Last time I mentioned a few physics blogs in the context of propaganda and censorship in physics. I thought I ought to give a round-up of the other physics blogs out there. After that I thought I’d prepare a list of all the physics blogs I can find and put up a page here that gives one line for each. Of course, there will be blogs that I don’t know about. If you know of any, including your own, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list. OK, where shall I start? I know:
Not even wrong
Peter Woit’s blog Not even wrong is one of the best-known blogs around, and features some famous names in the comments. I’d say it’s a high-impact must-read blog. It’s mainly about physics, though not exclusively. Woit’s Wikipedia page describes him as a theoretical physicist, and tells us that he has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, plus a PhD in particle physics. However he actually works as a senior lecturer in the Maths Department at Columbia university. So as you’d expect, there are some mathematics articles in there too. However they don’t detract from the overall result. There’s some good stuff in there, check out Woit’s favourite old posts:
Woit is famous for being a critic of string theory, so a lot of his articles are having a pop at that sort of thing. Check out his this week’s hype category. I share his views on that, and on multiverse mania. He is of course the author of the 2006 book Not even wrong which was well received. I liked it. Would I still like it now? Probably. But perhaps I’d be bothered by the things Woit doesn’t say. Because I now know that whilst he’s critical of string theory, Woit is also an apologist for the Standard Model. So much so that he brooks no dissent. Try pointing out an issue with the Standard Model on one of Woit’s HEP news articles, and your comment will never see the light of day. He portrays himself as a white-knight champion of physics, but he’s actually a cuckoo in the nest promoting the pseudoscience and lies-to-children that constitute the real Trouble with Physics. Mind you, I think he could be heading for an epiphany, because his latest article is Twistors and the Standard Model. That’s where Woit is talking about spinors and chirality and things like geometry. Once the penny drops and he gets an understanding of the electron, he’ll realise that spin is real, and the electron’s mass is just resistance to change-in-motion for a wave in a closed path. Then he’ll realise that the Higgs mechanism is a load of old cobblers, so CERN couldn’t have discovered the Higgs boson. As for when that might happen, I don’t know. Woit will find it hard to call out the Standard Model, in part because his knowledge of fundamental physics and physics history is poor. He’s clearly never read de Broglie’s 1923 letter to Nature or Schrödinger’s 1926 quantization as a problem of proper values, part II. On top of that he’s very much “lost in maths”.
Which brings me on to Sabine Hossenfelder’s blog Backreaction. Hossenfelder is the author of the 2019 book Lost in Math. Her blog is popular, as you can see by the many comments. Her last three articles currently have 120, 111, and 123 comments respectively. What helps with that is that she’s a regular blogger, putting up a new article every week. Her latest article* was a good read, it was really big experiments that physicists dream of. She talked about the Future Circular Collider proposed by CERN and said this: “What do they want to do with the bigger collider? That’s a very good question, thanks for asking. They want to measure more precisely some properties of some particles. What is the use given that these particles live some microseconds on the outside? Nothing, really, but it keeps particle physicists employed”. Now that’s the sort of fighting talk that’s worth reading about. There’s more in the comments, such as Hossenfelder’s quip “A collider as big as the multiverse!” LOL. Also see where poster Quantum Bit referred to Alexander Unzicker’s book The Higgs Fake:
You can find that mentioned a fair few times on Hossenfelder’s blog. It isn’t mentioned at all on Woit’s blog. I’d say Hossenfelder is more willing to be critical than Woit. What lets it down though, is the physics. Especially when she tries to tell us about things like quantum gravity. She doesn’t know how gravity works, or how electromagnetism works, and she’s never read the peculiar notion of exchange forces part I and part II by Cathryn Carson. It would be nice to be able to tell her a bit about that sort of thing, but Hossenfelder’s blog is the Sabine Hossenfelder show. It’s for the promotion of Sabine Hossenfelder. She talks, you listen. Or she sings, FFS. Meanwhile any serious comments pointing out issues with the physics are treated as heckling. But nevertheless Hossenfeld’s blog is worth reading.
Another blog worth reading is Adam Falkowski’s Resonaances. He goes by the name of Jester. It’s well-written, and it comes over as factual. However I’m not so keen on it because it’s usually pushing the mainstream line. His latest article is Death of a Forgotten Anomaly which presents the Z boson as a matter of fact, even though nobody has ever seen one. (Note this in Gary Taubes’ article on Carlo Rubbia and the discovery of the W and the Z: “One event, according to the printout, had two high-energy electrons. She eyed the numbers for about a minute before deciding it was a Z-zero”). In his blog post Jester talks about LEP, saying “its most important legacy is the very precise measurements of the interaction strength between the Z boson and matter”. He also said the decays to electrons and muons conformed very well with the Standard Model predictions, but the decays to taus did not. Well surprise surprise, that anomaly has now disappeared. That’s what usually happens, one way or the other, if you catch my drift.
Jester’s previous article was Hail the XENON excess, where he hints that the XENON experiment may have discovered axions. Or dark photons. He tried to discount neutrinos saying the solar model is wrong, but it’s not convincing. Then he said “the near future is very optimistic, with the XENONnT, LUX-ZEPLIN, and PandaX-4T experiments all jostling for position to confirm the excess and earn eternal glory”. You can bet your bottom dollar that they will confirm the excess. When a church needs a miracle, a church gets a miracle. That’s the way physics has been going for decades. Note though that to his credit Jester hasn’t always toed the line. He was sceptical about BICEP2 and about the diphoton bump, and called them both out. See the 2016 wired article on The Rogue Blogger Who Keeps Spoiling Physics’ Biggest News. Unfortunately Jester hasn’t blogged much since then. Perhaps he got a yellow card. I hope he didn’t, because I’ve got a job for the guy.
Starts with a Bang
A very different sort of blog is Ethan Siegel’s Starts with a Bang. You can read it for free on Forbes, which is an ad-heavy pain in the butt website. For a better reading experience you can subscribe to Medium, where Siegel’s articles are republished with a 7-day delay. You can also comment on Medium, but comments are not welcome. There’s no point commenting either, because Siegel is nowadays writing an article every day. Anything you might say gets buried and forgotten. There’s plenty you could say, because the quality of his articles is sometimes poor. They contain casual errors. See for example Scientists Discover The Fastest Star Around A Supermassive Black Hole dated August 13th. Note this: “Mass and energy both curve space, and that curved space then determines how all objects – massive and massless – will move”. That’s wrong. Mass isn’t matter. And like Einstein said, a concentration of energy in any form, including matter, “conditions” the surrounding space in a non-linear fashion, making it neither homogeneous nor isotropic. As result the speed of light is spatially variable, and because of that, light curves. Then matter falls down because of the wave nature of matter. You can model the non-linear inhomogeneous space as curved spacetime, but like John Baez said, curved spacetime is not the same thing as curved space. If you try to tell Siegel any of this, he’ll dismiss it. He’s a blogger who’s talking at you, not to you. I gave up trying to talk to him a couple of years ago.
In general I’d say Siegel is writing too much, such that too many of his articles aren’t worth reading. OK, now and then somebody might point out something interesting. Such as Yes, Stephen Hawking Lied To Us All About How Black Holes Decay. That’s where Siegel told us that Hawking was telling fairy tales about particle pairs popping into existence and negative-energy particles falling into the black hole. Good man Ethan! However then he went and spoilt it all by making up a fairy tale of his own about Hawking radiation being the result of spacetime curvature. How on Earth does he think he can get away with stuff like that? It’s as if he sees himself as the sole expert, and everybody else is some stupid kid who will lap up the lies to children. He even wrote an article saying you must not do your own research when it comes to science. It included this: “It’s absolutely foolish to think that you, a non-expert who lacks the very scientific expertise necessary to evaluate the claims of experts, are going to do a better job than the actual, bona fide experts of separating truth from fiction or fraud”. I really dislike that. It is the exact opposite of what I say, which is do your own research and think for yourself. So I’d say Siegel has a condescending tone. In fact, I’d say Siegel is one of those arrogant individuals who thinks he knows it all when in truth he doesn’t. It’s a shame because his blog was once arguably the best one around. But instead of learning and improving, the guy has gone to pot. Hence I don’t read his blog any more.
Of particular significance
I don’t read Matt Strassler’s blog any more either. Not because I don’t like it. I always thought it was pretty good. I don’t read it any more because he doesn’t blog any more. Or maybe I should say not much. His blog is Of particular significance, and his latest article is dated November 2019. It’s called Has a New Force of Nature Been Discovered? Strassler talked about throwing cold water on the fire, and said “we should remain cautious, because both experiments were carried out by the same scientists”. Good stuff. Of course, I didn’t always like his physics, in that he’s been schooled in the Standard Model. But I always thought he was fairly straight. He’s a blogger who’ll tell you that virtual particles aren’t real particles that pop in and out of existence like magic, that the Higgs boson doesn’t get its mass from the Higgs field, and that the proton is not composed of three quarks.
Google on Duffield site:profmattstrassler.com/ and you can see where I commented. Whilst some of my comments didn’t make it, a lot did, so fair play to the guy. Especially since he put himself out on some of the replies. Google on Strassler site:physicsdetective.com and you’ll see that his blog is just about the only physics blog I refer to. I fear however that as per his overdue update of late 2015, he’s fallen out of physics. That’s a shame because Strassler is the sort of guy I’ve been writing the physics detective for. Especially the articles on particles. I wish he’d make use of them and combine them with what he knows from his formal education. But I guess his loyalties lie elsewhere, as per his August 2019 Nature letter slow and steady. More’s the pity. Matt, start blogging again.
Another guy who doesn’t really blog any more is Sean Carroll. His Preposterous Universe blog is still there, but it’s all videos. They’re long videos too. Check out his video on gravity and it’s nearly two hours long. I don’t think anybody watches them. I certainly don’t. I can’t see any comments either. I used to enjoy reading Carroll’s blog, because the guy is droll. I think he’s the sort of guy who would be good company at a bar. The sort of guy with the courage to think about the fundamental things that make physics fun. And the sort of guy with the guts to stick his neck out. But sadly it looks like something went wrong somewhere along the line. Maybe it was the multiverse thing, or the falsifiability thing, where he said the scientific method was passé. Maybe it’s more general than that. I used to see Sean Carroll on TV in some physics or cosmology documentary. Not videos:
Proper documentaries. But they don’t seem to be making programs like that any more. Check out the BBC Horizon web page and it’s a physics desert. Maybe that’s why Carroll is into things like podcasts. Or maybe he’s just going for the smartphone audience. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I think it’s a mistake not to have the material in text format too. I’m not going to spend one hour forty minutes listening to some podcast. I would however sit down in our back room in front of my 70” high definition TV to watch an hour-long cosmology program. I think Caroll could be good fronting that sort of thing, he being such a handsome devil and all. Heck, he could even make the TV programs himself. But until that day, I’d say Carrroll is becoming something of an irrelevance, which is a shame. It’s also a shame that his wife (the lovely) Jennifer Oullette has stopped blogging, see Cocktail party physics and twisted physics. Sean, buy her a nice TV camera for Christmas.
The Reference Frame
Somebody else who’s becoming something of an irrelevance is Luboš Motl. He has a blog called the reference frame which used to have a good audience, even though he was always pushing string theory. He still is. His latest article is called a proof of string theory. He starts off by saying this: “For a few decades, competent researchers of fundamental physicists have ‘almost known’ that any consistent theory of quantum gravity has to be string theory”. It simply isn’t true, but it’s typical of the sort of stuff Motl comes out with. He’s another guy who doesn’t know how gravity works, or how electromagnetism works. He goes on to say this: “For a long time, the evidence supporting this statement has been somewhat incomplete”. That isn’t true either. There is no evidence. He then says a more systematic analysis gets closer to establishing that quantum gravity=string/M-theory. Again, it isn’t true.
Then Motl refers to a paper called Closed Strings and Weak Gravity from Higher-Spin Causality. This is in the hep-th section of the arXiv. That’s the arXiv who rejected Friedwardt Winterberg’s black hole paper in 19 minutes. The self-same arXiv who didn’t reject this string-theory paper which isn’t even physics. It isn’t even metaphysics. It’s 53 pages of Emperor’s New Clothes nonsense. It allegedly shows that “any theory of stable or metastable higher spin particles can be coupled to gravity only when the gravity sector has a stringy structure”. But it’s totally groundless, it’s a castle in the air based on a total ignorance of gravity and particles. As is Motl’s claim that “rotating small black hole microstates are nearly-elementary particles of an arbitrary allowed spin”. Then Motl says something about some mathematical “proof” that if you start with metastable higher-spin non-gravitational particles, there has to be higher-spin particles in the gravitational sector. Then he throws in meromorphic functions in scattering amplitudes, the Regge trajectory, and the CKSŽ argument along with 4 closed strings. Closely followed by a limited landlocked region, M-theory in 11 dimensions, and string theory with the Veneziano behaviour. This is handwaving, word salad, and smoke and mirrors. It is specious pseudoscience. It is cargo-cult crap. It is total trash. And then, in the comments Motl actually talks about crackpots and “cranky types working to prevent genuine researchers from doing research”. Oh the irony! For the cherry on top there’s also a comment from Honestmicky saying “Fabulous post Lubos. Thank you, much appreciated. TRF is the world’s best blog. A+”. Take a look at Honestmicky’s other comments. They’re all the same. I think I could probably give you a mathematical proof that Honestmicky=Motl. Then another one that says quantum gravity=string/M-theory is just bollocks=bollocks. Enough. Motl has totally lost the plot. He’s a nutjob, and a nasty piece of work too. Don’t bother reading his blog. Next.
Next is 4gravitons. He’s a postdoc who describes himself as a string theorist and an amplitudeologist. Everybody knows his name, but I won’t mention it because it isn’t on his blog, and because he thinks pseudonymity matters. I don’t, but I do think he’s a nice enough guy. However I also think he’s like a lot of young physics today, in that he doesn’t know enough physics. He says “in practice I’m more of a Particle Theorist, describing the world not in terms of short lengths of string but rather with particles that each occupy a single point in space”. Sigh. It’s the wave nature of matter. The electron’s field is what it is. Why don’t they teach this sort of thing to guys like 4gravitons? It’s clear he hasn’t been taught about gravity either. I’ve heard say that physics degrees these days are all maths and no physics. That can’t be right. Nor can it be right that they don’t teach them any physics history. Anyway, enough of my soapbox. There’s some interesting articles on 4graviton’s blog. See for example Unification That Does Something, Formal Theory and Simulated Experiment and The Parameter Was Inside You All Along. This is not a blog where you’re going to learn about the inner workings of the universe, but it is a blog where you’ll learn about the inner workings of postdoc physics. And about other stuff. See his latest blog post on The Pointy Haired University then follow the link to PhD comics and click on previous, and you will learn something about the North Pole. The 4gravitons blog is all part of the network of knowledge, which reminds me of Eywa has heard you.
Physics and physicists
Then there’s ZapperZ’s blog Physics and Physicists. I’ve known Zapper since 2006, and I know his name. However in all that time he hasn’t volunteered it, so he obviously he values his privacy, so I’ll keep it to myself. See the physicsforums interview for some background on Zapper. He used to work on wakefield accelerators at Argonne and now he’s teaching at a university. I think that’s a bit of a shame myself, since this sort of accelerator is a far better option than the future circular collider. But I’m sure he has his reasons, and besides, we’re talking about blogs here, not people. Speaking of which, Zapper’s blog is a bit of a lightweight, with a lot of posts of only about 400 to 800 words. But I think there’s a niche for this sort of thing, and they can still be interesting. See for example BEC in space, Possible Discovery Of A New Type of Tetraquark, and When Condensed Matter Physics Became King. I’d say Zapper has a good news element, and some very good content too. See for example his bad physics category. What I don’t like about Zapper’s blog are the little videos by Don Lincoln. See for example the origin of mass. It’s patronising, and it’s the usual lies to children. He says electrons don’t matter, when they do. Because to understand the electron is to understand the world. When you understand the electron, you understand E=mc². You understand that the mass of a body a measure of its energy content, because the electron is like light in a box of its own making. Anyhow, Zapper hasn’t blogged for a month presumably because of the lockdown, so I’ll say this: come on Zapper, pull your finger out, get blogging.
Reading Feynman and ideez.org
Another blog is one I’ve bumped into recently. It’s Jean Louis Van Belle’s Reading Feynman. I’ve been under some day job pressure of late, and haven’t been able to go through it. It looks interesting though. Unfortunately Jean got into some kind of copyright issue with Michael Gottlieb over the Feynman lectures. See Signing off where Jean talked about it and referred readers to his new blog at https://ideez.org/. I’m not sure of the details, but it seems odd that hyperlinks from Jean’s blog to the Feynman lectures now come up with Forbidden, you don’t have permission to access this resource. We’ve all heard of the DMCA I’m sure, and we’re all conscious that if we infringe copyright online, we sort it out. That’s the beauty of online work, you can fix an issue easily. You can’t do that with a book. Anyway, you can’t keep a good man down, especially when he’s a mountaineer. I think I’ll like Jean’s blog, because he’s a guy who’s a bit like me. We’ll see.
There’s lots of other blogs out there. Note the list of blogs on the right of Not even wrong, and on the right of Resonaances. Some are “dead” but not all. See for example Tommaso Dorigo’s a quantum diaries survivor on science 2.0, along with his new personal web page at INFN and his posts on AMVA4. I like Tommaso, he’s a nice guy. It would good if I could get through to people like him. Another nice guy is Cormac O’Raifeartaigh, who has a blog called Antimatter. Like me he thinks there’s a lot to be learned from the old papers. See his papers on the arXiv. There’s other blogs, such as Peter Coles’s Telescoper, but it’s a physics free zone, as is Capitalist imperialist pig along with the physicsworld blog. Whatever happened to physicsworld? That used to be such a good website, now it’s useless. It’s a sterile, lifeless, comment-free, dead zone. It seems to be suffering the same fate as physics. That’s sad, but here we are, let’s see if we can do something about that. OK, like I said, I’ll prepare a list of all the physics blogs I can find and put up a page that gives one line for each. There’s various ways to do this, including straightforward searches and checking out listings like the Feedspot top 50 physics blogs and websites. I’m on there, it costs me something like £20 a year. So is Jeffrey O’Callaghan, whose blog on Unifying Quantum and Relativistic Theories looks interesting. Anyhow, apologies in advance for the blogs I’ve missed, do please let me know of any you know about. Bye for now.
* She’s put up another article whilst I’ve been writing this article.