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REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD)
moderated group sci.physics.foundations
This is a formal Request For Discussion (RFD) for the creation of the Moderated Usenet newsgroup, sci.physics.foundations.
NEWSGROUPS LINE: sci.physics.foundations
sci.physics.foundations Fundamental and philosophical physics. (Moderated)
A number of independent researchers are seeking a new moderated physics newsgroup to allow free discussion of fundamental issues in physics, including discussion of the basic premises which define scientific theory and philosophical discussion of physics. Moderation is required only to keep out the flames and the noise of patently non-physical theories. Posts will not be rejected as “speculative” on the basis of a subjective understanding of current paradigm, but on the objective criterion of inconsistency with empirical evidence. Such a group will enable, but will not be limited to, discussion of scientific theories which are not necessarily a part of established paradigm, it will act as a sounding board for scientific ideas, and it will assist in trapping errors prior to submission for publication. It will not host unscientific theory.
When non-physicists become interested in physics it is often the most fundamental questions which concern them. Intelligent laymen often strike right to the heart of the philosophical questions concerning the definition of elementary physical quantities like the second and the metre. They ask questions like “Why is the speed of light constant?”, “How can the universe be finite and yet have no boundary?”, “What happened before the big bang?”, “How can I understand Schrödinger’s cat?” The most important advances of the 20th century, quantum theory and general relativity, are concerned with deep philosophical issues to do with the measurement of elementary quantities. Physics text books and college course are often more concerned with results than fundamentals and usually do not dwell on such issues. It is also easy for a physicist to lose sight of the elementary starting points for difficult mathematical theory. A great deal of insight can be gained on both sides of discussions between physicists and non-physicists. Such discussions would be encouraged by the group.
The proponents hope that directing posts about philosophical and foundational issues to sci.physics.foundations will relieve the burden on the moderators of sci.physics.research, who have to make a decision on whether such posts are “overly speculative” according to the charter of that group. Such a decision necessarily involves a subjective view which can be frustrating for a researcher wishing to discuss ideas.
Although sci.physics.research was originally set up intending a light moderation policy which would have allowed much of the discussion proposed for sci.physics.foundations, perhaps with good reason it has been felt necessary by the moderator to restrict the bulk of discussion to physics as taught in college. It is often not possible either to air theoretical research or hold discussion on the fundamental assumptions underlying accepted physical theory, nor is philosophy of science generally considered on topic for that group. The proponents believe there is a strong case for two groups; the existing forum for research under current paradigms, and a new group permitting free discussion while remaining within empirical and logical bounds required of scientific theory.
There are a considerable number of groups in the sci.physics hierarchy. Formerly the unmoderated groups, as well as alt.sci.physics contained a high volume of lively physics discussion and debate. These groups have almost entirely been taken over by trolls, flames, “Einstein was wrong” posts often submitted by robots, and “god did it” posts. As a result it is very difficult to hold any form of discussion of physics in an unmoderated group.
Of the moderated groups, sci.physics.discrete was set up specifically to discuss a particular class of discrete theories. Sci.physics.strings was set up to discuss a particular class of unification theories. A number of other specific active fields of research, like sci.physics.plasma are also covered. This leaves only sci.physics.research as a forum for general discussion on physics. It is possible to discuss cosmology and astrophysics on sci.astro.research but this is not the main purpose of that group and does not include the generality of discussion which is intended for sci.physics.foundations.
The proponents hope to restore to the sci.physics hierarchy some of the original level of traffic of the unmoderated groups. Much of this has moved to blogs, of which there are many, but the proponents believe that the newsgroup format has inherent advantages for serious discussion. One of the moderators of sci.physics.research rejects about 10% of posts, of which he estimates that 1/3 may be suitable for the new group. To the base figure of 3% one can apply a multiplier, to allow for responses not written and new threads not started because a poster thinks they will not be accepted, and to allow for follow-ups to unwritten and rejected posts. A multiplier of 10 seems conservative. This suggests that an initial target of 1/3 traffic on sci.physics.research can easily be achieved.
Light moderation is intended, aimed not at restricting subject matter but at reducing noise. Under this guidance, the following sorts of material are deemed appropriate for sci.physics.foundations:
Posts on any issue of the foundations of physics or philosophy of physics, in particular posts on unresolved or controversial issues.
We are human beings before we are scientists; posts of a purely humorous or social nature, e.g. “thanks for the explanation” will be allowed.
The following sorts of material are deemed inappropriate for sci.physics.foundations:
Personal attacks (e.g. flames) and overly-scathing corrections; Discussion that isn’t about or related to physics; Multiple responses which all say the same things; Advertisements unless deemed in the interest of the group; Posts about theories which are clearly inconsistent with empirical evidence; Posts about theories of nature with neither mathematical nor predictive content; Crossposts.
Posters will be expected to maintain high standards of manners. We should recognize that we all make mistakes, and that making and then correcting mistakes is fundamental to scientific methodology. Crackpot physics starts not with making mistakes, but with a failure to recognize mistakes. Part of the function of the group should be to assist independent researchers in trapping and correcting mistakes in serious scientific research. Corrections should be phrased with due diplomacy.
Moderation will be aimed primarily at maintaining the level of debate. It is not intended for the moderators to trap errors in posts about research, since that is part of the rationale for the group.
Speed of moderation is important for maintaining good discussion. It is intended to use ReadySTUMP which combines facilities with ease of use. Pre-approval for regular posters with a record of adherence to the charter will be considered, subject to the constraint that transgressions should result in rapid removal of pre-approval status. If white listing is used, posters will be asked to complain directly to the moderators about transgressions rather than by posting to the group.
If a moderator has doubts about whether a post meets the policy described above, the post should either be allowed or referred to the other moderators for a consensus view. If a poster disagrees with the rejection of his post he may appeal to the team of moderators. If any moderator thinks the post should be allowed, it will be allowed.
Posts enquiring about college physics will not be prohibited, but posters will be encouraged to send such posts to sci.physics.research when appropriate for that group. Posts on particular theories covered by other groups would generally be considered more appropriate in those groups.
MODERATOR INFO: sci.physics.foundations
Moderator: Jay R. Yablon <email@example.com>
Moderator: Fred Diether <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The moderators have, between them, extensive experience as posters on Usenet, and have an active interest in physics research supported by submissions to arXiv, which generally requires the endorsement of an established physicist, or by publications.
Further information on the moderators and on this proposal may be found at:
Article Submissions: email@example.com
Administrative Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the newsgroup creation process, please see:
Those who wish to influence the development of this RFD and its final resolution should subscribe to news.groups.proposals and participate in the relevant threads in that newsgroup. This is both a courtesy to groups in which discussion of creating a new group is off-topic as well as the best method of making sure that one’s comments or criticisms are heard.
All discussion of active proposals should be posted to news.groups.proposals. To this end, the ‘Followup-To’ header of this RFD has been set to this group.
If desired by the readership of closely affected groups, the discussion may be crossposted to those groups, but care must be taken to ensure that all discussion appears in news.groups.proposals as well.
We urge those who would like to read or post in the proposed newsgroup to make a comment to that effect in this thread; we ask proponents to keep a list of such positive posts with the relevant message ID (e.g., Barney Fife, <4JGdnb60fsMzHA7ZnZ2dnUVZ_rWdnZ2d@sysmatrix.net>). Such lists of positive feedback for the proposal may constitute good evidence that the group will be well-used if it is created.
This document has been posted to the following newsgroups:
Charles Francis <NotI@charlesfrancis.wanadoo.co.uk> (Sub charles for NotI to email)
Co-Proponent: Jay R. Yablon <email@example.com>
Co-Proponent: Fred Diether <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Co-Proponent: Peter Enders <email@example.com>
2007-01-11 1st RFD
2007-01-24 2nd RFD
2007-01-31 3rd RFD/LCC
2007-02-20 Slight modification to Charter
I graduated MIT in 1976 near the top of my class with dual
B.S. Degrees in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science and Political
Science, and a strong minor in Physics, and became a member of the Tau Beta
Phi, Eta Kappa Nu and Sigma Psi honor societies. After obtaining a Juris
Doctor degree from the State University of New York at
My passion for theoretical physics began in my high school chemistry class, when I first learned that the proton mass is about 1860 times as great as the electron mass. I asked why this was so assuming there would be a good answer. There was not. At that moment, it first dawned on me that there were many fundamental questions about theoretical physics for which we did not have good answers, and I personally took up the challenge of trying to understand why the elementary particles have the masses they have. While the particle “zoo” of fermions has fortunately been simplified down to the electron and neutrino, and the up and down quarks, another fundamental question for which we have no good answer is why these particles are replicated into (at least) three generations. Because these generations are distinguished solely by mass (and decay lifetime), I view this as being tightly intertwined with the particle mass question, and do not believe it possible to understand why the particles have the masses they do without also knowing “who ordered that?” in the first place. I also keep firmly in mind Feynman’s quip to the effect that if you think you can intuitively understand quantum field theory, then you don’t understand it, and so view quantum physics broadly as another physical foundation for which we do not yet really know, “who ordered that?” We have merely become very adept at describing what was ordered: how it looks, and how it tastes, but not why it is on our plate in the first place. Only with the eventual unification of geometrically-based gravitational theory with quantum field theory will we begin to understand the foundational origins of quantum theory, and overcome what I see as the transitional philosophical view that one has to simply accept quantum theory as it is without understanding why it has to be the way it is.
During my sophomore year at MIT, I had an important decision to make: whether to continue toward a major in Physics, or to move to a major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. I opted away from physics for two reasons. First, the path to livelihood by the EE/CS route seemed much clearer to me at the time, especially since in the mid-1970s it was abundantly clear that an MIT graduate from EE/CS could easily find a good livelihood. Second, I loved the study of physics too much to spend three years being imbued with paradigm and problem sets that would prepare me for a vocation in physics, but would also saddle me with blinders and filters which would greatly diminish my capacity to think independently, outside the box, about fundamental physics questions. I study physics for one purpose only: to gain whatever glimpses are possible into the deep order and natural intelligence which underlies and animates our natural, material universe.
Jay R. Yablon
I have been a successful electronic systems engineer for
My involvement with the Usenet sci.physics groups in the late 1990’s renewed my interest in physics deeply and restarted my life-long study of theoretical physics which I had put aside for a few short years before that. I think my first question to the groups was “Why is the speed of light what it is?” I didn’t really receive what I thought was a satisfactory answer at the time or got responses such as “We don’t ask ‘why’ questions in physics”. Well, why not? Seems to me that you have to ask why questions to make any new progress. I did eventually find the answer to my question but it took a few years of hard study before I was personally satisfied. But perhaps we can discuss this more on the new group. Hope to see you there. My primary focus is particle physics and I am a member of the American Physical Society.
Carl F. (Fred) Diether III
Quantum Vacuum Charge, with A.E. Inopin, Proceedings of Physical Congress-2004 - Fundamental Problems of Natural Sciences and Engineering, Volume 29, p.98 (St. Petersburg, Russia, 2004)
physics/0601110, Quantum Vacuum Charge and the New HyperCP Particle X, with A.E. Inopin