An Outsider’s Theory of Everything

[Update (5/29): Eric Weinstein will be giving a follow-up lecture this Friday (5/31) at 2pm at Oxford's Mathematical Institute in lecture room L2 (which, I believe, is at location 22 on this map).

Physicists and mathematicians in the area! I hope some of you will be able to attend, and will post your thoughts / reactions online. Note: if you are friends with an Oxford Physicist, please invite them to attend this lecture -- this is apparently a necessary step. Update update (5/30): see also the update at the end of section 2, below.]

Original Post:

So, a couple of days ago, a fellow named Eric Weinstein gave a lecture at Oxford in which he outlined a theory that he has apparently been working on for a number of years. The theory, as I understand it, is an attempt at a Theory of Everything — specifically, a theory that would unify the standard model of particle physics with general relativity, explain dark matter and dark energy, and basically provide a synthesis that would resolve many of the big questions facing physics today.

This sort of thing is always exciting. But this proposal gained particular attention for the fact that Eric Weinstein is not a Physics professor. Yes, he has a PhD in math from Harvard, but he has been out of academia for twenty years, and his day job is at a hedge fund in New York.

The talk was the subject of two pieces that ran in the Guardian on the same day as the lecture. One was written by Marcus du Sautoy, a mathematician, and the Oxford professor who invited Weinstein to give the lecture. In it, he waxes enthusiastic at length about the beauty of Weinstein’s theory, how the theory, if correct, is much more elegant than the standard model, with certain constants and masses emerging naturally out of the theory, rather than having to be added on in an ad hoc manner. du Sautoy does not vouch for the correctness of the model, but he notes that it has that quality of beauty and elegance that makes a theory in mathematical physics smell right.

The second piece was written by Alok Jha, a science writer. In that piece, the emphasis is a bit more on the human angle, that Weinstein is an academic outsider. It quotes David Kaplan, a physicist from Johns Hopkins who has seen at least some of Weinstein’s work, as saying that it is phenomenal “that someone from outside academia could put together something so coherent.”

Now, in an ideal world of science, no one would give a crap whether or not this guy was in academia, or even whether or not he had a PhD. But, in this world, maybe it is not surprising that the initial response was an awkward combination of excitement about the lone-wolf scientist and benign condescension.

Also not surprising was the second response. Fairly quickly, a number of posts went up around the web lodging complaints about the lecture and the Guardian articles. Andrew Pontzen, a cosmologist at Oxford, wrote a piece in the New Scientist titled “Weinstein’s Theory of Everything is Probably Nothing.” Jennifer Ouellette wrote a blog post at Scientific American titled “Dear Guardian: You’ve Been Played.” PZ Myers writes simply that “This is not science.

So what’s the backlash about? Well, I think there are a few different complaints, some more legitimate than others, but the problem is that they all get sort of tangled up together. What I’d like to do here is try to separate those complaints, and evaluate each one on its merits.

1. Where’s the Paper?

The overriding complaint seems to be the fact that, as of this time, there is no publicly available version of Weinstein’s theory, so no one is able to dig into the math and evaluate it. According to du Sautoy’s Guardian piece, Weinstein plans to put the work up on the arXiv, but has not yet done so.

Now, at first glance, that seems pretty bad. I mean, you can’t just go around talking about your research until it has been published, right? Or at least you have to make it available, like someplace on the arXiv, preferably well in advance of your talk, so that people can review the work and come to the talk prepared to ask technical questions.

That all makes perfect sense, and the academic community is completely justified in being outraged about the way that Weinstein violated procedure.

Except . . . bullshit.

The first comment (by “Unity”) on PZ Myers’s post notes that

“This is not how anyone does science.”

Except mathematicians.

Other [than] the publicity, most of which is speculative at this stage, there is nothing particularly exceptional in Weinstein having only discussed his ideas with du Sautoy or in the decision to start floating his ideas in a series of talks without first having published.

This is often how mathematicians operate, on the clear understanding that what they are present is, at this stage, provisional and that publication and peer review will necessarily follow – that is, of course, unless someone spots a serious flaw during the talk and raise it during the Q&A.

In mathematical terms, what Weinstein is doing at this stage is equivalent to putting forward a conjecture, so it necessarily has to be understood that the actual science will follow, and in that sense its really not so unusual at all.

In fact, I think we can go a step further. This is how ALL OF SCIENCE operates. Just think back to the last time you went to a conference. Did any of the talks include data that was not yet published? Or did pretty much ALL of the talks include data that was not yet published?

If someone gives a seminar in your department, and they present their latest work, do you sputter with rage: “How dare this person present research without providing a written copy to the audience in advance”?

No, you don’t do that, because you’re not an asshole. If they present something really exciting, you ask them some questions. Maybe you walk up to them after the talk, and you ask them to send you a copy of the manuscript when it is ready.

Now, should physicists around the world drop what they’re doing on the basis of this talk? Of course not. These, like all scientific claims, should be treated skeptically. But no one should be running around pretending that giving the lecture represents some sort of ethical violation.

2. The Physicists were not invited.

According to Andrew Pontzen’s piece:

Yesterday Weinstein, encouraged by du Sautoy, went public with a loud splash in British newspaper The Guardian and in a 2-hour presentation in the main physics lecture theatre here at the University of Oxford. “I’m trying to promote, perhaps, a new way of doing science. Let’s start with really big ideas, let’s be brave and let’s have a discussion,” du Sautoy told The Guardian.

Sounds fair enough, until you discover that no one thought to invite any of Oxford’s, er, physicists.

While Weinstein was delivering his lecture, the theoretical physicists were in a different room listening to a different speaker discuss a different topic (a new source of CP violation in charm physics and its implication for the unitarity triangle, if you’re curious). Only afterwards did anyone spot news of the revelatory talk that had taken place next door.

Pontzen’s complaint was repeated in the other pieces.

Okay, so that’s pretty bad, right? He’s giving a lecture on a new model for physics, but did not invite any physicists!

Except that, um, what?

I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something here, but Pontzen almost makes it sound as if this lecture was kept secret. I mean, what does it even MEAN to say that the physicists were not invited? In my experience, lectures are announced via pre-existing e-mail lists, and by flyers stuck on bulletin boards. Did these things not happen?

Also in my experience, the only time you go around and explicitly invite people to a lecture is when you are worried that there will not be enough people in the audience, and it will be embarrassing for the speaker and the organizer.

It’s a little bit like when your kid has a book report due the next day, and they’re all, “Why didn’t you make me start my homework earlier?”

Weinstein was also apparently scheduled to give a more technical version of the talk the day after the big public lecture. This would have been after Pontzen published his complaint. Did the physicists attend the next day’s lecture? The one geared towards presenting more of the technical details?

Or is there something I’m missing about how Oxford works? Are science lectures typically by invitation only? Do you get a hand stamp?

[Update (5/30): The following correction has been attached to the New Scientist piece by Andrew Pontzen:

Correction: When this article was first published on 24 May 2013, it stated that no one thought to invite physicists at the University of Oxford. New Scientist acknowledges this is not true and regrets any embarrassment caused. Marcus du Sautoy had emailed the head of department asking for the talk to be advertised. Du Sautoy was unaware that this advertisement was not widely circulated or posted on the internal website. Du Sautoy had also sent A3 posters for display in the physics department and advertised the talk in other media. Andrew Pontzen would like to apologise to Marcus Du Sautoy for not investigating these circumstances more thoroughly.

That makes sense to me. Also, full credit to Pontzen for the apology here.

Also, according to a comment from "oxfordanon" on Peter Woit's post on this, Weinstein's Thursday lecture (at 4pm) conflicted with the particle theory group's long-standing weekly seminar slot (Thursdays at 4:15). So, there's maybe a combination of unfortunate scheduling and a breakdown in the flow of information -- both common failures in bureaucracies, but nothing here to require, or even imply, that anyone was acting in bad faith.]

3. Who is this guy, anyway?

The complaints and criticisms don’t come out and say, “This guy is not an academic. He’s not part of the club. He’s a nobody.”

Of course, in polite society — or even in academia — you can’t come right out and say that sort of thing. It makes you sound like a bemonocled nineteenth-century cartoon villain.

But, there does seem to be a bit of an undercurrent of that sentiment.

Here’s Pontzen, for instance:

Until yesterday Weinstein was largely unknown to us. He has a PhD in mathematical physics from Harvard University, but left academia years ago and now makes his living as an economist and consultant at a New York hedge fund.

That is not to say he doesn’t have anything to contribute, but he will have to go through the proper channels.

“Proper channels” Ha!

I take it back, apparently you CAN sound like a bemonocled nineteenth-century villain!

4. Excessive Media Hype

If there is a legitimate complaint to be had, it might be here. To my taste, both Guardian pieces overreach a bit in their efforts to convince me how cool the theory is. On the other hand, both pieces also acknowledge that the paper is not out yet, that the work has been seen by only a few people (and that they have not deeply evaluated the work), and that we have a long way to go before we find out if this theory is going to have legs or not.

Jennifer Ouellette’s criticism focuses on the media coverage. In particular, she calls out Alok Jha for deflecting criticism by preemptively playing the non-academic victim card:

Furthermore, the entire tail end of the article undercuts everything Kaplan and al-Khalili say by quoting du Sautoy (and, I’m sad to say, Frenkel) at length, disparaging the “Ivory Tower” of academia and touting this supposedly new, democratic way of doing physics whereby anyone with an Internet connection and a bit of gumption can play with the big boys.

It’s disingenuous — and pretty savvy, because it cuts off potential criticism at the knees. Now any physicist (or science writer) who objects to the piece can immediately be labeled a closed-minded big ol’ meanie who just can’t accept that anyone outside the Physics Club could make a worthwhile contribution.

Now, it’s hard to disagree with that. Theories need to stand on their own merits. In an ideal world, your work should not get treated with kid gloves just because you’re a non-academic, just as you should not get special treatment by virtue of having a prestigious professorship.

So, what are these disingenuous quotes from du Sautoy and UC Berkeley mathematician Edward Frenkel that make it impossible to criticize Jha or Weinstein? Let’s have a look, shall we:

“I’m trying to promote, perhaps, a new way of doing science. Let’s start with really big ideas, let’s be brave and let’s have a discussion,” says du Sautoy. “Science is very much an evolutionary process and [Weinstein's] is such a wide-ranging theory and involves such a wide area of mathematics and physics, this is an invitation to say, ‘This is speculative and it’s claiming a lot so let’s see where it can go.’”

Whatever happens, says Frenkel, Weinstein is an example of how science might change in future. “I find it remarkable that Eric was able to come up with such beautiful and original ideas even though he has been out of academia for so long (doing wonderful things in other areas, such as economics and finance). In the past week we have learned about an outstanding result about prime numbers proved by a mathematician who had been virtually unknown, and now comes Eric’s lecture at Oxford.

“I think this represents a new trend. It used to be that one had to be part of an academic hub, such as Harvard or Oxford, to produce cutting-edge research. But not any more. Part of the reason is the wide availability of scientific information on the internet. And I think this is a wonderful development, which should be supported.

“I also see two lessons coming from this. The first is for the young generation: with passion and perseverance there is no limit to what you can do, even in high-end theoretical science. The other lesson is for me and my colleagues in academia – and I say this as someone who on most days takes an elevator to his office in an Ivory Tower, as it were – we should be more inclusive and more open to ideas which come from outside the standard channels of academia, and we’ll be better off for it.”

Umm, okay. Obviously. I mean, we have an acknowledgement that information is now widely available, and a suggestion that people should be more open — or, as Ouellette puts it, “touting this supposedly new, democratic way of doing physics whereby anyone with an Internet connection and a bit of gumption can play with the big boys.”

Something here is disingenuous, anyway.

She follows up with this:

Do I sound a little angry? It’s closer to irritation. I’m currently at a conference exploring the frontiers of cosmology and theoretical physics at the University of California, Davis, where for the past several days, some of the top physicists in the world have been vigorously debating all kinds of wildly creative, speculative, alternative ideas about inflation, dark matter, dark energy, the multiverse, string theory, and so forth, and the implications for the various theoretical models in light of the latest experimental results from the Planck mission. Two weeks ago, I was at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics for a week-long conference in which physicists grappled with fitting their theoretical models to confusing results from a number of dark matter detection experiments.

This is what truly free and open scientific discussion of brave/bold new ideas looks like.

Well, I certainly hope that none of these top physicists spoke about any ideas for which there was not a preprint available!

To conclude

So, is this going to be the Theory of Everything that unifies physics and earns Weinstein the Nobel prize? Heck if I know. Statistically speaking, most efforts like this don’t pan out. On the other hand, sometimes they do, and the ones that pan out in the end look an awful lot like the ones that don’t at this stage.

I’ve never met Eric, although I’ve interacted with him a bit online. I know several people who know him, and the story from all of them echoes the image presented in all of these stories: he’s a really smart guy, and not a crackpot. So, this is at least a serious attempt at a theory, and if you’re someone out there with the skills and knowledge to evaluate it, you won’t be wasting your time by having a look.

Hopefully, the preprint will hit the arXiv soon, and people can start digging into the math. And, if that math holds up under the first rounds of scrutiny, hopefully the top physicists will engage with Weinstein in a free and open scientific discussion — maybe even at a conference.

And hopefully that discussion will be a little bit less dismissive and condescending than what we’ve seen so far.

[Update (5/30): There's an excellent post from Peter Woit here, including a great discussion in the comments.

Zen Faulkes also has a nice post here.]

28 thoughts on “An Outsider’s Theory of Everything

  1. In my experience, lectures are announced via pre-existing e-mail lists, and by flyers stuck on bulletin boards. Did these things not happen?

    I don’t know anything directly, but reading between the lines, the seminar was advertised within the maths department there, so word might not have got out to the physicists.

    An alternative theory – it was announced to the physicists, but they didn’t notice.

    • @Bob, good point. I’ll bet you’re right.

      That certainly would suggest that there were (or should have been) mathematicians in the room who were in a position to judge the work. If true, that adds another layer of disingenuous to Pontzen’s implication that the lecture was explicitly set up to avoid interaction with knowledgeable experts.

  2. Well written! Very valid points. However, I would like to say that Eric R Weinstein is an outsider only from the perspective of the “insiders” who hold monopoly over physics. His most recent (and current) work re-examining th e foundations of economic theory where he applies the math from gauge theories to economics is not too separated that his math skills must be well rehearsed (Probably more so than the average physicist because Weinstein has put his math where his mouth is). It is also very likely that it is his work in economics that has inspired his theory.

  3. The reaction of the academia is typical. If you’re not part of it, the validity any thoughts or insight is preemptively shot down. This is not science. All that is required of a theory is that is describes, explain some aspect of physical realty, and makes testable predictions that are original to it. The origin of the theory, if it was treated using the scientific method, has no bearing on its validity. Neither can a theory be judged within the framework of another theory which axioms are different and likely exclusive.
    That said, I understand the reaction of the academia. Every day some crackpot proposes a “theory” that will unify GR and QM. The vast majority can be dismissed easily as not being consistent with observational and|or experimental data. But what the academia fails to recognize is that, by far, the vast majority of crackpot theories originate from within the academia itself.

    • Amen!

      Your second point, especially, is one that I think a lot of people just don’t get. Yes, there are a lot of uncredentialed people out there proposing crappy theories. And so, it seems reasonable to be extra skeptical of ideas coming from outside the academy.

      But . . . BUT . . . most of the really exciting, groundbreaking stuff that comes out of universities, and garners a lot of fawning admiration from the science press, ALSO turns out to be wrong. And yet, somehow, that never translates into a conventional wisdom that says, “Gee, that came from a university, treat it with skepticism.” See, e.g., half of what gets published in Science and Nature.

      • Exactly. In physics, it is now common to have theories that are dispensed from having anything to say about the real world. The mathematics have becomes so abstract as to have lost contact with reality. The academia talks about string theory, super-symmetry, multiverses as if they were fact when all these so-called theories fail to make any testable predictions. Such ideas would never have been considered if they had emerged outside the academic world.

  4. Points well taken in the abstract. Though I’m not sure this is the correct interpretation of the events in this case. Weinstein has left academia as a profession, but clearly he hasn’t left the social and intellectual circles. In fact, he obviously enjoys an academic circle that would be the envy of any professor of physics. So, my reading of the reaction is that (some) people are annoyed that someone with connections just lands a major lecture at Oxford to talk about ideas that no one but his friends has ever seen or without even an outline paper/preprint that people can actually evaluate, and all that with a publicity blitz that probably outstrips most papers in the “tabloids”. I am not saying that Weinstein and his friends were wrong to arrange the roll out of his ideas in this fashion (hey, at least the ideas are getting out), but I think they could’ve done this with a lot less controversy about the “meta” aspects (e.g., whether someone without an academic appointment is allowed to do science, which obviously is a stupid question), if only they took a bit more care (e.g., coincided the talk with the posting of the preprint, so people would be able/be forced to look at the actual work). Instead, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to play up the insider/outsider aspect, which I don’t think fits this situation very well.

    • @Erol, great points.

      Yes, even though he is not in academia, he certainly has an academic pedigree and academic connections, without which du Sautoy probably would not even have sat down with him to discuss his work, much less invite him to give a lecture at Oxford.

      And yes, if everyone involved had asked for my advice (which no one did), I would have argued in favor of putting something up on the arXiv maybe a couple of weeks in advance of the talk. Or, if the talk was going to come first, I would have argued that it would be best if the Guardian did not run its articles until after the paper was available.

      So, I stand by the argument that there is nothing wrong with giving a lecture on material before any sort of preprint or outline is available. But, yes, I think doing the publicity push before the paper was made available was a mistake, and I can’t blame anyone for being annoyed about that.

      Also, I suspect that you may be right about the annoyance about connections. However, in my experience, people being invited to give lectures on the basis of their connections seems to account for about 70% of academic lectures. Usually it does not result in anything more than under-the-breath grumbling. So, while that may have fed into the annoyance, I suspect it was the media coverage that brought that annoyance out in public.

      Also a good point about the fact that the two Guardian pieces play up the insider/outsider angle (which, as an aside, I am already so tired of). That may help to explain why some of the criticisms had a flavor of that angle as well. People are annoyed about the publicity blitz, but the framing of the original articles means that the insider/outsider looms up in their minds and soaks into their response, whether or not they actually had any objections along those lines.

      Great points!

  5. Along the lines of “Who’s this guy?” there is another story:

    “The stereotype, outmoded though it is, is that new mathematical discoveries emerge from the minds of dewy young geniuses. But Zhang is over 50. What’s more, he hasn’t published a paper since 2001. Some of the world’s most prominent number theorists have been hammering on the bounded gaps problem for decades now, so the sudden resolution of the problem by a seemingly inactive mathematician far from the action at Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford came as a tremendous surprise.”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/do_the_math/2013/05/yitang_zhang_twin_primes_conjecture_a_huge_discovery_about_prime_numbers.single.html

  6. I still can’t find any actual paper on his theory . No information whatsoever about it is available on the internet , no recording or transcript of his lecture . What’s that saying ? Weinstein coming from american culture , it might be he is holding back his theory until it’s proprely patented ?
    Ok , actually any word about it , except the du Sautoy’s word that this is a valid theory , would be appreciated . Anyone know any source where we could actualy find out what Weinstein’s theory looks like ?

    • There’s a promise that the paper will be posted to the arXiv, but I don’t have any sense of how long we’re going to have to wait for that. I doubt that it is specifically a patent issue, as I don’t think there is anything in there that would be patentable, but there may be a reluctance to put stuff out too early out of concern about getting proper credit, which is sort of analogous.

      Interesting point about a recording of the lecture, or at least some commentary on it from someone who attended. As a lecture that was specifically geared toward public outreach, it seems like something that you would record and make available, but looking at the website (http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/simonyi-lectures) it seems that the 2012 lecture is the only one where a recording was posted.

      I would love to see a summary or opinion from someone in the physics or math community who attended either this lecture, or the more technical follow-up lecture the following morning. Surely there must me someone out there who could comment on their impressions.

  7. When Andrew Wiles gave his 1993 Cambridge lectures that included Fermat’s Last Theorem, there was a flurry of detailed technical internet posts on their contents by other mathematicians, long before any paper was available to the public as I recall. Curious that this Oxford lecture hasn’t gotten the same commentary.

  8. Jon, I think that there is room to be a bit irritated at how this whole thing has unfolded. I found out about it from an online blurb in New Scientist. Awfully tantalizing, this new theory of everything. Explains dark matter and dark energy, unites general relativity and quantum mechanics. Wow. That seems like a huge theoretical advance. Then come to find that the author is apparently not a publishing researcher in the area, has only discussed in detail the ideas with a handful of people, and there is no written manuscript. Then why, exactly, am I reading about this? I’m a Bayesian, and my prior is that folks making claims in a field where they haven’t published, haven’t produced a manuscript and have only discussed the ideas with a few others, well my prior is that it is likely a load of hooey. Add to this the extraordinary nature of the claims, and it really does become fantastical. If he’s been working on it so long, then it isn’t too unreasonable to expect that he might have a short manuscript that he’s willing to share. And if he’s worried about priority, then I can think of no better way than posting on the arXiv (where it is unquestionably dated) to cement precedence. You offer the excuse that at conferences many folks present work and results that aren’t yet published. Sure. And almost always, these new results are made by established researchers with a history in the field, and the claims are much, much more modest. (ie, the transition temperature of this superconducting materials is 2 degrees higher than previously thought.) It doesn’t seem to be too much to ask that some details be provided with a claim of a new theory of everything that solves many of the quandaries of modern physics. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Just sayin’.

    • @Dowman,

      I’m sympathetic to that point of view. I’ve continued thinking on this since posting, and in light of some of the comments, including yours.

      I agree that there is a legitimate point of annoyance here — the press coverage should not have predated an arXiv posting. In fact, I have been, and continue to be, annoyed by the fact that there is not something up on the arXiv. If I were rewriting the post today, I would probably emphasize that more under point 4 (maybe I’ll include an update once I’m fairly certain that my opinion has stabilized). However, I think that I would still stand by points 1, 2, and 3.

      I’m not sure that I buy that new results are usually discussed at conferences by established people. At the big Evolution meeting, most of the talks are by grad students, and many of those talks are by people who have not yet published a paper in their careers.

      Your point that those claims are typically more modest, and less likely to come out of nowhere, is a good one though. However, I’m inclined to interpret that simply as a feature of the fact that Eric is not and has not been in academia. So, he has not been under pressure to come up with things to publish for the sake of publishing things. In my estimation, about 90% of the papers published in every field simply do not need to be published. And, if people saved up their work until they actually had something interesting to say, it would be a heck of a lot easier to navigate the literature. Unfortunately, the incentive system within academia is such that we don’t get to ask ourselves, “Does this need to be pubished?” We have to ask ourselves instead, “Could this possibly be published?”

      So, yes, maybe his lack of publication record is a legitimate red flag. Or maybe it is simply a reflection that he has been working without the constant pressure to identify Minimum Publishable Units in that work. Once the paper is out, which of these two explanations is correct will probably be crystal clear in retrospect.

      I’m also a Bayesian (pragmatically, rather than philosophically, speaking). My initial prior was also, “Almost certainly a load of hooey.” However, a number of people, some of whom I know and whose judgment I trust, have assured me that Eric is really, really smart, and that he’s serious. My updated prior is that this work is not likely to be mathematically incompetent, nor is it likely to be batshit crazy and/or obviously wrong on its face. (Although I fully acknowledge that you have no reason to embrace my updated prior.)

      Even my updated prior is something like this:

      90% Close inspection will reveal flaws or limitations or features that make this work irrelevant to, or unhelpful for, the analysis and interpretation of physical phenomena

      9% The basic idea will be sound and interesting. Years more work by dozens or hundreds of people will be required to check for hidden holes, and to tease out explicit empirically testable predictions.

      1% Once the full theory is available, it will kick physics wide open, and we’ll have to start rewriting all of the textbooks.

      So, what does that mean for the rest of us? Well, at the moment, I don’t think that anyone in the physics or math communities should trust that Eric has the answer, nor should they alter anything about what they’re working on. The next thing to happen HAS to be the posting to the arXiv. Then, we’ll see what happens.

  9. I wonder how common is the business of spending time in Wall Street before returning to science. I worked in a group at the Naval Research Lab, where we took on a postdoc who had spent several years in the financial sector after his Ph.D. Given the attractiveness of physicists and mathematicians to the ‘quants’ on the Street, I should think this happens a lot. After all, it’s a way to build up your bank account before returning to the squalor of scientific life. Perhaps Weinstein’s case seems unusual because of its high profile, while many quants return under the radar.

    • Yeah, I don’t know. It does seem like a good path for some people. By first establishing financial security, it would put you in a position to pursue your research and maybe be buffered against some of the trials of academia. The trick is probably not letting your lifestyle expand to fill out your paycheck during your time on Wall Street — hard to scale back.

  10. My point here was that when there’s such a huge breaktrough , and you have a “Professor for the Public Understanding of Science” promoting it , one is to expect a coverage like it was in the case of “faster then light” neutrinos . At least a recording , or a transcript , if (for whatever resaon) you could not have a public stremanig , as in the case of CERN (I remind you , du Sautoy has “public” in his title) .
    You can’t yust say , I have formulated theroy of everything , and then keep quiet .

    My bet is , there’s something else behind all this , Weinstein is certainly a smart guy (hell , he runs a hedge fund , those are people that run this crazy world) , but there’s certainly another agenda behind this .
    If he had The Theory , he would have published it .

    Another interesting thing , we don’t see bunch of people tweeting , bloging , or reporting over his lecture . If someone who was there comprehanded his theory , why don’t we see news bloated with reports of it ?

    Guess we wont see any hype after tommorow’s lecture either.

    • Yes. Public posting of the video of last Thursday’s lecture seems to be the obvious right move here. There seems to be video available of last year’s public lecture, but none of the previous years. So, don’t know what that’s about.

      If the physicists didn’t know about Thursday’s lecture (for whatever reason), that might explain why we did not see any expert commentary at that point. However, he supposedly gave a more technical version of the presentation the next day. Every mathematician and physicist at Oxford was certainly aware of this by that point. So, I think your point is particularly valid after Friday. I was also really surprised by the absence of public reaction at that point.

      Hopefully, after tomorrow’s lecture we’ll hear SOMETHING — even if it is just “sounds like bullshit to me” or “interesting, but there was really not enough information in the lecture to allow me to make a judgement” or “well, obviously, this is derivative of something that I published ten years ago, harumph, harumph, harumph.”

      So, we’ll see. If you’re right, and there is still radio silence from local experts after tomorrow’s lecture, that would certainly suggest that something is up with something, but I would not be able even to begin to speculate as to what either of those somethings might be.

      NB: This lack of ability even to begin speculating will probably not stop me from speculating. :)

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