Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Location: New Zealand

Marni D. Sheppeard

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Home Sweet Home III

Here goes: an ad for WordPress on Blogger! As Carl points out, WordPress now allows latex in comments, and the formatting is lovely. I'm a little busy at present, but I may set up a new blog on WordPress soon, unless Blogger shows signs of better accommodating scientific blogging.

MoonshineMath continues with a remarkable series of posts on codes and hexagons and other goodies of interest to M theorists. Whilst on that topic, it has come to my attention that some people are still under the impression that this is a fringe string theory blog. I don't know how to explain in a short sentence that this has never been, and never will be, any such thing (all right, so I may have joked elsewhere that I was working on string theory). Yes, I did mention the Veneziano amplitude on a number of occasions, but that was merely to point out that string theory physics could be almost entirely avoided. Of course, the majority who persist in ignoring our existence whilst at the same time being avid followers of the blog, are under no such illusions. They are quite certain that I am nowhere near as respectable as a professional string theorist, or any other professional for that matter, professionalism (as defined arbitrarily by their cronies) being a requirement of respectability.

I continue to be lectured about such matters by my 'superiors' even having passed my 40th birthday recently. I continue to receive 'career' advice and knowing nods from women who have always known I was misguided to follow a vocation meant for male minds, and I continue to get advice on 'anger management' and no amount of pointing out the sort of things I have to put up with has any effect whatsoever on peoples' opinions. They have made up their minds. They know. Not one of them really knows anything about my life (their opinions are based on gossip, not on the testimony of people who were actually present) but they must know better than me how I should live it, otherwise why would they constantly give me advice?

The difficulty, of course, is that I often am rather stupid. The ill defined subject matter in my thesis is based loosely on ideas I was mulling over at the start of 2004, but I was actively prevented from following this line of reasoning for two and a half years, under the justification that I couldn't possibly know what was good for me to work on and I should follow an alternative line of development based on ideas of my betters. Of course, that line of development would go nowhere, as I tried to explain for over 6 months. Well, actually, I went as far as to scream some blatant facts every now and again, having exhausted all other attempts to be heard, but this rarely decreases the level of blind condescension and is better avoided. The main problem was that many points required an hour's explanation, but I was only ever given 5 minutes (although people would happily listen to hour after hour of my lectures on established results of interest) after which, having failed to make my point, the subject was roundly dismissed. One cannot expect the status quo to change soon.


Blogger nige said...

I've had plenty of that from friends and relatives. I'm at the age of 35, and I've given up hope of getting anyone to listen: I've tried everything I can think of, and people have a ready excuse to ignore everything.

There is a huge amount of prejudice, and other people who make some false prejudiced assumption about you won't accept they're wrong. Fortunately, I'm used to that. I had a moderate hearing and speech defect when young and got used to people assuming I was stupid when in fact they misunderstood something, or when I couldn't understand their speech. If it hadn't been for that bad experience of human bigotry, I'd have given up.

Friends and relatives are absolutely no use when they give personal advice to me, either. Most of my school and college friends are married and their priorities in life are different, and don't relate to me.

A few years ago, a very confident and dominating female cousin tried to help me by giving me all kinds of useless personal advice. First up, my one bedroomed flat had a single bed. She said I had to get a double bed so I'd be all set and ready for marriage, and sending out the 'right signals'. I didn't do that since I liked having a computer station in the bedroom and it wouldn't fit if there was a double bed there.

Next, she would take me around various pubs and nightclubs and try to find a partner. There is nothing worse in life than someone trying to be helpful by giving advice and matchmaking. It's a personal insult, however well-intentioned it is.

Back to string theory, I've bought some new internet software so at some stage will be improving my domain. From the engineering perspective, string theory isn't a theory. If there was a theory saying that particles are 'string', I'd welcome it. Instead, string theory says particles are rolled up extra dimensions that get electric charge and other force properties by vibrating in a particular way.

It's a failure mathematically because of the landscape which prevents it even working as a useful ad hoc model of reality, and it's also a failure physically because it doesn't make any falsifiable predictions. Claims to the contrary are at best mainstream hyped lies.

"If you have got anything new, in substance or in method, and want to propagate it rapidly, you need not expect anything but hindrance from the old practitioner - even though he sat at the feet of Faraday.... he is very disinclined to disturb his ancient prejudices. But only give him plenty of rope, and when the new views have become
fashionably current, he may find it worth his while to adopt them, though, perhaps, in a somewhat sneaking manner, not unmixed with bluster, and make believe he knew all about it when he was a little boy!" - Oliver Heaviside, "Electromagnetic Theory Vol. 1", 1893, p. 337.

"Science is the organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion." - R. P. Feynman (quoted by Smolin, The Trouble with Physics, 2006, p. 307).

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." - R. P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, 1999, p187.

July 18, 2007 4:14 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Hi Nigel. Oh, I'm good at getting out of the matchmaking game: I have a great expression of withering scorn which my family are all too embarrassed to be associated with, and my friends know better than to be so bossy. The 'life priority' thing is the difficult one: if you think a measure of success is n+m where n is the number of children you have, and m is the number of rooms in your house, then I'm a catastrophic failure, and any attempt to explain the existence of a whole other world is futile.

July 18, 2007 10:48 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Hang in there, for there are many things more valuable than number of children/possessions. I've encountered a bit of opposition, been accused of everything, but am still here.

July 19, 2007 1:09 PM  

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