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Some Explanation Is Due

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Posted by Paul R. Martin on July 22, 2002 17:29:49 UTC

Hi Yanniru,

***It's Dick's personal remarks about us that is threatening, not his paper.***

Since I know Dick personally, I feel that I can shed some light on why Dick's remarks come across the way they do. (Forgive me for being so presumptious, Dick, but you are free to rebut, deny, or correct anything I say.)

Dick had a sort of strange upbringing and childhood. This left him with a different outlook on people's use of language than most other people have. He has a very low tolerance for statements that cannot be defended as being true. This prompts remarks and reactions that people can easily mistake for hostility, anger, ridicule, or dismissal. Instead, what the reaction really indicates is Dick's frustration that other people don't pay the same kind of attention to careful thought and accuracy in language that he does simply because of his unusual nature.

I know this first hand. As I have told you, Dick and I exchanged several hundred letters over a couple of intense years in the attempt by both of us to get me to understand his paper. His letters to me are filled with the kind of comments I just described.

My family and I have also met and spent considerable time with Dick and his wife in person and in various social situations, in addition to intense one-on-one tutoring sessions between him and me, so I do know the man as a human being.

I can tell you that he is a warm, interesting, playful, generous, and kind individual in person. But when it comes to ideas, you can sort of see a metamorphosis in his demeanor, and he becomes a strict disciplinarian. But, knowing him as I do, that's sort of fun too, once you know that he is not as threatening as he seems. Here on this forum, looking only at the sentences on the screen, that is the only side of Dick that you see. Try not let it get to you.

***I like everything he did except for his use of the delta function.***

I had never heard of the Dirac Delta Function until I encountered it in Dick's paper. I spent a lot of time studying the function, its use in physics, and its colorful mathematical development history (physicists used it in a non-mathematically acceptable way for years before some mathematician finally figured out a way of rigorously defining it which produced the same function that the physicists needed.)

***So I cannot understand why either he or now you cannot explain why something so straightforward as the substitution of the delta function set to zero into other equations does not remain zero.***

The appearance of the Dirac Delta Function in his development is anything but straightforward. Many letters on that particular subject were exchanged between Dick and me, and after that, I still only got a vague glimpse of what was going on. I am not in a position to be able to explain it to you except to say that it is a lot deeper and there is more going on than a simple substitution.

In my opinion, this is just one of many examples of why Dick's work cannot really be understood by anyone who, first, doesn't have the math and physics background to understand some of the technical details, and, second, who doesn't put the hard work into communicating directly with Dick as they go through his paper line by line in order to understand his sometimes non-standard, and many times cryptic, development.

***Instead of trying to explain, he resorts to attack***

As I tried to explain, what you're seeing is not attack but simply frustration.

***and in the above quote, you verge on the same***

I apologize for seeming to attack. I had no intention to do that. What I meant to describe in my "reason number 4" was that there are people working in academia who feel threatened by the academy if they express opinions which are not acceptable to the academy. I know that from personal experience from working with a group of scientists. Some of them told me that's how they felt.

***Besides, Dick's results have to be correct for parts of them have already been published in another paper. ***

Those of us who have not gone through Dick's work in its entirety with a fine-toothed comb, verifying its accuracy, can only hold opinions at various levels of confidence that he has indeed discovered something profound and important.

From what I have seen, I also believe that Dick's results are correct.

Warm regards,

Paul

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