On the decay of high-level physics into crackpotism

My initial dream was to become particle physicist. But it finally looks like a bad idea; better may be to avoid theoretical physics altogether. Here is why.

Here are thoughts I first wrote by email in French, under the title "Bad weather for physics"...

I explore the web, various blog articles of physicists of various sides, at war with each other... the supporters of string theory on one side, the opponents on the other. It seems that the golden age of the success of research in theoretical physics is behind us.

Someone had warned me not to embark into the ship of theoretical physics research when I was in Ulm. After all what I continue to observe, I still think he was right.

It seems that in recent times the main means of giving a public impression of having important things to say about advanced research in theoretical physics are:
  1. Hiding one's own weaknesses (to remain stalled in a field such as superstrings where almost anything serious has been said and there is no way to advance, or to develop other ideas with comparable weaknesses without admitting it, or plainly tell nonsensical bullshit)
  2. Criticizing the weaknesses of others. There can be much to say, it's easy ...
Blog post denouncing Smolin as playing the double game above, whose author (Sabine Hossenfelder) had been awarded the 1st prize in the 2014 FQXI essay contest (while Smolin proudly won the 2015 one) .

Lee Smolin may have been a good physicist at one time. Blog posts from Baez about him seem to respect him. But that is old, and it is on other subjects than those for which I see him behave in clearly non-scientific ways (and I guess many other physicists would also reject him as non-scientific by looking at him on these topics, not those which interested Baez).
The idea of a decay on the way, of someone who was a good physicist at one time may seem unbelievable, yet such a scenario is explicitly evoked by P. Woit about someone else : Expanding Crackpottery
"In recent years though, some theorists who definitely understand and have made contributions to modern physics have started promoting research which looks depressingly like the typical sad examples of “unconventional physics”. Many of the products of the ongoing multiverse mania fit into this category. Lubos is getting quite worried to see that a very talented and well-known leader of the string theory community, Erik Verlinde, seems to be engaging in this sort of research, and getting positive attention for it. Within a month of its appearance, Verlinde’s “Entropic Force” paper has already generated a dozen or so preprints from other physicists on the same topic. It could easily end up being the most influential (in the sense of heavily referenced) paper of 2010. Seeing this coming from a string theorist he admires is worrying Lubos and his correspondents." " I don’t understand why a smart, capable scientist is putting out this sort of paper, just as I don’t understand why a lot of other smart, capable people pursue multiverse pseudo-science."
Comment by "Bee" = Sabine Hossenfelder :
"What I find disturbing is how quickly people are jumping on the topic. I mean, look at this, it’s a matter of weeks! The thing goes through the blogs, is in New Scientist, and so on, and so on. I mean, really, what’s this?"
Fabio :
"Its not just formal theory that is having quality control problems. A large portion of the phenomenology community spends it’s time shamelessly chasing the statistically insignificant experimental anomaly du jour. Some phenomenologists I know have privately indicated disgust at the situation. I’m not sure exactly how Lee Smolin can be blamed for this, but there must be a way, because he is the devil. But citations for crappy papers are better than no citations for crappy papers not written, so it will continue to get worse before it gets better."
Lubos is himself a strange dude, far worse than me to "insult" people with whom he disagrees, and not always wisely.

Blog Wars: Woit and Smolin vs Motl
"— I believe [Lubos Molt] does physics a disservice by ranting andspewing bile on research programs outside his own field.
— However much vitriol he expresses them with, his opinions represent virtually to the letter the mainstream view, and this is really all that should matter"
Lubos himself was a good physicist in some respects, and degenerated in other respects, particularly his support for the Bogdanov brothers by his book marked by the open secret that it was actually co-authored by the Bogdanov themselves, which completely discredits him. But even if there is some junk in his articles, there is some good too. Up to everyone to sort it out. In particular, he does not like Woit, of whom I have now a good opinion based on his article I read in the FQXI essay contest, which I ranked among the best, contrary to that of Smolin.

And just as I agreed with Lubos in his defense of Platonism in mathematics against Rovelli's article (and I think many mathematicians would agree), he seems to have some relevant remarks in his criticisms of Smolin:
The page quoted by Woit : Aspects of expanding crackpottery in physics
and others:
Lee Smolin: Time Reborn
Fermi kills all Lorentz-violating theories
Why Lee Smolin is an immoral double-faced fraudster and liar
See also a discussion

There is also quite an amount of crackpotism in the web site by Samy Maroun, sponsor of the center for quantum physics where some physics celebrities are working : Penrose, Smolin, Rovelli...
Penrose is a famous case of a once good physicist turned crackpot. Rovelli, other great figure of Loop Quantum Gravity with Smolin, and who co-authored a crackpot article with Samy Maroun, also practices crackpotism in philosophical aspects of mathematics. His "challenge" is something I precisely work to answer by my site, as I work to focus on the most important concepts at the foundation of maths and show their elegance (natural simplicity and at the same time, generality). But I guess he won't be interested to know my answer; he only cared to proudly share one-way his ignorance about the possible answers to his challenge.

In a report by R.C. Henry, "physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg revealed in a Physical Review Letter, on 30 January 1989, his fundamental lack of understanding of the use of Hilbert space in Quantum Mechanics — as was pointed out to all the world (in PRL exactly one year later, 28 January 1990) by his colleague — just down the hall from him — Joseph Polchinski"
Related pages: Introduction (Leaving academic "research" behind - From physics to mathematical logic) - irrationality and pseudo-science - FQXI - Nottale - Smolin - materialism - Crazy censorship in Physicsforums - quantum idealism and science

Table of contents : Foundations of physics