Crackpots, contrarians, and the free market of ideas

By Sean Carroll | March 3, 2006 1:15 pm

Some time back we learned that arxiv.org, the physics e-print server that has largely superseded the role of traditional print journals, had taken a major step towards integration with the blogosphere, by introducing trackbacks. This mechanism allows blogs to leave a little link associated with the abstract of a paper on arxiv to which the blog post is referring; you can check out recent trackbacks here. It’s a great idea, although not without some potential for abuse.

Now Peter Woit reports that he has been told that arxiv will not accept trackbacks from his blog. Peter, of course, is most well-known for being a critic of string theory. In this he is not alone; the set of “critics of string theory” includes, in their various ways, people like Roger Penrose, Richard Feynman, Daniel Friedan, Lee Smolin, Gerard ‘t Hooft, Robert Laughlin, Howard Georgi, and Sheldon Glashow. The difference is that these people were all famous for something else before they became critics of string theory; in substance, however, I’m not sure that their critiques are all that different.

Unfortunately, Peter has not been given an explicit reason why trackbacks from his blog have been banned, although his interactions with the arxiv have a long history. It’s not hard to guess, of course; the moderators presumably feel that his criticisms have no merit and shouldn’t be associated with individual paper abstracts.

I think it’s a serious mistake, for many reasons. On the one hand, I certainly don’t think that scientists have any obligation to treat the opinions of complete crackpots with the same respect that they treat those of their colleagues; on a blog, for example, I see nothing wrong with banning comments from people who have nothing but noise to contribute yet feel compelled to keep contributing it. But trackbacks are just about the least intrusive form of communication on the internet, and the most easily ignored; I have never contemplated preventing trackbacks from anyone, and it would be hard for anyone to rise to the level of obnoxiousness necessary for me to do so.

On the other hand, I don’t think there is any sense in which Peter is a crackpot, even if I completely disagree with his ideas about string theory. He is a contrarian, to be sure, not falling in line with the majority view, but that’s hardly the same thing. Admittedly, it can be difficult to articulate the difference between principled disagreement and complete nuttiness (the crackpot index is, despite being both funny and telling, not actually a very good guide), but we usually know it when we see it.

Since I’m not a card-carrying string theorist, I can draw analogies with skeptics in my own field of cosmology. I’ve certainly been hard on folks who push alternative cosmologies (see here and here, for example). But there is definitely a spectrum. Perfectly respectable scientists from Roger Penrose to yours truly have suggested alternatives to cherished ideas like inflation, dark matter, and dark energy; nobody would argue that such ideas are cranky in any sense. Respectable scientists have even questioned whether the universe is accelerating, which is harder to believe but still worth taking seriously. Further down the skepticism scale, we run into folks that disbelieve in the Big Bang model itself. From my own reading of the evidence, there is absolutely no reason to take these people seriously; however, some of them have good track records as scientists, and it doesn’t do much harm to let them state their opinions. In fact, you can sharpen your own understanding by demonstrating precisely why they are wrong, as Ned Wright has shown. Only at the very bottom of the scale do we find the true crackpots, who have come up with a model of the structure of spacetime that purportedly replaces relativity and looks suspiciously like it was put together with pipe cleaners and pieces of string. There is no reason to listen to them at all.

On such a scale, I would put string skepticism of the sort Peter practices somewhere around skepticism about the acceleration of the universe. Maybe not what I believe, but a legitimate opinion to hold. And the standard for actually preventing someone from joining part of the scientific discourse, for example by leaving trackbacks at arxiv, should typically err on the side of inclusiveness; better to have too many voices in there than to exclude someone without good reason. So I think it’s very unfortunate that trackbacks from Not Even Wrong have been excluded, and I hope the folks at arxiv will reconsider their decision.

Of course, there is a huge difference between string theory and the standard cosmological model; the latter has been tested against data in numerous ways. String theory, as rich and compelling as it may be, is still a speculative idea at this point; it might very well be wrong. Losing sight of that possibility doesn’t do us any good as scientists.

Update: Jacques Distler provides some insight into the thinking of the arxiv advisory board.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Internet, Science
  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Thanks Sean!

    It has been a peculiar experience dealing with the arXiv about this. Especially because of the difficulty of sensibly moderating the comment section on my blog, I’m well aware that moderation issues can be tricky and at times a not completely transparent system is a good idea (otherwise one ends up spending all one’s time debating with crackpots the validity of their ideas, exactly what they want). But right now I have no indication from them of why all trackbacks to my blog are being disallowed (not just ones to the contrarian posts about string theory). The one official response I did get from a Cornell librarian indicated that they still are not sure what their final moderation system for trackbacks will be. Perhaps when they get one this will get sorted out.

  • Dumb Biologist

    I haven’t a dog in the specific arXiv issue beyond an interest in the fronteirs of science and how investigation of those frontiers shapes the scientific discourse. As physics is, in my estimation, the paragon of human intellectual achievement and exploration, it is, quite simply, a terribly important enterprise. Perhaps the most important. Therefore, it’s troubling to some of us on the outside to see evidence of suppression of ideas that, while controversial or perhaps even erroneous, are not blatantly insane or fatuous. If the arXiv is truly so important, even the appearance of ideological bias in its administration (beyond the simply unavoidable parameters dictated by the scientific method) is chilling. There’s been vocal condemnation of suppressive meddling in scientific communication and investigation by theocrats and other such political ideologues. It’s nice to see politicians aren’t the only ones being asked to avoid censoring arguably reasonable ideas, especially without explanation. The wonder of the scientific community is its application of a method by which individual human shortcommings are compensated for by the collective effort. Thanks for helping to keep that effort robust, Sean.

  • Elliot

    Sean,

    As you point out there is a delicate balance between keeping the crackpots out but yet not censoring any potentially legitimate criticisms/alternative theories to prevailing paradigms. I would humbly suggest that the error should be on the side of inclusion vs. exclusion. Certainly not allowing the trackbacks has the smell of censorship and I for the life of me can’t understand why this should be a particularly troubling issue for arxiv.

    Elliot

  • Ethan

    Hmmm……. where to start?

    As a long time reader of Peter’s blog, a journal editor, and a (former)
    member of the ArXiv advisory board, I have a few comments. I offer them
    for what they’re worth. Bear in mind that they do not represent the official opinion of the ArXiv, its advisory board, Johns Hopkins University, or any scientific journal or organization, past, present and future.

    The ArXiv instituted a standard that they would allow trackbacks only to blogs run by active researchers. That excludes Peter, who likes to discuss physics, but is not a researcher. It also excludes lots of other people, although I can’t remember anyone else’s name coming up. I’m not going to hazard a guess as to the role that existence of Peter’s blog played in settling on this standard.

    For reasons that are not clear to me, this standard was not communicated to Peter for some months. I don’t think most of the board was aware that this was the case. I didn’t realize it until Peter commented in one of his postings that he had never heard back from the board. After that posting, the question was raised online, and Peter (I think) received a letter explaining this policy.

    If you think that this standard is inappropriate, send a note to active members of the board. Community feedback is good. For myself, I will say that I find Peter’s blog very informative, but as a theoretical astrophysicist I don’t think I’m in the primary audience for it.

    Finally, I don’t think the ArXiv has replaced journals in astrophysics. Nor is it likely to in any field where refereeing remains an important part of archival publication. Opinions may reasonably differ on this, but I would not have agreed to edit the Astrophysical Journal if I thought that it had become obsolete.

  • Ken Muldrew

    One of the recurring themes on Peter’s blog is the idea that physics (as with all sciences) needs to be experimentally testable. It is hard to imagine a more mainstream and less contrarian idea. Yet Susskind, and apparently others as well, seem to be attempting to remove this restriction from string theory (without also admitting that they are now doing philosophy rather than physics). If the ArXiv were censoring crackpottery, then this latter group would certainly fit the bill better than Peter’s criticism of string theory.

    But if the exclusion is solely based on active research status, as Ethan states above, then the trackback issue makes more sense.

  • FP

    It would be interesting to hear the opinion of Jacques Distler on this issue.

  • Dumb Biologist

    Is hep-th/0206135 not the product of research?

    I’m not asking a rhetorical question here, I’m genuinely curious about the answer.

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Ethan,

    This is the first time I’ve heard that the arXiv has a policy of only allowing trackbacks to blogs run by “active researchers”, and that the arXiv advisory board has decided that I am not such a researcher. This standard was never communicated to me in any of my dealings with people at the arXiv or on the arXiv advisory board. It’s pretty bizarre to have spent so much time trying unsuccessfully to find out why the arXiv was not allowing these trackbacks, only to find out the reason from you on the comment section of this blog.

    I strongly object to the characterization of me as “not an active researcher”. If that’s the case, I don’t quite know what it is I’m doing during the many hours a week I spend thinking about how to use geometric methods in representation theory to formulate 2d chiral gauge theories in a new way and writing out notes about this in a notebook. I attend conferences, give talks on my research (most recently at Dartmouth and at a conference here in New York), and have posted a long manuscript on the subject at the arXiv (hep-th/0206135). I’m not about to argue with anyone who says I should write up more of what I am doing and get it out there where other people could evaluate it, but I will strongly disagree that I’m not actively involved with research.

    What is the arXiv advisory board’s standard for an “active researcher”? Is this based on number of peer-reviewed publications? In recent years I haven’t seen much point in the peer-review system in particle theory, but if that is the requirement for allowing trackbacks to a blog, the arXiv advisory board should at least make this public. Not letting me know this despite my repeated efforts to communicate with people at the arXiv is a very strange way of doing business.

    Anyway, at least now that I have been (unofficially) informed about what the reason is for the arXiv advisory board decision, I’ll take up with them the issue of what exactly is an “active researcher” and whether or not I am one.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Surely there is a way to circumvent the ban? Why not post trackbacks on Peter’s behalf here and provide the link to Peter’s blog?

    Such an action may help to change the minds of the arXiv administrators.

  • Ethan

    Peter,

    I’m a little surprised to hear that the policy behind the decision was not communicated clearly to you. Actually … very surprised. What I posted above is my understanding of the policy. If you feel that characterizing you as not an “active researcher” is unfair, I think you should appeal the decision. When the topic came up I did a quick search under your name and didn’t find much in the published literature. However, I won’t pretend that I know where to look for papers in your field. I checked the World of Science database.

    I also think the idea behind the policy could use some public feedback, but I’m going to leave that to others. I’ve said my piece. Comments from other people, including anyone reading this thread, would be far more effective.

    Let me add that I enjoy lurking on your blog.

    Ethan

  • Ethan

    Do I need to add that I don’t consider you a crank?

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Ethan,

    Thanks, both for finally letting me know what is going on (and for assuring me that I’m not a crank!). Glad to hear that you enjoy the blog.

    It’s not just the case that this policy was not communicated to me clearly, it was not communicated at all. The only communication I’ve received from the arXiv about why my trackbacks were not appearing was the one I got last month from Jean Poland. She had told me that she would prefer that I not make it public, but I’m incredibly annoyed at the way the arXiv has dealt with me on this issue. So here, in full, is what I have heard from the arXiv:

    Dear Dr. Woit,

    I apologize that it has taken this long to respond to your question. The trackback feature on arXiv.org is experimental and we are in the process of learning how blogs and trackbacks are viewed in the physics community. We are not able to accept all trackback links; we are developing processes for trackbacks that will parallel our endorsement and moderation procedures. We have not yet automated notification procedures to let blog writers know that their request for trackback linking has not been accepted, and your request has fallen into that group. Our moderators have not recommended that your trackback be incorporated in arXiv.org.

    Again, I am sorry that internal miscommunication has resulted in such a long response time.

    Jean Poland

  • Ethan

    Peter,

    Her reply is correct. There are continued discussions on how to moderate trackbacks.

    It does omit any indication of why some trackbacks have been accepted, and others, including yours, have not.

    Ethan

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Physicists and simple courtesy are often strangers.

  • Dumb Biologist

    I guess 7 has been answered. :)

  • Pingback: Not Even Wrong » Blog Archive » Letter to ArXiv Advisory Board

  • Chaz

    Respectable scientists have even questioned whether the universe is accelerating, which is harder to believe but still worth taking seriously.

    Damn – I thought this was referring to me… but then I noticed the word “respectable.”

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/all-particles-of-standard-model-and.html Plato

    Sean,

    Would you say Peter’s knowledge equals Cliffords? Is this a fair statement to make, in context of string/M theory??

    On that basis alone, would they had been right to reject trackbacks, that would link his site?

    They are respectful of Peter, but there is the question about his experience on it?

    This is the “impression” I am getting. Is his Knowledge current, and to date? Those who study the topic, would they have been satisfied to have him speak for them?

  • Pingback: Often in Error...

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Plato, even if Peter knows less about string theory, it is still a bad idea to ban trackbacks to his site.

    If Peter was just making propaganda against string theory and, say, was censoring valid comments from string theorists on his own blog, then you could make a case for banning trackbacks to Peter’s blog.

  • Science

    Sean, thanks for that link to Ned Wright’s excellent page. I especially like the page http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/tiredlit.htm since it exposes the fraudulent science which falsely claims that redshift has other scientific explanations than expansion.

    Peter Woit’s does have ideas of his own in how to approach quantum field theory. His respectable approach in http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0206135 is to put forward a conjecture:

    “The quantum field theory of the standard model may be understood purely in terms of the representation theory of the automorphism group of some geometric structure.”

    Using Lie spinors and Clifford algebras he comes up with an illustrative model on page 51, which looks as if it will do the job, but then adds the guarded comment:

    “The above comments are exceedingly speculative and very far from what one needs to construct a consistent theory. They are just meant to indicate how the most basic geometry of spinors and Clifford algebras in low dimensions is rich enough to encompass the standard model and seems to be naturally reflected in the electro-weak symmetry properties of Standard Model particles.”

    This guarded approach needs to be contrasted to the hype surrounding string theory.

    On the wider problem of crackpotism increasing the backgrund noise: Nature is the actually final judge of all theories, and historically favors crazy ideas. But that isn’t enough to convince me that string theory is right.

  • Hektor Bim

    At least part of the reason Peter Woit doesn’t get trackbacks from arxiv.org is because Jacques Distler thinks he is a crank. Plato in his postings seems to think Woit is something of a crank also. This feeling is probably widely shared among string theorists. But string theory isn’t the only game in town. Would the string theorists who run arxiv.org ban trackbacks from Lee Smolin? Would they allow trackbacks to blogs of grad students who work on string theory or loop quantum gravity and thus know a lot less than Clifford on the subject?

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    You can never draw a sharp line between scientists and crackpots and it is very likely that I would draw the line on the opposite side of PW than Sean does. Expecting that someone has a right for his blog articles to be published or linked in scientific journals and their electronic counterparts is a crazy idea, especially if these blog articles are primarily addressed to completely moronic crackpots such as Chris Oakley, Danny Lunsford, Quantoken, and others, and it is often very difficult to distinguish in what sense Peter’s opinions are better than the opinions of the crackpots.

    Peter’s idea about physics beyond the Standard Model are completely silly, of course – and they are often squarely on the crackpot territory (off-diagonal embedding of SU(2) into SU(2) x SU(2) or worshipping of Dirac’s equation are examples). On the other hand, however, I feel that the opinions of the other, more well-known “critics” of string theory are not much better, and they are only treated more seriously because those folks became famous for their previous scientific discoveries.

    I fully support blocking most of the trackbacks from his website, and if these policies cause serious problems, I would support to cancel the trackback system altogether. From a moral viewpoint, I find it outrageous that people who don’t even try to contribute anything to science – and who build on purely negative support of various crackpots and science-haters – should have a better access to scientific resources than, for example, graduate students who work hard and struggle with serious scientific questions.

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    As usual, Lubos makes my case far better than I ever could. The arXiv moderators consider Lubos’s to be one of a very small number of blogs that they accept trackbacks from, while censoring any trackbacks to mine. I can’t imagine what other evidence anyone needs to see that there is a problem with the arXiv moderation system, and that string theory fanaticism is at the root of the problem.

  • Science

    Lubos Motl,

    You do have tremendous resources at Harvard and a research grant to work in extra-dimensional speculative string theory (or is it UFOs in the landscape now?), yet you then dismiss the efforts of other people as “science haters”?

    If you automatically dismiss all alternatives as being the work of “science haters”, that indicates paranoia.

    Or, by “science” do you simply mean the following acronym?

    Stringy
    Censors,
    Including
    Extradimensional
    Narcissism
    Committee
    Enthusiasts

    Just saying that others hate your pet string theory is not objectivity. Please stop name-calling and grow up a bit.

  • Lee Smolin

    Hi, it seems to me that this is not an issue of personal judgment, as there are principles and ethics in professional academic life that are expressed in policies that those employed by universities are governed by. In the case of the Arxiv, it states on the web page that they are governed by the policies of Cornell University. These include the following, which the office of the Dean of the Faculty at Cornell was kind enough to forward to me.

    “Page 89 of 2002 Cornell University Faculty Handbook

    Freedom in Research

    On May 10, 1989, the Faculty Council of Representatives (forerunner of the current Faculty Senate) adopted a resolution which endorsed the right of faculty to pursue research of their choosing, as long as that research is within the guidelines of scholarly quality, is accessible to all interested scholars and is in compliance with the laws of the land. They recognized that the research of a faculty member may be controversial from the moral, ethical, sociological or political viewpoint of others and therefore a faculty member should not be seen as implicating others in the university. Likewise, those who oppose research of a particular kind should be free to express their opposition to it.

    Individual faculty members are encouraged to speak out on behalf of a fellow faculty member’s academic freedom, either individually or through the Faculty Senate and its committees. Further, the provost, in response to this action, has asked the dean of faculty to provide the strongest support for faculty who are threatened or harassed, on the campus or elsewhere, because of research or other scholarly activities. Threatened or harassed faculty should seek assistance through the Dean of Faculty.”

    I do not know whether this applies strictly to editorial decisions made by University sponsored entities, but the spirit of this policy is clearly to encourage and support the freedom of academics to express opposition to a particular research program. I would then think that censoring the criticisms of a particular research program, on purely scientific grounds, of a faculty member at another university, while including comments by others in the same position who support that program, is not consistent with at least the spirit of this policy.

    If academic freedom means anything, it must mean that the university must do nothing to impede free discussion by professionally competent experts on scientific controversies. Given that Peter Woit is a Physics Ph.D. and a faculty member at a major university, who has published papers and has a book in press on the topic, he is without doubt part of the academic community to which the principles of academic freedom apply.

  • FP

    As I wrote earlier, it would be very interesting to hear the opinion of Jacques Distler on this issue.
    In fact, it is about time that he responds to opinions which suggest that he and/or others try to censor Peter Woit.

  • http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/ Tony Smith

    Lee Smolin said “… the policies of Cornell University … Page 89 of 2002 Cornell University Faculty Handbook … endorsed the right of faculty to pursue research of their choosing, as long as that research is within the guidelines of scholarly quality, is accessible to all interested scholars and is in compliance with the laws of the land. They recognized that the research of a faculty member may be controversial from the moral, ethical, sociological or political viewpoint of others and therefore a faculty member should not be seen as implicating others in the university. Likewise, those who oppose research of a particular kind should be free to express their opposition to it. …”.

    Lee then said “… I do not know whether this applies strictly to editorial decisions made by University sponsored entities, but the spirit of this policy is clearly to encourage and support the freedom of academics to express opposition to a particular research program. …”.

    In 2003 Cornell made a declaration that seems to state Cornell’s position about “editorial decisions made by University sponsored entities”:
    “… “… academic freedom has included not merely liberty from restraints …
    but also the idea that universities and schools should have the freedom to made [sic] decisions about how and what to teach …”;
    and Cornell further declared “… there is strong caselaw support for government funding of particular viewpoint, which do not require inclusion of competing viewpoints …”.

    That declaration makes it clear that Cornell considers that, with respect to arXiv, “academic freedom” means to Cornell the freedom to blacklist whoever and whatever Cornell sees fit.

    Tony Smith
    http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/

    PS – For reference, the above declaration was made by Cornell in a Memorandum of Law in Civil Action File No. 4:02-CV-0280-HLM in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. That case is no longer pending, so there should be no reason for Cornell or anyone else to avoid commenting about it.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/all-particles-of-standard-model-and.html Plato

    Hektor,

    I never did think Peter a crank, and for that matter, my opinion wouldn’t even qualify. But thanks for letting me have the fictious power. :)

    Many times I would have liked to have seen Peter Challenge question/answer level that would have string/M theorists interact in such a way with those who knew, as well, countered what ever arguments that would arise.

    But Peter I know now was not capable of doing this? This is not a fault on his part, just that a good scientist/mathematician in his profession, might not have known about the issues of the quantum gravity issues, yet is creditialed? Is this statement wrong in regards to Peter? I listened to what he said about the standard model and I applied it. Others had been too.

    So, that was my expectation, and him not living up to rebuttals, as Lee might with Susskind, then, it has nothing to do with Peter.

    I would respect Jacques, as I do Lubos opinion about this isssue. Cliffords as well.

    Count’s point on Peter censoring string theorist, is right, but the indexing issue to the right of his blog, where he had separated. Why? This puzzled me when I seen Cosmic variance on the other side of the tracks?:) Just that we can see the numbers of, and who is against, the many who are not?

    Lee, taught me many interesting things as he introduce quantum gravity to us readers. NOt once did I ever see him judgemental in his books, as to the choice and decisions to follow which avenue. Those that were judgemental, I looked for their reasons why. This can still be done in a respectful way.

    Thanks Cosmic Variance for allowing me to have this space to voice my opinion. Mine, is from the public perspective.

  • Thomas Larsson

    I must say that the Arxiv’s decision surprises me. The probability that somebody finds an Arxiv article via Peter’s blog must be infinitely larger than somebody finding Peter’s blog via an Arxiv trackback. Trying to silence Peter only makes him a martyr, which I doubt was the purpose.

  • http://www.canonicalscience.com Juan R.

    Anyone here heard about so-called science wars?

    Recents ArXiv cases (Peter Woit is far from being the unique) are simply another example of some scientists who lack sufficient arguments against another guy with contrary views. If lacking arguments then…

    History of science is full of that. Even Issac Newton was rejected by the mainstraim of the epoque and named crackpot! Gell-Mann had many problems for publishing the quark model, Feynman’s methods at Pocono were not well-received, Lee-Yang rejected, GR claimed to be wrong by several of most important scientist of epoque, Onsager work completely ignored during decades, Boltzmann durely critized by colleagues, etc, etc.

    I wonder of the usage of the word “science” by Lubos Motl. I, of course, highly respect all that people devoting her/his entire academic life to pursuit a program they believe on, but to call science to a metaphysical discipline without physical support, lacking any serious result during near 40 years is rather surprising. Well, i have said now is not completely accurate; i would remember to readers that string theory has producted all kind of results except good ones.

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  • http://www.canonicalscience.com Juan R.

    FP said

    As I wrote earlier, it would be very interesting to hear the opinion of Jacques Distler on this issue.
    In fact, it is about time that he responds to opinions which suggest that he and/or others try to censor Peter Woit.

    I do not know if Jacques Distler is censoring Peter Woit’s blog or is not. Imagine during an instant it is true. Apparently many people think that would be because Peter Woit is a known “anti-stringer” but has anyone noted perhaps Not Even wrong is blocking from ArXiv because Peter is using a LaTeX-to-gif plugin instead of Distler marvellous, revolutionary, optimized, semnatic… itexToMML plugin :-)

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Considering that Peter Woit actually publishes on the arXiv, it is extremely strange that he’s being refused the trackback service. After all, the arXiv now operates as a “gentlemen’s club” where new contributors must be introduced by existing members (at least that is the case for quant-ph). I would say that if you’re good enough to contribute, the trackback permission should be automatic.

    In addition (and regardless of PW’s credentials, of which I am not in the position to judge), I quite like the occasional crackpot paper on the arXiv: A few years back I saw a paper on quant-ph that drew parallels between male-female relationships and wave-particle duality. It even had experimental data! (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find it since.) Such articles really liven up the morning coffee break…

  • Anon

    Regardless of the Peter Woit decision, I truly find it disappointing
    that a site (you know which) filled with sloppy Physics, sloppy math,
    and not to mention rather crackpot climate change and right wing
    ravings, in addition to regular character assassinations, is actually allowed
    as a trackback.

    I would agree with Lubos on one thing – rather cancel
    the trackback system altogether. It only sullies the arXiv, saddling the
    moderators with unavoidable political decisions, opens them to
    justifiable accusations of censorship for questionable motivations,
    exposes the host institution to further lawsuits, and provides no service
    not already provided (and better) by Google.

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Anon,

    One peculiar aspect of this whole trackback story is that it’s Jacques Distler whose idea the whole thing was, but if the arXiv ever decides it is too much of a problem and shuts it down, it will likely be because of his behavior. This will be too bad, since it’s an interesting and potentially useful tool, although its usefulness depends on what happens with blogs in the future and how much useful content they contain.

    Moderating something like this can be a tricky business, as anyone who has a blog and has to deal with its comment section knows. But it’s just not that hard to tell the difference between people who know something about what they are writing about and those who don’t. The root of the problem here is the attitude that anyone who disagrees with one’s point of view on a scientific controversy must be a crackpot. This kind of attitude may or may not make one a bad scientist, but it makes one a bad moderator.

    By the way, I’d like to make it clear that I have never threatened Cornell or the arXiv with a lawsuit, and have no intention of doing so. I’m not the litigious sort, and the courts are not the place to try and get important scientific institutions to live up to the standards they should aspire to. This is best done with open public airing of the issues, something which, for better or worse, seems to be happening in this case.

  • Science

    “The root of the problem here is the attitude that anyone who disagrees with one’s point of view on a scientific controversy must be a crackpot. This kind of attitude may or may not make one a bad scientist, but it makes one a bad moderator.”

    The “crackpot” name calling business is reminds me primary school, where anyone different in speech or whatever from others would be called names:

    “If a man reads or hears a criticsm of anything in which he has an interest, watch whether his first question is as to its fairness … If he reacts to any such criticism with strong emotion; if he bases his complaint on the ground that is not “in good taste” or that it will have a bad effect … he thereby reveals that his own attitude is unscientific.

    “Likewise if in his turn he judges an idea not on its merits but with reference to the author of it; if he criticizes it as “heresy”; if he argues that authority must be right because it is authority; if he takes a particular criticism as a general depreciation; if he confuses opinion with facts; if he claims that any expression of opinion is “unquestionable”; if he declares that something will “never” come about or is “certain” that any view is right. The path of truth is paved with critical doubt and lighted by the spirit of objective inquiry.”

    - B. H. Liddell Hart, “Why Don’t We Learn From History?”, http://infohost.nmt.edu/~shipman/reading/liddell/c01.html

  • agm

    the physics e-print server that has largely superseded the role of traditional print journals.

    After 20 minutes browsing through the last year’s titles in space physics, I can’t help but snicker. arxiv’s space physics collection is negligibly small compared to the output of any AGU journal over the same time period. Nonetheless, I know it’s important to other fields, so good luck figuring this problem out…

  • Doug

    Lubos wrote:
    You can never draw a sharp line between scientists and crackpots and it is very likely that I would draw the line on the opposite side of PW than Sean does. Expecting that someone has a right for his blog articles to be published or linked in scientific journals and their electronic counterparts is a crazy idea, especially if these blog articles are primarily addressed to completely moronic crackpots such as Chris Oakley, Danny Lunsford, Quantoken, and others, and it is often very difficult to distinguish in what sense Peter’s opinions are better than the opinions of the crackpots.

    Peter’s point that the practice of drawing the line is only potentially abusive in the hands of moderators is most revealing, since it asserts that the distinction itself is not the problem, but only the unseemly exercise of it. If it constitutes an unjust effort to quench scientific dissent, then, as the commentator Science points out above, scientific moderators are behaving in an unscientific manner.

    What a dilemma! If we want to exclude the unsophisticated ideas of non-members, we cannot avoid such abuse. Peter says it is easy to make the necessary distinction, while Lubos says it is never easy. Peter seems to assert that the criteria used to make the distinction should be the apparent level of a candidate’s sophistication in the discussion, while Lubos insists that even sophisticated discourse, if “addressed to completely moronic crackpots,” makes one guilty by association, regardless of its level of sophistication.

    Clearly, the insistence that a sophisticated method of inquiry is the only legitimate method of inquiry is the real “root of the problem.” Otherwise, the demeaning label of crackpot wouldn’t exist. On the other hand, how do we eliminate the “noise” of those at the bottom of the spectrum whose unsophisticated, kluged together, ideas are burdensome to the sophisticates? The only answer is the formation of a “Gentleman’s” private club, the old elitism that is the bane of egalitarianism, which, as Sean and others have already pointed out, must be ultimately self-defeating.

    There is a great lesson here demonstrating the power of technology’s impact on our most basic social institutions. The scientific “cronyism” of academia is being exposed more and more by the Internet. Sean’s characterizing of the ideas of Arp and company as “crackpot” ideas, and Motl’s characterizing of Woit’s ideas as “completely silly” and “squarely on the crackpot territory,” while similar ideas of other, well-established, sophisticates, are not censored, only exposes the hypocrisy of our scientific institution.

    Its gotta come down fellas.

  • http:://combingthesphere.blogspot.com Daryl McCullough

    I think that this controversy illustrates a real, and perhaps unsolvable problem for the layman, even for the well-educated layman (which is how I consider myself when it comes to the farthest reaches of physics). How in the world is it possible to sort out the crackpots from the legitimate researchers if you lack the time, background, mathematical sophistication, etc. to master the topic? I don’t think that the gut feeling that someone sounds like he knows what he’s talking about is sufficient. I’ve witnessed two different researchers, each of whom sounded competent to me, called each other crackpots.

    The controversy between loop quantum gravity and string theory as alternative approaches to reconciling General Relativity and quantum theory is almost an example. The two sides don’t actually call each other “crackpots”, but I’ve heard (some, but not all) advocates of each side proclaim that the other side had the gone off the deep end. (Lubos especially is immoderate in his dismissal of all non-string-theoretic approaches to quantum gravity.)

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Daryl, I think that this is an artificial problem created by people with extremist/intolerant views like those of Lubos.

    Lubos has succeeded in making loop quantum gravity a more controversial topic on wikipedia than the article on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

  • Science

    “How in the world is it possible to sort out the crackpots from the legitimate researchers if you lack the time, background, mathematical sophistication, etc. to master the topic?” – Daryl

    You demand that to see something called evidence. You examine the evidence. If it consists solely of unobserved gravitons and unobserved superpartners, you have to conclude that it fits into the category of speculations which also contains organised money-making religion. If the evidence is convincing and the theory is not otherwise in contradiction of reality, then you have to scientifically appreciate that it is a real possibility.

  • http://www.cgoakley.demon.co.uk/qft/ Chris Oakley

    I don’t think that Lubos’s game is that hard to read. By pouring continuous bile on critics of String theory, combined with excessive fawning towards its leading lights, he hopes to elevate his own status within this community.
    Have a look at his Wikipedia entry: he created it himself!

    Given that, in this day and age, it is not possible to completely censor criticism, the effect of all of this is just to draw attention to the failure of String theory to a much wider public than might have been the case otherwise. His String theory colleagues should take note.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/hands-on-cern.html Plato

    Many point to the “personalites” without understanding that when you see through this, you look for the science.

    This is what had been missing in the continued banter about so and so. Wouldn’t any good Catholic think about “throwing stones” before he himself spoke?

    Anyway, Daryl saids it like I see it.

    I think that this controversy illustrates a real, and perhaps unsolvable problem for the layman, even for the well-educated layman

    This is an admission in bold, and at the same time, openness to perspective about the process, which ever venue?

    Now, having put the personality aside, what is being offered? The same things that are being asked of limiting trackbacks, is the admonishment of maybe one keeping their “blog free” of those who he might have thought less of, and the “criteria of trackback” is being squabbled about in that case?

    I am thinking of Daryl’s position now.

    Okay. Only the set requirements of trackback? What are these, without inflating personal feelings.

    The future? How will we interject “advancement of knowledge” through these spaces. Without them settling into matter states “less then” the desire of growth potential?

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  • FP

    Jacques Distler wrote about this issue on his own blog and I think he clarified the rules. The reason Peter cannot post trackbacks is his lack of publications which indicates that he is not an active researcher according to Jacques Distler.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/hands-on-cern.html Plato

    For quick reference then.

  • Dumb Biologist

    Well, there are obviously differences of oppinion about what makes a person “an active researcher”, but at least there’s a clear explanation: Lack of a sufficiently extensive list of recent publications means you’re not an active researcher in the eyes of the arXiv administrators. It’s useless to argue over the policy, as it’s their sandbox, but it’s not at all clear to me why it should have taken so much time and protest to get so simple a reply (which had been guessed at, but still). Seems to me everyone’s best interests would have been served by a little more openness.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/hands-on-cern.html Plato

    Maybe if one thought in terms of Microsoft or linuxed based systems?

    Jacque might have been smart enough to limit interactive comments as well? :)

    So, if the progression of the internet is to question what is allowed in the “Click/mouse/space” then what criteria would affronted the operation of a “free open space,” now called the internet?

    We are talking about institutionalized standards then, and regardless of the instituted frame of reference, another culture operates underneath the one spoken of in “trackback.”

    This will have no bearing on the “state of mind” of active researcher? Limit our abilites to progress.

    So in the context of choice and software developement, the whole idea is still a principaled one, and is maintaining it’s status quo?

    Stallman, where are you? :)

  • http://http::/combingthesphere.blogspot.com Daryl McCullough

    Science writes: You demand that to see something called evidence. You examine the evidence.

    I think that’s a lot easier said than done. We have tons of observations, or facts, that require explaining: the value of the fine-structure constant, the masses of the particles, the existence of lepton generations, the observed large-scale expansion of the universe, the matter/anti-matter asymmetry of the universe, the “arrow of time”, the conspicuous lack of observations of magnetic monopoles, free quarks, proton decay, supersymmetric partners, etc. Until you’ve actually worked out all the consequences of, say, string theory, how do know which of these facts are predicted by the theory, and which contradict the theory?

    If the mathematical difficulty of getting from theory T to observation O is too great, or too convoluted, we have to rely on the experts. If the experts disagree, what then?

  • Science

    ‘Jacques Distler wrote about this issue on his own blog and I think he clarified the rules. The reason Peter cannot post trackbacks is his lack of publications which indicates that he is not an active researcher according to Jacques Distler.’ – FP

    Jacques Distler is on the arXiv.org advisory board, so his very belated, admittedly pressurized explanation sounds like an ad hoc excuse, similar to a suggestive comment at Woit’s blog on 26 Feb by Marty Tysanner, see http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=353#comment-8814. The trackback is manual yet still ignores the fact that people can be active researchers without writing string papers on arXiv? For example Woit has stated he has been preparing a book which cannot appear on arXiv, and he also runs a university maths department computer system as well as teaching maths. So Jacques Distler’s excuse is not even wrong.

  • Dumb Biologist

    Seems if they value quantity (with/without quality?), the thing to do (pain in the ass as it certainly would be) is to provide precisely that. It would be an interesting test of the newly-clarified system.

  • Science

    ‘We have tons of observations, or facts, that require explaining…’ – Daryl

    Woit does make this very point. I notice you don’t include the graviton, 11 dimensional supergravity, but you do mention supersymmetric (SUSY) partners. The issue is connecting unifying the forces of the Standard Model (strong and electroweak QFT) and adding gravity.

    The observations you list make it easy to see if the theory is on track. Take a look at the new paper http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0603022 which attempts to do the same as string theory, unifying the Standard Model with general relativity (gravity). It doesn’t explain the list of observations you give, but it doesn’t involk unobserved extra dimensions of string theory either. Yet Lubos Motl is free to publish an abusive ridicule of that paper on his blog http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/03/theory-of-everything-from-trinions.html, which has arXiv trackback.

    Unless Woit is allowed trackbacks to arXiv stringy papers, there is thus prejudice at arXiv in favor of strings.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/hands-on-cern.html Plato

    I think the agenda is quite clear in it’s discription, and if held to a higher standard, what say this is not the case with it’s demands?

    While I had wanted soemthing clear in a arguement, the limitations of not doing current research might have limited perspetive about all those things Daryl is talking about. So vast the subject, one hand sweeping, does not make the arguement.

    The other option was, not to implore trackback at all. But the tool(declaring itself as) is quite useful in a bloggery such as cosmic variance, that you would have been a fool not to see the interconnecting thoughts and ideas, that lead from one post to another.

    The standard might have been higher in the other case? Sorry cosmic variance, it’s the thought that counts:)

    Peter still implores link connections does he not?

    What’s the issue? It is deeper motivated, and those who support him, recognize that any of us might have this same thing called pride?

    But Kevin in another thread said it best, when referring to statues and such.

    The legacy?

    While our contributions might had been missed, are now part and parcel of the time line of research and developement. Anonimity, hides the true name, but not what one may wish to contribute, as less than, self-evident Current research is what leads us into the future with science. Not some constant reverberation of the same ole? :)

  • http://atdotde.blogspot.com Robert

    I was quite surprised to learn that Peter is not allowed to submit trackbacks and I think this is the wrong decision. He has one main point which is that realistically, we know string theory only on shell and perturbatively. In addition, dualities and BPS properties give us some non-perturbative information. But if nature happens to to be in a phase that has a weakly coupled description we might have a hard time identifying it as a stringy world even with a Planck scale accelerator given our current lack of understanding of general M-Theory.

    Peter thinks this is a really worrying realization others (including me) can still get a good night’s sleep after realizing it. After all, we might have learned a bit more about M-Theory before building that collider ;-) . As I understand it, Peter thinks this possible problem is not realized by enough people and it is his duty to tell the world about it.

    However, there are many other topics Peter writes about in his blog and I know a large number of string theorist who enjoy reading it even if only for the entertainment value (and these people would not consider one of those crackpot emails that Einstein was wrong at all entertaining). Peter’s blog is valued because he has interesting things to say about math and physics even if not too many of his physicist readers will agree with his interpretations. And in no way, he can be considered a crackpot. The difference is that he is susceptible to arguments and differs only on issues that cannot clearly be settled by rational argument. And maybe he overstates his point from time to time. But so are others (and I would include some of Lubos’s physics postings as well, especially when he reacts like Pavlov’s dog to a new paper on loop quantum gravity not to mention his postings on issues outside physics).

    Even if Javques in his posting over at Musings specifically asked for it, I would not like to discuss the general criterion of “active researcher” and if it applies to Peter or not. Given the prominence of his blog, it is not unreasonable that when drawing up this criterion it was decided beforehand that “Not Even Wrong” should not be included and then a policy crafted to that effect. Not that I say that was the case but Peter’s blog was there and well known before arXive started allowing trackbacks.

    If suddenly, the arXive changed their moderation policy regarding preprints and suddenly hep-th would be flooded by ‘relativity is wrong’ papers and ‘i have created my own theory of everything and it is based on 2(duality)+3(colors)=5(pentagram)’ pamphlets that would be really really bad because that would have an impact on everyday’s work. But listing one or two trackbacks too much does not really cause much irritation. So far, I have learned about the contents of many papers from blogs but never learned about a blog entry from a trackback (given that I use an rss aggregator) I don’t think it would hurt if together with Peter a few blogs with much lower standards than his were allowed as well.

    Executive summary: Peter’s a reasonable guy and I would like to see trackbacks to “Not Even Wrong” on the arXive.

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Thanks Robert!

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    A simple solution:

    In principle, one could give submitters of
    preprints the possibility to remove unwanted trackbacks. Of course, you must have a system that removes the obvious spam. But whether or not someone likes a trackback from Woit’s blog is a personal matter. Lubos
    won’t like it but I won’t mind.

    One can think of giving authors the option to disallow trackbacks altogether. If the author doesn’t do that then trackbacks to his article can appear and the author would be given an email notification. Then the author could take a look and decide to remove the trackback if he feels it is inappropriate. He could then also decide to block all trackbacks from that particular blog.

    This interactive system would take a lot of work out of the hands of the arXiv moderators and end the dispute were to draw the line about what are appropriate trackbacks and what are not.

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  • ksh95

    If academic freedom means anything, it must mean that the university must do nothing to impede free discussion by professionally competent experts on scientific controversies. Given that Peter Woit is a Physics Ph.D. and a faculty member at a major university, who has published papers and has a book in press on the topic, he is without doubt part of the academic community to which the principles of academic freedom apply.
    …Lee Smolin

    That pretty much closes the case for me.

  • http://server4.moody.cx jim

    Does anyone know how many other people, besides Peter Woit, have asked for trackback and been denied?

  • http://www.canonicalscience.com Juan R.

    FP said

    Jacques Distler wrote about this issue on his own blog and I think he clarified the rules. The reason Peter cannot post trackbacks is his lack of publications which indicates that he is not an active researcher according to Jacques Distler.

    Yes, he clarified! The decision for blocking is clearly not scientific based. Rest of Distler “parafernalia” is a cloud to hidden the facts. The basic question underpining all this stuff is very simple to understand:

    If string theory was great really great, it would be easy to rebate Peter Woit and other’s criticism to it. Since string “theory” (to say so) is “safe”, any possible criticism may be eliminated from the very begining before average guys, mass media, and some funding agencies discover that string “theory” is: 40 years of disaster.

    I also find interesting Distler’s asumption of “active research” in function of “number of publications/preprints”. Apparently, ArXiv prefers guys with 100 wrong or irrelevant papers before guys with a dozen of really good papers. I prefer read a paper where the CC was computed from first principles rather than dozens and dozens and dozens of string-oriented preprints where at the best it is suggested that the CC is a kind of misterium and that one just can find bounds to it via obstruse (and wrong) statistical analysis on seudo-infinite hypotetical landscapes for 10-11D imagined universes with no link with physics we can verify at laboratory.

    Moreover, as stated by Nobel laureate Robertson, today Yang or Einstein would be rejected for submiting on ArXiv.

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/have-we-seen-strange-quark-matter.html Plato

    Lets discuss some of the relevance of information on this trackback page? Not the content referred or whose trackback it is.


    Trackbacks indicate web sites that link to this paper. Trackbacks do not reflect the opinion of arXiv.org or of this paper’s authors

    I am presenting a solution to trackbacks here, as I demonstrate information on trackback page.

    1. That trackback can be replaced by reference url blockquote.

    2. Other ways that can be derived from, book referenced and parargraph, as immediate recognition of owner link. In this case- http://arxiv.org

    The idea is to make net versatile in click/space. Does this qualify?

    Comments or suggestions?

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/have-we-seen-strange-quark-matter.html Plato

    Example:

    Trackbacks


    arXiv.org supports the Trackback standard. By sending a trackback, you can notify arXiv.org that you’ve created a web page that references a particular paper. You can view recent trackbacks.

    You can send a trackback to our system by giving your blogging software the following trackback URL:

    http://arxiv.org/trackback/{paper_id}

    You will find this URL at the bottom of every abstract page. Our abstract pages support trackback autodiscovery: software such as Movable Type or WordPress can send trackbacks automatically when you link to our abstract pages.

    Our trackback service is experimental and may be modified or discontinued at any time.
    Trackbacks will not be immediately visible. Because of widespread Trackback spam we have a semi-automated editorial process that approves trackbacks for display. Trackbacks from known blogs should become visible in a few minutes, but it may take longer for us to recognize new blogs.

    We reserve the right to reject trackbacks for any reason.

    Trackback autodiscovery is only implemented on URLs of the form “http://arxiv.org/abs/{paper_id}” and NOT on URLs of the format “http://arxiv.org/{paper_id}” or on PDF or other full-text formats. Bloggers will get best results if they link only to the official abstract page.

    Software recognition of information within articles in question, are handled the same way. Adheres to ownership and recognition of material. This cannot be changed in any way.

    Verification by direct link will prove any attempts to change the wording. Click/space will show and maintains the quick funcitonality that must continued to be strived for,a s we introduce video and radio to the world of the internet

    Further comments or suggestions?

    The purpose is not to have the “internet strangled” by structure, all the while recognizing a “higher standard” to the written word?

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/have-we-seen-strange-quark-matter.html Plato

    Okay this is the final post here in what is the contentioous issue facing safeguard developers like Jacque.

    Why Jacque is the way he is? He can refute this point or not? I can’t do it there and it is important that others understand the motivation.

    Example:A Derivative of other than, direct linked paragraph.

    Interview with a link spammerBy Charles Arthur

    So how and why do “link spammers” – as they generically call themselves – do it? Are they the same as the email spammers? What do they think of what they do, ethically? And what can stop them? If you’re affected by this spam, say because you run a blog, or a website, or like the other 99.9 per cent of Net users just come across the stuff, Sam explain the important thing to remember is it’s nothing personal. They’re not targeting you personally. They’re just exploiting a weakness in a system which blossomed just at the time that Google cracked down on the previous method that spammers used, where huge “link farms” of their own web sites pointed

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/01/31/link_spamer_interview/

    Gulp:) Progression and Advancement, Jacque. REmember?

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  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/looking-for-kernel-of-truth.html Plato

    Some BlogSpam solutions Which kind have you employed? And some information on ARIN ( American Registry for Internet Numbers

    Imagine, if the gun lobbyists, had to register their IP addresses, as users? :) Just wondering here how much “anonmyizer software sales” would rise?

  • Benni

    Interestingly, when one asks woit:

    “Why don’t you write a review article.
    Simply collect 100 Stringtheory papers and show why the arguments therein are so mathematically week and/or physically misleading. Then make 4 such articles, send them to physical review and then to Arxiv.
    This would be easy for you, since you would only lengthen your blog postings with stronger arguments and you would fulfill easily the criterion of an active researcher. It would you take in the standard scientific procedure where even review articles belong to.”

    woit deletes that comment. But it wasn’t even a slightest critique in it.

    When one goes angry on such a text, then this is, because of his inabillity to formulate critisism on the level of scientific appropriatnes.

    Woit wrote, that he cannot write papers with scientific results whitch could falsify some landscape models, because he thinks that this is generally impossible and the arguments in these papers would be often weak which he claims is the reason why he critisise them.

    But when asked, if he could write a scientific review article on the whole bunch of weak arguments in stringtheory papers, that is: to discuss 100 papers and write why they are weak and why they have no or a unsure meaning, then woit gets angry and goes over to censoring and deleting.

    I therefore think that the case can be made, he has not much scientific to say. Otherwise he could write such a review article. And his lack of publications is due to an unabillity of doing research. He is, as Distler pointed out just “a net-personality”.

    That is: Arxiv as a scientific server was right to ban him. Someone who only aims at entertaining the public with critisism and lack of scientific abillity is not the one, a serious researcher who is struggling with a field in crisis might want to comment his papers for public demolition.
    Benjamin

  • http:///www.physics.helsinki.fi/~matpitka/ Matti Pitkanen

    I think that the trackback issue is much less serious than the censorship against posting to arXiv which in practice means a professional death.

    For a decade it become impossible for me to post anything to Physics Archives. Mathematical Subject Classification Tables of American Mathematical Society has alink to my homepage about Topological Geometrodynamics in the section devoted to Mathematics of Quantum Theory. Recently I was invited in to Marguis Who’s Who in Science and Engineering. One might think that on this basis I should not be regarded as a non-crackpot by any person possessing IQ above 100 but the wise men in the board seem to think differently.

    Certainly I am not the only one. There is large number of active researchers publishing in refereed journals who suffer arXiv.org censorship

    Matti Pitkanen

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  • Nigel

    ‘… woit gets angry and goes over to censoring and deleting…’ – Benni

    Could it be that the comment deleted which you reproduce here is not very useful? What’s the evidence of ander in censoring? You get a comment deleted and take that of evidence of anger? Woit has already said in response to Dr Christine Dantas that he will prepare more papers for arxiv, so your comment was just superfluous.

    Here’s a comment of mine he deleted yesterday, which I had saved:

    “March 9th, 2006 at 6:42 am
    “‘… (I’m a lot more elitist and willing to see suppression of crackpottery than many of my commenters), …’ Peter

    “Alternatives to failed mainstream ideas are not automatically wrong. Those who are censored for being before their time or for contradicting mainstream non-tested speculation, are hardly crackpot.

    “As a case in point, see http://cdsweb.cern.ch/search.py?recid=688763&ln=en which was peer-reviewed and published but censored off arxiv according to the author (presumably for contradicting stringy speculation). It is convenient for Motl to dismiss this as crackpot.

    “It is curious that nobody remembers the problems that Einstein had when practically the entire physics establishment of Germany in the 1930s was coerced by fascists to call him a crackpot.

    “I think Pauli’s categories of “right”, “wrong”, and “not even wrong” are more objective than calling suggestions “crackpot”.”

  • Benni

    My comment was exactly:

    “Because you said that you are not interested anymore in your former subject, and your interest seems now to lie at criticising string theory, why don’t you write a review article.
    Simply collect 100 Stringtheory papers and show why the arguments therein are so mathematically week and/or physically misleading. Then make 4 such articles, send them to physical review and then to Arxiv.
    This would be easy for you, since you would only lengthen your blog postings with stronger arguments and you would fulfill easily the criterion of an active researcher. It would you take in the standard scientific procedure where even review articles belong to.”

    For someone who is able to formulate critisism in a scientific way, it should be no problem for writing a review article that articulates this.

    I wrote this comment as a hint, because woit himself said, that his interests don’t lie anymore in the subjects he had pursued before. This comment was not unappropriate and directly addressed to a sentence from woit himself.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    But isn’t Woit’s position essentially that string theory isn’t well motivated? So, to string theorists his comments will always be a bit blah blah blah. It’s a bit like a negative referee report I once received. It said that there was nothing wrong with the paper, but it should be rejected because the whole approach was not well motivated (I did manage to publish the paper in another journal, though).

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/z-machine.html Plato

    Matti:I think that the trackback issue is much less serious than the censorship against posting to arXiv which in practice means a professional death.

    Do you think his mathematics will have soured?

    I don’t think so. If one is held in the realm of the mathematics without moving to a larger framerwork of consideration, how would this help “other views” of what the geometries might have implied in physics processes?

    Is there a “sole right of expression” that he might have been arguing about, that you sweep everything else away(censored), or that we should ignore “everything else,” but your geometrodynamic view?

    Lee Smolin summation views on quantum geometries was non judgemental, fair. Room was left for “good intentions” to be pursued by young fledging students of science.

    Do you not think the physics can have been geometrically entertained differently? You use analog models to push perspective?

    New mathematics will not sign any death. :)

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Benni’s comment was deleted because it was repetitive, and showed no signs of either understanding or responding to the many answers I had given to his earlier comments. The only reason the comment section on my blog still manages to attract some intelligent discussion is that I spend a lot of time deleting highly repetitive comments from people like Benni, Nigel and a host of others.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Once you start deleting comments from your blog, you need to have a clear statement at the top of your comments section that indicates which types of comments are likely to be deleted. Otherwise you will be accused of censorship (as Peter Woit now clearly is). Interestingly, it is Woit himself who has problems with the arXiv. Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

  • Benni

    woit wrote:
    Benni’s comment was deleted because it was repetitive

    it was the first time, I pointed out that you should write a review article.

    Before, I sugested, that you might write something which critisises the landscape by showing that there exist some predictions which aren’t antrophic. As Polchinski did also, I gave you examples with papers that make scientifically critics of the landscape (If I am so silly, why does Polchinski suggest the same?).

    You denied this, claiming that this cannot be done because the arguments of these papers would be weak. The suggestion to write a review article about “why the arguments are weak” I postet only for one time. And you censored it. This sugesstion to write a review of the weak status of current string litherature wasn’t repetitive.

    Also, why don’t you have it considered earlier to write a review about “100 weak papers in stringtheory”? A serious researcher who has some serious critisism would be able to do this without any suggestion.

    That you are not able to do so can be only due to an inability and it might be the good and well chosen reason why you are banned from the scientific database arxiv.org until “a radically change of your publication rate” (Distler) takes place.

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    PK,

    I delete comments for various reasons, mostly because they’re off-topic, rude, repetitive, uninformed, nonsensical, etc. Anyone who has any experience managing an active internet discussion area is well aware that this kind of thing is necessary, and typically detailed policies about this are not posted (for instance, I’m sure the proprietors of Cosmic Variance delete comments, and there is no policy posted here).

    Any blog owner has the right to deal with this issue however they want. I’m not complaining that Lubos Motl deletes comments from me he doesn’t like. In any case, if someone’s comments are deleted at one blog, they’re welcome to take them to another one that might be friendlier to them. The arXiv issue is completely different. This is not one of a million personal blogs, but a unique federally-financed institution associated with Cornell University that now plays the central role in scientific communication in high-energy physics.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Sure, a public forum has greater responsibilities than a personal blog (and must therefore be more careful). But the principle is the same: in the interest of science, alternative views should not be suppressed. I would think it much better if instead of deleting a comment, you mark it with something like “the host thinks this comment is irrelevant”. It helps the reader skip (long) comments, but it is there to refer to, and no charges of censorship can be brought up.

    Obviously, this does not include rude comments and spam. It is good practice to delete these without any warning.

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Actually I allow much greater leeway in terms of “rude, repetitive, uninformed, nonsensical, etc.” when comments are critical of me. But when a commenter ignores my third or fourth warning that I’m tired of wasting my time repeatedly responding to the same criticism from them, and that they show no signs of paying any attention to what I am writing or understanding what the issues are, I see no reason I shouldn’t delete further such comments without warning.

  • Benni

    woit wrote

    I delete comments for various reasons, mostly because they’re off-topic, rude, repetitive, uninformed, nonsensical, etc.

    To say it again: the suggestion, that when your current interests don’t lie in the material you worked on in the past, you should write, with your knowledge in stringtheory, a scientific review about why the methods of a large number of string phaenomenology papers are that weak as you claim, this was neither repetitive nor rude. And could not be understood as such. To verify if you did not delete this by mistake, I indeed reformulated it in a more friendly voice and postet it again, but you deleted this sentence even if it was as most friendly as one can write.
    And since I made this suggestion for the first time, I’m a bit surprised about your allegation that it was repetitive. Since this is simply wrong.

    It was, along with the comments of Polchinski et al, a friendly suggestion what you should do, to have your trackbacks allowed in Arxiv.org.

    But what I hear from you looks somewhat rude. You claim again and again, that I would not know what is going on here. You delete my comments even if they are friendly and declaring that they are repetitive or nonsensical or rude. Even if I only give similar advice as Polchinski for example (of course you might think he does not know what is going on too).

    woit wrote:

    This is not one of a million personal blogs, but a unique federally-financed institution associated with Cornell University that now plays the central role in scientific communication in high-energy physics

    This at least is true. And that is the reason why etreme caution should be taken, that only persons able to do real science can entry arxiv.org. Such persons might include those, who are able to write a serious critisism of a research program in form of serious scientific reviews in established journals.
    Others, who are only able to produce rather non-scientific blog entries, especially whose only aim is public demolition of struggling researchers, such persons are not among those who should have a place in Ariv.org I think.

    I think I have discussed the longest time with woit and this was my last reply on that topic. As additional note: I won’t read the blog of woit anymore. So he will be preserved from my comments in the future

  • http://www.cgoakley.demon.co.uk/ Chris Oakley

    Benni,

    Writing technical papers explaining why ST and especially the Landscape is wrong is like nailing a blancmange to a wall.

  • Benni

    Writing technical papers explaining why ST and especially the Landscape is wrong is like nailing a blancmange to a wall

    I mean something else:
    Woit says indeed that it is impossible to get something out of the landscape. And he says all papers doing so deal with weak arguments.

    I simply asked him why not writing a review of these weak arguments. That is I wrote:
    “collect 100 string theory papers and write a review article about why these arguments are wrong or weak”.
    Such a review if extensive would be interesting since one could see, where we stand in stringtheory. A researcher, who is oriented at criticism on stringhteory would at least com up with 2 or 4 arxiv papers on that topic. If woit could formulate critisism on a scientifically appropriate level beyond blog postings he would obviously send such a “review of 100 weak stringtheory methods” to phys.rev.lett. He would do this at least because he then would qualify as active researcher.
    Woit has written a book on stringhteory. But apparently the amazon recensions say that it is without any formulas.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0224076051/102-2093773-1636106?v=glance&n=283155

    I should also add that, like “The Second Creation”, “Not Even Wrong” generally avoids mathematical equations and can be read by anyone.

    I think, when one might have access to Arxiv.org. he should be able at least to formulate his criticisms in a more technical level. That is, he should be able to mathematically explain, why some stringpapers contain weak argumentation and why the proposals are “naive” or unlikely.

    But what woit does is:
    He looks at the Arxiv, and waits till a stringpaper comes out where a struggeling researcher (like Douglas) writes:

    “May be it is a nightmare, in which our theory is”

    and then woit quotes this in his blog. That is, he waits till other struggle and uses this as ground for personal success by public demolition of others failure.

    Scientifically this would go through a review article like:
    “1001 weak arguments of stringtheory, -a review of standard stringhteory methods and why many arguments in recent papers are unlikely und weak”

    No one except woits inability of doing research prevents him from this.

    But this can change. The endorsement system of Arxiv is the method of an “old Boys club”. The idea is “researchers only endorse researchers”. Woit might articulate his critics in scientifically correct form, become a researcher, and Arxiv won’t block him anymore.

    That’s an appropriate choice of the moderators, I think.

  • Science

    ‘Woit might articulate his critics in scientifically correct form, become a researcher, and Arxiv won’t block him anymore.’- Benni

    Wrong. You can’t make “scientifically correct” statements about UFOs, etc., except to ignore it. If you live in a society where unobserved gravitons and superpartners are believed to be “evidence” that string theory unifies standard model forces and “has the remarkable property of predicting gravity” {quoted from stringy M-theory originator Edward Witten, Physics Today, Apr 96}, then your tendency to ignore it is no help. You have to point out that it is simply vacuous.

    String theory lacks a specific quantum field theory vacuum, yet as Lunsford says, that doesn’t stop string theory from making a lot of vacuous “predictions”.

    String theory allows 10^500 or so vacua, a whole “landscape” of them, and there is no realistic hope of determining which is the right one. So it is so vague it can’t say anything useful. The word “God” has about 10^6 different religious meanings, so string theory is (10^500)/(10^6) = 10^494 times more vague than religion.

    Is this the sort of “scientific” dismissal of stringy speculation you need? If you can do better than Woit, Benni, I suggest you write the paper you suggest yourself and try to get it endorsed on arxiv. Don’t go making suggestions to others if you don’t have the balls to undertake them yourself.

  • Benni

    Wrong. You can’t make “scientifically correct” statements about UFOs, etc., except to ignore it.

    Of course you can. Many scientists try to look behind pseudoscience with scientific methods

    If you live in a society where unobserved gravitons and superpartners are believed to be “evidence” that string theory unifies standard model forces

    At first: collect every prediction in litherature, that hasn’t seen yet…
    Then clarify wrong oversized statements made in papers by stringtheorists
    Then clarify weak derivations that are mathematically invalid etc…
    …………
    At least you could do more technical than writing a book on which one can say

    “Not Even Wrong” generally avoids mathematical equations and can be read by anyone.

    I am convinced that peter knows enough to articulate his critisism on a more technical leve than in blog postings.
    He only had to lengthen them.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/professors-fate-or-encouragement-to.html Plato

    In regards to #72, as a layman, I continue to wonder.

    What Benni is saying “might have” bypassed the recognition of others in science, as to sustained sweeping generalizations of string theory without proper recourse?

    Sentencing the validation of distance measures sought by table tops experiments? Their legitamcy, as to the rules of experimental engagement, from theorectical proposals on gravitational measures, it’s strength and weakness?

    Asked in what Benni proposes. Would this do away, with those whose effort it has been to paste a picture of irresponsibility to such conjectures and processes of mathematics? Incorporation in theorectical design, to experimental validation, as being irresponsible people?

    One couldn’t help but react to sustained views of those better educated, serving our best interest as students. Maybe, “active researcher” and “student” will have to go hand in hand? :)

  • nigel

    Benni, you’re missing Woit’s point, which is partly to write a blog bringing to wide scientific attention the popular exaggerations of string theory. This includes people who read arXiv papers with exaggerations. Other people have simply been ignored for giving scientific objections to string theory:

    Feynman’s statements in Davies & Brown, ‘Superstrings’ 1988, at pages 194-195:

    ‘… I do feel strongly that this is nonsense! … I think all this superstring stuff is crazy and is in the wrong direction. … I don’t like it that they’re not calculating anything. … why are the masses of the various particles such as quarks what they are? All these numbers … have no explanations in these string theories – absolutely none! …’ – http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=272#comment-5295

    Larsson has listed the following more recent experts:

    Sheldon “string theory has failed in its primary goal” Glashow – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/view-glashow.html

    Martinus “string theory is a figment of the theoretical mind” Veltman – http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/981238149X/701-5527495-9406712

    Phil “string theory a futile exercise as physics”Anderson
    - http://www.edge.org/q2005/q05_10.html#andersonp

    Bob “string theory a 50-year-old woman wearing way too much lipstick” Laughlin – http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/03/14/MNGRMBOURE1.DTL

    Dan “string theory is a complete scientific failure” Friedan – http://www.arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0204131

    Also note that even Dr Lubos Motl has expressed concerns with the ‘landscape’ aspect of ST, while Dr Peter Woit in his 2002 paper pointed out the problem that ST doesn’t actually sort out gravity:

    ‘It is a striking fact that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for this complex and unattractive conjectural theory. There is not even a serious proposal for what the dynamics of the fundamental ‘M-theory’ is supposed to be or any reason at all to believe that its dynamics would produce a vacuum state with the desired properties. The sole argument generally given to justify this picture of the world is that perturbative string theories have a massless spin two mode and thus could provide an explanation of gravity, if one ever managed to find an underlying theory for which perturbative string theory is the perturbative expansion.’ — Quantum Field Theory and Representation Theory: A Sketch (2002), http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0206135

    In addition, Sir Roger Penrose analysed the problems with string theory at a technical level, concluding: ‘in addition to the dimensionality issue, the string theory approach is (so far, in almost all respects) restricted to being merely a perturbation theory.’ – The Road to Reality, 2004, page 896.

    All the arXiv papers against ST and technical discussion of problems gets ignored, which is why Woit is asking for arXiv trackbacks to papers to present a balanced view.

  • Benni

    Benni, you’re missing Woit’s point, which is partly to write a blog bringing to wide scientific attention the popular exaggerations of string theory.

    I know that for society he does a good job.

    But a blog is not science and never will be.

    The rest of your posting does only contain single sentence quotations. They are as nonscientific statements as blog postings are.

    I am sure, woit could write a more technical review than his two popular essays. But unfortunately he doesn’t…..

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/looking-for-kernel-of-truth.html Plato

    If the impact and direction of science can be affected by a blog statement of some repute, then it effects science?

    Why would you ask to have somebody update?

    As to quotes. Maybe if you were “selling” another idea, those quotes might come in handy? :)

  • nigel

    What idea are you selling Plato? Or did you mean I’m trying to sell the idea of unprejudiced discussion? By the way, Jacques censors comments on a discussion about censorship, even if they are within his rules and don’t mention the Woit controversy (Jacques deleted my one comment to his blog after it appeared as below):

    “New ArXiv Trackback Policy

    “Jacques,

    “The vagueness and lack of transparency over trackback policy reflects badly on string theory. You are a principal defender of strings on the arXiv advisory board. It was up to you to make your policy transparent and fair from the word go.

    “There is one criterion that determines whether a trackback should occur: objectivity. If authors are allowed to have critical trackbacks removed, that will be a step towards dictatorship by bad ideas. On the other hand, if trackbacks are not fair and objective, they can ridicule fruitful new ideas (ridicule of old, well entrenched ideas is not automatically unfair, just a way of generating some attention on an issue).

    “The first trackback from each blog should be reviewed and approved for objectivity. There should also be a mechanism in place to deal with complaints from authors in a transparent and fair way to both authors and blogs.

    “Posted by: nigel on March 15, 2006 07:48 AM”

    Wonder why he deleted this constructive suggestion?

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/increase-in-output-of-inverse-square.html Plato

    Jacques is a personal bias maybe, and no time for moderation in regards to your statement? Ask Peter:)

    Don’t let that stop you.

    Imagine.

    In the future, “a spam control process” in the 21st century, and a secret society of scientists who work out of some basement constructing the algorithym that ties them directly to the source? Any IP address less than perfect, can never be attached. A success story on PI day is annouced.

    The End

    I believe there is always a bit of the “Kernel of Truth” if we go back far enough? If you didn’t have history( no reference) how we would ever make sense of such speculation as string theory and not having moved forward?

    I am not the “logical spokesperson” being the layman I am, but somebody has to do it.

    Do you have the keys?

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    Wonder why he deleted this constructive suggestion?

    Violation of ground rule #4.

  • nigel

    Dear Jacques,

    Your Rule Four: ‘If you are banned from posting papers to the arXivs, you may have a legitimate grievance. But this is not the place to air such grievances.’ – http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/archives/000760.html#more

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/increase-in-output-of-inverse-square.html Plato

    So people understand what #4 was on Jacques “conditional” moderation blogging requirements.

    Here’s a Kernel, From a Possible Future of the Notebook?


    Finally, we are not going to turn this into a discussion of “censorship” by the arXivs. If you are banned from posting papers to the arXivs, you may have a legitimate grievance. But this is not the place to air such grievances. Again, such comments will be deleted.

    Nice to know up front.

    Nothing vague or lost in what might be the mood one day, might have been a resolve to maintain a certain reactive tone, on another?

    Should one be so easily moved by the wind/weather, emotively like some ball bobbing on the water? :)

    Such adherence to an open discussion had to have some ground rules, so moderation was not needed on every post to post basis. To have encouraged, more thoughtful/creative response, then statistical analysis of what makes numbers count on the flaming/warring dispositional hits, for tallying blog observation, other then, what should have been for science?

    Oh, he was talking about arXivs. Oops.

  • http://stardrive.org Jack Sarfatti

    For the record:
    I have a PhD in physics from the University of California.

    1. I defend Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.

    2. I accept orthodox quantum theory in it’s domain of validity. Where to draw that line in the sand is the issue.

    3. I accept the data of precison cosmology.

    gr-qc/0602022 14th version including comment on the George Ellis astro-ph/0603266

    Title: Emergent Gravity: String Theory Without String Theory
    Authors: Jack Sarfatti
    Comments: This 14th version corrects typos. It also addresses allegations of Waldyr Rodrigues Jr that do not apply to this version. George Ellis’s objection to Leonard Susskind’s theory of accessing information beyond the different types of horizons is addressed in a way that probably neither will accept, i.e. Antony Valentini’s “signal nonlocality” from the breakdown of “sub-quantal equilibrium” Born probability in emergent macro-quantum condensates with stiff long-range phase coherence

    The inflation field is generalized as a local field with eight Goldstone
    phases if the Lorentz group is spontaneously broken in the vacuum in addition to an internal symmetry group in the Planck era inflation quantum vacuum ODLRO phase transition. This permits the emergence of the Einstein Cartan tetrad field with the six extra dimensions of the Calabi Yau space associated with a massive torsion field when the full Poincare group is locally gauged. These conjectures also lead naturally to the quantization of area, the world hologram and the prediction that both the LHC and any other DM detectors imaginable will never find any legitimate dark matter particles as a matter of fundamental principle. The dark matter Cambridge estimate of a virial speed of 9km/sec is questioned.

  • Elliot

    “subquantal”

    this sounds like an oxymoron to this layperson.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/increase-in-output-of-inverse-square.html Plato

    Jack,

    While we might have diverged from what the central issue is, I don’t think you should assume you are responsible?

    That’s my thinking. That “alternatives” are less then entertained, if we had gone back and historically looked at what is proposed?

    My problem is that there is a resulting outcome in regards to neutrinos and strangelets that have me wonder about your statements. I would fall under the guidance then of those better qualified to answer if they seem it appropriate and wanting, of maintaining the open dialogue of models , irregardless of the position of a string theorist, or, of another, who would offer their alternative.

    I think moderation in this case would be up to cosmic variance to decide. Knowing they are “quite liberal” I still believe they would want us to remain close to what science is all about. [Policy # statement here?]

    What would be the appropriate format for this, if not here? I speculate and wonder, if held in the Moderators eyes?

    What can Physics learn from Continuum Mechanics?Alexander Unzicker


    The second prejudice regards the compatibility of quantum mechanics with Einstein’ attempts of a unified field theory using teleparallelism. While there is no doubt that this theory presented in the stage around 1930 is wrong, I hope to have convinced the reader that it is worth to be studied as well. On the one hand, there is a very close relation -probably unknown to Einstein- to the theories of the incompressible aether, on the other hand Einstein’s theory anticipated the continuum theory of topological defects developed in the 1950s. Therefore, there is a clear possibility that quantum theory may emerge from the geometries Einstein

    To me, bubble membrane(vacuum) seem really interesting if held to ways/analogies, in which to interpret the spacetime fabric. Yet even here there are difficulties.

  • Elliot

    Plato,

    I believe Mr. Sarfatti has suggested that UFO evidence supports time travel.

    You be the judge.

    Elliot

  • http://stardrive.org Jack Sarfatti

    My paper is in its 15th edit – the never ending story. :-) This version addresses the remarks by David Gross in Nature 5 Jan 2006.

  • http://stardrive.org Jack Sarfatti

    New versions of my paper and Waldyr Rodriigues’s paper now posted on archive.

    Note that Waldyr has significantly toned down his initial comments made under duress from some “dozen important physicists” who did not particularly “like” him and who allegedly threatened the funding of his students. Note also that Waldyr explicitly mentions his pattern of critiquing other physicist’s archive papers for what he considers mathematical errors.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0602022

    General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology, abstract
    gr-qc/0602022

    From: Jack Sarfatti [view email]

    Date (revised v12): Tue, 18 Apr 2006 20:18:39 GMT (998kb)
    Emergent Gravity: String Theory Without String Theory

    Authors: Jack Sarfatti
    Comments: This 12th version adds a remark about DeSitter Space and Cartan forms. The formal math objections raised by Waldyr Rodrigues about the first version of this paper that I did not have 4 tetrads and 6 spin connections were based on his misreading of my notation. Professor Rodrigues wrote me that he has made similar formal objections about “twenty” other physicist’s papers. Needs Acrobat 6 or later to read

    Abstract
    I derive the Einstein 1915 classical field theory of gravity with what resembles both a massive torsion field and the Calabi Yau degrees of freedom from a conjectured eight Goldstone phases of the cosmic inflation field provided that the full Poincare group is locally gauged and its Lorentz subgroup is spontaneously broken in the vacuum. What looks like both the t Hooft Susskind world hologram conjecture of volume without volume and the quantization of area in Planck units given by Bekenstein and Hawking seem to be natural consequences of the conjecture. Just as the Michelson Morley experiment gave a null result, this model predicts that the LHC will never find any viable dark matter exotic particles as a matter of fundamental principle, neither will any other conceivable dark matter detector. The Cambridge IofA dark matter virial speed of 9km/sec is questioned. A way to detect pocket universes in the cosmic landscape beyond all types of horizons bounded by null geodesics is suggested based on the work of Antony Valentini.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0602111

    General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology, abstract
    gr-qc/0602111

    From: Waldyr A. Rodrigues Jr. [view email]
    Date (v1): Mon, 27 Feb 2006 12:17:17 GMT (20kb)
    Date (revised v2): Mon, 27 Mar 2006 10:57:06 GMT (20kb)
    A Comment on Emergent Gravity

    Authors: Waldyr A. Rodrigues Jr
    Comments: 21 pages. In this version some misprints have been corrected, two new references have been added and some (eventual) offensive observations have been deleted

    Abstract
    This paper is a set of notes that we wrote concerning the first version of Emergent Gravity [gr-qc/0602022]. It is our version of an exercise that we proposed to some of our students. The idea was to find mathematical errors and inconsistencies on some recent articles published in scientific journals and in the arXiv, and we did.

  • http://stardrive.org Jack Sarfatti

    “sub-quantal” is term used by Antony Valentini now at Perimeter Institute. It comes from Bohm’s hidden variable theory developed by J.P. Vigier. PhD physicists writing to each other cannot be constrained by the knowledge limitations of amateurs when it comes to jargon – same in every field.

  • http://stardrive.org Jack Sarfatti

    Look Elliot – it so happens that I consult with top levels of the USG Intelligence Community at CIA and now at NDI on UFOs and have done so for years. It is a national securiity issue and your uninformed opinions are simply that – uninformed. There are many serious and powerful people, both in an out of USG, captains of industry like John Lear (Lear Jet) & Robert Bigelow (Bigelow Aerospace & owner of 80,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas & South West) very serious about UFOs. Also many top-rank US Miltary some of whom I know who know it’s real. Wake up and smell the coffee.

  • http://stardrive.org Jack Sarfatti

    The new discovery of dark energy completely changes the picture on time travel to the past via closed time-like world lines. This is slowly dawning on physicists. It will take another few years for the ramifications to sink in. Yes, the US Military-Intelligence takes this very seriously. There is evidence. BTW Michio Kaku has spoken about this. He is one of the few not afraid to speak out. I am not in academia and I can do as I please as I do not have to worry about getting grants and indeed I give grants – several hundred thousand dollars per year. So think about that when you are driving your cab after you get your PhD. :-)

  • http://stardrive.org Jack Sarfatti

    Reality is not what most of you think it is. The time’s they are a’ chang’n – very fast.

  • Elliot

    Call me just a stupid layperson, but I still hold to a fundamental, perhaps naive, belief that time is unidirectional and causality still holds.

    I, of course could be wrong.

    Cheers,

    Elliot

  • Science

    US Military-Intelligence, Michio Kaku, and the guy with 80,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas convince me that UFOs are weather balloons, publicity tools and capitalist religion.

  • Qubit

    Time travels is a waste of time. You can’t change anything and if you could, what right would anyone have to change my life?

    To time travel you would need a really nasty virus, one that does more that kill you , you would need one that wipes you out of existance, while boosting your vaccum energy, so your information can be read by a quantum computer, then you would entangle your self to a Qubit, throw it round a particle accelerator and into a blackhole or something like that.

    Oh and the possibility of time travel attracts quantum jokers. They sort of take reality, make it imaginary, then change the overall paths, alter all the laws and make sure that the only way you can exist is by being wiped out of existance, then recreated it the most impossible way. Then again they don’t need to recreate you at all, they might just wipe you all out.

    Can’t risk the universe over a few apes, that think they know what reality is. Can they?

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/01/civilizations-within-cosmo.html Curious George

    Jack:

    The new discovery of dark energy completely changes the picture on time travel to the past via closed time-like world lines

    Could you explain this a bit more for us lay people? I’m thinking “backreaction?”

    There seems to be some leeway here in cosmic variance and tolerance, about how far? We would have to test them :)

    See, even Elliot’s changing.

  • http://beam.to/archiveforum Curious George
  • Lensman

    Sarfatti’s three books “Destiny Matrix”, “Space-Time and Beyond II” and “Super Cosmos” deal with the on-going research in this area. A lot of USG “Black Money” is leaving academic physics and going into this military project. There is a big lab in West Virginia, one opening in North Carolina, and, of course, Sandia has a group. The Las Vegas area also has facilities. The basic idea is to try to “bottle” the dark energy that gives a repulsive gravity field. Mainstream physicists are being bypassed because the militaries of several nations as well as powerful industrial interests are quite keen to try to do this.

  • Lensman

    The book “The Future of Theoretical Physics and Cosmology” Cambridge 2003 has two articles , one by Kip Thorne another by Matt Visser, that discuss the issue of the time machine exploding when it is about to become a time machine to the past – and how that issue is still really not settled. That does not stop an advanced research network inside and outside the US Military, and probably the Russian and Chinese, from trying to achieve the “impossible.”

  • http://www.childrenshospital.org/chnews/07-01-05/images/gorilla.jpg Curious George

    Bottle? Hmmmm……..strangelets do not exist, so how do you plan to do this?

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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