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Old 6th August 2014, 10:29 PM   #2681
lpetrich
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Pathological Physics : Tales from "The Box" - YouTube -- one hour long, but it repeats itself
Pathological physics -- slides from that talk

Since the 1990's, some physicists at the California Polytechnic State University have collected physics-crackpot letters in what they call "the box". In his talk, Dr. David Dixon described some features of the theories in those letters and the theorists who composed them.
  • Crazy: Incoherent, with lots of loose associations and making no overall sense. Could some of the authors have schizophrenia?
  • Naive: The authors seem to lack a science education or at least a recent one. They often do a lot of concept mixing.
  • Stubborn: The most interesting type, like someone who concluded that E != mc2 and hoped to get rich and famous as a result. Stubborn ones often do:
    • Theories of everything
    • Self-aggrandizement: they often think that they are great geniuses
    • Lack of disproof = proof
    • Specious precision, like 30+ digits
    • "Deriving" fundamental constants: the fine-structure constant is a favorite
    • Convenient redefinitions
For some reason, many of them are engineers, especially retired engineers, rather than scientists proper. Could this be like the numerous creationist engineers? (the Salem Hypothesis) Could there be something about being an engineer that gives some engineers false confidence in science?

They also are not very interested in experiments, mostly in theory: Just So Stories and cherry-picking of existing results.
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Old 6th August 2014, 11:00 PM   #2682
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Physics crackpots often believe in the lone-genius model of scientific progress, complete with themselves as the latest lone geniuses.

However, there is an organization of physics crackpots: the Natural Philosophy Alliance | Science Outside The Box. Its members have numerous beliefs, but the ether theorists are allegedly the top dogs in it, setting its agenda. These theorists want to revive the medium proposed for electromagnetism in the 19th cy. to reconcile it with Newtonian mechanics.

According to Problems in Mainstream Science | Natural Philosophy Alliance (page now dead, but preserved at the Internet Archive), here are some common beliefs of its members:
  • The big bang theory is fundamentally flawed.
  • Relativity has flawed assumptions and when the proof for such is closely examined, it is not proof at all.
  • Expansion tectonics (the earth is expanding / growing) is a much better model than modern-day plate tectonics.
  • The properties of water go way beyond our current understanding.
  • The universe is much more electrical than currently thought.
  • Terminology is really a big problem in mainstream science. (energy only a concept, space-time absurd, ...)
  • Infinity is very important to science.
  • Science in the mainstream is dominated by politics, not science. (criticism of mainstream theories not allowed, ...)
  • The NPA is where the Galileos, Aristotles, and Newtons are working today.
  • Most all NPA scientists agree that science took a huge wrong-turn in the early part of the 20th century.
  • The mainstream believes the NPA members do not understand or study the mainstream and this could not be further from the truth.
  • The mainstream also believes the NPA members are not qualified to do science, this also cannot be further from the truth.

Here are some lists of its members' publications:
NPA Proceedings | Natural Philosophy Alliance
NPA Previous Works
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Old 6th August 2014, 11:07 PM   #2683
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Galilean Electrodynamics Homepage with these sample papers:
Quote:
On the Transverse Emission and Propagation of Light from Moving Sources (Don Johnson) (in pdf format)
Quantum Riddles Part I: Charge, a Case for Causality (Constance Perry Phillips and J. Micheal Robinson) (in pdf format)
Dynamic Model of Elementary Particles and Fundamental Interactions (George P. Shpenkov and Leonid G. Kreidik) (in pdf format)
To See the Light Is to See the Invisible (John-Erik Persson) (in pdf format)
Light and Gravity Aberration, Ether-Wind Detection (John-Erik Persson) (in pdf format)
Collapse of SRT 1: Derivation of ElectrodynamicEquations from the Maxwell Field Equations (Sankar Hajra & Antina Ghosh) (in pdf format)
Collapse of SRT 2:Earth Carries Along Electric and Magnetic Fields (Sankar Hajra) (in pdf format)
This journal was founded by Petr Beckmann, who wrote a book criticizing relativity called "Einstein Plus Two".
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Old 6th August 2014, 11:53 PM   #2684
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It must be pointed out that Farsight fits Martin Gardner's criteria very well. He fits the first four, even if not the fifth one about inventing elaborate jargon. Some pseudosciences have elaborate jargon, like astrology, homeopathy, and Scientology, while others don't go quite as far.

Considering himself a genius. He's stated that he's the expert on physics, like in this post in [Merged] Relativity+ / Farsight:
(responding to me saying that he is not a pope of physics)
Quote:
No, not a pope, just the expert round here. I know far more physics than you and ben and zig put together. Your lack of physics knowledge is comical. Or should I say tragic.
Dismissing his colleagues as ignorant blockheads. See above and elsewhere.

Claiming that he is being persecuted. He started this thread: Scientific censorship at JREF, Physics Discussion Forum • View topic - JREF

Attacking well-established theories, including inverting them. Farsight inverts time and motion. Instead of motion being a function of time, time is somehow a result of motion.

Martin Gardner noted that physics crackpots often attack whoever was the biggest name in physics at the time. In the 19th century, that was Isaac Newton, and physics crackpots often attacked him. But after about 1920, Albert Einstein became the biggest name in physics, and crackpots started attacking him, often claiming to be restoring Newtonian physics.

Farsight physics may represent a third stage, claiming to restore the physics of Newton and Einstein while attacking more recent physics.

-

Farsight physics does not fit the Radner-Casti criteria quite as well. But it fits one of them remarkably well: research by literary interpretation. Farsight often argues much like a theologian interpreting a sacred book.
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Old 7th August 2014, 01:14 AM   #2685
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Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
It must be pointed out that Farsight fits Martin Gardner's criteria very well. He fits the first four, even if not the fifth one about inventing elaborate jargon. Some pseudosciences have elaborate jargon, like astrology, homeopathy, and Scientology, while others don't go quite as far.

Considering himself a genius. He's stated that he's the expert on physics, like in this post in [Merged] Relativity+ / Farsight:
(responding to me saying that he is not a pope of physics)


Dismissing his colleagues as ignorant blockheads. See above and elsewhere.

Claiming that he is being persecuted. He started this thread: Scientific censorship at JREF, Physics Discussion Forum • View topic - JREF

Attacking well-established theories, including inverting them. Farsight inverts time and motion. Instead of motion being a function of time, time is somehow a result of motion.

Martin Gardner noted that physics crackpots often attack whoever was the biggest name in physics at the time. In the 19th century, that was Isaac Newton, and physics crackpots often attacked him. But after about 1920, Albert Einstein became the biggest name in physics, and crackpots started attacking him, often claiming to be restoring Newtonian physics.

Farsight physics may represent a third stage, claiming to restore the physics of Newton and Einstein while attacking more recent physics.

-

Farsight physics does not fit the Radner-Casti criteria quite as well. But it fits one of them remarkably well: research by literary interpretation. Farsight often argues much like a theologian interpreting a sacred book.
Well said!!! All four posts above this!!!!!
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Old 7th August 2014, 06:47 AM   #2686
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
Hold on! I am not a physicist! Nevertheless, it is still my understanding the speed of light will be measured as c by any observer in any reference frame. Can anyone come up with a counter example to that? And -- I question the concept of "global observer," which seems to me to be contrary to GR.
Even Newton suspected there was no global observer.

"It may be that there is no body really at rest, to which the places and motions of others may be referred." –Issac Newton in the Principia

Quoted from my .sig in case my .sig changes.
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Old 7th August 2014, 07:34 AM   #2687
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Originally Posted by Almo View Post
Even Newton suspected there was no global observer.

"It may be that there is no body really at rest, to which the places and motions of others may be referred." –Issac Newton in the Principia
One will see in the Principia that Newton very carefully lays out corollaries to his theorems to ensure that they hold not simply for motions relative to space, but they also hold to a great degree of approximation in cases where the centre of mass of a system of bodies is itself in motion. So while Newton uses a hypothesis to suppose that the centre of mass of the solar system is stationary, his work holds even if it is not.

(There is some evidence that Newton did consider the possibility of a great coordinated force that might have held one planet stationary and coordinated the motion of the rest of the solar system. This would be an alternative to his hypothesis of stationary centre of mass which would vitiate some of his theorems and corollaries, but which clearly has other problems.)
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Old 7th August 2014, 10:25 AM   #2688
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This is somewhat of a repeat of my OP but with a fresh look.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon this forum tracking down some ads for a book I saw about Null Physics by Author Terence Witt (Our Undiscovered Universe). Before that, the idea of crackpot physics as a serious avocation was unknown to me. Obviously, since then, I have seen many crackpots come and go in these threads.
Many laypeople (like me) are fascinated by physics and, to varying degrees, study aspects of this vast and complex subject. The vast majority of us accept the word of professionals (at least provisionally) when we encounter some aspect that is beyond our understanding. In my case, I always hope to master the math and eventually get a better grasp on the subject in question -- but that goal can be very tough to achieve at times.
In any case, here we have this small minority of people, who prefer to make something up in their heads when reading about or studying physics rather than either learn the real thing or (when they cannot do so) take the word of professionals like the rest of us. Even a smaller minority dedicate a good part of their lives and become consumed with these self generated alternative theories.
Why? Some of these people seem to be educated and intellectually capable but they stubbornly persist in this extremely irrational behavior -- even when confronted with stark evidence against their ideas. I still don't get it!
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Old 7th August 2014, 10:38 AM   #2689
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Well, according to Forum Management, this thread will probably die now.
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Old 7th August 2014, 10:47 AM   #2690
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
This is somewhat of a repeat of my OP but with a fresh look.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon this forum tracking down some ads for a book I saw about Null Physics by Author Terence Witt (Our Undiscovered Universe). Before that, the idea of crackpot physics as a serious avocation was unknown to me. Obviously, since then, I have seen many crackpots come and go in these threads.
Many laypeople (like me) are fascinated by physics and, to varying degrees, study aspects of this vast and complex subject. The vast majority of us accept the word of professionals (at least provisionally) when we encounter some aspect that is beyond our understanding. In my case, I always hope to master the math and eventually get a better grasp on the subject in question -- but that goal can be very tough to achieve at times.
In any case, here we have this small minority of people, who prefer to make something up in their heads when reading about or studying physics rather than either learn the real thing or (when they cannot do so) take the word of professionals like the rest of us. Even a smaller minority dedicate a good part of their lives and become consumed with these self generated alternative theories.
Why? Some of these people seem to be educated and intellectually capable but they stubbornly persist in this extremely irrational behavior -- even when confronted with stark evidence against their ideas. I still don't get it!
Because like me and many others posting here you have a good idea of what your limits are and trust/assume/believe that anyone who does fraudulate will be caught by the fairly large number of posters here who will have the knowledge to bring down the ignorant who believe they are right even in the face of information from those who actually do the science: math/peer evaluation/lab work and all the rest. Farsight/Kumar/ whatever from light etc.
do not do and are not capable of doing any of those things - they are not scientists and do not have the functional ability to do actual science, nor do they indicate any real science background except the reading of some articles/books about real science. That does not take the place of actual education nor should it be recognized as if it were, nor should it be claimed as if it were.


ETA: I am not a real scientist professionally, I teach science(well taught until I retired) because I have sufficient training in it to cover the basic high school science curriculum quite nicely for most students (certified in General, Bio, Chem and Physics because I have the minimum number (+) of courses in each to qualify me for all those (+Environmental - though it is not on my certificate as I have the potential but not the desire to be certified in it + Language Arts and social Studies and math - except for the Teaching techniques course for each. Which I carefully avoided taking.

My education is much science and lots of other areas and it has served me quite well. BUT I would never presume to put my level up to that of a professional scientist. I have a quite healthy ego, but it is not overgrown, just healthy. Unfortunately, we have some people who have a background in science/math even less than mine who think they can. Their lives are destined for unhappiness - and if they transgress similarly in other places I suspect far greater pounding down of their egos. We play mostly nice here because we want to be here. Other places do not necessarily do the same.....
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Old 7th August 2014, 10:54 AM   #2691
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Originally Posted by dasmiller View Post
I'm a pragmatist. I don't think that any description of the universe's underpinnings is necessarily correct. In fact, below a certain level, I'm not sure that the 'truth' is comprehensible, or whether it's even meaningful to speak of truth in that context.

So I'm not too concerned with whether a model is based on a fiction. I *do* care about whether the model accurately predicts the results of experiments. To me, Model A is better than Model B only if
1) Model A makes more accurate predictions,
2) Model A makes equally good predictions over a wider range, or
3) Model A is simpler without sacrificing accuracy.
The scientific method is not about discovering 'truth', and it's a massive error to assume it ever does. It's only about creating a model of the observable universe. You cite some of the rules for this model-building.
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Old 7th August 2014, 02:13 PM   #2692
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Originally Posted by fuelair View Post
Well said!!! All four posts above this!!!!!
+1.

And a +1 for each exclamation mark
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Old 13th August 2014, 02:26 AM   #2693
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Farsight's notion of physics crackpottery is speculations by mainstream physicists that have not been experimentally supported, like magnetic monopoles, supersymmetry, string theory, multiverses, etc. His favorite argument: there is no evidence for them. But he does not seem to have addressed the question of what observable evidence one might reasonably expect for those theories.

Tthe same can be said of many theories now accepted, when one considers what they seemed like in the past. Let's look back a few centuries and apply the methods of Farsight physics to some notable theories.
  • Atomism. There is no evidence for their existence. Look, and you will see that matter is continuous, not grainy.
  • Newtonian gravity. An invisible force that extends throughout the Universe? What woo-woo.
  • Mendeleev's periodic table of elements. What codswallop. Mendeleev posits some additional elements because his table does not work right. Elements that there is no evidence for, elements that likely do not exist.
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Old 13th August 2014, 04:32 AM   #2694
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Looking at pathologies in mainstream scientific research, Physicist Irving Langmuir on pathological science back in 1953:
  1. The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.
  2. The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability; or, many measurements are necessary because of the very low statistical significance of the results.
  3. Claims of great accuracy.
  4. Fantastic theories contrary to experience.
  5. Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment.
  6. Ratio of supporters to critics rises up to somewhere near 50% and then falls gradually to oblivion.
He discussed several effects that seemed to exist, but that only existed in the imaginations of those who claimed to observed them. Effects like N rays.

The contrast of N rays with X rays is instructive.

X rays were discovered by Wilhelm Röntgen (Roentgen) in 1895. He was working with a common subject of research in those days, evacuated glass tubes with electric current run through them. He noticed that they could make some fluorescent material fluoresce, even with light from them blocked by black cardboard. He suspected that tube was emitting an unknown kind of radiation, and he did a lot of experiments on it. He called this radiation X rays because its nature was not very apparent, despite his experiments.

Once one knew what to look for, it was very easy to observe the effects of X rays, and some physicists claimed that they had obtained evidence of X rays before Röntgen's discovery. But they had not recognized it for what it was. Further experiments showed that X rays were a certain wavelength/frequency band of electromagnetic waves / photons.

N rays were another mysterious radiation, a radiation purportedly discovered by Prosper-René Blondlot in 1903. He worked at the University of Nancy in France, thus the name. N rays were emitted by a variety of objects, but not by wood or certain treated metals. Like X rays, N rays could be detected with fluorescent materials.

Several physicists expanded on Blondlot's work, but they were mostly French ones. British and German ones could not observe N-ray effects, and American physicist Robert W. Wood complained of "wasting a whole morning" trying to do so. A big contrast with X-ray effects, which could be observed across nationalities. The editors of Nature magazine convinced RWW to go to Blondlot's lab to see for himself, to try to find out what Blondlot and his colleagues were doing that nobody outside of France seemed able to do. As some N-ray researchers were taking a N-ray spectrum, RWW removed a prism that was being used to separate out the N rays. The researchers continued to make N-ray measurements. As the researchers were measuring emissions from a metal file, RWW replaced it with a similar-sized wood objects. It seemed to continue to emit N rays. RWW reported on his experiments on the N-ray researchers, and that was the end of N rays.

Since measurements of N rays were always borderline ones, it was evident that they could be expected by what one expects to see, as other experiments showed. A BIG contrast from X rays, whose effects could be VERY glaring.

Irving Langmuir also discussed the Allison Effect, the Davis-Barnes effect, mitogenetic rays, ESP, and UFO's. More recently, polywater, cold fusion, and the arsenic bug may also qualify.


These are mainly pathologies about observations and experiments, but many physics crackpots are theorists with little interest in doing experiments themselves, only in analyzing others' results.

However, some of Langmuir's criteria also apply to such crackpots, like claims of extreme accuracy.
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Old 13th August 2014, 06:36 AM   #2695
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Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment.
This is a really interesting idea. I often see people who are skeptical about contemporary cosmology who assume that either cosmologists have not thought of basic criticism of their work or have not formulated thoughtful responses to these criticisms. Yet a look at the observational papers reveals that many challenges* have been raised, assessed, and if not dismissed, at least estimated in their potential impact or likelihood.

I wonder if some of the flare from crackpots is a little bit of "the lady doth protest too much", where the crackpots assume that scientists take the same off-the-cuff approach to criticism?

Of course, Farsight usually did not resort to off-the-cuff answers: he produced a carefully pruned garden of responses that led one into a hedge maze of the same claims again and again.

* I like "challenges" better than words like "problems", "flaws", or "doubts".
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Old 13th August 2014, 06:45 AM   #2696
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Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
Since measurements of N rays were always borderline ones, it was evident that they could be expected by what one expects to see, as other experiments showed. A BIG contrast from X rays, whose effects could be VERY glaring.
This brings up the social aspect of scientific knowledge. It is not that subtle effects are barred from science, it is that they must be reliable enough to be brought to consistent notice to at least those who can make the effort to look. For some things, like x-rays, this is easy, but even x-ray detection requires the production of equipment to reveal the otherwise invisible.

Radon gas is a perhaps similar subtle thing to detect, though even without dedicated detectors we could observe its effects through the health of those exposed.

Global warming is a subtle effect, insofar as it is not something immediately presented to the senses of time and space bound human beings. The production of the relevant social knowledge of this science is being damaged by those who do not like its conclusions.

Crackpots seem to want to find a clear demonstration of a position and they seem not to appreciate the social nature of science. This might be why they turn to numerology or similar activities: it demonstrates clear patterns. This is in contrast to the hard, social work of scientists, who demonstrate other patterns less clear or invisible to others, thus the social work appears a conspiracy founded on the social relationships themselves rather than what they produce.
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Old 13th August 2014, 08:06 AM   #2697
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Langmuir's criterion 4, "fantastic theories contrary to experience", would seem to rule out a *lot* of mainstream theories. But these theories typically violate criteria 1, 2, 3, and 5, and are accepted for that reason.

For example, the theologian Lactantius argued that the approximate sphericity of the Earth satisfies criterion 4:
Quote:
Chapter 24. Of the Antipodes, the Heaven, and the Stars.

How is it with those who imagine that there are antipodes opposite to our footsteps? Do they say anything to the purpose? Or is there any one so senseless as to believe that there are men whose footsteps are higher than their heads? Or that the things which with us are in a recumbent position, with them hang in an inverted direction? That the crops and trees grow downwards? That the rains, and snow, and hail fall upwards to the earth? And does any one wonder that hanging gardens are mentioned among the seven wonders of the world, when philosophers make hanging fields, and seas, and cities, and mountains?
From CHURCH FATHERS: Divine Institutes, Book III (Lactantius); "philosophy" included what is now "science".

Newtonian mechanics contains some counterintuitive results, as is evident from considering "intuitive physics" or naive physicsWP. Intuitive Physics - Scientific American:
Quote:
Although Newton's laws are well known, tests show many people believe moving objects behave otherwise. The subjects of the tests tend to follow a theory held in the three centuries before Newton.
The impetus theoryWP.

The biggest counterintuitive result of Newtonianism is objects with different masses falling at the same rates in the absence of other effects. One would expect heavier objects to be pulled down faster than lighter ones, but heavier objects have more inertia than lighter ones, and the two effects cancel out. It's rather easy to demonstrate this experimentally. Drop a pen and a book from the same height. You may want to take some video of this experiment, so you can follow the objects' motions frame by frame.

But Newtonianism is almost intuitive compared to quantum mechanics, which is legendary for being counterintuitive. QM-based theories have been enormously successful, though interpretation of QM has long been a difficult and contentious subject. Interpretations of quantum mechanicsWP lists 14 interpretations, with some of them having several variations.
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Old 13th August 2014, 04:15 PM   #2698
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This may say more about crackpot physics than mental illness:

Quote:
I remember reading once that an insane person is simply a sane person who starts off with one firmly held wrong idea, and then everything else has to flipflop to go along with step number one. If you think Martians are communicating through the fillings in your teeth, for instance, you don't have to have any more wrong ideas to be—and act—crazy....Once you think blue is green, you have to make so many other alterations in your view of the world to accomodate it to your belief that eventually either you or the world must be cuckoo...

—Sam Holt, One of Us is Wrong
(Donald E Westlake)
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Old Yesterday, 07:58 AM   #2699
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It has come to my attention in another thread that being wrong can be like an addiction. Kind of like a Munchausen by proxy syndrome, where instead of sympathy that is gained it is just attention and perhaps a feeling of validation that ones notions are worthy of intellectual discourse. Of course that discourse generally comes with a fair amount of intellectual dishonesty on the part of the crank. As the ability to generally recognize let alone learn from ones own mistakes appears to be absent or itself flawed.
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Old Yesterday, 08:23 AM   #2700
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It certainly appears that the crackpot physicists have increased in number lately. It is interesting how they often have a common approach: that they (typically they alone) understand something that has eluded mainstream physicists for years, that math is unimportant and not worth doing, that there is always an explanation, by proposing more crackpot physics, for any inconsistency in their theory (proposing even more magic can explain any inconsistency in one's magic theory), and that typically crackpot physics explains everything very simply. Crackpot physics often originates with some popular (incredibly simplified) explanation of relativity or quantum physics in magazines or books.

As noted before, part of the problem is that "real" life is complicated and "real" physics is now often counterintuitive and best accessible to people who have devoted years in learning the math. So people want to apply "simple common sense." The idea that everything people once believed is now often questioned encourages crackpot physicists to maintain that the entire establishment is again wrong and they are right (of course real physics often builds on, rather than replaces older physics. Relativity adds details to Newton's law of gravitation, it doesn't state that, at the level of his original observations, Newton was completely wrong. Quantum physics states that unexpected things happen at the level of Planck's constant; however the previous laws of motion for a zebra are pretty good estimates).

And of course understanding something no one else does makes one extra special.
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Old Yesterday, 10:21 AM   #2701
Bikewer
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Allow me to relate an anecdote.
Some years back, we got a "suspicious person" call at the physics department. When we got there, the suspicious person, a crank, had one of the physics professors backed up against the wall, and was expostulating on his "theory".
He had brought along a marvelous construction... A folded-up thing made of squares of cardboard, each taped together so that it could be expanded into a construct several feet on a side. Each square was individually colored and covered with symbols and formulae....He had this thing spread out on the floor and was going on and on....

We convinced him that the very best thing he could do was publish. To write out his notions on actual paper and submit it to some peer-reviewed journals. He agreed this was a fine idea. We accompanied him out to his car, a ratty old chevy van, and discovered that this vehicle was entirely crammed, floor to roof, with old physics textbooks from libraries and universities all over the country.
Our first thought (being suspicious types) was that the fellow had stolen all these books, but we could see they were all very dated and he assured us that they were all cast-offs.
We wished him well....Never saw him again.
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Old Yesterday, 10:51 AM   #2702
Giordano
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I finally managed to catch up on my reading of this thread. I agree with many posters that many crackpot physicists have in common a dismissive, superior, almost angry view of more established physics and that they not only have a crackpot explanation for any failures of their theories, but that they often make up the explanation on the spot after the failure is pointed out. When an actual experimental result contracts the crackpot theory, they often just ignore the experimental result.
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