When I was a postgraduate student I published my first scientific paper. I was very worried that the paper would be inaccurate. I spent several months reviewing the content before I finally submitted the work for publication. My supervisor reassured me by saying that there are three types of scientific publications: The ones that are correct, those that are wrong and the remainder – not even wrong. He said as long as your paper belongs to the first two then you are contributing to science.
The recent controversy on the neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light shows why scientist need to be careful. The leader of the research team, Prof. Antonio Ereditato has quit his post this week after further experiments cast doubts on the original results.
Fusion Energy at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics.
I have seen a lot of attention given to the recent reports on the ground breaking experiments at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics. I felt I had to comment. I read the most recent paper by Eric J. Lerner et al– “Theory and Experimental Program for p-B11 Fusion”. J Fusion Energ (2011) 30:367–376. I was left sceptical as the paper was very much in the realm of “not even wrong”. My curiosity was raised and I looked at the references to earlier work by the main author.
“Force-Free Magnetic Filaments and the Cosmic Background Radiation” Eric J. Lerner, IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON PLASMA SCIENCE, VOL. 20, NO. 6, DECEMBER 1992.
It seemed quite a complex paper with a detailed theory and many complex equations. I assumed that it would take me many days, if not weeks to work my way through such a complex paper. To my amazement within an hour, I realised the paper was incomprehensible. Many of the variables were not even defined, something I learned to do as an undergraduate. Some equations even broke simple dimension criteria. How did this get past a referee? It seems to me that Mr lerner was more qualified as a science fiction writer than a scientist.
This brings me back to the faster than light experiments. The lead scientist felt he had to resign because he was wrong. But being wrong is not something that a scientist should have to resign about – unless they deliberately try to mislead.
Being “not even wrong” is worse than being wrong. I am not expecting to see fusion energy from Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, New Jersey, dispite the fanfare.