May 242013

Physics blog sites are abuzz about Eric Weinstein and his Amazing New Theory of Everything. For a moment, I actually confused him with Eric Weisstein, well known in physics and math circles as the founder of Mathworld, which, in the pre-Wikipedia days, was the Internet’s pre-eminent mathematics encyclopedia (only to be hijacked for a while by an unscrupulous CRC press). No, Weinstein is someone else: he is a mathematical physicist turned economist. In any case, he is no dummy, nor does he appear to be a crackpot. He is outside of academia, but, well, so am I, so who am I to complain?

So Weinstein gets invited to Oxford to give a public lecture, and he talks, for the first time, about ideas he has been working on for the past twenty years, about unifying physics.

This is greeted by a headline in The Guardian that reads, “Roll over Einstein: meet Weinstein“. Others follow suit, and soon physics news and blog sites far and wide discuss… what, exactly? Well, no-one really knows.

That is because Weinstein has not published anything yet. Not even a non-peer reviewed manuscript on This is pointed out in one of the few sensibly skeptical blog posts, written by Jennifer Ouellette on Scientific American’s blog site. Ouellette actually quotes a tweet by Sean Carroll: “Pretty sure Einstein actually wrote research papers, not just gave interviews to newspapers.”

Ouellette goes on to quote Oxford cosmologist Andrew Pontzen, who observes that these “shenanigans” have “short-circuited science’s basic checks and balances”. I couldn’t agree more. This is true even if Weinstein turns out to be right in the end.

Which is conceivable, since Weinstein is no crackpot. But it is much more likely that his theory will join many others, including Garrett “surfer dude” Lisi’s aesthetically beautiful E8 theory, that just don’t have much to do with observable reality.

 Posted by at 10:24 pm