A case study in woo-sniffing

In response to a previous post, I received the following comment:

We are a group that is challenging the current paradigm in physics which is Quantum Mechanics and String Theory. There is a new Theory of Everything Breakthrough. It exposes the flaws in both Quantum Theory and String Theory. Please Help us set the physics community back on the right course and prove that Einstein was right! Visit our site The Theory of Super Relativity: Super Relativity

I did not let the comment through, since I am not convinced it was not placed by a bot, since it has little bearing on the post. However, I think it is timely, and I would like to use it as a case study on how to identify not-so-good science.

For a great introduction to sniffing out woo, have a read of The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science by Robert L. Park.

Before we begin our analysis, I would like to make two points clear. First, I am all for exploring new ideas, and second, I have not read everything on the site. Even initial impressions, however, should trigger alarm bells. Right off the bat, the claims breach several of Park’s indicators.

  1. The pitch is made directly to the reader. The authors of this work do not run it through the usual channels of peer review, and thus the work has not been critiqued (that we know of!) or verified by an unbiased reviewer who is knoeledgeable in the field. In other words, we have only the author’s word that it is correct. Bad sign.
  2. The discoverer has worked in isolation. This goes along with a lack of peer review.
  3. The discoverer proposes new laws of nature. They claim a new, paradigm-busting theory of everything breakthrough. This is a significant claim that requires significant backup to justify it.

To these three, I would also add the following:

  1. The author is not identified. Always a bad sign when claiming a world-changing discovery
  2. The author asks for donations to “make a breakthrough and convince the main stream physicists that this theory is correct”. This comes pretty darn close to Park’s indicator #2.
  3. Google ads on the site. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the ubiquitous Google ads. But on a site claiming to describe a new groundbreaking explanation of the nature of the universe? Not so much.

I am not one to cast aspersions on people I know nothing about. Usually.

30 seconds or less of the right kind of search will show that the author is Mark Fiorentino. His blurb claims he is a talented IT professional who dabbles in physics, and I have no reason to doubt his credentials. However, if he would like his claims to be taken seriously, he must take them seriously himself and not waive them around on a flashy site as “proof”. Frankly, since he invokes the ether as a premise for his work, I strongly suspect he is flat out wrong, but I do appreciate the time he has devoted to tinkering with the subject. And even wrong answers can yield interesting results and models – but they should be presented as such.

I have no idea if Mark will ever see this post, but if so, I have the following recommendations:

  1. Identify yourself as the author, clearly and proudly.
  2. Remove the claim that yours is a new, ground breaking theory that is more correct than existing models, and replace it with a statement that it is an interesting model worth exploring.
  3. Your premise regarding the ether might be phrased as a thought experiment, which would then make all subsequent work a what-if scenario.
  4. Stop begging.
  5. Strip the google ads. heck, if you need advertising to support your site, throw it on WordPress or Blogspot for free.
  6. Lose the flashy-flash stuff. Just present your article, and let people comment on it. Save the whizz-bang stuff for something else.

Presenting ideas in an open, collaborative fashion, and taking heed of feedback from knowledgeable critics might, just might, lead to actual science.

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One Response to A case study in woo-sniffing

  1. Bipedal Tetrapod says:

    I am pleased that you like it!
    Why not find some idiocity and submit it here

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