Monday, June 15, 2015

Polchinski's "New Normal" Physics

In the last 48 hours, physicist Joseph Polchinski -- noted for string theory work including two textbooks -- revealed what may be the "new normal" in science, namely, good questions and verifiable facts are to be deleted and banned. His behavior took me completely by surprise. As background, several years ago I wrote: "String theories may turn out to be one of the strongest factors favoring the acceptance of quantized space and time as postulated in [binary mechanics] BM, according to the 'when all else fails...' rule" [1]. Now noted string theorist Polchinski appears to reveal a sort of totalitarianism in physics today. In sum, at least one string theory practitioner may have significant anti-science issues.

Fig. 1: Keene's Initial Comment and Polchinski's Second Reply
Legend: Note four replies -- two from Keene and two from Polchinski.

The story began innocently enough, when I watched parts of an over one hour YouTube video titled "Gravity and Quantum Mechanics - The Quest for Unification | Joe Polchinski". Ironically, some of the physics issues presented indirectly support binary mechanics as a Standard Model development to form a coherent, comprehensive, fundamental physical theory. If the reader looks at the comments to this video, we have a remarkable result -- it appears Polchinski deleted my replies shown below. Who would have thought?

Initially thinking that "Joe" might have an open mind, I posted a brief comment:

Keene's Initial Comment.
Mr. Polchinski may not be aware that gravitation is not a primary force and therefore there is no need to "unify" it with quantum mechanics. See, e.g., "Physics News: Gravity Game-Changer" in J. Bin. Mech. This may be noteworthy since the results reviewed in this article predate the "Unification" video by some two years, and gravity is presumably an area of special interest for Mr. Polchinski.
I tried to word this comment in a way that might stimulate Polchinski's curiosity.

Polchinski's First Reply.
+James Keene You cited a blog. Apparently your blog. You've named your blog a 'journal'. You've given your 'journal' a nice looking abbreviation, J. Bin Mech. You've been laughed out of physics forums before, e.g.

After reading that entire thread, it's clear that you're an autofellating kook who hasn't read a physics journal in decades and who somehow thinks that posting work to social media constitutes scientific peer review.

Now you've met someone who insatiably berates crackpots. Have at it, you're a joke.
It may be noteworthy that Polchinski claims to have read an extremely lengthy thread, but does not acknowledge reading the brief "Physics News..." paper [2] I cited in my initial comment. This is very strange, to say the least. It seems Polchinski may have been more interested in the person Keene than in the review article I cited. In his second paragraph, Polchinski fabricates data to make three false accusations. Does he also fabricate data in his research work?

Fig. 2: Polchinski's Two Replies With Keene's Two Replies Absent
Legend: Of YouTube's accounting of four replies (Fig. 1), only Polchinski's two replies remain. Apparently he wants to keep on record his data fabrications, false accusations and inappropriate hostility.

Keene's First Reply (apparently deleted by Polchinski).
+aoflex Sir, if, as claimed, you did read the entire thread of the topic you cited, what _is_ clear is that at that particular early time, nobody in that forum could discuss physics, but rather used it as a social media, much as you have done in your comment (silly, adolescent name calling, etc). Do you actually have anything of substance to say about physics (e.g., I cited a paper)?

Your scientific credibility is lost when you engage in failed mind-reading, wrongly stating that I think that "posting work to social media constitutes scientific peer review."

Finally, my orginal comment _was_ a snippit of a "scientific peer review" of your video, to which you have thus far failed to respond. So who is the "crackpot" and "joke" here? The paper I cited may be a serious critique of your whole scientific world view and you have no response except name-calling? Where is there any flaw in the work that I cited (theoretical, methodogical, etc)? Can you actually talk science, or is it all just hot air?

If there is any further reply from your fine self, I expect it will specifically address the review of your video/work embodied in the paper I cited ... and as an adult with some competence in science, to salvage any credibility you might still have given your initial pointless reply. I expect this as it will benefit yourself and as I don't have time for the childish name-calling, social media games you seem to prefer.
Polchinski's first reply above adopted the same childish name-calling tactic seen in the old physforum thread which he dug up. In that thread, many of the posters hid behind an alias perhaps to mitigate the self-inflicted damage to their own character by their childish behavior. In contrast, in the present case, Polchinski stepped forward to harm his own persona even though his real identity was known. Why? Is the scientific merit of his work as fragile as his "holier than thou" text might imply?

Polchinski's Second Reply.
+James Keene How about I cite the fact that you repeatedly use social media as if it is tantamount to scientific peer review, tell you to fuck off, and ban you?
Keene's Second Reply (apparently deleted by Polchinski).
+aoflex Wow! Now you add a false accusation re how I use a blog to your continuing failure to respond to a simple scientific paper questioning your work. This double faux pas indicates psychological immaturity and inability to defend your work.

[Note: I don't see my first reply which you may have deleted. If so, it further shows incompetence to defend your work. Luckily, I saved that reply to a text file to make a video or write an article along the lines of "Polchinski strikes out". If there is any legitimate investigator who can respond to my review, please refer it to them.]
Polchinski's strange and aggressive behavior was totally unexpected. For a routine internet post, I expected my initial comment above would (1) get no reply or (2) evoke some response involving the science issues involved.

Concerning the "no reply" option, this would be expected since most posted comments get no specific reply. However, a quick scan of all of the previous comments to this YouTube video reveals that my comment was the only one to elicit a response from Polchinski (or did I miss something?). Why? Could it be that his apparent inability to provide any response to the paper I cited led to a "kill the messenger" response? It is almost as if Polchinski's aggressive, attack response was like the classic fight-flight reaction to sudden stress, with the flight part being lack of any adult-level scientific statements.

In a few short hours on YouTube, it appears Polchinski has done immense damage to his public image with the behavior cited above. Why? Why not a simple scientific reply? These questions remain. One might speculate that Polchinski expected that his self-damaging responses would actually be approved by colleagues, implying that he may have thought that aggressive, attack behavior is an accepted norm in his peer group as a means to avoid defending one's work with rational debate and substantive, scientific argument.

Let's hope that Polchinski was just having a "bad day". But it does seem "the wheels are coming off his cart". For friends of his, please look in on him to provide support and see if he is OK.

New Normal in Science.

1. If a scientific theory is questioned, show extreme arrogance and disparage anybody with such questions. Make an example of the offender so as to intimidate others from questioning the status quo.

2. At all costs, avoid discussion of substantive issues regarding a physics theory, using diversionary tactics or trivial distractions such as childish name-calling and profanity.

3. When questioned, invoke "peer review" as the ultimate criterion regardless of the well-known fact that "peer review" is almost worthless in deliberation of scientific questions. When in the last century has any scientific debate whatsoever been decided by statements like "my point was peer reviewed"? Answer: approximately never. Not to mention that much of what is published in self-proclaimed peer-reviewed physics journals is complete garbage.

4. Do not expect that a physicist will break ranks with key colleagues and the current religion, er, theories. Their paychecks and multi-million dollar research grants depend on towing the line distributed by the physics cartel. An additional control mechanism may be the almost pathetic fact that many physics papers have dozens or even over one hundred authors. No wonder original thought and lines of research are so scarce these days in the physics community.

In short, Polchinski seems to have provided a live demo of suppression of freedom and free thought which is intrinsically anti-science.

Finally, some physics historians may argue that the Polchinski tactics may not be a "new normal", but rather represent a centuries-old risk of conducting scientific research, namely that at any moment, a study might produce new results leading to the investigator being subjected to intense scorn or even worse from the propagandists of the status quo. Therefore, investigators submitting papers to the Journal of Binary Mechanics can use a "pen name" or pseudo-name which may afford them some protection from has-been enforcers of the status quo. Similarly, questions and viewpoints may be posted in the Binary Mechanics Forum using an alias.

[1] Keene, J. J. "Physics glossary" J. Bin. Mech. May, 2011.
[2] Keene, J. J. "Physics news: gravity game-changer" J. Bin. Mech. October, 2014.
© 2015 James J Keene