Monday, December 26, 2011

The fifth candle: Advent calendar encore

While I was looking for fodder for the advent calendar, I came across this story in "A Passion for Discovery," by Peter Freund. Freund, a professor emeritus for theoretical physics, recalls anecdotes that he has witnessed or has been told throughout his career, such as this one:
Cranks approach scientists more often than you would guess. The main strategy for dealing with them is never to get into an argument, for they will not spare any of your time to convince you that they are right. The other useful trick is to convince the crank that you do not have the required expertise to be initiated in their sacred truth.

Another strategy: Academician N.N. Bogoliubov at Moscow State University was once approached by a crank. "I unfortunately am not qualified to discuss your work" Bogoliubov told the man, "but Academician Lev Landau is working on related problems. He is the man you are looking for." [...]

On another occasion... two men from the Shah of Iran's Vienna Embassy showed up [at the Institute for Theoretical physics in Vienna where the author was located at that time]. One of the two Iranians excitedly told us about their discovery, while his companion nodded along. They had apparently discovered that time does not exist. Their proof was eminently simple. "By the time I say now, now is already over. Quot Erat Demonstrandum." Did we not agree that this was a major discovery, and what should they do with it? Armed with our two principles, we agreed that the discovery was major and suggested they work out all its implications, especially practical applications, for they would likely make a great deal of money. This did the trick; the two left happy men.

73 comments:

nige said...

What a pity Max Planck didn't have a copy of Freund's helpful book in 1905 when a patent examiner submitted unorthodox ideas.

Giotis said...

This is not a joke; it is a cruel and inconsiderate behaviour by Freund. Laughing at other people's expense like that is not right. It is just another manifestation of a rotten society where we don't care about anything else except our self and treat other people like dirt. The right thing to do is to try to guide these people. Why? Because we care and we are not cynical bastards. If you don't have the time you just say the truth, people will understand if you treat them with the human dignity they deserve.

Bee said...

Hi Giotis,

Yes, I agree with you, it's not a decent way to treat somebody asking for advice. What I found so funny about this story is not the part how they got rid of the two inventors, but, having recently been at a conference about the reality of time, the topic of their invention. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Nige,

I see what you are aiming at, but don't rewrite history in that attempt. Einstein was not unknown to the physicists of his time, even if he had trouble finding a job in academia, and he did have an education in physics. Best,

B.

nige said...

Woit puts it nicely where he writes that elitism is good in science, the problem is not having a high bar to jump, but is losing all objectivity in superstring hype. We need more censorship to suppress the hubris of non-falsifiable pro-mainstream funding hype claims, reducing the noise level, and giving a chance for some objectivity in distinguishing non-falsifiable religion from genuine checkable predictions in science. Otherwise, we have the hubris formula: "unorthodoxy = crackpotism". Peer-review then censors non-orthodox ideas, rather than censoring non-falsifiable ideas.

uair01 said...

I think we need to treat "crackpots" with more respect. A Dutch philosopher (Mathijs van Boxsel) is compiling a delightful "Encyclopedia of stupidity":

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Encyclopadia-Stupidity-Matthijs-van-Boxsel/dp/1861892314/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324897748&sr=1-1

And he treats his collection of "select eccentrics, collectors and oddballs" with wonder and respect. His motto is: "if you fail, then at least fail gloriously".

I have a lot of sympathy for people with oddball theories. Especially the lone cranks who devote all their life to proving that all languages have evolved from Dutch, or that the earth is hollow etc.

They make life more colorful and less boring. They should be treated as outsider artists, not as "cranks".

Bee said...

Hi Nige,

It depends very much on what you mean with that. Elitism is beneficial because you can't concentrate quality without excluding some people. However, the question is what criteria for exclusion are the most useful ones. Academia is strongly relying on titles to do the sifting and sorting. That works pretty well, but there are always exceptions and we're not good dealing with them because there is hardly any way for somebody who didn't acquire education in the normal way to demonstrate his knowledge. This problem also exists in other professions. In Germany they call people who have circumvented the usual educational history "Seiteneinsteiger," literally somebody who enters from the side.

In any case, unorthodoxy is according to my experience not equated with crackpotism in academia. In contrast, pretty much everybody wants to be unorthodox in some way. That's not so surprising because in physics there's many more researchers than there are jobs in research, so everybody is looking for a way to stand out. It is however the case that people whose ideas don't fly in the community like to proclaim themselves unorthodox, rather than admitting that they possibly just write very bad papers and don't get their ideas across. Best,

B.

nige said...

Thanks Bee! All I meant was that it's too easy for "peer"-reviewers (especially those with a strong prejudice in favour of continued funding for some non-falsifiable mainstream idea), to get very angry and reject any alternative idea, without reading it or bothering to check it first. Peter Freund's attitude is fine if he is a great genius who has made falsifiable predictions which have been confirmed. There's a law in sports which you judge by results, not by fame, personality, or teaching credentials like professorships. Not in science!

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Glotis,


You seem at times to state your feelings in terms of judgements with often them being of the same nature as those you judge. For me when it comes to nature and those that look to find its truth(s) I attempt to distinguish those who do so out of passion from them which do so as a result of an obsession. That is while passion suggests love, where obsession more often manifests jealousy and or possessiveness. Thus nature although it may be appreciated, yet it should not be expected to being owned, as needing to comply with ones will. So therefore I find nothing wrong when realizing when discussions are more grounded in will than truth as to allow such to maintain their own without need of sacrificing my passion with the surrender of mine.

“Good is a noun rather than an adjective.”

-Robert M. Pirsig, “Lila”

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Nige,

Yes... peer review is in a bad shape, which is bad for science overall. It's a management problem that I hope will be solved in the near future. Best,

B.

Giotis said...

I completely agree with uair01. I find it wonderful at the materialistic times we live in that there are still people in the general public fascinated by abstract ideas on some of Natures' deepest fundamental questions and pursuit their beliefs trying to find an answer. Physicists should not be annoyed by these people but by the vast 99,999 percent of the public who simply don't give a shit and think that they are wasting tax payers' money.

Arun said...

I don't see Freund laughing at anyone.

We've seen the fruitlessness of guidance even on this blog; Bee has often had to threaten a ban on commenters who have a crank theory to talk about.

So suppose someone of this type comes along. What do you do?

1. I'll get back to you later - is a lie, and doesn't end the matter either.

2. Your idea is right - is a lie.

3. Your idea is wrong, and this is why - is the prelude to an unending argument.

4. I'm not qualified to judge your idea - may be a lie, but avoids the arguments.

nige said...

Arun: very high "noise" level enforced by mainstream non-falsifiable speculation marketing hype ensures that nobody can hear facts speak for themselves against this noise. Then you have the "Emperor's new clothes" effect, where lots of people criticise superstring hype as being non-falsifiable speculation, but nobody listens, because it's pretty obviously a religious belief system. At the end of the fairy tale, the Emperor realises he has conned himself, but decides to continue (apparently on the basis of the advice: "when stuck in a hole, keep digging").

So the way out is reduce the noise level from superstring speculations out by starting to censor it more objectively (not permitting papers through on the basis of peer-politics). Once that is done, the journals will be forced to start considering other ideas more objectively, seeing if they are falsifiable, self-consistent, and helpful, or not. Instead of whether the author is a famous professor or personality.

Uncle Al said...

Physical theory absent falsifying experiments is unscrupulous.

Christmas 1956, Yang and Lee were crackpots. New Year's Day 1957, particle physics was rewritten. Derived physical theory requires inserted symmetry breakings to describe mass, e.g., Chern-Simons and Einstein-Hilbert action. A crackpot stance demands matter interactions are fundamentally chiral, as is its correct theory.

Crackpot Fern-Parallelismus and Einstein-Cartan-Sciama-Kibble gravitations cannot possibly be correct, for fashionable theory is then falsifiable on a bench top in existing apparatus. As physical chirality arises from moments of inertia... unscrupulous theorists fear getting screwed.

Otto Stern 1943, Yang and Lee 1957, Charles Pedersen 1987, Barry Marshall 2005, Daniel Shechtman 2011. "It CAN'T work that way!" in theory, but it does in practice. Theory was incomplete.

Bee said...

Hi Nige,

I don't know what your problem is with superstrings, and it's not topic of this post. The idea that string theory is a 'religious belief system' has been around for more than a decade and it's invariably uttered by people who know very little about the topic. Almost all sorts of research carry an element of belief in them, for if you already knew everything there was nothing left to research. I have written many times about what problems there are in academia and, yes, overhyping is one of them, but it's abundant in many fields other than string theory.

Yes, yes, of course we should all be very objective, but we're only objective up to the level where objectivity goes against our own interests. The problem with academia is that the system is set up such that our own interests work against scientific progress. In the first line, scientists are humans who need food to eat and a place to sleep and if they have to shamelessly promote their own field to obtain or maintain the salary that feeds them, that's what they will do. One shouldn't be surprised about that. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Arun,

Yes... but it's one thing to turn away somebody who asks a question and wants to learn something, it's another thing to turn away somebody who isn't interested in hearing any answer except the one he is wishing for. Experience shows, sadly, that the latter case is much more common than the former, which explains why most academics, me included, rapidly notice that with high probability replying to such queries is a waste of time. Unfortunately, this leaves the ones who are genuinely seeking for advice rather than just appraisal with very few options. Best,

B.

Giotis said...

What is the extend of this phenomenon?

For instance you Bee, how many mails with such content you receive per month on average?

Bee said...

Presently, on the average maybe one every week, not counting comments on the blog (most of which now end up in the queue and never appear). But they come in bulks for reasons that aren't always entirely clear to me. On occasion my name seems to appear here or there in connection with some topic and then I get a whole bunch of "interpretations of quantum mechanics" or "unified theories" (often in cc with 10 more colleagues or so). I also get a few letters and manuscripts by snail mail. To give you a number for comparison, one every week is more than I accept to write reports on papers or proposals, of which I do maybe 2 per month.

Phillip Helbig said...

That's about average. You have not arrived, however, until you start receiving the (self-published) hardback books.

Bee said...

Yes, I'm still waiting for that... I've seen piles of them though in some colleague's offices...

Al Rodbell said...

"Time does not exist" is easy to handle when espoused by a "crackpot" but when the premise of a book by a UCSD professor, or explicitly stated on PBS, Nova the fabric of the Universe by Brian Green Ph.D. it is quite a more severe issue.

Scientist are probably the least aware of how their excursions are understood by lay audiences, especially when endorsed by Public Television and the Energy Department of Science, as was the Nova Program.

Some, such as the writer of this blog, based on a Wikipedia quote, do have an accute understanding of how this vitiates critical thinking, but it's taken me a month to ferret this out.

We need some anger,public outrage, at the transformation of science, defined Popper falsifyability, into a renewed verson of Star Trec, but his time pretending to be science

Neil Bates said...

First, please everyone define "crank" in terms of outlook and quality of output, not in terms of "position" in the formal scheme of things. Capable amateurs are not "cranks" and some do exist (independent particle theorist and fuel engineer Carl Brannen is one, note also the school boy who discovered the "Mpemba effect" that still puzzles materials scientists) and deserve to get a hearing. There are even some "banal" issues, like bicycle stability, that was revised just this year (Why Does A Moving Bicycle Stay Up?)

Second, that banal sample theory "time does not exist" is no more absurd in principle than Sean Carroll et al saying much the same thing per "block universe" and "there really is not a flow of time" etc. Can scientists really trust their simple intuitions about how "silly" an idea is? For example, I and many IMHO quality thinkers think MWI is absurd, yet many scientists think it makes sense as an answer to the "quantum measurement paradox" (Google for that ;-)

Eric said...

I think in the case of the two Iranians I agree with Giotis that it would have been better to explain their mistake in thinking about time. All the person would have to do would be to explain the hysteresis of the advancement of time and the delay in our reaction to it. Hysteresis, or delay in the propagation of one quantity that is related to another is not at all a complicated thing to explain and the person should have at least made the attempt to explain it.

Plato said...

I feel cranky sometimes:)

Best,

Eric said...

Maybe there should have been a proviso given by Bee about this post. EVERYONE should be given the benefit of the doubt that they will understand your best explanation, provided you don't load that explanation with hidden assumptions that the questioner is implicitly or explicitly challenging. Once you eliminate these hidden assumptions that may be the sticking points one should be able to finally arrive at where your two paths diverge. At that point if one or both parties aren't willing to change their hidden assumptions you have to agree to disagree with the other. If one party still pesters the other after this then perhaps the party that is still being pestered has the right to blow off the other.

The important thing to remember about this is that a real effort was first made to resolve the conflict in interpretation before this standoff occurred. After that, well, one only has so much time for other people's problems.

Al Rodbell said...

Happy to have found an audience here.

I used the term crank as referred to in the main post, not my evaluation, as I would be in that category, only I'm saying that time, does in fact, exist as we intuitively understand it.

SciAm will soon have on the News Stand a special edition, "A Matter of Time" that extrapolates from the isolated condition of a single quanta, for which time is meaningless, to the the concept of time itself. Therefore the implication that it is not impossible to travel to the the past.

Problem: by common definition the past does not exist. While this is not self evident in quantum Mechanics or Relativity, apparently, it is concluded by Emanual Kant for traditionalists, and Lee Smolen among theoreticians But more importantly, the reason is articulated by Stuart Kaufman, who works in biological complexity.

Time is meaningful to humans, and all who exist in any conceivable ecosystem with infinite numbers of life forms vying for survival.

Not only is such an ecosystem different at ever attosecond, but more changes-the now closes behind it= faster than any duration conceivable. What I find fascinating is how these excursions based on the genre of science fiction could have infected the science of physics without more resistance either within the profession or beyond.

Neil Bates said...

Al, a few years ago some tests showed that a popular idea of quantized time was wrong: that it was granular at the Planck time. Hubble images showed diffraction rings around distant galaxies, which would have been smoothed into a fuzzy blur by Planck-time uncertainty (minimum interval uncertainty would spread out travel times over billions of years.) See for example Samizdata and a primary source, arXiv 1108.6005. It seems to not have gotten much play. What do you think of that?

Also do you have any advice for independents trying to make waves (responsibly with real contributions, that is.) Thanks.

Phillip Helbig said...

"Also do you have any advice for independents trying to make waves (responsibly with real contributions, that is.)"

Publish in a respectable refereed journal. Yes, you can expect to be scrutinized more closely than a non-independent (is that dependent?) but this is actually an advantage for all. (There are some otherwise respected refereed journals which might reject your contribution solely on the basis of independence, but these are, I think, a minority.)

Bee said...

Hi Eric,

Yes, but isn't it funner if there's something to argue about? It's been so peaceful on this blog lately, I started to think I'm doing something wrong... More seriously, "crank" or "crackpot" is not a word I like to use. I prefer to call them "amateur physicists" (much like Neil suggests) or something similar that is more to the point and less insulting. I see their wish to participate primarily more as an organizational problem than a nuisance. The problem, as I said already earlier, is that there is presently no place for them. The issue btw is pretty much the same if a scientist from field A wants to contribute to field B - all of a sudden, you're an amateur suspected to be a crank. Been there, done that. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Neil,

I haven't seen this specific paper, I'll need some time to look at it (or maybe I did see it and forgot already). There's a few things to say here. First, "quantized time" isn't exactly a popular idea. Second, the amount of uncertainty you get depends on the amplitude of the distortion(s). It was my understanding that if you do the math, the distortion you plausibly get for values expected of Planck scale effects are far off observability. Third, it is generally difficult to disentangle classic stochastic distortions from quantized distortions, so one has to be careful with the conclusions. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Neil,

Regarding your other question, I'll echo what Philip said, you'll have to bring your ideas into a form that a journal is willing to publish them. When I review a paper, I don't look up the authors if I don't know them. Of course I don't know how others do it, but that in my reports I am frequently addressed with "he" suggests that in fact not many reviewers look up the author. If your paper doesn't go through, it is not helpful to blame it on the journal or on "elitism." Just do what every student learns to do, take the criticism seriously, improve the paper, and try again.

As to the question whether time is real or exists, it's an empty question if you don't explain what you mean with being real or existing, and that's a very difficult question. The best you can do is go the way of "it's as real as..." Best,

B.

Phillip Helbig said...

Three points:

First, a comma after "frequently addressed with" would aid in parsing.

Second, I would blame it on elitism if the paper doesn't get a referee report, but is not even refereed because the author doesn't come from a respectable institution or whatever. I think such cases are rare, though.

Third, what do famous American philosophers have to say about reality? Woody Allen: I hate reality, but it's the only place I can get a decent steak. Ted Nugent: If I can take a bite out of it, it's real; otherwise, it doesn't exist. Hugh Hefner: (nevermind)

Bee said...

Hi Phillip,

My grammar isn't the best, but I don't think a comma after "addressed with" makes much sense. If anything, I could have added a comma after "he". In any case, English comma rules have remained a mystery to me. It is of course difficult to know why a paper was rejected without peer review if that happens. Possibly the institution plays a role. Another important aspect is a poor choice of journal. Best,

B.

Professor R said...

Merry Christmas Bee, and great thought-provoking post!
I get about one of these articles/books a month, so I'm way behind.
I think Freund's anecdote is fair as he is presumably talking about the genuine crank. They're usually identifiable not by content, but manner - total certainty, total dismissal of the orthodox view, persecution stories, capital letters etc.
I used to reply politely until I realised I was spending time on individuals who are not willing to take the time to study the work of others
Regards, Cormac

Giotis said...

"More seriously, "crank" or "crackpot" is not a word I like to use. I prefer to call them "amateur physicists"...."

This proposal implies that there are no cranks/crackpots professional physicists which I don't think is the case:-)

The profession does not define a person; this is just another perversion of the modern society.

It would be better if you just call them people and characterize their ideas instead.

Phillip Helbig said...

"My grammar isn't the best, but I don't think a comma after "addressed with" makes much sense. If anything, I could have added a comma after "he"."

NOW I get it. There are at least three ways to parse it without a comma. :-(

Neil Bates said...

@Bee: "The issue btw is pretty much the same if a scientist from field A wants to contribute to field B - all of a sudden, you're an amateur suspected to be a crank. Been there, done that."
So you tried to contribute to another field ... how did it go, Bee?

Al Rodbell said...

Let me try to connect here as a real person, which I think can be augmented my google profile. I have limited physics or mathematical literacy, but enough to feel comfortable participating in the larger meta issue that I see within this website.

At 71, I have no intention to attempt to master quantum mechanics or relativity, yet I feel a need to act as a public citizen, responding to the excesses, as described in this posting:

http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/02/aspects-of-expanding-crackpottery-in.html

I have been motivated by the excesses of "Nova Cosmos, the fabric of Time" I see the the same type of danger as those who accepted the legitimacy of Securitized Mortgage Instruments, that also were promoted by a prestigious strata, financiers, but who were benefiting from their prestige to inflict perhaps fatal damage to the structure of the world's economy.

Most readers of this blog are scientists who provide a something of value to to me, a member of the educated public. While I have taken much on faith, (I do not personally validate original research) I understand that it is done as part of the norms of science. You provide something that fills the conceptual space that religion provides for believers. I often make the distinction between science and religion this way. Religions inherently divert, producing schisms and eventually conflicts. Science, conversely, because it is ultimately based on tested validity, forms convergence, a commonality of belief that transcends cultures, leading to new paradigms that, while being divisive for a while, either are discarded are become part of the new consensus.

I see theoretical physics as reaching the barrier of the what can be validated, which has long been the essential characteristic of science. As an example, because we could never understand what came before the Big Bang, the received wisdom was that time began at that instant. Such a statement could not be made for the common understanding of the world, time, nor on the technical meaning, as conditions must have occurred that precipitated the event. If there was a stasis, a true lack of time then there could have been no such precipitant.

This truism was exactly the analog of "In the beginning, God...." with the theological admonition of anyone who asked, "But, Rabbi, what happened before?" not to go there.

The correct answer to what came before should always have been, "We don't know." Time, is a human construct and does not belong to the profession of theoretical physicists but is only a tool for their use, to implement as a universal to describe what they know, what they hope to know, and what they can never know.

The SciAm special soon to be released, "A Matter of Time" has an article by Gabriele Veneziano entitled, "The Myth of the beginning of Time" that seems to break the taboo that I describe, yet it need not be refuted by a founder of string theory, but by my lexicological argument, the same one I made to my Rabbi sixty years ago.

As Einstein wrote to Schrodinger about the same time (from Wikipedia)

"You are the only contemporary physicist, besides Laue, who sees that one cannot get around the assumption of reality, if only one is honest. Most of them simply do not see what sort of risky game they are playing with reality—reality as something independent of what is experimentally established"

It is this risk that I want to explore, with a full appreciation of the value of discoveries that I can't comprehend, but not to be intimidated into silence because of this limit. I see an imperative to understand the damage that is being done to science as an institution when it becomes divorced from the requirement of validation.

Plato said...

Cross pollination between science sectors can and do work.

I think to a degree we could all say we are lacking in some areas, while specializations are specific to people on the pathway they have worked. QG anyone?:)

What lights a fires for a scientist to wonder about these things? Is it more lucky to say that they could work their areas of specializations while at the same time fulfill their life dream? Discover something about nature we did not know before? It's a lot of hard work.

I mean really, who is afraid that there is no room to learn? Are you so secure in your foundation that you cannot see something beyond the cosmological parameters, as moving beyond and thinking outside the box?

You do not forget the foundations in regards to Venezianno. You just have to slowly show the connections that allow you to move beyond those parameters?

Al, I have the new SciAm special called, "A Matter of Time." Great stocking stuffer for this year.

71, 35 years of age does not matter.

Inquisitiveness is happening when we are attracted to the allure of what we are not seeing of nature? Is there more? What has happened in your own life that has sent you down this road? You know science has to show more then once eh? So others can do it.

Why should we be inhibited by the constraints of terminology supplied for us as to our "search for the meaning "behind" what is reality" and what it has to offer us?

Living amongst scientists for so many years it is not hard for an osmosis process to take hold as to the foundations? :)

I Thank them all.


Best,

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

You are kind indeed to find such people to be amateurs instead of cranks, even though the vast majority of them have that titled well deserved. On the other hand there are those who could be recognized as true amateurs, which in the purest sense simply means not being paid as to be employed for their efforts. In the past nearly all were amateurs as where today merely a few, with most of them involved in astronomy, where many eyes still has a demonstrated value. As for theoretical physics such a thing is a more difficult matter with specialization being perhaps the greatest obstacle, notwithstanding the accumulation of knowledge and developed skill set it requires.

Then again with all that said what for me sets cranks apart from the rest in the main being their motivation. That is I find the cranks more often worried what being correct can mean for them, rather than what it might mean for science. That’s not to say cranks can’t on occasion be proven as right, yet rather they seldom are able to accept that they have been shown to be wrong. So to as to restate a phase so often used, such people are not ever wrong to be right. However last but not least being a scientist is not being an elitist, yet one who is able to be humbled, not by their peers, yet rather by their discipline, as nature is the toughest of critics.

“An audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark -- that is critical genius.”

-Billy Wilder

Best,

Phil

Zephir said...

/*..Cranks approach scientists more often than you would guess..*/

Until their deductions are based on formally correct logics, their approach is just dual to mainstream science. In AWT the observable reality is formed with nested density fluctuations of hypothetical dense gas. The energy and information spreads in two dual ways here: in transverse and longitudinal waves. The mainstream physics is oriented to information mediated with transverse waves of light and whole its philosophy is based on deterministic way of information spreading. The crackpots use indeterministic, holistic approach more often.

It's not secret, the mainstream theories are very weak in formal logics. They're using math in the same careless way, like the astronomers used epicycles in their models. If some results don't fit theory, just another layer of epicycles is added (often represented with another terms of Taylor expansion in theory) and nobody cares, if they're physically relevant or not. It's merely the regression of observable reality without deeper understanding of its principles.

Zephir said...

/*..an audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark -- that is critical genius..*/
Unfortunately, this collective intelligence "hidden in the darkness" is very quiet by its very nature. And the most loud members of it often don't represent it reliably, so I wouldn't overestimate the power of intersubjective opinion at all. I can face it all the time when explaining dense aether model. The laymans are nearly as dismissive, as the well educated physicists. The cold fusion is doubted with these laymans as often, as with mainstream physicists. The physicists refuse to think about it, because they learned another theories, the layman refuse to think about it, because they're simply lazy to think. Which is why the promoters of new theories are always individuals, not the collective opinion.

In addition, the majority of laymans can be manipulated easily, especially in the time of information explosion. These people simply have no time to validate all ideas, which are emerging around them, so they're forced to rely on meritocracy of mainstream science during their judging.

Zephir said...

[q]Elitism is beneficial because you can't concentrate quality without excluding some people[/q]It's correct, but so-called experts bring another bias into judging of theories and finding. Just because they're expert in the areas of their preference, they're biased and they cannot recognize the importance of new ideas, which are often coming outside the scope of their own theories - so they're naturally ignorant, if not hostile to it. In this context the reading of articles The era of expert failure by Arnold Kling,  Why experts are usually wrong by David H. Freeman and Why the experts missed the crash by Phill Tetlock may be useful.

So, in judging of general trends the opinion of people with broad journalistic overview and metatheories may become more relevant. The experts tend to wander in the details of their own theories. In addition, the experts aren't very motivated into reconciliation of their theories, as it helps them to prolong their research, as R. Wilson recognized and named before some time pregnantly.

Zephir said...

/*..peer review is in a bad shape, which is bad for science overall. It's a management problem ..*/

I perceive it rather like deeper problem of system in connection with information explosion. Due the high specialization the peer-review cannot be anonymous anymore, which leads into formation of hidden coalitions and/or blind negativism at the case of competition. Because the mainstream science is payed from research from public money, it definitely needs the feedback to avoid open frauds. I just believe, this feedback must be more opened and public too.

Zephir said...

/*...It's been so peaceful on this blog lately, I started to think I'm doing something wrong...*/

Whereas I tend to adore your children like others, I don't perceive it as a controversial subject of matter of fact discussion. There is a theory, the mothers are becoming more silly during lactation period to adopt their thinking to the way of thinking of thinking of their children. Now you're soaked with estrogen, so you're subconsciously choosing non-conflict and somewhat conformist topics, which don't attract the public interest.

Bee said...

Hi Zephir,

I've deleted a few of your comments that were merely promoting your own theory of something. You know exactly that I don't tolerate this.

Your knowledge of endocrinology is equally poor as your knowledge of physics. The hormone responsible for milk production is called prolactin, not estrogen. Prolactin in fact suppresses estrogen production. In any case, I can assure you that I am perfectly capable of kicking ass, thank you very much. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Neil,

It didn't go. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Giotis,

I've never met a professional physicist who'd have qualified as crackpot. But, right, that doesn't mean they don't exist. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

It is not so much kindness as pragmatism. Calling names rarely solves a problem, and I believe the problem here is a communication failure. We've left behind a lot of people who have little or no idea what is actually happening in modern physics and believe that they can contribute without having a proper education. The unfortunate truth is that they are just wasting their own and other people's time, and don't even notice because the gap is too large. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Neil,

Before I forget about it: I found the paper on my pile yesterday and recalled having read it. Thing is, they are looking at some rather ad-hoc models for distortions by space-time foam, basically, it's some sort of scaling with energy and distance that you might or might not find plausible. It is good to look at it just to rule it out, but it doesn't tell you very much. (Forget what I said yesterday in my above comment, I was thinking of a different type of model in which the scaling doesn't depend on the energy.) You also have to take into account that almost all such arguments from space-time foam break Lorentz-invariance, and, as you know, that's constrained very tightly already. Best,

B.

Zephir said...

/*..I can assure you that I am perfectly capable of kicking ass..*/

You needn't to be very smart for deletion of comments. In intellectual word the kicking ass means argumentation.

Plato said...

Thank goodness for computers and numerical coordination.

It allows you to see the world in ways you might not of before.:)

It might have even been too abstract a thing to ever relegate it to nothing more then counting?

Who knew? :)

Best,

Neil Bates said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil Bates said...

If I could briefly note the "estrogen argument" to clear it: it is "oxytocin" that mothers and lovers get soaked in, making them more lovey-dovey - but yes Bee, your toughness remains above reproach. BTW Zephyr, people with intelligence have to decide whether a particular claim, comment, or even person is worth investing time (and space!) in - I say that even as a supporter of independent scholarship in principle.

Plato: they may have solved how it happened given the original string constructs, but not the ultimate "why" in the sense of self-contradictions literally disallowing other numbers of large space dimensions. IOW, a dynamical rather than an exclusionary explanation (kind of like, why we have one big moon, which is not to show that other outcomes would have been possible given other initial conditions.) I claim OTOH that with other number of space dimensions, there are literally electromagnetic inconsistencies (no elaboration here per Bee's request.)

Plato said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Plato said...

Neil:no elaboration here per Bee's request

For sure. See then, Computational Science.

Best,

Neil Bates said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil Bates said...

BTW Zephyr I think you make some good contributions but keep in mind not to be overbearing to the hospitality of a BO. Thanks for the references about why experts are often wrong, etc. What Bee and most bloggers don't want is "elaboration" of commenters' own theories, when a simple link can direct readers to whatever you'd otherwise "elaborate" on in comments. Yet if you can work your own interpretations into the actual posted topic, then it becomes relevant when done well and concisely. I used to indulge elaboration myself, now am more careful.

Bee said...

Qsa:

I have deleted your comments, please read comment rules. This is not the place to advertise your own work. If you want to admit to being a crackpot, fine, but please do so without leaving links. You know as much as I do that every link on this site counts for the Google rank of your site and I don't want to endorse a site that I haven't even looked at. I hope you understand. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Zephir,

The comment sections of many earlier posts carry plenty of documentation that I have fruitlessly spend lots of my time trying to explain to you very basic physics concepts for example about general relativity, cosmology and atomic physics. You just came back some weeks later with still the same misconceptions, not having thought for a second about what I told you. The conclusion I have drawn is that it's a waste of time thinking about the garble you dump in our comment section. If your brain isn't able to recall what I said because you believe I'm radiating some virtual hormones, maybe listen to Neil instead. Best,

B.

Phillip Helbig said...

"I've never met a professional physicist who'd have qualified as crackpot. But, right, that doesn't mean they don't exist."

I suppose you haven't met Brian Josephson. I don't know of any serious physicist (professional or not) who thinks that the stuff he is doing now is anything but crackpot.

I don't mind mentioning Josephson since he blows his own horn quite loudly. There is another example which comes to mind, a respected physicist in his field who tried and failed to make a contribution to a neighbouring field. Completely crackpot, by any definition.

"Amateur physicist" is not a good term for crackpots. There are a few amateurs who do serious work, and a few professionals who do crackpot stuff.

Zephir said...

/*..have fruitlessly spend lots of my time trying to explain to you very basic physics concepts for example about general relativity, cosmology and atomic physics..*/

You cannot fill the pot which is already full with it, Bee. I know quite well, what the contemporary relativity is about. But I know about quantum mechanics too and I know everything you told us about relativity can be refused with using of quantum mechanics and vice-versa. In real observable reality these two theories are deeply averaged and violated mutually. Did you ever see some quantum wave of Riemann manifold in the forest?

I can serve as a typical example of active "crackpot". You're telling us, there is uncrossable barrier between laymans and mainstream physics. But did you ever think, the formally thinking physicists could have the same problem with understanding of emergent dense aether model?

Zephir said...

/*...I've never met a professional physicist who'd have qualified as crackpot... */

With respect to Lubos Motl blog it's not difficult to recognize such a physicists. Roughly one quarter of his posts is about crackpots and various crackpot ideas of professional physicists. Smolin or Sabine Hossenfelder belongs into them routinely too. Recently they even appeared at the precious company of Steven Weinberg...

Apparently the "crackpot" concept is omnipresent and deeply relative like the scale invariant gravitational waves with respect to transverse waves of particle environment. Every such a ripple can feel, it's surrounded with incoherent crackpots at all scales..

Bee said...

Hi Zephir,

Yes, thanks, you are serving well as an example. Best,

B.

Phillip Helbig said...

"With respect to Lubos Motl blog it's not difficult to recognize such a physicists. Roughly one quarter of his posts is about crackpots and various crackpot ideas of professional physicists. Smolin or Sabine Hossenfelder belongs into them routinely too."

Actually, being called a crackpot by Motl is probably a distinction one should be proud of. :-)

Bee said...

Hi Phillip,

No, I haven't met Brian Josephson. Or maybe I did and he didn't leave an impression.

To me the question whether somebody is doing serious scientific work is a matter of method, not so much of content. It is very difficult to live up to the established methods (if that is a good word) of a field if one does not work on it full time. The most obvious problem is good knowledge of literature. I suspect that a large part of papers who get rejected without review follow that fate because the author has demonstrated he (or she) knows very little about the topic he is trying to contribute to. That is also a large problem with interdisciplinary work and it is very difficult to overcome without a collaborator who can fill in the blanks. Best,

B.

Zephir said...

/**..Actually, being called a crackpot by Motl is probably a distinction one should be proud of...*/

Nope, it just indicates, he thinks in more formal way, than the Sabina does. In dense aether theory there exists 1:N duality, duality between formal and nonformal logics (formal math is based on many nonformal theorems) and every chaotic environment is behaving with respect to material environment like the antiparticle field (the antiparticles are just tiny pockets stuffed with gravitational waves like the neutrinos surrounding the massive objects).

This geometric model explains both the deep animosity of formally thinking physicists regarding to these less formal ones, both the facts, these two groups are so attracted each other at distance (albeit they're hating each other mutually).

In dense aether model even crackpots and formally thinking physicists represent the different epochs of reality understanding analogous to cyclic universe cosmological models. The nonformal opinion of many crackpots condenses into formulation of formal theories, their number increases and they're becoming crackpotish again, and so on. There actually exists whole deep theory about mutual relation of formally and non-formally thinking physicists, but I'm sure, the formally thinking physicists cannot handle it easily just because their strictly deterministic nature. The emergent way of thinking is very distant to their deterministic way of thinking.

Zephir said...

But I presume, every of you has read about Hegelian dialectical principle of transition from quantity to quality. The quantity is not represented just with crackpots here (no matter, how attractively it may sound for formally thinking physicists), but with number of mutually contradicting theories, which represent both mainstream physics, both crackpots at the certain stage of their development. Because this concept is actually quite symmetric: the "truth" is always intersubjective opinion here - no matter if its expressed with crackpots or formally thinking physicists.

qsa said...

Bee,

I understand, but I am hardly looking for advertising, I am a very well to do person. Maybe I got excited with my new "discovery". I don't know about most independent researchers, but I think most are typically are not after "discovery". What happens is that a typical curious person with some scientific ability tries to understand something and by chance he notices some strange relation and works on it and he becomes convinced it is saying something important that has not been looked at before. Then the journey starts to find out why is that so. tThe explanation process , which I think it is actually trying to solicit help for understanding why such results come up, then that leads to a great misunderstanding.

I came up with my idea that reality is nothing but a mathematical structure, not by trying to discover but to understand. I was very relieved that later I discovered that there are people like Dr. Tegmark and others have already conjectured that. I thought I was going bunkers.Also later I found out that you are opposed to the idea, time will tell.

you last post says it all. But if I find by chance that the correct model cannot be easily shown in the regular formal way, like mine, only with a computer simulation. So what do you want me to do. A good physicist told me he just doesn't like simulation.



The strange thing is that I have talked to top physicist and they were all very kind, I guess they had good practice. Ironically, it was mostly good physicists (second tier) with their own "ideas" that I got somewhat rude responses. Even one of them told me that my theory does not represent reality, even if what I say is true!

Thank you.

Plato said...

Hi Bee,

In regards to Phillip's assertions about Josephson. Nige is of the same opinion too. This regarding the discussions I had with him in 2005. Let's move ahead though.

The topic can indeed become clouded when condense matter theorist, biologists, enter the picture, yet the melding of science from these sectors of course makes their way into the discussions of physics?

Credibility and such?

Should we assign such configurations to the intellects of those who think about biological systems and science?

Smolin or Kauffman or even Josephson? Murray Gell-Mann to Texas?

Let's say one attached them self to Cold Fusion and found a market where such thoughts were proofed positive that a "geometric possibility in the stars collapse" could exist?

Kauffman may have tried to understand the physics through his attempts to interpret biological cycles? An abstractness, of the scientific processes?

Should we stop such thinking as crackpot-ism piercing a sphere?

Best,

Plato said...

Oops correction.

Murray Gell-Mann to Texas?

Gell-Mann Joins Us!

Giotis said...

"Independent researcher"

I like this term, I think I'll use it from now on.

Zephir said...

/* thanks, you are serving well as an example. */

The excerpt from Smolin's book: The Biggest Problem in Physics Theoretical physics as ivory tower is described there.
How do we find that missing idea? Clearly someone has to either recognize a wrong assumption we have all been making or ask a new question, so that’s the sort of person we need in order to ensure the future of fundamental physics.
Apparently, AWT targets this problem, but the physicists won't even bother to read things that challenge generally accepted assumptions.
Do we have a system that allows someone capable of ferreting out that wrong assumption or asking that right question into the community of people we support and (equally important) listen to
Apparently, Bee's blog is not such a place, because the spreading of original ideas is explicitly prohibited here. She learned anything from her teacher.