Thursday, December 29, 2011

Crank Science

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 9:29 AM

From Margaret Wertheim's "Outsider Physicists and the Oh-My-God Particle," New Scientist , Dec. 24, 2011—

For the past 18 years I have been collecting the works of what I have come to call "outsider physicists". I now have more than 100 such theories on my shelves. Most of them are single papers, but a number are fully fledged books, often filled with equations and technical diagrams (though I do have one that is couched as a series of poems and another that is written as a fairy tale)….

The mainstream science world has a way of dealing with people like this— dismiss them as cranks and dump their letters in the bin. While I do not believe any outsider I have encountered has done any work that challenges mainstream physics, I have come to believe that they should not be so summarily ignored.

Consider the sheer numbers. Outsider physicists have their own organisation, the Natural Philosophy Alliance, whose database lists more than 2100 theorists, 5800 papers and over 1300 books worldwide. They have annual conferences, with this year's proceedings running to 735 pages. In the time I have been observing the organisation, the NPA has grown from a tiny seed whose founder photocopied his newsletter onto pastel-coloured paper to a thriving international association with video-streamed events.

The NPA's website tells us that the group is devoted "to broad-ranging, fully open-minded criticism, at the most fundamental levels, of the often irrational and unrealistic doctrines of modern physics and cosmology; and to the ultimate replacement of these doctrines by much sounder ideas".

Very little unites this disparate group of amateurs— there are as many theories as members— except for a common belief that "something is drastically wrong in contemporary physics and cosmology, and that a new spirit of open-mindedness is desperately needed". They are unanimous in the view that mainstream physics has been hijacked by a kind of priestly caste who speak a secret language— in other words, mathematics— that is incomprehensible to most human beings. They claim that the natural world speaks a language which all of us can, or should be able to, understand.

"…a secret language— in other words, mathematics— that is incomprehensible…."

For instance, the "secret language" of Dr. Garret Sobczyk?

See a brief paper by Sobczyk in the NPA Proceedings  described above.

See also Sobczyk in the February 2012 Notices of the American Mathematical Society

"Conformal Mappings in Geometric Algebra"—


This AMS article, together with Sobczyk's list of previous publications,
indicates that, despite his appearance in the NPA Proceedings , he is definitely not  a crank.

Unfortunately, publication in the Notices  does not by itself guarantee respectability.

For an example, see the Mathematics and Narrative post of Dec. 13, 2011.

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