The Higgs Fake: How Particle Physicists Fooled the Nobel Committee Paperback – October 9, 2013
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About the Author
- Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 9, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 152 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1492176249
- ISBN-13 : 978-1492176244
- Item Weight : 6.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.35 x 8.5 inches
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
Top reviews from the United States
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Unzicker is a science journalist that has been tracking these ‘atom-smashing’ projects for several years and is almost unique in challenging the researchers both directly and in print. As a result, he is now able to share his deep criticisms with the general-public, some of whom have been long captivated by this modern saga. He does a magnificent, ‘no-holds’ hatchet job on this merry band of 10,000 bandits led by famous academics with super-sized egos, such as Gell-Mann, Glashow, Lederman, Ting, Rubbia, etc. (all well rewarded with Nobel prizes and huge salaries) while promoting abstractions that can best be understood as modern theology. The whole process illustrates consensus construction (‘group-think’) through sociological pressures. This project is one of today’s major secret scandals.
Far too many careers in physics, over the last 50 years, have been constructed around these endeavours, so that few professional physicists dare join Unzicker and risk their own careers by publicly criticizing what has become the orthodox mainstream of academic physics. As one who decided many years ago that modern physics had just become a “math game” and resigned from professional physics to pursue real world opportunities, I have no hesitation in adding my informed support to Unzicker’s attacks on “baloney”.
I share Unzicker’s respect for the ‘giants’ of quantum mechanics (Dirac, Einstein, Bohr, Pauli, de Broglie, etc.) who moved our investigations down to the atomic level in the 1920s and 1930s. This reductionist program went off the rails when the search for smaller and smaller components of matter was pushed below the nuclear level while many unsolved problems still remained at the atomic level. In fact, the whole research program needs to be reversed and science needed to start investigating the synthetic challenge of how larger and larger aggregations of matter arise in nature. Even the “second simplest” atom (namely helium) has resisted insightful investigations that were so fruitful with the simple two-body hydrogen atom. Indeed, contrary to modern mythology, quantum mechanics itself is still riven with massive problems of its own interpretation (such as ‘waves’ and ‘spin’); when the truth is that all we have are “mathematical recipes” for calculating simple results in trivial situations. These were the challenges facing the quantum giants when they died but the following generations quickly avoided these deep problems and substituted massive (and expensive) machinery to continue smashing matter into increasingly ephemeral fragments. These never-seen (imaginary) ‘particles’ are simply bundles of imaginary (unobservable) mathematical properties, such as: strangeness, isospin, colour, fractional electric charge, which are all localized to a point (thus particle), so the mathematics of field theory may then be invoked. Unzicker summarizes all this quark quirkiness as “eightfold crap” [p. 104].
Unzicker loves to contrast this earlier QM search for meaning with today’s invention of these fictitious, short-lived “particles”. These lie at the heart of ‘The Standard Model’ with its hundreds of arbitrary parameters, not least of which are the masses (or even mass ratios) of these so-called ‘particles’ – a key physical concept (‘inertial mass’) at the heart of physics since Newton’s revolutionary theories around 1700. As few realize, the mathematics of field theory cannot explain ANY mass, so why the invention of a new field – the Higgs “boson” should ever have been thought to provide an answer has long been a mystery to me. Unzicker does a lovely dissection in his chapter 11 of the nonsense thrown up in this area, such as “symmetry-breaking” mechanisms, while failing to predict a single mass anywhere in the Standard Model; the foundational reason for this whole expensive exercise. Few physicists today dare criticize the primary mathematical toolset of theoretical physics, namely field theory, even though it is intrinsically riddled with self-contradictory infinities (except for finite crystal models in Solid-State theory). Every student selected to study physics today has to be at the high end of mathematical ability, so that PhD students in theoretical physics are simply applied mathematicians; today’s intuitives, like those earlier giants, such as Einstein and Rutherford with their huge intuitions for nature, are no longer given a chance to research the modern world.
The extensive use of super-computers for simulations and data analysis mean that few can check these calculations; indeed, experience with large commercial software programs implies that there are probably very many software bugs hidden in these millions of lines of computer-code that remain uncovered for years. Unzicker does a thorough job exposing the great likelihood that almost all these Nobel-earning “discoveries” are probably no more than instrumental artifacts due to selective data filtering based on anticipated underlying assumptions, such as the decay of unmeasurable, electrically neutral (invisible) intermediaries. What is never emphasized is that all we may be seeing in these super, high-energy collisions are ‘harmonics’ of complex interactions: effectively, just “wiggles on wobbles” – not new particles at all, especially as the inelastic “scattering process is not understood” [p.85].
Even Unzicker himself gets caught up in the mania for numbers that were assumed by Enlightenment mathematicians (like Newton and Galileo) to characterize nature when most people would be just satisfied with greater insight built on new (and often) simplifying assumptions. Just because a few experiments agree to huge precision with measurements does not mean that our theories are on the right track: Ptolemy’s model was vastly better (judged by numerical confirmation) than Copernican models. Unzicker also skewers several of today’s ‘pop’ physicists for their fatuous remarks, such as Brian Cox’s comment that: “The Higgs particle is one of the most important discoveries in the history of science, on equal footing with the electron.” [p. 130]. As Unzicker points out, there have been no new technologies arising from all of this CERN particle research, while the electron transformed the world within 20 years of its discovery.
Unzicker has annoyed people by pointing out that: “particle physics has come close to astrology.” [p. 124] but I view far too much of modern science, especially high-energy physics and cosmology, as retreating into its earlier obsessions with theology, including the origin of the universe and the foundation of reality. How anyone can give credence to invented particles like W bosons or ‘top’ quarks which exist for times too short to cross a proton [p. 43], never mind a human scale experimental detector, is beyond me. This really sounds like counting angels on the heads of very small pins. Furthermore, anyone relying on one special pair of invisible photons, out of hundreds of billions, to confirm the nature of reality should be awarded The Cross of St. Michael for proving the religious foundations of nature itself. Until the Renaissance, only the Vatican could fund thousands of highly educated specialists to investigate reality but they were never tempted to explode St. Peter’s Cathedral to unravel the mysteries of the world. How much more useful to everyone if all this academic brainpower (and billions of dollars) were to be focused on the real problems of the world instead of these theological obsessions. Let’s just stop all this self-serving, intellectual nonsense, get back to small-scale physics and like Unzicker suggests: “start paying physicists like monks while they follow their personal obsessions”.
Unzicker makes a clear plea for the public sharing of raw, unprocessed data from these taxpayer-funded projects so that science can return to an objective, independent analysis of experiments outside the fierce pressures of orthodoxy and hidden assumptions. How independent reviewers of these multi-thousand authored papers can ever decide that the experiments described therein are error-free or the conclusions are reasonable is another of today’s unexplained academic mysteries.
One of the positive results of reading this short book (152 pages) is to encourage readers to deepen their awareness of nature by studying earlier books by Andrew Pickering (“Constructing Quarks”), David Lindley (“The End of Physics”) and Sheilla Jones/Unzicker (“Bankrupting Physics”), which provide more extensive descriptions of this whole sorry ‘Quarky’ era. As one who gained much from reading this enjoyable book, I can only plea for a more extensive index and a larger bibliography. I must also confess how relieved I am that my life was not wasted in this pointless pursuit of particle physics as was possible when I was studying under Salam and Kibble. So, sorry folks, modern physics has not provided a satisfactory alternative explanation of the universe but then, again, neither did the professional theologians after 2,000 years of thinking. Each group demonstrating how self-serving some intellectuals can become, especially when working in large, well-funded ‘believing’ organizations.
It is fortunate that not too many physicists have been lured into this Weird Wonderland as they continue to explore more fruitful areas of physics, such as Solid State, quantum optics and nanotechnology. Meanwhile, Unzicker characterizes CERN as “a Nobel-greedy big science company seeking to get close to politics and big money” [p. 111]. He also points out on the same page that: “Nobody ever got the Nobel prize for proving that something didn’t exist or by showing that someone else was wrong.”
What he doesn't explain is 'how' they fudged the data, which I reviewed. Of the perhaps three dozen major facilities (30,000 total) of 40 years coming up empty handed, they got their pink slips telling them funding would be cut and facilities shut down at year's end (except the LHC). Within 2 weeks, all of the facilities, even those incapable of the energy requirements, produced the Higg's. Rather than have the mass span from 70 to 220 GeV, they flipped the x and y axes to make them all line up tall. If you don't understand, draw a Cartesian x-y axis and draw a line from left to right, then turn it on its side, and they line up from bottom to top. That is what they did. The handed out Nobels, and the funding went on.
His analysis is thorough, sometimes to the point of being excessive so that the reader begins to detect a harping element to Unzicker's deconstruction of the project. Nonetheless, his points are well-taken and there is little left to this latest attempt by humanity to comprehend the ultimate nature of things than a smoking ruin. Unzicker's main contention is that too many cooks spoil the broth and that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. All this despite the fact that (in his estimate) 10,000 physicists are busily manufacturing more and more stuff that doesn't even exist, all at the taxpayer's expense. Nobody talks to anybody else because each is immersed in his or her own specialty and on top of that is working in an entirely different area of the complex so that there is minimal chance of their ever meeting.
It all sounds like a Marx Brothers movie with a cast of thousands running in all directions and following nonsensical instructions that have nothing to do with actual physics. You gotta love it. This is one exception to the rule, "you get what you pay for". If Unzicker's book causes a significant number of readers to become disillusioned with largely secret scientific projects that cannot be explained in plain language, then he has done his job well.
Top reviews from other countries
„The Higgs Fake“ gelesen hatte. Dort werden intuitiv und emotional die Ergebnisse der Teilchenphysik abgelehnt und die
Argumentation scheint mir wenig begründet. Das Buch bleibt zu sehr an den Erscheinung haften, ohne das Grundproblem, die
notwendige Abgrenzung der Physik von der Mathematik klar heraus zuarbeiten. Mathematik hat keine Grenzen der Phantasie. Die Physik ist jedoch immer noch eine empirische Wissenschaft, auch wenn das die Theoretiker gern ändern möchten. Als empirische Wissenschaft ist sie gebunden an die aktuellen Nachweisgrenzen der Instrumente.
Dass die Teilchenphysik eine Herausforderung an den Verstand darstellt, gibt sogar Jörg Bleck-Neuhaus, ein Vertreter der
Teilchenphysik zu, weil sie die Grenzen der klassischen Physik spürbar gesprengt hat. Was aber Unzicker kritisiert, liegt jenseits der Nachweisgrenzen. Das ist im philosophischen Sinne Metaphysik. Es ist die Kritik an der Metaphysik.
Ob jedoch der Anspruch des Buches erfüllt wird, junge Leute anzusprechen, wage ich zu bezweifeln. Sie müssten eine sehr gute
Vorbildung in Physik, Philosophie und Logik besitzen, um sich ein selbständiges Urteil unabhängig von der Lehrmeinung bilden
zu können. So fragt sich der Leser: Wie können hochqualifizierte Experten in ihren Aussagen so falsch liegen? Schließlich kann
man sie nicht alle unter Generalverdacht der Hochstapelei setzen. Aber gerade der hohe Spezialisierungsgrad der heutigen
Fachdisziplinen birgt die Gefahr der Irrtümer und Fehlinterpretation durch induktive Schlüsse, zumal der Forschungsgegenstand
sich selbst der sinnlichen Betrachtung völlig entzieht. Dazu kommt noch das Peer-Review-Gutachtersystem, was einmal etabliert
bequem kritische Stimmen unterdrücken kann.
Das Buch dürfte polarisieren ohne wirklich zu überzeugen. Es dürfte aber eine bereits überfällige Diskussion anstoßen, darüber, ob es noch Wissenschaft ist, Dinge zu behaupten, die jenseits von physischen Nachweisgrenzen unserer Instrumente liegen und die Standardmodelle der Elementarteilchen und der Kosmologie beschreiben sehr genau die Dinge jenseits von physischen Nachweisgrenzen, können aber viele messbaren Erscheinungen nur sehr ungenügend oder gar nicht erklären. Sie entziehen sich damit einer von Popper geforderten Falsifizierung und sie lassen sich gegenüber der Mathematik nicht abgrenzen.
Nobelpreise sollen denjenigen Wissenschaftlern zuteil werden, die der Menschheit im verflossenen Jahr den größten Nutzen geleistet haben, so verfügte es der Stifter in seinem Testament. Angesichts der weltweiten Probleme, die die Menschheit heutzutage immer noch hat, ist die Frage wohl berechtigt, welches dieser Probleme wird durch die zweifelhafte Aussage gelöst, dass ein virtuelles Teilchen auf ein anderes Teilchen seine Masse überträgt und obwohl dieser Vorgang eine Beobachtungswahrscheinlichkeit jenseits unserer Vorstellungskraft haben soll, sei er nun beobachtet worden.
Wer da angesichts der Tatsache, dass wir in einer materiellen Welt leben, nicht ins Zweifeln kommt, sollte einen Psychiater aufsuchen.
First, just to comment on the general tone of the book; I have never read a book so full of invectives, accusations and ugly name-calling of well-meaning but possibly mistaken scientists in my life. The manner in which Unzicker tears apart adherents of the Standard model, String theory and even quantum theory is rude, frankly fractured and disorganized, and for a science writer, rather randomly constructed.
Still, I gave it four stars because he does manage to make some convincing points, I will not say well-constructed arguments, that physical science , especially theoretical physics, has become excessively based on speculation upon speculation, and almost no observation. He is right that Karl Popper’s falsifiability principle has been almost completely ignored since about the 30’s.
He is also right that this frenzy of pure theory, and the subsequent building of the Hadron Collider are the results of wanting to hold onto big research grants, as well as a hunger to keep research going by scholars (alas, a perpetual dilemma...).
I don’t think he makes a solid case for the Higgs boson being a deliberate fake, but possibly an accidental delusion of the culture, that’s very feasible. But in this world, there is plenty of self deception to go around..
So, worth reading if you can stand the nasty tone and the foul language......
It confirmed many of my previously held assumptions, but more importantly I am now even more confident that there is a- yet to be documented, common sense understanding of the foundational building blocks of nature yet to come.
In summary: The temptation of Billions of dollars has broken particle physics.