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Hypothetical question on academia: credit and copyright vs ethics.

  1. Nov 19, 2011 #1
    Lets presuppose that you are a philosophy major, or a psychology major, or something else and through logic and creativity you have what you believe to be a universal field theory. Please put all likeliness of this situation aside and lets assume there is a very very good chance your theory could be proven/explained . Do you......

    A. Take 6-15 years out of your life to get the credentials necessary to prove and copyright your works and be published in peer review journals. Human productivity has been halted because of the wait but you will get full credit, unless someone writes the paper first.

    B. Do some research anywhere from 3-8 years without the necessary credentials and hope somehow you can get published and credited with the work. Humanity still delayed but not as bad. (Or maybe humanity is delayed even more because the populous only trusts "credentialed" physicists that are part of the "system". ??)

    C. Find a trust worthy physicist to go over your ideas and maybe they'll wright the math for you lol. Shared credit??

    D. Something else.

    Thanks for your input in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 20, 2011 #2
    Well if you don't have the math sorted out then certainly do not have even the beginning of some unified field theory .
  4. Nov 20, 2011 #3


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    The theory is the math. If your theory can't make quantifiable predictions predictions, then it is worthless and not a theory at all.
  5. Nov 20, 2011 #4
    OK lets assume that you have the understanding of relationships.. math shows relationships and its formulas use relationships. lets assume that you have the understanding of some higher math but you do not speak the language as it is spoken to other people. Also. lets assume you have empirical observations and can explain them in such a way that you know what needs to be done but you yourself can not do it as of yet. So through empiricism and imagination you have discovered relationships/potential relationships which "scream to you" this has to be the way the universe is. Lets accept the fact that a hypothesis created by someone who is far removed from its respective field is a possibility.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011
  6. Nov 20, 2011 #5


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    If you can't DO math, you don't KNOW math.

    I understand how a car works, that doesn't make me an automotive engineer nor capable of creating the next generation of super-efficient automobiles simply because I know "this is how cars should be".

    Can you make predictions? Quantitative predictions? Explain every known experiment ever done using your theory?

    If not, that is not science.
  7. Nov 20, 2011 #6
    So, what is your theory?

    I'm in a similar situation as the one you're describing, but so would half the board here probably be. I think I''ll be going to the physicist if I've got all the details completely worked out, as there is probably just something obvious I'm missing. You'd probably be wise to do the same, at least on a basic level, ask the physicist what he feels about your work, if he thinks it's good as you think it is, try to get it published as a hypothesis, let the community work the math and all the details out completely. If responses in the community are positive: keep working on it. If nobody wants to hear you:make more noise. If the responses are negative: drop it, rebuild it, or show everyone why they're wrong.
  8. Nov 20, 2011 #7
    Ok if you say that in regards to me using the word "theory" then that makes sense, but can someone have a hypothesis that needs to be tested based on epirical data/findings?
    let me rephrase then. I think you may have taken my use of theory to literal. lets change it to hypothesis. Certainly a hypothesis can be worth something? Lets assume the person simply needs help testing it.
    to remove all other doubt lets assume that the hypothesis is absolutely correct. Now that that parameter is fixed... what would you do in that situation.
  9. Nov 20, 2011 #8


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    I think the overwhelmingly smallness of the possibility that a person far removed from the field of physics coming up with a "unified field theory" (a task which even Einstein, with all his physical training, could not accomplish) would make it very hard to justify him spending 15 years of his life going back to learn Physics.

    This would be akin to a person who never touched a musical instrument in his life, and never studied music, going to the piano with a piece of paper and pencil and spontaneously composing all 9 of Beethoven's symphonies from scratch.

    This is not to say that "laypeople" cannot have good ideas on physics. But a "unified field theory" seems like an impossible stretch.
  10. Nov 20, 2011 #9


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    You don't seem to understand what "math" is, at this level.

    I can still remember my first ever tutorial (two students, one tutor) of my math degree at Cambridge. The topic was group theory, and because of the vagaries of the timetable, the first tutorial was the day BEFORE the first lecture.

    After a bit of small talk, the tutor asked "so do you two already know the definition of a group". I answered "I think so". The response was , "**********, either you do or you don't. Yes or No?".

    IMO without some "real" math, you don't have anything, apart from an idea to chat about over a drink.
  11. Nov 20, 2011 #10


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    Alright, for argument's sake let's say that you're extremely intelligent and that you've come up with some grand theory of the universe.

    If you ever want it to be more than just a clever idea, you need to be able to:
    - have confidence there are no obvious holes or self-consistent loops in it
    - communicate it properly,
    - compare it with other exisiting theories,
    - understand what's unique about it and why no one else has thought of it before, and
    - present it to the academic community such that it can be tested in a quantitative manner.

    The only practical way to do this is to go through the academic system and learn how to do all these things.

    Humanity will be just fine for the decade or so that it takes you to do this.
  12. Nov 20, 2011 #11


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    1. Let's assume that you know what "empiricism" means. How many "assumption" do you make to get to the point where there are just way too many assumptions?

    2. Let's assume that maybe, you are a crackpot. Do you fit into the http://insti.physics.sunysb.edu/~siegel/quack.html" [Broken]?

    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  13. Nov 20, 2011 #12
    Here's my proposal:

    1) Study for 10 years the basic math and physics. Read and understand the necessary books.

    2) Find out why your theory was wrong

    3) ???

    4) Profit

    You DO understand that saying "I got the theory of everything, I just hope the math works out" is silly right?? The theory IS math. If you don't got the math, then you got nothing.
  14. Nov 20, 2011 #13


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    Which is like saying you have the perfect recipe for a new type of pasta that is better than any pasta ever made, except you don't know the ingredients.
  15. Nov 20, 2011 #14
    OK, let's give the OP the benifit of the doubt. Maybe he did solve it!!

    So, blueshift, what does your theory say that the rest mass of the neutrino is??
  16. Nov 20, 2011 #15
    I can't tell if the original poster actually thinks has some sort of theory in the works, or if he's just asking as a pure hypothetical about the general process of getting your discoveries out there as non-academic. Everyone seems to have assumed the former. I really can't tell though.
  17. Nov 24, 2011 #16
    "The theory is the math. If your theory can't make quantifiable predictions predictions, then it is worthless and not a theory at all."

    Does string theory make quantifiable predictions?
  18. Nov 24, 2011 #17
    No, which explains why many physicists regard it as worthless. Current research on string theory aspires to generate testable predictions for exactly that reason.
  19. Nov 25, 2011 #18
    Things are always easy if you don't know why they are hard. The problem is that the universe is messy. It's very easy to come up with a simple beautiful theory. Coming up one that matches the ugliness of the universe is hard.

    What is more likely to happen is that at some point you figure out that what you are working on just won't work, and you try something else. Most ideas won't work, so you just have to come up with a lot of ideas, and sometimes lightning strikes.

    It's also not a credentials issue.

    When professional physicists talk about their ideas to other physicists, its usually to have someone else grind it into dust.
  20. Nov 25, 2011 #19

    Quoted in full because it is worth reading twice.
  21. Nov 25, 2011 #20
    I feel like the existence of wikipedia, NOVA, and Brian Greene's books has led to a lot of people thinking they know physics because they know about the history of physics and some of the visual concepts. This is because in many other nonquantitative fields, knowing the topic is the same as knowing the concepts of the topic. This is not the case in physics. Simple visual models like "the electron cloud" and "mass curving spacetime" may be easy to understand, but they are in fact, gross oversimplifications made deliberately to convey information to lay people who would otherwise be completely unable to grasp the ideas of the underlying theories without many more years of school. This is not a form of elitism.

    Nobody is trying to bash you or make you feel stupid, but the truth is that physicists and mathematicians have worked tirelessly to develop the rigorous logical framework needed to accurately describe these theories. This framework is mathematics. You cannot actually have a physical theory without using mathematics to describe it. It took Newton, one of the greatest intellectual minds to have ever lived, to develop classical mechanics, and classical mechanics requires a lot of math. Yet, the concepts from classical mechanics are familiar to almost everyone.
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