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A small Peter Woit ? June 19, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, humor, personal, physics, science.

I am rather amused, if a bit perplexed, to have fallen in disgrace at Lubos Motl’s court, The Reference Frame. In a post titled  Rumors about the God particle, which he let out yesterday, he describes me as

“a person […] (who) likes to paint himself as a very important person and he enjoys if his readers get excited about his mystifications, speculations, and propaganda. He’s like a small Peter Woit which is no coincidence because he is a frequent visitor of the notorious crackpot’s blog.”

Hmm, but doesn’t that mean that Lubos also visits Woit’s blog ? Otherwise how can he possibly know if I leave the occasional comment there ? Or maybe does he visit Not Even Wrong just because he wants to keep an archive of friends and foes ?

In any case, it transpires Lubos Motl cataloged me as a small crackpot. I am happy to see his definition is loose enough to allow very different personalities to be encompassed by it – or, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I am happy to belong to a club that accepts people unlike me as members. 

As for Lubos, I feel he deserves credit for always speaking his mind, be it fanatism about string theory, anti-global-warming propaganda, or jealousy for not being cited as a source of information by science magazines and media. But I do not mean to be too hard to him – for some reason, I find him a rather interesting person. I’d actually like to meet him one day, and maybe I will. You coming to PASCOS , Lubos ? 


1. Luboš Motl - June 19, 2007

No, I don’t usually visit your big brother’s website. Many informers keep on informing me what’s going on. Small copies of Woit are enough and there are thousands of them.

I won’t come to PASCOS – it’s the conference in the anti-Semitic country? – or most other conferences, and I am leaving the Academia in 2 weeks.

You are one of the numerous symbols of the devastating influence of activists, journalistic morons, and similar trash on science and society. You clearly enjoy it. You like when it is the journalists and activists who control everyone else, including people who are 30 IQ points above them, and the public opinion.

2. dorigo - June 19, 2007

Hey Lubos, I like your way of inserting one joke amidst other serious remarks, such as when you say “the anti-semitic country”. You are no Weinberg, come on. May I ask you where are you heading when you leave the Academia ? I hope you are not walking out of science.

The media controls the public opinion. Sure, can we change that ? No, no way. We can, however, at least try to do our little bit to keep at least some interest in science in a world which is increasingly anti-scientific. I do my little bit, in a way that you may not like – it’s your call. You do that too, in another quite peculiar way. I fail to understand how you can say what I like and what I don’t. We haven’t met yet. I still hope we will one day, and then you will have a chance of judging me. So far, I am afraid your judgement fails, for lack of data.


3. Lubos Motl - June 19, 2007

I am no Weinberg and Weinberg is no Motl – and what? Does it mean that I must support anti-Semitic campaigns?

Concerning your questions, let me say that I am retiring. 😉 I am leaving institutionalized science.

I disagree with making science attractive if the price is that science will no longer be science. Science if it is science is naturally unattractive to most people. It is hard. It has always been so. If a large number of people suddenly finds it attractive and influence it, that’s the end of science because it is simply not possible.

Many people may find Smolin’s or Woit’s criticisms of theoretical physics exciting – but these things have nothing to do with the actual science. They are pure sociology, conspiracy theories, backed by incoherent crackpot hypotheses. And these waves are surely demotivating for those who would like to do real science under decent conditions.

These things are wrong. Different classes of people will always have different levels of understanding and interest about different portions of science and it is very important to realize this separation and make everyone realize that there is such a separation. Scientists must have the right – both de iure and de facto – to reach whatever conclusions their reasoning leads them to, instead of being harassed by dumb media campaigns and the public opinion of the stupid people.

4. island - June 19, 2007

Wow, Lumo, I thought that your participation here would have drawn a lot more fire from people than it has, so far.

So what’s it going to be when you’re out of academia, an all-out, no-holds-barred, assault on the Loopers, as well as Smolin and Woit?

Are things going to get really exciting… ?… lol… 😉

5. Alejandro Rivero - June 19, 2007

After Summers’s affair, I was driven to think that the increased openness (rudeness?) of Lubos blog was also a sort of protective cover: If you speak high controversial opinions in the corridors of a big institution, they can dispose of you silently. But if you speak your opinions loud in the net, with people looking (and google recording it), then your case is made public even before it happens.
Was it (this protective publicity) intentional? Given than Lubos has simultaneously reduced his active pursuit of the academic path (ie: publications in the last years) it seems it wasn’t. On the other hand, he has a good score of highly cited papers in his bag, so perhaps publication was not priority. After all, you should publish only when you have something to speak about, not to meet a schedule.

6. dorigo - June 19, 2007

Ok Lubos, I am sorry to hear you leave the academia. Despite my link with notorious crackpots, and despite my belief that string theory is a nice mathematical construct with little relevance to physics, I think it is a pity if you do not progress with your studies.
In particular, I totally agree with your last sentence.

Good luck,

7. dorigo - June 19, 2007

I see, Alejandro… Well we should ask him. For sure it is hard to keep a blog with controversial opinions spoken loud, and holding a job at an institution like Harvard. I myself have my share of trouble with my little uncontroversial blog and my pitiful untenured position in a rather less famous university…


8. Quantoken - June 19, 2007


What do you mean you are leaving academia in 2 weeks? A vacation? Or the end of your career as a string theorist as we know it?

The field is a lot less fun without you, although I suspect any important discoveries will be missing (there aint any anyway).

9. Alejandro Rivero - June 20, 2007

Come to think of it, the theoretical field has been probably dissapointing for our seniors, people starting their careers in the early seventies, all the articles about the standard model already published. They are going to come to retirement without any change in the paradigm, and with the stress about if the big change is just around the corner and they are going to miss it. But just because of this posibility, young people should not quit. A different issue is to get a job.

10. M - June 20, 2007

hi Lubos, I hope this happens because your field no longer looks promising, not because of your exaggerated behavior. Although 90% of what you write is junk, the remaining 10% makes yours the best string theory blog. After Not Even Wrong.

11. changcho - June 20, 2007

Congratulations Tomaso! You have drawn the ire of LuMo…which means you surely are on the right track. Thanks for your blog, it is very good.

12. Chris Oakley - June 20, 2007

Lubos leaving academia means that now he’ll be be able to tell us what he really thinks instead of having to word everything carefully so as not to offend anyone.

13. carlbrannen - June 20, 2007

I have doubts that Motl would leave science. Grasping at straws, I note that he spells himself Luboš in the first post, and Lubos in the next.

14. anon. - June 21, 2007

Carl, i fear that if Lubos leaves string theory, that isn’t exactly the same as leaving science, if you see my stupid little (-30 I.Q. points mentality) joke? 😉

Maybe once Lubos leaves stringy knots behind, he will start working in science 🙂

15. dorigo - June 21, 2007

Alejandro, good point – I think it is indeed kind of unsatisfactory to have been a theoretician for the last thirty years, and retire (or die) before anything happens.

M, your sarcasm is hilarious but I disagree with shooting at a sitting duck. Lubos exposed his plan of leaving the Academia and we should respect him for his choices…

Changcho, I also think that one should be careful in choosing one’s enemies at least as much as one is in choosing one’s friends. Still, I do not think of Lubos as an enemy – we disagree but I respect him.

Chris, LOL! But the same thing I wrote to M above goes.

Carl, indeed Lubos is leaving Harvard, not science. He is going back to good old Europe for some deep thinking.

Cheers all,

16. jeff - June 21, 2007

Well Lubos does have a point regards anti-semitism in England. I feel the english university intellectuals have dreamt up. Weinberg set an example that not necessarily should be followed, but one way or another the english academics should be criticized for their stupid initiative.

17. dorigo - June 21, 2007

Maybe Jeff, but criticizing somebody for some ill-motivated behavior is one thing, doing the same is another. Errare humanum, perseverare diabolicum.

18. jeff - June 21, 2007

Infact I didn’t suggest doing what Weinberg decided to do. I personally believe Weinberg DID do the right thing if only because he IS a well known person. What ordinary and numerous people, so-called intellectuals, for example physcists, should do is an open question. Maybe Weinberg could have done something else, but at least he DID something. I do believe that the english academia should NOT be allowed to get away with it. I do not like GROUPS and do not think the english academia should be targeted by a group intiative. Each individual should find a personal way.

19. island - June 22, 2007

Those are excellent points, Jeff and Tommaso.

Each individual should find a personal way.

This is a beautiful point when new candidates are herded along a trail whose naturally questionable hurdles are already “explained”, because they end up with many assumptions about the validity of physics that they did not realize on their own without “help”.

If you follow the trend of the cosmological timeline, then you can easily see a pattern that severely deviates from it’s constant trend, in the seventies… as solutions to the flatness and horizon problems began to take on physics-bending-rules that killed first principles and causality at that level of applicability.

You have no chance to question many naturally questionable assumptions in any deviating manner if you are subject to the pressure from the groupthink of your peers, because you will be crushed, professionally, if you try. Not that many do, the ones that aren’t extremely “convinced” of their direction, like Lubos, seem to like the comfortable security of “groupthink”…!

20. amanda - June 22, 2007

I think that LM’s case is a cautionary story for all. Leaving aside all the political/climate stuff, his blog is basically devoted to attacking other people’s work. This is a very tempting way to go — when you feel that you cannot contribute anything, it makes you feel better if you can persuade yourself that the work that *is* being done is no good anyway. The end result is just to make your situation worse. [Another drawback is that your ignorance gets exposed — LM’s writings on the second law of thermodynamics make me squirm with vicarious embarrassment.] I’m glad to see that TD’s blog is not like this, he communicates his enthusiasm for his own and other people’s work, and I think that this is good for him as well as for us, his readers. Bloggers take note!

21. Jimbo - July 16, 2007


Delighted to hear you have been purged, because frankly, you are SO full of shit your eyes are colored brown !
The string community, despite all its troubles, has one less bummer now that you are gone.

22. Observer - July 22, 2007

Is Lubos following in Grisha Perelman’s footsteps? that wanted to live in a “good only for me world?”; If so take note that Perelman got a Fields medal and left at least 20 or so publications and solved the Poincare conjecture (now a Theorem) so there is a lot to catch up.

23. dorigo - July 22, 2007

Observer, I think Lubos Motl just wants to take a break from academia. I think he will be back, probably with a job in his home country…


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