Monday, January 25, 2016

Response to Horgan

Recently science journalist John Horgan posted an opinion piece called "How Physics Lost Its Fizz". Following is my response, posted there as a comment.

Dear John Horgan,

When it comes to physics you've long ago decided that your popular-level understanding of frontier work is equivalent to the actual work itself. This is why you think there is no "fizz" - because you equate ideas which spring from a mathematically compelling foundation with superficially similar ideas that some philosopher or writer mentioned in the past. This is like saying that particle physics was never very novel because Democritus had already thought of particles previously.

Black holes were invented in 1783 and not convincingly observed until very recently; does that mean that for 200 years the concept of black hole was either "not fizzy" (because someone already thought of it) or "not science" (because not connected with a direct observation)?

You need to exercise a little bit of modesty in making popular-level critiques of topics whose interest derives from aspects that cannot be understood at the popular level. You, in fact, cannot understand these ideas, and do not understand what is motivating them.

Have some respect for those people who are discovering various ideas through years (in fact decades) of very difficult study and research. You must know that these people are not idiots; each one of them would have appeared as one of the best students at a university, if not one of the best in the entire world.

Did these very bright students suddenly become stupid after putting in the solid decade of very difficult study necessary to actually understand the frontier of physics? Or is it more likely that you, who have not put in this effort, do not understand the actual state of physics or the actual background of any these ideas?

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