Different Teacup, Same Storm

Meanwhile, poor Matt Strassler, who means well, is re-discovering the frustratingly convenient (for some) fact that blogs (or is it blog readers?) have no memory for stuff that has scrolled off the page, so attention-seekers get to make the same deliberately wrong claims and misrepresentations they did before, and that were thoroughly addressed before, and a whole new bunch of people who want to learn a bit of science will be drawn in to a non-debate, not knowing that none of this is new. Attention-seekers get the attention they desire, and since attention is the main point for them (not actual progress in science, oh no, not at all!), they succeed.

Matt is discovering this now… By trying to discuss a little nuance about what recent discoveries at the LHC may or may not mean for string theory, he has wandered into the same old tired shouting match about string theory with attention seekers who have nothing better to do but put their hands over their ears and yell misleading slogans from the sidelines to generate fake controversy, and/or split the world into pro-string vs anti-string which is so simplistic and, frankly, juvenile. An interesting game, if you’re up for it, would be to look at the noise in the long comment stream there, and then look at almost any of my Scenes from a Storm in a Teacup posts (from 2006!!!) and the long comment streams accompanying them (look at, for example IV, V, and VI), and see if you can see the same sorts of patterns. I deliberately collected those posts together to form a partial* record of some of that time’s discussion for precisely this purpose, for those who care to read and see that all attention-seekers (who have no real interest in letting science research run its course) have to do is wait for a while and then start yelling the same faux claims all over again to get attention, sell books, enlarge their mutual admiration society membership, etc.

You know, all this behaviour is hardly different from that of the annoying squirrels I have to deal with at my fruit trees from time to time. Not being so good at cultivating fruit on their own, they come and try to steal and sometimes just randomly bite into lots of the fruits you’ve cultivated. You run out into the garden and try to chase them away. They chatter angrily at you, run away, then wait for a while, and come back for another round of messing with the fruit. The particularly persistent ones can be easily dealt with using a rather uncomplicated live trap (nothing particularly complex is needed here) and then humanely moved on… You get some peace and quiet to get on with things of substance for a week or so… but eventually, there’ll be others along after a wait, and the cycle begins again. It’s just an annoyance, but there’s no real substance there. Just a bit of meaningless chatter-noises, and some wasted fruit.

I stopped being unduly distracted by the attention seekers many years ago (stopping reading the shouty blogs, and moved on to other topics) after I realized that it was not really about scientific research, and right now I see no reason to do differently, so I’m off to the garden to send a recently trapped squirrel elsewhere.


(*Annoyingly, it looks like one of the longer comment streams may have been truncated by flaws in the backing up or some other event – my blog has been hacked a few times – but the Way Back Machine (internet archive) ought to have them if you care to dig around.)

Correction: Something was wrong with my theme… now you can see all 300+ comments on this post for example!

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