Posted by: Jamie | March 3, 2012

Crank Central

I recently decided to rejoin the LinkedIn network – basically a social network site geared towards professional networking.

Once you’ve got a profile, you can join groups. Your university probably has a group for alums, for example. One of the groups I joined was the official American Physical Society (APS) group.

It is a depressing place to be. Its discussions are populated largely by cranks looking to “disprove” various well-established theories. The sort of people that think that because physical behavior at relativistic and quantum scales defies our common sense expectations, the theories must be wrong, despite the fact that repeated experiments confirm that those theories do, in fact, describe reality exceptionally well. Of course, these people rarely have any physics background. One of the current worst offenders is a petroleum engineer, of all things.

I realize there isn’t a very good way to keep non-physicists out of the group, nor would I wish to. I also wouldn’t want to see any sort of rule trying to define “crank” discussions – where does the line get drawn? Nevertheless, it is frustrating that genuine discussion of actual interesting results has to get drowned out amongst all the pseudo-scientific, denialist drek. It makes the group a very poor networking opportunity, in practice.

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