Opinions

Academic shackles

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Twenty-seven year-old Peter Lynds of New Zealand published a paper this week that could revolutionize physics, mechanics, philosophy and potentially many other fields. In his paper, Lynds argues that there are no particular instants in time, only moments of transition, a concept which might fundamentally change how we observe and measure things in the universe.

Writing a seminal publication would be a significant milestone in most careers, but crowning Lynds' achievement was the fact that he did it largely without the benefit of established academics in the field.

Or, more accurately, he did it without the encumbrance of those academics.

Lynds discovered that while objects cannot be fixed in time, academics could. He, like many other non-experts before him, overcame great barriers in those already expert in the field, some of whom ridiculed his ideas and tried to sabotage the publication, citing his lack of credentials and unconventional ideas.

Indeed, academic isolationism transcends the boundaries of space and time.

Having seen (and written) term papers where the only evidence of "grading" are editing symbols and comments about how a particular citation style is incorrect, it is painfully obvious that some academics have more interest in conformity to old ideas than to innovation. They reserve critical thought only for the established facts and classical notions--which are almost defined so as to require no additional mental processing--rather than risk exposure to something new that would upset the limited prevailing world view.

It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that finding fault with the presentation rather than the substance of new ideas is easier and safer on the intellect. "Scholarly" publications prefer jargon to more accessible prose under the guise of concision, and students are trained to similarly encapsulate the ideas within only those of the system, limiting the introduction of any new ideas. Red pen marks around an unconventional series of facts cannot substitute for reasonable effort to see unfamiliar arguments.

That it happens occasionally at the university with both graduate Teaching Assistants and professors is particularly saddening. It is as if years of academic training produced only another academic bigot rather than an individual with wisdom tempered by knowledge and experience. Teaching students to fairly embrace or challenge new ideas while failing to do the same is contrary to the idea of the academic environment. Ideas should be rationally evaluated based on their merits and not necessarily on whether they conform to whatever "classics" the field employs.

Lynds' success in a field outside his own should reinforce the idea that academic rigidity can hinder advances as much as it helps to reinforce the status quo in the field.

[Ed note: Lynds' paper is downloadable here]

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Comments

Dear Ben,

Somebody pointed me to your article. Apart from finding it very flattering and extremely well written, I think you've hit a number of things right on the head in it. I applaud you. I hope other people who read it, found it as pertinent and encouraging as I did. Thanks.

Best wishes

Peter

Why Heisenberg uncertainty principle is accepted and not his theories?Öcouldn't they be related?

Although I haven't fully digested his entire article yet, I have to say that what he is saying is not all that new. This is a discussed problem and concept that appears in various philosophical works over the centuries and various cultures.

His work relies on the problem of the Zeno Paradox, and lack of continuous overlap between moments, which seems to me to be nothing more than mathematical difficulty. This problem came about before the concept of infinity and has a mathematical solution. I wouldn't be too sure if the passing of moments was discontinuous and static progressions (Which is another interpretation of our physical world).

Lynd talks about his theory as an explanation, including three time emergent theories which are likely as hotly debated as the reception of his paper, without giving anything to really use. He mentions quantum uncertainty (Heisenburg) is due to his theory wihtout providing a replacement. How is that any use to physicists?

His work is a bit pre-emptive and he should have collaberated with others and have given new solutions to old problems if he wants to shake the world of physicists. As it stands right now it is not much more than a philosphical discussion. He hasn't given us much to use.

If his theory is a good theory it will withstand the criticism. However many scientists will likely ignore it (or even more so shrug when asked if they heard of his work) because it doesn't affect them.

Did his paper shake up scientists? Yes. Did it shake up the sciences? No.

I haven't yet read his article though I have read several articles and discussions about his article. As such I really can't comment on his work except to say that I applaud his courage and tenacity to have his views published. I have often said that schools are good only for providing conformity and not for providing thinkers and the fact Peter didn't finish college helps prove this. After all, Einstein failed his way through high school, never went to college, and was also ridiculed for his views but now that we are in the 21st Century, we now praise him as one of the greatest minds ever to walk to earth. I'm not saying that Peter has those same qualities, but I think his work definitely deserves some serious thought and discussion. You never know, his theories may lead to a comprehensive understanding of time and soon we may be able to walk across time the same way we walk down the street.

Hey!

You think this idea is hot?! Really? I want to watch you compute a single thing with it. Go on.

You're understanding of academia is completely wrong. (At least in the sciences that I know.) You think they're just sitting around giving each other oral pleasure complimenting each other on how they pass qualifiers/etc. You know bud, you have to learn the classics before you change them. And quite frankly, most schools rush you through the process of "learning the classics" real fast and throw you directly into research. And most encourage undergraduate research. I assure you there is nothing but revolution going on in the halls of physics departments, both experimentally and theoretcially. Do you have to go to school? No. Can you learn physics on your own? Yes. (But again these are just boring classics right?) But you do get better at basketball when you play in the NBA. You want to mock the academia?! Fine. But lets see if you have as good of a grasp on physics principles as the regular academian.

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classical notions--which are almost defined so as to require no additional mental processing
*/

I have found the classical notions to be very difficult. Especially when it comes to applying them with real problems. You must actually be really smart if you think they don't require much mental processing. Which in particular do you find the simplest? Which the most difficult (I know they're all simple and don't require much thought, but pick one which you think someone else might find very difficult)? Other people do find physics (even the "classics") difficult you know. And I think the evidence bears that they are. Only about 5,000 undergraduate physics degrees are given each year. There is a reason it is so few. [Note: If it's relevant, I don't have a physics degree of any sort.]

Thanks for all the kind (and unkind) words. I like it when writing arouses some thought and discussion, since that shows some evidence of thought processes somewhere.

To Mr. Joe Helfand,
It is up to Mr. Lynds' to defend his ideas. My interest in them is that they are neat and worth thinking about.

My understanding of academia comes from having completed a BSc in biology with a minor in chemistry (and soon a BA in political science). My observation as a student is that there are are 'classics' and people afraid to stray from them in almost every field.

Regarding your understanding of classics (and the sentence fragment you quoted out of context):
Of course there are easy classics (gravity makes things fall, DNA allows life to replicate) and more complicated ones (sub-atomic particles have interesting properties, virtual particles and fields), with the common property that they are often taught and assumed to be true, at times without much supporting evidence or discussion. My beef is not with the classics as such, but with the idea that the classics are the be all and end all of a subject (and with those who outright ignore or disdain anything that looks different from the classics).

I invite you to reread Mr. Lynds' article and this one to enhance your understanding of this discussion.

Intriguing discussion!
I am a big fan of both astrophysics and the psychology of innovation and change.

Now that this theory has got attention, it will stand or it will fall based on it's merits and followup discussions.
WHO can say what idea or theory is/is-not a CATALYST for other ideas later on.

At the least, it has generated interest and discussion of ideas.
At the most it could be a revelation.

Do you know where/how I can get a copy of Peter Lynds Paper without paying an arm and a leg or joining an "institution"?

It appears that Mr Lynds himself responded here, perhaps you could forward my question on to him.
Cheers.

Peter Lynds is going in the right direction. The problem I believe is that
he doesn't know yet where it is going, which leaves him open to mistakes.
I came to the same conclusion (no moment in time) by a different route. The Sun is at 8 minutes ( universe with speed limit)
from me and is NOT part of the moment I call now. The Moon is half a second away from me. There is time between the front and back bumper of my car. There is time between molecules, atoms and between sub-atomic particles. See where this is going? An actual moment in time, defined as a set of points at the same moment, is actually an infinitesimal point! This moment in time is too small to contain a planet, a person or for that matter the standard metre. This is what space-time really mean; space doesn't exist. Space is a tool we use to navigate and position ourselves in our reality. Conclusion: space and static dimensions do not exist. Objects as something existing entirely at one moment do not exist; there is a time difference between any two points of an object. Here you see why in an article stating the non existence of a moment in time one cannot use the concept of "frame of reference", which an extension of a moment in time, in the body of the proof.

This basically describes the relationship between our perception and everything our science and equations.. say the universe is like. Now, I don't see anything wrong about that. This distinction may well be the explanation of the different approaches that are classical and quantum mechanics. Better, it will lead to a substance and cause that explain how the universe works by itself without us watching. You didn't think an equation actually made things move? Things were falling long before Newton and Einstein. ..?? This is the first step of a theory for the understanding of everything; not the description of everything, because we are, as seen above, very much biased. WE already have plenty equations describing how gravitation works, but all fail to say why it works.

At any rate, this is coming and it is THE final frontier. You may want to fight it, but if I can, I will be part of it.

Marcel,

I actually came back here to privately ask you to remove what I wrote. However, I think a public apology may be better. I really do wish I hadn't written that and I apologize to whoever reads it, and I really do mean it. I wish I hadn't said oral pleasure. I also wish I had made better analogy. Publishing in the world of physics is playing in the NBA. You don't have to go to school to get accepted. I don't think people care about "credentials" when it comes to publishing. (I don't know, I've never published.) I think it is done on the evaluation of the paper. But I have had a different experience when it comes to physics education. Going to school is like full-time basketball camp. You are trained very hard to play as well as you can, and encouraged to think outside of the box. As I see it, you only learn the classics to change them. But notice, you have to learn them to change them, there is that catch. I am sorry you haven't had a good experience with your education, do you think you wasted your money on some of those degrees?

I am glad you find gravity easy. I am sure you can compute the trajectory of a ballistic missile, itís time of flight and the point of contact with the Earth. I am sure you can calculate the perturbation of a sun synchronous orbit arising from the oblation of the Earth, and determine what altitude and orbit it should be in. I am sure you can whip out a code with multi-step adaptation for an n-body problem. And not just stop there, since gravity is so easy things fall! How insightfulÖ you must know General Relativity. You must have learned pseudo-Riemannian manifolds, the Einstein-curvature equations. I am confident you can reproduce the perturbative expansion of Mercuryís orbit around the Sun, explaining its precession. Tell me you know all these things and not just how to calculate the position and speed of a ball falling under uniform gravitation. I do not know much about DNA, but at the moment your statement seems to be in agreement with my own level, and I donít have a biology degree. (In fact I can go one step further: RNA Help!!) So you did have some trouble with sub-atomic particles? But itís great that you found them interesting. You must understand it real wellÖ I wonder if you can help me out. Iíd like to learn how to calculate different cross-sections for scattering experiments. Iíd like to know how to calculate decay rates of different nuclei. You understand virtual-particles and fields? Excellent! Can you explain how Feynman path integral formulation and virtual particle pair production plays in with quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field. You find it real interesting, as do I. But I donít get it. Can you help me??? Also save me from the world of academia! Theyíre trying to teach it to me without supporting evidence! Please rescue me by filling in the blanks as thoroughly as possible.

I say it again. You have to learn these classics before you can change them. In fact, desiring to change them is impetus enough to learn them. I donít like how you criticize teaching at the university. I actually think it is a little dangerous. As I said, I have had a completely different experience than you. I donít know how they do things at your political science department, your biology and chemistry department, but I really found the experience very rewarding. What the hell do you think theyíre doing there? Trust me, physics departments want to teach you how to see the world through a physicistís eyes.

/*
"Scholarly" publications prefer jargon to more accessible prose under the guise of concision, and students are trained to similarly encapsulate the ideas within only those of the system, limiting the introduction of any new ideas.
*/

What a joke. Youíre critiquing what you donít understand. Publications arenít written for lay people, theyíre written by people and for people actively doing research in that field. Do you have any new ideas in the fields of gravity, which is so simple because things fall? Or better yet, get some papers that you find have too much jargon, and should have been written in prose. Iíll review your comments.

Finally, you donít want to defend Peter Lyndsí paper. Okay. But then tell me what should I find interesting or neat about it?

Mr Helfand:

Pardon me for not adequately conveying my ideas to your satisfaction.

1) The concepts I described in my previous response are ones that came to readily to mind as one that have been taught to myself or to fellow students as classics. I made no claim about my expertise in any particular concept listed, though I will make the comment that gravity (as with every other item on the list) is not as simple as the concept that is taught in primary, secondary, or early post-secondary education (thank you for illustrating my point).

2) As I stated (repeatedly), I am displeased with the few academics who for bigoted reasons are extremely limited in their willingness to consider potentially innovative ideas (I am willing to generalize this to include non-academics as well). I made no qualitative claims about my entire education (although you can infer that I am not dissatisfied with my education at the U of C as I am choosing to obtain more education from the same provider).

3) Regarding jargon, I would contend that the non-exclusive existence of scholarly publications, including journals, text books, reference materials, etc. that are easier to read is consistent with the scholarly enterprise of generating and disseminating information. Regarding my original statement about jargon, the existence of very entrenched frameworks and their jargon discourages new ways of conceptualizing familiar observations. If all you have is particle theory, then everything looks like a particle.

4) I have no interest in what you think of Mr. Lynds' publication.

Joe, I'm sure that if you ask nicely, someone here will help you with your language difficulty by explaining the more complicated phrases in the article, responses, and paper to you in simpler language. Nonetheless, I congratulate you on your proficiency in expressing yourself using English instead of your first language. Keep up the good work!

Very true, except you forget the ones who will deduct marks for not including the "right" references, even when they have nothing to do with your topic. And what about instructors who insist that you cite their (graduate, ick!) work, even if its years out of date and others have corrected it since?

This theory is completely wrong. You can find a complete rebuttal to it, and share your opinions here:

http://www.thequantummachine.com

"Cesar"> the thequantummachine site seems outdated and one-sided, even more so than some of the tin-foil hat sites out there. At least Foundations of Physics Letters and the like have internal checks and balances to prevent mistakes from getting through. Are we to assume that whatever editor might be working thequantummachine to be omniscient and infallible?

Talk about pot, kettle, black...

TheQuantumMachine is one sided in its editorial line, because I run it solely and have not double-personality. Apart from that, you can share your opinions freely in our Phorum.

http://www.thequantummachine.com/phorum/list.php?f=2

Faulty or not, you make a great point about the intellectual walls in the academic environment.

Mr. Lynd's argument does not appear to be based on sound physical principles.

The manner in which he presents the equations to support his theory shows that he should put more effort toward obtaining a fundamental grasp of modern physics.

Lynds is so obviously right it's not funny. Why some of you are unable to see that is beyond me. Maybe it's because you just don't want to. I could think of a few other possible reasons too. It's very sad.