Had one of those pet-hate Twitter-threads where someone makes a negative comment @me and dozens of others pile-on with “like” (and more) without any attempt to engage with the original point. (I used to have a pinned Tweet that said I routinely blocked such people.)
You’re wrong. I am one of the theoretical physicists trying hard to solve this problem. Do you think if I found its solution tomorrow, I would not immediately publish it, just because of some worries about not getting funding? There is not a single scientist who thinks that way!
— Erik Verlinde (@erikverlinde) October 30, 2020
Firstly, I’m not wrong.
Secondly, it’s a statement in support of Erik Verlinde whose work as a theoretical physicist is well known to me – very close to the core of my work – with information as the complement of entropy at a fundamental level. I’ve written a lot about him in this context. I’ve travelled and paid to hear him speak and asked him direct questions at conferences.
I suspect it got the negative reaction because:
- the “IF” wasn’t noted, what I said was conditional. Objectively it clearly wasn’t wrong.
- the “YOU” operating as the English “ONE” in “IF YOU” was presumed aimed at Erik who felt the need to defend himself, when clearly it was aimed at experimental scientists meeting that conditional investment criterion.
- and anyway, I already made it clear I wasn’t suggesting a direct motivation, I was agreeing with Sabine’s point (which she has gone on to further elaborate this morning). See blind-siding below.
… in response to those suggesting I was some kind of idiot that didn’t get theoretical physics and/or that I didn’t appreciate the black-hole horizon information density was theoretical and not directly amenable to empirical test …
the point, as Sabine has elaborated, is that it’s not a surprise finding or any kind of paradox to those already interested in theoretical physics at this fundamental / metaphysical boundary. People like Erik have already “solved” it. It’s only a paradox to those already invested in the standard model behind high-energy experimental collider physics. The targets of Sabine’s comment, and mine.
Generally, no professional scientist is directly motivated not to publish significant results. But where people look for findings in their expensive experimental kit is blindsided by assumptions in that investment, and the need to retrospectively justify that in support of further future investment. Blind-sided to seeing the significance of a theoretical finding elsewhere.
What we’re doing is trying to redirect more funding to theoretical physicists exactly like Erik.
Jeez. Rant over.
(Now, how to cc all those in the individual-like pile-on?)
[Post Note: Made the general link above about many references to Verlinde in the Psybertron blog, but this 2018 conference summary is quite apposite considering @Katoi has now also joined the fray here:
Two theoretical physicists with concerns for epistemological boundaries of their art are Sabine Hossenfelder and Erik Verlinde. Both might agree that science has been “fucked-up” by humans.
You’d think that experimental physicists have little to fear from the theorists? Except of course that enormous investments in their very large kit may have been justified to look for the wrong things. They need to hope that null and surprise results from already justified experiments still add to our new models and body of knowledge.
And so it goes.]