The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist

Believe me, I sympathize. You are in possession of a truly incredible breakthrough that offers the prospect of changing the very face of science as we know it, if not more. The only problem is, you’re coming at things from an unorthodox perspective. Maybe your findings don’t fit comfortably with people’s preconceived notions, or maybe you don’t have the elaborate academic credentials that established scientists take for granted. Perhaps you have been able to construct a machine that produces more energy than it consumes, using only common household implements; or maybe you’ve discovered a hidden pattern within the Fibonacci sequence that accurately predicts the weight that a top quark would experience on Ganymede, expressed in femtonewtons; or it might be that you’ve elaborated upon an alternative explanation for the evolution of life on Earth that augments natural selection by unspecified interventions from a vaguely-defined higher power. Whatever the specifics, the point is that certain kinds of breakthroughs just aren’t going to come from a hide-bound scholastic establishment; they require the fresh perspective and beginner’s mind that only an outsider genius (such as yourself) can bring to the table.

Yet, even though science is supposed to be about being open-minded, and there’s so much that we don’t understand about how the universe works, it’s still hard for outsiders to be taken seriously. Instead, you run up against stuffy attitudes like this:

If there are any new Einsteins out there with a correct theory of everything all LaTeXed up, they should feel quite willing to ask me for an endorsement for the arxiv; I’d be happy to bask in the reflected glory and earn a footnote in their triumphant autobiography. More likely, however, they will just send their paper to Physical Review, where it will be accepted and published, and they will become famous without my help.

If, on the other hand, there is anyone out there who thinks they are the next Einstein, but really they are just a crackpot, don’t bother; I get things like that all the time. Sadly, the real next-Einsteins only come along once per century, whereas the crackpots are far too common.

And that last part is sadly true. There is a numbers game that is working against you. You are not the only person from an alternative perspective who purports to have a dramatic new finding, and here you are asking established scientists to take time out from conventional research to sit down and examine your claims in detail. Of course, we know that you really do have a breakthrough in your hands, while those people are just crackpots. But how do you convince everyone else? All you want is a fair hearing.

Scientists can’t possibly pay equal attention to every conceivable hypothesis, they would literally never do anything else. Whether explicitly or not, they typically apply a Bayesian prior to the claims that are put before them. Purported breakthroughs are not all treated equally; if something runs up against their pre-existing notions of how the universe works, they are much less likely to pay it any attention. So what does it take for the truly important discoveries to get taken seriously?

Happily, we are here to help. It would be a shame if the correct theory to explain away dark matter or account for the origin of life were developed by someone without a conventional academic position, who didn’t really take a lot of science classes in college and didn’t have a great math background but was always interested in the big questions, only for that theory to be neglected because of some churlish prejudice. So we would like to present a simple checklist of things that alternative scientists should do in order to get taken seriously by the Man. And the good news is, it’s only three items! How hard can that be, really? True, each of the items might require a nontrivial amount of work to overcome. Hey, nobody ever said that being a lonely genius was easy.


So let’s begin at the beginning:

1. Acquire basic competency in whatever field of science your discovery belongs to.

In other words, “get to know what is already known.” If you have a new theory that unites all the forces, make sure you have mastered elementary physics, and grasp the basics of quantum field theory and particle physics. If you’ve built a perpetual-motion machine, make sure you possess a thorough grounding in mechanical and electrical engineering, and are pretty familiar with the First Law of Thermodynamics. If you can explain the cosmological redshift without invoking an expanding universe, make sure you know general relativity and have mastered the basics of modern cosmology and astrophysics.

Just as an example, if fundamental physics is your bailiwick, Gerard ‘t Hooft has put together a list of subjects you should get under your belt, complete with bibliography! Many of them are online lecture notes; some of them are by me. So start reading! It may seem like a daunting collection at first; but keep in mind, this kind of curriculum is completed by hundreds of graduate students every year. Most of whom are not singular geniuses who will transform the very face of science.

Now, you may object that steering clear of such pre-existing knowledge has played a crucial role in your unique brand of breakthrough research, and you would never have been able to make those dazzling conceptual leaps had you been weighed down by all of that established art. Let me break it down for you: no. There may have been a time, in the halcyon days of Archimedes or maybe even Galileo and Newton, when anyone with a can-do attitude and a passing interest in the fundamental mysteries could make an important contribution to our understanding of nature. Those days are long past. (And Galileo and Newton, let us note, understood the science of their time better than anybody.) We’ve learned a tremendous amount about how the universe works, most of which is “right” at least in some well-defined regime of applicability. If you haven’t mastered what we’ve already learned, you’re not going to be able to see beyond it.

Put it this way: it’s a matter of respect. By asking scientists to take your work seriously, you are asking them to respect you enough to spend their time investigating your claims. The absolute least you can do is respect them enough to catch up on the stuff they’ve all made a great effort to master. There are a lot of smart people working as scientists these days; if a basic feature of your purported breakthrough (“the derivation of the Friedmann equation is wrong”; “length contraction is a logical contradiction”) is that it requires that a huge number of such people have been making the same elementary mistake over and over again for years, the fault is more likely to lie within yourself than in the stars. Do your homework, first, then get back to me.

2. Understand, and make a good-faith effort to confront, the fundamental objections to your claims within established science.

Someone comes along and says “I’ve discovered that there’s no need for dark matter.” A brief glance at the abstract reveals that the model violates our understanding of perturbation theory. Well, perhaps there is something subtle going on here, and our conventional understanding of perturbation theory doesn’t apply in this case. So here’s what any working theoretical cosmologist would do (even if they aren’t consciously aware that they’re doing it): they would glance at the introduction to the paper, looking for a paragraph that says “Look, we know this isn’t what you would expect from elementary perturbation theory, but here’s why that doesn’t apply in this case.” Upon not finding that paragraph, they would toss the paper away.

Scientific claims — whether theoretical insights or experimental breakthroughs — don’t exist all by their lonesome. They are situated within a framework of pre-existing knowledge and expectations. If the claim you are making seems manifestly inconsistent with that framework, it’s your job to explain why anyone should nevertheless take you seriously. Whenever someone claims to build a perpetual-motion device, scientist solemnly reiterate that the law of conservation of energy is not to be trifled with lightly. Of course one must admit that it could be wrong — it’s only one law, after all. But when you actually build some machine that purportedly puts out more ergs than it consumes (in perpetuity), it does a lot more than violate the law of conservation of energy. That machine is made of atoms and electromagnetic fields, which obey the laws of atomic physics and Maxwell’s equations. And conservation of energy can be derived from those laws — so you’re violating those as well. If you claim that the position of Venus within the Zodiac affects your love life, you’re not only positing some spooky correlation between celestial bodies and human affairs; your theory also requires some sort of long-range force that acts between you and Venus, and there aren’t any such forces strong enough to be relevant. If you try to brush those issues under the rug, rather than confronting them straightforwardly, your credibility suffers greatly.

For example, imagine you say, “I have a method of brewing a magical healing potion that bypasses the ossified practices of your so-called `medicine,’ and I’ve personally known several people who were miraculously cured by it, and also there was a study once in some journal that didn’t conclusively rule out the possibility of an effect, and besides you don’t know everything.” No non-crackpot person is going to pay a whit of attention to you, except perhaps to poke fun in between doing serious work. But now imagine you say “It’s true that my claimed magical healing potion appears to violate this famous law of chemistry and that well-established principle of medicine, which have been painstakingly developed and stringently tested against experimental data over the course of many decades, and it’s natural that you would be skeptical of such a claim — but here is the empirical evidence that is dramatic enough to overcome that skepticism, and this is the reason why there might be a loophole in those laws in this particular circumstance.” People will be much more likely to take you seriously.

3. Present your discovery in a way that is complete, transparent, and unambiguous.

What we’re getting at here is that scientific discoveries, unlike sonnets or declarations of love, are universal rather than personal. They belong to everyone, and once they are presented to the world, they can be explored equally well by anybody. By almost any standard, I understand general relativity better than Einstein ever did. (Most parts of it, anyway.) Not because I’m anywhere nearly as smart as Einstein, but because we’ve learned a lot about GR since Einstein died. Once the theory was invented, he didn’t have a monopoly on it; it was out there for anyone to understand and move forward with. Even if he had repudiated his own theory, it would have had no effect on whether or not it was correct.

Your discovery should be the same way. If it’s a revolutionary new theory, it should be a theory that anyone can use. That means it needs to be clearly expressed and unambiguous. I’ve had more than one long and fruitless discussion with alternative scientists who would say “You tell me the experimental result, and I will explain it with my theory.” That’s not the way it works. Your theory should have a life of its own; it should be a machine that I (or anyone) could use to make predictions. And if it’s a physics theory, let’s face it, it’s going to involve math. In this day and age, nobody is going to be moved by a model of elementary particles that comes expressed as a set of three-dimensional sculptures constructed from pipe cleaners.

Likewise, if your breakthrough is an experiment, it had better be a dramatically obvious one — and the more you are violating cherished scientific beliefs, the more dramatic the effect had better be. If what you’re claiming requires a re-arrangement of the energy levels in organic molecules, in flagrant disregard of the Schrodinger equation, you are going to need much more than a two- or three-sigma effect. And, equally importantly, you have to be up front about what the apparatus is, so that anyone can reproduce the experiment. No fair saying “Well, if you come into my lab, I’ll turn it on and show you how it works.” And “This experiment was done in the ’70’s in a secret underground lab in Gdansk, and the KGB has suppressed the lab notebooks” isn’t any better. If you’re actually playing the role of a scientist, share your procedure with everyone, so that they can become true believers themselves. If, on the other hand, you just want to make money, then by all means don’t tell anyone; just start producing the free energy (or amazing stretchy widgets, or whatever) and sell it on the open market. The millions of dollars that will doubtless flow your way will be very comforting as you rail against the establishment for failing to appreciate your genius.

So there you go! Modesty aside, this post might be the single greatest favor that has ever been done for the loose-knit community of non-traditional scientists. We’ve been very explicit about what is expected, if you want to get the recognition you believe is your due. Three simple items, start checking them off!

Also, one last thing. Don’t compare yourself to Galileo. You are not Galileo. Honestly, you’re not. Dude, seriously.

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207 Responses to The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist

  1. Peter Fred says:
  2. Sometimes such people come to my office and say that
    they have discovered that the special relativity is wrong.
    I put forward PDG (the full review) and I say your theory should satisfy all the bounds here. When they see the book, they just go away and do not return!

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  3. Solipsist says:

    … make sure you know general relativity …

    if anyone has a general solution to the Einstein field equations, plz. let me know. Until then, I’ll stick to Zwicky’s tired light hypotheses.

    BTW: does anyone know what the equivalent of a spherical bastard is in 10 or 11 dimensions ? Thank you.

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  4. Clausius says:

    But I have built a moto-perpetum machine! I really have!

    I just can’t show it to you, otherwise my idea will be stolen…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Mark says:

    Modesty aside, this post might be the single greatest favor that has ever been done for the loose-knit community of non-traditional scientists. We’ve been very explicit about what is expected, if you want to get the recognition you believe is your due. Three simple items, start checking them off!

    And yet your contribution to their well-being is already being flagrantly ignored by a couple of your commenters. It’s almost as if they don’t want to hear it. I can’t believe your revolutionary new theory of how crackpots should proceed is being ignored by the mainstream crackpot establishment.

    If you want to be taken seriously, I suggest you (1) shed your qualifications and (2) wear a tin-foil hat. This second one is particularly useful, should you need an extra piece of experimental apparatus with which to establish your obvious, but overlooked breakthrough.

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  6. Solipsist says:

    And yet your contribution to their well-being is already being flagrantly ignored by a couple of your commenters.

    does nobody, but really nobody, understand irony these days ?
    Or were you being ironic ?

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  7. Mark says:

    Ah, it was clearly a little too early in the morning for me solipsist. Thanks! Still, I’m guessing comment 1 isn’t ironic. Cheers.

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  8. Solipsist says:

    “Still, I’m guessing comment 1 isn’t ironic.”

    oh well, shame on me. I hadn’t followed through the link in comment 1. (I really did think ‘Peter Fred’ was joking)

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  9. boreds says:

    Assuming Peter Fred *isn’t* joking (and it would have to be rather an elaborate joke), could he come back and confirm that he has read this post?

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  10. Jon Lester says:

    There is no hope to be heard also when an outsider publish on respectable journals as Physical Review. Some obstacles are generally put by highest ranked journals as Physical Review Letters, Science and Nature where belonging to a recognized institution is more relevant than whatever idea one may have. Finally, the peer-review system as applied in physics is generally biased and ideas today count less than when physics was managed by germans before WWII. No Einstein is possible today and particles physics, from a theoretical point of view, has been substantially inert for thirty years. Fashions make the rule, lobbies dominate particle physics.

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  11. Traums says:

    Nicely put. This deserves larger publicity. Would Sean permit me to quote his entire post in my college magazine? (And advertise for “Cosmic Variance” in the process ^_^,)

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  12. Peter Fred says:

    boreds wrote:

    Assuming Peter Fred *isn’t* joking (and it would have to be rather an elaborate joke), could he come back and confirm that he has read this post?

    I have not read this post very thoroughly. But what I feel is more important that those on this post read what I have written and linked to.

    At least I have gotten some attention about this thing I call an “inner lever residing in every astrophysical body”. Then maybe there is a possibility I can get someone to take a moment to think about the formula for the pressure at the center of an astrophysical body:

    Pressure at center = g*rho*r

    g =surface gravity
    rho= volume density of the body
    r= radius of body

    Notice that a slight change in the surface gravity (delta g) is going to have a 6 to 8 order of magnitude change of pressure at the center of an astrophysical body depending on the body’s radius i.e.

    delta pressure = (delta g)* rho*r.

    Then think about the effect of a slight difference in surface gravity between the night-side and day side hemisphere of an astrophysical body.

    If the night side surface gravity of a body is slightly less than the day side surface gravity, then there will be a

    (delta g)*pi*rho*r^3

    net force that would be able to propel the astrophysical body through space in the direction of hemisphere with the side with the weaker surface gravity!

    Of course my experiments indicating that spreading sunlight is attractive could not be valid because the text book says that a laser of a collimated beam is repulsive.

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  13. Scott says:

    Interesting

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  14. Chris W. says:

    As is usually the case with matters such as this, the people who are most in need of the advice are the least likely to take it, or even pay it much attention.

    I’m particularly fond of Sean’s advice to claimants for revolutionary (read: unlimited) energy sources who seem interested in the commercial possibilities. Let them deal with potential investors…and their lawyers. (“You’re sure that your human-powered flying apparatus will work, regardless of what I say? Well then, fine, go ahead and jump off that 300 foot cliff.”)

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  15. Elliot says:

    First of all you weren’t supposed to talk about my Fibonacci/Top Quark hypothesis without asking. And secondly it was Io not Ganymede. That’s why I call it “The FibIOnacci Revelation”.

    e.

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  16. “a correct theory of everything all LaTeXed up”.

    Your cranks use LaTeX? You obviously attract a higher-class of crank than I do!

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  17. Jason Dick says:

    Peter Fred, you have clearly ignored point 1, and thus seem to have utterly missed point 2. From what you have just stated, you theory predicts runaway accelerations. Your failure to address this issue demonstrates quite succinctly that you have not made a good faith effort to learn the science.

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  18. thm says:

    On at least one occasion, there was an academic physicist, who had repeated run-ins with a non-traditional physicist, and whose son was also a filmmaker. The son made a short film about the non-traditional physicist. Regrettably, it isn’t terribly in-depth, but as far as I know, it’s the only such film of its kind.

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  19. Todd says:

    I love it – Peter Fred’s site even includes apparatus based on the tin foil hat that Mark recommends!

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  20. Low Math, Meekly Interactin says:

    Couldn’t John Baez’s Crackpot Index serve as a pretty good self-analytical tool as well? You see a lot of these online diagnostics to tell you if you’re right- or left-brained or whatever. Maybe, as a service, someone could develop an “Am I a Crackpot?” questionaire. Perhaps as an adjuct to Sean’s system, any scholar of Outsider Science, who approaches Da Man with their Solution to All Your Problems must honestly complete the test and yield the score, or their correspondances for peer review are summarily directed to the recycle bin.

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  21. island says:

    The *next* Einstein?… Hell, I’d be happy if you’d just take the old one seriously.

    I cannot now, nor will I ever be able to write down the basis of wave functions in this background, including an expansion of the field in corresponding creation and annihilation operators. I also can’t compute the stress-energy tensor in that background – quantitatively describe the vacua – and then work out the matrix elements of the stress-energy tensor between the vacuum and the one-particle states.

    But then again… I never wanted any credit for it, and so I always expected that the physicists that I’ve talked to, who CAN NOT refute Einstein… would jump on this new information for their own benefit, which would benefit us all… and then I could go back to being normal. What a joke that turned out to be.

    http://www.lns.cornell.edu/spr/2006-02/msg0073320.html

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  22. Matt says:

    That’s why I call it “The FibIOnacci Revelation”.

    Wow. That line exists in a quatum superposition of “worst nerd joke ever” and “best nerd joke ever”. I wish I could figure out whether or not to laugh.

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  23. Sean says:

    Traums, you are welcome to publicize it. As we’ve seen, the intended audience seems to miss the point, but perhaps there is a deeper purpose being served.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Chaz says:

    Hi Sean – I think you should publish a version of this post somewhere for the general public.

    nobody is going to be moved by a model of elementary particles that comes expressed as a set of three-dimensional sculptures constructed from pipe cleaners.

    Aww, now I need a new thesis topic.

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  25. hmmm says:

    [quote]the intended audience seems to miss the point[/quote]

    Of course! If they where truly interested in furthering science they would be studying textbooks. Obviously, theirs is some sort of need for recognition combined with delusions of grandure….or some such “I needed more hugs” disfunction. If your subconsious goal is something other than correct science you will always act in this way.

    [quote]perhaps there is a deeper purpose being served.[/quote]

    Of course! we are entertaining ourselves.

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  26. Roman says:

    So, there will be no more breakthroughs, ever?

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  27. Aaron S. says:

    i would be interested in hearing or seeing some sort of evidence to go against peter fred’s idea.

    i am at work here (im in the military) and out computers wont let me check out his link. but instead of calling him a moron, if you think he is one, show him why.

    some people use the negative feed back to go back and try to “fix” thier theories and in doing so learn about the science.

    just a thought

    Aaron

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. JoAnne says:

    Thanks, Sean. Now I have a reference to point folks at when they send me their latest theories.

    Yasaman (#2): GREAT to hear from you!! Hope all is well and hope to see you somewhere sometime.

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  29. PK says:

    Yasaman, what is PDG?

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  30. Jason Dick says:

    Re: Aaron S.

    Experience seems to indicate otherwise. This is largely because most of the pseudo-scientists out there really don’t recognize that easily 95+% of peoples’ ideas, even those coming from the most brilliant of minds, are simply incorrect. Thus, by large, the ideas these people are promoting need to be thrown out entirely, not merely modified. But they’re not willing to hear this, so despite the criticism they simply plod forward making the same claims over and over again. It gets tiring rather rapidly, and scientists quickly lose interest in dealing with such people.

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  31. JC says:

    PK,

    PDG = particle data group?

    http://pdg.lbl.gov/

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  32. Theo says:

    Ok, I’ll bite.

    The runaway acceleration in Peter Fred’s theory is a major problem. Then again, an object falling in a gravitation field also experiences runaway acceleration; e.g. the earth orbiting the sun.

    I would like to complain about another aspect. PF’s proposal, as far as I can tell, is that:
    (1) The sun is hot, and so emits “infrared luminosity” (light) in all directions; the strength of this light falls off as inverse-square, which makes us happy.
    (2) Through some magic, when this light hits the earth, it provides an attractive force, rather than a repulsive force like it ought to. (If the light is carried by photons on mass shell, then I believe it must be repulsive?)
    (3) By dimensional analysis, this still isn’t enough. But never fear! All we ever need to do to apply very large forces to very large objects is to apply some small force, because that will create an imbalance in the pressure on the center of the planet. (This, of course, in every way violates Newtonian mechanics.)

    So, I would like to test the reasonableness of this proposal with another dimensional-analysis argument. To wit: if gravity is caused by luminosity, then brighter objects should create stronger gravitational fields — the acceleration felt by the earth should vary with the temperature of the sun. You’ll need some careful fine-tuning to get the appropriate force for our solar system, and it won’t work anywhere else. Of course, perhaps the laws of physics vary from place to place. But that would make it awfully hard to do science, so, like Intelligent Design, that’s a bit of a discussion-ender.

    No, the point is that there’s this miracle in gravity as we’ve observed it: the force of gravity scales linearly with the product of the masses of the two interacting bodies. And, other than their relative distance, that’s the only thing that goes into it. But PF is proposing gravity that depends on temperature, too. Many experiments have confirmed that, to first order, force of gravity scales only with mM/r^2.

    Why must gravity scale as mM? Newton explained that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, which in modern times is understood as “conservation of momentum” which in turn is derived from “the laws of physics are symmetric under spacial translations”. But Gallileo, et al., showed that objects fall at the same rate, in the absence of other forces (this is the principle behind Einstein’s famous gravitational breakthroughs). Since acceleration scales as 1/m, the force of gravity must scale as m, thus by symmetry as mM. Since acceleration depends on nothing else (except for location) of the object, gravity must depend on nothing else (except relative location).

    Anything else would violate these basic experiments. In particular, if PF is correct, then hot things must fall faster than cold things.

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  33. PK says:

    Thanks, JC!

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  34. Alejandro Rivero says:

    The problem about “basic competency” in particle physics is that model building never reached the textbooks. So a lot of current crackpotty models around the net happen to be already tried alternatives, published in the late seventies. For instance if a guy enters in your room claiming to pursue the idea “the up quark is dx^dy, the antiup is dt^dz, the electron is dx^dy^dz, the positron is dt”… would you put him aside as a crackpot, or would you redirect him to Casalbuoni and Gatto Phys Lett 88B, page 306? Most times the first option will happen, and the author of the theory will keep shouting and dressing it until eventually he becomes a real crackpot.

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  35. PK says:

    if PF is correct, then hot things must fall faster than cold things.

    Especially if you’re not wearing oven mitts.

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  36. It’s a funny article, but there’s some “dark energy” in this model.

    A substantial number of the ‘unrecognized Einsteins’ have quite recognizable thought disorders. Thought disorders (schizophrenia being one poorly named clob) are usually described as extremely unpleasant by those who have them, so some sympathy is indicated. They are also associated with fundamental deficiencies of introspection; these are minds that cannot know their own states. (Or know even less of their internal states than the average person.)

    You can’t reason with a thought disorder. (Ok, there are exceptions. Some very high IQ persons seem to be able to recognize and reason about their own thought disorders, but they are very exceptional.)

    So it’s a funny article for most of us, but do be gentle (redirect then ignore) those who write with a new theory of dark energy. Their loved ones will thank you, even if the afflicted cannot.

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  37. BlackGriffen says:

    Re: thought disorders. How can anyone know the state of their mind in real time? It seems to me that there should be some sort of information theory argument somewhere that results in something like: it is not possible for any finite computer to simulate (in its software) itself (the full state of the hardware) in real time. If there’s not, then someone please let me know, cause that’s at least worth a BlackGriffen’s principle or somesuch. ;)

    Point being, nobody is really aware of the full state of their mind at any given time. Some people are just more capable of introspection than others.

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  38. Qubit says:

    If someone comes up with a Theory of Everything, then the chances are that this one person would change mankind forever, right up to the point of being a race that can control space-time. That person would have to be very brave or very foolish; it does not take much thinking about, to realise that he would put him self in a very dangerous position, taking the glory for everything is not a good idea. The next Einstein will have to be smart enough to give mankind everything without us knowing how we got it. So that number 3 would be(in this case);

    3. Present your discovery in a way that is complete, transparent, and ambiguous.

    Number 2 would not be necessary.

    Number 1 would be down to chance because there is no field of everything and it quite literally could blow you away! So that’s not necessary either.

    Qubit

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  39. PK says:

    BlackGriffen, check out the “halting problem” and Goedel’s theorem on wikipedia. They seem intimately related to BlackGriffen’s principle.

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  40. Sam Gralla says:

    This post is a hilarious read, but far to condescending to actually convince a crackpot. You should write up another version with the same ideas, but less arrogance. You might actually get an email from a crackpot saying he sees your point of view–that would be rewarding, wouldn’t it?

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  41. Peter Fred says:

    Theo
    But never fear! All we ever need to do to apply very large forces to very large objects is to apply some small force, because that will create an imbalance in the pressure on the center of the planet. (This, of course, in every way violates Newtonian mechanics.paper. Please tell me without “dimensional analysis” how small change of the surface gravity of the earth will not effect the pressure at the center of the earth given that:

    Pressure center =g*rho*r.

    Say the surface gravity changes by 0.006m/s^2 and that rho=10^3 and r= 10^6. This a six orders of magnitude change of pressure at the center of the earth.

    If you read my paper you will see an equation indicating that with an increase of the surface gravity for earth’s night side hemisphere of 0.006 m/s^2 over earth’s day side hemisphere there is a 10^11 net force produced between the night side and day side hemispheres that is a factor or 4/3 shy of the Newtonian force emanating from the sun.

    This Newtonian force is somehow able to use some yet-to-be specified property of the mass of the sun that is somehow capable of warping space and attracting large astrophysical bodies but incapable of accounting for the higher than expected rotation curves of galaxies and acceleration of the universe.

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  42. graviton383 says:

    Good to hear from you Yasaman(#2) !!!!

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  43. Elliot says:

    Matt

    Thanks/Not Thanks

    e.

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  44. Van says:

    Peter Fred,
    I gather that you attribute the sun’s gravitional force on the Earth as somehow being due to the radiation pressure from the sun on the Earth. Assuming this would work, how do you account for the the gravitional attraction between the Earth and the Moon?

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  45. crackpot detector says:

    Peter Fred:

    I have not read this post very thoroughly. But what I feel is more important that those on this post read what I have written and linked to.

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  46. phil says:

    I don’t see how anything that follows those rules could be considered alternative-science…

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  47. boreds says:

    Peter Fred:

    I have not read this post very thoroughly. But what I feel is more important that those on this post read what I have written and linked to.

    I think that’s the crucial point, isn’t it? At the very least it’s simply rude, as an alternative scientist, posting an alternative scientific theory under a posting about alternative science, to, er, not read the post itself.

    Peter Fred, do you not agree it’s a little rude of you?

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  48. TomR says:

    Last month, my construction projects lead me to derrive the equation for the curve of a cable with weights hanging from it. Last week, without even meaning to, I built a water clock while trying to make something that would automaticaly change the water for my fish. And just the other day, I was playing with the pulleys on the machines at the gym, and my workout buddy called me Galileo.

    Aw, shucks.

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  49. Khurram says:

    This is a most excellent post Sean! I am constantly amazed at the shear effort that people put in to what they think are revolutionary theories- beautifully typed in Latex with equations and references. It is not hard to find whole treatises on why GR or QM is wrong on in the internet. Who are these people that have so much time on their hands?
    I think that some of these people can be described as having just enough information to be dangerous.

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  50. BlackGriffen says:

    Forgot to add: just saw Copenhagen recently. Wonderful play, and it seems to at least tangentially address the issue of knowing one’s own mind.

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  51. Chris W. says:

    An interesting follow-up to this post would be to give some examples of researchers who have done significant work and garnered recognition and respect in the relevant field(s) without conventional academic affiliations, at least at the early stages of the work in question. One example that comes to mind is Julian Barbour. (Note that Barbour did earn what would be considered the minimally required academic credentials for a serious researcher in physics or the history and philosophy of science—a Ph.D., from the University of Cologne.)

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  52. Peter Fred says:

    Van wrote

    Peter Fred,
    I gather that you attribute the sun’s gravitional force on the Earth as somehow being due to the radiation pressure from the sun on the Earth. Assuming this would work, how do you account for the the gravitional attraction between the Earth and the Moon?

    Thank you very much for your question.

    I do not use the concept of radiation pressure in my theory. I promote or advocate a concept which might be called “radiation attraction” which as far as I know only my experiments have been able demonstrate. They show that radiation, more particularly spreading infrared radiation is attractive.

    When a new moon is facing us, it is very difficult to see the dark side. Nevertheless, this dark side is emitting infrared radiation which, as I have said, my experiments seem to demonstrate a slight (gravitational) attractive force.

    This infrared radiation varies inversely as the square of the distance from most large astrophysical bodies that have a temperature. As I have tried to get across in my paper the amount of the attractive force produced by the spreading infrared luminosity from an astrophysical body that has a temperature does not have to be much. The attractive force from this radiation needs only to be enough to sufficiently activate the “powerful inner lever” that resides in most large astrophysical bodies.

    If strong>Seanis so interested thwarting crackpots or promoting physics outreach to us poor amateurs who are possessed with such limited vision why does not he use his fine education and skills in communicating to demonstrate that the obvious faulty logic of my one or two equations which indicate quite clearly to me that there is a powerful inner lever inside every astrophysical body. After all my main equation only involves three variables multiplied together with none of them raised to a power. And this one main equation employs well understood physics that has been adequately confirmed by observations.

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  53. Van says:

    Peter Fred,
    Does the side of the moon facing the Earth not also emit infrared radiation? How do you account for the gravitational attraction of humans and other small objects towards the Earth? What about man-made satellites? I think you need to do a little more thinking….

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  54. guerdon says:

    a friend of mine told me to read cosmicvariance. this post, in particular, the first i have read, is quite interesting. but how does a newbie with a legitimate alternative theory protect himself against mainstream scientists who are “theory-thieves”, if i may use the term? i don’t think anybody would get published, anyway, without the requisite degrees when the paper passes through the hands of the peer-reviewers.

    that’s just my two-cents worth. i may be wrong, but i would really appreciate being enlightened.

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  55. Galileo says:

    Also, one last thing. Don’t compare yourself to Galileo. You are not Galileo. Honestly, you’re not. Dude, seriously.

    I find this tremendously insulting.

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  56. Marty Tysanner says:

    This brings back memories of reading certain unmoderated physics Usenet groups, e.g., sci.physics.particle and sci.physics.relativity. Because of the lack of moderation in such forums, there is nothing to inhibit someone from putting out alternative ideas of their own for discussion. Sometimes the person is genuinely interested in criticism that inevitably comes when someone with limited physics background (e.g., at the level an electrical engineer receives, or less) proposes a highly speculative or nonstandard idea, and so the exchange is productive — the person comes away with an appreciation that developing a new theory is a highly nontrivial task, one that takes a lot of knowledge that only comes with serious study as Sean has pointed out. Sometimes it seemed their interest in physics is deep enough to persist and study it at the university level.

    Unfortunately, these sincere questioners often seemed to be in a minority on free-for-all forums like Usenet. The most visible people are those who loudly proclaim that they have things figured out, and that Establishment Physics has been too blind to see, or too stubborn to believe, what is very clear to them. They are on a mission. They confidently meet every objection to their ideas with a hand-waving explanation, often vague, and will often give a uninformed explanation of why experiments that disagree with their ideas are incorrectly designed or are interpreted incorrectly. They show definite signs of believing that conventional scientists are gullible or even idiots. Usually they show no visible evidence that they actually understand the objections in any depth. If they encounter a serious objection, one they cannot readily explain away, they usually simply refuse to answer the objection and pretend it doesn’t exist. If pressed hard enough, they can become verbally abusive, or simply disappear from sight for awhile. When they eventually resurface (and they usually do) they say most of the same things they said before, showing no evidence of having learned anything at all from previous exchanges. Check out crank.netfor a good summary of many of these guys.

    One can view all of this as a study in human nature. On the one hand you have the Missionary, the Man With A Purpose, who is sure he has figured out something very important that a lot of very smart people have somehow missed. (The missionary always seems to be a guy.) On the other hand you also have some very sincere people trying to reason with the Missionary who, frustratingly, doesn’t seem to be fully understanding the real objections. They continue trying to reason with him, hoping that maybe if they can phrase their objections in the right way then the Missionary will see his mistake. This can go on for some time, with others joining in for the pure sport of it, relishing the chance to heap ridicule on a missionary. The Missionary seems to relish all this attention, apparently believing that he is succeeding in getting people to seriously consider his non-mainstream ideas, that others are actually listening to what he has to say. He feels like he is Making A Difference. The ones who offer only ridicule seem to feed the Missionary too since, after all, great minds have always encountered serious opposition from mediocre minds. One might even conclude that getting all this attention is the real goal of the Missionary, although he is probably sure that this is not his deeper motivation.

    What is really fun to watch is when two “alternative theorists” get into an argument. They both are sure they are right, but they disagree and neither one is willing to budge in his position. They may even call each other crackpots. Alas, crackpots of a feather rarely seem argue together, so one has to be lucky to see it happen.

    At a different level, the whole spectacle is truly sad. The damage the Man On A Mission does goes well beyond obnoxious spamming of Usenet groups or blogs. The visibility of these people, and their unwillingness to respond reasonably to reasoned argument can cast a dark shadow over the genuine, sincere attempts to arrive at alternative ideas, even ones that are developed while playing by the rules of science. For example, it can be scary for a physics grad student to propose an idea that is somewhat unconventional because most professors have already heard way too many nonsensical, alternative ideas from people they don’t even know that they are bound to have less patience for nonstandard ideas that haven’t already been thoroughly thought out. And yet the whole point of bringing up a nonstandard idea with a professor or other expert is to get early feedback before wasting a lot of time on a dead-end idea. No grad student wants to be thought of as a crackpot; it would be the death of their future in science.

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  57. Alex F says:

    “For example, imagine you say, “I have a method of brewing a magical healing potion that bypasses the ossified practices of your so-called `medicine,’ and I’ve personally known several people who were miraculously cured by it, and also there was a study once in some journal that didn’t conclusively rule out the possibility of an effect, and besides you don’t know everything.” No non-crackpot person is going to pay a whit of attention to you, except perhaps to poke fun in between doing serious work.”

    False. No non-crackpot *doctor* is going to pay a whit of attention to you. You still might become a bestselling author, convince millions of people, and earn scads upon scads of money. (See, eg, Kevin Trudeau).

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  58. Peter Fred says:

    Van,
    All sides of the moon, all sides of the earth and all sides of the sun emit infrared radiation. I dare say even in a Cavendish type experiment where G is determined both the small and big mass emit infrared radiation on all sides.

    Some of my experiment show that if you have an infrared heat source at the “center” of hollow hemisphere there will be a gravitational force of attraction towards that source. 10^17 joules of sunlight are received and re-radiated as infrared radiation from the earth every second. My experiments indicate this re-radiated infrared radiation is going to place a gravitational force on the surface of the earth which points toward its center.

    I also hypothesize with some support from observations that the heat which radially conducts itself from the center of the earth outwards enhances or energizes the vibratory modes of the molecules of the earth. I further hypothesize that these vibratory modes become aligned so that they all vibrate collinear with the radii of the earth. This action produces the inward or center directed force. See my paper for more details.

    I at least have a way to account for how the gravitational force becomes manifest in a large spherical astrophysical body at the molecular level.

    With Newton’s or Einstein’s gravity theory we do not have any clue just how mass is able to attract other mass. As I point out in my paper Newton was worried about this problem.

    He wrote
    “Gravity must be caused by an agent…but whether this agent be material or immaterial I have left to the consideration of my readers”

    With my theory we have something palpable and measureable that transmits from one body to another i.e.infrared radiation.

    Tell me, from a mass point of view, what transmits itself from the sun to the planets, besides this operational definition called the field, that “causes” a 10^24 kilogram body such as the earth to revolve regularly around the sun?

    How does this yet-to-be defined, inherent property of the mass of the sun go about the process so that its force of attraction acts as though all the mass of the earth were concentrated at its center? What every it is, it going to have to go through solid mass to accomplish this “as though all the mass were concentrated at the center” feat.

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  59. hrm says:

    Peter, your response in comment #52 suggests that the strength of “radiation attraction” depends on the luminosity of a body. Why, then, is the Moon’s orbit around the Earth so stable and circular? I would think, if the force attracting it to the Earth depends on moon phase, its orbit would be different – it would drift farther away from the Earth at new moon, and closer in at full moon.

    Also, why do you make a distinction between infrared and other wavelengths of light? Is there a threshold wavelength below which the “radiation attraction” effect does not work? What about radio waves?

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  60. the Establishment says:

    Tell me, from a mass point of view, what transmits itself from the sun to the planets, besides this operational definition called the field, that “causes” a 10^24 kilogram body such as the earth to revolve regularly around the sun?

    Read this and report back. Be prepared: there may be a quiz.

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  61. ZEPHIR says:

    The Aether Wave Theory is the quintessence of crackpotism. You can discuss about it here.

    http://forum.physorg.com/index.php?showtopic=8535

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  62. B says:

    Hi Sean:

    Thanks for that post! Sometimes I am really suprised by the incredible arrogance that I’ve repeatedly experienced. People who’ve read a book by Einstein and then explain they have just found the TOE (and it’s SO obvious!), yet don’t even know what a fermion is. People who’ve just explained dark matter (and nobody else understands it!) but don’t know what a metric is. And if you tell them, that’s not a theory that’s whishful thinking they get pissed off (I only want to help you!), and accuse me of having an elitary attidute and I only dismiss their ingenious insight because they don’t have a PhD (ivory tower!). I wish they would at least consider that we actually learn something during our education, and that reading a single book (that, btw was published one century ago) maybe isn’t sufficient to understand what’s going on in research today.

    I would add a point though, that is if your ‘theory’ predicts exactly the same as some other theory, then it’s probably the same – no matter how you derived it, and whether it looks the same. (I keep getting ‘better’ versions of Special Relativity that upon closer inspection turn out to be exactly the same as Special Relativity).

    Oh, and don’t miss Siegel’s Quacks

    Best,

    B.

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  63. Peter Fred says:

    Repy to hrm in his comment #59

    To answer your questions and have confidence in the answers, a lot of experiments would have to be performed. I have a limited budget and a limited means to perform experiments.

    It has been my experience, however, that a powerful source of infrared radiation works best. I have used somewhere around ten 250 watt infrared heating lamps that put out a good deal of visible light and a have gotten a 1-2% decrease in weight with a convex down ~3 foot hollow aluminum hemisphere. It beyond my budget to see if a powerful source of radio waves can produce a gravitational force.

    As with phases of the moon question–the distance between the earth and the moon is not that constant over time. Then there is the question of how much more infrared light is there in the reflected light from the moon as opposed to the reradiated infrared radiation that comes from darker parts or phases of the moon.

    Just got a email from someone from a physics department who said that my 11% change of force resulting from radiation was a huge change. He thought someone should have noticed this before. An 11% increase in weight is a little difficult to get. But a 1-7% increase or a 1-2 % decrease in weight is not that difficult.

    Instead of going on an on about how intransigent crack pots are, I would think there would more people like my emailer the from physics department and would either question my experiments or actually take an interest to try to replicate them.

    After all most heavenly bodies ( i.e. suns) emit copious amounts of radiation, and if this radiation is attractive and if there is some semblance to the validity of this inner lever idea of mine–then these two points have quite an implication about our 300 year old beliefs on how gravity actually works.

    At my home page you can see this cone with a hot plate heating element under it. With the heat element turned on, I can get a 1% increase in weight. The cone is solid and made of crumpled up aluminum foil. The weight change is made with a $100 dollar force sensor and a computer. A lot of high school and undergraduate physics labs have the equipment to do this easy to execute experiment.

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  64. KundryVolare says:

    i need some help with my Lorentz transforms…..

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  65. Zarquon says:

    KundryVolare, see here

    Oh wait, I thought you said “low-rent transformer”.

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  66. Mark H. says:

    Peter,

    I notice in your paper that all of your experiments involve heating the sample from below, with the observation that an increase in weight is measured. Have you tried heating the sample from above? According to your hypothesis, this should result in a decrease in weight.

    Also, check if the decrease in weight in this second round of experiments is equal in magnitude to the increase in weight observed in your first results when using the same heating elements in the same arrangement (aside from being reversed vertically).

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  67. PokerFace says:

    Re Qubit #38: I think you made the point that the person who develops a theory of everything (ToE) would receive high visibility and pay the price of celebrity for their efforts (this seems obvious). Supposing that they really do have a valid ToE, or at least a partial ToE, and have the means to get it taken seriously (two big hurdles), would there be any method for them to be rewarded for their efforts while being able to remain relatively anonymous? Or would it be better for them to simply donate their theory to humanity via some means and live in the knowledge of a job well done, even if it is a job for which they individually are unappreciated (anonymity), but their theory is revered? I think this was what you thought was the best way to do it but I want to throw these questions out there for clarification.

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  68. Van says:

    Hi Peter,
    Have you considered that the heat from the heating element may affect your force sensor? Is it possible that you are simply heating the air in your hollow foil hemisphere making it less dense, leading to a small bouyant force (like a hot-air ballon)?

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  69. Arun says:

    The comments on this thread, taken in totality, are comical.
    Thank you all!

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  70. Andre says:

    Although in a much more primitive form, Peter Fred’s theory reminded me of Le Sage’s theory of gravitation , so similar criticisms apply. It’s an ingenious model of gravitation, but full of bugs.

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  71. Peter Fred says:

    Hi Mark H

    As regards to your comments in #66. I have just placed a picture and graph at my home page that I label Figure 1 and Figure 2 where I show a convex down hollow 0.82 m diameter aluminum hemisphere where I get a ~2.9% decrease in weight. I use 3000 watts some of which flows downward and through the walls of the convex down hemisphere.

    It is difficult to get heat to flow downwards. This type of experiment is best done on very cold winter day where all the doors and windows are open. Also the object heated should be shaped as a hollow hemisphere that is convex down and not convex up.

    The trouble with this type of experiment is that people will claim “hot air balloon buoyancy effect”. It is hard to conclusively rule out this effect. That why I like to do experiments where an increase in weight is observed. With these type of experiments its hard for other and myself to claim a hot air effect. And besides you can get a much greater change of weight.

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  72. Van says:

    Yeah, it’s clear that what’s happening in Peter Fred’s experiments is that the heating element is heating the air below the foil hemisphere making it less dense. This creates a slight downward pressure on the hemisphere, accounting for his measured downward force.

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  73. Joel says:

    What troubles me is that Peter Fred has still not acknowledged that a blog post on how to do respectable science is still not the place to actually talk about any given example of respectable science. There are literally millions of ideas out there that we could discuss but that isn’t the point, either PF has an enormous capability for continued irony or he just doesn’t get that he hijacked a thread.

    Whether or not someone is right or not is not the issue in general. We tolerate wrongness in ourselves and others everyday. This issue is when people try to enforce their wrongness in regions of known rightness. I am all for people at some party talking about their pet theory of the universe. It is only when they compare themselves to people who actually purport to talk about reality that the issues arise.

    Peter, can you at least acknowledge that you understand what it means to hijack a thread? In my experience there is a class of person who cannot even do that. Their theory is so deeply embedded into their ego that it would be impossible for them to acknowledge that they are using inappropriate means. For them to do so would require them to break down (emotionally, mentally) completely. I have seen it happen and it is not pretty. So the next question is: why are humans so egotistically that we cannot accept that we are in some respects just plain wrong? This is what I feel is the greatest asset that a postgraduate education, it gives to people an understanding that most of the time you are wrong and that it is ok to admit that you are wrong and then spend 5 years sifting your knowledge for the

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  74. tensor says:

    Do string theorists satisy Rule #3 (“complete and unambiguous”) of these three requirements?

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  75. Jordag says:

    I hate to contribute to the thread hijacking, but I’ve one comment for PF. The only way to rule out the buoyancy effects of air is remove the air itself. Perform the exact same experiments in a small vacuum chamber. If you still get the same effect, maybe you’re on to something. If not, the laws of physics as we know them still stand.

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  76. Garbage says:

    “Also, one last thing. Don’t compare yourself to Galileo. You are not Galileo. Honestly, you’re not. Dude, seriously.”

    #55 – “I find this tremendously insulting.”

    Why? aren’t you a person we should compare with? ;)

    The main problem with crackpots is that Einstein himself was a “crackpot” too, common working as a patent clerk!? :)
    and so was Newton predicting the end of the world by 2060!

    ….and the many others the occasional genius of the day happen to have a book of, and believe me, many of our physics gods came up with very crackpot-like behavior at some point of their lives. Why did we care reading those? or paying any attention? Well, cus they were true geniuses! why? well, cus incidentally they changed our views of the universe, and after all that’s what the credential is granted for. It isnt enough if your primary school teacher and the bartender so claim, sory :)

    Sure you can yell out loud you havent had the chance to change the world cus nobody listens to you!, dont you think then that *this* world therefore doesnt want to be changed *your* way? Why bother? why would you want all of us to switch into your ideas if they dont match ours? Why do you then crave for attention? Isnt a deepest knowledge of the universe enough reward for you, or it is just the greedy thought of a nobel prize??
    Of course big revolutionary ideas might be passing by without noticing cus you didnt graduate from Princeton, and we scientist are a bit arrogant after all needless to say. Why bother going into the trouble to talk to them in the first place?
    Unless you know what science is about, unless you agree to *stick to the rules* (see items), please, make the millions with the converting machine and go on vacations to the bahamas, do science the favor ;)

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  77. Neil B. says:

    It looks like Sean is at least taking seriously the possibility of amateurs making important contributions in science, otherwise he wouldn’t even give such advice. (And many of us have complicated backgrounds, with mixes of training but lack of completed certifications, or of proper career track, that require description as “amateurs.”) But that is only part of the problem: venue for reportage is another part. If you don’t have official cover in the form of proper affiliation (for putting of address, etc.), what forum can someone with decent ideas turn to? In theory, American Journal of Physics etc. will print home address and sometimes does, but it is an uphill struggle for a paper with such an address to be taken seriously. Also, there’s the matter of nature of claims. There used to be Speculations in Science and Technology for offbeat claims that were still well-argued, and to some extent Foundations of Physics and Physics Essays in Canada still take up that role. I don’t know how many people read them now, or whether a good case would be noticed well enough.

    Although the temptation is to consider posting on the Internet to be worthless, one can get good discussions going in the right venues. Is it possible a good new idea would be noticed by the right people? FWIW, I started a discussion about a “New quantum measurement paradox” in the moderated group sci.physics.research in 2000. AFAIK it was novel, about repeated passes of a polarized photon through half-wave plates to build up angular momentum and thus measure intermediate levels of circular polarization of a single photon, contra standard measurement theory. (Ties into “weak measurement” concepts.) The arguments basically went round and round, with no clear outcome. Enough big shots like John Baez posted into it, and it linked around enough, that it comes up first in Google search for “Quantum measurement paradox.” Topping out in a subject search is not easy. I don’t find any direct commentary on it out there as a result, but perhaps the right idea could be noticed if you get high on Google with it? Would a good proposal in UseNet be noticed by the right people, aside from search issues?

    Ultimately, I think it’s a matter of who you are: if someone well-known makes a point on UseNet, it will be noticed, but if you aren’t well-known, you must be published in a good venue to be noticed, over and above how good an idea was involved. Does anyone have examples of ideas presented in fora like UseNet, that actually caught on? Where can we find more about this sort of science sociology (really, we need a good name for the subject of the activity of scientists and science) be found?

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  78. #77, above “posting on the Internet” one should consider the narrower cathegory “latexpdf posting on the Internet”. This is because modern search engines do a very good work of indexing pdf documents, and modern browsers are able to download them. Looking at the records of our webserver, I find that a lot of hits into my documents come from persons looking specifically for the wording or the exact topic of a particular pdf document. Perhaps a good recomendation could be to use latexpdf plus the html navigation extensions of pdf, leaving to the reader the opportunity of navigating from the PDF towards related papers or towards the homepage.

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  79. island says:

    Neil asked:
    If you don’t have official cover in the form of proper affiliation (for putting of address, etc.), what forum can someone with decent ideas turn to?

    I honestly can’t imagine to this day why the moderated research group wouldn’t be a good place for this, since it is, or *was* chalk-full of excellent physicists and students with no small mention to Baez, who basically led the group for quite a few years.

    It’s really ironic for me, but it was right after he had proclaimed that “we’ve been over all of this”, [the negative mass puzzle], and that ‘there is nothing new to be learned here’… … … that I showed why this is not exactly true, and asked him to shoot me down. I’m still waiting, and here’s an even better presentation that I made later of evidence that the negative energy states have been misinterpreted…

    http://www.lns.cornell.edu/spr/2006-03/msg0073465.html

    Just don’t mention the strong anthropic principle… is the trick, me thinks!… ;)

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  80. Doug says:

    Hi Neil,

    I remember that discussion. You argued your case very well, and it certainly gave me pause in thinking about the photon. It’s still one of those “Web studies” that I keep in mind, as I pursue my own investigations.

    When we realize that practical use of the Internet, outside the government and university circles, wasn’t much of an option just a decade ago, we can see how great an impact it’s now having.

    Even though it’s hard to get noticed with all the noise, sometimes that’s a good thing. The important point to keep in mind is that it provides a place for us on the “library shelf.” Sure, it might not be a highlighted spot in the lighted glass case in the lobby, but to be able to develop and record our ideas in our very own space on the library shelves is a hitherto undreamt of opportunity.

    Once the significance of a work, or an idea, is recognized, everybody will be able to find it. So, if we are on to something good, we just have to bide our time. At least, we don’t have to worry about publishing just to look like we have something to say, as an indication that we are worth the money someone is paying us to think. I would really hate that. I would hate it much, much, more than not being on someone’s “respectability list.”

    The irony of all this is that so many, like Sean, have a sense that the knowledge gained in the past is a sure sign that the civilization that possesses it, and that hands out the credentials to work on and extend it, is on the path that leads to ultimate progress in understanding the physical structure of the universe, but it ain’t necessarily so.

    The ancient civilizations thought the same thing and they became very good at what they did, but just because the moon and planets, upon which we are now able to tread, are higher than the pyramids and the mountains, upon which the ancients tread, doesn’t mean that Western civlization is on the ultimate track to understanding.

    The disconcerting trouble with modern physics is not just a matter of overcoming a super technical challenge. Almost every investigator at the top of the respectability list has acknowleged that we are in a fundamental funk. Something’s wrong with our fundamental understanding of the physical structure of the universe, and, if that’s the case, following Sean’s prescription is not likely to lead anywhere interesting.

    Imagine the Egyptians giving that advise to the crackpots and cranks of their day. Someone suggesting to their high priests that they should consider the motion of a pendulum and begin to think in terms of potential and kinetic energy of moving masses, rather than the geometry of pyramids and the travels of the sun, would have never been able to make their respectibility list.

    And telling someone like that to acquire basic competency in Egyptian mathematics and astronomy first, would have been senseless. The fact is, a different view of the fundamentals changes everything, undermining the craft of the priests, who maintain the respectability list.

    It short, Neil, Sean’s prescription just reveals one edge of two-edged sword. The fact that most crackpot ideas are obviously inept in the science currency of the day, doesn’t mean that a true gem of an idea ought to fit comfortably into it.

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  81. Peter Fred says:

    Van wrote:

    Yeah, it’s clear that what’s happening in Peter Fred’s experiments is that the heating element is heating the air below the foil hemisphere making it less dense. This creates a slight downward pressure on the hemisphere, accounting for his measured downward force

    In Figure 7 at my home page is a graph showing a 11% increase in weight of a colander with a hot plate heating element on top. There is some aluminum foil and gasket material on inside used as insulation to insure that most of heat from the heating element would flow radially upward.

    You can not get something to weigh 11% more by making the air below it less dense. Maybe a slight amount but not 11%.

    With Figures 1 & 2 a ~3.0 % decrease in weight with a convex down hemisphere was observed. You have a better chance claiming that the rising hot air lifts the hemisphere and thereby decrease the weight of the hemisphere. But you can not have it both ways.

    When I did the experiment shown in Figures 1 & 2, I was then overly concerned with how the force sensor would be affected by a change of temperature from the hot plate heating elements. The hemisphere was hung to a rod and fulcrum system the other end of which was attached to a wire that went to a force sensor that was attached to the floor. The force sensor in turn was shielded by Styrofoam from the heat from the heating elements.

    I soon learned that this was a unnecessary precaution. Hanging hemisphere’s with steel wire to force sensors 2 to 3 feet above seemed to be all that was necessary. Using thin wooden rods which have lower coefficient of linear expansion that steel or copper also proved unnecessary.

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  82. Sean says:

    This whole thread is an awesome exercise in point-proving.

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  83. Andrew Daw says:

    Trouble is, an amateur’s theory may be just too radical for physicists to dare take seriously

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  84. Mark says:

    Wow. It just keeps on going.

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  85. Qubit says:

    Re 67 PokerFace, I was thinking on a grander scale but fame, glory and immortalization comes with their own problems. Such a theory would enable us to move up the Kardashev scale http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale very quickly, we would have the knowledge of a type V civilization ( not on the scale it’s self ). Type IV would be able to use the power of space-time (page 317 in parallel worlds by Michio Kaku), Type V would have the knowledge of how to exist beyond the space-time of this universe and be able to use the energy of universes and have power to create them (E.g. Have you seen the film Eragon, a type 5 being would be Eragon and a universe would be his Dragon and both would be entangled as in the film (try not to think about them as a man and a dragon but as a universe and its shadow).

    The problem of being the one who comes up with TOE, comes about in Eternal return http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_return or if you like Ouroboros http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouroborus . How can you have an endless amount of human civilizations that can reach type IV status? I guess what I mean is that; if we come up with a TOE, then there is a higher probability that we recreated this universe, in order to survive the end of time. These beings would have to make sure that this person does not exist in this new universe, or they would have to come up with something to make sure, that we have no chance of getting the TOE, maybe by telling us an infinite lie.

    The only way such a thing can be circumnavigated is by this person being hard wired into the universe and multi-verse, he would just have to be here just like the Higgs Boson,(or he would just be the Higgs Boson), so who is this fool?

    The clock never stops ticking, ever; no matter what!

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  86. Van says:

    PF,
    Try the experiment two ways, one with the hemispher concave up with the heating element below and one with the hemisphere concave down and the heating element still below. My guess is you’ll find that the force sensor reads slightly less than the weight for the concave down case and slightly more than the weight for the concave up case. The reason for this should be obvious.

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  87. PK, I have the PDG book in my office. Feel free to grab it if the high entropy of my desk doesn’t make that impossible.

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  88. Count Iblis says:

    Seth Lloyd has recently published his TOE. He proposed that the universe is a quantum computer that executes a superposition of all possible programs (each program appears with a weight of 2^(-program length/2) in this superposition).

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  89. Neil B. says:

    Doug:

    Thanks lots for your thoughtful reply. It shows how much a big thread gets around, that at least one poster to this thread remembered it. Sure, that very example of presentation in a quality moderated group shows that you can get an idea out and be noticed by knowledgeable folks. The deeper problem is more subtle: Few readers of such posts will take the time to sort through and see if there’s really a substantive point, and respond with perhaps a follow-up paper. They won’t there the way they would if the same idea was presented in Physical Review by an average contributor, or even if someone big posted it to the same newsgroup. (Say, if John Baez posted it.) In practice, independent scholars have a hard time, but maybe that is exaggerated. I do thank Alejandro for some tips on making on-line articles easier to find.

    This web site may be helpful: NCIS (The National Coalition of Independent Scholars.)

    PS – I have my suspicions of some of the background notions that are used to filter out “crank ideas.” Consider the claim that classical laws of electromagnetism allow for a proof of energy and momentum conservation by internal consistency. I remember some of the points that go into those proofs, and they seem solidly based as far as they go. However, they don’t really go far enough, because there are issues requiring additional theoretical (or even experimental) intervention. For one thing, they take particle sources/targets for granted, and yet consider the difficulty of constructing a rational particle in EM: First, you have the infinite classical field energy if the particle is a point, requiring the contrived and debatable quantum mechanism of renormalization. If you want a reasonable classical particle and a field energy no greater than the observed mass, you need a finite size. That means holding the charge together somehow, with the non-electromagnetic “rubber bands” of Feynman fame.

    That has to affect what happens. Just look at the sticky problems of the radiative self-force in the Abraham-Lorentz equation f_rad = 2kq^2 v dot dot / 3c^3. That is a fundamental self force required to conserve energy while radiating, and most of the posters here and elsewhere don’t really appreciate or have even heard of it per my actual experience. It is supposed to come from time delay affecting the transmission of effects from one part to another of the same particle, but how do you make that coherent if the particle is either a point, or held together with unknown other forces? Also, there are runaway solutions which must be stopped by contrived special equations of motion, and we don’t even really know what is true about that — seriously, check it out. Then there is the fact that classically, structures of any kind wouldn’t be formed by classical point charges – collections of charges would collapse into pair singularities or be thrown out. Also, the magnetism of materials cannot be fully explained classically anyway, meaning that for example, any off-beat device using real magnets can’t be blown off with breezy pretensions about the supposedly closed nature of classical E&M.

    Food for thought.

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  90. It’s probably worth pointing out, for alternative-science practitioners out there, that physicists, and no doubt all other researchers, tend not to drop everything and study some new idea that person X has come up with, whether they are a crackpot or a Nobel laureate.

    Many papers get published in the highest ranked physics journals (Physical Review Letters, etc.) and are never heard of again. It is incredibly self-centered to expect researchers to drop their own research and look at yours instead. Just because people ignore your idea doesn’t mean they’re out to oppress you. They (or rather we) do it to each other too.

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  91. PokerFace says:

    Re 85 Qubit: Thankyou for your response. No, I haven’t seen the film Eragon, but your description of the weird and strange philosophical concepts arising from it, while probably not accurate of what really happens with a sufficiently advanced civilisation (it is sheer hubris to really hope to understand any civilisation much more than one rung up the ladder of technological development from one’s own, in my opinion, though nonetheless a quite entertaining exercise in science fiction), intrigues me and piques my interest. I will also have a look at the wikipedia entries you have mentioned.

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  92. island says:

    Joe Fitzsimons said:
    Many papers get published in the highest ranked physics journals (Physical Review Letters, etc.) and are never heard of again. It is incredibly self-centered to expect researchers to drop their own research and look at yours instead. Just because people ignore your idea doesn’t mean they’re out to oppress you. They (or rather we) do it to each other too.

    Right, it’s easy enough to satisfy all three criterion and still be ignored, and that’s why physicists and others push their ideas into view if they can. But physicists don’t automatically get dismissed out of hand for zero given good reason, like “others” do, and there certainly are enough cranks, both, in and out of the field, I can certainly name a few.

    I’m somewhat amused by the label, “alternative” though, considering that this surely must include loop quantum gravity theory, and just as surely, at least one of the two main contenders for a gravity theory is going to be a crackpot theory… AT LEAST one of them, and considering what’s going on with the colliders, I’d say that everybody had better start thinking a little harder next time about just how long they’re chosen belief has been going nowhere, (or into fantasyland), before they spout-off about how ‘Einstein wasted the last 30 years of his life chasing a rainbow’.

    And then there’s that whole unjustified anticentrist dogma thing that Brandon Carter very correctly pointed out is NOT simply a subconscious denial… rather, it’s pure willful ignorance. You can fulfill all three criterion until the cows come home and still be talking to a wall for-like-ever, in this case, even if it means that we throw our ToE right out the window just to spite our foot.

    These are my honest observations, regardless of whether they are on topic, off topic, or maybe they even prove Sean’s point.

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  93. Doug says:

    Neil wrote:

    Just look at the sticky problems of the radiative self-force in the Abraham-Lorentz equation…It is supposed to come from time delay affecting the transmission of effects from one part to another of the same particle, but how do you make that coherent if the particle is either a point, or held together with unknown other forces?

    You can’t, so it becomes a neglected fact of science, just like the fact that force is defined as a property of motion, but then that definition is ignored, because, if we didn’t ignore it, our theories would fall apart.

    I still remember your comment in the discussion about the quantum measurement paradox that went something like “do we really understand the photon?” I think it captures the essence of what all these issues of neglected physical facts raise: We are on shaky theoretical ground, so acting and thinking smugly about the emminance of professional status is just plain foolish.

    An amatuer is not necessarily anymore disqualified from finding the “Rosseta Stone” that will unlock the secrets of what underlies the weirdness of the quantum world than a professional is, even though he/she may be less prepared to understand the core issues, since they are expressed in terms of modern, esoteric, concepts and obtuse mathematical equations.

    Recall how silly most of the amatuers looked, who were naively trying to unlock the secrets of heavier-than-air flight, while the professionals scoffed and pronounced the impossibility of such a feat and derided their efforts. Yet, a few of the amatuers were properly prepared with an understanding of the pertinent principles, and they were able to eventually pull it off.

    I think an important lesson to be learned from the Wright brothers’ experience is that they didn’t do it by trying to convince the sceptical professionals to accept and take on their approach, something they probably never could have succeeded in doing. Instead, they worked it out themselves, making their own tools, and devising their own tests and measurements.

    It’s pretty much the same situation today. For every thousand amatuers naively hacking at the branches of the problem, there is only one wisely attacking the roots, while the professional scoff at their efforts as a whole, not realizing that the Wright brothers’ counterparts may be among them.

    The professionals are taught to “shut up and calculate,” so they do, and they naturally scold and scorn the amatuers who can’t calculate, but won’t shut up. Meanwhile, the amatuers, unlike the professionals, are uncommited investigators who don’t have to look out for their careers. They are at liberty to take unorthodox views of things, and while they may be villified as “cranks” and “crackpots” for doing so naively, in most cases, theirs is the better lot, in my opinion.

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  94. nigel says:

    Professor Carroll,

    Did you read Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method? Your first two rules for new genuises are fine, particularly in the cases where they have the money or nearby suitable universities to get that fine degree of education right up to the elitist PhD level. The third rule is kind of demeaning to the likes of Professor Witten. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he is helping science that much by claiming string theory predicts gravity and such like, but it is demeaning to advise him:

    3. Present your discovery in a way that is complete, transparent and unambiguous.

    Don’t you think that’s a bit too insulting to the intelligence of the crackpot stringer? There she is, with here PhD, working on string theory, failing to make any predictions, then having to read this nonsense that what she needs to do is to prevent it being a incomplete mess, and turn it into a proper theory. You can imagine her suffering on reading this post. They can’t help having such an incomplete, ambiguous (10^500 solution landscape) mess of a half-baked theory.

    In future when attacking string theory, maybe you should use Professor Baez’ index, awarding points to theories based on speculations which make no falsifiable predictions? BTW, I think the other kind of “crackpot” (leaving Witten aside for a moment) has an idea but lacks the skills to develop it. He or she decides to write it up and publish it, in the hope that someone with the skills will be able to develop it, and take a major share of the credit. Ultimately, if these people are on to something and do live long enough, they may be able to do the work needed themselves. Darwin and Newton were examples who spent decades taking your advice, developing a lot of arguments to support their theories, before publishing all the results in lucid books. Aristarchus or Samos and Boltzmann are examples where this didn’t occur.

    Tony Smith (a string theorist censored off arXiv possibly because he has embarrassingly stuck to 26 dimensional bosonic string theory, instead of changing to 10 dimensional superstrings with 1:1 boson:fermion supersymmetry), has quoted Feynman describing his problems with getting people to listen to him in 1948 at the Pocono conference:

    “Teller said: “… It is fundamentally wrong that you don’t have to take the exclusion principle into account.” … Dirac could not think of going forwards and backwards … in time … Bohr … said: “… one could not talk about the trajectory of an electron in the atom, because it was something not observable.” … Bohr thought that I didn’t know the uncertainty principle …

    “… it didn’t make me angry, it just made me realize that … [ they ] … didn’t know what I was talking about, and it was hopeless to try to explain it further.

    “I gave up, I simply gave up …”. – The Beat of a Different Drum: The Life and Sciece of Richard Feynman, by Jagdish Mehra (Oxford 1994) (pp. 245-248).

    Dyson has a google video (search for Freeman Dyson Feynman, on google video) describing how hard it was to get Feynman’s idea taken seriously:

    “… the first seminar was a complete disaster because I tried to talk about what Feynman had been doing, and Oppenheimer interrupted every sentence and told me how it ought to have been said, and how if I understood the thing right it wouldn’t have sounded like that. He always knew everything better, and was a terribly bad organiser of seminars.

    “I mean he would – he had to have the centre stage for himself and couldn’t shut up [like string theorists today!], and we couldn’t tell him to shut up. So in fact, there was very little communication at all. …

    “I always felt Oppenheimer was a bigoted old fool. …”

    Eventually, Dyson got Bethe to explain it to Oppeheimer, who listened to Bethe. Tony Smith quotes Dyson’s conclusion:

    “… At any particular moment in the history of science, the most important and fruitful ideas are often lying dormant merely because they are unfashionable. Especially in mathematical physics, there is commonly a lag of fifty or a hundred years between the conception of a new idea and its emergence into the mainstream of scientific thought. If this is the time scale of fundamental advance, it follows that anybody doing fundamental work in mathematical physics is almost certain to be unfashionable. …”

    – Freeman Dyson, 1981 essay Unfashionable Pursuits (reprinted in From Eros to Gaia (Penguin 1992, at page 171).

    Tony Smith, in a comment on the Not Even Wrong weblog, points out that Oppenheimer continued to be bigoted by nature:

    “Einstein was … interested in having Bohm work as his assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study … Oppenheimer, however, overruled Einstein on the grounds that Bohm’s appointment would embarrass him [Oppenheimer] as director of the institute. … Max Dresden … read Bohm’s papers. He had assumed that there was an error in its arguments, but errors proved difficult to detect. … Dresden visited Oppenheimer … Oppenheimer replied … “We consider it juvenile deviationism …” … no one had actually read the paper … “We don’t waste our time.” … Oppenheimer proposed that Dresden present Bohm’s work in a seminar to the Princeton Institute, which Dresden did. … Reactions … were based less on scientific grounds than on accusations that Bohm was a fellow traveler, a Trotskyite, and a traitor. … the overall reaction was that the scientific community should “pay no attention to Bohm’s work.” … Oppenheimer went so far as to suggest that “if we cannot disprove Bohm, then we must agree to ignore him.” …”.

    – Infinite Potential, by F. David Peat (Addison-Wesley 1997) at pages 101, 104, and 133.

    Even Carl Sagan falsely argued: “exceptional claims require exceptional evidence”.

    Problem is, what is exceptional evidence to one person, looks like a mere coincidence to a critic:

    “The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, Crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.”

    – George Orwell, 1984.

    You can see why Feynman gave up explaining path integrals in 1948. If he had presented it differently, would that have helped?

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  95. island: I used the word ‘alternative’ because Sean used it in the title of the post. I would not include either LQC or string theory in this, and niether one is a ‘crackpot theory’.

    A theory can be wrong without being in anyway a crackpot theory. For example, in Mathematics, a perfectly valid approach to Fermats last theorem would have been to look for a counter example. We now know that such a counterexample does not exist, but that does not automatically make anyone who had searched for one a crackpot. Obviously the situation is somewhat different now, given that a proof of the theorem exists.

    It is the same with physics. If there is a problem with current theories, attempts to address that problem which contain known physics as an approximation in all the domains in which it has been verified are perfectly valid. So no, genuine string theorists, LQC researchers, Twistor theorists, etc. are not ‘alternative-scientists’ in my opinion.

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  96. nigel says:

    “So no, genuine string theorists, LQC researchers, Twistor theorists, etc. are not ‘alternative-scientists’ in my opinion.” – Joe Fitzsimons

    What about’s Witten’s claim:

    ‘String theory has the remarkable property of predicting gravity.’

    – E. Witten (M-theory originator), Physics Today, April 1996.

    ’50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.’

    – J. Baez (crackpot Index originator).

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  97. String theory predicts a spin-2 massless particle, which is exactly what we expect from a theory of quantum gravity.

    So, no, Ed Witten is not a crackpot.

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  98. island says:

    Hi Joe, thanks for your reply.

    Personally, I would require that any theory that turns out not to be an actual reflection of nature, an “alternative, crackpot theory’, or you open the door to any mathematically consistent invention that manages to give the correct solutions. So when Dr. Witten says that “String theory has the remarkable property of predicting gravity”… he’s jumping the gun in a crackpot-ish manner in the enthusiastic name of his belief-system, which is not necessarily even loosely tied to reality.

    ‘Has the remarkable property of predicting what we string theorists currently believe will eventually turn out to be a valid theory of quantum gravity’… seems more the kind of thing that you should hear a physicist saying about it.

    Not that I think that Ed Witten is by any means a crackpot, just to be clear. I just wish that physicists would be more careful about what they claim is real science, vs., that which is still to be established, because it is farily common to see previously questioned assumptions get accepted by default into the mainstream as reality, after people do nothing more than to make the claim long enough, rather than because anything about it has changed.

    And I apologize for not being more clear that I was also talking Sean’s usage of the term, “alternative”, not yours.

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  99. Hi Island,

    We cannot possibly know in advance which theories will be proved correct by as yet unperformed experiments. As such, it is perfectly valid science to investigate unporven theories (usually with the goal of verifying them). Many many physicists do this everyday, and certainly should not be called crackpots if the theory eventually fails. What makes a crackpot is the willingness to completely ignore contradictory evidence, either by not examining the current state of the field, or by willfully ignoring criticisms or by trying to obfuscate problems with their personal theory.

    Good scientists do not do this. It’s as simple as that. If someone came along with an experimental test of string theory which conclusively ruled out string theory as a correct theory of nature, then the field would crumble (although some of it may well remain as an interesting mathematical structure).

    It seems there are two really distinguishing features of crackpots: 1) How thouroughly they study the current state of the field to which their theory applies (usually they have very poor, if any, understanding of the current theories), and 2) How they respond to criticism (badly). In point (2) I’m refering to scientific criticism of their work, and not personal attacks. I know I’d react poorly to someone who’s only criticism of my work is “You’re a stupid liar.”

    String theorists in general cannot be accused of meeting either of these two criteria.

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  100. nigel says:

    ‘What makes a crackpot is the willingness to completely ignore contradictory evidence, either by not examining the current state of the field, or by willfully ignoring criticisms or by trying to obfuscate problems with their personal theory.’ – Joe Fitzsimons

    Try this for size:

    ‘The critics feel passionately that they are right, and that their viewpoints have been unfairly neglected by the establishment. … They bring into the public arena technical claims that few can properly evaluate. … Responding to this kind of criticism can be very difficult. It is hard to answer unfair charges of élitism without sounding élitist to non-experts. A direct response may just add fuel to controversies.’ – Dr Edward Witten, M-theory originator, Nature, Vol 444, 16 November 2006.

    Witten is “willfully ignoring criticisms” because it seems he advises string theorists to try not to reply directly to criticisms for fear of causing negative controversy.

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  101. nigel says:

    “String theory predicts a spin-2 massless particle, which is exactly what we expect from a theory of quantum gravity.

    “So, no, Ed Witten is not a crackpot.” – Joe Fitzsimons

    Give the guy credit, string theory predicts a landscape 10^500 different theories, all including spin-2 gravitons. Worth 10^500 Nobel Prizes? ;-)

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  102. Van says:

    Nigel,
    I think Witten is referring to criticism by non-experts, not valid and relevant criticism.

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  103. nigel says:

    Van,
    Spot on, you need to be a string theorist expert of Witten’s stature before your criticism, that it doesn’t produce falsifiable predictions, becomes a ‘valid and relevant criticism.’ Apologies for missing that point. The flat earther’s also did that: only flat earther’s were sufficiently qualified experts in flat earth theory to be able to make ‘valid and relevant criticisms’. Other criticisms simply weren’t valid or relevant to them. ;-)

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  104. Anthony A. says:

    Whether you agree with them or not, it is simply a fact that ‘alternative theories’ that do not satisfy (at least) Sean’s checklist simply will never go anywhere.

    But suppose you are a serious alternative-thinker, you really do know your stuff, you really do have a good idea that is clearly explained. Chances are your theory will still go nowhere (if for no other reason than the one Joe F. brought up: scientists are *very* busy and generally do not even have the time to carefully study even the all of the high-quality, relevant work by their favorite colleagues that they would like to study — I know I don’t).

    So how is the ‘establishment’ supposed to find you? In other words, what exactly should the ‘establishment’ do? It’s not easy, but if you have ideas, let’s hear them!

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  105. Van says:

    Nigel,
    This topic of this thread is not on the merits of string theory, so I think you should back off. I would say that it isn’t valid criticism to just parrot things you’ve read in recent books or on another blog. When a string theorist does try to respond to criticisms from such people, there is virtually no way to explain things because 1) they don’t have the relevant background and 2) they are really not interested in a true discussion to begin with as they only want to repeat what they’ve heard elsewhere.

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  106. KundryVolare says:

    Re:89, Mr. Neil B.s comment,i’ve often wondered why nonlocality has not been embraced in it’s true magnitude…here’s one detail problem i find confounding: the 101a proof of general relativity; how the field equation can contain Newtonian gravitation.

    and i LIKE path integrals!

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  107. island says:

    Thanks Joe… all good points that are well demonstrated by a quick trip to the newsgroup, sci.physics.

    What makes a crackpot is the willingness to completely ignore contradictory evidence, either by not examining the current state of the field.

    Okay, then I’m taking another hard shot at every physicist and neodarwinian that “conditionally abuse” the strong *appearance* of the anthropic physics to their own selfish end only, without giving it equal time or credence.

    Whoa… there’s practically nobody left.

    Must’ve been the “low-blow”… ;)

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  108. KundryVolare says:

    oh, and let’s not forget, Pauli was an utter crackpot.

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  109. nigel says:

    Pauli wasn’t crackpot: he correctly predicted that neutrinos are experimentally checkable, in a 4 December 1930 letter to experimentalists: ‘… Dear Radioactives, test and judge.’ (See footnote on p12 of http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0204104 .)

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  110. Okay, then I’m taking another hard shot at every physicist and neodarwinian that “conditionally abuse” the strong *appearance* of the anthropic physics to their own selfish end only, without giving it equal time or credence.

    I’m afraid I have know idea what you mean by this.

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  111. nigel says:

    I would say that it isn’t valid criticism to just parrot things you’ve read in recent books or on another blog. When a string theorist does try to respond to criticisms from such people, there is virtually no way to explain things because 1) they don’t have the relevant background and 2) they are really not interested in a true discussion to begin with as they only want to repeat what they’ve heard elsewhere. – Van

    1) The parroting comes from people repeating false string theory claims to do physics; 2) the insults come from those claiming that any critics are repeating rubbish from recent books, i.e. ad hominem attacks ignoring the point. The ‘relevant background’ seems maybe to be a euphemism for prejudice?

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  112. island says:

    I’m afraid I have know idea what you mean by this.

    At the risk of repeatedly repeating myself, (but not to you), and being guilty of taking the conversation where I want it to go… when Lenny Susskind says…

    “The “appearance” of design is undeniable…”

    … and…

    “I have to say that if, [the landscape fails], as things stand now, we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature’s fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics.”

    Lenny doesn’t believe this crap for one minute, and he would never say it if he wasn’t confident that he can lose the MOST APPARENT implication in his unproven multiverse.

    Or when Richard Dawkins does exactly the same thing…

    Regardless of the fact that neither, supernatural forces, nor intelligent design, is necessary to explain how we could be necessary to the physical process, the strong *APPEARANCE* gets abused and willfully ignored, selfishly.

    I’d like to ask for your honest opinion on something, Joe:

    If there is a strong anthropic constraint on the forces, wouldn’t it be very resonable to conclude that this might *necessarily* include a reciprocal connection to the human evolutionary process?

    Isn’t there a self-evident prediction falling from this that there exists a mechanism that enables the universe to leap/bang to higher orders of the same basic configuration?

    Wouldn’t that explain the anthropic problems from first principles… without need for inflationary theory, much less, a multiverse?

    I mean, that’s so obvious that I seriously can’t believe that there isn’t a flurry of investigation into this… especially considering that it is an “undeniable fact” that the universe appears to be under an anthropic constraint that is so strong that Lenny and Richard are going to find god if the landscape fails!!!

    I think I scratched my record…
    I think I scratched my record…
    I think I scratched my record…

    Sorry Sean.

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  113. island says:

    Whoops!… close the tag, idiot!

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  114. island says:

    Thanks, Sean, and just to be clear, I’m the idiot that I was talking to… ;)

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  115. KundryVolare says:

    oh, metaphysics noW/ I like Richard Tarnas’s “Cosmos and Psyche” for that. Bueller?

    just to clarify, I am yanking my chain. I prefer pa Russki.

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  116. GP says:

    Has anybody come across the book called ‘The Final Theory’? I read the intro some time back and the author starts off by pointing out many contradictions in physics, but ends up destroying his own credibility. My favourite was how Newtonian gravity and general relativity conflict, and therefore both must be wrong.

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  117. Island: If you’re refering to the part in ‘The God Delusion’ where Dawkins starts talking about applying evolution to the whole universe, I find that section very poor. I think it is somewhat egocentric and self deluding to think that one’s field should be applied to all others. We have thermodynamics in physics which already fills the role.

    Let me preface what follows by saying that I am not a string theorist.

    As with many other physicists, I’m comfortable with directly using the anthropic principle. I find it to be ducking the issue to say that physics must be the way it is for us to be here, and that is why physics is the way it is. My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, is that we are likely to find more dependencies within physical constants as our understanding progresses. That said, I’m perfectly happy applying the anthropic principle to the landscape if it can truly be shown to exist. This is what we do everyday explaining why humans live on Earth and not Mars. If the universe allows a corner where life can evolve, it doesn’t really matter that large tracts of space cannot support life.

    We accept this because we know the universe is diverse. The same would be true if there truly exists a landscape.

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  118. Gina says:

    “…this post might be the single greatest favor that has ever been done for the loose-knit community of non-traditional scientists.”

    Maybe not. While interesting, it is not clear that Sean acquired basic competency in the area where his discovery belongs to, tried to understand earlier approaches to the matter and presented his ideas on facing alternative scientists and crackpots in a way which is complete, transparent, and unambiguous.

    For one thing, there is a single real example in this post and it is regarding dark matter. Do you see, Sean, Cooperstock and Tieu, Kolb, Matarrese, Notari and Riotto as alternative scientists and crackpots? Is this a prototype example?

    “Believe me, I sympathize.”

    And here is a little exercise in Bayesian thinking: What is more believable? When a person makes a claim ‘X’, or when he says ‘Believe me, X’.

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  119. Adrian says:

    A nice list, but it’s incomplete.

    You forgot to add:

    4. Get a PhD from a prestigious university, preferably with a world-renowned adviser. Oh, and don’t waste your time at a non-American university. No one takes them seriously, anyway.

    5. Do two postdocs, probably more.

    6. Get a tenure-track job at a university better than the one you attended in step 4, preferably as part of an established and “respected” group working in the same field.

    7. Get on the bandwagon, play politics, suck up to the influential few.

    No one that counts in science is going to listen to anything you have to say, no matter how diligently you follow steps 1 through 3, if you can’t also complete 4 through 7.

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  120. Andrew Daw says:

    Only crackpots can believe that a universe can exist that consists just of its smallest parts and the forces that surround such subatomic components of matter. But that’s physics for you.

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  121. Neil B. says:

    Island –

    I respect your trying your way as an independent thinker, but you have never told me coherently why the fine structure constant should be around 1/137, good for life, and not the “logically clean” value of 1, etc., in terms of your speachifying about thermodynamics or leaping to higher orders or whatever your point is supposed to be. I’m sorry, I just don’t see any real substance there.

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  122. island says:

    We accept this because we know the universe is diverse. The same would be true if there truly exists a landscape.

    Well, the “cosmological principle” derives an a priori statistical distribution of values of observables, but this is not what is observed, and is the reason for the anthropic physics that defines the “Goldilocks Enigma”, so the combined effect of the cosmological principle with the goldilocks constraint extends to the observed universe to produce a biocentric cosmological principle.

    This also addresses the alleged, Fermi “Paradox”, as well, since we should not *yet* expect to hear from similarly developed intelligent life, because their radio transmissions have not had time to reach us… *yet*… either.

    That’s a testable prediction about where and when life will most likely be found elsewhere in the universe.

    This paper by A. Feoli, and S. Rampone, further discusses this in context with similarly developed systems, but they fail to take the balance of extremes that defines the “Goldilocks Enigma” into account here, because they apply the mediocrity principle, instead, so their formula and anthropic statement are not quite accurately inserted into their large scale equation, as would be the case if they’d considered the entire set of anthropic balance points that evolve, so their solution and anthropic statement are generalized and overstated, rather than being specific and pointed toward a fine layer of similarly evolved galaxies, stars, and planets:

    “Is the Strong Anthropic Principle Too Weak?”
    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/9812093

    We discuss the Carter’s formula about the mankind evolution probability following the derivation proposed by Barrow and Tipler. We stress the relation between the existence of billions of galaxies and the evolution of at least one intelligent life, whose living time is not trivial, all over the Universe. We show that the existence probability and the lifetime of a civilization depend not only on the evolutionary critical steps, but also on the number of places where the life can arise. In the light of these results, we propose a stronger version of Anthropic Principle.

    When you apply the Goldilocks Enigma, rather than the mediocrity principle, then a much more accurate and testable formula falls-out along with a more accurate statement about a strong biocentric principle, so this “coincidental” Enigma extends to include every similarly evolved galaxy that exists in the same common “layer” of galaxies as we do. The average of extreme opposing runaway tendencies that are common to the anthropic coincidences make many testable predictions about the observed universe.

    Like, life, (past or present), will not be found on Mars nor Venus, but it will be found in other galaxy systems along the layer of spacetime that makes-up the goldilocks enigma. Venus suffers from the runaway greenhouse effect, whereas Mars represents the cold stagnate proof of what will happen if extremist environmentalists get things all their way too, so heed the lesson of this anthropic coincidence.

    I’m sorry that you didn’t answer my questions.

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  123. island says:

    I respect your trying your way as an independent thinker, but you have never told me coherently why the fine structure constant should be around 1/137, good for life, and not the “logically clean” value of 1, etc., in terms of your speachifying about thermodynamics or leaping to higher orders or whatever your point is supposed to be. I’m sorry, I just don’t see any real substance there.

    You crack me up Neil… this is the only point that you can ever make and you dismiss everything that I say based soley on this… LOL@you

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  124. Van says:

    I think we should add another point to Sean’s checklist: If you refer to known laws of physics as ‘alleged’, then you are a crackpot. Someone should write a book in the vein of Jeff Foxworthy, “You know you are a crackpot if…..”.

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  125. nigel says:

    Van, Professor Siegel has already written a self-diagnosis checklist of that type, and then there is Professor Baez’s crackpot index. And please don’t forget Professor ‘t Hooft’s page on ‘How to become a bad theoretical physicist’ which admits:

    ‘It is much easier to become a bad theoretical physicist than a good one. I know of many individual success stories.’
    :-)

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  126. submitted for Seans’ approval…
    a potentially crackpot TOE – all latexed up.
    http://www.theoryofeverything.org/TOE/JGM/ToE.pdf
    I think I’ve conformed to the above requirements (as well as Baez’s checklist)

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  127. Neil B. says:

    Island –

    You can be cracked up by whatever you want, but I am ultimately saying that you just haven’t made a credible case for your theory. You can complain to your content about me making the same point to dismiss your ideas (and you would admit, as has been pointed out here – we just don’t have time to investigate and properly rebut every alternative theory that we find unimpressive – so maybe it is not so bad, but I can’t take on every burden.) The problem is, you never answer my question to any substantive degree. So, is it so silly for me to keep asking it? Maybe that little carousel game cracks me up.

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  128. island says:

    Neil, you’re utterly clueless and have done absolutely nothing to refute a single bit of the hard physics that I’ve given from the very beginning of my participation in this thread, which, FYI, derives every claim that I’ve made.

    And just who is this “we” that would take such a cheap shot without actually addressing any points that were made?… besides your long-time crackpot self?… ;)

    Please do not talk to me again about this, unless you plan to refute the hard physics that derives what I’ve actually said, rather than something that you want me to say, because I don’t need your large numbers philosophies to make my point, like you do with your own wild crackpot ideas.

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  129. Van says:

    I think it’s funny to see those who’ve never done anything in science except push there crackpot ideas talking about ‘hard physics’. Give me a break. These guys don’t know anything.

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  130. island says:

    I think that it’s really funny that some crank thinks that the Fermi paradox is a law of physics.

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  131. Van says:

    Well, I think I was making a generalization rather than focusing on your specific statements. As it is, I guess I’m a crank with a Ph.D. in physics. Have you ever even had a formal physics course? If so, at what level?

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  132. island says:

    Well, I think I was making a generalization rather than focusing on your specific statements

    Ah, so you made an unfounded leap of faith to assume something that isn’t true, so that you could warp the truth to you own end, which was to use this false information to make the claim that I am a crackpot.

    Sean, you need an anti-crackpot crackpot category to go along with your list to account for people who take potshots any given good reason.

    Unlike Joe.

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  133. island says:

    Correction:

    Sean, you need an anti-crackpot crackpot category to go along with your list to account for people who take potshots [without giving] any given good reason.

    Add, “lame, contentless, appeals to authority”, to that while I’m correcting myself… ;)

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  134. Van says:

    Typical rantings. It just goes to make one of the original points of the post that crackpots cannot accept any opposition to their ideas. It’s really arrogant to believe, as typical crackpots do, that they know more than those who’ve dedicated years to studying the subject. My advice to these people is stop spending their time putting out crazy theories on the internets. Noone is going to pay attention. If you want to participate, go to school and take the courses. Do some real work and publish papers in peer-reviewed journals. I’m sorry to be so blunt and impolite, but it’s simply the way it is.

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  135. Doug says:

    Neil wrote:

    we just don’t have time to investigate and properly rebut every alternative theory that we find unimpressive

    This is the key to the whole issue. Without a genuine inductive science, modern investigators have turned to a seemingly endless list of ad hoc inventions, which is an open door to amateurs, who have just as fertile imaginations as professionals have.

    What is needed is the basis for a truly inductive science, in which theory must be constructed from the consequences of clearly stated assumptions that are consistent with observations. For instance, we can observe that time is a scalar expansion, and we can observe that space is also, at great distances from the earth. Therefore, we can reasonably assume that the two scalar expansions are related, and, since the only known relation of space and time is the reciprocal relation of motion, we conclude that this observed scalar expansion is a major player in the structure of the physical universe.

    At this point, we are on solid philosophical ground, because, unlike those following Einstein, we have not resorted to our fertile imaginations, but have insisted on forming a hypothesis based on observations. This is the advantage of inductive vs. inventive science: it reduces, if not eliminates, the opportunity for crazy, non-inductive, inventions.

    Now, looked at this way, the only difference between the so-called “crackpot theories” and “respected theories,” is the idea of ad hoc. Crackpots generally don’t know what is required to be invented.

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  136. Andrew Daw says:

    This is the key to the whole issue. Without a genuine inductive science, modern investigators have turned to a seemingly endless list of ad hoc inventions, which is an open door to amateurs, who have just as fertile imaginations as professionals have.

    Or, on the other hand, amateurs could be more committed to the principles of inductive science than professional physicists.

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  137. Island: I did my best to answer what I thought you were asking. I’m still not entirely sure what you meant.

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  138. Neil B. says:

    Island –

    I think you took my critiques and even the snark needlessly hard. I’m not saying that your argument has any particular flaws in the hard physics or that it’s a bad argument as such. And, I wasn’t being sarcastic about not having time to look it over carefully or aiming that at your theories in particular – that is just a fact of life, for me and most of “us” which means perhaps those who post here. Deriving the fundamental constants has long been considered the key or a major key to “why” theories about the universe, and “1/137″ is easy to type. What I mean is, that in order to separate our universe existentially from other “model universes,” one has to in effect make a reductio ad absurdum of those other universes. That is not easy for anyone to do. It means postulating a universe or class of universes with alternative constants, and then trying to find a reason it could not be like that – not even exist in that form, in the raw material sense. Since that involves hypothetical laws of physics rather than using the ones we know, it can’t be “hard physics” no matter who does it. (Maybe we need new names for that sort of speculative comparative “physics,” as I and many others have done, for example regarding the number of space dimensions.)

    As best I can tell, you haven’t accomplished and summarized that particular feat, aside from maybe related or suggestive tries, in a concise way that I have time to read. Since no one else really has either, AFAIK, that’s no failure in relative terms.

    I don’t think you are a crackpot, I don’t think I am a crackpot, and you just look touchy overreacting and throwing around names. As others have noted, oversensitivity just makes one look like a crackpot!

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  139. Bruce the Canuck says:

    Here’s a question: What about the path-to-tenure dropouts? They’re legion.

    BSc, MA, PhD, Post grad degree, Postdoc work, teaching…maybe tenure. Mostly not. Each stage has an attrition rate of between 2:1 and 10:1, and from MA on up extracts a lot of work for little $ or recognition (*cough* pyramid scheme *cough*). Lots of people decide to drop of at some stage, not because they’re not talented enough, but due to a rational assesment of the cost and odds of making it all the way. They want to have a life, in other words.

    (I work as an engineer with a BSc in physics, so I don’t count myself there. QM gave me a terrible headache. But I support the people I met in physics.)

    At the MA stage of theoretical physics, having learned the basics of GR and quantum field theory, are they a “physicist”, or an “amateur”? What if, despite the unspoken social pressure to not do so they continued to read journals and work on their own, while teaching at some local college or tutoring? If they go looking for a reviewer for an idea, some 10 years after they leave the system, are they a “crackpot”?

    The people who dropped out along the path to tenure are in the majority! Do they count as crackpots, or be treated as such? Are they encouraged to contribute? Isn’t it an enourmous waste if they’re not?

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  140. PK says:

    A colleague of mine once received a paper to review from Physical Review A, which was clearly a crackpot paper (“special relativity is wrong”). The letter of the editor accompanying the paper stated that they didn’t want to send the paper out to review, but that the author insisted on it. So if you do some really solid work, despite not being part of a recognized institution, you will be able to get your work out to referees, and into refereed journals.

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  141. Doug says:

    Andrew wrote:

    Or, on the other hand, amateurs could be more committed to the principles of inductive science than professional physicists.

    Good point. I think Smolin’s insistence that the most important aspect of GR is it’s background independence is a good illustration of this. Einstein never was part of the scientific establishment. He was an amateur who was accepted, even adopted, by the establishment, but he always remained aloof in his search for what Smolin calls a “coherent theory of principle.” Indeed, he abandoned his own theories in the search for such a thing.

    However, even though Einstein’s uncompromising “demand for a coherent theory of principle” is not understood in terms of the need to follow inductive science, but rather in terms of a need for “moral” invention that satisfies a “demand for clarity and completeness,” the consequence is the same.

    If we don’t recognize this, then we will fail to conclude, as Smolin concludes, that, to truly follow the amateur Einstein, we must not attempt to add ad hoc invention upon ad hoc invention, but instead to search for genuine inductive principle. As Smolin writes:

    I think a sober assessment is that up until now, almost all of us who work in theoretical physics have failed to live up to Einstein’s legacy. His demand for a coherent theory of principle was uncompromising. It has not been reached—not by quantum theory, not by special or general relativity, not by anything invented since. Einstein’s moral clarity, his insistence that we should accept nothing less than a theory that gives a completely coherent account of individual phenomena, cannot be followed unless we reject almost all contemporary theoretical physics as insufficient.

    The obvious point is that only amateurs are in a position to do this.

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  142. Mike Merrifield says:

    As a fairly frequent recipient of nutter mail of one kind or another, I am often struck by the huge amount of time and effort that has clearly gone into producing the work, with reams of carefully typeset equations and illustrative figures. Presumably, even though the people responsible are demonstrably incapable of doing science, they could do a lot of good if they only focussed these mammoth efforts on something worthwhile for society, like campaigning for human rights. Has anyone ever done the order-of-magnitude calculation as to quite how much effort is going to waste, and thought about how one might tap into this wealth of mis-spent potential?

    Mind you, much the same could be asked about blogging, and a calculation of the IQ points wasted here would presumable be truly scary.

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  143. Einstein never was part of the scientific establishment. He was an amateur who was accepted, even adopted, by the establishment, but he always remained aloof in his search for what Smolin calls a “coherent theory of principle.”

    Ok, let’s stop this rubbish right here. Way too many people claim that Einstein was an amateur (since he worked in a patent office) which is blatantly false. Yes he did work in a patent office because he had trouble finding a teaching job. What seems to be neglected is that he completed a PhD in the middle of 1905, his ‘annus mirabilis’.

    So it took a few years for him to find an academic job, what does that matter? It has happened to many people, and will no doubt continue to happen. This doesn’t make them amateurs.

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  144. Doug says:

    Professional vs. amateur status has nothing to do with degree of education. It only has to do with the nature of one’s employment. When one is employed to think as a physicist, he/she enjoys professional status. When one is not so employed, he/she is an amateur, regardless of the degree of education.

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  145. Doug, when one is doing a PhD it seems wholely improper to be refered to as an amateur and to be claimed to be outside of the scientific establishment.

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  146. Christine says:

    There are two definitions for amateur:

    1) a person who engages in an activity without payment (nonprofessional activity);

    2) [pejorative sense] a person considered inept at some activity.

    So it seems Doug is using the first definition, whereas Joe Fitzsimons is using (at some extent) the second one.

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  147. Gina says:

    Christine, B, and Sean

    How heavy is the burdon of amateurs or even crackpots who ask you to consider their ideas? All of you spend quite a lot of time in blogging and outreach activity. It seems that occasionally dealing with such claims maybe more fruitfull than trying to find magic formulas (which will not work) to drive them away.

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  148. Neil B. says:

    Gina:

    Yesss! These pros take plenty of time telling us about crackpotism and how they don’t have time to read crackpot theories, but do they do enough to look for interesting material from amateurs that could be useful? Remember that even a well-posed question or challenge is helpful, not just entire new theories etc. There is lots of talent out there, that is not being tapped, IMHO.

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  149. Christine says:

    Hi Gina,

    How heavy is the burdon of amateurs or even crackpots who ask you to consider their ideas?

    I had some few annoying crackpot cases back in my previous blog. In fact, crackpots can be annoying or not, it is a case of self-awareness. However, I have noticed some correlation: a high Baez crackpot index usually indicates a low sense of self-awareness. In such cases, the best thing is to ignore them.

    Concerning amateurs, of course there are many out there far clever than I am and it is a pleasure to exchange emails/talk with them.

    Physics research is a very difficult career per se. So imagine amateurs (not in the pejorative sense) trying to do a serious research in their free time.

    All of you spend quite a lot of time in blogging

    I usually spend a very tiny fraction of my time blogging. I usually blog over lunchtime, or when I arrive very early at my office.

    Christine

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  150. Christine says:

    I think it would not be a bad idea that amateur physicists attempt to create an association. It appears to exist many of those associations for amateur astronomers in the US. If the association proves to be serious enough, with their own journal, publishing interesting, original or expository material (non-crackpot papers), which could be refereed by a board of PhD physicists (that happen not be professionally involved in research), perhaps it could be a start for making the best ideas and works of amateurs promulgated.

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  151. Jenn says:

    I’m finding the thread amusing. As somebody who frankly has a layman’s understanding plus a rudimentary math background, I’d say it’s easier for people to get confused in their analysis when they’re still learning any given field.

    In linguistic development, you will see children making grammatical mistakes they have never been exposed to, and which they never made before–which indicates that they are in fact at a level where they are attempting to generalize and grasp what they know at a basic analytical level. Starting to say “she runned” instead of “she ran” is one such example.

    I’ll readily admit to being at a crackpot level myself in my efforts to understand all that I have learned of physics. I confuse classical and quantum physics constantly because that’s how it’s been presented to me. I don’t mean to be one, but it happens. I studied a different field of science.

    I personally find string theory very appealing, because I find Planck’s constant being strangely specific and tied to uncertainity in direction and location to be suggestive that the so-called lost dimensions are right inside Planck’s constant. I have a master-level book in math required for quantum mechanics that involve tensors, and I’m able to understand it fuzzily.

    Still, I wouldn’t dare do a theory until I was sure I had understood everything inside and out; however it does make me sympathetic to theories of universe that invoke 7 or 11 dimensions since it synchs with what little I understand, and has the attraction of being mathematical.

    Certainly when we look at E=MC ^2, I wonder– what do we have to learn about this equation? We simply don’t know much about mass and energy– nor about acceleration. None of those variables can be truly defined without invoking some kind of concept of space and time to start with.

    If we dissect what acceleration and what mass and energy truly is… maybe we’ll have dark energy and matter all explained, as well as why NASA telescopes detected what seems to be a “Cosmological jerk” and variable universe expansion speeds.

    And I think we’ll have a good explanation of gravity too– after all, acceleration is mostly studied in the context of gravity and matter. Photons both lack mass and lack any variablity in their speed except when going through mass-induced distortions (prisms, water, air, gravitional forces).

    Anyway, people willing to develop experiments even on false premise and report results– that’s one step. There are many good experiments that have faulty or incomplete analyses. I don’t think crackpots should build a theory based on one experiment.

    Lavoisser, an french nobleman who was a dedicated, indeed obsessed amateur chemist in his leisure time– and poured a lot of money in his lab– did thousands of experiments in his lifetime, all devoted to carefully measuring weight before and after chemical reactions.

    His work helped develop the principle of conservation of matter.

    If you have an experiment that yields interesting results, keep going. Take in all feedback, don’t defend flaws, just do more and more from different angles. Would you understand an elephant from a photograph of its trunk? Keep working on it, and if you have a full series of photographs of an elephant that you can use to model it 3-D, including its size, weight– in addition to finding other physical evidence, then you really do have an elephant to prove.

    Not a “mysterious snake-like thing that attaches to trees or otherwise floats in midair.”

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  152. Gina says:

    Dear Niel B.,

    Your opinion that amateurs ideas can be scientifically useful and, even if not, dealing with them can be scientifically useful is interesting and deserved to be examined. But this was not the point I was making this time.

    I am willing to take it for granted that amateurs ideas are never useful, and I think it is perfectly ok for a scientist to concentrate on her or his cutting-edge science and not be involved in any outreach activity. But for those scientists who are interested in outreach activities/blogging/popularization etc. (and even those who sometimes express their ideas on matters in which they are amateurs), I am not sure if Sean’s anticrackpots approach is reasonable compared to the alternative of just dealing with amateurs’ claims one at a time.

    In addition, did any of you really ever encountered an amateur comparing himself to Galileo? Such a comparison seems to be a theme in the “how to deal with crackpots” literature to which Sean’s post adds. But is it for real?

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  153. Neil B. says:

    A combined reply to several posts from Christine, Jenn, and Gina:

    (Gina, please tell me that “I am willing to take it for granted that amateurs ideas are never useful,…” was a typo!)

    First point: coming up with a whole new theory is not the only worthwhile thing to do, and not the least likely contribution from an average professional, much less an amateur. There are all kinds of interesting loose ends to pull on. For example, in special relativity there is the “right-angle lever paradox” from 1909 which you can look up. There were arguments about it for years, with some papers even lately, still arguing about energy currents and torques and “the asynchronous formulation of relativity” and stress tensor corrections and etc., and this is the experts not “cranks.” It is amazingly simple, and just the sort of thing an amateur could at least have posed in 1909. I think there are still funny loose ends (some of which I am looking into myself, please check my blog if I can say that here.)

    That is a good job for amateurs, to poke around and find “embarrassing questions” to ask, whether they have good answers or not. So, physicists should be looking out for that. Indeed, their students in classes are such amateurs, and might ask a question that starts fruitful thinking (in other words, what an amateur starts can be fruitfully finished by the professionals if it is good ….)

    Second: Few amateurs compare themselves to Galileo, at least in stature. The core issues about Galileo in that context are: That he challenged “authorities” by actually looking at things other people didn’t or couldn’t, and, the behavior of the doubters – the “refusal to look through the telescope.” The scorn heaped by many amateurs is about that unwillingness to look, often based on status issues (well proven by sting studies in which previously published papers, resubmitted under unknown pseudonyms, were rejected even by the same journals.)

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  154. Neil B. says:

    PS – Here’s a simple “relativity paradox” to think about, that I haven’t seen directly elsewhere:

    Suppose you use a crank (heh, good for the pun here) which can scrape along a surface on the opposite side. Here is a diagram, from “above”:

    #——–X——-==

    The “==” is a handle someone can push on, the X is the axle attached to a floor below (but we don’t really need gravity here), and the # is the scraping element, which rubs a high-friction surface below it. If I push on the handle, I scrape along the floor under the opposite side of the handle. I use up energy inside myself, and in special relativity (not classical mechanics) I get less massive (less “mass-energy.”) The scraping action imparts energy to what it scrapes, making it more massive, by however little bit. Total mass-energy is conserved inside this closed system, but the center of mass moves to the left.

    Now: in Newtonian mechanics, this is no problem, since the mass distribution stays the same. But if the center of mass-energy moves in a body without a momentum compensation, that is a problem: it moves the centroid of the momentum vectors laterally in frames in which the body moves, without compensation. That would violate conservation of angular momentum, L (remember that L = sum of r X p of any kind, and is not just about rotation.) So, where does the compensation come from? It can’t be any force that would make sense in the classical version, since that would over-correct in such a case. It has to be something that happens only because of relativistic considerations (which don’t have to involve high velocities, as the very example of mass-energy equivalence shows.)

    This problem is related to the right-angle lever paradox, since an “energy current” is involved. (My answer to that one, also implied by some who should know: There are tangential momentum vectors from the stress correction to momentum and energy, produced by the shear forces in the RAL. They correct for the changing reaction angular momentum from the unequal torques applied to the lever, since dL/dt can also be made from v X p.) In this case, perhaps the energy flow running across the handle counts as “p” for the v X p. Unfortunately, that extra p term is not what we get out of the stress-correction formulas (their corrections are proportional to length along the line of motion.) Hence, this needs further work, IMHO.

    “tyrannogenius”

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  155. Gina: Non-physicists with what they perceive as revolutionary new physics theories tend to fall into two categories. The first is interested amateurs, who, when a mistake is pointed out in their work accept that they have made a mistake, and either go off to correct the problem, or drop it altogether. The second kind is the type who insist that they are right, no matter what flaws in their reasoning are highlighted. It’s this second group that are so unpopular with physicists. Their mind is made up, and pointing out flaws just leads to protracted email arguments that help no one and invariable involve the crackpot questioning your abilities and your integrity.

    It should be reasonable for us not to wish to engage with these people. Unfortunately it can often be hard to distinguish between the two types of people from their initial correspondence, and while by ignoring both you may well be ignoring someone who might otherwise be benefited an email explaining some particular area of physics, the danger of getting dragged into a long argument weighs heavily against replying.

    Personally, I don’t get very many crackpots (except when I mention Steorn), and so I don’t really mind replying. In fact I sometimes find the emails amusing. On the other hand, the people who are very involved in public outreach, blogging, etc. are the most visible and so receive the most crackpot-spam. If they were to seriously engage with everyone that writes to them with a revolutionary new theory, I suspect that they would get a lot less public outreach, blogging, etc. done.

    Pharyngula is a pretty good example of this. The comment section is full of rants by creationist and various other evolution denialists. If PZ were to reply to them all, I can’t imagine him having any time to blog. I suspect the same is true of Cosmic Variance, although maybe somewhat less evident in the usual comment sections.

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  156. I have the same experiences as Galileo. The orthodox scholars refused to look through his telescope and they said that the sunspots should be blasphemy of the “Holy Scriptures”.

    I have made a discovery of the wave-displacement phenomenon that everybody have seen but not noticed. The derivation of the experiments based on this discovery shows that Hubble and Planck have found the same phenomenon but both have misinterpreted it in different ways.

    Hubble believed it was indication of Doppler-velocity of the galaxies. Planck misinterpreted the fractional displacement of the wave-units as frequency-dependent quantum-jump.

    My experience is (like Galileo’s) that not any physicist (the priests of our present world-view) dare to comments my simple explaining experiments.

    Do you dare to look at http://www.theuniphysics.info

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  157. Gina says:

    hmm, I stand corrected. It looks that there are much more grang unifying physics theories by amateurs out there than I have imagined. As well as people really comparing thmselves to Galileo. Ohh well.

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  159. Van says:

    Dear All,
    For you amusement, you can find a large collection of crackpot theories at
    http://www.crank.net/ , some by people who regularly post to this site. The amateur/alternative scientist out there might have a look at this as part of the checklist.

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  160. Sean Wrote:

    “There may have been a time, in the halcyon days of Archimedes or maybe even Galileo and Newton, when anyone with a can-do attitude and a passing interest in the fundamental mysteries could make an important contribution to our understanding of nature. Those days are long past… If you haven’t mastered what we’ve already learned, you’re not going to be able to see beyond it.”

    Physicists in particular are so certain that they distance themselves from the irrational claims and thinking of people they call crackpots, when the truth is that no one is immune. Physicists today have their own irrational bias are making their own huge mistakes in judgment, which we can only hope degrade in the future. Assuming that all the fundamentals are correct and can no longer be improved upon. That much arrogance just baffles me. And yet that is the norm.

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  161. Tim says:

    Gevin,
    I don’t think physicists today merely assume that the fundamentals are correct. They are correct. A typical characteristic of the crackpot is to claim that scientists don’t really know what they are talking about and that they just assume certain things to be true without checking. Nothing could be further from the truth. Physicists aren’t taught to memorize facts and equations, as the crackpots seem to think.

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  163. Peter Fred says:

    Tim # 161 wrote

    Gevin,
    I don’t think physicists today merely assume that the fundamentals are correct. They are correct. A typical characteristic of the crackpot is to claim that scientists don’t really know what they are talking about and that they just assume certain things to be true without checking

    Humans are a credulous lot. Well established, high-profile scientist believed in the aether. an earth centered astronomy and the impossibility of heavier-than-air flight.

    It is the history of science that in part encourages us crackpotsto question such beliefs you non crackpots faithfully ascribe to like dark matter, dark energy, the yet-to-be specified property of mass enables it to attract other mass and the the impossibility of harnessing of the gravitational force .

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  164. Alejandro Rivero says:

    It is me, or the http://www.crank.net is beginning to list -at least for science- more sites with the label “anticrank” than sites with the label “crank”? Which suggests another question: is the label “anticrank” just for another kind of crank?

    Seriously, to me the question is illumination versus empiricism (or math calculation at least), and it is possible to find science grouppies who fall in the illuminated cathegory, and mad scientist who at least are in the empirical group. Illuminism is fostered due to current approaches to vulgarisation, where the findings of academia are divulgated with the same methods that church dogmas are, instead of using the tools of reason and experiment. Most of the cracks of the illuminated kind simply had received this kind of asserted knowledge, rebelled against, and concluded their own set of dogmas.

    Empiricist cranks, such as Peter above, are more near to survive as they start to recalibrate their measurements and to consider other possibilities (other theories) explaining his experiments. Of course, they can prefer to be blind to them in order to keep enjoying some sort of popularity (ahem, do scientists do the same?). Or they can self-impose blindness in order to exploit they work for a monetary scam, or another guy can try to use them for such schemes (think red mercury) Actually, this is also true of “illuminated” cranks, but while illumination targets “sects”, empiricism scams target “entrepreneurs”.

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  165. Tim says:

    Peter,
    Note that all of your examples are at least 100 years in the past, before the fundamental principles of modern physics were understood. As for dark matter and dark energy, there is a large amount of data in support of these ideas. Namely galatic rotational curves, primordial nucleosynthesis, the CMB power spectrum, and supernovae observations. Scientists do not just take their existence on faith. I think you have a misunderstanding of the nature of the scientific profession. This is n’t the 19th century, and scientists are not members of an informal gentlemen’s club who adopt whatever ideas seem fashionable. There is a rigorously established body of laws and knowledge with which any new ideas must be consistent

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  166. Peter Fred says:

    Tim

    You with your rigorously body laws and knowledge have lost 95% of the stuff of the universe.

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  167. Tim says:

    Peter,
    Not really. We have a pretty good idea what will make up the dark matter, namely the lightest supersymmetric partner (LSP). Hopefully, experiments at the LHC will confirm this within the next few years. As for the rest, it appears to be Einstein’s cosmological constant. Basically, your attitude seems to be that you can’t accept that the universe is this way because it doesn’t conform to your notion of the way it should be.

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  171. truth ful says:

    According to the author, there is no such thing as revolution at all!?

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  173. Evolving says:

    Joe Fitzsimons: “If you’re refering to the part in ‘The God Delusion’ where Dawkins starts talking about applying evolution to the whole universe, I find that section very poor. I think it is somewhat egocentric and self deluding to think that one’s field should be applied to all others. We have thermodynamics in physics which already fills the role.”

    Joe Fitzsimons, you couldn’t be more wrong. Biologist Dawkins is merely giving his thumbs-up to Physicist Smolin’s biology-resembling idea of Cosmological Natural Selection, which in turn draws on Nobel Physicist Wheeler’s biology-resembling suggestion that characteristics of baby universes can vary slightly from those of their parents.

    Reality doesn’t care what you think. Joe Fitzsimons, you shouldn’t allow any latent `evolution denialist’ tendency to prevent you from seeing the importance of biological concepts at the very foundations of physics.

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  174. Eh, ‘evolution denialist’?

    I think you’ve got me wrong. Evolution in biological systems in undeniable (well, people try, but I tend to laugh when they do). To be honest, I find it pretty amusing that you seem to think I’m an evolution denialist.

    I was just saying that I think Dawkins overreaches when he endorses what is quite frankly a very fringe theory because it seems to resemble the biological evolution with which he is familiar. I’m not anti-string theory either, but it should be clear that this idea of baby universes being selected for based on certain characteristics is extremely speculative.

    It’s somewhat petty to preface people with their credentials (‘Physicist’, ‘Nobel Physicist’), and doesn’t actually add anything to your argument. There are no authorities in science, and ‘nobel physicist’s have occasionally been known to go off the deep end. If this process actually happens, then I can certainly be convinced of it’s existence by sufficient evidence. The point is, however, that there is no real reason to believe it yet, and endorsing it based on its similarities to another another theory. I fail to see how this is in any way controvertial.

    Let me just close by saying that no matter how you choose to look at it, physics is more fundamental than biology, in that physics is a prerequisit for the existence of biology, but biology is not necessary for physics to exist. As physics at a low level deals with individual particles/fields etc., it is often possible to prove things (such as thermodynamic laws) mathematically based on a very few well justified assumptions. This tends not to be the case with emergent phenomena, and you tend to more have to come up with rules of thumb, rather than exact laws. This is fairly evident in evolution, where accident can play quite a role. The extinction of the dinosaurs didn’t have to happen in the way it did, and could have dramatically changed the species currently in existence. Please be clear that I am not saying that evolution is accidental. It’s not. However, dramatic one off events (meteor impacts, large solar flares, gamma ray bursts) certainly have the ability to alter evolutionary paths. A hedgehog could evolve with a rare but extremely advantageous mutation in its genes that would gaurantee it’s dominance in the gene pool and enhance it’s survivability (say immunity to X, where X is the major cause of death among hedge hogs), only to be run over by a car before mating.

    So yes, I think it is highly unlikely that biological ideas are at the root of fundamental physics.

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  175. Dirk Vertigan says:

    Joe Fitzsimons says

    So yes, I think it is highly unlikely that biological ideas are at the root of fundamental physics.

    I would have once agreed with this statement, but thinking purely in terms of mathematics and physics, I came to a different conclusion. You should read my paper `Self-Replicating Space-Cells and the Cosmological Constant’. Link to abstract:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/0706.3379

    By the way, I am certainly not merely postulating the phenomenon of Self-Replicating Space-Cells, nor am I a priori presuming that there should be any kind of replicators nor any other biological analogies. Instead I am arguing that the phenomenon of Self-Replicating Space-Cells must necessarily emerge from a discrete physics model, if it is to successfully model reality.

    Let me know whether you think I am wrong, and why.

    If so then what is your explanation for the various constants of physics? How do you choose what explanation(s) you favor?

    Remember, what actually matters here is what is actually true.

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  176. Hi Dirk,

    I’m afraid I’ve only had a chance to glance over your paper, so I can’t really comment on its validity. I do know of a number of people who have thought about cellular automata rules which would give rise to the physics we percieve, and it strikes me as a very worthwhile excercise.

    CAs certainly give rise to emergent phenomena at larger length scales, which I suppose can be thought of in as analgous to biology. But this is largely my point. Physics aims to understand the fundamental rules of interaction, where as other sciences seek to classify and describe the behaviour of emerging patterns. The rules of thumb which govern the time evolution of structures within a CA do not really lend insight into the fundamental pdate rule, although it can perhaps be infered by studying enough patterns.

    As regards the fundamental constants, I don’t know why they have their present value. I suspect that nobody really knows. Obviously some are dependent on others, so they are fixed. I’d like to think that as we learn more about the universe we will find more and more dependencies, and be able to eliminate all the free parameters, but I have no reason to think this will happen.

    Reread the sentence you quoted. I said I didn’t believe that biological ideas were at the root of fundamental physics, I didn’t say that no emergent phenomena came from fundamental physics (as clearly lots do).

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  177. Dirk Vertigan says:

    I think we are in agreement about broadly how physics should be modelled mathematically, although you may well completely disagree with me about the specific details of how this may work out.

    In http://arxiv.org/abs/0706.3379 I argue (albeit at the thought-experiment level of rigor) that if a discrete physics model, with certain natural characteristics, is to successfully model reality, then there must be `Self-Replicating Space-Cells’. These Space-Cells are basically information encoding the familiar laws of physics, including all the Standard Model constants, and I argue that these must be distributed throughout space, at a roughly constant near-Planck density, and copies must be replicated as space expands.

    This means that these Self-Replicators emerge at an even more fundamental level than the familiar GR and QFT, so I am claiming that just to get to the stage of getting familar physics to emerge from a fundamental model of physics, you cannot avoid dealing with Self-Replicators. Of course you don’t need to regard such Replicators as `biological’ per se. Instead you can say that Self-Replication, is really just a phenomenon that can emerge from any sufficiently rich dynamical mathematical model.

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  178. Hi Dirk,

    I’ll try to have a proper read of the paper tomorrow, but let me ask you a quick question:

    Are these replicators you describe classical or quantum (i.e. can they exist in superpositions/can they store quantum information). If so, then surely this would require a violation of the no cloning theorem. But maybe I’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick…

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  179. Dirk Vertigan says:

    Maybe I should have addressed this in the paper, as the question was bound to be asked, but I was trying to keep the length down. In any case, I was envisioning that a fundamental model would not have quantum theory built in, but instead that quantum theory would be one of the things needing to emerge from it. So the no cloning theorem would not apply.

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  180. If the fundamental theory is fundamentally classical, and from what you’re saying it sounds necessarily local, then surely it is ruled out by Bell inequality measurements. How do you get around these? Or are you relying on one of the loopholes in current experiments?

    I’d certainly very interested in what you are saying, but perhaps it is inappropriate to the current comment section. If you’d like to continue this discussion by email instead, my email address is firstname.lastname@materials.ox.ac.uk, where firstname and lastname are my first name and my surname respectively.

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  181. Qubit says:

    If you don’t look at them there both in the same states, theres no problem copying that.

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  182. Qubit: No, you’re incorrect. It is fundamentally impossible to copy quantum information.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_cloning_theorem for an explanation.

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  183. Dirk Vertigan says:

    Joe, I just emailed you. And my email can be found in the paper http://arxiv.org/abs/0706.3379 (also anyone else with thoughts on the paper can email me).

    I’ll still add a few comments here.

    Since some kinds of replicators exist (e.g. DNA and computer files) I expect that there cannot be an argument against models on the grounds that such models can give rise to replicators. If anything there is an argument against models that cannot give rise to replicators.

    Whatever kind of mathematics ends up modelling physical reality, that mathematics may not end up looking much like what is currently recognizable as `quantum’ or `classical’ but could be something quite different. So I don’t think there is a quantum/classical dichotomy that covers all possibilities.

    Also locality in a fundamental model need not correspond exactly to locality in the familar space that emerges from it.

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  184. Hi Dirk,

    I’ve started working through you paper, but haven’t finished it yet.

    My concern about replication is that there is way to replicate quantum information. I’m sure that you are aware of the no cloning theorem, but if not, see the link in my last comment to Qubit.

    Basically my concern is that, since general quantum states cannot be replicated, then the fundamental units of information, whatever that may be, must also be unclonable. The reason for this is that quantum information is surely some special case of whatever this general information is, just as classical information is a special case of quantum information.

    It is possible to come up with a process which clones some subset of quantum states, and that is exactly what copying classical information does. You’re photocopier, even if it made perfect copies could not copy a superposition of two documents.

    So this leads me to conclude that if the information in your model can always be copied, then it must essentially be classical information. The problem this causes for me, though, is that it would seem to cause problems with Bell’s inequality, since it would correspond to a hidden variables model of quantum mechanics.

    That said, I’m only on page 3 of your paper by now, so I may have misinterpretted what you were saying.

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  185. Qubit says:

    Yeh but, you can make a Quantum computer out of anything esp Water. Or even wood, the copy rule only applies to small things.

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  186. No, qubit, it applies to any quantum state. Unknown quantum states cannot be copied. You can only copy classical information, not quantum information. I have no idea why what material might be used in a quantum computer has any bearing on this.

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  187. Dirk Vertigan says:

    Qubit, you said “the copy rule only applies to small things”. Well Self-Replicating Space-Cells are Planck scale replicators, so there are about a googol of them within the space occupied by your body. I hope that doesn’t bother you too much.

    Joe, it is certainly worthwhile trying to see if what I am claiming could be inconsistent, and I can see how having some kind of replication could set off an alarm re the no cloning theorem. But I only need that certain very specific information be replicated, and even the no cloning theorem allows that. I don’t need any kind of general copying mechanism, so I don’t think there is any violation of the no cloning theorem.

    Also, the information representing matter should probably behave like quantum information. But the information being replicated in Self-Replicating Space-Cells is information representing the laws (including all the Standard Model constants etc) and there is no particular reason why this information would have to behave like quantum information.

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  188. The no-cloning theorem is only an issue if you are copying non-orthogonal states. If you are copying orthogonal states in a known basis, then it is not an issue.

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  189. Qubit says:

    As far I Know, a Qubit can be Ether 0 or 1 or a superposition of both. H2O can have 3 states ice, water and steam, I know that this is a bit of a cop out, but you should be able to copy a H20 molecule. Then create water manifolds from it, which can have an imaginary potential to be ether ice, steam or a superposition of both. Quantum mechanics is just about information, any information can be copied. To be honest I really think Quantum physics is complete nonsense and that everything in this universe can be explained without it… Everything you can do with Quantum computer you can do on magic mushrooms or LSD, all they show you massive amounts of information, all they do is get you high! Quantum Physics should be made illegal, like all class A drugs!

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  190. Qubit: You are talking about phases of matter. Theses are properties of an ensemble of molecules, not a single molecule. If you have only one molecule you cannot comment on what phase it is in.

    When we talk about the state of an atom or molecule, we are usually talking about the state of the system in terms of its energy levels, or some other well defined basis.

    The internal state of a water molecule, as in you example, cannot be copied. It is simply impossible, being ruled out by the structure of quantum mechanics (see the wikipedia article).

    You seem to be confusing the idea of copying a quantum state with the idea of entangling quantum systems.

    Contrary to your assertion, it is very clear that not all information can be copied.

    As regards your other comments, all I can say is that I doubt LSD will help you factor large numbers, simulate quantum systems or perform secure key distibution.

    If you choose to believe that quantum mechanics is nonsense, and that the world is fundamentally classical, you are simply ignoring an enormous amount of evidence gathered over the last 100 years. If you choose to ignore this, then I’m not going to bother trying to convince you. It’s like arguing over creationism.

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  194. Tom Butler says:

    No theory, just a question about how you do things.

    There is a discussion in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:Fringe_theories concerning possible alternative words for “fringe. The thought is (probably mostly by me for obvious reasons) that “fringe has become a pejorative remark. There is currently an essay on the subject that may become policy, so some of us are trying to make it so that Wikipedia can be seen as fair to mainstream and alternative subjects alike.

    What terms do you use to characterize subjects that are far off the mainstream without being insulting or insinuating that they are somehow flawed?

    In advance, I thank you for the input.

    Tom Butler

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  195. collin237 says:

    I looked at your page regarding the alternative to dark matter. It seems you have attacked a strawman. The relevant theories (in my view) are summarily dismissed without explanation in the first paragraph.

    I think the burden is in the dark matter camp to explain the correlations found by Milgrom. Modified GR does not say there is no dark matter at all. It simply says that dark matter is not as prevalent as usually assumed. And, more importantly, it permits one to ask, on a case-by-case basis, whether a given galaxy or cluster contains dark matter, and it finds yes for some and no for others.

    There are, of course, some apologists who try to use modified GR to deny all dark matter. But they are not the ones whose theory I’m asking about.

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  196. collin237 says:

    Island wrote:

    especially considering that it is an “undeniable fact” that the universe appears to be under an anthropic constraint that is so strong that Lenny and Richard are going to find god if the landscape fails!!!

    I think they already have. What they haven’t found is guts. They cannot come out and say “Being religious doesn’t make me an ID”, because their colleagues won’t believe them. So they pretend to be atheists.

    If GR and QM are exact, the universe can be considered to be a mathematical “dream” in which we don’t exist but are too stubborn to admit it. :)

    But if GR and QM are merely approximations to something more realistic, one might ask Who could set up such a clever approximation.

    We may have an answer to this question as far as our own faith, but we do not want to discuss it, nor should we have to. However, in the face of intimidation by paranoids looking for a hidden agenda in our theories, we may be tempted to do one of the following:

    1. Give up our brainpower and become religious fanatics.
    2. Give up our scientific honesty and become revisionist classical alchemists.
    3. Give up our personal honesty and become fake atheists.

    I choose none of the above.

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  197. Garth A. Barber says:

    Colin – then what do you choose?

    It seems that the anthropic nature of our universe leads us to have to make an act of faith – in either an unobservable ‘creator’, in which only one creation – this fecund universe – can be observed, or in an unobservable multiverse, in which only one member of the ensemble – this fecund universe – can be observed.

    There are four questions that science leaves open:

    1. Why is there something rather than nothing – “What breathed fire into the equations to make a universe for them to describe?”

    2. Why is the universe comprehensible?

    3. Why is the one observable universe propitious for life and not otherwise?

    4. Why did chemistry evolve into intelligent consciousness?

    My own personal choice is to put my faith in a God who is the author and guarantor of the laws of science.

    Garth

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  198. collin237 says:

    I, too, put my faith in God. However, although my search for a realistic formulation of physics is motivated by faith, it does not include God.

    The important thing about this attitude is that I do not have to look for a unifying simplicity in physics, which I suspect does not exist. I only have to figure out how the “mess” of what we know about physics can fit together, and assume that God takes care of the rest.

    The new concepts I would introduce would be defined solely by the assumption that they support the known scientific facts. I would not need to ascribe any independent properties to them — that is where most crank theories go wrong.

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  199. Jason Dick says:

    Meh, no such thing as a god. Until you can find an argument that argues for a deity that works for god X, but doesn’t work for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you have nothing.

    If you’re a deist or pantheist, of course, the arguments get more subtle. But those aren’t that common.

    That said, the four questions:

    1. Why is there something rather than nothing – “What breathed fire into the equations to make a universe for them to describe?”

    2. Why is the universe comprehensible?

    3. Why is the one observable universe propitious for life and not otherwise?

    4. Why did chemistry evolve into intelligent consciousness?

    1. Why is there something rather than nothing? Well, the simple answer to this is that we don’t know, but there are some tantalizing hints. One thing that we do know, for example, is that if a certain type of particle can exist in a region of space-time, then that particle necessarily pops in and out of the vacuum. It might potentially be the case that the same is true for a universe like our own: the mere [i]possibility[/i] of existence may force existence to occur. But, of course, we only have hints that this may be the case, it may not be. The fundamental objection to this question, however, is there merely recognizing that we don’t know something does not indicate a deity.

    2. Why is the universe comprehensible? Because it’s real. It’s just that simple: in a real universe, the law of non-contradiction must apply. That is to say, any sufficiently-specific statement about reality cannot be both true and false. This simple truth is necessary for a real universe, and is all that is needed for the universe to be comprehensible.

    3. Why is the universe habitable? This question is nonsense. Were it not habitable, we couldn’t observe it. Might as well ask why we live on Earth instead of Mercury.

    4. Why did chemistry evolve into intelligent consciousness? Here we know bits and pieces of the answer. It’s to be found in evolution. There are many gaps in our knowledge of course, but we’re piecing it together. As with the first question, though, simply not knowing is no reason whatsoever to assume a deity.

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  200. Garth A. Barber says:

    Jason,

    Thank you for your answers to those questions, we all answer them in different ways and choose to place our faith in different reasons behind reality.

    However, I bring your attention to my use of the interrogative adverb “why” – here I was not seeking a mechanism, I am interested intensely with the mechanisms of ‘why’ or ‘how’ things happen but that is another question.

    Here the purpose of asking these questions was to seek a comprehension, the deeper reason, of why it should be so…..

    Garth

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  201. collin237 says:

    Jason wrote:

    Meh, no such thing as a god. Until you can find an argument that argues for a deity that works for god X, but doesn’t work for the (expletive deleted), you have nothing.

    Please tell me the rules on the use of this expletive.

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  202. TwisMinion says:

    I am a physics crackpot myself, armed with a little knowledge (very dangerous) I have a belief that there is a sub planck scale aether and matter moves through it like it’s a big streatchy conduit.

    True/ Not True… it’s no big deal to me, just fun to think about…

    Being an atheist, I consider it to be the closest thing i have to a faith based belief and often compare it to such… It can give insights into how knowledge is filtered by belief.

    I can read through a book on dark matter or black holes or anti-matter or what have you, and will catch myself saying “Ah ha! That fits!” the fact that fit do so at once, the ones that don’t must have some other explaination…

    This must be how religion discovers dieties on toast, or finds a grain of biblical truth to be stronger all of observed evolution…

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  203. I wish I was a crackpot, I wont get behind my work until I am totally sure I am right. I am an atheist too, I calculated my belief… Each brain is different- no two people can believe exactly the same thing… all humans believe something different… Each has the same chance of being right… As every moment passes these brains change and believe something slightly different… hence the chance of any religion being correct is 1 in a number far too big to write down. I don’t think it will change anything, I just hope people can understand why I can’t believe in something that not true. I don’t go on to religious people about how its rubbish so I hope they wont do the same to me, live and let live. I don’t mean to upset and religious people, if that’s how you want to think… fine, as long as your good and don’t hurt anyone etc be what you like. Just because the probability of god is 0 don’t worry, the tooth fairy dose not exist but is it wrong for a child to believe in it?

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  204. srdjan says:

    The focus of my recent thinking has been on time.

    More to the point, the notion that time can be measured equally well everywhere.

    You are invited to :

    http://toph.synthasite.com/index.php

    It is a simple theory that predicts speeds faster than light are possible. But probably not in a way you imagine.

    It does not find Einstein’s theory wrong, nor a fault in his equations.

    The postulate is that relativistic time dilation is proportional to the probability that time can be measured equally well in all frames of reference.

    The site is clean and easy to peruse (I hope)

    And btw, I find comments here to be no more and no less expected, given the state of human society (for better or worse). It just goes to say that scientists (and wannabes, like myself) are exactly at the same level deep in mud as everyone else.

    Thanks for your time Ladies and Gents,

    Srdjan

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  205. ddatta says:

    THANK YOU. THE ELEMENTARY PROOF OF MY BALLOON INSIDE BALLOON THEORY MAY NOT BE ENOUGH BUT I BELIEVE THAT FUTURE SPACE EXPLORATION WILL SHOW THAT THE THEORY HAS GIVEN A DIRECTION TO MODERN WORLD AND IN THE MEANTIME I WILL TRY TO WORK ON IT FURTHER AS ADVISED. REGARDS.–DURGADAS DATTA.

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  206. Gene says:

    Somebody once said that, all one needs to have life, is to know of ones own
    existance, and since time is a relative of matter and cannot exist in space;
    knowing of ones own existance in space, one could live forever. Free from a
    body of want.

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  207. ddatta says:

    PLEASE READ MY BALLOON INSIDE BALLOON THEORY AND GRAVITOETHERTONS THEORY AND REPORT SENT TO NASA ABOUT ANTIMATTER UNVERSE . WAY BACK I PUBLISHED IN 2002 , EINSTEIN WRONG AND ETHER IS DARK ENERGY AND ANTIMATTER UNIVERSE AROUND US DARK MATTER. ALL REPORTS AND PAPERS I WILL SEND IF REQUIRED.

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