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Insights Interview with a Mathematical Physicist: John Baez Part 2 - Comments

  1. Mar 16, 2016 #1

    john baez

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  3. Mar 16, 2016 #2
    I was involved in Usenet's sci.physics back in the Good Old Days. Usenet has been almost completely destroyed by now, and sci.physics is the lowest pit of that Hell. The Tragedy of the Commons bit. Maybe I should have changed my name to Ptolemy Phlogiston. I would have fit in better.
  4. Mar 17, 2016 #3


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    I actually met Alexander Abian once (he's one of the two crackpots John mentioned in the discussion of the Crackpot Index). He was a professor at Iowa State University, and he was friends with my advisor, physics professor Bob Leacock. Abian was a nice guy, very friendly. As I understand it, in his own field of mathematics, he wasn't a crackpot (or at least, not that I knew of). But he started writing papers on physics topics such as relativity, and that was his entry into crackpotdom. He showed me (actually, he showed it to Bob, but Bob handed it off to me) an alternative derivation of the Lorentz transformations that he said was much simpler than Einstein's derivation. It made no sense. I politely pointed out what I thought was unclear (my polite way of saying "wrong") about his derivation, and he just laughed and winked at me. Clearly, he didn't actually take his own derivation very seriously. He treated like a game--the idea was to give enough details to be able to pass it off as a rigorous derivation, even though it wasn't.

    Later, I "reconnected" with Abian on sci.physics and sci.math, and I got the impression that he was still playing a game. He didn't actually take any of his own ideas very seriously.

    I had a similar impression of Archimedes Plutonium. I think his persona was performance art, and he didn't actually believe what he was saying, either. I guess it's hard to tell the difference, though.
  5. Mar 17, 2016 #4
    That was my impression too. He was messing around.

    There are plenty of real crackpots though. There's one in Hawaii who has quite a following, including two of my best friends. He has disciples who travel the world. I avoid the topic. Then there's Alex Jones, who is also quite popular. I have heard that a third of the US population believes that their own government blew up the World Trade Center.

    Adolf Hitler believed that the stars were chunks of ice. Some nut in Vienna thought it up. Crackpot ideas can take over in the most civilized countries.

    Rationality plays little or no role in the mind of the average human being.
  6. Mar 18, 2016 #5


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    I was alerted to this post from the Azimuth Project blog.

    There is some climate science modeling still going on at John's Azimuth Project discussion forum.

    I get the impression that digging deep into the physics of climate change is discouraged on the Physics Forum. Is that still true ?
  7. Mar 18, 2016 #6


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  8. Mar 18, 2016 #7


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    Thanks but ...

    <i>"Due to the contentious nature of the subject of climate change, the following cannot be used as source material: internet blogs unpublished papers papers published in a small number of excluded journals (see below)"</i>

    This is a recursive limitation. The minute someone discusses something on this forum, that becomes source material from an internet blog. So by definition, it can't be referenced again.

    My goal is to seek a venue where ideas can be hashed out before they get submitted to a journal. I'd prefer not to have to walk on egg-shells as I discuss new ideas. I'm OK with John's Azimuth Project forum for the moment, but its nice to get other perspectives.
  9. Mar 18, 2016 #8


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    > "This forum is mostly for answering homework"

    Thanks, that's the impression I got, that this forum is mainly geared to answering physics homework problems.
  10. Mar 19, 2016 #9
    Don't think so hard. We just want external sources to be from credible scientific institutions.

    It's a big part, certainly not all of it. Looks around.

    Let's get this back on topic.
  11. Mar 19, 2016 #10


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    I really like that "taking a baby to a party"-analogue. It's spot on. Great interview, thanks for sharing!
  12. Jun 9, 2016 #11

    You mentioned about the new concepts introduced by Alexander Grothendieck and how he changed the way we look at things. I found that there are no good resources with enhanced visualization to elaborate his work more. Do you know any such source? The best anyone has done is the Wikipedia. Would it be really good to have some blogs about his work may be?
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