As the well-informed readers will realize, I am hat-tipping Hank Campbell and the catchy title of his best-selling book "Science Left Behind"
with the title of this post, for lack of more imagination. What I want to discuss is, however, something only partly in line with the interesting topics of Hank's book. It is something that I see happening around these days, and which I ache for: the dumbing down of our decision making in science.
Given the use that people do of Google searches nowadays, and the rather special nature of my usual readership, I feel I may need to first of all apologize for the deceiving title of this post to the 80 to 90% of the visitors, who came to this page by searching for ways to become a member of a selection committee of miss Universe. Sorry, you had it wrong - we are going to discuss parametric models here, not top models. But if you are happy to hear about the issues of fitting data with different functional forms, you are welcome to read on.
[Update: I found the time to add a few links to the post below, which I had previously omitted for lack of time (hey I'm on vacation!), and I also updated it to add some commentary of Sabine Hossenfelder's latest post on "the end of particle physics".]
In this age of short-term reward strategies (in politics, in society, and in individual behaviour) planning huge endeavours 20 years ahead is harder than it used to be. In the late eighties, when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was conceived and argued to be doable by a few visionaries, it immediately looked like a great idea to all.
As useless as this post may be, I wish to write here a few impressions from my trip to the island of Bali, Indonesia. Why, this is my blog, not a newsletter. So it makes perfect sense to use it as a receptacle of my free-wandering thoughts and experiences, every now and then.
I took a British flight on December 23, which brought me from Venice to Heathrow, and from there to Doha and finally Denpasar, the largest city in Bali, located in its southern tip. About the trip I can report the following bits:
Supersymmetry (SUSY) is a possible extension of the Standard Model (SM), the currently accepted theory of subnuclear physics. SUSY has the potential to "explain away" some of the problematic features of the SM, by introducing a new symmetry between fermions (the stuff that matter is made of) and bosons (the vectors of the forces that hold matter together). Introduced in the seventies, SUSY was tested with increasingly stringent tests in higher- and higher-energy collisions at particle accelerators, but all searches for its particles have returned empty-handed. In particular, many physicists thought that the turn-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) eight years ago would result in heaps of new discoveries of SUSY particles, which unfortunately weren't.
I don't remember who said it, but there's a quote I like a lot: "If you torture them long enough, the data will confess to anything". What the author meant is of course that the manipulation of experimental data and the a posteriori use of hand-picked methods, approximations, and other ad-hoc choices allows you to demonstrate anything with them, from one hypothesis to the opposite one. Statistics, in other words, is a subtle science, which must be handled with care. It is a powerful tool in the hands of people with an agenda.