Experimental sociology

In a a previous post, I wrote the following about Lubos Motl’s blog: I invite you to read it, first because it’s funny, second because posts at the so-called “reference frame” are known to mutate over time if it helps make the other person look dumb, so you might soon be reading something different…. I had based this on Bee’s word alone, and while Lubos Motl’s behavior was ground for concern, I still sort of regretted writing this.

Well, I should not have. I have been exchanging a few comments with Lubos, and I can confirm that at least two posts of mine have disappeared, and that many were rewritten (if only to insert “LM” comments in the middle of the text).

The missing post that annoys me the most was in response to:

LM: I’ve never said “Newton was wrong” in this debate and if you confused yourself with Newton or, indeed, with myself, you should probably find a physician.

To which I replied (from memory, since I did not save the post…):

Lubos wrote I’ve never said “Newton was wrong” in this debate

No, but you said that Cohen-Tannoudji and Carlo Rovelli were wrong, one of them a Nobel prize and both writing texts I had little trouble understanding (unlike yours, I might add). So I switched to Newton to make the following point more obvious, that even if their theories were wrong (something that you clearly did not explain too well), this doesn’t mean that we cannot learn from them.

if you confused yourself with Newton or, indeed, with myself, you should probably find a physician

Huh? Where did you find anything in what I wrote supporting that idea? You should apply to yourself the remove those insults that are unsupported by facts [This is what his comments page displays when you hit “Preview”]. Hint: you should probably find a physician is an insult, and you confused yourself with Newton or, indeed, with myself is not supported by facts.

This comment apparently did not please Mr Ubermensch. It’s no longer there. I know I have seen it multiple times, so it had been posted.

In other words, I can support Bee’s observation that Lubos Motl engages in censorship on his blog. As Carlo Rovelli told me, one has always to try. I tried, Needless to say, this was my last comment on his blog. And if I were you, I would not trust the words attributed to “Christophe de Dinechin” on that blog either… I left one last question:

Lubos wrote: I have almost certainly been the only person who has replied to virtually all of them in my whole life but I assure you, it is almost always a waste of time.

Why don’t we talk physics then, instead of wasting time on Slashdot-level arguments on who is the greatest physicist? And for the sake of simplicity, I will start with a paper you should know, the last paper of yours I could find on arXiv, hep-th/0606100.

In eq (2.1), the action you wrote is written using 4-coordinates (in dx) and a metric (in g). If I undertand your idea correctly, you observe that eq 3.1 is not an equation of motion if there is a dilaton field, and therefore predict a mass correction (3.12), and because of how it changes, a repulsive force (3.4) between such extremal black holes. I hope that I got that right.

Now, let’s imagine an experiment to detect this effect, assuming we can produce such extremal blackholes and everything… My question is: What physical measurements of “x” or mass or force would you consider valid for such an experiment? In other words, what are the constraints you think are necessary for “x” to be a space-time measurement, or for M to be a mass measurement? Do you think this is a relevant physics question that a layman is allowed to ask?

Should Lubos decides to answer that last question, i.e. to do some physics instead of wasting everybody’s time, any discussion will happen here, on this blog, and without censorship.

Voilà voilà…


Update: Lubos responded…

Here are his answers:

LM: you didn’t get anything right at all. What you write is pure junk, all the implications (dilaton has nothing whatsoever to do with arguments about the existence of mass corrections) and everything else. For example, 3.1 is an action, not an equation of motion. You’re about 15 years away from being able to read such papers, and this particular paper is certainly not among the most complex ones. Why don’t you just try to learn physics first instead of babbling nonsense all the time?

Crap. That will teach me to read an article in 5 minutes to be polite and play on the other guy’s field… Just reading the paper a tad bit more carefully shows that he’s right (more precisely, that there is also a mass correction in section 2). My bad. And it was a mistake to start the discussion with something as this or that model of blackhole anyway because it obscures the problem I wanted to talk about.

LM: a layman is allowed to ask it because he has a freedom of speech but everyone else can answer, for the same reason, that the question is silly. Mass is measured by apparata that measure mass such as scale, spring in the object’s gravity field, or mass spectrometer, or whatever. This question – how one measures masses – has nothing whatsoever to do with the paper. It is an elementary question that a lagging fifth grader should ask her teacher.

Here, on the other hand, I am not ready to concede the point at all. And it’s good for me, if Lubos is really as good a physicist as he thinks he is, because the naivete of his answer indicates I may have actually found something interesting… Obviously, telling me that we can measure the mass of any kind of black hole using a of scale is giving me a fifth-grader answer (really, think about it…), but that’s not really related to the point I want to make, and I really don’t need exotic objects like blackholes to make it anyway.

The essential question is not just: what physical processes will you pick to measure time or distance or mass or charge, but how to verify that the particular “clock” you chose is indeed measuring “time” and not, say, “earth rotation” or “decay of some atom population”, or anything that might be impacted by the conditions of your experiment. I thought my belabored attempt at formulating the question was worth being moved to its own thread.

One thought on “Experimental sociology

  1. That’s sad. I noticed when I was at TRF last time that apparently Haloscan now allows to modify comments? It’s a reason for me not to post comments, and doubt anything that I read. It’s just impossible to discuss this way.

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