Monday, December 5, 2016

Big money prizes for phony breakthrus

Mathematical physicist Peter Woit details the 2017 Breakthrough Prizes
These prizes are often awarded for ideas about the black hole information paradox, independent of whether these ideas work. Maldacena’s citation from 2012 tells us that he got the award partly for “resolving the black hole information paradox”, and the Strominger citation tells us that “His work hints at a solution to the famous ‘black hole information paradox’”. Polchinski is rewarded for ... show[ing] that the solution to the paradox supposedly given by Maldacena actually doesn’t work (not surprising, since it was never more than a speculation). If you’re a string theorist, you don’t actually need to solve a problem to get a prize
There is no black hole information paradox. And if there were, there would be no scientific way to resolve it.

It is the modern of equivalent of the supposed medieval debate over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. (I think that it is myth about medieval monks.)

Some clever physicists figured out that they could keep writing papers taking sides on this subject, and win prizes, even if other prize-winning papers take contrary views.


  1. Roger,
    Not only is the whole 'black hole information paradox' a purely metaphysical exercise to employ theoretical physicists, black holes themselves have yet to truly be discovered. I have spoken to astronomers and read a great deal about black holes. There really aren't any. I'm dead serious. Ask an astronomer to point to something and say with conviction, 'that is a black hole' (They point to quasars, or galactic cores, and say ambiguous things about stellar objects they can't explain, but that isn't proof of anything). They won't do it, primarily because they aren't really at all sure what a black hole will appear as. It's all 'artist's depictions' or stupid CGI warped star fields. I'm not in any way being anti-science. I'm being pro-evidence. Show me the black hole, not speculation. No show, then no go.

  2. Riemann Hyp: up to 10^13
    Goldbach Con: up to 10^18

    But medieval Scholastics never really debated angels and needles: