Weinberg Right and Wrong
With Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow, Stephen Weinberg won the 1979 Nobel Prize for work on electroweak interactions. This theory unifies the electromagnetic and weak forces. Though the key element of the Higgs boson has not yet been found, enough of the theory was verified to award Weinberg a trip to Sweden. Like this scientist, Weinberg was invited to speak at Imperial College this year. He cancelled because of "a widespread anti-Israel and anti-Semitic current in British public opinion."
He wrote: "I know that some will say that these boycotts are directed only against Israel, rather than generally against Jews. But given the history of the attacks on Israel and the oppressiveness and aggressiveness of other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, boycotting Israel indicated a moral blindness for which it is hard to find any explanation other than anti-Semitism."
Weinberg knew what some of us find out the hard way, the UK is being overrun by misogyny and anti-Semitism. In today's world, Ahmadinejad can fly anywhere he wants to speak, while the rest of us are harassed by "security." The sort of hatred that led to WW2 is alive and thriving. The centre has moved to the Middle East, hidden behind a different religion, infiltrated into Britain to undermine it from within.
This scientist fondly remembers reading Weinberg's "The First Three Minutes" as a child. While Weinberg's contributions to physics have been valuable, his textbook "Gravitation and Cosmology" has led to many misconceptions. This old (1972) book repeats the absurdity that h = c = 1. By trying to cancel out the value of c, it lets people ignore that the speed of light may change. Nearly every physics grad student has been forced to use this book, spreading its errors around the world. The examples of Nige on SU(2) x SU(3) and Carl Brannen on particle masses show that newer and more predictive theories need their turn.
Weinberg knows that the Beyond Einstein programme and "dark energy" are still in trouble. Originally a decision was to be announced Sept 8 with an announcement by Michael Griffin Sept 9. Silence by NASA's top brass is making scientists nervous. Having lived through the debacle of the Superconducting Super Collider, Weinberg has decided to diss the entire human spaceflight program. Someone please tell him that the SSC had nothing to do with NASA's budget.
At a "dark energy" workshop in Baltimore, Weinberg went beyond: "The international space station is an orbital turkey. No important science has come out of it. I could almost say no science has come out of it. And I would go beyond that and say that the whole manned spaceflight program, which is so enormously expensive, has produced nothing of scientific value."
Weinberg ignores the fact that ISS is uncompleted and its laboratory life has yet to begin. He neglects the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an experiment that will explore higher energies than any Earthly accelerator. The AMS is still sitting in a clean room and desperately needs to fly on ISS. Support by another Nobel winner for AMS would be a big help.
"The whole manned spaceflight program...has produced nothing of scientific value" is completely unsupported. Human spaceflight has inspired development of products too numerous to describe. The Earthrise photo from Apollo 8 (above) inspired the modern environmental movement. Discovery of a Lunar Orbit Anomaly by Apollo is more evidence for a changing speed of light. If not for Apollo, scientists would still not have a clue how our Moon formed. The Hubble Space Telescope could not have accomplished its mission without being serviced by humans. A statement like that in front of the Space Telescope Science Institute discredits the speaker.
One can not argue that Shuttle/ISS costs too much and does not return enough science. Despite many missteps, human spaceflight has support from young and old, left and right. Humans have an instinctive desire to fly and to explore. You can not imagine the reaction people have toward someone in a spacesuit! Most of the public hasn't heard of "dark energy," much less cared about it. Weinberg's stand on anti-Semitism is laudable, but even a Nobel Prize holder can be out of line.