Propaganda and censorship in physics

Last time, I was talking about propaganda and censorship in politics. As most people know, things have been getting rather Orwellian recently. Free speech is under attack. People have lost their jobs because “all lives matter” is somehow racist. Left-wing activists are pushing for censorship on the pretence that all opposing views are hate crimes. On top of that certain so-called journalists are peddling fake news and doublespeak “fact checks” in a patent blatant fashion. I’d say Bari Weiss’s resignation letter is a sign of the times. That’s the New York Times. She said “if a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinised”. She also said “online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets”. The situation is not good, and it’s been getting worse. As for what’s been going on, I think it’s like Rich Lowry said in the National Review: “America’s newsrooms are becoming like college campuses”.

In academia, propaganda and censorship is a way of life

We all know about the no-platforming censorship in places like Oxford and Cambridge. But not everybody knows that this policy started a long time ago. Here in the UK, the National Union of Students adopted it in 1973. Note though that it isn’t just the students doing this sort of thing. In academia, propaganda and censorship is a way of life. They fight like ferrets in a sack. Intolerance is rife, groupthink is the norm. Do you remember Climategate? I’m a real green¹, but that left a bad taste in the mouth. Scientists at East Anglia fiddled the statistics, deleted data to dodge FOI requests, bullied dissenters, and tried to prevent publication of contradictory papers. They even tried to erase the medieval warming period:

Battle of the graphs image from the Arizona Daily Independent

James Delingpole said “the incompetence, corruption, malfeasance, bullying, and mendacity by these taxpayer-funded scientists was just so widespread and blatant”. It was blatant, but they’ve been getting away with it because for some, the Goebbels big lie works. Sections of the media kept pumping out the propaganda, and now the Wikipedia article contains gems like this: Fact-checkers confirmed that climate change deniers misrepresented the contents of the emails”. Compare and contrast with the Conservapedia article. Do your own research and think for yourself.

Academics live in a dog-eat-dog world

When you do, you come to appreciate that such behaviour isn’t just limited to climate science. It’s there in physics too. Luboš Motl is shining example of that. He’s a somewhat unpleasant individual who promotes string theory and other speculations such as AdS/CFT correspondence. He has a blog called The Reference Frame where he censors contrary comments, then badmouths their authors whilst blackballing them so they can’t reply². Propaganda and censorship run through Motl like the lettering through a stick of Blackpool rock. Why is he like this? Was he over-indulged as a child? Did he attend some bastion of privilege in his formative years? I don’t know. But I think part of the problem is the way academics live in a dog-eat-dog world. If you’re a physics graduate, it’s tough to get a job in physics. Only about 15% manage it, then life as a postdoc is insecure and competitive. It can be an unhappy experience, especially since only about 8% of PhDs will ever become professors. With so much competition I imagine some postdocs are tempted to do everything they can to further their own interests. Then perhaps self-promotion can morph into propaganda, and the pressures of publish or perish can lead to academic dishonesty. Meanwhile there’s surely a desire to curry favour with the “experts in the field” who can use peer review to prevent any challenge to their status quo:

Peer review by Nick Kim, see Science and Ink

So it’s look after number one along with run with the herd. It’s tooth and nail and don’t make waves. On top of that there’s sometimes an intellectual arrogance that comes from thinking you’re the brightest and the best. Of course, Motl isn’t in academia any more, but he didn’t turn bad after he got kicked out of Harvard. He turned bad long before that.

Peer review is a protection racket

Of course, not all physicists are like Motl. Some are great people. However these are often the people who aren’t in academia, or the people who tell me they can’t get their rock-solid fundamental physics paper published in Nature. Even though it’s always got room for a paper with quantum in the title. These are the people who say things like please don’t reveal my name because I’m a walking talking example of don’t rock the boat or you’ll never make full professor. I get a definite sense from them that peer review is a protection racket. It protects professors and institutions with a vested interest in current theory. Hence it stands four-square in the way of scientific progress. Peer review is portrayed as an essential quality control, but I think it enforces an orthodoxy that shields “the mainstream” from any challenge. Not only that, but I think scientific publishing permits this racket because it is in itself a racket. Joe Public pays for scientific research via taxes and funding grants, then has to pay again to read the results of that research:

Image by Jorge Cham from PhD Comies found on The Academic Publishing Protection Racket by Philip Tagg

Scientific publishers make fat profits from their cosy relationships with the experts in the field, who are often the paymaster heads of departments and directors of institutes. Who in turn have cosy relationships with the wider media. Meanwhile science editors do not bite the hand that feed them, so here we are.

The arXiv has its “moderators”

Some might say that peer review isn’t important any more, because physicists can publish their work on the arXiv. However the arXiv has its “moderators”. Only they’re not really moderators. They’re gatekeepers. See Brian Josephson’s 2004 article on covert censorship by the physics preprint archive. Scratch the surface and you soon find things like does anyone have experience with arXiv policy? by Jean Dutailly dating from 2014. I think Herb Spencer hit the nail on the head with his comment saying “this is still a conservative Old Boys Club to promote & protect the insiders; just like the ‘refereed’ journals used to boost their careers”. Also see the suppression of Dr Rowlands’ quantum physics paper on the archive freedom website. There’s other case histories, including some which are utterly Kafkaesque: I can’t upload my paper. You now need an endorser. OK, Hans Bethe endorses me. Sorry, not good enough. OK I’ve found another guy to endorse me. Aha, we’ve revoked his endorsement capability. That doesn’t sound too good does it? It isn’t. That’s why Philip Gibbs set up viXra. He says the arXiv was originally open to submissions from all scientific researchers, but gradually a policy of moderation was employed, then an endorsement system. He goes on to say that in 2004 “many of us who had successfully submitted e-prints before then found that we were no longer able to. Even those with doctorates in physics and long histories of publication in scientific journals can no longer contribute to the arXiv unless they can find an endorser in a suitable research institution”. So in essence the guild of institutional physicists who receive public funding managed to shut out the physicists who don’t. They turned it into a closed shop. Not good at all.

Moderators are thought police

What’s worse is that we have “moderators” on just about every physics website you care to name. Only again they aren’t actually moderators. They don’t break up arguments and deal with bad behaviour. Au contraire, it’s like Bari Weiss said: “online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets”. Those moderators are thought police. If you tell people that Einstein said the speed of light is spatially variable, or if you tell them that the ascending light beam speeds up, you’re heading for trouble. That’s because you’re saying Stephen Hawking is wrong, because he talked about “such a strong gravitational field that even the ‘outgoing’ light rays from it are dragged back”. They aren’t dragged back. In a strong gravitational field there’s a steeper gradient in the “coordinate” speed of light, so the ascending light beam speeds up even more. The moot point is that if Hawking is wrong, most of black hole physics is wrong, along with Misner Thorne and Wheeler. This tends to get rejected on hubristic grounds rather than via evidence and reason.

Free speech is not permitted on physicsforums

That was demonstrated in the recent comment by “Alphanumeric”. His real name is George Weatherill. He has a maths BA and MA from Cambridge, and a physics PhD from Southampton. His father is Nigel Weatherill, the former vice-chancellor at Liverpool John Moore who left suddenly. George’s comment was unpleasant. He said “every single respectable forum you ever joined either kicked you off or had your claims shredded by actual physicists”. The first part is mostly true, the second part isn’t true at all. I was banned left right and centre because nobody could shred what I was saying. You can first see me talking as user “Farsight” on physicsforums.com in 2006. I was actually banned there for duplicate accounts because I re-registered whilst suspended. My bad, I was just starting out. But even then you could see the rumblings. See for example why can we not see the future where I was talking to JesseM about time. Then “moderator” Zapperz came along and closed the thread. He said “this thread has gone on far too long, and has verged on many speculative ideas”. Free speech is not permitted on physicsforums³. Years later I posted there under my own name. That was fun, but it didn’t last long. Like I said, free speech is not permitted on physicsforums³. It is the ultimate safe space, a hotbed of censorship, under the pretence that they’re protecting young minds. The truth is they’re trying to catch ‘em young, and Greg Bernhardt is fine with that. (Edit 2nd August 2020: I’ve just seen this fine example of censorship of physicsforums, accompanied by the usual ad-hominem nonsense. Tsk. I’ll see if I can ask a friend to have a word.)

Against the mainstream

It’s similar at scienceforums.net, where “moderator” Tom Swanson chucked my threads in the trashcan and banned me. Even though my posts were good. Or should I say because my posts were good. That was especially true of the BAUT forum, now called Cosmoquest. My threads there were excellent. See for example Einstein’s Gravity in the Against the Mainstream section in 2009. I won the debate hands down, so they banned me on some trumped-up charge. I didn’t know BAUT later became Cosmoquest, and registered a year or two ago as the physics detective. After a while I realised the place was familiar, and told the guys. The next day I was banned for the reason sockpuppet. Once these people decide you’re dangerous, it’s a life sentence. Another forum I frequented was sciforums.com. There were some good guys on there, but gradually it went downhill, with ever more “moderation” and abuse. However I’m not visibly banned there. They just stopped me posting in the physics and math section. The warnings I received from rpenner were just ridiculous. He didn’t want any talk of spin:

In my experience the “moderation” and abuse tends to get particularly bad if prove your point. Take a look at my posts on thephysicsforum.com. See for example The Varying Speed of Light dating from 2014. It gives some great references, including a whole rack of Einstein quotes, but “moderator” Markus Hanke kicked it into a trashcan called personal theories and alternative hypothesis. Then he banned me, whilst doing nothing about the abuse. It was similar at thescienceforum. Banned. And at the naked scientists of Cambridge. Banned. You can view my posts by entering Farsight or JohnDuffield here. They’re good posts. That’s why I got banned. It’s the same at the international skeptics forum, formerly known as JREF. Banned. Banned. Banned. The censorship is endemic, and it’s been going on for years. The unpleasantness has been going on for years too. All too often the moderators condone it, then penalise you for answering back. Sometimes they even join in. What a pity I can’t show you the physorg forum, where things were really nasty. But it turned into a huge embarrassment, and now it’s long defunct. What else? I was shadowbanned at Reddit because of the “evidence” of a hit-piece page on RationalWiki. I managed to show the RationalWiki guys that I was one of the good guys, so they deleted it. However they didn’t delete the associated talk page which some still try to use as a hit piece. The dishonesty is despicable. It is a disgrace.

Self-appointed experts peddle bad science, pseudoscience, and lies-to-children

I think one of the worst examples is physics stack exchange. It’s a question-and-answer website where self-appointed experts peddle bad science, pseudoscience, and lies-to-children. All too often certain answers are amazingly incredibly wrong, and yet when you wake up next morning, they’ve got fifty upvotes. I’m confident that a certain high-rep poster with a PhD from Cambridge, who now monitors servers for a living, has a awful lot of online friends.

Sock puppet images from various sources, see Google images

Meanwhile woe betide anybody who has the temerity to give a correct answer backed up by impeccable references. Moderators like dmckee would use the chatroom to slyly call for downvotes. Then before anybody has had the time to read your answer, you find that it‘s got thirteen downvotes. Then unluckily for you, you get an email talking about “a large number of inaccurate, poorly-received answers”. The last line says “we have temporarily suspended your account; you may return after 365 days”. Meanwhile your explanatory comments disappear but the abuse doesn’t. Because as ever, those guys aren’t moderators. They’re custodians of ignorance. They’re the sneering secret police, administering punishment beatings and making people disappear. That’s because their primary role is to guard things like MTW and the Standard Model against all threat. Including E=mc². If you say “the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content”, you are persona non-grata. Because they’ve been telling everybody that the mass of a body is a measure of its interaction with the Higgs field.

A spectrum of propaganda and censorship along with intellectual arrogance

Sadly some physics bloggers share similar traits. Some are arrogant, some peddle bad science, and some have surprisingly little physics knowledge. In addition some see their blog as their very own safe space for self-promotion, a place where deleting physics comments is just fine and dandy. I think more and more people appreciate this. Whilst Lost in Maths author Sabine Hossenfelder is no Luboš Motl, I think a lot of people now appreciate that her blog is the Sabine Hossenfelder show. If your comment refers to “Einstein and the evidence” but somehow shows her in a bad light, that comment will never see the light of day. It’s similar on some other blogs. Not all blogs are like that of course, only some. I’ll perhaps write about that sometime. For now I’d say there’s a spectrum of propaganda and censorship along with intellectual arrogance⁴. Perhaps it’s related to academic seniority. It’s as if some of these people think all their readers are their pupils. Did you ever try correcting a schoolmaster? They have a bad habit of going white round the gills and hyperventilating, then they get really angry. I think it’s even worse when the guy has a PhD, and worse still when he’s a professor. The sentiment seems to be that he’s the expert, and you’re just some munchkin who knows nothing. And who notices nothing.

He portrays himself as some white-knight champion of the people, but he’s nothing of the sort

Talking of which, take a look at Peter Woit’s blog, and have a read of his post on censored comments from The Reference Frame. The irony is breathtaking. Woit complains about Motl censoring comments, when Woit is one of the biggest comment censors there is. He portrays himself as some white-knight champion of physics, but he’s nothing of the sort. He criticises string theory, but he’s also a sneaky apologist for the Standard Model. Try posting something critical of the Standard Model on Woit’s blog, and your comment will disappear. Meanwhile Woit will keep on pumping out the propaganda for HEP. Don’t believe me? Note that Woit’s latest article What is spin? finished with a puff-piece for CERN. Now check out this comment I posted on that article:

Those are great references to Hans Ohanian’s paper What is Spin?, Born and Infeld, and the Feynman lectures. But that comment wasn’t awaiting moderation. It was awaiting deletion. Woit deleted it⁵, because Woit is the Benedict Arnold of fundamental physics. He is the cuckoo in the nest. He won’t permit such a comment because once you know that the electron is a dynamical wave construct, you soon work out that the electron and the positron move akin to counter-rotating vortices. Then you appreciate that there are no messenger particles. Which tells you that Carlo Rubbia cannot have discovered the W boson or the Z boson. It also tells you that charge is just a name for a sinusoidal electromagnetic field-variation wrapped and trapped in a chiral spin ½ loop so it looks like an all-round standing field. That tells you that color charge has no foundation, and nor does the quark model. Which tells you that Fermilab couldn’t have discovered the top quark. You also appreciate that the electron’s mass is just resistance to change-in-motion for a wave in a closed path. Which tells you that CERN couldn’t have discovered the Higgs boson.

A guild that’s been living a life of ease on the public purse

After all that, the whole ivory tower of lies-to-children comes tumbling down. Then you come to appreciate that the fundamental physics community is like a guild that’s been living a life of ease on the public purse. They haven’t delivered any scientific progress in over fifty years, ever since Feynman and Gell-Mann sat smirking in the front row in 1968. Instead they’ve stood in the way of scientific progress, using your money. I don’t think the situation can persist. That’s because we have the internet, because people aren’t stupid, and because there’s such a thing as the wisdom of crowds. Every year more and more people know about the physics I’ve been telling you about. Physics with a pedigree going back to Newton and Maxwell and Einstein and Schrödinger. Every year more and more people know that this physics has been censored by those who tell you the electron is a point particle and spin is magic. It’s been suppressed by a magisterium of mysticism which has dug itself into a hole with “discoveries” that are nothing of the kind. An elitist fraternity which has painted itself into a corner with the big-science scientific fraud used to prop up the Standard Model. A physics mafia that does not believe in free speech in science and cannot admit that it‘s wrong. And so it comes to pass that you come to appreciate what Alexander Unzicker has been saying:

Cover image from Amazon.co.uk, see The Higgs Fake

People say we should defund the BBC, because they use our money to pay for their propaganda and censorship and fatcat salaries. But the BBC are just the tip of the iceberg. This sort of thing has been going on in physics for fifty years. We think we’ve been funding fundamental physics, but actually we’ve been funding the propaganda and censorship that has stifled it. That’s why Unzicker is saying we should defund fundamental physics, because it’s corrupt. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s right. I certainly think we have to do something major, because physics is withering on the vine. As for what, that’s one for another day. Meanwhile, I know that other people share this sentiment, and the number is increasing all the time. So I don’t think the current situation will continue. I think there’s a scientific revolution coming. Make sure you’re on the right side of it.

 

  1. I must write about this some time. Don’t think that I think, that the works of man cannot affect the climate. Think this instead: I hate the word “denier” because it’s the modern equivalent of “heretic”. I also hate it when the guy who tells me I shouldn’t have a natural gas boiler flies 200,000 miles a year in a private jet. Did anybody notice how clear the skies were when the planes stopped flying?
  2. This is so well known it’s now a badge of honour to be worn with pride.
  3. It’s like the first rule of fight club.
  4. Let me know where this blog is on that spectrum. Long wave radio? Ultraviolet? Hard Gamma?
  5. I posted it again a couple of days later to make sure there was no mistake. Woit deleted it again. Perhaps it will appear in a couple of weeks when the world has moved on. Always save your comment when posting to a blog.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. the physics detective

    It looks like I’m still shadow banned at Reddit. I ought to mention it I suppose.
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  2. Greg R. Leslie

    Another great read John. Keep plugging away at the Academic Fascists, for their feet are truly made of clay and will eventually crumble under from the weight of their own hubris.

    1. the physics detective

      Thanks Greg. I’ve been doing some physics too. And I was tickled pink with this: http://physicsdetective.com/articles/articles-on-gravity-and-cosmology/. A simple little page that puts all of the gravity and cosmology articles together in a sensible list. Now why didn’t I think of that before!
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      Is it me or is the CAPTCHA much improved? I haven’t done anything about it other than look for something better and growl.

  3. Dear John,

    physics is indeed a mess, not much better than politics. Your article hits the mark. Good luck with your fight, and don’t let yourself disturb too much by the nonsense.

  4. JesseM

    I found your blog last week and I’ve enjoyed every post (I think I’ve read them all at this point). There were a lot of times when I found myself asking out loud: Are you me?

    I agree with you on pretty much everything. Maybe I’m putting words in your mouth, but what I’m getting is that E&M are the only two fields (well, two aspects of the same field), everything else we observe is some kind of derivative or consequence. Of course, that doesn’t tell us why E&M behave the way they do. But I have metaphysical ideas about that.

    I think maybe even gravity is explainable in this scenario. As you say, light goes slower when it’s lower, but why? Does it take more time to traverse the denser field lines? That is, in my imagination, I can see how there are fields lines going everywhere, all the time, and always changing subtley. Of course these lines would be more dense where there is more activity – so any place you have a bunch of atoms, you’ll have more field lines. As you get further away, those lines are less dense. So, like you say, you’re driving in a car and one wheel hits a patch of mud, the car turns. So anything moving past a mass is going to be deflected by it because it has to interact with its field. So while what we call mass is an approximate measure of the density of those field lines, it’s still an approximation. With this idea, it’s not mass that causes gravity, but a torque, created by the EM field density gradient of that mass.

    You gave me an idea about the reason for matter / antimatter imbalance, and it’s not because one side won. But first, you make an excellent point that we should consider total electron spin momentum vs that of the protons. It would be interesting if we found they balanced out pretty well. Regardless, here’s the idea. Imagine you have something with neutral spin (balanced somehow, or at least symmetric in its rotation so that there’s no net spin one way or another) – I will argue that normal light fits this description. As in pair production, the photon with the right frequency goes by an atom and, for whatever reason, it splits into two entities with opposite chirality – electron, positron. So far, these are all things you’ve talked about so forgive me if I’ve gotten a detail wrong, and the idea is this: what if the electron that comes out is always closer to the atom. The electron piece wants to keep curving around the atom and the positron, after its separation, has momentum that carries it away from the atom – that is, chirality is determined in this way. So the antimatter goes away from the place where the mass was and the normal matter goes towards it. Writ large, this would mean that the antimatter is sent away from the places we can easily observe it and the regular matter accretes in the places where we can observe. It may be possible to survey experimental data to see if this indeed the case. Anyway, food for thought, yes or no?

    As for the politics in physics, I think you nail pretty much all the details; but I have a conspiracy to add. Quantum uncertainty doesn’t exist; Laplacian determinism is real. If this is true then it presents a religious / philosophical problem. It means that all outcomes are already set and we have no ability to make choices. Fatalism is deadly; if people had the ability to make choices, but believed they didn’t, the world would be even more chaotic as people abandonded all currently necessary morality with the excuse that the future is fixed and inevitable. But what if Laplacian determinism is real but also that free will is real, then it would cause even bigger problems: it would mean that the ability to make decisions is coming from “outside” of our deterministic reality and this in turn would be evidence too strong for doubt. This is why we have quantum uncertainty mysticism. After all, that DNA double helix looks suspiciously like a fancy antenna.

    And no, I’m not that, JesseM; just a weird coincidence.

    Oh, and question for you: when I learned about physics way back in high school, I remember learning that the E&M fields propagating at the speed of light bit and so their rate of interaction determines the speed of light. However, it was stated that it’s still an open question as to how quickly electric and magnetic field lines can propagate separately. You ever run across anything that says we’ve predicted or measured their propagation?

    1. the physics detective

      Jesse: I’m awfully sorry, but your comment was sitting in my spam folder. Perhaps that was because it was so big. I’ve had problems with spam, particularly with medical spam from spam bots.
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      Yes, I’d say electromagnetism is all there is, and everything else is some kind of derivative or consequence. As to why electricity and magnetism behave the way they do, I think it’s due to “electromagnetic geometry”, and that what we’re dealing with is in essence William Kingdon Clifford’s space theory of matter. I think it’s a great shame that both he and Maxwell died before their time.
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      As to why light goes slower when it’s lower, IMHO it’s just a feature of all wave systems. The wave speed depends upon the medium. Maxwell talked about transverse waves, and wrote down Newton’s expression V =√(m/ρ), where “m is the coefficient of transverse elasticity, and ρ is the density”. Then he replaced m with a coefficient of magnetic induction, and now we say c = 1/√(ε0μ0). I don’t think the field lines are denser, I think the space is somehow denser. I wouldn’t say it’s a torque that causes gravity, because any concentration of energy causes gravity, including a photon.
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      As for the matter/antimatter imbalance, I don’t think there is one. Remember that in the early universe, we were probably dealing with gamma-gamma pair production resulting in the creation of protons and antiprotons and electrons and positrons. Only after this can you move on to a photon going by an atom which then splits into two entities. But yes, it’s food for thought, and we should of course survey experimental data. And the skies.
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      When it comes to Laplacian determinism, I refute it thus: kick. That’s Maxwell’s demon kicking Laplace’s demon up the ass. I think the bottom line when it comes to morality is do unto others as you would have others do unto you. I know what I don’t like, so I know what I shouldn’t do.
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      As regards the speed of electromagnetic waves, I don’t think it’s due to how quickly electric and magnetic field lines can propagate separately. I think the expression c = 1/√(ε0μ0) is an elasticity equation in disguise. I think vacuum permittivity is “how easy it is to curve space” and vacuum permeability is “how well does it bounce back”. The more I learn, the more I think that this “electromagnetic geometry” is the pure marble that Einstein sought.

    2. Andy Hall

      Hi Jesse,

      I have been though the determinism debate quite a few times over the years and would like to give you another thought to consider that goes alongside the physical laws of the universe viewpoint and I think helps to break the deadlock, at least from my point of view.

      The simple Laplacian view of the world, and feel free to correct me if you think I don’t have it quite right, takes the position that the world is governed by a set of basic rules of physics from which the action of all material things is determined. If we are all parts of a universal machine that obeys a fixed set of rules then all of our actions are determined by that set of rules and we have no opportunity for free will. The behaviour of every thing from the electrons in the atoms of your brain to the molecules in the cup and the liquid of your cup of tea and are all obeying a bsic set of rules of the universe so everything is governed and where is the opportunity for free will?

      However, there are other sets of rules in play and they may not at first be obvious. First, though consider waking up in the morning. You wake and think, what am I going to do today. I could go to the shops, I could purchase the latest edition of Minecraft Dungeons or I could have sex with my model girlfriend. But which do I want to try first? I could try any of the options first and see how it plays out, or try all of them in any order I like over the day. The fact that this sort of choice is my lived experience and the experience of almost everyone I am aware of convinces me that some measure of free will exists. The question is this instead of the existence of a deterministic universe or as well as the existence of a deterministic universe? Does my measure of free choice preclude the operation of the universe according to a fixed set of rules? I don’t think so.

      Now I also write programs. When I write computer code that runs on a machine over which I have control of the operating system and other key factors which might undermine the autonomous integrity of my code I can construct programs that will behave deterministically according to the rules I have coded. I can write the rules to be consistent or I can allow a level of pseudo random behaviour within the rules of my program. That is a choice within my gift as to how the program will operate. The program runs on a physical computer based on hardware and electronics, which undoubtedly behaves in a complex but deterministic manner to achieve its intended design. However, the program coded rules were written as a matter of preference by another piece of hardware, me, but one that is running a program that is a complex mix of preference based on observations and low level automatic functions, over which I have little or no control. Now even when I am behaving according to deeply ingrained learned habits I am still running a high level supervisory program that asks the question, do I like what I am doing? Am I doing this right? Am I getting the outcome I want from my actions? Should I do something different? These questions and the existence of a machine (the human machine) that can ask these questions, answer them and act upon the conclusions, thus changing its own behaviour convinces me of my measure of free will.

      This is my viewpoint, but I don’t think it is too wide of the mark for what people like Daniel Dennett say. He is worth checking out in my opinion.

  5. Andy Hall

    I don’t know if you ever checked out the “Reading Feynman” blog from Jean Louis van Belle, but it has now become subject to a DMCA ( some copyright organisation agency) takedown notice. Jean has moved to producing a youtube channel and other Blog outlets. Like yourself, Jean has taken an open minded critical and enquiring look into the history and development of ideas in physics. I think we need more space for such enquiry, not less, but the owner of the copyright on the Feynman lectures Mr Gottlieb, obviously disagrees and thinks that Jean’s references amount to unfair use. I personally would have thought that no publicity is bad publicity but there you go.

    My own experience of censorship when trying to see what people might think of an expression I developed for Newtons constant of Gravitation was informative. A real learning experience. You try to edit the Wikipedia page and find your edits are erased, there is no discussion allowed and you are rapidly banned. Try to discuss anything that isn’t mainstream on a physics website like stack exchange, or link answers to questions and they are removed and sidelined while the questions are closed for attracting low quality answers. I naively thought that there would be areas of the internet where free and open debate took place, but that turns out not to be the case. Censorship and closed minds in general pervade the mainstream sites. Self appointed protectors of the faith police all traffic on the sites. Hence, I have always appreciated this blog as a place where other interpretations to the mainstream were considered.

    You have taken a slightly different tack of late John, but I still think you are producing a high quality blog that deserves to be given serious consideration by people. I am referring to what I am looking for and what you and Jean Louis have produced as exploring a physical realist view of physics. That’s the viewpoint my money is on to win out in the end.

    1. Andy: I know Jean Louis van Belle a little. He’s told me about his new blog at https://ideez.org/. I was speaking to him about a week or so ago about the nature of the electron, trying to persuade him that it didn’t contain a circulating point charge. He said he was going to focus on his day job for the coming months and getting into shape again for another mountain climb. Unfortunately I can’t see what his https://readingfeynman.org/ site looked like before the DMCA issue, and I haven’t know him for long. He sounds like a kindred soul. I ought to go through his entire blog and read it I suppose. Meanwhile whilst I do refer to the Feynman lectures, they’re fairly light fair-use references.
      .
      Your experience of censorship is like mine, though I’ve never edited any Wikipedia articles. I’ve contributed to a couple of talk pages, like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Variable_speed_of_light#Einstein's_view. Perhaps I should try to do more on Wikipedia using what I’ve learned. Then maybe I will find out what they’re really like. Yes, physics stack exchange is an awful example of physics censorship. Why stack exchange permit such disgraceful behaviour I don’t know. But there again, they do seem rather arrogant themselves. They’re building their business on my time and the free content I provide, and if they can’t keep up their end of the bargain, who needs them? As for other “mainstream” physics sites, you’re right. Free and open debate does not take place. Closed minds abound, along with self-appointed protectors of the faith. As for my different tack of late, I thought I ought to say something about the censorship that is arguably the trouble with physics. Then one article turned into two. If anybody thinks I’m wrong about some of the things I’ve said, I’m happy for them to have a right of reply. I think free speech is precious. I also like to think that I can admit when I’m wrong, and then change my stance accordingly. That’s how science ought to be, but sadly all too often people just aren’t like that.

      Edit: how annoying. This comment was in the spam folder!

  6. physics philosophy

    Please forgive this overly long post!

    It seems that nowadays nearly everybody’s general order no. 1 when confronted with any new information is to fit it into their worldview. This is so powerful a filter that once you attune to its presence, you can observe it everywhere. The most obvious symptom of filter-affliction is that, when exposed to something which contradicts the individual’s preconceived notions, they somehow manage to warp it into supporting said notions by any means necessary. I have often wondered if this has always been present in society, and it seems that while you can indeed find traces of it in history, it is presently at a local maximum. Perhaps this is due to the groupthink which pervades society now where even contradictory viewpoints are subject to the same irrational denial of reality- and in many cases an even worse version thereof- the contradictory groups seem to feed off of eachother in a sort of feedback loop.

    Places where you can find honest, logical discussion of questions are rare and I had been pleased to find this blog as one of them. That said, I was then disappointed to find the last political post just as closed and blind to dissenting viewpoints as those modern physicists you have argued against. Please don’t think that I am just a liberal who disagrees with you, for I am most certainly not, and when it comes to at least some of your points, we are in agreement. I won’t attempt to argue with you in point-counterpoint, but I would point out an apparent contradiction.

    The worst part of modern capitalist democracy in my opinion is that it turns individuals into cogs in a machine. This isn’t just a property of a so-called “Marxist” system but a non-partisan trend which seems to have begun with the advent of industrialization and has continued untill the present day where it has taken over. The craftsmen of old did better work with fewer tools and fewer men putting modern corporate manufacturing to shame, which seems to be unable to make something that doesn’t fall apart, despite all of our marvellous technology. Music was once produced by a class of learned individuals in who produced works with such complexity and in such quantity with only their mind, pen, and paper as to be almost unbelievable to musicians today who either reproduce dreary, distorted versions of the old by rote, make an honest effort with what tittle education they have or piece together new music by committee. Natural philosophers and those early scientists you respect studied a great breadth of reality as they knew it and as such were more able to make connections and gain an understanding than their counterparts today who by large are just workers in an institution who have to be satisfied with their own little contribution in their own little field. Wealthy individuals, many of whom were historically those free to either patronise great individuals or become one themselves, must instead participate in a volatile, cutthroat game of neverending profit or risk losing their station, either in the name of “benefiting the economy” or “paying their fair share.” And it’s no wonder that the only governments that seem to be able to get anything done nowadays are totaliarian dictatorships, since every other government has more regulations, redundant oversight, independent agencies, and lobbyists than the Standard Model has particles. This all seems to make groupthink almost a necessity for the operation of such an impersonal, collective society which seems designed to ensure that no one can do anything on their own. You have argued that the will of the people will provide a resolution in both this post and the political post, but I would say the this attitude is the very same one which has gotten us where we are today. The will of the “people,” a collective identity, is groupthink by definition.

    Is there any way to go back to physics?

    1. I agree that people try to fit things into their worldview. Years ago I wrote an essay on the psychology of belief, which talked about how very convictional people are. I think it’s the way our brains work, but that with training you can become less convictional. That’s what I’ve tried to do, but as to how successful I’ve been with that, well, I can’t really say. I’m sorry you thought the political post was blind to dissenting viewpoints. Please feel free to write something as your “right of reply” and I’ll post it up as post rather than a comment.
      .
      I agree that a modern capitalist democracy turns individuals into cogs in a machine. I also agree that it’s a non-partisan trend, and it certainly accelerated with the advent of industrialization. But I’d also say it’s an attribute of society rather than capitalism and/or democracy. I’d also say that the craftsmen of old were cogs in the machine too. I would add that something as simple as a sword was something that was expensive, even precious. As for music, I don’t know so much about the likes of Mozart, but I would say that music today is not as good as the music from fifty years ago. Perhaps that’s because young people don’t buy records like they used to. I’m told that artists only make money these days from going on tour, which sounds like somebody has been killing the golden goose.
      .
      Yes, natural philosophers and early scientists studied a great breadth of reality, but IMHO their counterparts aren’t all just workers in an institution who have to be satisfied with their own little contribution. All too often they reject the hard scientific evidence. All too often they promote unfounded speculations which are deliberately insulated against scientific evidence. All too often they indulge in censorship and they brook no dissent. All too often they’re posing as scientists when they’re nothing of the sort. All too often they’re quacks and charlatans and the enemies of science.
      .
      I share your sentiment about individuals participating in games of never ending profit in the name of benefiting the economy or economic growth. And about governments having too many regulations, agencies, and lobbyists. Yes, I think groupthink is endemic. But I also think we live in a society, so we are socialists of sorts. We like to get on with the neighbours, we show tolerance, we debate, we try to understand the views of others. But all too often anarchists and Marxists don’t believe in that sort of thing. All too often they’re posing as socialists when they’re nothing of the sort. All too often they’re thugs and tyrants and the enemies of socialism. Do note that I haven’t used the phrase “the will of the people”. I’ve referred to the wisdom of crowds, to the silent majority, to democracy, and to do your own research and think for yourself. It isn’t all groupthink.
      .
      As for going back to physics, yes, let’s do that.

      1. physics philosophy

        Long post again…

        I appreciate your response.
        At one point, you seem to imply that modern scientists’ rejection of evidence and blindness is at least partially intentional, or at least independent from their narrow focus. I don’t think this is the case and I would argue that such narrow focus, in fact, leads to such intellectual dishonesty. I am reminded of Eric Laithwaite, who pioneered maglev technology and was obviously a talented electrical engineer. However, somehow he got it into his head that gyroscopes defy Newtonian physics and constitute a reactionless drive- something obviously absurd to anyone who understands gyroscopic motion, but it seems to me that almost nobody actually does. In fact, I have only seen one video which actually presents an understanding of gyroscopes without simply citing the formulas which describe their motion, and indeed this confusion of mathematical description and understanding seems to be a recurring theme. I think many quantum physicists have a similar problem, in regard to a lack of understanding of the physical mechanisms of what they study, and further, I would wager that few of them have more than a passing familiarity with the physical analogues of what they study like gyroscopic motion, wave propagation in a physical medium, vortex shedding and vortex behavior in general (which itself is another great mystery to many). As such, they are free to claim that these things are unexplainable by physical processes (as they aren’t aware of any), get lost in beliefs completely detached from reality, as you say, and further, with no grounding in logic, to come up with all sorts of irrational claims. To give an even more controversial opinion inspired by the discussions of consciousness and free will above, pretty much all neuroscientists don’t seem to have a familiarity with the millennia of philosophy which has discussed the problem of consiousness and qualia and are content to dismiss it all as an illusion, apparently unaware of the contradictory nature of that statement. From here, I think cognitive dissonance takes over to protect their belief system. In many ways this is not too dissimilar from what causes the formation of all sorts of less fortunate unscientific crowds; take for example, the scalar wave believers. Many of them have maybe built a Tesla coil and transmitted power along a single wire, but conventional wisdom says that you can’t do this without a return path. So instead of critically studying as much as they can, they read that this is due to “scalar waves” and accept this. Maybe then they selectively read some old sources, or more likely, repeat what others have said about them without reading themselves, and superimpose their own beliefs onto what their idols are saying: longitudinal current waves? Stinging discharge? Sounds like scalar waves. Ether? Einstein was wrong! Resonant rise? Disruptive discharge? Free energy. They certainly aren’t going to study what conventional EM physics has to say about all of this, because, after all, EM physics doesn’t recognize scalar waves and is clearly wrong. (Oh wait, it does…but since they never bother studying it they’ve never heard of electric scalar potential.) Anyone who argues against them is now an enemy of what they belive is scientific progress. I hope you see the similarity here. It seems like for both our scalar wave believer and his sworn nemesis, the conventional physisist, a broader focus and exposition to more fields of study from the beginning might have prevented or at least diminished their intellectual dishonesty.

        Of course there has always been a system into which people had to fit in-I am not denying that- but it is hard to deny that, say a master sculptor who designs and executes the decoration of an entire palace or church with a handful of apprentices or a blacksmith who perfects and refines his own craft over many years is a more capable and independent individual than the assembly line worker who has taken his job today. You would think that the increased availability of tools, technology, and information would cause a proliferation of skilled independent workers, not make it so that you need a whole company to accomplish something one individual could have done in the past.

        It’s similar with music: the classic records had fewer people involved in their production than those today, (that new Beatles movie made fun of this, in fact) and where composers like Mozart et.al. could write a symphony in a few days, modern orchestral and theater composers take ages to write less and even then, next to none set their music for the various instruments of the orchestra, leaving someone else to do all that. I would imagine that it is harder to integrate all of the different methods available to get a certain musical effect if any given individual is involved in only a small fraction of the creative work.

        I apologize for implying that you had used the phrase “will of the people.” This was not my intent; I used it more as a general term for arguments appealing to the judgement and wisdom of the masses like that old phrase Vox Populi, Vox Dei.

        1. the physics detective

          Yes, I’m saying some scientists’ rejection of evidence and blindness is intentional. I think they’ve dug themselves into a hole, and they’re up to their necks in scientific fraud. So they can not and will not admit they were wrong. Nor can they permit any challenge that will lead to politicians and the public realising this. So they engage in a dreadful censorship that has been standing in the way of scientific progress for decades. I don’t think it’s some narrow focus that leads to intellectual dishonesty. I think it’s being part of a dog-eat-dog world where an arrogant self-serving “mafia” holds the purse strings and demands acquiescence. Those who don’t toe the line are out on their ear.
          .
          I can’t say much about Eric Laithwaite I’m afraid. I’m not close enough to his work, I haven’t read his material, and he died in 1997. But from what I do know, I don’t think quantum physicists have a similar problem. I think their problem is that they’re venal and superior and just don’t want to listen because if they changed tack towards “realism”, they’d have to admit that they’ve been peddling Copenhagen horseshit for a hundred years. See things like this: https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1028. It is pretty revolting. If I sound somewhat antagonistic today it’s because I found this earlier: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/what-is-the-mechanism-by-which-energy-stress-curves-spacetime.956580/. Note where it says “a lot of nonsense and personal theorising”, “a crackpot”, and “not only do I not trust cranks, I despise them with an unholy passion”. I wouldn’t mind so much of it was just a few insults – I have a thick skin these days. But those insults are accompanied by censorship and by pseudoscience nonsense.
          .
          I can’t say much about consciousness or neuroscientists either. But from what I’ve picked up, I do think there is some cognitive dissonance and protection of belief systems. People talk about things like Morton’s demon. However I don’t think the protection is always unconscious and innocent.
          .
          Sorry, I don’t know what you mean about the scalar waves. Can you give me a reference to a website about that? The photon is an example of the linear transmission of power.
          .
          But I do know what you means when you talk about “a system into which people had to fit”. Hence the word mafia. That’s not to say that all physicists or all particle physicists are members of some criminal fraternity. But I think there’s more dishonesty out there than some might think.
          .
          As for music, I am reminded of Mike Oldfield and his Tubular Bells. I might play that later.
          .
          No problem re “the will of the people”. Generally speaking, I’d say that people become wiser with experience, and more thoughtful, and less gullible.

  7. JesseM

    No worries about the spam filter (though it would have been ironic if you’d deleted the comment for an article about censorship!)

    > I don’t think the field lines are denser, I think the space is somehow denser.

    What if the field lines are the characteristics of space? Certainly a volume with no field lines describes a space that is different from a similar volume that does have them. And here I’m thinking of the field lines as boundary conditions, not some type of physical string.

    I will go out on a limb and claim that more field lines in a volume mean denser energy.

    Let’s look at some definitions. The measure of energy is the Joule, which has dimensions of mass*distance^2/time^2. Angular momentum has the dimensions of mass*distance^2/time. The only difference is that a Joule has an additional factor of per second. Does that mean that if you were to put an object in an energy gradient, that it would start accelerating towards the denser region? If so, how?

    My proposal for the mechanism:
    If the photon is something like an electron and a positron glued together (bear with me here), they are both there spinning but their spins cancel out so it seems like they have none. Now I’m going to *make up some rules* that when this photon encounters a field line, it can’t go through it directly, it must rotate the field line around its body. And only *one field line at a time*, please! And the rotations are syncronized so that one side can’t complete a rotation at a different rate than another. So if electron side of the photon is encountering field lines at a rate of 10/meter and the positron side is encountering them at 1/meter, but they are connected so that both must rotate together, then the positron side must make bigger loops or the electron side must make smaller loops (it’s probably both). So if the photon was like a rolling ball before encountering a field line gradient, it is more like a rolling cone once it starts moving the lines over its surface. And so begins to curve as it rolls. But as soon as it has finished rotating a field line across its surface, it goes back to being like a ball. Although I’m sure there’s some wiggle room for the photon to be twisted (polarized) afterwards in some fashion.

    But the same principal would apply to anything besides a photon, since ponderable matter, as it turns out, is just some weird conjunction of the EM field. And everything’s spinning whether it’s changing location or not, and as long as it’s in the energy gradient it is going to pick up angular momentum.

    Regardless, it’s just one idea and whether it’s right or not will not change the underlying behavior of the universe.

    Anyway, I remember how I found your blog in the first place. I had watched this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vce_1yfTTBY and then done an internet search for something related to what experimental evidence we had for displacement current (took me to “The hole in the heart of quantum electrodynamics”).

    Her video was very interesting. She makes a reasonable claim that there’s a problem with how we are interpreting Planck’s constant. Her claim is that Planck misapplied Wien’s law when doing the calculation for the constant and lost a dimension such that E = h * f is really E = h * t * f. My memory is fuzzy but I think it’s a mixup where the cycles-per-second of a wave and the duration of a measurement cancel out where they shouldn’t. Anyway, I think you should give it a watch, even though it’s a little long and slow, because of the historical aspect and implications; you’ll have to let me know.

    1. the physics detective

      I’m not fond of field lines, Jesse. The radial “electric” field lines are actually lines of force. A charged particle will move in the direction indicated by the line of force, only it doesn’t work. Try it with two electrons, two positrons, and one of each.
      .

      Image by Andrew Duffy, see his PY106 course
      .
      On top of that, magnetic field lines aren’t consistent with electric field lines. A charged particle moves around a magnetic field line, not along it. To be honest I think there’s a big confusion between field and force in electromagnetism. The field is the electromagnetic field. Electromagnetic field interactions result in linear and rotation force. When the linear forces balance we only see rotational motion and we say a magnetic field is present. When the rotational forces balance we only see linear motion and we say an electric field is present. But the fields that are really present are electromagnetic fields, and it always takes two to tango. To represent an electromagnetic field you have to combine the linear electric field lines with the rotational magnetic field lines, like Maxwell did. Then you see that the charged particles are “spinors”. Then IMHO when you know that counter-rotating vortices attract and co-rotating vortices repel, electromagnetism gets a whole lot easier.
      .
      That’s not to say one should never use field lines. I use them in various places on this website. But they’re just representing “the state of space”. Einstein said a field is a state of space, and that’s how I see it. The field lines show you this state, but they aren’t really there. Despite the way iron filings line up on a sheet of paper. Having said that, I’d say yes, more field lines in a volume mean denser energy. Do you know that I see space and energy as the same thing? At the fundamental level I just can’t separate them. If you put an object in an energy gradient it starts accelerating toward the denser region because a spinor is like a little motor boat of light going round in circles. You can break the circle down into a horizontal component and a vertical component. The horizontal component curves downwards. Well, that’s what happens in a gravitational field. In a magnetic field an electron goes round in circles due to Larmor precession.
      .
      I don’t like the idea of a photon being like an electron and a positron glued together. That’s because I think the Williamson/van der Mark electron model is essentially correct: the electron is a 511keV photon trapped in a spin ½ “trivial knot” double-loop spinor configuration. Both de Broglie and Schrodinger talked about a wave in a closed path. Having said all that the front portion of the sinusoidal photon is a positive field variation, and the back half is a negative field variation, so you can liken it to an electron and a positron. But you can “wrap and trap” a photon so that all the positive field variation is on the outside in the guise of a standing wave rather than a field variation. Then you’ve got a charged particle. Or you can wrap and trap it the other way such that all the negative field variation is on the outside:
      .

      Strip images by me, GNUFDL spinor image by Slawkb, see Wikipedia
      .
      The problem you have with your Epola-like photons and field lines, is that photons have an E=hf wave nature, and they don’t rotate around field lines. A magnetic field will change the polarization vector, as per the Faraday effect, but an electric field won’t do anything. And yet light interacts with light in gamma-gamma pair production, even though QED says it doesn’t. IMHO it does this because displacement current does what it says on the tin, and because a photon is a place where there’s spatial curvature. This is electromagnetism Jim, but not as we know it. Unless it’s Delbrück scattering. All in all I’d say it’s important to start with the photon, and then to get some idea of what’s happening in pair production, then try to work out what the electron is, and the positron, and why they move the way that they do. I don’t think QED does this. Instead I think it’s got a hole in the heart that you could drive a coach and horses through. Since it doesn’t include an electron model and does include messenger particles that don’t exist, I now think it’s cargo cult science. What a pretty pass that is.
      .
      Lori Gardi’s video looks interesting, but I haven’t got time to view it now I’m afraid. I went to the end and didn’t like what I heard. Every wavelength of light carries the same energy? Huh? I see h as momentum x distance, wherein the same distance applies to all photons. The amplitude of photons is a real distance, and it’s always the same. I think this is hidden in plain sight:
      .

      .
      Public domain image by NASA

      1. JesseM

        Good stuff. I’m fully onboard with the flow around an electron. I think of the field lines only as a boundary condition, as you say the linear / rotational forces.

        Since you’re knowledgeable about the history on this, maybe you might know of a good resource that could help answer this question. In his derivation of the speed of light from the propagation of E field and M field, Maxwell, calculated our value of c to be the maximum speed for waves; but I have heard claims his calculation was actually the lower limit for the speed for waves in those fields (not necessarily a transverse conjunction of them), their minimumm rate of propagation. Do you know of a good resource that goes over his reasoning behind that calculation?

        1. I’m afraid I don’t, Jesse. I’ve looked into this myself, see the TOE that Maxwell missed. As far as I can tell Maxwell didn’t consider any variation in wave speed. If he had, I think he would have known that gravity has something of an electromagnetic nature in that c = 1/√(ε₀μ₀) and light curves because the speed of light is spatially variable. Note though that I refer to Eric Baird, who seems to be very knowledgeable. Look at this from 2015: https://www.researchgate.net/post/Who_rewrote_General_Relativity. Maybe he’ll know. Perhaps I/you/we should talk to him.

  8. Tom Andersen

    Thanks for the article.

    Fundamental Theoretical Physics is religion. Religions don’t change. I don’t know what can save it. Likely nothing.

    I see the most ridiculous papers published with what I assume must be a straight face. Hundreds of papers on multiverse crap per year, but try to publish an electron model!

    —Tom

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