Astronomy ought to be an observational science. It really should. It used to be, after all, a hundred years ago or so. Ideally, astronomers would point their instruments at the heavens, find astounding new things, and publish them where we could all share in the joy of discovery. I wish it were so. The appalling truth is that we are permitted to see only what a faceless, nameless group called “the moderators” deems fit for our eyes. Thought Police are alive and well in the world of space science, and who knows, some of them might even be friends of ours. Alas, so great is their commitment to anonymity that we would simply never know.

In acknowledging my sources in The Static Universe, I paid tribute to the publicly-funded online science repository arXiv. The following paragraph was written before I was (quite rudely, I thought) blacklisted by arXiv. After a deal of sombre thought, I decided to leave it there, unchanged:

“It is about time that someone gave credit to the most-used reference set in the history of science: The well-worn Cornell University online library arXiv. Pronounced archive from the Greek letter Chi, arXiv currently stores about 500,000 scientific publications, with about 4,000 being added every month. Access is free and open, and it is the preferred point of reference for scientists seeking to refer to the work of others. What an outstanding service! Thank you so much, Cornell for administering it, and Paul Ginsparg for inventing it.”

That was said in all sincerity. I’m sure you will understand that I am somewhat more cynical about arXiv these days. It presents an imbalance—the absence of even a few of those who argue against the motion means that arXiv becomes the expression of a particular opinion, rather than a place where scientific results can be compared without let or hindrance.

Much of the brouhaha currently surrounding the online archive could be avoided if the moderators demonstrated courage in their convictions by declaring their agenda, and by giving reasons for rejecting submissions. They admit that only a few papers or authors are blocked, so it would not be an onerous task. All it would require is openness and honesty. Is that too much to ask of those who hold the power? To whom are they answerable? The moderators are protected from public scrutiny and accountability, and thereby make of themselves a secret society. No one denies the publishers of public media the right and the duty to maintain standards, but in this case (as in the classic case of Halton Arp) it has nothing to do with science and everything to do with personalities, politics, and childish vendettas. They can hide behind the mask of anonymity and blatantly practice ideological censorship with impunity. Here is what Nobel Laureate Louis de Broglie had to say:

“The history of science teaches that the greatest advances in the scientific domain have been achieved by bold thinkers who perceived new and fruitful approaches that others failed to notice. If one had taken the ideas of these scientific geniuses who have been the promoters of modern science and submitted them to committees of specialists, there is no doubt that the latter would have viewed them as extravagant and would have discarded them for the very reason of their originality and profundity. As a matter of fact, the battles waged, for example by Fresnel and by Pasteur suffice to prove that some of these pioneers ran into a lack of understanding from the side of eminent scholars which they had to fight with vigour before emerging as the winners. More recently, in the domain of theoretical physics, of which I can speak with knowledge, the magnificent novel conceptions of Lorentz and Planck, and particularly Einstein also clashed with the incomprehension of eminent scientists. The new ideas here triumphed; but, in proportion as the organization of research becomes more rigid, the danger increases that new and fruitful ideas will be unable to develop freely.

Let us state in a few words the conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing. While, by the very force of circumstances, research and teaching are weighted down by administrative structures and financial concerns and by the heavy armature of strict regulations and planning, it becomes more indispensable than ever to preserve the freedom of scientific research and the freedom of initiative for the original investigators, because these freedoms have always been and will always remain the most fertile sources for the grand progress of science.”

The following quotation is taken from the website www.archivefreedom.org, co-founded by another Nobel Laureate, Brian Josephson (himself blacklisted by arXiv):

“The electronic preprint archive (arXiv.org), founded in 1991 at Los Alamos National Laboratories and funded by the National Science Foundation, was formed as a way for scientists to rapidly disseminate new discoveries and theoretical developments to the worldwide scientific community. Its original intent was to be an open forum for papers authored by credentialed physicists, i.e., those who consistently had papers approved for publication in peer refereed journals. Over time the criteria for approval of submitted papers to the archive became more complicated and restrictive.

“Presently hosted at Cornell University under the direction of physicist Paul Ginsparg, it blocks certain physicists from posting their papers to this archive. The arXiv administrators maintain a list of physicists whom they have blacklisted or ostracized so that any paper those individuals attempt to submit is systematically rejected regardless of its scientific content. Usually these blocked papers have already been accepted for publication in reputable peer refereed science journals or in other cases are undergoing review for journal publication which indicates that these papers are serious and well thought out. The list of suppressed scientists even includes Nobel Laureates! One characteristic that these ostracized physicists share in common is that they have written or published papers in the past which propose new ideas that challenge traditional physics dogma. In other cases their published works just happen to run counter to the particular theory preferences of the small political clique administering the archive.

“Our world is experiencing serious problems such as exponential population growth, environmental pollution, impending energy shortages, nuclear proliferation, and climatic change. We cannot afford to suppress the works of those seminal minds whose new ideas could revolutionize the way we interact with the world. What if a paper described the discovery of a new source of energy that could help to alleviate the coming energy crisis? Or, what if a paper brought to light a serious environmental hazard which, if unheeded, would result in a substantial loss of life. And, what if arXiv.org moderators censored one such important paper because of a possible personal dislike of its author or because it conflicted with a theory they personally favoured? Society cannot afford this kind of behaviour.

“In today’s fast changing world it is not enough just to publish one’s ideas in scientific journals, a process that can drag on from months to years until approved for publication. Rapid communication of all plausible new ideas to the academic community through an easily accessible internet archive is essential to the progress of science.

“The purpose of this site is to alert the public about the blocking activities being conducted by the Cornell sponsored arXiv.org administrators and to relate the case histories of those scientists who have been censored and/or blacklisted. Archive Freedom advocates that this practice be immediately stopped and that all scientists be given open uncensored access to this archive to post their technical papers. We respectfully urge the administrators at Cornell University, as guardian of the world’s knowledge of physics, to honour the contributions of all serious scientists.”

An alternative to arXiv has recently been launched by physicist Phil Gibbs: It is called viXra and can be found at www.vixra.org. I hope it will be well supported so that it can become a viable resource for science.

6 comments on “Archive Freedom

  1. James F. Evans

    Hannes Alfven spoke out about this kind of censorship. Another Nobel Prize winner, no less.

    There is something very wrong with Science when an archive set up ostensively for communicating serious hypothesis and reports on observations & measurements begins to censor individuals regardless of or because of content.

    But maybe just as bad is that the general public doesn’t know about this kind of 16th century activity and assumes the scientific community engages in the most pure, idea, open inquiry.

    If they did know and knew the ideas censored, then maybe the scientific community would be shamed into a more open process.

    Or maybe the conscious awareness that the public would tell its elected represenitives to “cut the money” until the scientific community “cut the censorship” would change the situation.

    This is particlularly serious in the areas of astrophysics and astronomy.

  2. James F. Evans

    If I may add this note:

    Not only is censorship active in scientific journals through the peer-review process, another anonymous process, and the above described archive system, but it seems that astronomy grad schools will reject admission to candidates who openly question or reject the “big bang, black hole” paradigm.

    Astronomy grad schools, seemingly have turned into “indoctrination camps” where the “inmates” are re-educated or “brainwashed” to believe the current paradigm regardless of the scientific evidence in hand that suggests electromagnetism plays a significant role (if not dominant role) in celestial mechanics.

    And “old bulls” enforce dogma and (judging from my experience) will even distort or mislead regarding the state of the scientific evidence.

    I had a sereis of online discussions/debates with an older respected helio-astrophysicist. The issue of electric currents in space came up several times and it was like “pulling hen’s teeth” to get him to acknowledge electric currents in the near space around Earth. But later he again denied electric currents in space even though even opponents of Plasma Cosmology acknowledge electric currents in space:

    Tim Thompson an astrophysicist recently retired from the JPL was challenged by an interlocutor: “…somehow you’ve managed to convince yourself that electricity does not play a vital role in events in space.”

    And Tim Thompson responded:

    “Wrong. I believe no such thing and neither does anyone else I know. Electric currents certainly do play a vital role in events in space, on every spatial scale from the smallest to the largest. They are incorporated into standard physical models of the solar system and cosmology. There are whole books and reams of papers on the topic. Electric currents do play a vital role in events in space without question…Sometimes plasma & electric currents dominate, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s not easy to tell which dominates.”

    The old respected helio-astrophysicist claimed space plasma doesn’t support electric fields.

    But that is false:

    “Since then, an extensive body of evidence from space measurements has been accumulated, and the existence and importance of magnetic-field aligned electric fields in space plasmas is now generally accepted.” — Carl-Gunne Fälthammar, Division of Plasma Physics, Alfvén Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, S-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

    http://www.hep.princeton.edu/~mcdonald/examples/EM/falthammar_ajp_74_454_06.pdf

    Also, in situ observation & measurement demonstrates electric fields in space:

    From abstract:
    “Electron distribution functions measured on the Dynamics Explorer 1 spacecraft are shown to have the characteristics expected in a region of parallel electric fields.”

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1990/GL017i013p02329.shtml

    And there are other in situ observations & measurements reported in respected scientific journals confirming ‘electric fields’ in space and ‘electric currents’ in space.

    So what is one to think when a (hopefully) fully informed, respected helio-astrophysicist states there are no ‘electric fields’ in space plasma despite copious scientific evidence to the contrary?

    I can only think: There are serious problems in Astronomy, today.

  3. Skywalker

    Hi Marcel,

    Thanks for the link and for getting my book. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know.
    Take care
    Hilton

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