Journal of Theoretics Vol.1-2

June/July 1999  Comments



The following is an internet dialog between Chris Van Den Broeck of the Institute for Theoretical Physics and James Siepmann (in bold print) of the Journal of Theoretics.

In your press release, you wrote: "How many momentous advances have we missed because a theory could not be published without being proven first?" It seems that your knowledge of what is going on in theoretical physics is not up to date. Every month, prestigious journals publish hundreds of papers about such ideas as supersymmetry, supergravity, string theory, alternative theories to general relativity, alternative theories to quantum mechanics, etc. All of these are highly speculative, and at present there is not a shred of experimental evidence. Whether it is wise to publish them, history will judge. But there is a big difference between those papers and the ones in your journal. Serious theoretical physics is based on hard mathematics, not philosophical gibberish backed up by high school algebra and stemming from a poor understanding of ideas presumably taken from popular science books. You present your authors as potential Einsteins. You should know that it was Einstein's in-depth knowledge of differential geometry that led to his discovery of general relativity. Please advise your authors to at least buy a good calculus book.

Regards,

Chris Van Den Broeck

Institute for Theoretical Physics

Leuven University, Belgium

Thank you for taking the time to comment. Physics is indeed the scientific field that is most likely to publish theoretical research but the field of Theoretics deals with the research and development of theory across all fields of science. The type of journals that you refer to have a very limited readership making it likely that any significant discovery will go unnoticed. Additionally, one must have a Ph.D. in physics in order to be published. I find such a prerequisite abhorrent. An article or a person should be based upon their understanding of the current knowledge and their ability to advance upon it.

More importantly, it has been seen throughout the ages and recently shown in physiologic and real-time studies of the human brain, that the best theorists are rarely the best analytics or experimentalists. This contrast was never more evident than in the thought processes and careers of Edison and Einstein. Where Edison was a great experimentalist, he was a poor theorist while Einstein was quite the opposite.

In order to advance science, we must allow the best minds access to the literature, not just those who have certain initials after their name. Yes, I have written medical articles that probably would not have been published if I did not have the MD after my name and graduated from world-renowned institutions. Yet, I know more about computer science, theoretical physics, and artificial intelligence than medicine of which I have received national awards for my research. Some of the greatest minds that I have had the honor to meet, were those who could not be pigeonholed as we try to do within academia. We should reach out and embrace those with such talents rather than excluding them because of the lack of initials in their name.

Not to brag, but I would dare say that I could win any debate with a physics Ph.D. in regards to the concepts of space and time. I would also put the knowledge and intellect of Brian Jones (Jones BD, A Method for Determining Distant Simultaneity and Whether Light is One-way Isotropic, Journal of Theoretics Vol. 1, Number 1) up against any Ph.D. in a debate on the speed of light or the function of time in regards to Special Relativity.

Keep your eye on the Journal of Theoretics, I think that I can safely say that anyone with an open mind will be impressed and the impact on science will be quite significant.

James P. Siepmann (BA, DAAFP, Mensa, ABFP, MD and other initials that I consider irrelevant to the knowledge and ability of an individual and are only flaunted by the insecure who use them to exclude others from their domain)

Editor, Journal of Theoretics (the only title that I feel is worthwhile to mention)

(The following is Chris Van Den Broeck's response with Siepmann's original text in bold and additional comments in italics. The initials have been added to help identify who is making the comments.)

JS: Thank you for taking the time to comment. Physics is the scientific field that is most likely to publish theoretical research but the field of Theoretics deals with the research and development of theory across all fields of science. The type of journals that you refer to have a very limited readership making it likely that any significant discovery will go unnoticed. Additionally, one must have a Ph.D. in physics in order to be published. I find such a prerequisite abhorrent.  An article or a person should be based upon their understanding of the current knowledge and their ability to advance upon it.

CV: All the papers in the journals I referred to have been published first on the Internet (hep-th@xxx.lanl.gov is the most popular site). Anybody with Internet access can download them. There is also a high-quality, peer-reviewed, strictly on-line paper called "Journal of High Energy Physics". One does not need a Ph.D. in anything to publish in them. (I don't have my PhD yet, and I did publish. So do thousands of grad students all over the world.)

JS: Though a  PhD may not always be mandatory, it is darn close. One must have a PhD, an "in" (i.e. grad student, published co-author, etc.), and/or have the typical boilerplate study. I also find that disparaging remarks are used by those who can not intellectually argue a point.  One should always argue the facts/logic of a paper rather than using generalizations or disparaging remarks.

CV: The only requirement is that the papers meet certain standards of originality and high technical quality. The papers on your journal fall far short of these criteria. Not because the ideas are crazy (although I think they are), but because they're not backed up by mathematics. For example, the most successful theory of all time is the Standard Model of elementary particle physics, and you need a deep grasp of Lie group mathematics to understand it. Your authors just don't know enough math to translate their ideas into real physical theories.

JS: You have this backwards. A "real" theory, is still a real theory with or without math.  Math is just another method of communication. Scientific theories are communicated by many different methods such as prose, math, nucleotide sequences, graphics, and more.  It is observation, personal drive, and insight, that create theories and then math or other modes of communication can be used as a means to facilitate the reader's understanding of the theory (idea). By your definition, Newton's ideas and laws would not be valid or publishable in today's literature because they contain only simple math (i.e. algebra/calculus). It is the idea that is important, not the math! I agree that the more precise the language (i.e. math), the better the communication, but even if an author does not communicate the idea in the most precise manner, it does not invalidate the theory/idea.

CV: They use algebra that was invented in the sixteenth century. Physics is so far advanced that this will no longer suffice to make more progress.

JS: More importantly, it has been seen throughout the ages and recently shown in physiologic and real-time studies of the human brain, that the best theorists are rarely the best analytics or experimentalists. This contrast was never more evident than in the thought processes and careers of Edison and Einstein. Where Edison was a great experimentalist, he was a poor theorist while Einstein was quite the opposite.

CV: I agree. But right now, there is a broad enough spectrum of scientists working in physics: at one extreme, there are the theorists, mostly leaning towards mathematics, at the other extreme the experimentalists. In the last decade, an intermediate class of scientists arose, namely phenomenologists, who bridge the gap. Nowhere do I see an obstacle that would impede progress in present-day physics, as you seem to suggest there is.

JS: In order to advance science, we must allow the best minds access to the literature, not just those who have certain initials after their name. Yes, I have written medical articles that probably would not have been published if I did not have the MD after my name and graduated from world-renowned institutions. Yet, I know more about computer science, theoretical physics, and artificial intelligence than medicine of which I have received national awards for my research. Some of the greatest minds that I have had the honor to meet, were those who could not be pigeonholed as we try to do within academia. We should reach out and embrace those with such talents rather than excluding them because of the lack of initials in their name.

CV: As I said, anybody with talent and knowledge can publish in any journal he wishes, as long as his work meets certain standards. That is not the case for the papers in your journal.

JS: Not to brag, but I would dare say that I could win any debate with a physics Ph.D. in regards to the concepts of space and time. I would also put the knowledge and intellect of Brian Jones (Jones BD, A Method for Determining Distant Simultaneity and Whether Light is One-way Isotropic, Journal of Theoretics Vol. 1, Number 1) up against any Ph.D. in a debate on the speed of light or the function of time in regards to Special Relativity.

CV: Judging from his paper, Jones probably doesn't even know the definition of the Poincaré' group, the key mathematical structure of special relativity.

JS: Talk about the wrong direction.  I would hope that he has not polluted his mind with concepts based on a physically useless transformation. (Jules) Henri Poincaré thought of mathematics as being more than a language, even to the point it can be misconstrued that the basis of matter is mathematical. Just like the word "dog" is not a real dog, math is not physics. Math is only a means of communication. I would encourage everyone with an interest in theory development to realize that a theory evolves from observation into thought which is then communicated by language (i.e., words, math) and visual modalities. Math is a tool and nothing more, which allows us to compare and communicate. Most scientists do not realize that mathematics is basically a language. When we say 1+1=2, we are just describing 1+1 in a different manner with "2." Adding complexity to mathematics does nothing except to increase the vocabulary of the language.

It is even more interesting that you should bring up Poincaré as he was denied the Nobel prize because his research was theoretical rather than experimental (Crawford, Science 282 1256), a bias that still pervades the scientific literature (albeit theoretical physics). Ironic isn't it that by referencing Poincaré, you have just given me the best proof of the scientific establishment (i.e. journals) wanting only boilerplate (status quo) research.

JS: Keep your eye on the Journal of Theoretics, I think that I can safely say that anyone with an open mind will be impressed and the impact on science will be quite significant.

CV: I don't think your journal will have any impact on science, but it might be an interesting phenomenon for sociologists. It exposes the danger of popular science books: people who read them get the impression that physics is easy, because there are hardly any formulas in these books.  I suspect most of your authors come from that group of people.  A final comment: should you decide to put my comments on your website, please make sure you print them in full, not just the parts that might be convenient to you.

Best regards,

Chris Van Den Broeck

JS: Contrary to what some may think. I only edit articles, not comments (albeit spelling/grammar). I find that a person's intelligence or ignorance will become readily apparent without any embellishment or alteration from myself.

Addendum:  Henri Poincaré though a mathematician almost to a fault was a living contradiction.  He was shunned by the Nobel Committee because his work was not experimental based and now his work is being used to shun others (not mathematical enough).  He had some insights that one would not expect as demonstrated in the following quotes:

"The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living."

"Science is build up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is not more a science than a heap of stones is a home."

 ******

Very enjoyable. To be able to read what others feel and think about a subject in an orderly and concise fashion is truly a rest on the mind and eyes when so much information must be covered. A format to post your theories for peer and layman alike review.  You offer the format for the chance to be heard. That is freedom in my book.

Warren York < warren.york@juno.com>

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Having only read the comments page of your website, I am labeling it an unqualified success. The first job of any scientific publication is to stimulate discussion about the subject matter. You have obviously succeeded! Good luck, I am sure it will only get better!

P. Burhoe <pburhoe@taic.net>

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Sir,

You of course did not answer the question posed by Jim Kelley: "What kind of review are the papers exposed to prior to publication?" Your response: "Each article is assessed for its basis in fact as well as its use of logic" begs the following questions: 1. assessed by whom? 2. assessed under what conditions and by what standards? I do NOT believe that lack of credentials in a field disqualifies one from making intellectual forays into the field. However, there is an element of misrepresentation in the phrase "scientific peer-reviewed", which implies rigorous review by professionals. If the papers submitted are merely assessed by the editor and a few friends, without any standards for review, the phrase "peer-reviewed" is not warranted.

Matt Brauer <brauer@phylo.zo.utexas.edu>

Dr. Siepmann responds:

We definitely fit your definition and I have listed the reviewers to date in Section V.   They come from all areas of expertise from biology to physics.  If I have an article that is not within the realm of our current reviewers then I seek out someone with expertise in that area.  The review process is a complicated process as we do more than most journals by looking first at the paper's logic (errors of logic are rarely caught in other journals as philosophy/logic is not a area taught to most grad students, editors, and reviewers), then specific questions are asked of experts in that field either directly of indirectly (i.e. using an expert reference), and finally is the interpretation of the current science a feasible one.  This last one is the tricky one.  In additional to these checks, I personally review all manuscripts for their adherence to the principles of theoretics.

 ******

I look forward to receiving your monthly mailing list of articles. 

PS: I note that reviewers in this weeks' Science described the your journal as being without merit. This shows precisely why it is needed.

Ken Perry Chalk Butte Digital Maps < topomaps@chalkbutte.com >

Dr Siepmann:  Thank you, I agree with your intelligent assessment. (Readers can click here to go to this "article" and our response).

******

Why don't you give an address or e-mail or institutions or something about the authors, so that anyone could contact them?

Jose R. Albaine <albaine@codetel.net.do>

Good comment. It is done in the comments section, but I will make sure that we give the author's preferred method of contact under their name in each article. I will have our web manager do it this weekend. Thank you for your comment.

Sincerely,

JP Siepmann, Editor Journal of Theoretics  <mail@journaloftheoretics.com>

******

In ancient times most men thought that the Sun revolved around the Earth, the World was flat, and that lead could be turned to gold. Most of the "learned" men at the time scoffed at the idea that we revolve around the Sun, the World is spherical (closely), and that lead will not turn into gold. I believe that a web site such as this can be a good sounding board for theories that are outside the mainstream of science, because what lies outside today could be the established science of tomorrow. Remember, Einstein's' Relativity was also considered by many physicist at the time to be hogwash (or how about Quantum mechanics and Einstein's view of that?). I may not believe everything that I read here, but it is refreshing.

Brian Maxey <Jericho@iquest.net>

Dr. Siepmann responds:

Thank you for your comments. The response to the Journal of Theoretics has been overwhelming with over 1000 readers/week.  The comments have been overwhelmingly favorable by both those within and outside the academic community. There are quite a few die-hards though who will not even conceive that there may be ideas other than those that they currently hold (as you well noted).

Sincerely,

JP Siepmann, Editor Journal of Theoretics  <mail@journaloftheoretics.com>

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Dear JT Editor(s)

Though theoretical work is traditionally carried by physics and maths people, I do believe life and environmental sciences also demand preexperimental work. Is the Journal of Theoretics willing to publish works from those fields? If so, I would be glad to submit and/or participate in any suitable way.

Congratulations and please receive my kindest regards,

Salvador E. Lluch-Cota  <slluch@cibnor.mx>

Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas del Noroeste, S.C. (CIBNOR)

AP 128 La Paz BCS,Mexico 23000

Dr. Siepmann responds:

Thank you for your interest. The Journal of Theoretics was created exactly for the reasons that you stated. Theoretical works have not only been given less importance over the fifty years within the field of physics and it has virtually disappeared in all of the other sciences. It is my hope that the Journal of Theoretics will be the springboard for developing scientifically credible theories in all sciences from archeology to zoology.

The environmental sciences are especially in great need of theoretical research. I personally have been involved in doing theoretical extrapolations of current data and science in regards to the remediation of PCBs and heavy metal in the Great Lakes. Such theoretical research is crucial in making the right decisions about situations that we have not specifically dealt with before.

I look forward to your submission and would like to avail myself of your expertise for other such articles in the future.

Sincerely,

JP Siepmann, Editor Journal of Theoretics  <mail@journaloftheoretics.com>

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Great site!  I'm looking for a peer-reviewed article in full text regarding dna fingerprinting methods. Fascinating field! I need an example to show my students. Thanks!  Keep up the great work.

Jason Schroeder <jbalz311@hotmail.com>

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Dear Journal of Theoretics:

First let me say I love the concept for your new journal!  It's about time there was a scientifically-credible vehicle for new theories. I applaud your initiative and would like to assist in any way possible both as a mailing list participant, reviewer, and possible future contributor.

Sincerely,

M. Sue Benford, R.N., M.A. <MSBenford@aol.com>

(Editor's note:  Ms. Benford has an impressive resume of research with multiple published and pending journal articles.  Her comments are greatly appreciated.)

******

Recommendations on informational structure and good luck.

To the Editor,

I think that your paper is a good initiative. Although now days anyone can put almost anything in a pre-print server, there is place for a journal like yours that will keep interesting/unorthodox papers in a place were both authors and interested readers can post and read then easily. Diversity is one of the advantages of the Internet!  I just think that authors and journal staff should be more explicitly identified. If you want to give credibility to your e-journal you should state clearly who started the journal, who manage it and who the authors are. Usually this means to give the institutions to witch editors and authors are affiliated. Of course people do not need to be affiliated with an .institution. But then you should at least give an address and email contact. I mean something like:

THE ALGEBRAIC-ONTOLOGICAL STRUCTURE OF THE UNIVERSE by John Smith  ( Wildlife Internet Inc. PO Box 23, Paris 15757 Texas) the author is a internet manager with a interest in Physics, for contact use: jsmith@wildlife.tx or just a personal address if the author prefers. I think that if you write something you should stand for it and identify yourself.

With this comment I say goodbye wishing you and the journal the best success.

Ruben Santos  (Physics grad student in SUNY at Stony Brook) rcostas@grad.physics.sunysb.edu

Dr. Siepmann responds:

Thank you for your comments, you have some good suggestions. Though the author, editor, and reviewer information is in located in the website, it should make it more obvious and I will have our programmer make the appropriate changes as well as having the addresses/emails of the authors put at the end of each article. Unfortunately, you are also right about anyone being able to put anything on a server and often we seem to suffer from this assumption. I don't think that "Joe Internet" could come up with the monies or manpower and talent that is necessary to develop a venture such as this. Theoretics as we hope to develop it as a field of study and here as a journal, is the logical use of scientific facts as a basis for their extrapolation into theory. The reviews are based on two analyses, one being the appropriate use of logic and the other being the appropriate use of known scientific facts in an acceptable interpretation (albeit to the dismay of some and the excitement of others, may not necessarily be the status quo interpretation).

To date each paper in evaluation takes at least 60 hours of editing, which I would dare say is the most extensive in the industry, as we work closely with the authors and reviewers. If everyone is not satisfied with the finished product, then we will not publish it. The response from the authors so far about the editorial process and philosophy that we have, has been very positive.

It is my hope that intellect will ultimately prevail and that it will be the quality of the article and not the number of degrees after the author's name that we will come to judge all journals. I have known so called educated men whose egos are the only things superior while others without a college degree who are among the most intelligent individuals that I have known. It is scary that some of those in our academic institutions can not even use simple logic to make a point and even worse will make judgements on a journal by its title without even reading the articles. I do appreciate your input as well as that of the majority of scholars and public who have read the articles and give constructive comments and appropriately positive comments.

Respectfully,

JP Siepmann, Editor Journal of Theoretics  <mail@journaloftheoretics.com>

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Good luck with this very interesting and worthwhile endeavor.

Sincerely,

Steve Pinker

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Dr. Siepmann:

Thank you for publishing my article (A Method for Determining Distant Simultaneity and Whether Light is One-way Isotropic). It has been both interesting and enjoyable working with you, and it was good to see my work on line. As nearly as I could tell, all the changes were indeed incorporated; thanks for putting up with all my last-minute modifications!

Best wishes for your Volume 1,>

Brian D. Jones <bdjon@worldnet.att.net>

Dr. Siepmann responds:

The opportunity to work with authors in developing a paper is both rewarding and enjoyable.  The mind like the body, needs constant exercise to stay in shape.   By working with authors such as Brian Jones, I definitely get a full workout.   I have read many books dealing with Special Relativity and yet few of the authors have the grasp of it that he does, especially in terms of seeing the holes that are present and yet rarely mentioned. 

Respectfully,

JP Siepmann, Editor Journal of Theoretics  <mail@journaloftheoretics.com>

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How many momentous advances have we missed because a theory could not be published without being proven first? None. How many crackpot ideas have harmed people's lives because they were put forward without being proven first? A helluva lot. Please take me off your mailing list. A physician is as qualified to publish a theoretical physics journal as I am to remove a gall bladder.

Stephen Walton, Professor of Physics and Astronomy

California State University, Northridge <stephen.walton@csun.edu>

Dr. Siepmann responds:

It is sad when those in our educational system can not even grasp the basic concepts of logic.  Stephen Walton commits one of classic acts of sophistry.  He propose that because "a" can not do "b" then "b" can not do "a".  According to this false logic, a patent office clerk (Einstein), a high school drop-out (Edison), a politician (Benjamin Franklin), a CAD operator (BD Jones), or a physician (JP Siepmann) can not contribute to science because of their profession is not one of the closed academic society.

Science is not wholly owned by those who passed certain courses.  Getting a degree does not confer intelligence, insight, or ability.  Though most of my friends and associates in the academic community are highly qualified and respectable individuals, I have also known a minority of academics who care more about the initials after their name than the science they teach. 

Though I and many others could have gotten a Ph.D. in physics or another science, we did not want to go into academia, or had a desire to pursue another path.  It is a shame that some some academicians want to keep their circle closed to "outsiders" and lose out on a great potential of knowledge and insight.  I hope that such prejudiced views are not misinterpreted as being those of the entire academic community, as most teachers from grade school to graduate level are talented and committed professionals.

Respectfully,

JP Siepmann, Editor Journal of Theoretics  <mail@journaloftheoretics.com>

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Dear Sirs,

I am interested in your publication because of its potential to explore unconventional ideas. I find I have a few questions however. Why were the names of the authors not included with the abstracts presented here? Why are there significant grammatical errors in your missive? What kind of review are the papers exposed to prior to publication? What means to you employ to ensure the credibility of the articles in this publication? Are not all unproven hypotheses called theories? Do theories not become fact rather than theory once proven? I am perplexed by the stated premise of your publication.

Regards,

Jim Kelley <jwkelley@uci.edu>

Dr. Siepmann responds:

Thank you for your comments.  I have made the changes as noted in the previous response so that the authors' names are included in the abstracts.  I would be appreciative of any grammatical errors as we try very hard to be correct in logic, fact, and grammar. Each article is assessed for its basis in fact as well as its use of logic.  You are indeed correct that an hypothesis is but an unproven theory but it is a simple "If ... then" proposition while a theory can be much more expansive than a hypothesis.  The simple hypothesis is well accessible in the current literature but alas anything more complicated theoretically has not place in the current literature.  It is for theories that are more complicated than the simple hypothesis that the Journal of Theoretics was created.  I hope that this has answered your question.

Respectfully,

JP Siepmann, Editor Journal of Theoretics  <mail@journaloftheoretics.com>

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Where are your thousands of "mostly positive" comments? Any undergrad physics major can spot pseudoscience like this a long ways off. As I work toward my PhD, I try to get through to as many students as possible. Your site only fuels ignorance; perhaps I can use some of your "articles" as quizzes and figure out if they can spot any of the multiple flaws.

<noone@nowhere.com > (actual physicist)  [Editor's note: Mr. Noone used the term "actual physicist"]

Dr. Siepmann responds:

Only the truly ignorant give blanket statements without a basis in fact or by citing specific examples of error.  I at least will put my name and reputation to my work.  I hope that this person is an anecdotal case of arrogance rather than the rule of what our graduate students are like.  I would give his/her thoughts some credence if they were accompanied by even a single intelligent comment about a possible error in logic or fact on any of the articles presented in this journal.   For now, I think that "nowhere" is an appropriate description of where the future of this "actual physicist" is going.  

JP Siepmann, Editor Journal of Theoretics  <mail@journaloftheoretics.com>

 

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