Neil Turok

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Neil Turok

Post by Admin on Sun Sep 15, 2013 8:30 am

2013 2013 2013 <span class="isolimg"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-yK9guWKmG7g/ULjAiQScmCI/AAAAAAAAAnE/X1g0regyfGw/s1600/turok+poster.jpg" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-yK9guWKmG7g/ULjAiQScmCI/AAAAAAAAAnE/X1g0regyfGw/s160/turok+poster.jpg" width=144 align="left"></a></span><blockquote><b>Update:</b> Hamish Johnston wrote a blog entry for Physics Today describing Turok's talk rather accurately as one that <a href="http://blog.physicsworld.com/2013/09/12/perimeter-institute-welcome-speech-reignites-the-string-wars/">reignites the string wars</a>. Your humble correspondent is also linked to.<br /><br />For visitors who came here from that source: clicking at the pirate "flag" near the title of this article will show you this text in the minimalistic, mobile template.<br /></blockquote>Cosmologist Neil Turok, the new (but already reelected) director of the Perimeter Institute in Canada, gave this <a href="http://pirsa.org/displayFlash.php?id=13080001">82-minute welcome speech</a> (well, only 1/2 of it is his presentation) to the participants of the 2013 Perimeter Scholars International. It's been discussed in <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/09/05/perimeter-institute-and-the-crisis-in-modern-physics/">Macleans</a>, a Canadian newspaper, where an equally large article is dedicated to the <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/09/08/perimeter-institute-the-bistro-at-the-edge-of-the-universe/">Perimeter school canteen</a>.<br /><br />The beginning of the talk is a fine but not too original promotion of physics as a science. Some comments about his institute's being unique are exaggerated. Look e.g. at <a href="http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&ln=en&p=find+af+perimeter+and+topcite+250%2B&of=hb&action_search=Search&sf=&so=d&rm=&rg=25&sc=0">all topcite 250+ papers from the Perimeter</a>, ever, and compare the number and list with those at <a href="http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&ln=en&p=find+af+harvard+and+topcite+250%2B+and+date+after+2002+and+not+af+cern&of=hb&action_search=Search&sf=&so=d&rm=&rg=25&sc=0">Harvard since 2003</a> or something like that. Perimeter may only be beginning to be competitive. Perhaps.<br /><br />After 4 minutes, however, Turok's speech became an anti-physics tirade of a sort in which we hear many wrong things and many wrong things that are troublesome at the same moment. We learn that physics is at crossroads by which he means a "very big crisis". We don't have to wait much for Turok to clarify why he thinks so.<a name='more'></a><br /><br /><script type="text/javascript"><!-- google_ad_client = "ca-pub-8768832575723394"; /* 336x280, created 8/17/10 */ google_ad_slot = "0363397257"; google_ad_width = 336; google_ad_height = 280; //--></script><br /><script src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js" type="text/javascript"></script><br /><br />The problem seen by Turok is that "people have been building models, models, models". It seems that he believes that theoretical physicists should have been building castles of sand on the beaches or they should have spent their time by bodybuilding instead.<br /><br /><script type="text/javascript"><!-- google_ad_client = "ca-pub-8768832575723394"; /* 336x280, created 8/17/10 */ google_ad_slot = "0363397257"; google_ad_width = 336; google_ad_height = 280; //--></script><br /><script src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js" type="text/javascript"></script><br /><br />His list of the "signs of the crisis" looks like this:<br /><blockquote>“There’ve been grand unified models, there’ve been super-symmetric models, superstring models, loop quantum gravity models... Well, nature turns out to be simpler than all of these models.”<br /></blockquote>Given the local political influence of this chap, I am seriously afraid that the string theorists and other credible researchers at the Perimeter must even be afraid to publicly point out that their director is a complete idiot. If I were employed there, and yes, it could have happened because I was offered a job, at least in a preliminary way, it's more likely than not that I wouldn't be afraid to point that fact out. ;-)<br /><br />Theorists were building models because it's been a major part of their occupation for centuries. Another task associated with their job is to apply the existing models to the newly observed phenomena. But because the latter job has been more or less completed a few decades ago – the Standard Model and/or general relativity have explained pretty much all observations made by the experimenters in their everyday careers, the theorists inevitably had to spent most of their time by thinking about possible future experiments and phenomena as well as theoretical laws, mechanisms, and phenomena that are important for the inner workings of Nature but that will probably never be observed.<br /><br />It has always been clear (long before the 2012 LHC run) that with at most one exception, all the models they think about are wrong. But thinking about the possible new physics that will be found is cheaper than to build state-of-the-art colliders which is why it's not unreasonable that hundreds or thousands of detailed models are competing even though at most one of them will turn out to be right. The salaries for all the theorists who constructed all these models is still comparable to (if not lower than) the cost of the LHC hardware. I was (and formal high-energy theorists were) personally never in favor of the construction of many models most of which are guaranteed to become irrelevant as soon as we know more (the value of string theory's insights is arguably much more long-lived) but I have always appreciated this activity as a legitimate if not crucial part of high-energy physics.<br /><br />Moreover, it is complete nonsense that there is any evidence that Nature is "simpler than that". What is true is that according to the recent results from the LHC, the well-known and appreciated Standard Model has a wider domain of validity than what some physicists were assuming. But the arguments that it can't be the final theory are as strong as they were before the LHC began its collisions. That's why theorists will still continue to study supersymmetry, grand unification, strings, and other things, whether or not a Neil Turok will discourage his employees from doing this research – the very reason why they were hired by the institute. There's no "new evidence" that the three principles I mentioned are irrelevant for Nature's inner workings.<br /><br />Loop quantum gravity is studied at the Perimeter because Lee Smolin befriended some of the influential founders of the institute a decade ago.<br /><br />The low-brow criticisms of string theory, supersymmetry, grand unification, and so on is associated with the cranks' hatred towards state-of-the-art physics but as a director, Neil Turok supplements this pathological discomfort with yet another, more dangerous flavor. He really tries to threaten the meaningful research at his institution as a whole.<br /><br />It's just a fact that the dozens of people in theoretical physics branches of the Perimeter Institute were hired because they were doing good enough research of string theory, SUSY, grand unification, and also loop quantum gravity (if you allow me to pretend that I can't distinguish valuable theories from the others for a while). Most of them surely believe that the theories they study are fundamentally true and important parts of the wisdom of Nature. Now, a director arrives and claims that these theories – the very reason why they work at the Perimeter Institute – aren't precious intellectual gems and jewels discovered by the humans. Instead, they're contributors to the "crisis in physics". I suppose that it means that according to their boss, they should better do something else.<br /><br />Just for fun, let's take this lunacy seriously. What should they do? Should Freddy Cachazo start to produce his own perfumes, the Perimeter Cachazo Scent (PCS)? Or reduce his IQ by 20 and switch from exact novel expressions for scattering amplitudes to Neil Turok's superficial childish models of the cyclic universe (yes, even Turok has contributed some models to the crisis in physics – except that his models are far less profound, justifiable, coherent, and able to explain patterns in Nature)? Can't you see how ludicrous such suggestions are? The people were carefully hired but the only field in which they were demonstrated to have special talents are the fields in which they have worked and related fields. Cachazo's perfumes will probably suck. His and Gaiotto's papers on cyclic universes will also suck (after all, all papers on cyclic universes suck).<br /><br />Look at the <a href="http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&ln=en&p=find+af+perimeter+and+topcite+250%2B&of=hb&action_search=Search&sf=&so=d&rm=&rg=25&sc=0">14 papers from the Perimeter Institute</a> that have at least 250 citations. There's one WMAP paper (with a large collaboration including someone from PI), one spin foam paper, two deformed special relativity papers, and ten AdS/CFT-like papers. Is Turok really proposing to stop the work on all the topics that earned 13 out of 14 topcited papers by his institution? So that negligible contributions of his institute to experimental teams with lots of redundant heads will become the only work done in Waterloo? Isn't Canada's health system good enough to offer him a chair in a mental asylum?<br /><br />Imagine that the new boss of Microsoft who comes after Steve Ballmer will declare that Microsoft or programming is in crisis because Microsoft and others were writing software, software, software or programs, programs, programs – like Windows, Microsoft Office, XBOX firmware, Visual Studio, Windows Live Essentials, Bing, Skype, and Silverlight. What's needed is something simpler than programs. When people can arguably see that such a situation would be insane in the case of Microsoft and software, why they don't see a completely isomorphic insanity in the case of the Perimeter Institute and theoretical physics? Probably because they don't give a damn about theoretical physics, right? You just shouldn't become a boss of an institution if you think that 90+ percent of the work the institution has done is crap.<br /><br />Turok claims that theorists are in the "state of confusion". Well, I am surely not. The situation is as clear as you can get. The Standard Model is OK up to all data extracted from 25/fb of 8 TeV proton-proton collisions. It may be OK for some greater luminosities and energies, too. It's surely not the whole story so at some point, it will break down. The qualitative situation is exactly the same as it was before the LHC began. This status quo includes all the reasons why competent theoretical physicists thought and still think that string theory is the framework that has to replace or extend quantum field theory because of the existence of gravity.<br /><br />The director also states that "we" were expecting new physics to be there. Well, I was surely agnostic, and so were many others. <a href="http://motls.blogspot.cz/2007/04/probabilities-of-various-theories.html?m=1">Six years ago, I was quantifying the odds</a> for new physics at the LHC (or its early runs) to be around 50 percent and I made a bet about the papers published after the first 30/fb – the moment hasn't arrived yet – in which I win 100 times greater a bounty if I win than what I lose if I lose. The justification of my participation in the bet was that after the total luminosity that will be reached in 2015, as we know now, the probability that no new physics will have emerged is smaller than 99 percent. It's this innocent statement that I believed and I am still pretty likely to win this bet. Other people believed the same thing. People preferring "extreme naturalness" arguments may have expected something else but it's not "we". Turok's word "we" shows that he can't really live outside the group think. In general, theoretical physicists believe many things about questions that haven't been answered yet. There was no solid argument that would imply the appearance of new physics in the first 25/fb at 8 TeV proton-proton collisions so there was no way how "we", meaning the body of physicists, could have considered it inevitable that new physics would be found in the 2012 LHC run. Science just can't be done by emotions or group think. Its journey is dictated by the evidence and there was no solid evidence in one way or another.<br /><br />So Turok thinks that the absence of new physics in the 2012 run means that "the theories [GUT, SUSY, ST, perhaps LQG] have failed". This is a completely unjustified piece of bullshit but he goes further. They failed because they didn't introduce sufficiently new concepts. This opinion is even less justifiable. If one talks about the failure that is justified at least by "something", then the "something" is the absence of new physics in the 2012 LHC run, so the reason why the theories "failed" was that they introduced too many new concepts – they shouldn't have introduced any new physics at all and be equivalent to the Standard Model. In that way, they wouldn't "fail". ;-)<br /><br />Just to be sure, it's not true that the theories have failed. Dozens or hundreds of supersymmetric and string-inspired and grand unified models so far "passed" exactly as the Standard Model did. This is a trivial point that particle physics outsiders like Neil Turok seem to be totally incapable of understanding. Models aren't evaluated in collectives along with their similar competitors. Models may only be falsified separately and each element of a (justifiably or injustifiably clumped together) class is only falsified once the whole class and not just its majority is falsified.<br /><br />He's also confused about the simplicity. He oversells the simplicity and rigidity of the Standard Model while all BSM thoughts are more complicated in his opinion. This is also complete nonsense. Much of the BSM model building is driven by pretty much the same simplicity criteria (plus naturalness), consistency conditions (anomaly conditions, for example), and the desire for parsimony (preferred absence of non-minimal pieces that don't have a justification) as the model building that has led to the Standard Model. Supersymmetric models are clearly simpler in most respects – they're more constrained than the non-SUSY Standard Model, by an extra symmetry - and they have pretty much the same number of independent multiplets of fields as the Standard Model and/or its next-to-minimal extensions. In the same way, grand unified theories simplify things by reducing the independent factors of the gauge group. They only add several more fields like some extra Higgs multiplets – a small number of additions if you believe that independent factors in the gauge groups make the theory "more arbitrary" than just another generic matter field.<br /><br />The simplicity of string theory is a category of its own. Instead of having independent multiplets for spin-0, spin-1/2, and spin-1 fields and their interactions with dozens of coefficients, string theory only starts with one primordial concept, e.g. the fundamental string, and produces all the particles as well as the spin-3/2 gravitinos and spin-2 gravitons as predictions resulting from oscillations and splitting/joining interactions of this single elementary object, a piece of a string. Turok must completely misunderstand the inner organization of state-of-the-art theoretical physics if he doesn't see in what sense the BSM paradigms make physics simpler.<br /><br />His counting of the parameters is also demagogic. The Standard Model has 20 or so free parameters while GUT or SUSY theories have 100 or more. This is a misunderstanding of the parameter counting. What has 100 parameters is an <em>effective theory</em> that ignores the true high-energy physics that is responsible for SUSY breaking etc. and that describes the SUSY-breaking coefficients via soft SUSY breaking fudge factors. When the high-energy physics responsible for this breaking is included and we consider theories that hold up to very high energy scales, the number of parameters is far smaller. Most extremely, string theory has no continuously adjustable dimensionless parameters at all. A particular chosen vacuum – from a discrete set of stabilized solutions – dictates and predicts everything. The discrete set is "large" but it's normal even for sufficiently complicated field theories to have very many vacuum-like solutions. If we considered the effective theory for the Standard Model beneath the QCD scale, we would also find a theory with hundreds of parameters (masses of all hadrons and coefficients of their interactions) but that doesn't mean that there's something wrong with the Standard Model.<br /><br />The deluded director even repeats the mystification by some of the outspoken crackpots that string theory offers \(10^{1000}\) different "laws of physics" (he took the square of the usual number to sound cooler than the other crackpots). This is bullshit. String theory is the most robust mathematically possible set of laws of physics. It only has one set of laws of physics. The landscape doesn't produce different "laws of physics"; it represents a set of different solutions to the unique laws of physics. Some equations have many solutions – many different "environments" (with different effective, but identical fundamental, laws of physics). There is absolutely nothing wrong about it. The Standard Model predicts that there are roughly hundreds of stable nuclear isotopes and thousands or millions of pure liquid compounds (I mean liquids composed of identical molecules). Is it too many? Well, it's whatever it is. The number of prime integers is infinite. Does it mean that number theory is sick?<br /><br />For Turok, it does. He calls it the "ultimate catastrophe". I really don't understand how it works politically for the smart folks at the institute. You have this guy who paints himself to be both a researcher and your boss yet he is saying things you would recognize as idiotic ones already when you were a schoolkid. Can you tell him? Can you tell <em>anyone</em>? It must be scary. I think that directors of such research bodies should either be "close to the top researchers" in their field or they should at least have "some respect for the top researchers". Turok satisfies none of these two conditions. He is a subpar researcher and has no respect for the top researchers of the current era, even at his institute.<br /><br />The young people in the audience are already stunned at this point but Turok continues with his rant. Cosmology is also in a crisis. It's in a crisis because of some weird interpretations of the dark energy and the Higgs instabilities (which are really challenges for particle physics, not cosmology, but this confusion is among the less severe bugs of Turok's assertions). OK, I don't have time to analyze every minute of every idiotic talk by every hack, so let me stop with Turok's opinions about science. He has no idea about the current state of the theoretical high-energy physics.<br /><br />I am also troubled by the opinions – or at least their interpretation in the Canadian newspaper – of people like Natalia Toro and Philip Schuster whom I know as Nima's collaborators from Harvard. This bright young couple is also used as a justification of the gloomy atmosphere by the writers. We don't understand XY (the hierarchy problem), and that's so bad. The LHC should have answered XY by now (how could one have thought that everything would be guaranteed to become clear by now if the pure Standard Model observations at the LHC have always defined the single most widely discussed outcome?). I just don't get it. On one hand, people are frustrated that we understand things too well (the Standard Model works so nicely); on the other hand, they're frustrated that we don't understand certain things (like the hierarchy). Well, at each moment, science understands some questions and misunderstands others. How it could be otherwise?<br /><br />120 years ago, some top physicists would think that physics had been more or less completed and they were proud about it, not frustrated. When radioactivity, quantum phenomena, and relativity began to demolish classical physics a decade later and when promising ideas organizing the new observations began to emerge, physicists were excited again, not frustrated. These days, people prefer to associate frustration with everything they should be proud or excited about. Of course, the ultimate drivers of this bad publicity are people who hate physics. It's annoying that Natalia and Philip are among those collaborate on this mudslinging. I don't know why Turok and other people stay in physics if they're so annoyed by it but I guess that it's because physics institutions have become hiding places of welfare/charity organizations that keep people from getting homeless rather than institutions for people who are genuinely excited by the science.<br /><br />Also, a century ago, people preferred to spark the revolutions if these revolutions were needed but they were shutting their mouths up about revolutions if there weren't any. Perhaps, top physicists "performed" many more revolutions than talks about revolutions. In a Trotskyist way, contemporary people love to talk nonsense about permanent hypothetical revolutions (revolutions changing absolutely everyting, we mostly hear) and they don't seem to enjoy what has already been achieved – and I surely count much of the BSM physics to the list of achievements whether or not these things were experimentally established. There will be some revolutions in the (unknown) future but there are also some insights and concepts that will never qualitatively change. The importance of relativity, quantum postulates, and string theory are arguably among these constants. In fact, the constancy or at least long life expectancy of some insights and principles is needed for the excitement of a rational person – if any insight is expected to break down soon, in a subsequent revolution, it should surely be assumed about the younger generation's hypothetical looming discoveries. But if their importance will be so short-lived, maybe they shouldn't be excied about their discoveries, either. This is where this pathological Trotskyist ideology leads if one is rational. One should respect and celebrate the resiliency of some theories and principles, otherwise he can't possibly be rationally excited about their search, either. The excitement about hypothetical future insights only is like love for music, except for all the genres, songs, and compositions that have already been composed and played.<br /><br /><b>Management</b><br /><br />Instead, let me mention another topic he mentioned somewhere, one that is purely sociological but equally absurd and perhaps even more dangerous:<br /><blockquote>“The thing is, when I came here, I told everybody to write fewer papers,” Turok said. “I said, ‘I don’t want you publishing just to publish. I want breakthroughs. When you’re writing the next incremental paper, you’re not making breakthroughs. Write when you have something to say.” That attitude has led to Perimeter playing a key role in making theoretical physics one of the scientific fields where Canada leads the world.<br /></blockquote>Holy cow. Publish fewer papers because otherwise they're just incremental. I can't believe my eyes. It reflects such a stupid opinion of Turok about how the brain and creativity works.<br /><br />Let me tell you something. When I was employed as a person expected to publish papers, I would surely belong among those whose overall number of papers was lower than the number written by the most prolific colleagues. It has never been my favorite work to write and submit many papers, fix their formatting errors, or even deal with the reviewers and the journal bureaucracy (my paper has never been rejected by a journal). But I could sort of afford it because the citations-per-average-paper were significantly above my contemporaries' average, in the middle of the 50-100 range.<br /><br />The people who look at folks evaluate them according to some "overall" contributions which is roughly close to the overall number of citations – which is not quite perfect so they fix this criterion by some "adjustments".<br /><br />But my point is that some people may afford to write fewer papers while others can't. What's most obvious is that if you think about a fixed given person, these expectations are almost constant. What I primarily want to say is that you can't increase a person's chances of making a breakthrough by forcing or allowing him to publish fewer papers.<br /><br />It just doesn't work like that. Einstein was also close to this "not too many papers" category but even during the decade after special relativity when he was trying to find general relativity, he would constantly publish papers. Almost none of them were "really wrong". Most of them were incremental steps that would ultimately crystallize in general relativity.<br /><br />Making a breakthrough is something else than writing incremental papers. But these two things are surely not negatively correlated, at least not with the correlation factor close to minus one. An active researcher may perhaps afford not to publish papers or too many papers for a year or a few years (in some cases, it's a method to concentrate on a deeper, long-term project; in most cases, it is a sign of a personal creativity downturn which may be temporary or less temporary) but if he is publishing a few papers per year, it makes it more likely that things are healthy and exciting. And several papers per year surely don't <em>lower</em> his or her chance to make a breakthrough.<br /><br />The arrangement at the Perimeter is already such that the members don't have to worry about the publication rate as much as their fellow researchers elsewhere. What else can Turok possibly mean? Some publications are still needed to see that a person has contributed something. It must be clear to every rational person that the probability is high that if he only publishes breakthroughs, he or she will publish nothing before the current job expires which will eliminate him or her from the system. And it should. A sensible employer trying to produce physics just can't keep on employing people because of an arbitrarily hypothetical chance that they could make a breakthrough. Moreover, Turok seems to assume that the breakthrough should be independent of string theory, GUT, and string theory. Given the established importance of string theory, SUSY, and GUT in the scheme of possible ideas in fundamental physics, the probability of such a hugely constrained theoretical physics breakthrough in the next 100 years is much smaller than 1% and even if this science-fiction scenario materialized, it is extremely unlikely that such a breakthrough would take place in Waterloo. Do you really want 50-100 geniuses or near-geniuses work on something that requires an assumption (they will make such a breakthrough) whose probability is below 0.0001%? Half of them currently work on string theory that has more than 99% chance to be right and it's much richer and more constructive, coherent, robust, and beautiful than anything that Turok has ever done or said in his life. So why should they make this revolution in the downward direction?<br /><br />The same comments apply to the promising undergrads or young graduate students whom Turok's speech was originally addressed (which includes a younger chap, Jacob Barnett, a 15-year-old smart severe autist, who was explicitly named by Turok). They surely came there because they know something about the actual state-of-the-art theoretical physics and like it. They're surely not garden variety young crackpots who think they have revolutionized the science whenever they disagree with something – they have actually falsified many ideas found by themselves and they already know why the established physics (both up-to-SM and BSM physics) contains many things they have to learn before their contributions start to have a real chance to be constructive, to say the least. Now they're told by this "big boss" that they must forget everything, not to pay much attention to the lecturers, and work on their alternative "breakthroughs" that almost certainly can't exist. At the same moment, the kids are told that they must be grateful for the food at the institute and what is appreciated about them is how they enjoy their life and bring energy to the corridors. Don't work hard, he tells them explicitly, and think about easier careers you may want to pursue instead of theoretical physics (wow). As a motivational speaker to make someone realistically start to do science research, Turok must get an F-; at least, he didn't hesitate to abuse the talk for the promotion of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Universe-Within-Quantum-Lecture/dp/1770890173/?tag=lubosmotlsref-20">his 2012 popular book</a>. (It's nonsense that the main relationship between hard work and enthusiasm for physics is that "hard work kills enthusiasm". This influence may exist but a far more important relationship is that "enthusiasm about physics makes one work hard".)<br /><br />Morever, most of the <a href="http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&ln=en&p=find+af+perimeter+and+topcite+250%2B&of=hb&action_search=Search&sf=&so=d&rm=&rg=25&sc=0">most prominent work done at the Perimeter so far</a> – 10 out of 14 papers above 249 citations – are incremental papers about AdS/CFT. The idea that the institute may suddenly replace all this work by some revolutionary papers (I suppose he meant more revolutionary papers than Maldacena's AdS/CFT paper itself) that will materialize as soon as the expectation that people publish papers will be abolished is just totally insane. This idea shows that Turok is not only a crackpot physicist of a sort but a crackpot manager, too.<br> 2013 2013 2013 <br><span class="isolimg"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-yK9guWKmG7g/ULjAiQScmCI/AAAAAAAAAnE/X1g0regyfGw/s1600/turok+poster.jpg" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-yK9guWKmG7g/ULjAiQScmCI/AAAAAAAAAnE/X1g0regyfGw/s160/turok+poster.jpg" width=144 align="left"></a></span><blockquote><b>Update:</b> Hamish Johnston wrote a blog entry for Physics Today describing Turok's talk rather accurately as one that <a href="http://blog.physicsworld.com/2013/09/12/perimeter-institute-welcome-speech-reignites-the-string-wars/">reignites the string wars</a>. Your humble correspondent is also linked to.<br /><br />For visitors who came here from that source: clicking at the pirate "flag" near the title of this article will show you this text in the minimalistic, mobile template.<br /></blockquote>Cosmologist Neil Turok, the new (but already reelected) director of the Perimeter Institute in Canada, gave this <a href="http://pirsa.org/displayFlash.php?id=13080001">82-minute welcome speech</a> (well, only 1/2 of it is his presentation) to the participants of the 2013 Perimeter Scholars International. It's been discussed in <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/09/05/perimeter-institute-and-the-crisis-in-modern-physics/">Macleans</a>, a Canadian newspaper, where an equally large article is dedicated to the <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/09/08/perimeter-institute-the-bistro-at-the-edge-of-the-universe/">Perimeter school canteen</a>.<br /><br />The beginning of the talk is a fine but not too original promotion of physics as a science. Some comments about his institute's being unique are exaggerated. Look e.g. at <a href="http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&ln=en&p=find+af+perimeter+and+topcite+250%2B&of=hb&action_search=Search&sf=&so=d&rm=&rg=25&sc=0">all topcite 250+ papers from the Perimeter</a>, ever, and compare the number and list with those at <a href="http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&ln=en&p=find+af+harvard+and+topcite+250%2B+and+date+after+2002+and+not+af+cern&of=hb&action_search=Search&sf=&so=d&rm=&rg=25&sc=0">Harvard since 2003</a> or something like that. Perimeter may only be beginning to be competitive. Perhaps.<br /><br />After 4 minutes, however, Turok's speech became an anti-physics tirade of a sort in which we hear many wrong things and many wrong things that are troublesome at the same moment. We learn that physics is at crossroads by which he means a "very big crisis". We don't have to wait much for Turok to clarify why he thinks so.<a name='more'></a><br /><br /><script type="text/javascript"><!-- google_ad_client = "ca-pub-8768832575723394"; /* 336x280, created 8/17/10 */ google_ad_slot = "0363397257"; google_ad_width = 336; google_ad_height = 280; //--></script><br /><script src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js" type="text/javascript"></script><br /><br />The problem seen by Turok is that "people have been building models, models, models". It seems that he believes that theoretical physicists should have been building castles of sand on the beaches or they should have spent their time by bodybuilding instead.<br /><br /><script type="text/javascript"><!-- google_ad_client = "ca-pub-8768832575723394"; /* 336x280, created 8/17/10 */ google_ad_slot = "0363397257"; google_ad_width = 336; google_ad_height = 280; //--></script><br /><script src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js" type="text/javascript"></script><br /><br />His list of the "signs of the crisis" looks like this:<br /><blockquote>“There’ve been grand unified models, there’ve been super-symmetric models, superstring models, loop quantum gravity models... Well, nature turns out to be simpler than all of these models.”<br /></blockquote>Given the local political influence of this chap, I am seriously afraid that the string theorists and other credible researchers at the Perimeter must even be afraid to publicly point out that their director is a complete idiot. If I were employed there, and yes, it could have happened because I was offered a job, at least in a preliminary way, it's more likely than not that I wouldn't be afraid to point that fact out. ;-)<br /><br />Theorists were building models because it's been a major part of their occupation for centuries. Another task associated with their job is to apply the existing models to the newly observed phenomena. But because the latter job has been more or less completed a few decades ago – the Standard Model and/or general relativity have explained pretty much all observations made by the experimenters in their everyday careers, the theorists inevitably had to spent most of their time by thinking about possible future experiments and phenomena as well as theoretical laws, mechanisms, and phenomena that are important for the inner workings of Nature but that will probably never be observed.<br /><br />It has always been clear (long before the 2012 LHC run) that with at most one exception, all the models they think about are wrong. But thinking about the possible new physics that will be found is cheaper than to build state-of-the-art colliders which is why it's not unreasonable that hundreds or thousands of detailed models are competing even though at most one of them will turn out to be right. The salaries for all the theorists who constructed all these models is still comparable to (if not lower than) the cost of the LHC hardware. I was (and formal high-energy theorists were) personally never in favor of the construction of many models most of which are guaranteed to become irrelevant as soon as we know more (the value of string theory's insights is arguably much more long-lived) but I have always appreciated this activity as a legitimate if not crucial part of high-energy physics.<br /><br />Moreover, it is complete nonsense that there is any evidence that Nature is "simpler than that". What is true is that according to the recent results from the LHC, the well-known and appreciated Standard Model has a wider domain of validity than what some physicists were assuming. But the arguments that it can't be the final theory are as strong as they were before the LHC began its collisions. That's why theorists will still continue to study supersymmetry, grand unification, strings, and other things, whether or not a Neil Turok will discourage his employees from doing this research – the very reason why they were hired by the institute. There's no "new evidence" that the three principles I mentioned are irrelevant for Nature's inner workings.<br /><br />Loop quantum gravity is studied at the Perimeter because Lee Smolin befriended some of the influential founders of the institute a decade ago.<br /><br />The low-brow criticisms of string theory, supersymmetry, grand unification, and so on is associated with the cranks' hatred towards state-of-the-art physics but as a director, Neil Turok supplements this pathological discomfort with yet another, more dangerous flavor. He really tries to threaten the meaningful research at his institution as a whole.<br /><br />It's just a fact that the dozens of people in theoretical physics branches of the Perimeter Institute were hired because they were doing good enough research of string theory, SUSY, grand unification, and also loop quantum gravity (if you allow me to pretend that I can't distinguish valuable theories from the others for a while). Most of them surely believe that the theories they study are fundamentally true and important parts of the wisdom of Nature. Now, a director arrives and claims that these theories – the very reason why they work at the Perimeter Institute – aren't precious intellectual gems and jewels discovered by the humans. Instead, they're contributors to the "crisis in physics". I suppose that it means that according to their boss, they should better do something else.<br /><br />Just for fun, let's take this lunacy seriously. What should they do? Should Freddy Cachazo start to produce his own perfumes, the Perimeter Cachazo Scent (PCS)? Or reduce his IQ by 20 and switch from exact novel expressions for scattering amplitudes to Neil Turok's superficial childish models of the cyclic universe (yes, even Turok has contributed some models to the crisis in physics – except that his models are far less profound, justifiable, coherent, and able to explain patterns in Nature)? Can't you see how ludicrous such suggestions are? The people were carefully hired but the only field in which they were demonstrated to have special talents are the fields in which they have worked and related fields. Cachazo's perfumes will probably suck. His and Gaiotto's papers on cyclic universes will also suck (after all, all papers on cyclic universes suck).<br /><br />Look at the <a href="http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&ln=en&p=find+af+perimeter+and+topcite+250%2B&of=hb&action_search=Search&sf=&so=d&rm=&rg=25&sc=0">14 papers from the Perimeter Institute</a> that have at least 250 citations. There's one WMAP paper (with a large collaboration including someone from PI), one spin foam paper, two deformed special relativity papers, and ten AdS/CFT-like papers. Is Turok really proposing to stop the work on all the topics that earned 13 out of 14 topcited papers by his institution? So that negligible contributions of his institute to experimental teams with lots of redundant heads will become the only work done in Waterloo? Isn't Canada's health system good enough to offer him a chair in a mental asylum?<br /><br />Imagine that the new boss of Microsoft who comes after Steve Ballmer will declare that Microsoft or programming is in crisis because Microsoft and others were writing software, software, software or programs, programs, programs – like Windows, Microsoft Office, XBOX firmware, Visual Studio, Windows Live Essentials, Bing, Skype, and Silverlight. What's needed is something simpler than programs. When people can arguably see that such a situation would be insane in the case of Microsoft and software, why they don't see a completely isomorphic insanity in the case of the Perimeter Institute and theoretical physics? Probably because they don't give a damn about theoretical physics, right? You just shouldn't become a boss of an institution if you think that 90+ percent of the work the institution has done is crap.<br /><br />Turok claims that theorists are in the "state of confusion". Well, I am surely not. The situation is as clear as you can get. The Standard Model is OK up to all data extracted from 25/fb of 8 TeV proton-proton collisions. It may be OK for some greater luminosities and energies, too. It's surely not the whole story so at some point, it will break down. The qualitative situation is exactly the same as it was before the LHC began. This status quo includes all the reasons why competent theoretical physicists thought and still think that string theory is the framework that has to replace or extend quantum field theory because of the existence of gravity.<br /><br />The director also states that "we" were expecting new physics to be there. Well, I was surely agnostic, and so were many others. <a href="http://motls.blogspot.cz/2007/04/probabilities-of-various-theories.html?m=1">Six years ago, I was quantifying the odds</a> for new physics at the LHC (or its early runs) to be around 50 percent and I made a bet about the papers published after the first 30/fb – the moment hasn't arrived yet – in which I win 100 times greater a bounty if I win than what I lose if I lose. The justification of my participation in the bet was that after the total luminosity that will be reached in 2015, as we know now, the probability that no new physics will have emerged is smaller than 99 percent. It's this innocent statement that I believed and I am still pretty likely to win this bet. Other people believed the same thing. People preferring "extreme naturalness" arguments may have expected something else but it's not "we". Turok's word "we" shows that he can't really live outside the group think. In general, theoretical physicists believe many things about questions that haven't been answered yet. There was no solid argument that would imply the appearance of new physics in the first 25/fb at 8 TeV proton-proton collisions so there was no way how "we", meaning the body of physicists, could have considered it inevitable that new physics would be found in the 2012 LHC run. Science just can't be done by emotions or group think. Its journey is dictated by the evidence and there was no solid evidence in one way or another.<br /><br />So Turok thinks that the absence of new physics in the 2012 run means that "the theories [GUT, SUSY, ST, perhaps LQG] have failed". This is a completely unjustified piece of bullshit but he goes further. They failed because they didn't introduce sufficiently new concepts. This opinion is even less justifiable. If one talks about the failure that is justified at least by "something", then the "something" is the absence of new physics in the 2012 LHC run, so the reason why the theories "failed" was that they introduced too many new concepts – they shouldn't have introduced any new physics at all and be equivalent to the Standard Model. In that way, they wouldn't "fail". ;-)<br /><br />Just to be sure, it's not true that the theories have failed. Dozens or hundreds of supersymmetric and string-inspired and grand unified models so far "passed" exactly as the Standard Model did. This is a trivial point that particle physics outsiders like Neil Turok seem to be totally incapable of understanding. Models aren't evaluated in collectives along with their similar competitors. Models may only be falsified separately and each element of a (justifiably or injustifiably clumped together) class is only falsified once the whole class and not just its majority is falsified.<br /><br />He's also confused about the simplicity. He oversells the simplicity and rigidity of the Standard Model while all BSM thoughts are more complicated in his opinion. This is also complete nonsense. Much of the BSM model building is driven by pretty much the same simplicity criteria (plus naturalness), consistency conditions (anomaly conditions, for example), and the desire for parsimony (preferred absence of non-minimal pieces that don't have a justification) as the model building that has led to the Standard Model. Supersymmetric models are clearly simpler in most respects – they're more constrained than the non-SUSY Standard Model, by an extra symmetry - and they have pretty much the same number of independent multiplets of fields as the Standard Model and/or its next-to-minimal extensions. In the same way, grand unified theories simplify things by reducing the independent factors of the gauge group. They only add several more fields like some extra Higgs multiplets – a small number of additions if you believe that independent factors in the gauge groups make the theory "more arbitrary" than just another generic matter field.<br /><br />The simplicity of string theory is a category of its own. Instead of having independent multiplets for spin-0, spin-1/2, and spin-1 fields and their interactions with dozens of coefficients, string theory only starts with one primordial concept, e.g. the fundamental string, and produces all the particles as well as the spin-3/2 gravitinos and spin-2 gravitons as predictions resulting from oscillations and splitting/joining interactions of this single elementary object, a piece of a string. Turok must completely misunderstand the inner organization of state-of-the-art theoretical physics if he doesn't see in what sense the BSM paradigms make physics simpler.<br /><br />His counting of the parameters is also demagogic. The Standard Model has 20 or so free parameters while GUT or SUSY theories have 100 or more. This is a misunderstanding of the parameter counting. What has 100 parameters is an <em>effective theory</em> that ignores the true high-energy physics that is responsible for SUSY breaking etc. and that describes the SUSY-breaking coefficients via soft SUSY breaking fudge factors. When the high-energy physics responsible for this breaking is included and we consider theories that hold up to very high energy scales, the number of parameters is far smaller. Most extremely, string theory has no continuously adjustable dimensionless parameters at all. A particular chosen vacuum – from a discrete set of stabilized solutions – dictates and predicts everything. The discrete set is "large" but it's normal even for sufficiently complicated field theories to have very many vacuum-like solutions. If we considered the effective theory for the Standard Model beneath the QCD scale, we would also find a theory with hundreds of parameters (masses of all hadrons and coefficients of their interactions) but that doesn't mean that there's something wrong with the Standard Model.<br /><br />The deluded director even repeats the mystification by some of the outspoken crackpots that string theory offers \(10^{1000}\) different "laws of physics" (he took the square of the usual number to sound cooler than the other crackpots). This is bullshit. String theory is the most robust mathematically possible set of laws of physics. It only has one set of laws of physics. The landscape doesn't produce different "laws of physics"; it represents a set of different solutions to the unique laws of physics. Some equations have many solutions – many different "environments" (with different effective, but identical fundamental, laws of physics). There is absolutely nothing wrong about it. The Standard Model predicts that there are roughly hundreds of stable nuclear isotopes and thousands or millions of pure liquid compounds (I mean liquids composed of identical molecules). Is it too many? Well, it's whatever it is. The number of prime integers is infinite. Does it mean that number theory is sick?<br /><br />For Turok, it does. He calls it the "ultimate catastrophe". I really don't understand how it works politically for the smart folks at the institute. You have this guy who paints himself to be both a researcher and your boss yet he is saying things you would recognize as idiotic ones already when you were a schoolkid. Can you tell him? Can you tell <em>anyone</em>? It must be scary. I think that directors of such research bodies should either be "close to the top researchers" in their field or they should at least have "some respect for the top researchers". Turok satisfies none of these two conditions. He is a subpar researcher and has no respect for the top researchers of the current era, even at his institute.<br /><br />The young people in the audience are already stunned at this point but Turok continues with his rant. Cosmology is also in a crisis. It's in a crisis because of some weird interpretations of the dark energy and the Higgs instabilities (which are really challenges for particle physics, not cosmology, but this confusion is among the less severe bugs of Turok's assertions). OK, I don't have time to analyze every minute of every idiotic talk by every hack, so let me stop with Turok's opinions about science. He has no idea about the current state of the theoretical high-energy physics.<br /><br />I am also troubled by the opinions – or at least their interpretation in the Canadian newspaper – of people like Natalia Toro and Philip Schuster whom I know as Nima's collaborators from Harvard. This bright young couple is also used as a justification of the gloomy atmosphere by the writers. We don't understand XY (the hierarchy problem), and that's so bad. The LHC should have answered XY by now (how could one have thought that everything would be guaranteed to become clear by now if the pure Standard Model observations at the LHC have always defined the single most widely discussed outcome?). I just don't get it. On one hand, people are frustrated that we understand things too well (the Standard Model works so nicely); on the other hand, they're frustrated that we don't understand certain things (like the hierarchy). Well, at each moment, science understands some questions and misunderstands others. How it could be otherwise?<br /><br />120 years ago, some top physicists would think that physics had been more or less completed and they were proud about it, not frustrated. When radioactivity, quantum phenomena, and relativity began to demolish classical physics a decade later and when promising ideas organizing the new observations began to emerge, physicists were excited again, not frustrated. These days, people prefer to associate frustration with everything they should be proud or excited about. Of course, the ultimate drivers of this bad publicity are people who hate physics. It's annoying that Natalia and Philip are among those collaborate on this mudslinging. I don't know why Turok and other people stay in physics if they're so annoyed by it but I guess that it's because physics institutions have become hiding places of welfare/charity organizations that keep people from getting homeless rather than institutions for people who are genuinely excited by the science.<br /><br />Also, a century ago, people preferred to spark the revolutions if these revolutions were needed but they were shutting their mouths up about revolutions if there weren't any. Perhaps, top physicists "performed" many more revolutions than talks about revolutions. In a Trotskyist way, contemporary people love to talk nonsense about permanent hypothetical revolutions (revolutions changing absolutely everyting, we mostly hear) and they don't seem to enjoy what has already been achieved – and I surely count much of the BSM physics to the list of achievements whether or not these things were experimentally established. There will be some revolutions in the (unknown) future but there are also some insights and concepts that will never qualitatively change. The importance of relativity, quantum postulates, and string theory are arguably among these constants. In fact, the constancy or at least long life expectancy of some insights and principles is needed for the excitement of a rational person – if any insight is expected to break down soon, in a subsequent revolution, it should surely be assumed about the younger generation's hypothetical looming discoveries. But if their importance will be so short-lived, maybe they shouldn't be excied about their discoveries, either. This is where this pathological Trotskyist ideology leads if one is rational. One should respect and celebrate the resiliency of some theories and principles, otherwise he can't possibly be rationally excited about their search, either. The excitement about hypothetical future insights only is like love for music, except for all the genres, songs, and compositions that have already been composed and played.<br /><br /><b>Management</b><br /><br />Instead, let me mention another topic he mentioned somewhere, one that is purely sociological but equally absurd and perhaps even more dangerous:<br /><blockquote>“The thing is, when I came here, I told everybody to write fewer papers,” Turok said. “I said, ‘I don’t want you publishing just to publish. I want breakthroughs. When you’re writing the next incremental paper, you’re not making breakthroughs. Write when you have something to say.” That attitude has led to Perimeter playing a key role in making theoretical physics one of the scientific fields where Canada leads the world.<br /></blockquote>Holy cow. Publish fewer papers because otherwise they're just incremental. I can't believe my eyes. It reflects such a stupid opinion of Turok about how the brain and creativity works.<br /><br />Let me tell you something. When I was employed as a person expected to publish papers, I would surely belong among those whose overall number of papers was lower than the number written by the most prolific colleagues. It has never been my favorite work to write and submit many papers, fix their formatting errors, or even deal with the reviewers and the journal bureaucracy (my paper has never been rejected by a journal). But I could sort of afford it because the citations-per-average-paper were significantly above my contemporaries' average, in the middle of the 50-100 range.<br /><br />The people who look at folks evaluate them according to some "overall" contributions which is roughly close to the overall number of citations – which is not quite perfect so they fix this criterion by some "adjustments".<br /><br />But my point is that some people may afford to write fewer papers while others can't. What's most obvious is that if you think about a fixed given person, these expectations are almost constant. What I primarily want to say is that you can't increase a person's chances of making a breakthrough by forcing or allowing him to publish fewer papers.<br /><br />It just doesn't work like that. Einstein was also close to this "not too many papers" category but even during the decade after special relativity when he was trying to find general relativity, he would constantly publish papers. Almost none of them were "really wrong". Most of them were incremental steps that would ultimately crystallize in general relativity.<br /><br />Making a breakthrough is something else than writing incremental papers. But these two things are surely not negatively correlated, at least not with the correlation factor close to minus one. An active researcher may perhaps afford not to publish papers or too many papers for a year or a few years (in some cases, it's a method to concentrate on a deeper, long-term project; in most cases, it is a sign of a personal creativity downturn which may be temporary or less temporary) but if he is publishing a few papers per year, it makes it more likely that things are healthy and exciting. And several papers per year surely don't <em>lower</em> his or her chance to make a breakthrough.<br /><br />The arrangement at the Perimeter is already such that the members don't have to worry about the publication rate as much as their fellow researchers elsewhere. What else can Turok possibly mean? Some publications are still needed to see that a person has contributed something. It must be clear to every rational person that the probability is high that if he only publishes breakthroughs, he or she will publish nothing before the current job expires which will eliminate him or her from the system. And it should. A sensible employer trying to produce physics just can't keep on employing people because of an arbitrarily hypothetical chance that they could make a breakthrough. Moreover, Turok seems to assume that the breakthrough should be independent of string theory, GUT, and string theory. Given the established importance of string theory, SUSY, and GUT in the scheme of possible ideas in fundamental physics, the probability of such a hugely constrained theoretical physics breakthrough in the next 100 years is much smaller than 1% and even if this science-fiction scenario materialized, it is extremely unlikely that such a breakthrough would take place in Waterloo. Do you really want 50-100 geniuses or near-geniuses work on something that requires an assumption (they will make such a breakthrough) whose probability is below 0.0001%? Half of them currently work on string theory that has more than 99% chance to be right and it's much richer and more constructive, coherent, robust, and beautiful than anything that Turok has ever done or said in his life. So why should they make this revolution in the downward direction?<br /><br />The same comments apply to the promising undergrads or young graduate students whom Turok's speech was originally addressed (which includes a younger chap, Jacob Barnett, a 15-year-old smart severe autist, who was explicitly named by Turok). They surely came there because they know something about the actual state-of-the-art theoretical physics and like it. They're surely not garden variety young crackpots who think they have revolutionized the science whenever they disagree with something – they have actually falsified many ideas found by themselves and they already know why the established physics (both up-to-SM and BSM physics) contains many things they have to learn before their contributions start to have a real chance to be constructive, to say the least. Now they're told by this "big boss" that they must forget everything, not to pay much attention to the lecturers, and work on their alternative "breakthroughs" that almost certainly can't exist. At the same moment, the kids are told that they must be grateful for the food at the institute and what is appreciated about them is how they enjoy their life and bring energy to the corridors. Don't work hard, he tells them explicitly, and think about easier careers you may want to pursue instead of theoretical physics (wow). As a motivational speaker to make someone realistically start to do science research, Turok must get an F-; at least, he didn't hesitate to abuse the talk for the promotion of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Universe-Within-Quantum-Lecture/dp/1770890173/?tag=lubosmotlsref-20">his 2012 popular book</a>. (It's nonsense that the main relationship between hard work and enthusiasm for physics is that "hard work kills enthusiasm". This influence may exist but a far more important relationship is that "enthusiasm about physics makes one work hard".)<br /><br />Morever, most of the <a href="http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&ln=en&p=find+af+perimeter+and+topcite+250%2B&of=hb&action_search=Search&sf=&so=d&rm=&rg=25&sc=0">most prominent work done at the Perimeter so far</a> – 10 out of 14 papers above 249 citations – are incremental papers about AdS/CFT. The idea that the institute may suddenly replace all this work by some revolutionary papers (I suppose he meant more revolutionary papers than Maldacena's AdS/CFT paper itself) that will materialize as soon as the expectation that people publish papers will be abolished is just totally insane. This idea shows that Turok is not only a crackpot physicist of a sort but a crackpot manager, too.<br>2013 2013 2013 <br> <a href="http://www.matrixar.com/" title="Matrix ">المصفوفة : أجمل الخلفيات والصور</a>

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