How Today's Top Scientists are Gambling Away Their Credibility
Alexander Unzicker and Sheilla Jones, Central, 530 U63b 2013
my vaguely related snarky quotes:
"If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me" --- Alice Roosevelt Longworth
A curmudgeon theoretical physicist lambasts mainstream cosmology and theoretical particle physics. Many misses, a few hits worth exploring. Pages of putdowns. This book disparages physical theories that do not have measurable consequences, or theories with so many free variables they can be adjusted to any possible measurable consequences (like calling a blank page and a pencil a map). The book also disparages those (like the founders of Arxiv.org) who ignore ideas like Unzicker's about modified gravity. Perhaps Unzicker prefers his free parameters to others.
Unzicker seems more trusting of raw observational data, untrusting of the analysis and theoretical work based on the meager data collected so far. Me, I am far more worried about situationally constrained and time-limited observation, instrument noise, observer bias, bad luck, and the unidentified-but-no-doubt-present biases in the data we deem worthy of collecting and analyzing. Theoreticians should build and use instruments first, and be discouraged from theorizing until their instruments stop failing.
- p46 "Unfortunately, Einstein is one of those founding fathers like Freud or Darwin, who magically attract peeing dogs."
- p74 "Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities." -- Bertrand Russell
- p77 "If an idea is not dangerous, it is not worth calling it an idea" -- Oscar Wilde
p78 Dark matter manifests at tiny c/T_u accelerations (speed of light divided by age of universe)
- p78 'The dark-matter hypothesis is preferred mostly because the only other possibility -- that we are wrong about Newton's laws, and by extension general relativity -- is too scary to contemplate." -- Lee Smolin
p81 ΛCDM -> Λ dark energy, cold dark matter
p81 Low Surface Brightness (LSB) galaxies. U.Oregon Gregory Bothun discovered a spiral galaxy 20x larger than the Milky Way in hydrogen 21 cm microwaves, no visible light.
- ... LSB galaxies could also emit some of the radiation we currently believe to originate from the cosmic microwave background.
- p88 ... and bought lots of vegetables for the healthy lunch the Swiss are so famously fond of ...
- p91 "What is wanted is not the will-to-believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite" -- Bertrand Russell
- p100 ... putting the raw data and the computer code online, and opening it up to public evaluation.
- p100 nodal line in WMAP data is in ecliptic plane, not galaxy. Octupole anomaly
p101 Li and Liu 2013 found CMB quadripole -3.2+-3.5 μK², not ~1000 μK² expected from the standard cosmological model LCDM
- p103 light of the background radiation was exposed to many highwaymen on its 14-billion-year journey
- p103 the universe's opacity for the first 380,000 years is an insurmountable barrier
- p133 "Problems cannot be solved using the methods that created them" - Albert Einstein
About page 195, I tired of the kvetching and abandoned the book. Unzicker's bete noir is blathering symbol choppers chasing their tails isn't useful physics - we need more data, not more philosophising, and teaching theorists to build measurement hardware (or hamburgers) instead of symbol clusters would direct money where it is needed. But he seems to have a bad word for almost everyone in theoretical physics.
Unzicker wrote this book before LIGO began churning out results (or he ignored them). Which justified upgrades in LIGO, which reduced the experimental uncertainties. When we hit the wall on terrestrial LIGO, there will be strong justification for eLISA, the orbiting version of LIGO, and later, multiple copies of that. Many of our observational difficulties stem from the noisiness and "small" scale of terrestrial astronomical tools; when we greatly reduce the cost of space launch, we will construct some enormous and sensitive tools far from the noisy Earth and Sun.
Unzicker also doesn't like the Higgs, or the LHC built to find it. That horrendously expensive and complex machine is teaching us how to create really spectacular and reliable hardware, and will result in lots of spinoffs, including deflection magnets for launch loops. Measurements should drive theory, theory should help us decide what to measure next ... and help us estimate if the measurements were done correctly.