“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”
(from “The Hunting of the Snark, An Agony in 8 Fits” by Lewis Carroll)
Sabine Hossenfelder is a German woman with a doctorate in theoretical physics and a YouTube channel full of videos that discuss all manner of scientific and engineering subjects. Her area of research is “analog models of gravity.” So, she’s trying to visualize things like black holes and think up tests to add to our understanding of these outlandish phenomena. And she’s an obvious girl nerd.
What I like about her popular work (YouTube videos) is that she has no fear of exposing just how dysfunctional modern day physics has become. From dark matter and dark energy to string theory, to futile attempts by particle physicists to invent extraneous particles and then waste untold millions of dollars proving they don’t exist, she exposes the transparent mediocrity and obvious academic make-work that these pseudoscientists are engaging in. They are the hunters of the that altogether mythical snark.
And that brings me to this video. Sabine chronicles the last fifty years of mythical particles that have been proposed and have failed to appear. She describes how the creators of these unicorn particles keep them alive by moving the goal posts whenever the experiments fail to confirm their existence. And finally, she shows how this form of “science” is basically worthless because it has no chance of asking the right questions needed to extend our knowledge. She uses a couple of graphs with data and then the extrapolations associated with these junk science predictions to show how truly worthless this half century of make-work particle physics has been.
It is my belief that the only way to bring rigor back to theoretical physics is to use corporal punishment for failures in achieving successful experimental results. I’m not talking about executions or amputations. Nothing barbaric. I’m talking about caning, possibly flogging. No cat o’nine tails, nothing over five lashes. Barely enough to draw blood. All very civilized and calibrated to bring about the desired results. And I’ll be fair. The physicists can decide whether he’d prefer losing his tenure or being publicly lashed. What could be fairer than that?
All kidding aside, scientific research, not only in this country but throughout the western world, has been stagnating and falling into disrepute. In the social sciences it has degenerated into gobbledygook with the results of the majority of research papers being unreproducible. Doctorates in sociology and psychology are now essentially worthless. Even in the “hard” sciences like physics and chemistry but especially in pharmaceutical research progress at answering fundamental problems has ground to a halt.
So, it’s very refreshing for someone in the academic world to be out there declaring that the emperor has no clothes. Now that’s not to say I agree with every one of her videos. She had a presentation about hydrogen as a fuel, the conclusions of which I completely disagreed with. But she at least lays out a lot of the facts and that allows an informed viewer to judge her opinion based on them. Kudos to Sabine.
On the more general front of scientific research today, all of this confirms something that has become clear. Government money, especially in the United States has turned academia into a racket. Research is a bottomless pit of money that funds unqualified “scientists” to waste resources without any hope of finding the results they are supposedly pursuing. All they accomplish is creating a bureaucracy of people defending their paychecks via government grants.
Other than weapons research the United States government needs to get out of the research business. If they want to incentivize scientific progress let them offer large monetary prizes for successful solutions to practical problems in the engineering and science realms, like the fabulous “cure for cancer” we’re always hearing is right around the corner. Even if the results are more incremental than this at least we would stop incentivizing fraud. Until then we will continue to hear about the latest search for the particle equivalent of the snark.