Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Banned for life

I keep getting farther behind. There are so many things that I have to post and new things keep getting in the way. I was talking about the isoelectronic series of helium last week and never quite finished. When I left off I had worked out a formula for the ground state energies of all the two-electron ions. It turns out the data for the first four ions is available. It starts off out of whack but rapidly converges: I'm out by ten percent on the first one (H-), a couple percent on Helium, less than one percent on Li+ and half that on Be++. I have a table somewhere that I'll post someday when I get around to it, but it's a very cool outcome. The error on the light ionsmakes total sense because the calculation uses a direct product for the wave function of two electrons, which is an oversimplification. It works for the heavy ions but not for the light ones, and the reason goes back to the same thing I talked about in my blog entry on the two-electron potential well: the small box limit corresponds, "counter-intuitively", to the case of no repulsion between the electrons.

I put the word "counter-intuitively" in quotes because I used it ironically: it's the sense in which the world at large uses the term, as though to suggest that we shouldn't trust our intuition, we should only believe what the math tells us. My belief is the opposite: there is nothing more important in physics than developing your intuition. A "counter-intuitive" result is in fact an opportunity for us to develop and refine our intuition. It means we guessed wrong and now have to figure out why, so next time we'll guess right. It doesn't mean we shouldn't guess at all!

But that's not what I started to blog about today. The big news in the world of physics happened yesterday: the evil Conway was banned for life from the on-line forum physicsforums.com. This forum is run by a small clique of, shall we say tin-pot dictators, whose authority to expel members is not subject to appeal. The unusual thing about this particular expulsion has to be the wave of jubilation that ensued in its aftermath; you'd think that someone had just announced the discovery of the elusive Higgs Boson or whatever it is they spent all those billions of dollars looking for in that big hadron collider. But no, it was just me; yes, I was the evil Conway and I'm sure physicsforums.com has never seen such a display of high-fiving and backslapping as you'll find if you check the last page of the thread on "decoherence". (The username was chosen in honor of country music legend Conway Twitty in case you wondered.) So the question has to be asked: why was I expelled?

Technically, I was expelled for technical reasons that really don't really matter. In fact I was expelled because people hated me passionately. It's interesting because I took special care to stay away from the kind of personal sparring that often characterises these online discussions. It's almost as though I drew hatred strictly for the physics. There is a certain personality type that you find on internet forums which consists of professional physicists who take it upon themselves to be guardians of the truth. It's an attitude I don't really understand. People post nonsense on these forums all the time and I ignore it. I'm interested in engaging in discussions with people who know what they're talking about, whether or not I think they are the most upstanding gentlement or the most obnoxious assholes. Because either way I stand to learn physics from the exchange. But it seems that the people who chose to argue with me are the opposite: they are driven to seek out those who spout incorrect heresies, so they can argue those heretics down to the ground and thereby defend and protect their beloved edifice of revealed truth. I don't think the above characterisation particularly misrepresents either my psychology or theirs.

Anyhow, what's done is done. If anyone's interested I think this link
should get you to where all the fireworks happened. It was fun while it lasted but now I have to get back to doing physics.

Oh, one more thing. I have the impression that the physicists running the newsgroup are mostly from England, so they may not see the irony in the fact that the system administrator who actually pulled the plug on Conway Twitty was someone by the name of George Jones.


Anonymous said...

I have also been banned multiple times from physicsforums for proving beyond doubt that I was correct and that the moderators who first ridiculed my posts were wrong. Don't worry about it, that site is run by a bunch of government babies that have never actually created anything of value in their lives so how can they really be expected to understand anything. They merely just repeat what some text book told them.

Anonymous said...

physicsforums is a place were phds can attack students and try to indoctrinate them with their false views of the world and convince them that they posses some limited knowledge of which only phds are worthy are. The master trying to protect his image. The posters who actually understand the physics more than the moderators and refuse to bend to their will when the moderators attack them and offer a false idea as physics get banned when they are able to prove the moderators wrong. physicsforums has a very poor representation in general as most of the community knows they are just a bunch of liberal circle jerkers trying to stroke each others egos over there.

marty green said...

Thanks, Anonymous. It was only recently I noticed that people had posted comments on my blog. I appreciate the feedback.

If you remember the good old days of USENET and sci.physics, the following may be amusing to you. It brings back fond memories of long pointless arguments I had back in the 1990's with people. I don't know who originally posted it, but it's pretty funny.
Pertti, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

Yes, Pertti, there is a Jim Carr. He exists as certainly as abusive Usenet loons, self-proclaimed Einsteins and brain-dead nuclear
scaremongers exist, and you know that they exist to make the Internet the ghastly source of misinformation which it is. Alas! How dreary
would be the world if there were no Jim Carr! It would be as dreary as if there were no Perttis and no Clifford algebras. Sci.physics
would be at the mercy of embittered college dropouts; Usenet would be so full of loons it would have to be renamed "Minnesota-net".

Not believe in Jim Carr! You might as well not believe in Archimedes Plutonium. You might get your FSU mathematician friends to watch all
the computer terminals at SCRI but even if you did not see Jim Carr, what would that prove? Nobody sees Jim Carr, but that is no sign that
there is no Jim Carr. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

No Jim Carr! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now he will continue to keep
sci.physics anchored in reality.


Rick Ballan said...

Yes, anonymous is right. These forum's are run by a bunch of plodder's who accept dogma and in reality have contributed nothing to science. It's not about truth or philosophical debate but fragile egos. Don't worry, they haven't got anything more important to do, apparently.

Sylvain Poirier said...

I just made a page reporting my own experience of wrong censorship at Physicsforums, with some references.