Lubos Motl, Prospective Winner Of Higgs Challenge ?
    By Tommaso Dorigo | June 8th 2014 08:21 AM | 28 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

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    Today among the three top players -those in the money- at the Higgs challenge we see the appearance of Lubos Motl, whom I had signalled as a participant in an earlier posting. We all know that Lubos is a smart guy, but I doubted whether he would take this very seriously. However, it seems he is. As we speak he has submitted almost 100 solutions (you can submit up to 5 solutions per day, so that means having worked at this at least 20 days in a row).

    In the clip below you see the top standers from the challenge site's leaderboard:

    So Lubos is currently third, and at this point he looks like one of the likely winners - but let's not forget that there are still three months to go, and some of us are keeping our solutions in the pocket rather than posting them on the site; this is in fact a bit like a poker game, where you don't want to show your hand too quickly.

    In my spare time I am also working at a classification algorithm of my own - something entirely written by myself, unlike the tools that most participants are declaredly using. I am getting good results, but I have so far only ran tests on a fraction of the total training dataset - which decreases the machine's ability to classify at its best signal and background events.

    Despite the fact that I am running on less than a tenth of the training sample, here is what I have been getting as of late: the screen capture below shows the output of my program this afternoon (below the black screen with my program's output you can read the leaderboard page posted above). To give you a hint, the Score in the challenge's page is called "AMS".

    So as you see, the last three months of the challenge may reserve surprises yet!


    I didn't even know theoretical guys learned how to code. Well done, Lubos!
    Yes Lubos is really smart.  
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Lubos may be really smart, but that does not contradict the fact that on many issues he is a total ignoramus. Look at any of his posts on statistical mechanics or general relativity.

    I think that the LM story should be compulsory study for all graduate students. You can be as brilliant as you want, but you might still end up contributing virtually nothing to science, as LM has. The fact remains that arrogance can simulate stupidity to any desired degree of precision.

    Insulting and ad hominem attacking people you dont know in person in completely off topic comments, makes people like yourself looking much worse than the person you are trying to attack for outside observers.

    Just to say ...

    Dear Elbi,

    sorry to have to take the part of Lubos here, but your comment tickled me.

    First of all, let me say that being ignorant on specific topics is perfectly acceptable IMO. Everybody have their own interests and they are entitled to neglect other topics. Of course if one speaks
    publicly on a topic over which one is ignorant, one may hurt oneself...

    Further, I do not see why "contributing nothing to science" (even admitting that's Lubos' case
    for the sake of argument) is necessarily a bad thing, as your comment seems to imply. I do
    agree that arrogance and stupidity can't be told apart easily, though.

    Contributing nothing to science is of course perfectly fine. But not for someone who poses as a scientific researcher.

    Anyway, no point getting annoyed with LM; not having published anything [beyond a few papers to which Cumrun Vafa charitably attached his name] for 10 years, he is now forgotten in the real world, as can be verified by asking young researchers: they have never heard of him.

    It would be nice if you could stop trolling now, you are draging the level of this discusstion below the freezing point, obviously without even realising this ...

    Thanks for your understanding

    I really wonder why you tolerate the off-topic very low-level trolling comments personally insulting and defaming Lubos Motl (including character assassination) here. This spam makes (the comment section of) this blog repulsive and rather similar to a playground of trolls than a serious professional science blog ...

    Dear Anon,

    I am quite liberal with the comments thread in my blog, that's true. I don't think we have
    passed the level of decency here yet, and off-topicness does not bother me much. If people
    came here because "Lubos Motl" was in the title, I guess they want to discuss Lubos, and
    I do not object to that. Sorry if it hurts your feelings.

    It is not about any "feelings"(I know the rhetorical trick of trying to invalidate valid points brought up by ridiculing the messenger ...) , but about a basic minimal sense of decency and respect that should be maintained in a physics blog that wants to be perceived as at least slightly serious and professional by the readers ...

    Okay, whoever you are you deserve a more complete answer.

    Lubos has in the past attacked personally me, as well as many other people around, getting to the point of being liable to libel causes. I at one point had to protect me (and him) by canceling his comments here, when he was defaming a third party.

    Regardless of that, I bear him no grudge - I know what to expect from him and I can interact with him without problems (we exchanged a few perfectly polite emails recently on the topic of this top, e.g.). Besides, I am of course not an exception, as he shows a similar behaviour with others around.

    Behaving as he does, I believe it is entirely acceptable if people is allowed to let go with some over the top comments. He is completely capable of defending himself here or in his own blog, as he has shown many times.

    Should he tell me he is uncomfortable with what appears here, I am of course available to take action... But not because an anonymous commenter complains that this site is not professional. This site is what it is, and I have run it for 10 years more or less the same way. I lost many readers who did not like it, and acquired others for the opposite reason on the same posts. It has over 1 million views a year.

    LM wrote very important papers in a number of areas not limited to Matrix theory, the study of quasi normal modes in black hole physics and the weak gravity conjecture. Most if his papers are heavily cited and worthy of the acclaim.

    He is an expert on GR and has been spot on in most of his physics knowledge, even if on occasion he has a few blindspots in certain sub disciplines (more so experimental methods)

    Yes he has various personality quirks, but he is and always was a grade A researcher and his pov should be taken seriously.

    Lubos's recent contribution to science is distinctly negative. An important part of science is to focus on the science, to get the personalities out of it. By mixing his science with insults and misogyny, he overwhelms any positive content.

    I can't speak about GR, not being an expert, but all of Motl's comments about statistical physics I've read are 100% correct.

    100% correct? ROFL!
    Would that 100% include his childish "Logical Arrow of Time" crackpottery?
    Let me help you out: try googling "Logical Arrow of Time". You will find that the only person who has ever
    talked about this brilliant idea is LM himself. That is a sure sign of crackpottery.

    Motl doesn't use the standard terminology, but what he talks about is well-known in non-equilibrium statistical physics. He usually merely writes the first steps in the derivation of the famous fluctuation theorem, which you can indeed google. The fact that Motl re-discovered these results, apparently independently, from the work of Evans, Cohen, etc. is to his credit.

    Sorry Anonymous Lubos supporter, but you seem unaware that he is completely crackpot with respect to statistical physics and the arrow of time, disagreeing fundametally with the well accepted scientific explanation eg

    Also, this article is ridiculous. Motl entered the competition under the impression he could use string theory to get a good AMS score. After slowly realising that this is a computer machine learning challenge he adopted the standard xboost tools that most others high in the current table were using from the start, and tortuously climbed the leader board by submitting random efforts 5 times a day (If there were no limit he would no doubt have submitted 5000 entries a day).

    He will slowly fall back down the board unless he gets help from someone who knows what they are doing, otherwsie chances of Motl (unaided) being in the top 10 in a few months are ~0.

    The standard scientific explanation for the arrow of time is the second law. The article you linked, written by prof. Lebowitz, says so. AFAIK, Motl never claimed anything else.
    Could you please point out what are the contradictions exactly? I'm not his "supporter". I read one of his blog posts where he basically re-derives the fluctuation theorem to show that macroscopic phenomena are not time-reversal invariant (it was about cosmology or something like that).

    No, the arrow of time requires the 2nd Law + initial conditions, this is clearly explained in the article linked to by professor Lebowitz. Lubos Motl thinks it works without specifying initial conditions

    He posts this dumb idea several times a year - just search for 'arrow of time' at his site, eg

    Motl was in the top 10 within the first couple days, which is pretty impressive considering that he is far from an expert in computer learning techniques and had to do everything himself. Its pretty insane actually.

    He probably won't beat the real compsci experts once they start cranking out highly optimized, proprietary and tweaked code assuming thats how the competition will evolve (and where detailed physics knowledge doesn't factor into the score) but at this point it is what it is.

    I think you are driven by envy. Your claims are totally unsupported and betray no understanding at all of what you really are talking about ("use string theory to get a good AMS score").
    Please stop.

    He actually makes fun of your position in the table (Dorigo) and suggest you should "learn some string theory", and then in the comments ridicules you because this is what you are "paid to do by CERN"

    Some other epic fail comments from the same thread:

    About 3 truly conceptual ideas of mine to radically improve the score failed in recent days. If I won't get another radical one soon, I will stop working on it. It seems to me that everyone who is improving around the 3.6 range is just playing lottery with noise.

    I have already made a $100 bet that 3.8 won't be surpassed in the final score (from the 82%). If you want, I can explain you how the "focusing" actually works or doesn't work.

    and this one posted 23 May :-)
    Thanks, and LOL, I do - I do plan to be at the top place tomorrow due to an invention that I can no longer verify today due to the 5-submission-per-day limit. But truth to be told, I was already planning to be a leader today! ;-)

    I am not envious, I am just annoyed that bigmouth Motl is getting some unjustified credit for essentially being a big mouth. I will post back here my identity when I make my submission, quietly, without shouting my mouth off, and I'm pretty sure it will beat 3.8 :-)

    Elbi Gilgen, this is the age of the net, blogging etc and Lubos is its child.

    I think Lubos is viewed by his peers as a remarkably intelligent, creative person who would be too stifled by the academic atmosphere at an academic institution. I also believe that he's probably one of the most well known bloggers on the physics circuit, whose site is linked to by respected young researchers.

    I've always found Lubos's writings on GR to be spot on, and therefore I think you haven't got a clue what you're talking about!

    Do you hold an academic position?

    I have clashed with Lubos very much in the past.  Having been wrong about some things, does not negate the things he has been right about.    Bear in mind, everyone with a PhD in Physics had to do some pretty serious research to get that credential.  By definition he has contributed something of real merit.  Agree or disagree with him you have to respect that.  
    I'm not surprised that a theorist knows how to code.  Everyone under a certain age learns how to code in college.  Those much younger than me are learning it in high school or Jr High now.  I mean formally taught coding in HTML or C++ in freaking high school.  So a smart guy like him probably does.  

    What's more is he has been able to do something with this and I haven't yet.  What else can I say about him?  
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    I agree with Tommaso here: give credit where credit is due. Well done Lubos!

    We clearly live in a period of transition in HEP and Quantum Field Theory. It is hardly surprising to witness a large variety of reasonable opinions on many topics. As hard as it may be, one must stay open minded when it comes to debating biases and opposite viewpoints. Personal attacks are only making matters worse.



    Being open minded makes good sense, you can almost never know if a particular solution is a local optima instead of the single global optima.
    Never is a long time.

    what you are saying is "Lubos is smart, but I am smarter - and we will see this in the next 3 months".
    I am looking forward to how this resolves ...

    But I don't really understand your poker analogy. There is no betting here and if everybody submits their
    (currently) best predictions, what difference does it make what other people are doing?

    Hi Wolfgang,

    at poker you want to catch people unawares. Here too, you do not want to submit a winning bid too early on, lest your opponents double their efforts...

    As for the competition, really, I will be happy if I can prove to myself that my self-made tool performs comparably to what is best in the market. Winning a 500+ player competition like this one is all another matter.