We’ve often noted Ethan Siegel’s riffs on physics at Forbes. In connection with Penrose’s idea that black holes derive from a universe previous to ours, he takes shots at newly minted Nobelist Roger Penrose, leading up to:
Although, much like Hoyle, Penrose isn’t alone in his assertions, the data is overwhelmingly opposed to what he contends. The predictions that he’s made are refuted by the data, and his claims to see these effects are only reproducible if one analyzes the data in a scientifically unsound and illegitimate fashion. Hundreds of scientists have pointed this out to Penrose — repeatedly and consistently over a period of more than 10 years — who continues to ignore the field and plow ahead with his contentions.
Like many before him, he appears to have fallen so in love with his own ideas that he no longer looks to reality to responsibly test them. Yet these tests exist, the critical data is publicly available, and Penrose is not just wrong, it’s trivially easy to demonstrate that the features he claims should be present in the Universe do not exist. Hoyle may have been denied a Nobel Prize despite his worthy contributions to stellar nucleosynthesis because of his unscientific stances later in life; although Penrose now has a Nobel, he has succumbed to the same regrettable pitfall.Ethan Siegel, “No, Roger Penrose, We See No Evidence Of A ‘Universe Before The Big Bang’” at Forbes
To which, our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon replies,
I know this is a blog, but Ethan is a PhD professor of something, and he is speaking of his betters–Sir Fred Hoyle and Nobel laureate Roger Penrose. But look at the language our supposedly objective scientist is using to describe rival theories:
“While most astronomers and astrophysicists immediately accepted the Big Bang, the strongest proponents of the leading alternative Steady-State theory — people like Fred Hoyle — came up with progressively more and more absurd contentions to defend their discredited idea in the face of overwhelming data.But each idea failed spectacularly. … While science moved on to the Big Bang becoming part of the consensus, i.e., a sensible starting point for future science, Hoyle and his ideological allies worked to hold back the progress of science by advocating for scientifically untenable alternatives.Ultimately, science moved on while the contrarians became more and more irrelevant, with their trivially incorrect work fading into obscurity and their research programme eventually ceasing upon their deaths.”
The politicization of science evidently started before Ethan’s graduate schooling, as Hoyle and his post-doc Chandra Wickramasinghe tell in their biographical writings. In fact, Hoyle deserved the Nobel more than most–for his BB model, his stellar nucleosynthesis model, for his discovery of the C12 resonance line allowing triple-alpha fusion, for his magnetic reconnection work, and not to be forgotten, for his accurate predictions of cometary origins. He never got the Nobel though, and that was purely political–he didn’t like the Big Bang.