Einstein They Ain’t

“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.

Way Too Smart for Their Own Good

I feel it’s time for another physics rant.

Somebody named Paul Sutter wrote an article in Ars Technica called “ Requiem for a string: Charting the rise and fall of a theory of everything.  String theory was supposed to explain all of physics. What went wrong?

I have some excerpts from the article that indicate the thrust of the problem with string theory.

“Like most revolutions, string theory had humble origins. It started in the 1960s as an attempt to understand the workings of the strong nuclear force, which had only recently been discovered.”

“A group of physicists took a mathematical technique developed (and later abandoned) by quantum godfather Werner Heisenberg and expanded it. In that expansion, they found the first strings—mathematical structures that repeated themselves in spacetime. Unfortunately, this proto-string theory made incorrect predictions about the nature of the strong force and also had a variety of troublesome artifacts (like the existence of tachyons, particles that only traveled faster than light). Once another theory was developed to explain the strong force—the one we use today, based on quarks and gluons—string theory faded from the scene.”

So, look at this.  They borrow a technique from someone who was extremely smart.  But it was a technique that was discarded because it doesn’t work.  They ignore the fact that it produces crazy answers and they try to nurse it along by expanding it into more dimensions and other complications.  Shades of Ptolemy’s epicycles!

“Unlike its quantum cousins, when it comes to string theory, we have no fundamental theory—we have only a set of approximation and perturbation methods. We’re not exactly sure if our approximations are good ones or if we’re way off the mark. We have perturbation techniques, but we’re not sure what we’re perturbing from. In other words, there’s no such thing as string theory, just approximations of what we hope string theory could be.”

Wow.  It’s useless and wrong and yet it lives on decade after decade.

“To be clear, our inability to understand string theory isn’t limited by experiment. Even if we could build a super-duper-collider experiment that achieved the energies necessary to unlock quantum gravity, we still wouldn’t be able to test string theory because we have no string theory. We have no mathematical model that can make reliable predictions, only approximations that we hope accurately represent the true physics. We can test those approximations, I guess, but it won’t help us determine the inner workings of the true model.”

They’re paying these people!  No one’s forcing them to pay them but they keep on paying them.

“The beams of the LHC began their first test operations in 2008 with two main science goals in mind: finding the elusive Higgs boson and finding evidence of supersymmetry.  Four years later, the Higgs was found. Supersymmetry was not. It’s now 15 years later, and there are still no signs of supersymmetry.”

Can we get our money back?

“The dearth of evidence has slaughtered so many members of the supersymmetric family that the whole idea is on very shaky ground, with physicists beginning to have conferences with titles like “Beyond Supersymmetry” and “Oh My God, I Think I Wasted My Career.””

You sure have!  And our billions in funding for this clap-trap!

“Most string theorists of the modern era don’t work on string theory directly but instead mostly on the AdS/CFT correspondence and its implications, hoping that continuing to probe that mathematical relationship will unlock some hidden insight into the workings of a theory of everything.  I wish them luck.”

I don’t!

We really need to restrict the funds available to really smart people such that only the one really smartest guy in the field is allowed to waste his whole life doing this kind of mental masturbation.  This is not physics.  It has the same relation to physics as rhythmic gymnastics has to power-lifting.  I mean should I get tenure for coming up with the new variant called string cheese theory?  Does my background in mozzarella qualify me to expound my theory that the universe is really a large amorphous blob of Italian dairy product?  I think not!

The rest of them should be forced to do this crap in their spare time if they want to when no one can see them and during working hours force them to do something that pays the electric bill.  Maybe they can get an engineering degree on the side and design quantum screw drivers or something.

Look at this quote again:

To be clear, our inability to understand string theory isn’t limited by experiment. Even if we could build a super-duper-collider experiment that achieved the energies necessary to unlock quantum gravity, we still wouldn’t be able to test string theory because we have no string theory. We have no mathematical model that can make reliable predictions, only approximations that we hope accurately represent the true physics. We can test those approximations, I guess, but it won’t help us determine the inner workings of the true model.”

These guys have been futzin’ around with this thing for fifty years and they still haven’t got a theory to justify their paychecks.  In China they would have been taken out behind the building and shot and their families would be forced to pay for the bullets they were shot with.  Here they should have been tarred and feathered and ridden out of Princeton on a rail.

Camera Girl has often told me off for being, in her words, “scholastic-asstic.”  By this she means too smart for my own good or more precisely an educated dope.  And often she is exactly right.  I wouldn’t dare tell her about this outrage to common sense because she would hit me for trying to waste her time listening to this nonsense.  She would equate it with ecclesiastical scholars  attempting to calculate the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.  That is if she had ever heard of that concept before, which I’m fairly certain she has not.

So instead, I’m bringing this here for the larger audience to hear.  Albert Einstein figured out relativity while working as a patent clerk.  That should be the model.  When someone figures out anti-gravity or faster than light pizza delivery then we can talk about a cushy office in the physics department at Cal Tech and maybe tenure.  But if they’re going to spend forty years of academic salary and perks for this drivel, we need to break out the Chinese model.  Who knows, maybe we can throw in the cost of the bullets for free.  After all we are reasonable people.

Guest Contributor – TomD – 10JAN2023 – A Civil Engineering Perspective

Tom | Flickr


I’m a Civil Engineer specializing in structural for most of my career. For almost all in-ground concrete installations, the nature and strength of the subgrade is more important than the strength of the concrete. Subgrade means whatever the concrete is sitting on. In other words, no matter how strong the concrete or asphalt, it isn’t any stronger than what it is bearing on.

I’ve never been associated with residential work but in commercial, government,, etc. work, testing the subgrade is very important. It should be to you too. If you’re spending a lot of money on asphalt or concrete in a non-controlled environment, for your own sake. please call a local geotech outftit, explain your circumstance, and get a proposal.

If you’re spending couple to several 10’s of thousands, please spend a couple of hundred ensuring it doesn’t fail in a year or two.

Guest Contributor – Jason M – 10JAN2023 – Ancient Roman Concrete – Continued

Ancient Roman Concrete’s Durability Finally Explained


I actually work for a cement and concrete manufacturer. I was thinking more along the lines of roads and large buildings in my comments above.

For individuals, I completely agree with you that stronger foundations and floors in homes would be a good thing. The problems of energy to generate heat and cost of transporting the materials are still there. But because it is on a much smaller scale it MIGHT be easier to overcome.

Availability of quick lime might be an issue, as well. At least in some locations.

For pouring a driveway or a garage floor though…I’m still not sold on it.

“Strength” for concrete is a measure of compressive force. It’s measured in PSI. Unfortunately, even a very high PSI concrete can break if its support is somehow undermined. The biggest thing for homeowners is making sure that the foundation is done properly with the correct support around the concrete and diverting water away so that it is not washing or damaging the support in some way.

That being said, there are several methods to avoid the kind of cracks you’re talking about. For anyone reading this… make sure your builders include rebar in your foundations. This goes for driveways, too, although it doesn’t have to be rebar in this case… a simple wire mesh or wire fence laid in the concrete (especially if you’re DYIing it) is probably enough. There is also a fiber that can be added to decrease the likelihood of cracks in driveways, etc. but that’s more for if you’re paying someone to do it. I don’t know that you can buy that kind of concrete unless you’re dealing directly with a seller with the mixer trucks and stuff.

You can also increase the thickness of the concrete. This adds significant cost, but a 9 inch thick driveway would be better than a 6 inch thick driveway. There is a diminishing return here though. Once you get to a certain point, the additional cost is not worth the additional “protection.”

For a foundation, especially, make sure they dig deeply enough to get good ground underneath the concrete. This is one thing I had to be careful of when we built our home. We have horrible dirt. I know it sounds funny, but the kind of dirt we have in this area is really bad for settling. It simply compresses too easily so the weight of a house is going to cause it to settle quickly. I had to make sure that the contractor building my foundation dug deeply enough to get past more of the bad stuff before putting in gravel and pouring concrete. I was fortunate in that the contractor was already doing this which made me feel good about using him for some other projects I had associated with the house.

Finally, do anything you can to ensure proper drainage. Water will erode soil even under your home or driveway or cause the soil to settle.

One thing I learned when I joined my current company is that there are hundreds of “recipes” for cement and that many more “recipes” for concrete. (Cement is essentially the “binder” that holds everything together in concrete.) I don’t know that anyone realized exactly how the Romans did it, but I do know that the manufacturers have MANY “levers” they can pull in order to achieve varying strengths and curing times. They are also constantly testing and experimenting with different additives and other cementitious (It’s a real word… honestly) materials in an effort to lower costs without sacrificing strength, etc.

It was more interesting than I thought it would be, honestly.

Ancient Roman Concrete’s Durability Finally Explained

If you’ve ever seen the concrete in your house’s foundation or on your sidewalks start to crack and crumble after a few years then you might be interested to know that the answer to this sad situation exists in the 2,000 year old Roman Pantheon.  Apparently the Romans were better engineers than we are, at least as far as concrete goes.

Researchers at MIT have been studying the phenomenal longevity of Roman concrete edifices and they’ve discovered that using quick lime instead of slaked lime provides for the more reactive inclusions in the material to actually “self-heal” incipient cracks.

“The benefits of hot mixing are twofold,” Masic says. “First, when the overall concrete is heated to high temperatures, it allows chemistries that are not possible if you only used slaked lime, producing high-temperature-associated compounds that would not otherwise form. Second, this increased temperature significantly reduces curing and setting times since all the reactions are accelerated, allowing for much faster construction.”

Near the end of the article it’s stated that the researchers plan to commercialize the ancient technique.  Well, as a descendant of the Romans, I declare this cultural (or technical) appropriation.  And I demand reparations.  I’ve estimated my cut as approximately one billion denarii (silver of course).  If enough denarii can’t be found I will settle for gold doubloons.

Research Into Non-Ferrous Alloys Yields a Truly High Strength Material

When I was working for a design engineering firm, we often looked at exotic metals and alloys as solutions to chemical reactor material for highly corrosive compounds.  Nickel, chromium and cobalt alloys such as the Hastelloy B and C metals were extremely attractive for their corrosion resistance and strength properties.  Of course, they were difficult to work with because their hardness made them difficult to cut and mill.

Now research is coming out that alloys consisting of equal quantities of those three metals have extremely high strength and ductility.

“The toughness of this material near liquid helium temperatures (20 kelvin, -424 °Fahrenheit) is as high as 500 megapascals square root meters. In the same units, the toughness of a piece of silicon is one, the aluminum airframe in passenger airplanes is about 35, and the toughness of some of the best steels is around 100. So, 500, it’s a staggering number,” said research co-leader Robert Ritchie, a senior faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and the Chua Professor of Engineering at UC Berkeley.”

If you notice this extreme toughness measure is recorded at -424 °F.  This implies that the toughness number is not as high at normal temperatures.  Now this is unusual.  Most materials become brittle at cryogenic temperatures not more ductile.  But I assume the toughness they’re measuring is still at very high levels for ambient conditions.  A material that’s five times stronger than the strongest steels is remarkable.  Even double or triple is unheard of.

These alloys are very expensive and would start out being used in the most critical applications such as space flight.  But over the course of time these new materials will find other applications.  Maybe one day this material might end up in the beams of a mile high building or an enormous bridge.  And before you know it they’ll make golf clubs and tennis rackets out of it.

It’s gratifying to see that not all the physical sciences and engineering fields have completely ground to a halt during the Age of Biden.  Possibly there is still hope of our civilization escaping another dark age.

Brain Researchers Are Finally Waking Up From Their Alzheimer’s Errors

For the last twenty plus years researchers have single-mindedly chased the amyloid hypothesis as the solution to Alzheimer’s Disease.  And this has led nowhere.  Finally after hundreds of drug trials and billions of dollars spent, they’re waking up from their delusion and realizing that amyloid is a symptom of the disease not its cause.

More than anything this is an indictment of the system of selecting research and development targets in biomedical science.  But ti also may reflect the waning of the scientific method in the West too.  Considerable fraud was involved in a landmark research project that perpetuated the mistaken direction of Alzheimer’s research for decades.

The government/industry/academic “partnership” is at the center of the dysfunction that has become endemic across America and Europe.  The complex no longer rewards merit and is highly influenced by gender and racial politics and other irrelevant considerations that limit the scientific method.

But at least now maybe some progress can be made in this terribly debilitating disease.  In fact it might turn out that small molecule solutions that aren’t as costly or require such long development times as the antibody drugs might turn up now.

“Lasers” Are No Longer Just for Bond Villains

It turns out that cheap drone weapons are re-energizing research and development of laser weapons.  Apparently, the differential cost of offensive and defensive missiles is forcing countries to reconsider building defensive laser weapons.  Israel’s successful Iron Dome anti-missile system is demonstrating that if an enemy is willing to flood the field with cheap missiles, they can bankrupt the defender using effective but expensive anti-missile missiles.

Lasers on the other hand after the initial purchase cost of the system uses about ten dollars in electricity per kill.  Of course, lasers are limited by weather conditions.  The quote from the article says, ““With lasers, if you can see it, you can kill it; typically rain and snow are not big deterrents,” says Robert Afzal, an expert on lasers at Lockheed Martin. “But a thundercloud—that’s hard.””

And the range of targets is impressive but not unlimited:

““A laser of that class (100 kW) can be effective against a wide variety of targets, including cruise missiles, mortars, UAVs, and aircraft,” says Perry. “But not reentry vehicles [launched by ballistic missiles].” Those are the warheads, and to ward them off, he says, you’d probably have to hit the rocket when it’s still in the boost phase, which would mean placing your laser in orbit. Laser tech is still far from performing such a feat.”

The Russians, Israelis and Americans all have active fiber laser weapons programs in the 100 – 300 kW range which is the current state of the art.  But now that the economic necessity for these systems has been demonstrated I imagine more powerful and multi-weapon platforms can’t be far behind.


Well all I can say is it’s about time.  We were promised lasers back in the sixties.  Even Dr. Evil had sharks with frikkin’ laser beams back thirty years ago.  Slackers.

String Theorists – The Snake Oil Salesmen of Theoretical Physics

This video is a “debate” between a string theorist and two actual physicists (including a Nobel Laureate) over the legitimacy of the multiverse model of reality.  It’s really quite embarrassing.  The string guy sounds like a penny stock broker trying to hawk his wares by touting the “research” that is just around the corner and right at the edge of proving all the ridiculous tenets of his unprovable or inconsistent or even haphazard concepts.

The other two physicists and the moderator all seem exasperated by repeatedly slapping down both the substance of his argument and the sleight of hand attempts to conflate the standard understanding of quantum mechanics with the string theory basis for the multiverse model.  In fact, these physicists provide arguments against both of these things separately and still the string guy keeps on coming up with cutesy analogies for using space-based probes to look for the equivalent of the “ultrasound image of the gestating baby universe in the first microseconds after the Big Bang.”  He even manages to talk about the umbilical cord of this fetal universe.  It’s beyond silly.

If you’re interested in watching a string theorist getting slapped around this video might be of interest to you.  I know I enjoyed it.  String theory seems to be the physics equivalent of communism.  It’s a theory that has never worked but provides its practitioners with a funhouse version of reality that they can bloviate about and if they manage to get put in charge of resources waste them endlessly until they bankrupt their host.

Highly amusing.  I was especially amused to hear that the string guy works at my alma mater.  Ah, the pride is back.

How Far Out There is Out There?

Have you ever wondered how far away is the farthest visible galaxy?  Or what is the heaviest balck hole so far observed>  How about what is the fastest orbital speed of an object revolving around another stellar object?

Being a life-long nerd I enjoy nothing better than to see the latest high-end astrophotography and reading the highest exponential distances, masses and speeds tacked onto these images.

Well Astronomy Magazine has an article called “The most extreme celestial objects in the universe.” that answers some of those questions with lots of beautiful and intriguing astro-photos and other visuals.

Well, sometimes we have to step back from politics and smell the roses or gawk at the latest eye-candy taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  After all this is Orion’s Cold Fire.