Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Hard Sciences Are Politically Correct Too!

Beware optimisim about any corner of higher education. Professor Frank Tipler, a mathematical physicist at Tulane University, just sent me the following e-mail about political correctness in physics. Many of us in the social sciences think of the hard sciences as the last bastion of academic standards, but sadly this appears to be over-optimism. The text of Professor Tipler's e-mail follows.

Dear Mitchell,
>> Why do you except the hard sciences from your critique? During the
>> thirty years I've been a professor of Mathematical Physics, the
>> physics departments at the "leading" American universities have
>> become hostile to the fundamental laws of physics, specifically
>> quantum mechanics, relativity, and the second law of thermodynamics.
>> It is my impression that most technological advance during the past
>> two decades has come, not from university science and engineering
>> departments, but from private individuals, and researchers at
>> industrial labs. For example, the revolutionary idea of the quantum
>> computer was first advanced by David Deutsch, who, although he has
>> the title of Professor of Physics at Oxford University, actually
>> receives no salary from the university. He earns his living by free
>> lance writing, and the occasional prize for his work (like last
>> year's $100,000 Edge Foundation Prize). Deutsch, a supporter of the
>> Conservative Party, is too unorthodox to hold a regular university
>> position. Michael Shor, who invented the Shor Algorithm that,
>> running on a quantum computer, could break any of the Internet
>> Security codes, was and is employed by what in my childhood was
>> called Bell Labs.
>> A few years ago, Science magazine ran an article showing that most
>> science articles paid for by NSF were never even cited by anyone
>> except the author. Completely worthless work, in other words.
>> Most university mathematics departments teach a theory of probability
>> and statistics that was created in the early 20th century by
>> psychologists and sociologists instead of a more sophisticated theory
>> created around 1800 by the great physicists Simon de Laplace and Karl
>> F. Gauss. Using the physicists' probability theory, it is possible
>> to show that the social scientists' probability theory is designed to
>> tend to confirm whatever the experimenter wishes to be true. To the
>> best of my knowledge, the physicists' theory of probability is taught
>> only at four universities: Cambridge, Stanford, Washington St. Louis,
>> and North Carolina State University. See Edward Jaynes' Probability
>> Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2002) for a history of this
>> nonsense, together with a description of the correct theory of
>> probability.
>> Unfortunately, the incorrect theory of probability is required by the
>> FDA in tests of drugs. Fortunately, DNA typing uses the correct
>> theory of probability.
>> Best,
>> Frank J. Tipler
>> Professor of Mathematical Phyiscs
>> Tulane University

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