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Suggestion New forum: PF Lounge > Peer Review

  1. Feb 1, 2012 #1
    I would like to suggest a new forum that relaxes the global rules pertaining to Overly Speculative Posts. I would offer the following alteration to the global rules for this one forum only:

    Overly Speculative Posts:
    One of the main goals of PF is to help students learn the current status of physics as practiced by the scientific community; accordingly, Physicsforums.com strives to maintain high standards of academic integrity. There are many open questions in physics, and we welcome discussion on those subjects provided the discussion remains intellectually sound. [STRIKE]It is against our Posting Guidelines to discuss, in the PF forums or in blogs, new or non-mainstream theories or ideas that have not been published in professional peer-reviewed journals or are not part of current professional mainstream scientific discussion. Non-mainstream or personal theories will be deleted.[/STRIKE] This forum provides an outlet for individuals looking for objective criticism for personal theories, forbidden elsewhere at PF. Unfounded challenges of mainstream science and overt crackpottery will not be tolerated anywhere on the site. Linking to obviously "crank" or "crackpot" sites is prohibited.

    This would provide people with legitimate interests in having non-mainstream ideas evaluated, while quarantining these ideas from the mainstream science forums. This is further emphasizes by placing this forum in the Lounge, suggesting a recreational aspect of this forum.

    The existence of such a forum would also give site moderators an alternative to deleting a speculative post on a pet theory, when the poster is looking for feedback.

    It would also act as a lightning rod for crackpottery. The forum rules above (or otherwise unmodified) would still prohibit a post that (and justify locking a post whose conversation) crosses the line from active inquiry to dogmatic rejection of standard scientific reasoning or empirical evidence.

    The typical thread in this forum should follow the following outline:

    1) Poster: Here is my idea of how something might work.
    2) Reply: I think you are talking about this other theory, at this link.
    3) Reply: Can you please clarify what you mean by this part of your explanation?
    4) Reply: Wouldn't this also cause such and such as a side effect?
    5) Poster: Response to replies.
    6) Repeat steps 2-5.
    7) Poster: I guess I did not think of that. (Or: I guess I should write this up and submit it!)

    Reports on negative results are notoriously suppressed. Having a collection of debunked alternative theories, evaluated objectively and honestly, could be useful in its own right. If nothing else, it could provide an interactive example of the scientific method at work.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

  4. Feb 1, 2012 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Sorry, but we don't allow personal theories anywhere on this forum. We used to have such a section and it attracted so many crackpots that it was impossible to moderate, and it was shut down. General discussion is for non-science discussions.
  5. Feb 1, 2012 #4

    Char. Limit

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    The problem with this, I think, is that we actually tried it before, and it got totally overrun. It just plain didn't work.
  6. Feb 1, 2012 #5

    D H

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    Just to make sure that this beaten to death horse truly is dead:

    There are plenty of places on the internet that allow and even encourage these kinds of speculative discussions. Not here, though. This site started by allowing all comers. That didn't suit the broader goals of the site, so the mentors and admins started clamping down, first lightly and later heavily, on speculative discussions. Even that didn't work. So now we just don't do that here, period.

    We won't ever see the press announcement saying "This theory by Dr. John Doe, first discussed at physicsforums.com, truly is a theory of everything." That's OK with us.

    One problem with speculative discussions is that science can be a difficult and oftentimes counterintuitive subject as it is. Our primary goal at this site is science education. Speculative discussions go against this goal. Another problem is that those speculative discussions suck the lifeblood out of a forum.

    Go to a forum that encourages such discussions. You won't see much science there. What you'll see instead are a few intransigent crackpots and a bunch of others trying their best to disprove those crackpot notions. Those non-crackpot members spend so time and effort in trying to educate the crackpot (who is uneducable; they are fully immunized against logic and evidence) that they have no energy left trying to help students who want and need assistance.
  7. Feb 1, 2012 #6


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    Thankyou for your suggestion, unfortunately in this case it is unlikely the suggestion will be adopted.

    As others have said we had this before, every time we have had it moderating the forum becomes impossible and it becomes full of crackpots (which is not as easy to moderate as you might think; arguments of "you closed a legitimate thread" would abound). These crackpots then spill out onto the rest of the site. This topic gets bought up a lot, here's a recent thread on this topic

    Also the vast majority of people who are capable (in both intelligence and resources) enough to produce valid scientific theories work as scientists in institutions where they can do this. In effect if you have an idea good enough for peer-review then you can get it peer-reviewed and published in a mainstream journal.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012
  8. Feb 1, 2012 #7
    First of all, it appears that this idea has been tried and failed before. That is a sufficient argument against this idea.

    You assert that there are plenty of places that allow and encourage these kinds of speculative discussions. I have yet to find one that will provide constructive criticism for a personal theory. They either bash you for not adhering to their alternate theories, or accept anything and critique nothing.

    Name one that will vet a personal theory.

    It has been implied that anyone who could produce such a theory must be in a position it peer reviewed. Suppose someone has worked on a paper, and wanted it vetted before submitting it for peer review?

    What does one do when the local community college physics professor tells you that your ideas are beyond their level, having no other connections to the scientific community? After the editorial staff of two journals return a paper without review, the process can be very discouraging for someone new to the peer review process.

    In my case, if the third journal had returned my paper without review, I was planning on sending it to John Baez, to have him appraise the paper according to his crackpot index :)
  9. Feb 1, 2012 #8


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    In that case I would suggest asking the journals for feedback as to why they didn't take your paper for peer review and then strive to learn far more about the subject so as to ensure that there isn't anything you are getting wrong. You can do this by reading texbooks, papers and of course by asking questions at PF. In that respect this is how PF allows people to develop their theories, by learning here. We just don't help with the theory development itself because as you've learnt elsewhere such processes on the internet devolve into crackpot discussions.

    Best of luck with your work.
  10. Feb 1, 2012 #9
    Thank you, though I think of it as a hobby.

    Indeed, finding ways to phrase a question about an alternative theory as a question in a mainstream theory, and thus not violating forum rules, is tremendously instructive. As is arVix, when you get beyond that.

    It has occurred to me that a pm to a mentor here, asking if they would be willing to provide their honest opinion on a theory offline, could open a window to an offline discussion of the theory to vet it. If someone really wants an honest opinion.

    [STRIKE]Once D_H agrees that no suitable site exists online for vetting an alternate theory, (or provides the name of one of the many purported to exist) this post is done :)[/STRIKE]

    I have just found post #8 here:

    The following site appears to provide exactly what I was looking for:
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012
  11. Feb 1, 2012 #10
    Part of the trouble is that such sites aren't considered respectable enough to mention on Physics Forums, but I think that Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum probably is . That has an 'Against the Mainstream' section.
  12. Feb 1, 2012 #11


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    They used to give you 30 days of being debunked before they closed you down. Not sure if it's still 30 days.
  13. Feb 1, 2012 #12


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    Honestly, if your only background in a subject is community college, your theory is probably worthless. Instead of wasting your time and reviewers' time, get an education at a better university, and if that goes well, consider graduate school. That's when you can begin to develop your wn hypotheses and/or theories under the tutelage of an expert.
  14. Feb 1, 2012 #13


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    I find it extremely ironic that the reason that people want to post their pet personal theories here is because PF has such a highly quality of members who actually are experts in many different fields. We do attract professionals in many of these areas, that's true. But I truly believe that the reason why they are here IS because we do not allow such personal pet theories, and that we have a rather high signal-to-noise ratio! So they want to do the VERY thing that would NOT have attracted all of these experts! After all, if one wants to deal with such personal theories, one can go to so many other forums and knock oneself out. Why come to PF?

    And why indeed? Is it because we have a no-nonsense approach in dealing with the type of posts that are allowed? So the very thing that some people are objecting to and wanting to change is the very reason why we tend to attract so many of these valuable people in the first place! And confining it to just one small section on PF doesn't work. We've tried it! Crackpots are NEVER satisfied when confined because it is to their advantage to spread their manure to as wide an area as possible. After all, THAT is the only way their ideas can even see the light of day.

    Recreating such a subforum would be a severe step backwards for PF. We don't miss not having it, and I certainly see no rational reason why we need to have it.

  15. Feb 2, 2012 #14


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    I think you are providing strong evidence that allowing personal theories does not really work very well in the framework of an internet forum.
  16. Feb 8, 2012 #15
    I have a BS in Mechanical engineering. I took my theory to the physics instructor at the community college where I work for vetting, and it is he who said that the theory was beyond his capabilities to evaluate. He has a PhD in physics.

    I think the boundaries established at link removed are excellent, and exactly what I was looking for when I started this post.

    I won't discuss my pet theory here, but I have started a thread their on it, using the same avatar.
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