematical formulation of the principle…all available in papers before Einstein’s paper appeared. The Dutch physicist Lorentz has already received a Nobel in 1902.
The uproar caused the Nobel committee to put off giving Einstein the prize that year, but since they had announced the prize, they had to poke around to find a reason to give him one. They settled on

Prize motivation: “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.”

And he got it in 1922.
Einstein’s nationality and religion had nothing to do with it.

October 12, 2014 8:43 am

It’s always been easier to write fiction than nonfiction.

Reply to  mark
October 12, 2014 8:43 am

Oops. Hit enter too soon.
… and science is no exception.

Dalcio Dacol
October 12, 2014 9:04 am

Disappointing that WUWT is wasting time and space promoting the writings of this crackpot. Ask Lubos Motl about him…

Reply to  Dalcio Dacol
October 12, 2014 11:32 am

I would never ask Lubos Motl about anything, after he professed that he is a spineless coward and Putin’s back-kisser.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
October 12, 2014 1:26 pm

So you got a chip on your shoulder, we get that; please stop now polluting the thread.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
October 12, 2014 3:29 pm

Who appointed you to moderate this thread?

Yancey Ward
October 12, 2014 9:05 am

Science, it is true, has mechanisms for self correction which are unique in human endeavour

No- this is simply untrue, and a dangerous belief. Science has mechanisms for self-correction, but they are not unique. They depend on honesty and humility, just like any other human endeavor that attempts to establish facts about the world around us. It isn’t sufficient to be able to test scientific results to uncover mistakes and frauds- the body of the scientific world must also be willing to listen to counter-evidence in an even-handed way and open-minded way, and I think this is exactly where scientists fail, maybe more consistently than other professional classes. I think scientists are more susceptible to self-delusion precisely because they think science has unique mechanisms for uncovering mistakes and frauds. I am scientist myself, and I think we are just as honest as any other random collection of human beings, but I doubt we rank very high on the humility dimension.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Yancey Ward
October 12, 2014 11:10 am

Maybe that’s the difference. In engineering (and/or business in general) when (not if) you make a mistake you learn humility very fast. And, if at all competent, you learn from your mistakes rather than just denying them.

Reply to  Yancey Ward
October 12, 2014 11:12 am

And a lack of humility makes one quite susceptible to the logical fallacy of appeal to authority.

Brian H
Reply to  Yancey Ward
October 12, 2014 10:53 pm

Feynman put it more strongly, saying the honesty must be radical, and encompass or stand on unstinting effort to expose to view and to document every flaw in your own hypotheses. Humans capable of this are unfortunately rare. In it’s absence, we are forced into the long, drawn-out compromise of believing and hoping accumulated microchallenges will leave something close to the Truth standing.

Brian H
Reply to  Brian H
October 12, 2014 10:56 pm

in its absence …
When funding of challenges is cut off, one may assume science is not being done.

Dodgy Geezer
October 12, 2014 9:10 am

…Someone, somewhere will make the leap – will find a way to produce a model which works, an Einstein moment which transforms our understanding of global climate…
And, if history is any guide, that someone will be around 22 years old, not deeply connected with a university department, and perhaps a bit slow at memorising text-books….
– 22 years old – too young to have put much investment into supporting the ‘conventional’ ideas…
– Not deeply connected with a University – not forced to follow groupthink in order to build a career…
– Bit slow at memorising – needs to go back to first principles a lot and work things out fundamentally rather than simply applying a formula…

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
October 12, 2014 9:37 am

…Someone, somewhere will make the leap – will find a way to produce a model which works, an Einstein moment which transforms our understanding of global climate…

Dodgy Geezer
October 12, 2014 at 9:10 am (after quoting the above)
And, if history is any guide, that someone will be around 22 years old, not deeply connected with a university department, and perhaps a bit slow at memorising text-books….
– 22 years old – too young to have put much investment into supporting the ‘conventional’ ideas…
– Not deeply connected with a University – not forced to follow groupthink in order to build a career…
– Bit slow at memorizing – needs to go back to first principles a lot and work things out fundamentally rather than simply applying a formula…

Ah, but grasshopper, but recognizing and rewarding that 22-year old independent thinker is EXACTLY what the most-hollowed gaol) (er, hollowed grail; no uhm – hallowed goal) of all academia is trying to prevent!
‘Appeal to authority” – Filtering ALL knowledge through the anonymous, invisible, all-powerful gate-keepers of the “anonymous peer-reviewed scientific journals” IS the and first resort and the most-powerful resort of those in control of the CAGW propaganda.
The highest, most revered goal of all academia is “tenure” – the possession of a continuous, reliable guaranteed government payroll with seniority and the absence of any duties or contact with the real world of students, parents, grant renewals and – most of all – the threat of being fired after one’s mistakes are found.

October 12, 2014 9:15 am

Well, obviously the “Guest Blogger” has recently read an interesting book. I know, because I still keep recommending it since I had read it at the time it was published a few years ago.
In the meantime, string theory has made some progress and despite its issues, there are very good reasons to believe that there is ‘something to it’.
I only thought of this book last night, as I was watching a talk by Brian Greene on the state of string theory – isn’t that fitting?
Since it is mentioned here, a few things he touches are progress re. singularities and black holes:

The thing is, string theory can be shown to be wrong, or at least certain versions, and of course people are not simply following the trail of research money like zombies, these things are open to investigation and are in fact investigated.
Smolin obviously has an agenda like everybody else and he wrote a book to lobby for it – look at that!
I know my ‘opinion’ is not very relevant when I say as a non-physicist that I never believed in ST after reading so many pop-science books on the subject – but I do now since I have read Susskinds Black Hole Wars. It is not that it explains ST and I claim to have ‘understood’ it – it has to do whith what ST could contribute to solving problems and explaining the world. – That cannot be a coincidence. And so I changed my mind, and it turns out I am in good company 🙂

October 12, 2014 9:32 am

The cognitive dissonance involved in simultaneously rejecting the consensus of Big Pharma conventional medicine while embracing the consensus of Big Enviro climate science, which seems to be a common practice of many AGW enthusiasts, is worthy of Big Lewandowsky research.
The fear of lawyers or death seems to be the big motivator in both examples. Death may be real in medicine but unsupported speculation in the case of Global Warming.
Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” principles of disaster exploitation for financial gain (which she capitalizes on in her subsequent “This Changes Everything”) demonstrates that both real and imaginary disaster is equally effective.

Reply to  Betapug
October 12, 2014 9:41 am

… While absolutely blaming all opposition to Big Climate Government Control to “Big Oil” money …

Reply to  Betapug
October 12, 2014 11:00 am

There is much hypocrisy in demonizing genetically modified organisms (plants) while simultaneously adhering to climate alarmist “science”.
The required mental maneuver to reconcile this hypocrisy is to live by the assumption that Mankind and his prosperity are evil.
It’s all based in misanthropy.

∑(Sn) Wong
Reply to  RobRoy
October 13, 2014 6:31 am

How can you tell the difference?

Reply to  Betapug
October 12, 2014 3:02 pm

Good observation. And ironically, big pharma companies are compelled to use much more rigorous quality assurance mechanisms in their research than academic researchers. This includes an obligatory stage of reproducing and verifying any experimental studies by academic researchers that would seem to provide the basis for developing a novel kind of drug. This work is performed before any serious resources are committed, and indeed, more often than not, the academic studies fail to be confirmed at this stage.

Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 12, 2014 3:27 pm

IMO all research in industry, business, etc. is of better quality than what is produced in academia, this opine re-enforced by comments here at WUWT.

∑ (Sn) Wong
Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 12, 2014 3:49 pm

Do you mean like all the research that the tobacco industries conducted that said smoking was safe?

Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 4:45 am

No. I refer to comments here by scientists who perform research in the private sector.

∑(Sn) Wong
Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 6:29 am

How can you tell the difference?

Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 7:34 am

mpainter, your statement is so overly general that it must be false. Sometimes, one can read similar things here from engineers, who also claim that their profession is somehow immune to malfeasance. Pride goes before a fall.

Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 8:39 am

Michael Palmer:
Scientists working in the private sector are fired when they produce faulty work, usualy, while those in the public sector are not subject to such constraints. That makes a huge differenceYou speak of engineers. Well this profession relies on modeling and gets excellent results. They must because failure entails such adverse consequences. No such consequences for academia or government workers. Otherwise, how do we get climate models? Under industry standards the model at the head post would never have been presented ( the absurd cold fresh water current). Several times on this blog I have read reports of researchers in the pharmaceutical labs who complain of the frequent irreproducibility of academic studies. Same thing in the electronics area. This is not to say that academia never produces top quality work, or that science in the public sector is universally bad. Many quality science professionals are found there. It is simply a matter of the constraints and the standards which are applied and the consequences entailed in faulty work. There is a big difference.
Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 9:00 am


The problem with your admiration of scientists in the private sector is that the private sector does very little research into basic sciences. There is very little private investment into things like particle physics and planetary exploration due to the fact there is no profit in these endeavors. That is why CERN and NASA exist. When was the last time Exxon-Mobil was able to profit from an archeological dig of homo-erectus bones?

Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 11:53 am

I admire good science wherever it is found . My complaint is that there is too much of the other kind in the public sector. A remedy is needed. Do you not agree?

george e. smith
Reply to  Michael Palmer
October 13, 2014 7:01 pm

October 13, 2014 at 9:00 am

The problem with your admiration of scientists in the private sector is that the private sector does very little research into basic sciences. ….”””””
Well it is because those private sector companies focus on profitable science, that there even exists grant monies to fund academia.
And don’t kid yourself, that the private sector doesn’t do research on basic sciences. Look at how many (recent) Nobel Physics prizes were awarded to private sector researchers, into basic science.
In the private sector, one of the most important scientific research results, is that the company has no business wasting more resources on some hare brained idea that won’t work.
65% of ALL US PhD graduates in Physics, NEVER get a paying job in their “specialty”. The reason is they chose a PhD specialty, that absolutely nobody has any interest in (besides the new Dr.) 30% of those graduates chose to do research in “specialties” that companies are willing to pay for, because they need that science for their business.
The 65% are doomed to spend the rest of their “working” careers as post doc fellows in some institution or other, often teaching their “specialty” to some other soon to be doomed candidate.
And climate “science” is as good a place to bury yourself and publish away, because nobody cares if in 35 years, your work will be shown to have been a bunch of rubbish. By then you will be retired on a taxpayer funded pension. Paid for by the efforts of those who looked for useful contributions to mankind.

Reply to  Betapug
October 14, 2014 7:27 am

Here’s a good rebuttal to Klein’s Shock Doctrine

October 12, 2014 9:41 am

I have read a book by this gentelman in German. I see that he has now also published in English.
He covers a wide range of topics. His descriptions of the problems with Physics Establishment – (or Established Physics?!/i>) not only echo, but possibly even dwarf those of climate science.

October 12, 2014 9:42 am

“In principle, the scientific approach is to advance a general theory with a view to testing it against every possible sort of evidence that might tell against it…Good scientists who have risen to the top of their profession become attached to, and partisan about, the theory they have created or helped create, and obstinate in defending it…..Their students and acolytes at a lower level, while in a general sense ‘intelligent’, are inclined to an acceptance of the last generation’s breakthrough and novelty, and the as a barely criticisable orthodoxy. This is particularly true when academic advancement becomes dependent on validating the last theory….“ Robert Conquest, “Reflections on a Ravaged Century” (1999) Pg. 232

October 12, 2014 9:42 am

Smolin once wrote that the trouble with science lies in what it accepts without proof. He then went on to write of his belief in the existence of black holes. Ironically, they have been accepted without proof. Sure, there are astronomical objects compact enough and dark enough to be black holes, if such exist, but there is no proof at all that any of them possess the quintessential feature of a black hole; namely, an event horizon. The “firewall” problem at an event horizon occurs exactly at the intersection of general relativity and quantum electrodynamics. My bet is that the theory that predicts the occurrence of an event horizon will have to be modified to eliminate that possibility. The odds are that quantum mechanics, which is the most accurate theory known to humanity will trump a theory that has never really been tested except in weak gravitational field limits.

Reply to  bones
October 12, 2014 10:03 am

So, let’s assume a black hole exists, and is formed by the simple accumulation of large amounts of conventional matter in ever-smaller volumes.
If such a black hole exists, according to conventional “black-hole-general-relativity-theory” it must have an event horizon around it where inbound physical objects like dust, asteroids, planets, suns, gasses, plasma’s, etc cannot accelerate past the speed of light, but only infinitely-slowly/infinitely-ever closer approach the speed of light around the black hole.
So, how does the black hole accumulate more and more matter (as at the center of galaxies) when that matter apparently never gets through the event horizon to make the black hole ever larger and more massive? Is it not the event horizon which is accumulating matter/mass around the black hole, and not the black hole itself?
If so, then a black hole (once it is formed) then cannot get larger than the first event horizon around the smallest possible black hole. It could only be the “halo” around that first black hole (the first event horizon – which is much larger that the first black hole itself) that could accumulate more mass.
True, eventually, the first halo may become large enough with matter approaching the speed of light that IT becomes a black hole – which means it cannot become larger, but that its second event horizon is the “black hole” attracting more outside matter.
Regardless, if Hawking is correct about mass escaping a black hole quantumly, then that mass can re-appear outside the black hole’s gravitation trap, and so some matter from the center of all black holes in the universe must be re-appearing in normal space at some average rate of re-appearance. Which, after all is said and done, is the basic missing requirement of a steady-state universe.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
October 12, 2014 10:18 am

Well, if these strangely equipped black holes are cosmic recycling machines, they must somehow convert astronomical detritus, hot dogs, tofu and all, back into hydrogen to replace what is burning up in stars. Then you might get a steady state universe. Even Hawking’s information would not be lost, it would just be reassembled by the time the next generation of matter falls into a recycling bin eons later 😉

Reply to  RACookPE1978
October 12, 2014 11:03 am

Not a problem, not a problem at all.
But, please remember: When something “burns” here in our simple vocabulary of an earth-atmosphere system, simple compounds and atoms (carbon, hydrogen, sulfer, nitrogen, iron, etc) combine with other simple atoms (oxygen most often) to form more complex atoms and molecules with a different molecular binding (chemical) energy. The difference is released as heat, or used as heat energy to break up molecular binds into free atoms again. (CO2 can be broken up by allpying energy to form carbon agian and free O2 molecules, for example)
In a star, the most fundemental atoms in a ion form (no electrons needed nor wanted) are combined “up” into more complex atoms and isotopes. Two 1H1 form 1H2, three 1H1 form 1H3 (tritium), two 2He4 form .., a 6C12 fuses (eventually) with a 2He4 to form 8O16, etc….
So, if in a black hole, only the fundemental nuclear particles or the fundemental isotopes can escape (or the particles (gluons and quarks or colors or whatever-you-want-call-them) that make up those isotopes) and re-appear in normal space near stars, then all of the more complex isotopes can be formed over time inside those stars later. And you have the advantage that billion-year less-than-light-year passage of heavy particles from one super-nova to the next future super-nova is needed either. Particles will be appearing conveniently near their next forge, to be fused up into larger and larger isotopes in the short time conventional wisdom thinks is available for a 4.5 billion year old planet from our 13.5 billion year old universe. Less time is needed to make the 10^70 heavy isotopes we know exist in our little isolated solar system.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
October 12, 2014 11:28 am

Yes, yes that’s right-black holes explain it all, even black matter…..I think .. 🙁

Reply to  RACookPE1978
October 12, 2014 6:33 pm

There is more to black holes than matter. Space itself is distorted. Light can’t escape it because this distorted space only affords a way in, not a way out.

October 12, 2014 9:55 am

I’ve been trying to understand the “Beautiful Universe” concept:
It’s certainly interesting and quantum mechanics/general relativity are derived easily from it.

Gary Pearse
October 12, 2014 10:01 am

String theory, dark matter are the things you come up with after frustrating decades of casting about for something to break the deadlock of quiet in the science. These are a product of a large number of bright folks with no new ideas to tease out of their discipline.
I don’t think for a moment that we are at the end of days. There will turn out to be fertile fields that have gone unnoticed, probably because of the obsessive drive to find something, anything, perhaps, like trying your darnedest to remember some persons name only to have it pop into your head when you give up.
The place to look, always, is back at the earlier science where there are still problems or question marks with otherwise fairly solid science (Newton vs Einstein sort of thing). This is probably going to be more difficult with the insulation of so much unsatisfactory filler of the last half a century or more and the vested interests – whole careers producing frustrata.

October 12, 2014 10:11 am

Science is about models with predictive power. Models that make nontrivial predictions are theories or laws. Other models at best may be conjectures or even hypotheses, but many are just off-the-scale non-scientific claptrap. String Theory is misnamed; it is the Stringy Conjecture. Dark energy and Dark Matter are fudge factors to balance cosmological equations. Man observes neither the universe nor Now, but instead sensible projections of the universe from Then. That the Red Shift is Doppler has yet to be confirmed. Laws are man’s creations, approximations to observations reduced to facts and not discoveries lying about in nature.
The problem rises out of the nonsense that models are mostly about publication, peer-review, and consensuses, and secondarily about falsification, Type II error rates, and social significance. This is Popperism run amok, where facts are now truth not measurements, where science consists of inductive propositions tested by Intersubjectivity, designed to replace deductive models based on Cause & Effect. It is a plan that dove-tailed perfectly with Publish or Perish, what “most scientists believe” infecting the synergistic bureaucracies of academia, government, and the media.
It’s objective vs subjective, right vs. left, benefaction vs. fame, knowledge vs. faith, respectively and equivalently.

Jim G
Reply to  Jeff Glassman
October 12, 2014 11:01 am

“Dark energy and Dark Matter are fudge factors to balance cosmological equations.”
Ahh! Fresh from a recent arguement with Lief S on this topic, I cannot agree with you more. Just the very nature of their “convenience” in answering observations which do not fit with general relativity ( dark matter, not so much dark energy, as GR predicted an expansion of the universe) should cause one to wonder. Also, observations change with the advance of technology so fitting a theory to observations always requires flexibility to change the theory when more precise observations appear. Most of all, though, we must stop stating theory as fact, which seems to be rampant now days.

Reply to  Jim G
October 12, 2014 7:44 pm

Dark Energy is a fudge factor. Dark Matter is as much of an observational fact as anything else, motivated by galactic rotation curves, and verified observations such as the “bullet cluster” and baryon oscillations in the galaxy density power spectrum. Don’t conflate the two, even if both are similarly mysterious from the perspective of particle physics.

Jim G
Reply to  Jim G
October 13, 2014 7:58 am

Dark Energy may be a fudge factor but I look at it merely as a name which represents the cause(really unknown) of the expansion predicted by GR which Einstein, himself, fudged out of his theory due to the inability of astronomy in those days to see the expansion. Now one can argue the accuracy of “red shift” as used today and that there is no expansion but that is another arguement.
Dark matter is more of a pure fudge factor as the proof of its existence is, like dark energy, merely the effects that no one can explain, but unlike dark energy, it is supposed to be a physical commodity (of sorts) and no one can as yet find any. The BAO and all of the other theoretical/mathmatical proofs of both are little importance as in both cases their existence is still theoretical, as yet unproven. In the case of dark energy, if I have to go along with theory I prefer Einstein to others. And the fact that the expansion of the universe was, in his case, an unwanted side effect of his theory, all the better. I suppose one could look at dark matter in the same way, though, since it exists due to the violation of the rules of gravity intrinsic in his theory of GR which we can only just recently observe.
I continue to wonder, however, if anyone has truly applied the curvature of space time on a massive scale to the problem or if only Newtonian gravity has been used. I suspect someone has.

Reply to  Jim G
October 13, 2014 7:43 pm

Count_to_10 writes “Dark Matter is as much of an observational fact as anything else, motivated by galactic rotation curves, and verified observations such as the “bullet cluster” and baryon oscillations in the galaxy density power spectrum.”
One could say “curved space” is the observational fact and we assign “dark matter” to curve the space. But thats only because we dont know of any other way to curve space.

Dodgy Geezer
October 12, 2014 10:14 am

October 12, 2014 at 9:37 am
…Someone, somewhere will make the leap – will find a way to produce a model which works, an Einstein moment which transforms our understanding of global climate…
Dodgy Geezer
October 12, 2014 at 9:10 am (after quoting the above)
And, if history is any guide, that someone will be around 22 years old, not deeply connected with a university department, and perhaps a bit slow at memorising text-books….
– 22 years old – too young to have put much investment into supporting the ‘conventional’ ideas…
– Not deeply connected with a University – not forced to follow groupthink in order to build a career…
– Bit slow at memorizing – needs to go back to first principles a lot and work things out fundamentally rather than simply applying a formula…
Ah, but grasshopper, but recognizing and rewarding that 22-year old independent thinker is EXACTLY what the most-hollowed gaol) (er, hollowed grail; no uhm – hallowed goal) of all academia is trying to prevent!

Er…exactly. I wonder if the reason that we have had so few fundamental advances in Physics over the last 60 years is because the ‘powers that be’ have successfully suppressed quite a few young thinkers?
It is interesting to note that the rise of Government/Industry funding of science since WW2 has coincided precisely with a dearth of fundamental advance, and also with a cornucopia of short-term technological advances, all of which have been very profitable…

October 12, 2014 10:16 am

IIRC, Smolin once argued that his approach was correct because it was socially progressive. I don’t believe that he has any theoretical successes to his name, but in this case I will defer to people in the field. Unlike climate change, cutting edge theoretical physics requires specialized training and mathematical talent to know what is going on.

Reply to  Chuck
October 12, 2014 11:26 am

He predicted the maximum mass of a neutron star so far observed.

October 12, 2014 10:43 am

on being a “crackpot”
Einstein was a crackpot and so was the guy who claimed the continents move. So was the guy who claimed the planets go around the Sun and not the earth. So was the guy who claimed little bitty unseen organisms could make a man ill.
Science moves forward by the fresh discoveries of the outsiders. The group and its consensus are just lab rats awaiting a real scientist. I think we might have only a few real scientists come along every generation. And what if we impede their work by building up a giant government funded science-university edifice that seeks to protect the status quo — how much knowledge and wisdom does mankind lose in the process?

David Ball
Reply to  markstoval
October 12, 2014 11:03 am

The “Slayers’ are vilified on this very site. Even by the mods. WUWT??

Reply to  David Ball
October 12, 2014 2:01 pm

Every site has those that they will not allow to heard. For example, I will not allow any talk of the WWII Holocaust at my site because I have German family (some in Germany) and there are certain laws about that topic in that country that might come into play if I ever were to visit.
I had never heard of those you mention until our host when ballistic one day to someone and told the fellow never to mention that stuff here. So like anyone, I went to Google to see what it was all about. I found out about the talkshop site in much the same way. In a way it is like telling teenagers to never, ever watch a certain movie — that will ensure they do.

Reply to  David Ball
October 12, 2014 7:38 pm

The “Slayers” basically misapply basic physics to generate arguments against the AGW that are ultimately easily refuted, and give AGW proponents a means to paint any skeptic as ignorant.

David Ball
Reply to  David Ball
October 13, 2014 9:13 pm

Count-to-10, I view the capitulation that Co2 causes “some warming” as just as damaging as you view the slayers “misapplication of physics”. Sounds to me like you bought into the marginalization without fully understanding what is being discussed.

Reply to  markstoval
October 12, 2014 11:31 am

One thing that crackpots often do is fail to apply logic. For example, just because a few unconventional theories turned out to be correct, that does not mean that every nut who pens a book critical of contemporary physics must be correct. To insist, or even imply, such means that one doesn’t understand logical reasoning, much less the scientific method.
The problem with Smolin, and people like him, is the he doesn’t provide any new, original insight, unlike the groundbreaking theories of Einstein, plate tectonics, etc. He’s basically a guy who is angry because he realizes that he is not smart enough to understand certain parts of modern physics, so he sits outside the circle and does nothing but throw rocks at those inside. In other words, he has chosen to become a professional crank. Well, that might make him, and the people who are foolish enough to waste their money on his books, feel better, but it does nothing to advance scientific knowledge.
Fortunately for him, his strongly liberal views and his well-honed reputation as a “rebel” have managed to secure him a career in academia and guaranteed him a certain degree of popularity with other mediocre academics and many people who like to read pop-science books.

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 12:38 pm

” … just because a few unconventional theories turned out to be correct, that does not mean that every nut who pens a book critical of contemporary physics must be correct …”
The outsiders often are at odds with each other as well as with the establishment orthodoxy. We are not to “believe” them on blind faith just as we should not “believe” the orthodoxy on blind faith. But the advances will come from the outside — so we should give a listen to those theories that are unconventional. We should never censor anyone just because we do not want to believe that they might be right.
Paleontologist Niles Eldredge wrote in one of his book about his days as an graduate student and being sent by his major professor to boo, hiss, and heckle the fellow who came up with the idea of continental drift when he came to the university to give a talk. He was later most saddened by his participating in that attack on a man who was ultimately correct and who never really was given the credit he deserved. (this is from memory — so it might have been Gould instead)

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 1:28 pm

You need to learn the difference between censor and censure.
Nobody is censoring Lee Smolin. On the contrary, the guy has made a good amount of money selling his books full of crap to people who are ill-equipped to understand the topic that he purports to critique.
Once again, I must ask, what has this guy contributed to scientific knowledge other than to take a dump on other people’s hard work? You can’t bring an “advance” if you don’t contribute anything substantial yourself. That’s what you fail to understand.

D Johnson
Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 1:46 pm

Well said, and very similar to Lubos Motl’s view, as much as I dislike his recent pro-Putin/Russian views.

Mike Edwards
Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 1:48 pm

Have you heard of “Loop Quantum Gravity”?

Reply to  Brian
October 12, 2014 1:53 pm

“Once again, I must ask, what has this guy contributed to scientific knowledge other than to take a dump on other people’s hard work?”
If one is to be open to real advances that will come from the outsiders, then one has to let the outsiders be heard. The fact that you hate this one man is apparent. I don’t know him and don’t care about him, but I do know that all major advances normally come from outside the consensus.
As but one example, the present model of how the earth’s weather system works is obviously wrong and I highly doubt that the gatekeepers of orthodoxy are going to be the ones to find out how the system really works.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  markstoval
October 12, 2014 5:56 pm

You are absolutely right. Success at raising money seems to be the most laudatory skill in academic circles. I fear that the Einsteins are not very good at this new science skill. I marvel that his stuff even got published. Wegener, was vilified and laughed at by the geological establishment for his “Continental Drift” and he died years before the “discovery” of “Plate Tectonics” – the name was changed, of course.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 12, 2014 7:25 pm

Which leads to the odd phenomena that the personality types that are most suited to doing physics (introspective) are selected against because they are not the personality types most suited to convincing other people to contribute money to their efforts (extrospecitve).

October 12, 2014 11:07 am

Satisfies my ego somewhat. I’ve been saying this about String Theory since I was a teenager. Nobody ever listened, of course. I’ve been told: “We are scientists, and who are you? We’ve taken into account and calculated everything you are talking about, don’t worry. Big Bang Theory and String Theory are untouchables”.
Good for Dr. Smolin. Only a textbook-corrupted mind cannot see that the “mysteriously accelerating expanding Universe, mysteriously created out of nothing in breach of all conservation laws, pushed by the the experiment-proof dark force, burdened by the experiment-proof dark matter, and reduced by the the experiment-proof hairy re-normalizations to the least common denominator of colliding membranes and elementary vibrations in the experiment-proof eleventh dimension” is bunk that exists on paper only.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
October 12, 2014 1:35 pm

Your characterization is a bit ignorant.
Here, attend to Dr. Leonard Susskind and learn at least the basics. His playlist of lectures is 136 videos long, starts with classical mechanics and ends waaay into string theory.

Everytime Dr. Susskind works in a box, or on a subsystem, or presumes time, that is Dr. Smolins entrée.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 12, 2014 3:33 pm

Anybody can tell anybody else that they are ignorant. Especially not in the face.
Proving it is another matter. I’ve been reading up on the “basics” for 30 years. Granted, I may not understand something, but so may you. Your favorite theories are crumbling, that makes you angry. Find a more constructive way to use your anger energy, Doug.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
October 12, 2014 7:32 pm

Cosmology is pretty well tested going back to at least BBN “Big Bang Nucleosynthesis, a bit sketchy around bariogenisis, but has a rather strong case that something inflation-like happened. Anything before inflation is pretty much unknown, with lots of speculation, but very few people have claimed it to be anything but speculation.

Jim Mangum
October 12, 2014 11:17 am
NZ Willy
October 12, 2014 11:22 am

A worthwhile book is “The Golem: What Everyone should know about Science”:
The preface begins: “This book is for the general reader who wants to know how science really works and to know how much authority to grant to experts”. See the link above for reviews.

Mac the Knife
October 12, 2014 12:05 pm

Climate Science will eventually become a science again.
One can only hope…… and mayhaps NASA returns to aero and astrospace science.

October 12, 2014 12:06 pm

That there has been very little progress in fundamental physics in recent decades is unfortunately quite true. It is rather depressing to see that my old textbooks on quantum physics from the ´70s could still be used practically without change. That would definitely not have applied to 1930’s textbooks in the 1970’s!
And the big unsolved mysteries we were told about in the ´70s, like the quantization of gravity and vacuum energy are still big unsolved mysteries. True there has been progress in some fields like observational astronomy, quantum optics and solid-state physics, but not in fundamental theory.

Jim G
Reply to  tty
October 12, 2014 12:29 pm

If anything it seems that quantum physics as strengthened since the late 1960’s with continued proof of theory predictions. Not that there are not any mysteries, such as entangled particles, but not much to falsify the theory. But then probability density functions leave some room for wiggle I guess.

October 12, 2014 1:12 pm

is Climate Science special? Indeed it is, for like Jesus it was born without sin and perfect therefore it could ever be wrong and should never be questioned . In addition its prime methodology could be consider has ‘heads I win, tail you lose’ and its models are better than reality , while the academic ‘quality’ of many of the professionals working in area is lower than would be expected for an undergraduate handing in a essay but that is fine.
Taken together I would say that makes its ‘special ‘

D Johnson
October 12, 2014 1:41 pm

I find this thread to be very dissatisfying to say the least. Comparing faulty climate science with currently accepted physics such as quantum mechanics only serves to diminish the criticism of client science as it currently stands. It’s not that client science has the physics wrong, it’s that they are misapplying it and drawing unjustified conclusions.

John Silver
Reply to  D Johnson
October 12, 2014 2:45 pm

“client science”

Reply to  D Johnson
October 12, 2014 7:21 pm

I don’t see any comparison to quantum mechanics. The comparison was to String theory. The Standard model is well tested, string theory is untested.

Janice Moore
October 12, 2014 1:52 pm

“… Captured by Groupthink… ” …. well, not all…. .
As demonstrated by so many of you wonderful WUWT scientist-commenters, there IS hope for truth!
In Memory of Harold Lewis — a reprint of his letter published by James Delingpole (and An-tho-ny Watts) in 2010
US Physics Professor: ‘Global warming is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life’
By James Delingpole
London Telegraph
October 9th, 2010
Harold Lewis {was} Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Here is his letter of resignation to Curtis G. Callan Jr, Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society.
{An-tho-ny Watts describes it thus:
This is an important moment in science history. I would describe it as a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door. It is worthy of repeating this letter in entirety on every blog that discusses science.
It’s so utterly damning that I’m going to run it in full without further comment. (H/T GWPF, Richard Brearley).

Dear Curt:
When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago). Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence—it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?
How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:
1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate.
2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.
3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.
4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind—simply to bring the subject into the open.
5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.
6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition. APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?
I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.
I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.

Harold Lewis {was} Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, Chmn. of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety
Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board; Served in US Navy in WW II; books: Technological Risk (about, surprise, technological risk) and Why Flip a Coin (about decision making)”
End James Delingpole, 2010.

M Courtney
October 12, 2014 2:56 pm

String Theory is beautiful and exquisite. The ideas are a work of art.
No-one says art is science.
They aren’t provable but they are interesting.
And maybe one day the mathematics will have application in analysing observations of the real world.
Not today, obviously, but maybe one day.

Reply to  M Courtney
October 12, 2014 6:53 pm

When I heard a physicist named Whitten, on a PBS NOVA program, Say that “M Theory” (a unification of four different types of String Theory.) would necessitate THIRTEEN dimensions. My mind was blown. Think of the possibilities, For instance, Heaven and Hell would be possible.
That program also criticized “M Theory” as untestable. Tantamount to religion.
Mind blowing and thought provoking is all I can say about it.

Max Erwengh
October 12, 2014 3:12 pm

“…anyone who questions String Theory, or challenges it, is looked on as a crank, an outsider.”
Bullshit. It is just an untested hypothesis and no physicist in particle physics would questioned that fact.

Reply to  Max Erwengh
October 12, 2014 3:25 pm

The challenge to ST is that cannot be tested, it is unfalsifiable and thus Popperian nonsense. The challenge to ST is that no falsifiable experiment/test/observation has been proposed in twenty years.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 12, 2014 3:31 pm

Note that I cast my retort so that a counter-example will be effective.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 12, 2014 4:44 pm

So, after calling me “ignorant” you say the same thing, using slightly different words. “Unfalsifiable” and “experiment-proof” are the same thing. String theory is unfalsifiable, and, therefore, is nonsense.
Big Bang theory, on the other hand, has been experimentally falsified, many aspects of it. For example — to make a long argument short — there are massive galaxy clusters on the edge of the infrared telescopes’ vision, which would be impossible if the Big Bang timeline would make any sense.

Clifford Eddy
October 12, 2014 4:22 pm

A pair of US scientists proved that the speed of light is constant decades before Einstein.

∑ (Sn) Wong
Reply to  Clifford Eddy
October 12, 2014 4:33 pm

Einstein didn’t “prove” the speed of light was constant.
He theorized that it is the “same” for any frame of reference.

Reply to  ∑ (Sn) Wong
October 12, 2014 4:41 pm

Which is far more significant contribution!

Reply to  ∑ (Sn) Wong
October 13, 2014 5:17 pm

So did Poincaré with his 1898 light synchronization procedure (light speed is invariant) when he argued that simultaneity is relative. (“La Mesure du Temps”)

October 12, 2014 4:39 pm

What is needed is more Symmetric Group think.

October 12, 2014 5:59 pm

The trouble with physics, climatology, etc. is that their practice was shifted from a scientific domain to a universal domain. Scientists have increasingly failed to distinguish between science and other philosophies. The scientific method was intended to constrain frames of reference in time and space, but the method was circumvented through acceptance of models, speculation, induction, and a uniformitarian doctrine. And they are doing it for precisely the same reasons as traditional faiths, with precisely the same consequences.

October 12, 2014 6:13 pm

“Science is made by men, a self-evident fact that is far too often forgotten” — Werner Heisenberg

Reply to  Dr. Paul
October 12, 2014 6:14 pm

too often
[ Fixed. -ModE ]

Bernard Hood
October 12, 2014 6:22 pm

I think the original blogger got too deep into the merits and demerits of string theory, and the “crackpot” accusers also miss the point. What Smolin quite credibly described was the way in which string theory zoomed from an obscure (some would say “crackpot”) idea to become de rigeur in the relevant scientific community within a few years. As Smolin pointed out, physics graduates were bludgeoned into string theory because, suddenly, their faculty was not interested in anything else. Grant money was awarded for little else. Academic journals would not publish about anything else.
I think the analogy to the academic suppression of research which might throw doubt on climate change orthodoxy is a close one and a good one.

October 12, 2014 7:10 pm

Jeez. When I was doing high energy physics. string theorists were considered borderline crackpots.
That was all of ten years ago.

Dr. Strangelove
October 12, 2014 7:20 pm

“It is at this extreme edge of reality that String Theory begins to break down – it produces (or fails to produce) solutions which have no applicability to the real world.”
String theory is not a scientific theory at all. It is a collection of facts and arguments combined with the hopes and dreams of some physicists that such a theory exists. String theory is not too difficult to solve. Nobody even knows what equations to solve. Scientific theories can be right or wrong. String theory isn’t even wrong. Read the book “Not Even Wrong” by Peter Woit.

Dr. Strangelove
October 12, 2014 9:25 pm

“scientists were aware of the paradoxes which produced the need for Einstein’s Relativity since at least the 1860s, when Maxwell formulated his famous equations – equations which implied the speed of light is constant, no matter what the location and velocity of the observer. Scientists ignored this issue, or tried to disprove this implication”
This is a failure of imagination by physicists. Even after the experiment of Michelson and Morley in 1887, they still denied that light has a constant speed. Lorentz and Poincare developed the equations of special relativity theory before Einstein. But Einstein was credited for inventing the theory. The two physicists held the bizarre time dilation and length contraction are mere illusions. Einstein held they are real and classical mechanics had to be reformulated. He believed this even without empirical data. Einstein claimed when he formulated the theory, he was not even aware of the Michelson-Morley experiment. He was a rationalist.

NZ Willy
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
October 12, 2014 11:24 pm

Einstein’s rationalism let him down when quantum theory was starting up. He opposed it and so Bohr bested him in the famous Bohr-Einstein debates. Einstein went from radical upstart to old fuddy-duddy in the space of 25 years.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  NZ Willy
October 13, 2014 1:50 am

Their debate was about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, which is more a philosophical debate. They all agree on the results of real experiments and the equations of quantum mechanics. They debated on thought experiments. Other physicists thought it was a waste of time.

Kevin Hilde
October 13, 2014 12:20 am

Steven Pinker wrote an entire book on academic dogma and the corruption of science. Well, the subject matter was a little more narrowly defined, but ….
What he of course didn’t point out was that most sociologists are of a temperament type that, more than anything, wants to “save the world” and/or “make a difference.”
Feel free to start making connections.

Reply to  Kevin Hilde
October 13, 2014 4:46 am

Do you recognize Pinker’s cover image? It is also used on the cover of my edition of Barrow and Tipler’s The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Head Exploding by Salvador Dali 1951

Kevin Hilde
Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 13, 2014 11:48 am

Haha …. I guess I left myself wide open for that one …. making connections based on cover art. I’ll assume it was meant in humor.
But unlike your referenced book, which a quick peek leads me to believe is a complex/sciency form of mysticism, Pinker’s purpose is to battle the tendencies toward both mysticism and enforced group think which are so prevalent in the social sciences.
On my point about making connections: It is becoming ever more apparent that the tendencies toward sciency, veiled mysticism and enforced group think keep popping up wherever the disciplines/organizations/institutions are predominated by people of Idealist temperament. It has long been the case in religious denominational hierarchy, but is also true of the social sciences, most activist groups (PETA, WWF, Greenpeace, etc.), journalism courses, the euphemistically named field of “women’s studies,” and yes, now climatology.
*runs off to prepare for the hate mail*

anna v
October 13, 2014 5:15 am

The Trouble with Physics – Another branch of science captured by groupthink
A few years ago I spent a lot of time,( could have written a thesis), reading up on the AGW models, assumptions and projections. At the time I was appalled at the bad use of mathematics and physics and data that was explored in the AR4 paper , chapter on physics. It is disturbing that on this very popular blog opinions are stated setting string theories at the level of AGW studies.
1) string theories are rigorous mathematical theories with axioms theorems and results. They explore the behavior of strings in many dimensions. They may not have been popular with mathematicians but since physicists found them possibly useful a lot of mathematical development has been going on.
2) Mathematical theories become physics theories by the addition of extra axioms, called postulates, which connect the physical situation under study to the mathematics. For example the postulate that the square of the wavefunction gives the probability of finding the particle under consideration connects Schrodingers equation, a mathematically solid wave equation, to the measurements in the lab.
3) String theories have not reached point 2 yet in a unique way. There are proposals, that try from the thousands of possibilities to pick one that would connect smoothly with the models we already have known and tested for particle physics, particularly the standard model ( )
What string theories have and so are attracting the best minds in theoretical physics and are watched carefully by experimentalists, are two very basic things that any new theory that wants to be the theory of everything needs:
a) Allow smoothly the quantization of gravity
b) Embed the above linked standard model
String theories are the only theories I have heard of that can do this. Their draw back is the great plethora of possible models , and it is true that the new experimental constraints/signatures that have been proposed ( and they have been proposed) have not yet been found in the LHC data. The people who bet on string theories are basing their confidence on a) and b) above.
One of the predictions from a string theoretical model was the large extra dimensions ( ) and another is to look for a signal in dijet events ( ) , which would be the signature for spin 2 gluons, a unique prediction of strings. I am sure other predictions exist also, these are just the ones that came to my attention ( attending lectures while in retirement).
I think then that the book, or the way the book is presented here, is carrying a chip on the shoulder and is disingenuously trying to besmear the potential for discoveries using a string theoretical model with the mess of non-theories of AGW.
I am not familiar with the research of the book’s author, but I do know that loop quantum gravity is not Lorentz transformation compatible and I have not heard how it would embed the standard model of particle physics..

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  anna v
October 13, 2014 7:33 pm

I suggest you read this book
The grandiose visions of string theorists may see a glimmer of hope once they make the first little step – figure out which one of the 10^500 string vacua represents our universe. Then they will have a set of equations to talk about. After 30 years it’s still all big talk but no real solutions and no real experiments.
They say space is 9 dimensional. All observations show it’s just 3. Well then, all observations are wrong and the undefined theory of strings is correct. To think otherwise would be a failure of imagination. It’s too beautiful to be wrong.

anna v
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
October 13, 2014 10:48 pm

I have heard of the book, and your descriptions do not entice me to read further . Seems to me that the title is appropriate for the content.

The grandiose visions of string theorists may see a glimmer of hope once they make the first little step – figure out which one of the 10^500 string vacua represents our universe. Then they will have a set of equations to talk about.
The number of mathematical theories that are not fit for physics models is beyond count. The physics models were not found by the theorist thinking deep thoughts on the top of the mountain. It is experiments that defined the theory, even though in the beginning of the formulation, the theory contradicted the sense of “wrong” of the majority of physicists at that time. And of course the theorist should comprehend what the experiments mean.
After 30 years it’s still all big talk but no real solutions and no real experiments.
The solution will be tied to experimental evidence. It is very rarely in the history of physics that the theory found a solution before an experimental verification existed. I can only think of General Relativity that hit the jack pot. Usually people peddling such theories suffer the fate you assign to string theorists now.
As I said, the attraction of string theory comes because it can accommodate both quantized general relativity and the standard model. I do not think another such proposed set of mathematical models exists currently . Logic tells me that a unified theory will be described by a subset of these models. No other models have been proposed that can do this. If they are , they will be a good competition to string models and more power to them. ( I think one or two possible proposals ended up as subsets of string theories). String theories are a class of mathematical sets in the way differential equations were the set where the Schrodinger equation agreed with data, the Klein Gordon, and the Dirac. It was the data that picked these equations up out of the large number of possible wave equations.
They say space is 9 dimensional. All observations show it’s just 3. Well then, all observations are wrong and the undefined theory of strings is correct. .
Actually all physics observations say they are 4. ( I am a retired experimental particle physicist) Physics is not about the five senses. It is about measurements and our experiments have measured time as the fourth dimension. And it is a misrepresentation to say that string theorists are saying that all observations are wrong .All particle physics observations are included in string theories that is what “embed the standard mode”l means . They have the group structures to be able to do tha,t and this in a sense is an experimental validation for the string models..
String theoriests are claiming that new observations will confirm a string model, which has not yet happened. This is not unusual in particle physics. It took a long time for the great physicist Feynman to accept that QCD fitted the data better than his parton model. ( I lived through that period). That the real progress in science takes a long time to reach the hoi polloi, particularly if such and similar books are popular, is shown by your still thinking that we are observing only three dimensions.
To think otherwise would be a failure of imagination. It’s too beautiful to be wrong
It is true that ever since mathematical models are used for physics ( thermodynamics, mechanics, electrodynamics) mathematical beauty affects physicists as much as mathematicians. It comes from the old desire for the “music of the spheres” that pythagoreans proposed . Humans seek harmony, so string theories are beautiful in that way and attract strong minds in physics theory. But nobody thinks that it is too beautiful to be wrong . A model can be wrong, i.e. be falsified by the data. Mathematics can be proven wrong, and string theories are not wrong in that sense. Models may be falsified, and I have linked in my answer above two models that await falsification.
People who do not like string theories as a proposal for a theory of everything should be working like hell to embed the standard model in their theory and make sure that they include quantized gravity and give us a specific model from their theory to test in our experiments, as string theories are doing.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
October 14, 2014 12:38 am

Don’t be a killjoy. Roger Penrose finds it compulsive reading. Perhaps he’s just a realist and sees the Emperor has no clothes despite all the praises.
“The number of mathematical theories that are not fit for physics models is beyond count.”
What other physical theory has 10^500 versions? In the history of physics, physicists find the correct theory without going through 10^500 versions. String theory is the exception.
“The solution will be tied to experimental evidence.”
If only our particle accelerators can do the job. But keep dreaming.
“Actually all physics observations say they are 4.”
Time is not space. Spacetime is 4 = 3 + 1 Had I included time, it would have been 10 dimensions not 9. BTW it’s good you mentioned Feynman because up to his death, he maintained string theory is nonsense.
Keep the faith. What’s another 30 years or 300 years? With 10^500 versions, the universe will end before string theorists find the right equations. Or hopefully they all retire and the new generation will not be as foolish.

anna v
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
October 14, 2014 7:23 am

You do not understand:
> With 10^500 versions, the universe will end before string theorists find the right equations. Or hopefully they all retire and the new generation will not be as foolish.
It is not the theorists who will find the right equations. It will be experiments, experiments trump theory every time. It is true though that experiments in particle physics now take generations. Elbow grease is needed for experiments , and for theories that aim at a theory of everything. they could try to whittle down the false vacua until experiments come up with the answer ( whether validation of falsification of a specific model).

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
October 14, 2014 7:21 pm

No experiment shows that space is 9 dimensional. That alone tells the theory is wrong. They should be working on 4 dimensional theories (including time). But no it must be 9 and we must look for empirical data to support it or make up excuses why data do not support it. That is not science. That is akin to theology. Start with a metaphysical assumption, then look for observational support. If none, make up excuses but keep the faith.

October 13, 2014 5:57 am

What, no one has posted Planck’s dictum yet?
Science advances, one funeral at a time…..
I love that quote!

Reply to  denniswingo
October 13, 2014 8:53 am

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” (Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie. Mit einem Bildnis und der von Max von Laue gehaltenen Traueransprache. Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag (Leipzig 1948), p. 22, as translated in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 33–34 (as cited in T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions))).

October 13, 2014 9:45 am

I can’t believe that hardcore cranks like that may borrow your influential blog to write about a completely unrelated topic in this way, Anthony.

Reply to  Lubos Motl
October 13, 2014 9:55 am

Well Lubos, some people label you as a “hardcore crank” but I cite you just the same. On the plus side, you don’t seem to have fallen into any groupthink pigeonhole.

Reply to  Lubos Motl
October 14, 2014 8:09 am

Perhaps, but it has elicited some interesting replies, which I assume was the intent.

Reply to  Lubos Motl
October 14, 2014 9:46 am

[Snip. Anna makes a good point below. Post a verifiable identity if you’re going to make such a personal attack. ~ mod.]

anna v
Reply to  stavrakius
October 14, 2014 11:36 pm

Moderators, I think that such ad hominem attacks should not be anonymous. Lubos Motl signs with his full name and it is pusillanimous behavior to bad mouth him like this hiding behind a pseudonym. You should not allow it..

Reply to  stavrakius
October 15, 2014 11:32 am

Stavros Girgenis is my name, if that makes a difference

Reply to  stavrakius
October 15, 2014 11:35 am

Now it’s time Anna makes her identity also verifiable

anna v
Reply to  stavrakius
October 19, 2014 11:27 am

I am not bad mouthing anybody behind my partial anonymity.

anna v
Reply to  stavrakius
October 19, 2014 11:39 am

And Stavros, I have been following Lubos on a physics blog and respect him a lot as a physicist, the depth and breadth of his physics knowledge . Personal histories do not a physicist make, a physicist is known from the mastering of the subject of physics. Incidentally I am a retired experimental particle physicist, also greek..

B. B. in central V
October 13, 2014 2:27 pm

So, ultimately, string theory boffins are trying to find a needle in a haystack…by….. PILING ON HEAPS MORE HAY, yet are too absorbed by their own self-importance to understand that there IS NO NEEDLE IN THAT PARTICULAR HAYSTACK! Holy crap! What has happened to these people? Ah yes, socialistic group think – “:but officer, everybody else was speeding, so it can’t be wrong, so that li’l old granny that was struck down, that must be her own fault” – absolves one of personal responsibility for one’s own bad ideas and their consequences. All bow to the great high priests, or be damned as heretical deniers!!!
BRIAN: “You are ALL individuals!”
CROWD (in perfect synchronisation): “We are ALL individuals.”

October 14, 2014 8:01 am

WTF is this …?!
I thought this blog is supposed to be a climate blog and now I see it featuring a rant of a pompous arrogant layman who has not the slightest technical clue about fundamental physics but who feels entitled do rant about it and insult people who work on such topics anyway? And of course the comment section is dominated by the corresponding usual ignorant lynch-mob.
Fundamental physics is not arts or literature, where it is legitimate for everybody to have his own opinion. Fundamental physics is about how nature works and not about “opinion”. Good physicists understand the laws of nature, the laws of natures are unique, and not a matter of taste, preferences etc…
So that physicists in the know agree with each other has absolutely nothing to do with any “Groupthink” etc …
Is it really needed that such nonsense pops up even at placese where it is completely off-topic?
[Are you bringing up Einstein’s background again? He was most definitely neither pompous nor arrogant, but definitely was a layman … .mod]

Reply to  Dilaton
October 14, 2014 10:23 am

String theory has started its career as a possible theory of strong forces, then it changed to a would-be theory of everything, now it is virtualy nothing more than a frame of thinking, producing extravagant mathematics with no practical applications to the real physical world. It has all the hallmarks of a religion with its priests and fanatics. Physicists have lost almost thirty years, pursuing a miracle that is always around the corner, but it never comes.

anna v
Reply to  stavrakius
October 14, 2014 12:26 pm

Mathematicians study complicated and incredible thought patterns that have absolutely no relation to the physical world . That theoretical physicists are exploring a challenging mathematically problem of string theories is on par with a lot of what physicists had done in generations past. One should not forget the contribution to mathematics of physicists. The years are not lost when mathematical knowledge is increased.
In addition, as I stated above , string theories are the only theories that can embed all the known particle data and at the same time quantize gravity. Theoretical physicists are correct in pursuing this research and people who are talking about religion an priests are way our of their depth and understanding what physics is about.
Physics is about gathering data, modeling it mathematically in order to predict and control new behaviors. If a better mathematical set can fulfill the goal of a unified theory for elementary forces in nature be sure that physicists will adopt it. When QCD first appeared there was some resistance of the general physics body because the great Feynman had proposed the parton model. Very soon the validation from the data converted even Feynman ( the father of the parton model) to QCD. The same will happen if a competing and more efficient model can be made for a TOE that includes known data and predicts and is validated by new data..
There is nothing about priesthood and religion in the sociology of physics, and it is libel to call trends/schools in theoretical physics religion. There may be schools and fashions but physicists, are convinced by proofs and data , not by authority.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  stavrakius
October 14, 2014 7:38 pm

If physicists want to study mathematics, by all means but please don’t call it physics. Physical theories must be connected to reality. Studying the 9 dimensional shape of a unicorn is fun but it’s not physics. Physicists who say string theory is theology are the ones who really understand what physics is. One of them is Sheldon Glashow. Nobel laureate in Physics and co-founder of electro-weak theory. Another is Feynman, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. String theorists are a confused bunch. They think physics, mathematics and theology are all the same. Their theory is science fiction in mathematical form.

Reply to  Dilaton
October 14, 2014 11:56 am

To the mod – Are your remarks intended to be humorous? (they are otherwise completely irrelevant) Einstein was a layman? No, he wasn’t. Neither pompous nor arrogant? Yes he was – how else could he tell God how the world should be made? Shouldn’t a moderator have a bit more basic knowledge than those who simply comment? Or do you, like most of those above, think that all laymen are Einsteins?

Reply to  Dilaton
October 15, 2014 7:01 am

You are missing the point, I think. The question is not about interpretation, but hypothesis. It is quite natural that groupthink prevails over alternative views of what, as you say, is actually going on. What is the fundamental physics, anyway? “Opinions”, gentlemen?
And don’t even get me started on confirmation bias. Suffice it to say, it is like certain things beginning with an “a”: we all have one.
We are so flawed and so human and so fallible that we need Scientific Method to protect us against ourselves. The theory is that humanity (as in HSS) started out with the social structure of the nogu. (Not pretty.)
Groupthink? Some damnwell interesting science on that, too.
So, Ook-Ook, I’m off to do science (scritch-scratch). Tally-ho.

October 14, 2014 9:36 pm

Reblogged this on The Renaissance Mind Attempt and commented:
Interesting read. I love it when cognitive psychology crosses with science. Also, I’m pretty sure Thomas Kuhn has already made it clear that scientific revolutions aren’t as logical or objective as they should be or claim to be.

October 15, 2014 3:17 am

“The Trouble with Physics” is a controversial book by one of the giants of Quantum Physics, Lee Smolin. In an eerie parallel to the failings of climate science, Smolin argues that a fundamental error at the heart of String Theory, and rampant groupthink, has diverted uncounted scientific man hours of effort down a blind alley.
Well for one Smolin is nowhere near to a “giant” of Quantum Physics.
The proof for that is to look at the number of quotes and the number of papers (eliminating self quotes) compared to true QFT giants like Witten, Pauli, Weinberg, Dirac, Heisenberg, Susskind etc.
You don’t need to take me on my word, just verify by yourself (scholargoogle).
For two the author of this (selfcensored) apparently doesn’t publish or work in the domain of fundamental physics so that his opinions have little value in this domain. At least I found no trace of his name in HEP research. I must say that the quoted sentence gave a strong hint that this would indeed be the case.
For three Smolin is a certified climate alarmist and a progressive activist (a M.Mann light) . It makes no sense to make a parallel between Smolin and climate anti science. In reality if Smolin was allowed to post here, you would see that regarding the climate “science” he is as much in the group think as the cranks Lewandovski, Hansen & Co. Clearly not somebody you would like to meet here.
As for the fundamentals.
AnnaV made an excellent job at explaining what the debate was about. As a HEP experimenter she knows what she’s talking about even if apparently several posters didn’t understand her contribution.
L.Motl whose understanding of these domains flies far above our collective heads made a good post too.
I would like to add just a short summary from the QFT point of view which could make the things clearer for the readers interested and having at least the basics of QFT.
String theory is a mathematical construction explaining the physics at Planck scales e.g scales where gravity unifies with other forces. It is consistent with everything we know about physics today. It gives the right classical limit at low energy scales e.g the general relativity and it is of course Lorentz invariant.
It predicts supersymmetry and a certain number of compact small spatial dimensions.
Sofar it is the only theory having the consistence features which are necessary for any physical theory.
Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG) is another theory created by Rovelli and Smolin jumped on the bandwagon even if he spends more time writing books than scientific papers.
It doesn’t predict supersymmetry and small compact spatial dimensions. It is not proven that it is consistent and its classical limit is right e.g general relativity. And it is not Lorentz invariant.
Because of the latter most physicists reject it because all experimental evidence we have collected over 100 years confirms Lorentz invariance.
But even the former may be decided by experiment – if the LHC finds supersymmetry then it would be one more confirmation that ST is on the right track and LQG not. Future LHC runs at 14 TeV next year may tell.
So those who want to really take the pain to read and understand the issues, will necessarily observe that the debate ST vs LQG is purely scientific and based on both theory and experiments and has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the climate “debate” which is based on politics and pseudo science.
The fact that a greater number of brilliant students study ST instead of LQG has everything to do with the objective evaluation shown above that ST has much greater probability to be true than LQG.
Of course les brilliant students may not understand this difference and loose their time with inconsistent theories.

October 15, 2014 6:48 am

Climate Science will eventually become a science again.

October 15, 2014 10:38 am

Shame on Anthony Watts for posting this crap.
[right, talking about something and allowing debate to bring out weaknesses in arguments is a complete waste of time, which is why climate alarmists don’t do it to their own crappy papers -mod]

Reply to  fred
October 15, 2014 11:54 am

There’s some mighty high-horses on this thread. How dare Non-physicists comment on physics.
Sound sfamiliar to me. Arrogant degree holders dictating what others should think. First Climate Science now Physics. What’s next, some PHd in Geology telling me I can’t talk about rocks?

anna v
Reply to  RobRoy
October 15, 2014 9:37 pm

Comments on physics are welcome, even though they may show the level of ignorance, as I am sure that comments on rocks will be welcome by geologists. . It is the sociological comparison between physics and climate “science” that is unacceptable.
Climate “science” has a long way to go to become a rigorous science worthy of the name. It is a politicized tool at the hands of the fuzzy left trying to gain mob influence, and some politicians with their aiming at the hoi polloi pockets ( carbon tax etc, politicians are happy when they can tax the air we breath in and out ). The very name “climate change” shows how unscientific the discipline is, it is an oxymoron, as climate always changes.
It is hubris to put at the same level physics and climate “science” sociologically. Physics has rigorous theories that fit the data, climate “science” has sloppy computer models that predict Armageddons which do not fit the data, as this site has shown over and over again, and then are used to line the pockets of sharps through the taxation of the public and cornering carbon markets.

Reply to  fred
October 15, 2014 3:14 pm

To the mod (again!) – Talk, debate, and argument which is to the point should always be welcome; when it is not to the point it should not be welcome. Those who provide forums for such debates, and those who moderate them, should know the difference.

October 15, 2014 12:35 pm

Thanks TomVonK and Anna V. At least some islands of sanity here.

October 16, 2014 12:33 am

This is my first post on here, and while I feel like an interloper interjecting myself into this thread, please understand that it is because this particular thread has engrossed me and impressed me by its brilliance, its deference to fact-based arguments, it’s willingness to post links supporting or refuting the points being offered – but mostly for the genteel, calm and courteous tenor of the discussion. Even the mini-flames on here are mild, and quite polite.
My first job out of college was as an Environmental Laboratory Analyst testing effluent from a now-defunct textile mill water treatment plant cerca 1991. I had at that time not developed a theory on AGW, but assumed the doomsaying that I had heard throughout college, in the media and in popular culture must have had a solid scientific basis. It didn’t take long to discover the overkill of environmental regulations that had already begun to impose itself upon the textile industry, which would aid their rapid transition into industrial graveyards within a decade.
It was in 1993 that I read Leon Lederman’s “The God Particle,” which launched my interest as a non-physicist into what might be considered “layman’s physics” books. I believe I read Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” and then began clipping every article on the subject in a folder which I still possess.
Around 1995 I found a cassette of Michio Kaku giving a very interesting lecture that was at the level of a TED talk – geared toward the layman. But it was in that lecture that he mentioned the burgeoning field of String Theory, and I have tried to follow the developments ever since. I was a regular watcher in the last few years of “Through the Wormhole,” which does a decent job of popularizing the latest theories of smashing membranes, multiverses, string theory’s latest advances and the lead up to the CERN confirmation of the Higgs boson – at least for those of us whose time is constrained to bite-sized portions of the latest in physics and cosmology.
I later became a think tank public policy analyst and writer, and published my first debunking article on AGW in one of the major city newspapers back in 1995. And when I went back and re-read it recently, I was happy to see that it had aged well, and proved to be prescient, especially since it was researched and written prior to the rise of, Climate Depot, WUWT, and the others that now form the front lines of an effective counter-alarmism force.
I’m at the point where I feel I can eschew much of the AGW scientific claims, the insouciance of the warmists, and the ferocity of the defense of the AGW monolith to break down my skepticism to the basics of the scientific method. Please let me know if my derivation to these basic questions are unscientific, naive or just impolitic in the current environment:
What is the null hypothesis proffered by the AGW proponents that can be readily tested? If there is none, am I right in assuming that the theory is automatically invalid, or at a minimum, those proposing it lack the confidence or integrity to do the basic scientific step of proffering one? And if that is too much to ask, why is there no Poisson distribution offered; for example, if atmospheric CO2 reaches x ppm, there is a 95 percent probability that surface temperatures will rise by 1 degree Fahrenheit within 10 years? It seems to me, that the claims to valid modeling would require at least a couple of testable predictions of that ilk. Why are none of the warmists required by their professional associations, their university departments, or the pressure from scientific rationalists to at least put something testable on the table?

October 20, 2014 4:22 am

Big Bang, Evolution/natural Selection, String Theory. These have become dogma. Does being dogma mean they are incorrect? No. But it is unscientific to treat them as dogma.

Reply to  Adam
October 20, 2014 2:58 pm

When your criteria for science comprise these five,
(1) Falsification (truth value in lieu of probability),
(2) Peer-review by and Publication in approved journals,
(3) Established a Type II error rate (disregarding Type I errors),
(4) Claimed a consensus in some community, and
(5) Respected the social consequences of your model,
then you have replaced scientific deduction by Cause & Effect with induction, and satisfied all of the following:
(a) Popper’s major criteria for science, generally his overarching “intersubjective” criterion,
(b) Four of the Daubert v. Merrill Dow criteria for scientific knowledge in the courtroom (excepting #5),
(c) The requirements of Post Modern Science, and
(d) Dogma.

October 22, 2014 7:27 am

I’ve never heard “that guy”: talk but I’ll agree with Brian about the crackpot label. I read Smolin’s “Time Reborn, From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe”.
He writes ” … we need a new conception for a law of nature, valid on the cosmological scale, which avoids the fallacies, dilemmas, and paradoxes and answers the questions that the old framework cannot address.
Moreover, it must be a scientific theory–that is, it must make falsifiable predictions for new, but doable, experiments.”
Great, this should be book about science but Smolin demolishes his credibility with an epilogue that descends into the religion of climate warming catastrophe and apparently, global government.
Excerpts below:-

Epilogue: Thinking in Time
As a species, we seem to be at the peak of our dominance of the planet’s ecosystems and resources. We all know that the present situation is unsustainable. Unsustainability was bound to happen; it is always the result of exponential growth. We’re just the fortunate ones who live within a lifetime of the peak and the crisis that will follow if we don’t learn fast to act more wisely than in the past. If we persist in thinking outside time, we will not surmount the unprecedented problems raised by climate change. We cannot rely on the standard menu of political solutions, because those problems are defined by the failure of our present political systems. Only by thinking in time do we have a chance to thrive for centuries to come.
There was someone who for the first time had the courage to make her children safe by harnessing fire. Who will have the courage to realize that the safety of our children may depend on our learning to steer the
Let’s imagine that it’s 2080 and the problems of climate change have been faced and ameliorated. Our children will be elderly–or perhaps, due to medical advances, still in the prime of life. How will their thinking have changed because of our avoidance of catastrophe?
It’s easier to imagine what their perspectives will be if we do nothing to bring carbon-dioxide emissions under control. As they face rising temperatures and sea levels, drought and failing crops, as the northern cities crowd with refugees, you can well enough imagine what they’ll wish they could say to us.

General relativity moved physics to a relational theory of space and time, in which all properties are defined in terms of relationships. Is this mirrored in an analogous movement in social theory? I believe that it is and that it can be found in the writings of Unger and a number of other social theorists. …
This new social theory attempts to refashion democracy into a global form of political organization able to guide the evolution of the burgeoning multiethnic and multicultural societies. This refashioned democracy must also be up to the task of making the necessary decisions to survive the global crisis posed by climate change.

[Blockquotes added since those are a copy of the author’s words, not your paraphrase of his words. .mod]

Reply to  Douglas Kubler
October 25, 2014 9:57 pm

thallstd October 12, 2014 at 11:43 am
I read somewhere a long while ago that Communism is a much better framework for pure science than Capitalism since there is no profit motive to contend with.
This was real