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Where's a good crackpot when you need one?

  1. Feb 25, 2006 #1
    Note: This post is a split continuation from the thread "Cosmolgy/No dark energy?"

    Well, I personally try not to post my ideas as a "polemic against mainstream theories," but sometimes merely posing a thought will tend to come out that way. What better way for a blind man to define a room than to beat against the walls?

    I feel there is a responsibility for us crackpots to listen to the expert opinions and attempt to learn from them, but to not ask questions or pose concepts for fear of being ridiculed simply leaves us uninformed (read dumb).

    Isn't the mission of PF to educate? Must education be a one-size-fits-all paradigm?

    BTW Garth, you're signature is especially enlightening and I think they are good rules of thumb.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
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  3. Feb 25, 2006 #2

    Tom Mattson

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  4. Feb 25, 2006 #3

    arildno

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    Geistkiesel and MacM are still holding court at sciforums, are they?
     
  5. Feb 25, 2006 #4

    Tom Mattson

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    :rofl: Yes. Yes, they are.
     
  6. Feb 25, 2006 #5
    Well, it actually goes both ways. Yahoo groups has especially suffered from both extremes. It seems that either the scientists feel overwhelmed and leave a forum to be overrun by crackpots, or they block the crackpots out and the discussions die. In either case, the fun stops. I think reasonable moderation and tolerance are the keys.

    The same way you do. I read, listen and learn. Maybe you feel I'm somehow "cheating the system" by getting my information in the shorthand method I've been using here. Unfortunately, I haven't the resources for a formal education and books simply don't provide any feedback on questions and ideas pertaining to the material.

    Certainly. I do not do any of those things. However I do stress critical thinking skills in regards to all knowledge.

    If you peruse my posts, you will find that my more outrageous ideas aren't designed to refute established theories, but rather to hypothesize ideas built upon them. It's true that I also like to re-examine established theories too in order to better understand them (educate myself), but also I like to to test them in interesting (to me) ways. For instance, my "Gravity/acceleraton equivalent?" thread examines Einstein's own paper in a way I've never seen addressed before. As I've said, I can't get feedback like this from a book.

    This is your perogative, but I don't think it's wise in light of the history of physics research. Many of the currently accepted fundamental concepts began as wild notions by amateur scientists (read crackpots). By eliminating wild notions, aren't you in fact eliminating the very innovative modes of thinking required in physics?

    Yeah, I'm with you here.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
  7. Feb 25, 2006 #6

    ZapperZ

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    And what exactly is "reasonable moderation"? Everyone seems to want this, but like the concept of "intelligence", there's no accepted definition. To me, what we have currently IS a "reasonable moderation". So who decides? You?

    There's a difference between a question asking for clarification, and producing one's own theory. If you ask, someone will answer and try to explain. If you have your own theory, then submit it to the IR forum where people WILL tell you if you're wrong. As far as I can tell, you haven't done the latter to get "feedback" of your ideas. So why are you complaining?

    And I've said this so many times, I am even getting sick of hearing this myself. Show me something within the past 100 years of something that has actually made an impact in physics that has not appeared in legitimate peer-reviewed journal. And tell me who are these "amateur scientists" that have made these "wild notions".

    See, this is what separates you and me. If I were to make such a statement, I would BACK IT UP with specific examples. You, on the other hand, would settle simply by accepting someone making such a statement, because you didn't bother backing it up here. This is how we differ, and this is how crackpots can seduce you into thinking they're doing something legit. They KNOW that they can get away with a lot of stuff that most people don't even THINK of questioning.

    I apply two differnt standards here. If someone seriously wishes to learn and is asking legitimate question, then the rules are very relaxed and every possible help should be given. However, if someone is proposing some theory or ideas that he/she came up with, then I would view it as if I'm refereeing any physics papers. If the rest of us have to go through the same thing, then you might as well get the same flavor of the rigor and scrutiny that is involved when one tries to produce something new and different.

    The IR forum was established for this specific reason. If you want to test out your idea, go at it. Remember, you HAVE agreed to such rules when you signed up.

    Zz.
     
  8. Feb 25, 2006 #7

    arildno

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    Just a floating comment:
    Actually, even if they wonder about the very same thing, it becomes quite easy after a while to find out by reading their respective posts who's the crackpot and who's the neophyte in need of guidance.
    To have wrong ideas is not the same as being a crackpot..
     
  9. Feb 25, 2006 #8

    Tom Mattson

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    ubavontuba,

    I'm still not quite up to speed on the context of this thread, and the fact that you are talking in the abstract isn't helping, but let me see if I can help you understand why we do the things the way we do them.

    What Zapper was telling you is that PF represents a new type of case that does not fit the molds you know. PF is an example of a science website whose membership and activity actually exploded after we implemented tighter controls on crackpottery. Today we don't allow crackpottery at all on the site, and we are at an all time high. If you do not start to incorporate this data point into your analysis then I'm afraid your arguments are going to fall on deaf ears.

    Your case seems to be that blocking out crackpots will cause an online community to wither and die. You will never convince a group of people to believe that when they already know that it has been disproved by counterexample, namely this website.

    No and no.

    First of all, the amateur scientists who come up with new ideas are not of the same ilk as those who read a few pages on wikipedia or on hyperphysics. They are people who have studied physics seriously, and many of them hold degrees in the subject. For one reason or another they weren't able to make a career in the mainstream but they continue their work, as they are driven by a passion for science.

    And second, we do not eliminate the innovations by these talented individuals. In fact we encourage it, and we showcase it in our Independent Research Forum which is a subforum of General Physics. There are some very fine threads open there right now, and I am very proud that we have attracted such amateurs who are so creative and so talented.

    That's about all I can say until you get more specific about your objections to the way we do things here. It would help if you could for instance cite a thread in mind that you feel was unjustly suppressed, or some specific example of moderating that you disagree with.
     
  10. Feb 25, 2006 #9
    Mild as opposed too what? Not every good idea comes from a guy with a masters degree in mathematics. Besides, I'm not positing hypothesis that I feel are the answers to certain questions, but rather I'm only presenting embryonic concepts that may or may not have valid and interesting considerations.

    Perhaps. As you've noted below though, mine seem to meet your criteria.

    This one.

    Not true. Virtually every concept in physics must first be derived from a notion. The math will rarely imply a new notion (for example, the math didn't tell us that neutrinos have mass). In other words, math defines the notions and can point toward new notions, but it doesn't think of its own accord. How many ideas have computers come up with?

    Right, but here you are implying that only professional scientists should bother to think at all. Just because I don't have all of the qualifications doesn't mean that I don't have a good and creative process of thinking. Maybe I haven't the ability to pursue my thoughts to their logical conclusions, but maybe a real scientist will see one of my ideas and think to himself, "Hey, that's very interesting..."

    Right. However it is not my choice to see this site turn into a sad and boring shell of its potential.

    Maybe a crackpot rating is in order then? Maybe the more interesting crackpots can get a "Recognition" emblem stating something like "crackpot contributor" or "layperson contributor?" Perhaps these contributors can be used to help filter the really stupid ideas and questions out while being allowed to freely post (hopefully) not so stupid ideas and questions?

    Ah, that would be good if all I wanted to do was espouse my ideas, but I'd like the chance to both learn about and possibly contribute (even if unlikely) to our understanding of the universe.

    You are right in stressing the unique strengths of this site that many others haven't had, but the implication is that the site will become closed to the general populace and any chance to educate them too. Maybe a "credential check" should be initiated that prevents smart but uneducated fools like me from learning and participating?

    I have however noted a definite decline in the give and take available here.

    You wound me sir. I have never pontificated in this manner.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
  11. Feb 25, 2006 #10
    Lets have a quick check.

    Quantum (field) theory?
    Dirac - Degree, PhD and Fellowship from St John, Cambridge.
    Heisenburg - Studied at Göttingen and Munich
    Bohr - Copenhagen University
    Planck - Professor at Berlin University
    Schrodinger - Zurich, Sttutgard, Breslau

    Relativity
    Einstein - Degree and PhD from Zurich
    Eddington - Masters (and Fellowship?) from Trinity College, Cambridge
    Schwarzchild - Doctorate from Munich

    Yeah, sounds like a bunch of rank amateurs to me!

    If someone has mad an effort to learn about something and has an honest question about it, then asking what might be to others a trivial question is fine. It's the reason places like physicsforums exist I would imagine. To blindly wade into a discussion with 'My ill informed opinion is superior to the opinion of thousands of more informed people and exabytes (even zettabytes!) of experimental data, and I'll be damned if I'm changing my mind' does noones blood pressure any good. Unfortunately, the internet seems to be the perfect medium for such people to air their views....
     
  12. Feb 25, 2006 #11

    chroot

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    What logic is the basis of this "implication?" The exact opposite of your implication has actually happened here! Far from being closed to the general populace, we actually welcome equally those who know science and those who wish to learn science.

    You're not the first person to tell us that our site will die without crackpots. In fact, I was in the vangaurd group who decided to eliminate crackpots from this forum for good, and even some of our moderation staff had the same fear..... but things just didn't happen that way.

    As Tom points out, a lot of our continued success (measured in post activity, active membership, quality and timeliness of posts, you name it) is a direct result of our decisions in regards to crackpots, not in spite of them.

    - Warren
     
  13. Feb 25, 2006 #12

    ZapperZ

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    See, THIS is the EXACT example of why you buy handwaving arguments. I mean, things like this is fine as far as news reporting is concerned. But honestly, do you NOT see why it isn't sufficient for a scientific discussion? Seriously?

    You cannot discuss this without looking at the exact work. Where was this published? What are their OWN assumption? You will notice that to be able to deduce the data, they also have to make use a number of assumptions, including accepting a "standard candle" to be able to know how far away things are. THESE implicitly make use of many established physics that they themselves are trying to modify.

    Did you not think about such things?

    Not true! Every concept in physics has underlying mathematical definition. It is only AFTER one has understood what they are can one then let oneself free and explore and be creative. Here's something that may surprise you : the reason why we teach students all the established physics is so that when something new and unusual truly happen, they'll recognize it! It isn't so that they simply repeat everything we have taught them! You can't be creative about electrons or bosons or extra dimensions when all you know are the superficial descriptions.

    And since when do you know so much about how scientific creativity occurs? Again, as before, you simply stated things like this without proof or even showing evidence. I strongly question the validity of your point of view considering your lack of evidence. Everything that you have tried to point out, such as internet site being "choked" to death, to the speculation of the possible drying of PF with such tight moderation, have been false. If I were refereeing your post, you have used faulty data to support your point of view.

    Let's deal with the likelyhood of that occuring, shall we? Can you point out to me just ONE instance, ANYWHERE in the world on any internet forum, where such occurence has ever been documented? What you did was speculating, and speculating with no foundation on reality. You can't distinguish between speculation, and actual occurence. I can speculate too. I speculate that something like what you are proposing HAS NEVER HAPPENED. Thus, the likelyhood of it occuring is nil. So what did we lose? You are proposing that we are open to an event that has never happened, will likely never happened. Since when do you run your life based on the most remote possibility of an unusual event. Do you arrange your finances as if you WILL win a lottery some time down the line? That's what you want us to do here.

    We appreciate your concern, but it is anything but boring, and creativity abounds. Maybe you just don't know how creative some people are because, well, frankly, you don't know what is known and what isn't. Have you looked all over the physics forum? Again, if you are ignorant of what has been established and known, you can't tell about anything new even if it comes up and bite you on your rear end.

    Besides, since WHEN are research front physics/astronomy/science work done on an open internet forum? Are you oblivious to physics journals? If you want creativity, go look there!

    Can I suggest you look at old threads in the Feedback forum, because everything that you are bringing up here has been discussed at length. You are bringing in nothing new that we haven't heard already from previous quacks. And PF still have expanded inspite of many of the "dire predictions".

    Zz.
     
  14. Feb 25, 2006 #13
    Oviously not me. However, "reasonable moderation" to me means that polite and well stated concepts should be given polite and reasonable review. I feel that the real trouble with crackpots isn't their ideas, but rather their attitudes.

    My understanding of the submission sticky was that I'd have to back up my idea with math and experiments to prove its validity. Is my interpretation incorrect?

    Although it is true that contributions to physics by amateurs has become difficult due in large part to the expensive tools required to conduct basic reasearch, there are many available examples to consider.

    Here's one

    Here's a journal devoted to them.

    Here's a paper from a conference.

    Some of these are older, but it's a great reference. Note particularly David H. Levy (who can possibly refute his amateur contributions in astronomy?).

    Here's a really interesting paper. Note particularly:
    There's tons more, but I'll spare you the endless references.

    Not true. I have always been able to back up what I have written in PF with references and I often ask others to provide references. What separates you and me then is that I don't arbitrarily prejudice other people.

    Which precludes any possibility of an interesting notion put forward by one that is unable to work in the cappacity of a professional scientist. So sad.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
  15. Feb 25, 2006 #14
  16. Feb 25, 2006 #15
    Right. Crackpottery is a nuisance. My complaint is more along the lines that the drive to eliminate crackpottery is possibly suppressing interesting ideas.

    I'm not concerned about the website. I'm concerned about the the loss in value to education, learning and exchange of ideas.

    Agreed. In the beginning, even Einstein was such an example.

    Yes. I will be spending some time there in the next few days.

    Sure, ZapperZ initially suppresssed my idea about the universe's acceleration (dark energy) possibly being caused by a falling outward (a sort of higher dimensional blackhole). Of course this was one of my first posts, before I had a good clue as to the forum rules. I had since resubmitted the concept including a number of references and it remained.

    However had I not been tenacious, my questions would remain unanswered and I'd still be as dumb as I was then (and I suppose I'm not much smarter now).
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2006
  17. Feb 25, 2006 #16
    That's all good. These are the things I like about PF.

    I'm relieved to hear it.

    Well, then maybe I'm just plain wrong on all points. This wouldn't be the first time.
     
  18. Feb 25, 2006 #17

    Tom Mattson

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    "Possibly" isn't good enough to warrant any changes in our policies. It is far more likely that interesting ideas will be lost if we allow crackpottery and risk the deterioration of our membership base that is well trained in science. Is it possible that someone who hasn't studied any science will see the answer that everyone else missed? Sure it is. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day. As Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors the prepared mind".

    I also believe that a relaxation of our policies against crackpottery will certainly work against the objective of giving serious amateur scientists a credible venue in which to express themselves. If our IR section were to become sandbagged with the stuff that we used to allow in our (now retired) Theory Development Forum, none of the people who post to IR now would want to post there. But as it is, threads from this website are starting to appear in the references of papers submitted to the Los Alamos arXiv!

    I don't think you understand. This website is the counterexample to your claims. PF is an experiment that has been remarkably successful since 2001. Every bit of experiential evidence that we have collected suggests uniquivocally that we are moving in the right direction.

    Your concerns are unwarranted. By cutting down the noisy traffic we have retained and made a home for those members who are most qualified to educate and inform.

    I'll note for the record that Einstein did in fact complete the requisite studies that prepared him to make his discoveries.

    Enjoy! :smile:

    I did a quick search for it, but found that ZapperZ never responded to any thread that you started.
     
  19. Feb 25, 2006 #18

    Tom Mattson

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    Regarding your answers to ZapperZ's challenge:

    I've examined all of the links and found nothing that satisfies ZapperZ's challenge. It looks like you are taking the "shotgun approach" to answering the challenge: throwing a handful of links out there and hoping for a hit. Can you cite an example of an amateur in the last 100 years who has advanced our knowledge of physics (not engineering or some other science) apart from the peer-review process?
     
  20. Feb 25, 2006 #19

    Tom Mattson

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    I think you've misunderstood chroot. We did eliminate crackpots from this forum for good. What "didn't happen that way" were the consequences you predicted. In fact the opposite has happened. That's what you don't seem to be getting.
     
  21. Feb 25, 2006 #20
    You have taken this out of context. In the "No dark energy?" thread I presented this as a humorous example of apparent wild speculation by "professional scientists."

    Right. It seems about as silly as I was alluding to, don't you think?

    Yes. You've just taken it out of the context for which it was intended.

    Right. I clearly stated that math defines the notions. Why are you objecting to that? Our standard model definition of neutrinos was that they were massless. Experiments proved otherwise and now we mathematically define their mass. The math follows the observations and notions (generally speaking).

    That's like saying a caveman can't paint a pretty picture on the wall of his cavern without understanding optics and chemistry. Sometimes creativity takes unexplicable leaps forward.

    I read.

    You may be right. I was relying on my personal experiences. I can refer you to a few dead Yahoo groups if you like. However, many have simply been removed and therefore no references are available.

    Fine, here are some examples:

    This group has 4379 members. Note the low number of posts.

    Here's another. Note how the activity has diminished to almost nothing.

    Here's one that completely died and is now nothing more than a spammer site.

    Yet another group corpse.

    This Google search turned up a lot of both active and dead forums. Peruse them to your heart's content. Note that some show up in the cache, but can no longer be directly accessed.

    Point taken.

    I've viewed plenty. I've been a member of some. Some of the work is very interesting, but the format isn't usually very user friendly and you have to view a lot of "bleah" to get to the "cool."

    I perused them and didn't see all of my specific issues addressed. Perhaps I missed something?
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
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