Nothingness in science: Lisi’s case


People working in science are well aware that severe criteria are generally used to scrutinize their work, work that must appear on reputable journals where a review by peers decides the goodness or the rejection. This is generally the start of a procedure that can last several years and that should end up with the output of some experiments, at least for experimental science like physics. So, when some people, with none or very few publications get instantaneous fame by media hype the matter is suspicious since the start and some caution is in order. As an example, I would like to remember what happened to my work when someone took the braveness to put it in Wikipedia and the discussion that followed (see here). The final result was its removal after Peter Woit and all his gang claimed my head. This work just stand  up through passing time and Terry Tao agreed on the correctness of the main theorem supporting all this and that was the foundation of the entry into the Yang-Mills article in Wikipedia (see here) after I provided a correct proof (see here). Currently, I keep on working on this and I keep on giving talks in international conferences about.

Lisi’s case is completely different and belongs to those with immediate hype with no substance at all. No serious file of publications just someone that, for some reason very difficult to understand, after a preprint appeared on arXiv became an immediate star. After all that fuss, serious people in the scientific community found serious drawbacks in that preprint that never saw the light in a reputable journal. Rather, Distler and Garibaldi showed that it was simply flawed in its claims as its author (see here). This paper appeared in a very prestigious mathematical physics journal.

In the world of mathematicians, after such a proof of wrongness, one should go off with his tail between his legs. This happened in the case of Deolalikar and the Np vs P Millenium problem and this is the way a sane community just works. But this did not happen in physics as we are coping with this matter even after it was proven wrong and was never seen on any refereed journal. There is an ongoing discussion at Wikipedia and an edit war at the Lisi’s article (see here and here). An interesting criticism is that Lisi’s page is wider than Nobel winners while he does not appear to have similar merits. By my side, I would just add that there are a lot of very good people with tons of publications and citations that would be worth a Wikipedia article and Lisi obtained a large one just thanks to a lot of media fuss. There is very few to say because this is Wikipedia but this is also not the right way to convey scientific information.

In the end, we are just tired of nothingness in science getting all this room. The right information should be conveyed and wrong theories should be simply forgotten everywhere independently on the fact that somebody used someone else.

Marco Frasca (2009). Mapping a Massless Scalar Field Theory on a Yang-Mills Theory: Classical
Case Mod. Phys. Lett. A 24, 2425-2432 (2009) arXiv: 0903.2357v4

Jacques Distler, & Skip Garibaldi (2009). There is no “Theory of Everything” inside E8 Commun.Math.Phys.298:419-436,2010 arXiv: 0905.2658v3

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