Wednesday, June 13, 2018

We dummies should not question the super-smart

Dr. Bee has written a book about failed theories in modern physics, and complains:
“By writing [this book], I waived my hopes of ever getting tenure.” ...

I am not tenured and I do not have a tenure-track position, so not like someone threatened me. I presently have a temporary contract which will run out next year. What I should be doing right now is applying for faculty positions. Now imagine you work at some institution which has a group in my research area. Everyone is happily producing papers in record numbers, but I go around and say this is a waste of money. Would you give me a job? You probably wouldn’t. I probably wouldn’t give me a job either. ...

I have never been an easy fit to academia. I guess I was hoping I’d grow into it, but with time my fit has only become more uneasy. At some point I simply concluded I have had enough of this nonsense. I don’t want to be associated with a community which wastes tax-money because its practitioners think they are morally and intellectually so superior that they cannot possibly be affected by cognitive biases. You only have to read the comments on this blog to witness the origin of the problem, as with commenters who work in the field laughing off the idea that their objectivity can possibly be affected by working in echo-chambers. I can’t even.
I haven't read her book, but it is definitely true that a huge amount of money is pumped into worthless theories, but the leading scholars will not tell the truth about them.

This triggers LuMo into one of his usual rants:
Less than 1,000 people are actually being paid as string theorists or something "really close" in the world now, and even if you realistically assume that the average string theorist is paid more than the average person, the fraction of the mankind's money that goes to string theory is some "one millionth" or so. Or 1/100,000 of the money that goes to porn or any other big industry. Moreover, the funds are allocated by special institutions or donors – they're too technical decisions that the taxpayer simply shouldn't make directly. ...

You don't really need to be a string theorist to understand that string theorists are the cream of the cream of the cream. Most people have met someone who belongs to the cream of the cream, e.g. an astronaut. Well, there's some extra selection related to the theoretical physics-related abilities needed to become a string theorist. ...

If someone has dedicated a few years to these matters and he has failed to learn string theory and to understand that it's the only known promising way to go beyond quantum field theory as of 2018, then I can assure you that his IQ is below 150. ...

If you investigate what smart enough people – who have cared about these matters – honestly think about string theory, you may really measure their intelligence in this way. The more they appreciate string theory, the smarter they are.
Okay, I admit it, my IQ is only 149, and I do not see how string theory offers any promise to move quantum field theory forward. Research in the field peaked in the 1990s, and it has not even made any significant progress in the last 20 years. The theory still has no known relationship to any observable phenomenon. It is just a mathematical idea that did not pan out.


  1. Notice how these thought twisters never mention the type of IQ test. They rarely ever reveal an actual test to prove they are smart rather than well educated. Most savants don't even have high IQs. Terry Tao: "an exceptional amount of intelligence has almost no bearing on whether one is an exceptional mathematician." Terry is completely correct about that.

    Math Prodigies: Average IQ= 140; Range= 134-147
    Music Prodigies: Average IQ=129; Range=108-142
    Art Prodigies: Average IQ= 108; Range=100-116

    "The first thing they noticed is the wide spread of IQ scores- ranging from 108 to 147. Consistent with the earlier work of David Henry Feldman and Martha Morelock, it appears that a high IQ is not necessary to be a prodigy. More telling, however, were the subtest scores. All of the prodigies showed uneven cognitive profiles. In fact, one prodigy obtained a total IQ score of 108 and a visual spatial IQ score of 71, which is worse than 97 percent of the general population. That didn't prevent him from winning a prestigious award for his jazz improvisational abilities, becoming the youngest person ever to perform with a well-known musician at one of the best know music venues in America! He also scored three films without any formal composition lessons. Again, this is consistent with prior research showing that balanced cognitive test profiles are more the exception than the rule among academically precocious students as well as students who are precocious in art and music. More striking is that every single prodigy scored off the charts in working memory -- better than 99 percent of the general population."

    Working memory was always my supposition. But here is the truth about published IQ scores:

    "Average score change from WPPSI / WISC to Stanford Binet form L-M (SB L-M) for this sample is 27.4+."

    I think people should be getting mandatory IQ tests just to humble them and put them in their place. Academia is full of posers.

  2. "You don't really need to be a string theorist to understand that string theorists are the cream of the cream of the cream."

    He doesn't seem to realize (by not knowing or not wanting to know) that higher IQ and math skills are not the only criteria for higher level problem solving in physics.

    There's an entire body of know-how, skills and talents concerning efficient creativity (not the same as mere creativity), built over the past 50 years in Design Sciences (my master degree).

    We need complementary skilled people working together, physics research needs to branch out and find new incentives, adjusting the modus operandi to the current challenges.

    If you want to learn and grow and become better at what you do as a researcher, go out of your comfort zone, absorb absorb absorb, and then come back a smarter man (or woman).

    Check a.o. pages 1-4 and references 2 and 3 here, if you are interested (It's a summary of 2 larger bodies of work, check p.5,6,7 and further) :


    The lesson learned a.o. is that integrating many wide range criteria, *and treating them on equal footing* (not just the ones you like or the ones you are good at - also see page 4), leads to more durable results (Theories which will stand the test of time longer in this case). Beauty is just one of them, but what is the worth of beauty in this context, if it is accompanied by ugly logic for instance ?

    It's a generalistic method, while integrating specialisms.


    Koenraad Van Spaendonck