Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Marni D. Sheppeard

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

An Idea

Tommaso Dorigo had a bizarre idea ... an idea that I am not sure makes any sense, since I cannot imagine that there would be any takers ... but here it is. Tommaso suggests that I (alone, or along with Carl, if he is interested) find a highly respectable person to put their name on a paper, entirely written by me (us), as an experiment to see if the paper might be publishable. Not a bad idea. The implementation of this proposal would have to be confidential, so any potential takers must email me privately at the email address in the comments section. For this experiment, I will write a short paper on any subject that is discussed in this blog, and which I have spent some time thinking about.


Blogger Kea said...

marni at comlab dot ox dot ac dot uk

July 07, 2009 8:25 PM  
Anonymous PhilG said...

I think an experiment doing the opposite would also be revealing.

Find a respected theorist with tenure at a well known institution who is willing to submit one of their own unpublished papers to a journal (with a high impact factor) using an unknown pseudonym while claiming to work at "Liquafaction Corporation" or something similar. If the paper is rejected, then submit the same thing to another journal using real name and institution to see what difference it makes.

However, I am doubtful that you will find anyone suitable who is willing to take up either challenge for the simple reason that everyone in such a position thinks that someone without a good affiliation would not be capable of doing useful research in theoretical physics, therefore it is not unreasonable for journals to filter out amateur papers.

Just to give one example, Chiara Nappi (Ed Witten's wife) was quoted in New Scientist as saying "Techniques have advanced so much that it's not conceivable these days to be able to do your work in a patent office in Berne"

If established scientists thought this was not the case you would expect at least some of them to criticise the arXiv censorship policy, but they don't.

July 08, 2009 1:46 AM  
Blogger Javier said...

Chiara, and other people who says that should be cautious with that sentences.

Possily most potential readers of this blog know what inverse psicology mean. And to say that things is an invitation for everyone that is really inteligent to do preciselly what they say it is impossible. Basically what se says can be reinterpreted as "if you are average inteligent (for good physicists criteria, of course) you need to be in a tenure positionto do important things, go away the systme and prove I am wrong".

On the other hand I think that still now there already examples in the math comunity. Grigory perelman did at least a large part of his demostrationof the geometrization cnjecture (that leads to the poincaré conjecture) working in his moth house.

Also there are people int he math comunity that freely choosed to leave work in the universitiy and continue doing his work at home 8possible still reciving founds). Inparticular one of them (I don't remember the name) is mentioned in the Donald O'Shea book aout the topic doing preciselly that.

July 08, 2009 9:50 AM  
Blogger Javier said...

On the other hand the imposibility to publish is something new. int he "elegan universe" TV Show it is told that Leonard Susskind coudn't publish his first paper about string theory (the QCD one). Michel Green neither could do so. It wasn't until theoy could show that the theory was free of anomalies (and that they did the reinterpretation from QCD to fundamental strings) that they could publish.

Also it is mentioned as Theodore Kaluz and Oscar Klein (not cnfuse with Feliz Klein) had problems to publish. One of them send their papers to Einstein and he didn't get conviced to recmend it's pulication for two years.

Also it is important to note that it is not only people out of academy who have problems to pulish. People with actual tenures in not too famous universities have more problems to get published than others working in best known ones (even if the actual people signing the paper has a distinguised past with publications in high impact reviews).

July 08, 2009 10:12 AM  
Blogger Javier said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 08, 2009 10:41 AM  
Blogger Javier said...

Other thing that I belive it is important to say is that the arxiv claim is right. People can publish in ther blogs. And, in fact, it seems as if people pubishing bblogs are very well known .
A paradigmatic example is Peter Woitt. Be sure that he is much more famous that what his contributions to science dererves.

A diferent case is Matti. Maybe he cna't publish in hep-th, but he can be sure that peopleknows him. Some time ago I added google analitycs as a tool to see the traffic to my website. And I could see that TGD or topological geometrodymacis are some of the words that more traffic brings to my blog (if someone is interested the top search chain is "Horava-Lipschitz").

Even good physicist- sure you know who they are;-) - with good publications in papers are specially famous because of their bblogs. I mean, some people I know personally (allthought unhappily I lost contact with them), working in string theory, have more papers in peer reviewed publications than them and are poorly known (outside the string comunity at least).

Personally I can't say too much. I have published a paper in math ecology, in colaboration with someone working in a university and there was no problem. I actually have not any idea developed engought to deserve publicationn so there is no case. A priori I am not terribly worried. I know people who, at least a prioiri would endorse me (afther beeing sure what I want to publish makes sense). And I think that I am cristal clear exposing the logic of my ideas so that I don't expect difficoults in that side. The hard part is to get up to date in nowadays physic and doingngood things, as allways has been anyway.

Anyway, as I said people read blogs. If by whatever reason I can't publish in other place because of not beeing in a tenure I will publish there. If the idea is good and people don't care about it it would be their problem, not mine :P.

In fact I think that I could get a tenure without too much effort if that would be a total priority for me. If I am out (well, at least partially) of the academy I perfectly understand that people are skeptic and I am not going to blame them for it, I perfectly understand their reasons.

B.T.W. Kea, I thought you were in a university now, I would expect that you would have less problems to publish.

July 08, 2009 11:22 AM  
Anonymous PhilG said...

I'm going to start an alternative archive. I dont really know if people are likely to support it or what type of papers it will get but I think its worth a go as an experiment. I've registered but if anyone has better ideas for names or any other suggestions I will consider them.

July 08, 2009 6:59 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

PhilG, there are a number of websites where one may freely upload papers now. Another archive sounds like a lot of work. As Carl says, google does such a good job of finding things from a few keywords that I'm not sure the arxiv is so important any more, except for the stability of paper urls, which I think is the only issue really.

I think google needs to set up a general science arxiv of its own. Wordpress tried allowing document uploads a while back, but quickly gave up, probably from the unexpectedly high usage (now what were they thinking?). Google could allow a limited capacity with blogger urls, and that would work fairly well.

July 08, 2009 8:00 PM  
Anonymous PhilG said...

It's not a lot of work. I will start with a low tech version and add automation if and when necessary. I used to work as a lead web developer for a certain investment bank that nearly succeeded in bringing down the world economy and is no more, so I know what I am doing. The self appointed academic elite should quake in their boots :)

I realise that people can upload work to their own websites and they will be indexed by Google, but there are several reasons why this is not a complete solution.

For one thing, people will only find papers with terms they are searching for. It is useful to be able to look in a central place and browse all entries by category or date. Also websites can come and go and do not provide an immutable timestamp or url.

Carl is lucky that his site is indexed under the Google Scholar search, but that does not work for everyone. The general search engine includes other noise and does not list citations. I hope they will include viXra in Scholar if it takes off.

An archive can also provide added value by including citations, reference links and blog trackbacks. Usage stats would also be of interest and it is a pity that the arXiv does not do that well. My personal favourite would be a feature that showed similar work that the authors neglected to cite, perhaps I could include that.

If you know a repository that can do most of that, and where I can freely upload my work, let me know and I will use that instead.

If there is no need for it then nobody but me will submit any papers and it will only survive as a repository for my own work with no great loss.

I am in the process of upgrading my dedicated server to 160 GB which is probably more than is currently needed to hold the complete contents of the arXiv so I dont expect space to be a problem even if it does become very popular.

July 08, 2009 9:03 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

I used to work as a lead web developer for a certain investment bank that nearly succeeded in bringing down the world economy and is no more, so I know what I am doing. The self appointed academic elite should quake in their boots...

Wow, cool! Then I'm sure you can do a great job. I'll put papers there, and a permenant link on my blog. But please don't call it viagra ...

July 08, 2009 9:17 PM  
Anonymous PhilG said...

You have just given me an idea for the logo LOL.

Alternative name suggestions welcome.

July 08, 2009 9:48 PM  
Anonymous PhilG said...

A draft version of the nalternative archive website is available at The domain name may not have fully propogated yet and the e-mail definitely hasn't, but hopefully it will be fully functional tomorrow.

Submissions are by e-mail but I'll do a web upload form if there is sufficient interest to justify the work.

Obviously there are no papers yet, and there are probably loads of typos. Comments welcome.

July 09, 2009 8:22 AM  
Blogger Javier said...

I made publicity of the new site in my own blog,

I hope that you will not get disappointed with my presentation

July 09, 2009 8:12 PM  
Blogger Ptrslv72 said...

Hi Kea, could you please explain in more detail what are your problems with the arXiv?

Cheers Ptrslv72 (sent here by Dorigo)

July 12, 2009 7:10 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

No, ptrslv. I feel no obligation to tell, in public, an anonymous person all the arxiv anecdotes that I may have. Personally, I have no interest in testing the limits of the arxiv, because I intend posting all my work elsewhere.

July 12, 2009 8:40 PM  
Blogger Ptrslv72 said...

So be it. As I mentioned, I was asking this on Tommaso's suggestion (read the thread in his blog). He is looking for a volunteer who would put his name on a paper of yours that has had problems on the arXiv, so I thought that it would be reasonable to explain what the problems were. Good luck finding somebody who will put his/her reputation at stake on such scant information (but I was not interested anyway so I should just shut up ;-) Cheers, Ptrslv72

July 12, 2009 9:57 PM  

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