Monday, 5 May 2008

Crackpot for Dummies

These days it is hard to sound absurd in particle physics. When none of them along the line know what any of it is worth, you are in constant danger of being taken seriously. But if you're really determined to convince everybody that your idea is nonsense, the short tutorial below might prove handy. It is not enough to just come up with a pile of nonsense - presentation is the key. The tutorial is illustrated with examples from the seminar a week ago by John Moffat who has achieved a certain perfection in the art.

1. First of all, of course, you need a great nonsensical idea. That's the easiest part. Take any long-standing problem and write down a bold solution. For example, find a mechanism of breaking the electroweak symmetry without introducing any new degrees of freedom and without violating unitarity.
2. Your solution should rely on technical terms that have no meaning to anyone else but you.
Symmetry breaking fermion loop measure sounds just perfect. Never try to explain the meaning of that - you can always refer to your 11 previous publications in case somebody asks.
3. On the other hand, you should elaborate on trivial points. For example, you can explain at length why in a theory without a Higgs particle there is no quadratic divergences to the Higgs mass.
4. It is useful to formualate your predictions using as many digits as possible. For example, you could give the value of the non-local electroweak energy scale to be 541.189 GeV.
5. Make clear that your idea explains any experimental discrepancy that is actually on the market.
6. To make connection with the rest of theoretical physics you should often mention string theory, supersymmetry, little higgs and everything else, noting each time that your idea is none of the above.
7. To whatever question from the audience you should reply by repeating the last sentence you just said.

But seriously...fringe or non-mainstream ideas are important, even when they're weird, and even when they're not quite right at the end of the day. That's provided you make an attempt to explain your point and face criticism. Otherwise, all you get is a ridicule. At least here at CERN, where jester is at loose.


Alejandro Rivero said...

Can I book some seminar room say next September? If you are interested on the bridge, I also got a Sbootstrap theory to sell you...

L. Riofrio said...

I'm not doing very well on your requirements. Any suggestions?

CarlBrannen said...

Hey, that was close to home! I'm an "amateur physicist". I wrote a paper on the neutrinos predicting their masses to an accuracy of 8 decimal places. I put it up on my website and didn't try to publish it, just went to some physics meetings and gave talks.

The result? The paper is cited in the published, peer reviewed physics literature four times, LOL.

Anonymous said...

And of course, there's the 'crackpot index' of J. Baez:

As in golf, lowest score wins (i.e., the higher your c. index, the less likely you'll be taken seriously).

Kea said...

Heh, Tommaso invited me to give a talk over your way. But since I rank quite highly on the crackpot index, you might want to have a few words with him.

JTankers said...

"...fringe or non-mainstream ideas are important, even when they're weird"

I recently read that after Ernst Mach died it was learned that he considered Einstein's ideas to be weird fringe paradoxical non-sense that would be proven wrong...

Unfortunate that Einstein worked so hard to try to win Ernst Mach's respect.

What I find weird is the reliance on the 1999 RHIC safety study, (
RHIC/docs/rhicreport.pdf), it did not address the safety of actually creating micro black holes on Earth at all, not possible mbh stability, capture rates or accretion rates...

Unsure why it seems to be so cool to just be un-concerned... Weird to me.

Anonymous said...

Hm, one way to state Moffat's idea is: nonlocality allows to avoid unitarity issues without introducing a Higgs, if you have a mass generation mechanism.

Could this be true?