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Why Should You Be Embarassed?

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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on July 25, 2002 17:16:43 UTC

Hi Aurino,

I am well aware of the problem scientists have with cranks. When I was in graduate school I used to handle most of the crank letters. Reading their work is often very educational as it is a good introduction into faulty thinking; however, it is very clear to me that one can waste a lot of time trying to sift through the cranks to find someone who actually has something intelligent to say. In fact I would say it is historically rare to find anything worthwhile from outside the academy. On the other hand, if one ever does find something worthwhile from outside, it is often extremely significant. I am sure you are aware that the academy originally ridiculed Newton's work and for that reason he refused to publish it himself. A friend of his had to beg him for permission to publish it at his own expense.

I myself was ridiculed by my thesis advisor at Vanderbilt when I said, "What if there are no interactions at a distance, only contact interactions?" He said, "physics isn't concerned with what if; physics is concerned with what is!" At another time when I asked him how he knew something was true he said, "truth is an issue for philosophers, not physicists!" I can add several other very similar comments. One I got quite a kick out of was "the physics community is just a social club with similar interests, if your interests aren't the same as theirs, then you don't need to be here."

You have to remember, that was the early 60's and students were rebelling against authority; I think the authorities took it very hard. I don't think we should worry too much about them as they certainly have retained the upper hand over the years. At any rate, I essentially left the field after I got my degree. It is funny but my thesis advisor told my wife that she shouldn't worry because I wouldn't stay away long because physics was in my blood.

Some 5 years later, when I made my breakthrough (that is when I managed to finally solve what I called my fundamental equation) I came to him with what I had discovered. He simply refused to look at it (I think me leaving organized physics had thoroughly pissed him off; I suspect I was the best graduate student he ever had). In fact, he said, "no one will ever read your stuff Stafford, because you have not paid your dues''. At the time I thought he was crazy to say such a thing.

Initially, I presumed it would be easy to get competent attention. For quite a while I tried quite hard to get published; however, my attitude was quite adamant. If anyone gave any indication they didn't think what I had to say could be worth while, I didn't bother them any further.

The main event which broke me of trying to publicize my work occurred in 1987. At that time I managed to get permission to give a talk at a meeting of the American Physical Society which I did. About 20 people attended that talk and afterwards most of them wanted to talk to me. Within 15 or 20 minutes it was quite clear that my talk had attracted nothing but cranks. They all wanted me to support their inane ideas (sort of like Yanniru's dark matter thing if you take my drift). I found out that the physics community itself is chock full of nuts.

As I have said before, I fully realize the rational necessity of having a wall between qualified people and the nuts. Without such a wall, organized study would be a shambles; however, one does pay a penalty for such a wall. On top of that, I kind of take a perverse pleasure in knowing that I am right in spite of their refusal to discuss the issues. Besides that, I have much more important things to do with my life than try to convince someone I have something rational to say.

There is only one reason my paper is on the web. It is on the web because I happened to mention what I had done to my son-in-law about a year ago. He is heavy into the web as he is a business consultant on the design of commercial web sites. He said I should post it on the web and maybe someone who could understand it would run across it. That was apparently a waste of time; as Bruce has said, only crackpots do that.

With regard to the quote on cranks you posted, I wouldn't argue with any point made there. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that, in my own way, I do imitate them in many respects. Originally that was intended to put off discussions with people who too immersed in their own opinions to think about anything new: i.e., people who are only talking to me because they like to put off cranks. They are often as bad as the cranks. I think it is pretty well a waste of time to argue with them.

There is one very important line in that quote; "and always dodging specific challenges about his own work." I may be guilty of many of the other charges suggested by that quote but I vigorously deny ever dodging any specific challenge. Harv's challenges to my work were almost entirely unspecific: "that I couldn't possibly be right!" To my knowledge, Bruce has never made a single specific challenge; as I remember it the gist of his position is that if I were right, the physics community would have seen it!

And I am sorry about Yanniru. As he claimed to have a Ph.D. in physics, I took him very seriously in spite of his rather inane ideas on other subjects. As he attempted to make specific challenges, I am afraid he began to display his ignorance of mathematics. I understand the lack of mathematics training on this forum and can understand the fact that most everyone here accepts him as an authority on the subject. That is very sad because he is taking advantage of your gullibility. Now Aurino if you are even a half way decent programmer, you must know the difference between the indices of an array and the values of the elements of the array. Yanniru says that when I eliminate the diagonal elements of the array from my sum (when sum over i not equal j) I am eliminating any case where the elements have the same value (that is I am eliminating any occurrence of a non zero result in the delta function). I am truly astonished that you can not see the error in that conclusion.

I am sorry but I don't think anyone competent has offered any specific criticisms of my work. Please, if you can find an example bring it to my attention.

With regard to, "Indeed, after perusing the various threads in the discussion group, one can only admire the patience physicists show in the face of the flagrantly insulting jibes and non sequiturs thrown at them.", I would agree with that completely. I think I have shown great patience with the insulting jibes and non sequiturs thrown at me. I have gotten on Yanniru's case because he is taking advantage of people with flagrant misrepresentation of the facts.

Aurino: "I'm very, very sorry. But I'm glad I learned my lesson.

My thanks to Yanniru and Bruce, and my apologies to Harv in case he's still reading.

What a waste of time!

I take that as a statement that you think Yanniru, Bruce and Harv hold the winning hand! Perhaps you are right and that makes it a sad day.

Have fun -- Dick

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