Crackpots in my inbox

Often people ask me why I’m not more open-minded about ideas that defy the scientific consensus. Maybe global warming is just a conspiracy? Maybe Bell’s theorem is in fact wrong? Maybe the EmDrive does provide thrust without using propellant? Maybe the E-Cat can make cold fusion? I mean, it is not logically impossible for some outsider to be correct while the entire scientific community is wrong. Wasn’t Galileo burned at the stake (sic) for defying the scientific consensus? Why should I then dismiss this nonsense outright, without reading it through and considering it carefully?

Well, for starters the scientific method has advanced a lot since the time of Galileo. Instead of asserting dogma we are busy looking at every tiny way experiment can deviate from theory. And if you do prove the theory wrong, you do not get burned at the stake (sic), but get a Nobel Prize (like the prize gave for the discovery of neutrino oscillations in 2015). So I’m naturally very suspicious of outsiders claiming to have found glaring mistakes in the theory.

But the real problem is the sheer amount of would-be Galileos incessantly spamming researchers about their revolutionary theories (despite not being exactly famous, I get to join the fun because they usually write to every academic email address they find online. I can only wonder how Stephen Hawking’s inbox looks like). It is already a lot of work to keep me up-to-date with the serious papers in my field. Imagine if I also had to read every email that proved Einstein wrong?

Without further ado, I’d like to illustrate this point by showing here the most entertaining crackpots that have spammed me:

Probably the most well-known is Gabor Fekete, who has a truly amazing website to expound his theories (don’t forget to press Ctrl or click with the right button of the mouse while you’re there!). Apparently he doesn’t like the square root in the Lorentz factor, and has a nice animation showing it being erased. If you do that I guess you’ll be able to explain all of physics with eight digits accuracy. He has recently taken to spoofing his emails to make it look like they were sent by Nobel laureates, probably thinking that his theories would be accepted if they came from a famous source. While the forgery itself was well-made (one needs to look carefully at the source code of the email to detect it), the content of the email kind of gives it away. Maybe if he had spend his time studying physics instead of the SMTP protocol…

Another persistent spammer is Sorin Cosofret, who started a newsletter about his theories to unwilling subscribers. They are about classical electromagnetism, relativity, quantum mechanics, planetary dynamics, cosmology, chemistry… apparently everything is wrong, but he knows how to correct it. He also has a website, that if not as flashy as Gabor Fekete’s, is at least available in Romenian, English, French, German, and Spanish.

A more aggressive one is stefan:sattler, who has a problem with the known laws of planetary mechanics, and wants the scientific community to help in publicising his “Sattler’s Law of planetary mechanics”. After sending 5 emails in one month he lost his patience, and gave us 48 hours to do it, threatening to publish all our names and email addresses if we don’t (you know, the name and email addresses that are publicly available). He told us

Go now and REPENT – go now and try to offer redemption for the guilt and responsibility you all have loaded upon your shoulders.

Time is ticking – you have 48 hours – the JUDGEMENTS ARE BEING WRITTEN RIGHT NOW…..

I haven’t heard from him since.

More recently, I got an email from an anonymous crackpot who maintains a prolific YouTube channel in Croatian dedicated to showing that the Earth is flat. It was entertaining to see that the crackpot sent me emails to both my University of Vienna address and to my University of Cologne address, each signed as a different person pretending to be interested in whether the videos were correct.

If you want to defy the scientific consensus, first study it for a few years. Then publish a peer-reviewed paper (Reputable journals do accept some pretty outlandish stuff). Then I’ll listen to you.

9 thoughts on “Crackpots in my inbox

  1. “… would-be Galileos incessantly spamming …” All of my ideas on the foundations of physics might be crackpot rubbish except for this: MILGROM IS THE KEPLER OF CONTEMPORARY COSMOLOGY. Google “kroupa milgrom” and study the empirical evidence.

  2. Are you talking about Mordehai Milgrom, the father of MOND? He is clearly not a crackpot, as he has actually studied physics and publishes peer-reviewed papers in reputable journals.

    This does not mean, of course, that MOND is right. My opinion is that it is not, due to its ad-hoc nature and difficulty with the Bullet Cluster.

  3. Consider 3 questions: Is Milgrom the Kepler of contemporary cosmology? What is relativistic MOND? What is the meaning of MOND in terms of the foundations of physics? I suggest that MOND is empirically valid beyond a reasonable doubt (at least in the domain of its applicability). My point of view can be found by googling “witten milgrom”.

  4. David, you can simply post a link, there is no need to tell people to search stuff. As for your questions, maybe you should answer them yourself.

  5. I have attempted to answer the 3 questions but I might be on the wrong track. I welcome any criticisms — no matter how harsh and sarcastic — of the following:
    Consider 3 conjectures: (1) Milgrom is the Kepler of contemporary cosmology, and the empirical validity of Milgrom’s MOdified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) requires a modification of Einstein’s field equations. (2) The Koide formula suggests that there might be a modification of Einstein’s field equations. (3) Lestone’s heuristic string theory suggests that there might be a modification of Einstein’s field equations. Are (2) and (3) sure bets? No. Is (1) a sure bet? I say yes. I suggest that there might be 3 possible modifications of Einstein’s field equations. Consider Einstein’s field equations: R(mu,nu) + (-1/2) * g(mu,nu) * R = – κ * T(mu,nu) – Λ * g(mu,nu) — what might be wrong? Consider the possible correction R(mu,nu) + (-1/2 + dark-matter-compensation-constant) * g(mu,nu) * R * (1 – (R(min) / R)^2)^(1/2) = – κ * (T(mu,nu) / equivalence-principle-failure-factor) – Λ * g(mu,nu), where equivalence-principle-failure-factor = (1 – (T(mu,nu)/T(max))^2)^(1/2) — if dark-matter-compensation-constant = 0, R(min) = 0, and T(max) = +∞ then Einstein’s field equations are recovered.
    https://arxiv.org/abs/1301.3907 by Pavel Kroupa, Marcel Pawlowski, and Mordehai Milgrom. “The failures of the standard model of cosmology require a new paradigm.” International Journal of Modern Physics D 21.14 (2012): 1230003.
    http://www.weizmann.ac.il/particle/milgrom/ Mordehai (Moti) Milgrom, Weizmann Institute of Science
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koide_formula
    https://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0703151 “Physics based calculation of the fine structure constant” by John P. Lestone, 2009
    http://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/lareport/LA-UR-16-27659 Los Alamos Report LA-UR-16-27659 “Semi-classical Electrodynamics: A Short Note” by John Paul Lestone, issued 2016-10-05
    …” http://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/lareport/LA-UR-16-22121 J. P. Lestone, “Possible path for the calculation of the fine structure constant”, Los Alamos Report LA-UR-16-22121, April 2016, Los Alamos National Laboratory

  6. If you are interested in criticism, I would recommend you to write defend your point clearly and concisely. You have written so weirdly and posted so many links that it is difficult to understand what are you trying to say. Also, if you want to write equations you can just use LaTeX, using the normal \$ signs.

  7. I have several points. First point: Milgrom’s MOND is either empirically invalid or an immense paradigm-changing achievement. If MOND were empirically invalid then there is no way whatsoever that MIlgrom could have convinced McGaugh & Kroupa. Second point: the Koide formula is either a meaningless coincidence or a powerful clue that square -root(mass) has some profound, undiscovered meaning in terms of the foundations of physics. Third point: Lestone’s theory of virtual cross sections is either a misguided attempt at extrapolating intuitions on nuclear fission or an immense paradigm-changing understanding of the value of the fine structure constant and other aspects of the Standard Model. Fourth point: I might be wrong on the Koide formula & Lestone’s heuristic string theory, but I not wrong about MOND — there is too much evidence in favor of MOND — Milgrom is the Kepler of contemporary cosmology. Fifth point: Motl is correct when he says that I am incompetent physicist — maybe my ideas about the Fredkin-Wolfram network, the Wolframian updating parameter, Wolframian pseudo-supersymmetry, the monster group, the 6 pariah groups, 3 copies of the Leech lattice, and so on are complete rubbish — for every Galileo there are perhaps a million crackpots. Thanks for allowing me my spam session of crackpottery.

  8. Actually, Galileo wasn’t burned at the stake; probably you refer to Giordano Bruno. Galileo was forced to recant his theory on the solar system instead. Last remark: he was not defying the scientific consensus: at the time of Galileo, Copernicus theory had already been published and Kepler’s laws were already known. It was the Church’s belief that Galileo was defying.

  9. I know that Galileo wasn’t burned at the stake, that’s why I was putting “(sic)” in the end of the sentence. I was just being humorous.

    But he wasn’t just forced to denounce his theory, he was also sentenced to house arrest. And geocentrism was pretty much the scientific consensus at that time, there were only a few scientists researching alternatives to it.

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