Open Science, or Internet Fight?

Quantum theory is the most accurate and well tested theory ever. However, it is difficult to understand without the proper mathematical background, and challenges common intuition. This makes it a target for crackpot attacks.

Scott Aaronson has gotten into a fight in his blog with the quantum denialist Joy Christian. This fight has many of the usual ingredients: angry comments, dares, misconceptions, made-up language, etc. War was declared in this post by Scott, and attacks were made in the comments to that post. This prompted Scott to follow up with a second post that is even more interesting. What makes it stand out is that 1) there is a $200,000 in line, 2) Scott has been gracious enough to study Joy’s papers, and find a central, basic and quite obvious mistake that makes the whole argument fall apart, and 3) Scott is asking for FQXi, Perimeter Institute and Oxford to cut all connections to Joy!

This has caused another debate in the comments section of the second post. Is this feeding the troll? Is this going to far? Isn’t this empowering Joy Christian more, instead of deflating him? Why pick on him, instead of any of the other quantum deniers? Even people from FQXi have posted in the blog.

Is this just another internet fight? Is this an example of what Neal Stephenson wrote in Cryptonomicon:

Arguing […] on the Internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out […] to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.

Or is this how open science should be? After all, it does bring attention to unpublished work, focuses examination by leading researchers, and gets quick results. Just because the result invalidates the idea, was it wasted time and resources, or was it part of how open science should be done?

Is there a code of conduct for Open Science to differentiate between internet fights and good science?

Author: minustwofish

I am a quantum physicist.

2 thoughts on “Open Science, or Internet Fight?”

  1. I think the Comments were being blocked by a Spam filter. I think I just fixed it. Comments should work now. This is a test comment.

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  2. I believe that open science is the attempt to bring data generated by all experiments into the public such that everyone can use it or reproduce the experiment. In this case, proofs of Bell’s inequality have been written all over the internet and in publications. There are arxiv papers describing disproofs of Bell’s inequality, which of course has papers of disproofs of the above disproof. Nonetheless, both arguments are freely available and can be read by anyone. So, in essence I would say that the conversation about the proof of Bell’s inequality is fundamentally open science. Researcher A does some math and then researcher B does other math different from A and they reach different conclusions. But, at the same time both researchers are making their findings freely available. The arguing and name calling I would say is just trolling, not very nice, and distracting for someone that wants to investigate both sides of the story. While the bickering makes for “good” (if you like this sort of thing) TV dramas, it is ultimately a constipator for science—something that messes with your shit and is irritating. One should do science because they love it, not because they hate the person doing science differently than themselves.

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