Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Skepticism/Pseudoscience/Archive 1

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Neutrality concerns

Guys, I'm not sure this is a good idea. You might accidentally delete something as pseudoscience merely because you dislike it.

Also, I'm not convinced that any of you are sufficiently grounded in NPOV policy to do this. Could you give me a few examples, before you start deleting articles? Uncle Ed July 8, 2005 01:19 (UTC)

The checks and balances involved in Wikipedia editing still apply. Any deletion attempt will have to go through Wikipedia:Votes for deletion, as usual, and won't succeed for any legitimate article. Similarly, this WikiProject does not magically make everyone involved a super editor - this is merely a way of formalizing guidelines for editing that each of us is already doing. Just as always, inappropriate edits can be rolled back by other editors, and abuse by anyone involved can be brought to the attention of Wikipedia administrators. For samples of my work, or anyone else's, check our user contributions. --Christopher Thomas 8 July 2005 01:33 (UTC)
You can also find a list of articles I've revised, and my editing to-do list, on my User page. By all means check my edits in the histories of the articles listed.--Christopher Thomas 8 July 2005 01:47 (UTC)
I second what Christopher Thomas said above. For myself, I don't think the pseudoscience articles currently existing, or at least the ones I've seen, should be deleted. They are notable, and important. Pseudoscience, if nothing else, has a purpose in that scientists can use it to better define what is science and what is not. (yes, this is my own POV, but not how I've been editting the pseudoscience articles, otherwise they would look much diffrerent} My own issue is that it is inaccurate, and misleading to portray psuedoscience -- for which wikipedia has a good entry on incidently -- as accepted science, or to say that a psuedoscience has verified claims, when it does not. Just my two cents Salsb 8 July 2005 03:22 (UTC)

Definition of pseudoscience

I've added a section at the beginning of "Scope" that quotes the definition of pseudoscience, and gives examples of physics claims that would and would not be pseudoscience. Is this a sufficiently clear introduction to avoid confusing newcomers to this WikiProject? --Christopher Thomas 8 July 2005 02:03 (UTC)

I think the first example needs to be elaborated on. When first published, it would not be fringe science. Assuming that the theory was tested, or the experiements repeated, and the theory did not hold up, then it could become fringe science or simply a mistake. Salsb 8 July 2005 03:38 (UTC)
From the definition given at fringe science, it would seem to me to meet the definition right off the bat. It's published reputably, making it both notable and fairly accurate to describe as "scientific inquiry", and it certainly "departs significantly from mainstream or orthodox theories" to claim that there are five quarks. Could you explain in more detail what threshold you feel it would need to cross in order to become fringe science? As for disproof, I'd argue that that would turn it into either a blind alley (if dropped), or a pseudoscience (if maintained as true despite disproof). However, it's possible that I'm interpreting things strangely, so I look forward to your comments. --Christopher Thomas 8 July 2005 04:58 (UTC)
After completely reading the definition at fringe science, I withdraw my objection. I should have done so first. My concern was begin too expansive in the definition of fringe science, but its explained clearly enough.

Further clarification of intent

I've added a "what this page is not" section that is intended to make clear to newcomers to this WikiProject that due process should always be followed, and that cabal-like behavior is not the intent of this project. My understanding is that all of the people already involved in this project know this, but I hope it helps to allay your concerns, and to ensure that this attitude of responsible editing is maintained as this project matures. --Christopher Thomas 8 July 2005 02:50 (UTC)

Not black and white

Whereas the criterion, that a theory never ever got a peer-reviewed article published, is a fine litmus test, generally speaking we have to deal with differnt degrees of pseudoness. See also Linas' comment at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Physics#The list of articles that attract crank edits.

Following his remarks I see these axis:

  • Historical dimension - for theories that at one time were considered mainstram. Typically these theories will be easy to handle as a valid topic in history of science, but some may attract new believers.
  • Publicity - how much attention in general media has been given to a theory
  • Reputation - are there defenders in academia? More than one? Did some papers made it to the preprint servers? To the Indian J Biol? To journals of varying reputation.
  • Timecubeness - how silly is the theory? This difficult terrain, as beginning to argue about some very strange concepts is Original Research in itself. But the worst offenders in this category will never have been subject to citable critique.

Pjacobi July 8, 2005 18:02 (UTC)

I have to concur, and I think we need to be very careful about not mixing pseudoscience and protoscience, especially as sometimes a field can move from pseudoscience and become protoscience once testable claims are made. I'm thinking of vitamin therapy, which is being tested in limited studies now, and so I'd say its moved into protoscience. I've been sticking to pretty clear cases myself.

  • Also need to make the distinction between psuedoscience and someone who is trying to write about something they don't understand well.
  • Incidently, I have easy access to citation and abstract databases, so I can usually check to see if a theory has been published, where and who has cited it where.
  • Salsb 8 July 2005 18:34 (UTC)

I agree that using publication as a decision criterion is imperfect; I was shooting for a criterion that would serve as a reasonable first approximation, and as a filter against obvious junk. As a need for serious publication was cited in the discussion and VfD for Harmonics Theory, if memory serves, I thought it was reasonable to use in the first draft of the WikiProject's decision criteria. For things like hitorically or culturally significant pseudosciences without a formal paper trail, it would of course be waived. Just remember the Harmonics Theory kerfluffle - Mr. Tomes claimed it was widely lauded, that he had speaking tours, and so forth, while no formal responses or seriously reviewed literature regarding it appeared (outside the Cycles club). Losing completely a requirement for serious journal papers makes it a lot harder to prove single-proponent theories non-notable or non-encyclopedic. --Christopher Thomas 8 July 2005 19:49 (UTC)

I was actually thinking partly in the other direction. How to weight the stuff which has got some paper trail and of course can get its own article, when it starts appearing in other articles. To give a list of "other articles" questions, based on real occurences:

  • Should mirror matter be mentioned on dark matter and if so, how prominently?
    • Small note under History may be OK
  • Should time cube be mentioned on calendar related pages?
    • Oh, no!
  • Should Tesla's explanation of the Ark of Covenant be mentioned there
    • Please, beware us.
  • Should Heim's mass and lifetime calculations be mentioned on every elementry particle page?
    • I'd prefer not.

Pjacobi July 8, 2005 19:59 (UTC)

My own preference is to leave the question of how to deal with pseudoscience insinuated into other articles out of the scope of this WikiProject, for the time being. As you point out, it's arguably even messier and harder to find decision criteria on than the question of how to properly format articles whose primary topic is a pseudoscience theory. However, if the rest of you feel strongly that it should be included in the project's scope, I'll see about rewriting the project page appropriately. --Christopher Thomas 8 July 2005 20:20 (UTC)
I'm wondering how concerned we should be about pseudoscience creeping into real articles; see the history of neutrino,Longitudinal wave and magnetogravity. Salsb 03:15, 17 July 2005 (UTC)

There is a similar issue with Longitudinal waves, coupled with a confusion between plasma waves and electromagnetic waves. Although I don't think there theory has spread elsewhere. Salsb 8 July 2005 20:18 (UTC)

Oh that one! It's related to Scalar field theory. German professor (at a Fachhochschule, a school of engineering) Konstantin Meyl [1] promotes this theory (and a lot of other strange stuff) [2], to the horror of his faculty. He even did sell demonstrator kits [3] for about 1,000 Euros. He has now outsourced that business (and quadrupeled the prices). That reminds me, we should pinpoint the business model behind some of the quacks. --Pjacobi July 8, 2005 20:35 (UTC)

An example

Partly to help reassure Ed, and perhaps also to help the discussion, and only slightly to ride my own hobby horse, I propose that the articles around Nikola Tesla as a subject for discussion. Tesla himself is not psuedoscience; but he does attract undue adulation which frequently descends into pseudoscience.

One example of this is dynamic theory of gravity. See the talk page and the edit history. I'm not proposing deletion for this page: the theory existed, at least as a concept in Teslas mind, and probably deserves a page as such. But the very little info available on the theory tends to bloat to pure speculation and unsupportable claims unless they are cut back.

Probably worse is the current state of the Tesla page itself. There are a lot of things there that are inserted on the basis of very vague information... claims about his contributions to robotics and the "AND" logic gate; radar; VTOL. Its hard to know: some of this stuff may be correct; more likely quite a bit is based on strectching thin info. someone with a good knowledge of the basic science needs to look through it carefully: I don't know enough to.

Rather oddly, List of articles related to Nikola Tesla appears to be unlinked from the Tesla page... perhaps because its on Wikipedia:Votes for deletion/List of articles related to Nikola Tesla VFD. Hopefully that list will die, because it links a vast list of implausible things... "Electrodynamic tether" for example (which goes to Tether propulsion). This is only an example of the cruft that accumulates around Tesla.

Hmmm well, enough ranting for now. William M. Connolley 2005-07-08 19:52:31 (UTC).

Oops, no it isn't, because another excellent example comes to mind: Ark of the Covenant, see [4]. William M. Connolley 2005-07-08 19:54:46 (UTC).

Case studies and sample article

I'd like to pause from the current discussion to ask for comments regarding the "green cheese" sample article. If its style is a reasonable approximation of what we want to shoot for with the templates, then I'll start making templates for the article skeleton and infobox. If changes should be made, then we should start discussing them (probably here, as they pertain to a wider scope than just the green cheese article). By all means bring in other WP:PNA/Physics regulars, so that we can get as many viewpoints as possible looking at this.

As a second item, it would seem to be useful to cite a handful of cleaned-up articles and VfDs as precedents to aid in interpretation of the decision criteria (which, as noted above, are at best approximations). Harmonics Theory would be a good example of a heavily contested article. The only other applicable articles I've had a hand in editing recently are Anti-gravity, Autodynamics, and "Chaotic gravitational waves", so I'd certainly welcome your own suggested case studies, as most or all of you have been editing for longer than I have. The final number picked should only be two or three (each chosen to illustrate a specific facet of the science/psuedoscience divide, of POV/NPOV, or of deletion criteria)--Christopher Thomas 8 July 2005 20:00 (UTC)

The Anti-gravity article seems admirably balanced and fair. It would be a good article to refer to. Salsb 8 July 2005 20:28 (UTC)

It's actually kind of an interesting case, in that it's not straight pseudoscience - both the original and revised article discuss both scientific and pseudoscientific views on antigravity. I'm not sure such an article would fall into this project's mandate (though we still haven't nailed down exactly what the scope of the mandate is). --Christopher Thomas 20:27, 11 July 2005 (UTC)

One of those

articles by User:Reddi, and hanging around since one year: Magnetogravity. <Insert curse of your choice>. --Pjacobi 22:34, July 11, 2005 (UTC)

A real term, magnetogravity waves {or modes}, which has been screwed up. There's a Science article, Trapped Coronal Magnetogravity Modes Yu-Qing Lou Science Vol. 272, No. 5261 (Apr., 1996), pp. 521-523 , which defines them as part of its introduction. It's a type of gravity wave, as opposed to a gravitational wave. Salsb 23:04, 11 July 2005 (UTC)

Yep. But our article never was never sane and on topic. It started as pure original quack, so that even Reddi's version must be judged an improvement. But nevertheless it is now a puzzle piece in the big Tesla/Scalar waves/... game. --Pjacobi 23:23, July 11, 2005 (UTC)

I made a redirect and a stub describing what it really is, but it could use work. Salsb 00:07, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

I'd strongly suggest moving this thread to Wikipedia:Pages needing attention/Physics, per the "what this project is not" section. We wouldn't want to be a cabal, after all :). --Christopher Thomas 02:41, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

FYI, the original megnetogravity article appears to contain many legit citations to the legit stallar physics phenomenon. linas 14:04, 18 July 2005 (UTC)
yes, see the talk pages. :) I went for the Science article, which also defined the term for scientists outside the field, rather than a small seemingly random selection of the literature. But feel free to add more references! That still needs to be done. Salsb 14:23, 18 July 2005 (UTC)
The very first version of Magnetogravity was a private ToE without any citation. The last Reddi version indeed had a larger literature list than the current Magnetogravity wave, so somebody actually knowledgeable in the field should decide what would be worth transferring. The hair pulling aspect of the last Reddi version is of course, how he mixed up everything, including the (in-)famous Whittaker 1903 & 1904 papers, which be now are cited by every serious pseudophysics theory. Poor chap must be rotating in his grave. --Pjacobi 14:26, July 18, 2005 (UTC)

Crank science in legit journals

Note that publication in a refereed journal need not mean that its good science. There are several journals devoted to the engineering topic of GPS, the global positioning system which gives us accurate clocks and rulers over the entire planet surface ... and clocks and rulers are the stuff of special relativity as well... A careful reading will show that about 1 in 30 articles are crank articles that "disprove" special relativity, "prove" that the universe is rotating (Sagnac effect between satellites), exhibit quantum effects or faster-than-light effects between satellites, etc. The peer reviewers that approve these articles are presumably electronics engineers and software programers who are weak on physics. I'm not clear on who the authors are, whether they are engineers that are part of the GPS fold, or outsiders. These same articles wouldn't make it in Phys Rev although they might survive in Foundations of Physics. The point is that getting published need not mean its legit; I suspect that many different engineering journals may print the random, occasional quasi-physics paper, which can then be trumpted as "publication in a peer-reviewed journal". See Heim theory for an example. linas 14:19, 18 July 2005 (UTC)

Heim theory is NOT an example of 'pseudoscience creeping into a journal'. Heim does not seek to disprove Einstein - on the contrary, this protege of Heisenberg & Jordan builds on General Relativity to form a theory of quantum gravity. Several theoretical physicists are working on it and New Scientist wants to issues an article on it and its links with Loop Quantum Gravity. Let not ignorant pseudo-criticism redound to the detriment of Wikeipedia! --hughey 17:25, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
Also, please note that citation counts on citation servers, such as, can be terribly misleading. For example the author B.G.Sidharth superficially looks very legit; he has the impressively titled "Quantum Mechanical Black Holes: Towards a Unification of Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity" and his most popular paper has an impressive 83 citations. On closer examination shows that all but about seven of these citations are from other papers he's written. Even these seven citations look questionable. The citations for his less-popular articles are just as bad: his self-citation rate exceeds 90%, and only 3 out of 30 citations weren't his own... and the three citations that weren't his were written by people talking about quantum consciousness (none were physicists; one was an MD!) linas 00:29, 19 July 2005 (UTC)
Google scholars is a horrible citation server. I wouldn't even call it a citation database even; it doesn't cover the scientific literature completely, and it covers lots of junk. when I say citation database, I mean a real one like Web of Science, or SciFinder. Salsb 00:38, 19 July 2005 (UTC)

Another example here :)

Count Iblis 16:32, 20 July 2005 (UTC)


Should this project handle only (ha! - trouble enough) Category:Pseudophysics, or all of Category:Pseudoscience, including Category:Pseudohistory? Anybody dare to look at New Chronology (Fomenko)? --Pjacobi 23:11, July 18, 2005 (UTC)

Just stumbled across an example, which even has some relations to phyisics: Is Holonomic brain theory in scope? --Pjacobi 19:28, July 24, 2005 (UTC)
Probably. linas 21:34, 10 September 2005 (UTC)


I am sorely tempted to VfD Can Bohr's complementarity be tested? as original research. See Talk:Can Bohr's complementarity be tested? linas 15:01, 19 July 2005 (UTC)

New category

Category:Aether theories. I'm all for WP:CFD just for formal reasons (half of the categorized pages don't fit and without them, it's a rather small category. OTOH it's a fine watchlist. --Pjacobi 16:56, July 24, 2005 (UTC)

Looks legit and appropriate to me. I think this is an outgrowth of talk on talk:luminiferous aether. Also, Category:Articles relating to aether theories would not be a good category name. linas 18:43, 24 July 2005 (UTC)
OK, but I'm still thinking in terms of categories which are an "is-a" classification, and in this reading it doesn't make much sense. --Pjacobi 18:46, July 24, 2005 (UTC)

Sabbatical, and a couple of notes

I'm on a "wiki-sabbatical", and will probably remain on sabbatical for at least several more weeks. Apologies for failing to follow up on a handful of tasks I said I'd get to as a result. The following items should probably be dealt with, though:

  • Someone get in touch with Ed Poor via his talk page, and follow up re. his concerns with this WikiProject. Responses have been posted here and on User talk:Salsb, but I haven't seen much (on here at least) indicating whether or not he considers the responses satisfactory. Note - He's on vacation until August 1st.
  • Please, please move discussions re. specific articles to PNA/Physics, or preferably start them there, as opposed to here. This is starting to look like the PNA/Physics break room, and that was not the intention I'd had when proposing the WikiProject. I realize that I'm not in a position to do anything more than just _ask_ that this be done, but I feel it's important to send things through their proper channels to the greatest degree possible. Otherwise we'll get more anons yelling about collusion.
Sorry about that myself. I hadn't found PNA/Physics before you mentioned it above. Salsb 00:27, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

I'll get back to "Green Cheese" article comments and template construction as soon as I return from sabbatical. Thank you for all of your continued efforts! --Christopher Thomas 00:03, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

Intelligent Design?

I know a lot of scientists consider ID to be pseudoscience... just wondering if the people on this project considered that to be within their scope or not. David Bergan 17:39, 17 August 2005 (UTC)

On one hand, it probably fits the definition of pseudoscience, but on the other hand, it's enough of a land mine topic that _I'm_ certainly not touching it. Your mileage may vary. --Christopher Thomas 04:34, 10 September 2005 (UTC)
All scientists consider ID to be pseudoscience. The real question is how much energy everyone may have to engage is endless running editorial battles. If you do need help, it is appropriate to bring things to attention here, and maybe someone will help. linas 21:47, 10 September 2005 (UTC)
My impression Linas (given what you just said) is that he doesn't want your help. --CSTAR 03:25, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

Process physics

Help!!!! Were it not for the university reference, I'd call this pure, unadulterated pseudophysics. Hell, even with the university reference, its still unadulterated pseudoscience. My patented smell-o-meter finds the following problems:

  • Uses the words quantum foam
  • Explains everything, everywhere (rather than focusing on single, verifiable claims)
  • Must be correct because it explains dark matter
  • Must be correct because it makes predictions about things which haven't ever been measured, e.g. Gravity Probe B
  • Finds support in controversial experiments (the coax-cable interferometry experiments) and the Pioneer anomaly.
  • Fails utterly and completely to explain how we ever got this far without such a far-reaching vision. (Forget the Pioneer anomaly, can process physics even begin to explain simple things like Newtonian gravity?)

-- linas 18:17, 11 September 2005 (UTC)

Discussion should continue at Talk:Process physics.
And possibly at Wikipedia:Pages needing attention/Physics. --Christopher Thomas 20:00, 12 September 2005 (UTC)

ErkDemon's articles

Yes, I know that this isn't exactly the vest place to call for help, but that one gave no responses.

It's the 63.24.*.* anonymus vs User:ErkDemon (alleged to be identical to Eric Baird).

Can someone makes enough sense out of this battle, to suggest a route of action.

Pjacobi 17:32, 12 October 2005 (UTC)

I followed this trail to Acoustic Doppler effect. I couldn't see any point to the article, so I redirected it to doppler effect. Oh lordy. William M. Connolley 19:33, 20 October 2005 (UTC).

Interpretation of quantum mechanics

Some Interpretation of quantum mechanics are clearly pseudoscience, and Wikipedia's present article on this subject seems to be free of pseudoscience, at least as far as I can see. Actually, I'm surprised that more crap isn't in there. I confess that I have little skill in differentiating plausible interpretations of QM from the "I am totally out of my mind" interpretations of QM, especially since bizarre ideas like "many worlds" are scientific and rational! (Anything "New-Agey", however, rings my BS detector immediately.) As such, I would like people here to take a look at some recent additions I made to the article on Interpretation of quantum mechanics, to make sure that these ideas are presented fairly. RK 15:55, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

That particular article should not discuss particular interpretations but what an interpretation is. The best solution is present each interpretation in its own article. I have worked on that article considerably, although I am not still not happy with it. The most lucid discussion of interpretation is I believe, Roland Omnès' book listed in the references. Nevertheless, Sunny Auyang's book How is Quantum Field Theory Possible contains a gem of a definition in the first two paragraphs of Chapter V.--CSTAR 04:30, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

"Why speak of an Aether"

Links to "Why Speak of an Aether? Scientific theoretical research, 2001: Aether as dynamic massfree energy, Matter as Aether energy imprisoned in electrically stable constructs, OR and DOR ambipolar radiations, Orgone subtype of aether energy, generation of Space and Time, Gravitational fields and 'latent heat',..." and to aetherometry are appearing now on at least Luminiferous aether, Etheric plane, Aetherometry, and Aether theories. While it might be appropriate on Aether theories, with a different description, since that article mixes pseudoscientific and historical theories, it doesn't seem approriate elsewehere to me. Would someone else take a look at this as well? Salsb 19:20, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I removed it from Aetherometry since it was (a) POV (the science bit) and (b) there were plenty of links to already. I can't see it on Luminiferous aether though. William M. Connolley 19:37, 26 October 2005 (UTC).
I removed it from Luminiferous aether Salsb 19:39, 26 October 2005 (UTC)