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Physics and political correctness

November 24, 2011 Leave a comment

I have been meaning to write this since I saw the excerpt from Lubos Motl’s post in Peter Woit’s blog, but for reasons pointed out in an earlier post, I was unable to connect to blogspot.com and read Motl’s post in full. I did manage to read the post today, but (apart from a confusion between 10^(10^100) and the headquarters of Google, Inc.) what interested me was already in that quote:

I think that all the people are being bullied into not criticizing the junk written by other people who are employees of the academic system, especially if the latter are politically correct activists. And be sure, some of the authors of this nonsense are at the top of it.

I would guess, from the experience of occasionally reading his posts, that by `politically correct activists’, Motl means people whose political beliefs are left of center, support liberal positions including feminist and climate-control positions. Thus he seems to suggest that if physicists who are politically on the left write junk, most of their colleagues are `bullied into’ silence.

I would be very surprised if people like Witten, Strominger, Polchinski or Sen (to name a few) could be `bullied into’ silence. And on the flip side, I would consider myself as much on the political left in my beliefs as any leading physicist, and there has been no shortage of criticism of my work even if it was not `junk’. A likelier explanation is that political beliefs are not very important in the criticism or the lack of it.

Bhagavadgita in IIT

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

It seems that in a thermodynamics class at IIT Kanpur, the teacher referred to the Bhagavadgita — a reversible process is apparently what the book had in mind when it said `do your work without any hope of benefit’. Shouldn’t that be an irreversible process?