Sep 19, 2005

Beware of Revolutionary Theories!

I was reading some posts in Physics Forums and found something you see a lot of times in the Internet. Physics Forums have the advantage that a lot of serious physicists and mathematicians participate in the discussions and, sooner or later, things like that disappear, although sometimes people could be really insistent.

What I'm talking about is "Revolutionary New Theories". People saying that they found a theory explaining all science in a revolutionary way. Sadly, the scientists never believe in the theory and the author feels marginalized. Then, he starts to write a web page so he can publish his "discoveries".

It is not too hard to a experienced scientist to identify these kind of false theories. I will not explain that in detail, I will just direct you to the sites below where you can find almost everything you need to know about that:

Crackpot Index - by John Baez

Are you a quack? - by Warren Siegel

Read it and take your own conclusions. What I intend to do in this post is just to give two little and quick tips to identify these kind of false stuff.

1. How many formulas can you find in the work? There is NO WAY to do science without math. Sorry, but that's true. If the work claims to be a professional work (for experts) and have almost no math, it is probably just waste of time. Note that when I say "professional" I'm excluding books and articles to divulgate science to non-professionals. I'm talking about works to be read and analyzed by scientists.

2. Take the name of the "theory" and of the author and try to find any paper related in arXiv. Today, almost every physicist and mathematician post there a preprint of their work. It is not a reviewed journal, but if the theory is not even there... something is wrong.

Remember that the above tips are just TWO little features you need to pay attention. The sites I linked above have a lot of more things you should check.

Be careful, Internet is good for acquiring knowledge, but it includes wrong knowledge too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Probably no one here, but anyway...

Tip #1 is obviously wrong. For example, if a theory contradicts itself (perhaps two postulates subtly contradict), that can possibly be pointed out without the use of math. For new theories, I agree though.

Tip #2 fails because arXiv censors anything that isn't mainstream enough (they reject it out of hand).

The best way to identify false stuff is to see a refutation that uses scientific principles, not employ censorship or illogic.