User talk:Anville/Archive4

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Saved thoughts on quantum theory

Copied from Talk:Quantum Theory Parallels to Consciousness:

The opinion of the mainstream scientific community (i.e., just about everybody except Roger Penrose) holds that quantum theory is irrelevant for understanding the mechanisms of consciousness, except in a trivial and uninformative sense. Consciousness is due to something going on in the brain (something we understand only a fraction of, yet). The brain is made out of molecules whose properties are ultimately determined by quantum mechanics, but once you understand those properties, you can take them as given and reason on the larger scale without the apparatus of quantum theory. If this implies that "conscioiusness is quantum", then anything you pick is quantum. Building a skyscraper becomes a quantum act, because it depends upon the properties of steel, which depend upon electrons forming a metallic bond, which you can only truly understand with quantum theory, etc. If the brain is quantum in the same sense as the Chrysler Building, then the assertion linking quantum theory and consciousness has no content.

No other way of linking consciousness and quantum physics has worked out, either. Moreover, we've made a great deal of progress studying the brain in classical ways.

Physicists have even tested the idea that QM plays a role in neural processes. With just a few equations, you can clear away the woo and see what Nature really can be doing. Guess what? The biological structures of the brain, even the organelles inside neurons, are just too big, too warm and too noisy for QM to play a large-scale role. To quote Max Tegmark of MIT, who actually did calculations on this matter,

One of the motivations for models with quantum coherence in the brain was the so-called binding problem. In the words of James [75,76], "the only realities are the separate molecules, or at most cells. Their aggregation into a 'brain' is a fiction of popular speech". James' concern, shared by many after him, was that consciousness did not seem to be spatially localized to any one small part of the brain, yet sub jectively feels like a coherent entity. Because of this, Stapp [3] and many others have appealed to quantum coherence, arguing that this could make consciousness a holistic effect involving the brain as a whole.
However, non-local degrees of freedom can be important even in classical physics, For instance, oscillations in a guitar string are local in Fourier space, not in real space, so in this case the "binding problem" can be solved by a simple change of variables. As Eddington remarked [77], when observing the ocean we perceive the moving waves as ob jects in their own right because they display a certain permanence, even though the water itself is only bobbing up and down. Similarly, thoughts are presumably highly non-local excitation patterns in the neural network of our brain, except of a non-linear and much more complex nature. In short, this author feels that there is no binding problem. [1]

Claiming that consciousness is weird, quantum mechanics is weird and the two weirdnesses must be one and the same — which is all these so-called "parallels" boil down to — is horribly shoddy thinking.

Anville 17:24, 13 July 2006 (UTC)

Don't spend to much time refuting articles like this. It isn't very effective. --Philosophus T 17:28, 13 July 2006 (UTC)
I know, I know. It's just that I haven't spent much time refuting this particular fallacy, and it's nice to set my words down. They may come in handy later in some higher-profile arena, or I might revise them into a larger essay. Anville 17:34, 13 July 2006 (UTC)

Re: Removal of notice from Admin noticeboard

The user's contribution did not appear to be a simple case of removing an Afd tag; rather, it included what appeared on first blush to be valid changes. If so, that is not a case of simple vandalism, and the first step should be to work toward an agreement. Happy editing! :) RadioKirk (u|t|c) 18:22, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

Cool. Thanks for the rapid response. (I didn't notice the article in dispute until today, and I will have forgotten about it the day after tomorrow, so it's hardly any skin off my teeth.) Cheers! Anville 18:27, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

New Pynchon Novel

Hi— I'll leave it to you to tidy up the stuff you added from the "blurb" which went up on Amazon. I think you jumped the gun in attributing it definitively to Pynchon, though it's a possibility that it's an accurate precis, and I guess it's also possible that he wrote it himself. It probably would have been better to couch it as a rumour until the dust settles a bit. best wishes— Abaca 00:28, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

OK. I'll tweak it a little (I meant to get back to that today, but the day job intervened). Thanks for the note and happy editing. Anville 03:22, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

The Giver

Hi, Anville. I'm sorry to make myself disagreeable. :-( But I'm having some thoughts of listing The Giver for featured article review at WP:FAR. I hadn't realized before that Raul did promote it back in June 2005. A bit surprisingly, I think--I mean, based on a discussion with three pretty thin Support comments and two very meaty Opposes (from Jun-Dai and me). It's also noticeable that nobody supported any more after Jun-Dai and I said our say. You didn't reply to our comments at the time. Do you completely disagree with the criticisms? Because I still feel they were substantial, and the article doesn't seem to have changed much in response to them. Bishonen | talk 12:42, 20 July 2006 (UTC).

I haven't really looked at the article in a good long while, and I'm sure it's deteriorated from whatever peak it managed to reach (the way that FAs always seem to do). I have a vague recollection of finding additional sources and writing new paragraphs of word-stuff to address objections raised during its FAC go-around, and I suppose what I did must have satisfied the FA Director — but my standards have risen too in the intervening months, and I myself might not think my additions were enough if I had to look them over again today.
Unfortunately, I don't have time to work on big and important things right now. Go ahead and put it on FAR — best to get more voices in the discussion, particularly if some of them belong to people who have the chance to make improvements. Anville 14:56, 20 July 2006 (UTC)

Well, it looks like Raul actually featured it pretty quickly after I commented. I think he simply disagreed with the objections and liked the page as it was. OK, I'll FAR it and see how other people feel. Do you think I should leave a note on Talk:The Giver for a while first? If it's basically your work, I reckon that's an unnecessary detour; but if there are other main contributors, perhaps Talk would draw them in more effectively than FAR. Bishonen | talk 22:53, 21 July 2006 (UTC).

The work I did (during, before and a little after FAC) has been overlaid by lots of other contributions. At the very least, I'm sure the article needs a grammar tune-up and probably a cruft purge. I think putting a note on the Talk page — for maybe a week or so — before going to FAR is a good idea, since other people have added things more recently than I and are likely still hanging around. Anville 14:12, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
Well, I did put a note on Talk:The Giver and got a resounding nothing so far. It's listed on FAR now, with a linked template on Talk:The Giver. The FAR system is evolving and may be different from when you last checked in, as it was for me: I discovered that they don't recommend waiting before listing an article any more, but instead keep it for a two-stage review for at least a month. I think I've done what I can to help interested editors find and hopefully contribute to the review, though of course people aren't necessarily reading wikipedia every day in July—August. Bishonen | talk 15:48, 25 July 2006 (UTC).
Thank you. I must admit that I've grown much more pessimistic about the Wikipedia since I was when I first started pushing things to FA; however, I balanced this (if balance is the word) by growing more sanguine about how much it matters. Best wishes, Anville 16:01, 25 July 2006 (UTC)


I'm sorry, I have to ask. What was the purpose of that "ï" in the CTMU's thingummy[2]? It seems to have disturbed Tim Smith a bit though - he edited it out. Random mayhem? A subtle program in psychological warfare? Byrgenwulf 17:54, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

Misplaced from "naïve", it appears. Useful diacritic, the trema, though not well-known to the orthographical laïty. Tim Smith 21:57, 21 July 2006 (UTC)
"A subtle program in psychological warfare?" Oh, sirrah, you give me too much credit. (-: Anville 14:13, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

Against the Day

Thanks for the note. The stuff you've added to the new novel's page looks good to me, and the in-line citations are fine. I'm dubious about the Cronin novel being a source for the title; there's also a non-fiction book which might be relevant Cheers Abaca 23:45, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, I've been watching the folks on PYNCHON-L debate the title back and forth (hate it, love it, find allusions in it). Theorizing in the absence of fact can be fun, I guess. Anville 14:44, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the help

Thank you again for the Sam Spade work on that damnable policy...I go insane trying to search the "meta" part of this site, because the search just doesn't work (I don't know how you found it!). As it turns out, I think there's little point in blocking the guy: he just embarasses himself the way he carries on. I think I've really made him very angry -of course, that was the good thing about him not admitting who he was: people could comment all they liked on Mr Universe without "personally attacking" Asmodeus, who would have had to sit there and see just what the world thought of the "theory" and its inventor (with terms like "pseudo-intellectual gibberish" and "whackjob" flying around). Ah well, c'est la vie. If one wants to preen oneself in public, one cannot expect people not to jeer. Oh - you may have noticed, but I hope you don't mind - I've appropriated your new name for the CTMU, since it deflates the pretentiousness of the concept so well. Cognitive-Theoretic Whizzbang of the Wangdoodle indeed. Byrgenwulf 07:28, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

I don't mind at all. In fact, I'm pleased that I have done my part to start a meme. (-: (I found that policy page via a Google search restricted to, query phrase being something like "personal information", but it wasn't in the first page of hits.) Anville 14:47, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

I noticed you've been tweaking the RQM article a bit: much appreciated, and any other input you wish to offer as well; not many people seem to be familiar with that particular interpretation, which is a pity, since it is the one I think makes the most sense. Have you read Rovelli's paper on it?

Anyway, I'm still getting the hang of the formatting for maths symbols here. I am used to LaTeX, of course, but I'm not sure how much of the formatting/"markup" from it can be transferred here. In particular, in the "derivation and structure" section of the RQM article, there are the two examples of descriptions, with the kets and the arrows and the time labels on top. How do I get the arrows to be directly in line with another (because currently they're a little offset from one another). And can I use the LaTeX "equation" environment to label equations? How? Byrgenwulf 15:31, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

All I know about formatting equations here comes from what I learned by accident and what is written at Help:Displaying a formula. It looks like you could hack the alignment using Wiki-markup tables or the matrix environment (see Fractions, matrices, multilines). I found a brief discussion about labeling equations over here, but I've had no luck finding anything better. Perhaps the people over at WikiProject Mathematics have something useful for this, but I haven't seen it.
(This touches upon a more general concern of mine. Speaking in broad terms, we Wikipedes haven't done a very good job building a coherent whole out of our coverage of any particular science. We get fragments covering this topic or that with varying degrees of accuracy and comprehensibility, but we can't even keep our choice of variable names consistent. I guess I was hoping our articles on physics could be more like a textbook spread out into 32K chunks.)
I've read a little in recent months about interpretations of QM, in preparation for some pop-science writing I have planned. I'll happily contribute what my limited knowledge and time permit, but sadly, these days both of those appear to be in short supply. My own pet QM project is Supersymmetric solution of the hydrogen atom, which will basically be a conversion of these class notes into encyclopedic format. I'd like it eventually to set a standard for technical FAs — "good writing with equations" — but I just haven't had a continguous block of free time to hack it into shape.
Anville 15:58, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
P.S. I tried out the matrix environment on the RQM page. Is that closer to the way you wanted? Anville 16:16, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
Much better, indeed. If only there was some way of getting the second "t_1" over the \otimes symbol, but I think I can live with it where it is :P. And no worries if you're pressed for time...fortunately, free time is something I have lots of until early August, so I want to get RQM done by then, in-between other bits and bobs of miscellaneous scribbling to unencyclopaedic ends. Then I want to flesh out the topos and category theory stuff here. You mention on your userpage that this season's fashion is SUSY...that may be, but I think topoi are next; well, ten years' time, anyway.
I agree with what you say about the "fractured" nature of the physics articles - it's what happens when you have a few (dareIsay idiosyncratic) hundred people working on a single "textbook", I guess. But perhaps once it reaches a certain "critical point" with regards to the quantity and "content-quality" of articles included, the focus could shift to standardisation. I shall be watching your supersymmetric hydrogen atom with interest then, as it crystallises into form.
Thinking of standardisation, though, a LaTeX2Html macro that includes wiki-structure could work: I'm sure most people writing physics/maths articles would use some form of TeX for writing anyway, so a standard macro to turn TeX into wiki-markup/html could work. Of course, that requires someone being bothered enough to do it. I'd rather copy-paste good quality formatting from elsewhere, personally. Byrgenwulf 17:09, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
My remark about "the fashion this season" was just a silly way of mentioning what I was working on at the time. There existed a vaguely interrelated web of ideas and math scraps stretching from population genetics to black-hole thermodynamics — not a grand Theory of It All, but rather a set of oddities, where the operator algebra invented in one place turns out to be useful in another. I hope to get back to that stuff in a month or so, because I mostly left it hanging.
I just started reading through Lawvere's Conceptual Mathematics book, because John Baez's website really made me feel the lack of my category-theoretic knowledge. Anville 17:32, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I was wondering about that Focking equation you mentioned. The concept does sound interesting: can you point out reading matter -or is it thoughts of your own in development? I mean, while obviously there is no "deep" connection between black hole entropy and population genetics, it is nonetheless curious that there is that link...maths is wonderful like that.
Funny, I happened on category theory from the "other side", as it were, from formal logic. I absolutely love it: "intuitive" maths, so to speak. I'm working on applying topos stuff to quantum logic -that's my little project at the moment. The "fashion" statement I made was actually an oblique reference to Baez's comment that topos theory is completely unfashionable in physics. But that's alright, 'cos I'm technically in philosophy, where everything except postmodernism is unfashionable, and I don't do postmodernism, although I do transgress boundaries, Sokal be damned.
Baez's website is a veritable goldmine of deep trivia, if that makes sense: and I regularly use his crackpot index; when I first read the CTMU "paper" and websites I ranked it a moderate 238, and that was not counting every vacuous statement (I averaged based on the first paragraph). However, the last couple of weeks' events could probably crank it up quite a bit more: comparing one's "persecution" to Galileo earns a bundle of points...I wonder how many to add for the comparison that was made to Galois?
And I see our dear Asmodeus has taken it upon himself to open up the deletion review on the Whizzbang. After it was closed by an admin, after the full five days have run their course. He opened up two other unrelated debates in the process. I left a comment to that effect ('cos admins get their wires crossed and may overlook the fact that the reviews were all closed). I must confess I don't understand. Byrgenwulf 18:03, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
I'll go through my notebooks and find pointers to a few papers. With luck, I'll be able to get to that in a couple days. Bleh on having to code software!
I wonder if the sum total that has been written on the Whizzbang in AfD debates, Talk pages and Deletion Review exceeds the length of the mainstream media reportage. Our friendly autohagiographers certainly seem to be aiming for the Bogdanov regime, after all. Maybe we should try moving the dispute to a higher court, rather than letting the DRV spool onwards endlessly. . . Do you think this will become a matter for the ArbCom? Anville 18:28, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
There are remarkable similarities between the Whizzbang and Bogdanov cosmology: both seem to use the right buzzwords in loosely the right order, but are completely semantically casts even more doubt on the "peer-reviewed" status which the ID crowd are claiming for the rag in which it was published; a fuss needs to made about that at some point, I think, in some other place.
As far as the saga here on Wikipedia goes, I think a "higher court" might be in order. I'm not sure how any of this stuff works, though: would a RfC or the ArbCom be more appropriate? I cannot see the autohagiographers letting it settle, and it is spiralling and spiralling.
Perhaps the best route would be to see what happens with the DRV be closed again by some other hapless admin. If it stays closed, then there's no problem (unless the articles resurrect themselves by magic, which may well happen). If the open/close game carries on, or if the next admin decides to relist it on AfD (which will just spark another cycle), then I think higher powers might be necessary.
As it is, I am thinking that some sort of "precedent" should surely come out of this, for cranks editing their own Wikipedia articles, posting links to buy their own e-books, and abusing anyone who dares to call their bluff. While they certainly have a flair for theatrics, they turned what could have been a quiet AfD like the Hyperwarp's was into a circus. Jimbo Wales is seemingly concerned about crackpottery on Wikipedia, but said that "notable" crackpottery has a place. One has to draw a firm line between notable and non-notable, and it would be good to ascertain properly on which side of that line the Whizzbang falls.
And yes, I think what has been written here probably, on word count as well as sheer hard-drive space, far outstrips third-party coverage of the CTMU: which pretty much amounts to a couple of sentences in every article ("Oh! and this genius strongman has a theory of everything too, which has solved everything that has been waiting to be solved since Plato"). Byrgenwulf 19:11, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
Philosophus and I added some language to the proposed Fringe theories guideline to address this kind of issue. At the moment, the relevant paragraph reads as follows:
Any non-mainstream theories should be referenced extensively, and in a serious manner, in at least one major mainstream publication or by another important mainstream group or individual. Even a debunking or disparaging reference is adequate, as it establishes the notability of the theory outside of the small group of adherents. References that are brought about because of the notability of a related subject, such as the creator of the theory, and not the theory itself, should be given far less weight when deciding on notability. Due consideration should be given to the fact that reputable news sources often cover less than strictly notable topics in a lighthearted fashion, such as on April Fool's Day, as "News of the Weird" or during "slow news days". (See junk food news, silly season, komkommertijd.)
If the Whizzbang ever does die down, I'll be sorely tempted to add it specifically to the Examples section of that proposal. We really do need a guideline like this one ("WP:FT"?); language about autohagiography should be worked in as well.
It looks like the ArbCom typically expects to see evidence that "other steps in dispute resolution have been tried". I believe the Mediation Cabal attempt went nowhere, and given the continuing mess on DRV a jump straight to the ArbCom might not be unreasonable. Assuming otherwise, the next step would be RfC; I'm not quite sure whether to file this one under Maths, science and technology or Religion and philosophy (since Langan and Dr. L have indeed repeatedly denied that the Whizzbang was science, when it was convenient to do so). Anville 19:51, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
Well, the Whizzbang was published in an Intelligent Design journal; which is a religiously motivated "scientific" enterprise. So the line is blurred everywhere, which is no doubt fantastically convenient for all involved. Except, the journal describes itself thus (emphasis mine)[3]:
PCID focuses especially on the theoretical development, empirical application, and philosophical implications of information- and design-theoretic concepts for complex systems. PCID welcomes survey articles, research articles, technical communications, tutorials, commentaries, book and software reviews, educational overviews, and controversial theories. The aim of PCID is to advance the science of complexity by assessing the degree to which teleology is relevant (or irrelevant) to the origin, development, and operation of complex systems.
So, that fact, combined with claims like "Langan has created a theory of cosmic creation that replaces the Big Bang" (from Muscle & Fitness [4]), "conspansion", "sum over futures" QM, and the vocabulary used in the theory, mean that even if it is philosophy, it falls very much on the scientific end of the philosophical spectrum, not the religious one. Actually, since Langan claims that his "theory has to be proven like a math theorem", and that he "can reduce that 56 page paper to mathematical formulas", there's a case to be made that it's maths!
The problem is that much philosophy is much harder to objectively write off as bollocks than science, on the whole...while I would like to establish, at some point, some "hard borders" for the philosophy/sophistry division, the Whizzbang is too borderline a case to do it. If it is "philosophy", then so is string theory, category theory, and, Hell, relativity. While that is even a proposition I would argue for, this is hardly the place for such Scheinprobleme.
The other concern is that I can see the religion/philosophy category being concerned more with bigotry and extremism than debunking bollocks, while the maths/science would focus on outrageously cranky pseudo-ideas. So merely from the issue of what is being disputed, I think the maths/science one would be more appropriate...but if necessary, it could be moved to the religion/philosophy section, surely?
I think the little tweaking on the fringe theories thing is good...and certainly that guideline is a good thing to bring up in any future discussion on this, since it could help crystallise the guideline into a generally acceptable and recognised form; if anything, this saga shows why we need something like that. Byrgenwulf 20:43, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
Given the choice, I'd file the RfC under math(s)/science, if the affair came to that. (I suspect the hagiographers would dispute the classification either way, just to be tendencious, just because they can. . . .) We should also consider adding a bullet point to the "WP:FT" proposal emphasizing that inventors of fringe theories should not be allowed to use the Wikipedia for self-promotion — the notability of crackpot idea X is determined by the scale of its acceptance and of its media coverage, not by how loudly its inventor can scream. Making this point a "rider" on an existing proposal might be more productive than trying to promote a wholly new "Antishilling guideline". Anville 21:05, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
OK, I went ahead and did that. Anville 21:37, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/User:Hillman/Dig

Hi, Anville, you might be interested in this. ---CH 23:22, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Now this is getting really interesting... Byrgenwulf 15:26, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the notifications. I already commented a couple times on the MfD (once to keep, and once to point out a relevant ArbCom proceeding). Just now, I posted a comment any sane person (or anime fan) can recognize as a joke on User talk:Hillman. We'll have to see how that gets interpreted. Anville 15:47, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
Oh - I hope I haven't ruined your experiment. I just posted a "realisation" of my response gave me a very good idea: I have found in the past that an excellent response to trolling is just to bombard the trolls with surreal madness, since eventually they end up questioning their own sanity, and go away. Unless, of course, they truly are insane, in which case they end up taking the bait and make complete fools of themselves. So we shall see. Byrgenwulf 15:57, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
I found your "realisation" very good. Yesterday or the day before, I realized that discussion with our autohagiographers was flat-out impossible: they've never edited articles outside the Whizzbang debate circle, they twist policies and guidelines any way they can, and now it appears that they're willing to corrupt external sources in order to have their way. This sort of behavior sickens me. I'm glad that their psychological complexes have given me the chance to inject a little surreal nonsense. While places like MfD should perhaps have some standard of seriousness, I figure User Talk pages are fair game! Anville 16:04, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
Indeed: what "argumentation" gets raised in the "serious" bits is already quite surreal, without having to add to DrL's "advocate" (who I see is a member of Project Rational Skepticism: I wonder if he knows what he's getting himself into). Ah well, let us see what happens. I cannot believe the depths to which people will sink though, to mirror their own self-image on a bloody open source encyclopaedia. Byrgenwulf 16:18, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Asimov-related edit needs checking

Hi there. I've recently been reading around the Asimov articles and articles about his books. I then stumbled across a comment you made here: "In two months and odd days, I will be rejoining my personal library, which contains the sort of Asimov collection only a lonely bookworm teenager could have built. [...] I also have the standard reference and criticism works on Asimov, of which I think Joe Patrouch and James Gunn's books would be the most important here.", so I thought you would be a good person to ask to comment on the edits I made recently to the following two articles: Isaac Asimov's Robot Series and Neil R. Jones. The relevant edit is the one here. I was wondering if you would have time to comment and/or tidy this up? Thanks. Carcharoth 14:14, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

Hmmm. I actually don't have a copy of Before the Golden Age with me to check that quote (just to make sure anything equally interesting wasn't accidentally left out!), since I've been bouncing from one physical location to another all summer like a pixel in Pong. I will note that I haven't seen that datum elsewhere; for example, In Memory Yet Green has Asimov giving credit to Eando Binder and his character Adam Link. (I wrote a bit about this in Three Laws of Robotics.) As far as "tidying up" goes, one good thing would be to change that rather long parenthetical citation over to a footnote or some such, using the citation templates. In fact, why don't I do that right now? Anville 14:28, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
Thanks! That looks much better now. I never thought of linking to Before the Golden Age or the robot names. Amazing the depth Wikipedia has in some areas. I have the volumes of Asimov's biography, but haven't had a chance to read them yet. One more thing: the article on Before the Golden Age says it was later published in 3 paperbacks. Maybe that was in the US, because the UK volumes I have are 1, 3 and 4! Sadly, I'm missing volume 2. Carcharoth 09:34, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Bogdanoff controversy in French

I notice your noting that the French article on that matter is poorer than the English, and proposing that somebody translate the English article. I have a few ideas why this has not been done, and is unlikely to (at least, I don't see myself tackling it). a) the French stuff is still already meaty, and organized differently than the English one, so, unless you made an integral translation, and then substituted one article for the other, checking both articles to see what's covered, and what's not would be a Herculean work in and of itself, even before you got to translating the parts absent from one article for inclusion in the other. b) The controversy seems pretty hot on the French side too (if I take the length of the talk page as evidence), so it might not be too bright an idea to violently stir the hornets' nest. But if you have constructive, short term suggestions for porting material between versions, I will look into it, though I am no specialist at all in scientific (or pseudoscience) controversies. I won't dig into it seriously before august 25, though, as I am about to spend 3 weeks away from home. --Svartalf 12:30, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Unfortunately, the time in which you'll be away from home is the time in which I will be busy working, traveling and/or generally being confused. I recognize the Herculean nature of the task involved (a more specific comparision might be to cleaning the Augean stables); it just seems a pity that the detailed information available on the English side isn't directly accessible on the French, where the controversy began. Anville 15:31, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

New Trystero member

Thanks for the kind welcome, and thanks for the information on the Trystero-box - I've added it to my user page. Torerye 19:04, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

re Notices

  1. Fair point.
  2. Of course I don't mind - I'm just ashamed to have made such a basic typographical error. I have to say that my all time most embarrassing mistake was corrected by this edit. *cringe* --David Mestel(Talk) 07:07, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
I'm sure I have made many mistakes of equal or greater embarrassment factor; I just hope nobody notices them!  :-/ Anville 16:52, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

Sources needed

Those citation templates you put on my talk page have categorised it among "articles needing sources" and what-have-you. I think that's blood marvellous, and terrifically appropriate. As it happens, I spent some time rounding up various bits of meta-blab, and put them here, so I have one central place to go to for policy, templates, etc.

Thanks for posting that info for Advocate Mestel...I also updated Asmodeus' talk page with some context. I don't think I am going to hold back much longer before dishing out some incivility of my own. But we shall see... Byrgenwulf 18:17, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

May your incivility be eloquent and forceful, deep with the blood of slaughtered evilfolk! Er, I mean, try to keep yourself under control. (-: At the moment, I've been expanding Bogdanov Affair with some juicy content instead of getting important work done. I expect I'll get an angry sockpuppet on my case in a day or two. The fun never stops! Anville 18:47, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

Omnipotence paradox

Omnipotence paradox is up for a featured article review. Detailed concerns may be found here. Please leave your comments and help us address and maintain this article's featured quality. Sandy 03:02, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

I'll do what I can, but unfortunately, I just don't think I have the time. I lost interest in maintaining that page a few months back, honestly, in favor of doing things closer to my specialty (physics). Best wishes, Anville 14:10, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

Bogdanov affair


I read the article again. To make a long story short, it is a good article, but several things can be improved, in particular the first paragraph. Here are some suggestions :

  • The Bogdanov Affair is a controversy regarding the merit of [...] As fas as I know there was never any controversy about the merit of these papers. The discussions were about its true nature: hoax or appalling bad work. Then they were about what had made this crazy situation possible. I do not know how the rephrase it. I remember someone had written that it was an academic scandal, which seems to me equally incorrect.
  • describing what occurred before the Big Bang is also a bit misleading, although the brothers use that sort of phrasing in their popular science stuff. what occured at the Big Bang seems to me better.
  • when accusations were made on Usenet newsgroups Maybe gossip or rumor would be better, since (IMHO) people were somewhat impressed that someone could have succeded in doing such a hoax. Of course the brothers pretend that the rumor was done on purpose, but if you read Baez's first post, he says, in a rather polite way, that it is a hoax. I thonk that if the brothers had been clever enough to say then that it was a hoax, many people would have applauded them. Unfortunately, it seems they were really convinced they had dome some good work (which one may understand considering they work arund 10 years each on this stuff and without pay; at some point you have to convince yourself that the result is worth the price).
  • and have raised questions about the strength of the peer-review system that selected the research for publication. As far as I know everybody in the physicist community agrees to say the peer review system is not perfect. Maybe a more accurate way to say this would be have emphasized that the peer-review system can experience some failures (with a better rephrasing).
  • Maybe you could add the PhD date (1999 for G and 2002 for I) in the second paragraph.
  • Although there were issues related to the comprehensibility of their theses, they graduated conditionally upon publishing in journals that were respected in their fields. As far as I know it was only for I's thesis.
  • I do not like the last sentence of the 2nd paragraph. It is in principle the advisor's responsability to ensure the quality of the student's work. Most people in academia would agree the all these advisors (which were all old men) failed on the crucial issue.
  • if Igor could publish three peer-reviewed journal articles I think it's two, plus two positive referee reports for the thesis itself. At least this is what his advisor told me. However at the time of the defense, I had 3 accepted papers.
  • Max Niedermaier formed the opinion that maybe reached the conclusion that is better.
  • Niedermayer colleague's name is not known to me. As far as I know he never confirmed it was Ted Newman.
  • This controversy immediately attracted worldwide attention Again, controversy is not satisfactory.
  • which the Bogdanov brothers have continued to deny Maybe one should add that they posted in the very first thread (and probably already had some sock puppet supporters).
  • Maybe you should add that Niedermayer "disclaimer" was the first and last public statement he issued about all that.
  • It is not true that the brothers have had 15 thesis reports (this is was they say, of course). They lie in claiming this. G got three positive report for his thesis (from Majid, Gourevitch and Kounnas). I. got two positive reports for his first failed thesis (from Anselmi and Antoniadis), and two others for the successful (...) one (from Morava and Jackiw). They have also presented a number of other documents claiming that they were reports, but it is wrong. They are at best extract from email exchange between I's jury members and D. Sternheimer, insuring that some subsequent improvements of the manuscript had been done (which is true, despite the poor quality of the final version), according to the jury decision after the defense. Among these 7 true reports, two were obviously explicitely dismissed by their authors (I's first thesis referees, Antoniadis and Anselmi, who did not allow him to pass), one more was publicly dismissed (Majid, plus Antoniadis who told this in an interview [5] while Majid posted it in a newsgroup [6]). Three other referees have been quiet about it (at least in public) : Morava, Gourevitch, Kounnas. The only that remain is Jackiw. There is an interesting story about him. In the Ciel & Espace article, Jackiw criticized the French translation of his report (published in the brothers' book) as traduction extrêmement optimiste. However in some interview he said the thesis was ok (something like they were some ideas and some jargon - that's all what I ask). Now, if you look at the translation, there is nothing bad with it, except that one seemingly unimportant sentence is missing. It says I note that in the bibliography, page numbers are missing in many of the referenced articles, or they are inaccurate (e.g. Ref. 9). Also names are mis-spelled (e.g. Ref. 22). This should be fixed. I must say I do not know whether he was happy to say it was not his report, or if this sentence is crucial (i.e. when he says that the bibliography is incorrect he means that the whole thesis is bad). In any case, he was not very enthusiastic in talking about all that when I contacted him. So... first one should say that it is not 15 but 7, and second that no one (at one possible exception, Jackiw) supported them afterward. Only their advisor did, but again, he had to justify his decision to agree to let them pass (a hardly understable decision, imho). There would be much more to say about Morava's report, but I am not supposed to make this public.
  • In the Criticism of the papers section, maybe you could add that the CQG paper sums up most of G's thesis, but the paragraph are almost all in reverse orders (which casts some doubts about the coherence length of the paper...). You could add that one inequality are written of both orders ( and ) depending on which paper you look at, and that three papers are essentially identical (including the typos), except for their title and abstract. These are the Chinese journal of physics, Nuovo Cimento and Annals of physics papers. (Be prepared, however to a sock puppet invasion if you say that ! Sock puppet invasion remain a good test to check for the veracity and the relevance of any statement about the affair, however.)
  • In this section you may also add that some timid support were gooten by the Bogadanovs, but by people who seem to have some very bad opinion about Peter Woit and John Baez, who initiated the public part of the affair. So, according to the well known My enemies' enemies are my friend, I would not assert that Motl, Jadczyk and Poratti have really good opinion about the brothers. Again, one has to be careful saying that.
  • both under their real names, and under several pseudonyms; they later acknowledged doing so I would strongly support adding a partially after later (see the wp page, for example).
  • Maybe you should add that G's unpublished preprint was put on the web very soon after the beginning of the affair, and that it is the result they claim to be the central one of their thesis. However, if you look at G's thesis, no use of this (rather unimportant) result is done throughout the rest of the thesis. This paper was unpublished despite the brothers' claims that it was accepted for publication.
  • You can add Le Monde among the newspapers that mentioned the affair (it is said soon after).
  • Maybe Implications for the peer-review system is misleading since the affair revealed many aspects of the peer review system that were already known to scientists. Maybe another word instead of implication would be better, but I do not see which.
  • Questions were also raised in the sci.physics.research newsgroup about the fact that some aspects of theoretical physics have become so abstract, extensively relying on unproven conjectures, that verifying many statements written in published papers has become somewhat impossible. It is true, but rather unrelated to the affair, since the brothers lack the basics of any fields in physics. Only their mastering of the jargon is at first a bit impressive, but the rest is rather empty. So, it is true that many unproven conjectures exist here and there, and that there are papers that rely on papers which rely on unporen conjecture, but it is not the problem here. The problem (imho) is that referees and advisors did not do their job. What is not known is how many potential advisors the brathers met before finding one (the answer is: many; I know several of them, actually), and how many papers were sent to journal before some were accepted. The fact that three almost identical papers were published leads me to think that they sent the same paper to many, many journals.

OK, so I fear I will be accused of NPOV violation. Maybe one could consider adding some claims more or less defending the Bogdanovs (it is hard to find honest such claims, indeed).

  • Some people pointed out that the affair started just after the brother came back on TV with their Rayons X show, so that someone may have wanted to avenge from them.
  • Luc Ferry a French philosopher and very close frind of the brothers (it is said it is thanks to them that he met his wife) was Minister of Education in France during the affair. He wrote an article in French newspaper Le Figaro saying in substance I did not understand anything, but I enjoyed reading their fascinating book. (Mean people might notice that such behaviour was criticized by Alan Sokal...)
  • Some physicists, while criticizing the brothers, emphasized that they could help promoting reserch with their shows. Actually, one thesis referee told me that he accepted to be one of the brothers' referee after one of his Swiss post-doc told him he had come into physics thanks the the brothers' show Temps X he was fond of them when he was a teenager.
  • Daniel Sternheimer told more or less the same thing about the brothers, saying something like they are, or better, they were very good "sergents recruteurs" for science. ("Sergent recruteur" is the name of the people who did lots of efforts to convince young people to join the army.)
  • Université de Bourgogne nor French Reasearch agency did not do any public comment about this.

That's all for today. There would be much more to say (especially about the last point), but these are things involved people prefer to keep out of sight.

Regards, and good luck, Alain Riazuelo 00:48, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Thank you! This is exactly the sort of input I was hoping to get. To be honest, I haven't touched the lead to any great extent, since I've found it's always easier to summarize a thing when all the details are in place. However, the rule of thumb for this article seems to be that everything written during the big argument last year has to be re-written.
I will try to address the points you've raised. About your last item — it does make me wonder how the institutions with which I've had personal experience (MIT, ENS Lyon) would have reacted to a mess like this. Anville 17:18, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
P.S. I'm currently revising the article at User:Anville/Temp Bogdanov, and I copied your comments over here for scratch-work purposes. Anville 18:19, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Sally Walker

Great work on this! Metamagician3000 23:57, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Thanks! I figured I should do at least one good deed that day. (-: Anville 15:40, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

Say whaat?!!!

You wrote "I thought of a way to implement such a scheme without a 'political seachange' ". Seriously, I would like to hear that! ---CH 22:49, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

It'll take me a little while to write the thing up. My idea will require time and people, perhaps too much of either, and the original notion stemmed as much from my own vanity as anything else. More tomorrow. Anville 00:10, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

Thomas Pynchon

Thanks for your message. I'm not 100% sure why i tagged for immediate attention as i put the tag on almost two weeks ago. On looking at the article again, it does actually look very good, the main reason I can think of for tagging is that there are some long sections 'themes and influences' and '1990s and 2000s' that could maybe do with being broken-up or cut down. Let me know if you want to collaborate on anything, you seem to have interesting interests! --Tom 11:46, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

OK, I can see the justice in that (though I'm juggling too many eggs right now to undertake a major article revision). Personally, I wouldn't consider a couple overlong sections to be an issue warranting "immediate attention" — sometimes we have to reserve tags for really serious problems! — but I certainly appreciate your taking a look at it. I have occasionally thought about creating a "Timeline of Pynchon criticism" article roughly along the model of Timeline of Shakespeare criticism, though geared more toward summaries than listing quotations; the Pynchon article itself seems to me to have a pretty good length, but it would be nice to have a repository for additional information. This might help take the weight off the main article and allow those sections to be shortened, too. (See Schrödinger's cat in fiction, MIT in popular culture, References to Calvin and Hobbes, Setting of Calvin and Hobbes, Music referencing Bill Hicks and List of cyberpunk works for other places where I have tried this strategy.)
I expect to be awfully busy when Against the Day comes out. How quickly do you think we could read the book and write a fantastic article on it? Anville 19:12, 11 September 2006 (UTC)


Hi. I've been looking at Bogdanov Affair. Since I'm relatively new (less than 2000 edits), the top heading has kind of scared me off editing it, which I'd like to do for some fairly minor grammar points. That's not much of a worry, since I'll do that anyway at some point soon (I highly doubt I'd be mistaken for a sock puppet).... but I was wondering if you knew how long that ArbCom banner will be staying on the article? It seems to me that it's a pretty evil thing to have on an open encyclopedia. Thank Eris I wasn't involved in the whole scandal/wikiwarring. If you had any information about whether that banner will stay there permanently or not, I'd appreciate hearing. Thanks! --Storkk 22:24, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

PS. I ask you since you have the last 2 edits on the talk page and seem to know about the history of it. I'm not asking how long the ruling stays in effect (that, I gather (and hope) is permanent), just that banner. --Storkk 22:26, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
I wish I knew myself how long that banner will stay! I could see the wording being toned down maybe sometime soon, but I expect it'll take at least a few months without significant "sockpuppet theater" before the ArbCom could be persuaded that the hazard is past.
2000 edits should be enough of a safety margin — if you look at the category of banned sockpuppets, the vast majority of them jumped in on their very first edit. . . . Anville 14:16, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
P.S. If you care to try any more substantial edits, you may wish to look over Alain Riazuelo's comments above, which I copied here for scratch-work purposes. Anville 18:42, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Lubos Motl and the Bogdanov brothers

Hi. I've just edited the Lubos Motl article to link to his blog post about a Bogdanov paper, and added a quote from the post.

I personally don't think that LM's writing about Bogdanov affair merits inclusion in the article. It's only there because of User:GaeusOctavius, who has put negative stuff into that article several times. (His first effort read "Motl is an impassioned defender of the Bogdanov Brothers", which is clearly false.) This may be related to some off-wiki feud, just as Motl's positive comments about the Bogdanovs' paper could be in part motivated by conflict with John C. Baez. Anyhow, please check my version and improve it as you see fit. Cheers, CWC(talk) 01:47, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

I agree that it doesn't really merit inclusion, but as long as one editor insists on keeping it there, your version sounds good enough. I approve. See Alain Riazuelo's comments above for further speculation which agrees with yours. Anville 17:42, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

News from the Bogdanovs and Ciel & Espace

Les frères Bogdanoff déboutés and Peter Woit's Blog : "A French court has now decided the case against the Bogdanovs, fining them 2500 Euros for frivolous litigation and requiring them to pay the magazine’s costs."

This should definitely be included in the Wikipedia article, perhaps next month when the official announcement in the magazine itself could be referenced (I'got official confirmation by e-mail from C&E). 13:15, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will probably wait until an official announcement, so I can better follow the Reliable Sources guideline. Best wishes, Anville 17:50, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
Here is the official announcement from Ciel & Espace : Les frères Bogdanov condamnés. 12:47, 7 October 2006 (UTC)
Thank you again. I have read this article and incorporated it into Bogdanov Affair, under the section Media involvement. Anville 17:39, 7 October 2006 (UTC)

Headgear engineering

I was led from the Hutchison effect to pictures of John Hutchison himself, and found that he normally wears a particular type of headgear [7]. Intrigued, I tried to find out what it was. From there, I found the website telling people how to make these wondrous devices ([8], [9]), a deluxe form of tinfoil hat (I am not saying that this is definitely what Hutchison wears, but it certainly looks very similar, and you know how the saying goes, if the cap fits...). Anyway, the Wikipedia vanity piece on the "inventor" of this alien-abduction-stopping miracle-hat, Michael Menkin, is up for deletion. Contribute as you see fit.

Oh - and if you're remodelling your home, you might want to consider lining the ceiling with Velostat: according to Mr. Menkin, it is the most effective substance for keeping out alien mind control, and that way you and yours don't need to wear ridiculous headgear. Of course, by the time you get round to checking this, it might be too late... Byrgenwulf 13:01, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

You neglect the fact that my home may be the source of the mind-control rays. Anville 18:33, 18 September 2006 (UTC)


Thanks for the fixup to the intro of the RQM article. Only, I'm not sure I agree with the insertion of "dependent upon" [10]. The "state" isn't dependent upon the relation: in RQM, the state is the relation. As I understand it, that's one of the best, and weirdest, things about RQM (and philosophically the most interesting!). So I changed it back, but if you feel strongly, let me know. Byrgenwulf 22:09, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

'Fair nuff. Actually, what was getting to me was the absence of a verb after the "i.e." — the flow just seemed to be wrong, and in trying to fix it, I picked a bad solution. Not the first time that's happened, and the probability is high that it won't be the last, sadly. Anville 02:36, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
Well, since you drew attention to what is a problem, I put "the state is" in that spot [11] ...which seems to work. Byrgenwulf 09:34, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Re: Total number of physics articles

(Responding to your message on my talk page) The only way I know to get the exact number of Physics articles is to tag them all with Template:Physics, and then count the number of articles that are including that template. An alternative would be to count the number of articles in all of the physics-related categories (i.e. those on the list that I'm slowly working on), but that won't be as accurate as there will be a number of articles missed out, as well as a number of non-physics articles that are in those categories). I suppose you could say that those numbers are approximately equal, if you wanted. I believe that WP:AWB can count the number of articles in categories, and also what links/includes a certain page, using the "make list" function. As I haven't managed to persuade AWB to work properly on my Mac yet (using an emulated version of Windows), I can't be sure of that though. Mike Peel 07:11, 26 September 2006 (UTC)


How did the meeting with your Influential Person go? Byrgenwulf 11:22, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Everything is moving more slowly than I'd like. Monday was an MIT student holiday, for one thing (they have one "Anti-Suicide Day" off each month, typically arranged to yield a three-day weekend). So all the professorial types are out of their offices, pressed for time, rescheduling things, etc. The good thing about being close to MIT again, though, is that a project like this can be built almost literally out of spare parts lying around.
I've also been futzing with the technical side, getting MediaWiki under control and so forth. (This in the middle of starting a new job, too — I must've been dropped on my head when I was little.) Tomorrow I should have more information on all these fronts. Anville 01:38, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Looking forward to hearing about it. It's good to see the support and approval the idea is gathering on the WikiProject Physics board. I don't think the project is going to be short of contributors. In my experience, though, professorial sorts are always out of their offices, pressed for time, rescheduling things, etc., particularly when you really need to talk to them about something.
I have been caught up in a bit of a situation on loop quantum gravity, because I reverted an angry "expert rebel", User:Sdedeo, who linked to the blog of the Bogdanov's Knight Protector, and a page of abstract search results, with a "criticism" of LQG. He took exception, despite my clear (well, I thought it was clear) explanation of why his addition didn't work, and it turned nasty for a while. But at least it's cooled somewhat now. Byrgenwulf 02:04, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
I noticed the back-and-forth on the LQG talk page; for some reason, I have that page watchlisted, maybe because I like opportunities to argue, or else to act more sensible than everyone else and reap the karmic benefits of becoming the "voice of reason". Hopefully, though, this conflict will cool off, with or without actual progress being made on any article content.
The Knight Protector's blog entries on everyone's favourite TV personalities were among the most underwhelming things I read while researching that Affair. Ironically or appropriately, they were about on a par with the opposing Titan's chapter in Not Even Wrong. I happened to read in a review somewhere that said book includes a chapter on l'Affaire Bogdanoff, so when I saw it in a bookstore I decided to leaf through it (otherwise I doubt I would have bothered). The chapter starts with Woit saying he had himself been tempted to pull a Sokal-style hoax on the superstring community, but refrained because he wasn't really sure how much a hoax like that could prove — and then he ends the chapter by saying the Bogdanovs proved something about the superstring community! Obviously, something about the particular details of the Affair made it turn out differently than he anticipated (i.e., Woit does not have 20/20 precognition).
He goes on at considerable length about how Igor Bogdanov places Riga in Lithuania instead of Latvia. This is quite a gaffe, to be sure, but Igor was only quoting this message from a person named Rose, and repeating "nom de domaine lituanien" from the earlier message. Of course, the whole story is bogus: the Bogdanovs can't keep straight whether they went to Riga in 2001 or 2002, etc.
The fuss over the Latvian business distracts the discussion from a much more general and more interesting point. It is easy to claim that the Brothers B. demonstrated how the peer-review system fails, but in a broader perspective, the scientific community as a whole did its job. Otherwise, we wouldn't know about it. Taking the mess as an indictment of string theory obscures the Bogdanovs' method, namely to take jargon from all fields they could possibly contact and string those pieces into superficially plausible prose, so that no one person could be counted upon to know all the words they used. ("[I]t is one thing to use terms from many disciplines and sciences and another thing altogether to have a profound or even superficial knowledge of those same disciplines and sciences," said Borges of Shakespeare, rebutting the charge that the author of the latter man's plays had to be a more educated man than the bloke from Stratford.) In a parallel Universe where TQFTs are king and strings are unknown, the Bogdanov papers would have had an identical effect, even with all the words unchanged. (Igor Bogdanov, author of the Quixote!)
Anville 02:39, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Whew. That was a longer rant than I had intended. Anville 02:49, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Hehe. It happens. You make a good point though. Disturbingly, some people dumping papers on the arXiv (and sometimes even publishing them) don't even seem to understand the difference between approaches which use loop quantisation in general, and actual LQG (which is one of many). Read a paper by Rovelli or Smolin, and you have a picture of clarity, with minimal, and appropriate, use of jargon. But then move on to Big Wow theory (one of those to which I referred in the beginning of this paragraph), and one finds key terms idly tossed off the tongue here and there to cover up for lack of rigour and even meaning. But it gets published — because no-one is prepared to admit they don't understand it or disagree with it, in case they look stupid, or are proven wrong.
And this whole brouhaha with Lorentz invariance — ye gods. To be honest, I think that part of the whole thing is that people are desperate for "experimental results". So, they grasp at something, anything, which might allow them to be "the one" who confirms or falsifies the theory (and I believe there is a lot of that kind of thinking going on in the background). If playing up some silly pseudo-paradox over Lorentz invariance allows for an experimental test of a theory that amounts to "mathematical metaphysics", then so be it. It means that there is a chance of being the one whose name is recorded in the history books next to Newton and Einstein.
The Bogdanovs are just a couple of comical scapegoats, in a sense, for what is an endemic situation. Peer review is not really limited to journal editorial boards...a patois of jargon dressed up in what promises to be an original idea or two will evidently pass muster with some of them. But then, other people read the papers and comment on them. A major problem, I think, is that there are too many papers being generated to keep up. Every day, hundreds of them are submitted to the arXiv, and it is impossible to read all of them. So, if the abstract looks like rubbish, the paper is ignored. That's fine to a point: not every bad idea needs criticism. But then, one has incestuous circles of inter-citation starting to form, as bluffers cite other bluffers, until the idea gains a whole lot of credibility, simply because it has generated a furore in the literature. But that doesn't mean it's right. Byrgenwulf 04:03, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

I was going to remove this page from my watchlist, but I can't resist joining in this fascinating conversation. (I've also un-indented.) There's a big problem with filtering and aggregation of scholarly works. Up until (say) the 1980s, the system of hard-copy, typeset journals which required peer-review before publishing worked reasonably well, IMO. But since then:

  1. The number of academics has increased.
  2. Universities and colleges rely more on counting publications to assess their staff (as opposed to making judgements about the quality of someone's research or teaching).
  3. So doing peer review brings little personal benefit and costs time that could be spent producing papers, which does bring rewards.
  4. A very quick way of distributing preprints without waiting for typesetters, international mail, etc has arisen.

Sites like arXiv are much better at the making information available than the "old" system, but don't supplant the filtering or aggregation functions. Putting it that way suggests the broad outlines of a possible solution: aggregators who post brief notes about papers they consider worth reading, or even about papers they consider useless. Of course, to be a good aggregator you would need to be a recognised expert in the relevant field(s) and to spend lots of time reading papers, checking them out and writing about them, instead of doing your own research. How many universities would be happy for (say) a 50 year old professor to stop doing research and concentrate on telling other researchers which papers they should read?

Andrew Odlyzko has written some interesting papers about this (irony not intended). Cheers, CWC(talk) 12:25, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for pointing me to the Odlyzko papers; they are indeed interesting. In "Tragic loss or good riddance?" (1994), Odlyzko writes,
Scientists might not like to depend on systems that owe their existence to the demand for X-rated movies, but they will use such systems when they become available.
One can argue equally well in reverse, I think, and point out that Internet pornographers owe their livelihood to CERN.
The question now becomes, "How can we make aggregating papers (or contributing to a wiki, etc.) a worthwhile use of professors' time?" Collaborative systems live and die by their flux of contributions; the best way to ruin a wiki is a denial of participation attack. What can we offer which will make those universities happy that their fifty-year-old professors are putzing around on the Web? Some small hope exists, of course: universities are happy to see their professors write books, for example, and review articles appear to count towards one's citable publications. If it becomes in the administration's best interest to have faculty engaging in PLoS-style open peer review, then it will be in the faculty's best interest to do so, and the open peer review system will move forward. Anville 14:16, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Another paragraph I just love:
The first point that should be made is that electronic publication does not in any way prevent the maintenance of present publishing standards. Electronic journals can follow exactly the same policies (and might even have the same names) as the current paper journals. On the other hand, paper journals are no guarantee against unreliable results, since the practices Quinn deplores are common in some fields, and have been present for a long time. Thus the reliability of literature in any field depends primarily on the publishing norms in that field, and not on the medium. Quinn is right that electronic publication does present increased temptations to careless communication. Computers do promote a less thoughtful style of correspondence. However, that can also be said of the telephone, or even a good postal service. Just read the letters that people used to write in the 18th century. By today's standards, they tended to be literary masterpieces. The difference was that letters took a long time to deliver, and were expensive, so substantial care was taken in writing them. However, nobody is suggesting that the Post Office put a minimum 20-day hold on all letters (even if it sometimes seems they are trying to do it on their own) to promote better writing. In the transition to electronic publishing, we will just have to develop methods of coping with the new trends.
OMG! That makes me ROFL!! Anville 14:32, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Scientific wiki

It seems sort of appropriate that as I tried to access this page, Wikipedia told me in big, bold letters: "Wikipedia has a problem" (followed by "Sorry! This site is experiencing technical difficulties."). You mentioned at WP:Phys that you're setting up a mailing list for discussion of a scientific wiki; if/when you do this, I would be like to join the mailing list and help get the new wiki up and running. Mike Peel 15:08, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

Relevant RfArb

WP:RfArb#Pseudoscience vs Pseudoskepticism may be of interest to you. --ScienceApologist 17:46, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

It is of interest to me, but I doubt I could do much good there. Too many statements posted there seem to be, ahem, one vertex short of a Feynman diagram, and I'm a bit afraid that delving into that will induce brain aneurysms and/or spontaneous Wikipedian combustion. If I can get these old fingers of mine to produce a spectacularly elegant paragraph, I'll post it. Here's hoping that will happen.
Good luck. Anville 18:03, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
Even if you just post that you are an interested party, that would be helpful. Then if the case is accepted you will receive notice of the proceedings. --ScienceApologist 18:43, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
I will go and declare my interest. Anville 18:52, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
Done. Anville 19:20, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

Weasels and stoats

And would you look at this. I like this bit:

On the other hand, anyone who has attempted to write for a reputable large-circulation periodical knows full well that the editors of such periodicals are unwilling to devote any significant print space at all to ideas that are trivial, useless or uninteresting ("non-notable"), and thus that anything but a passing blow-off is proof of notability.

Are things like that in the US? They aren't like that in South Africa or the UK, I know that much for certain. Byrgenwulf 15:23, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

Unless the United States is radically different from all my impressions of it, no, that statement you quoted is not correct. It is, to put the matter bluntly, in flamboyant contradiction with obvious facts. Anville 17:07, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

New Scientist

Hi! Don't worry, Anville, you're not disturbing my peace and quiet.

If you or your friends want to tell the editor of New Scientist your concerns over their reportage of crackpot physics, please post a lucid, polite comment on their blog - they're having a discussion about their article on Shawyer's "Emdrive".

John Baez 16:33, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

Good to know. The past few months have been, as the saying goes, "interesting times". Now, off to see if I can say anything useful about that Emdrive business. I note with regret that not all of the comments on that New Scientist blog have been polite; strong language doesn't bother me too much, but I don't like providing the people running the discussion with an excuse to delete comments. Anville 17:05, 6 October 2006 (UTC)
Well, I decided to go and leave a piece of my mind over there. I really am trying very hard with this diplomacy thing...I was diplomatic to New Scientist and to Asmodeus, all in the space of an hour! Byrgenwulf 17:43, 6 October 2006 (UTC)
You make my mind, well, boggle! (-: Anville 17:45, 6 October 2006 (UTC)