Josh Lapan has informed me about the following incident. Brian Powell, a physics student from Buffalo whom Josh met at TASI 2005, has repeatedly tried to submit a review of the following book sold at amazon.com:
As I explain below, the book does not deserve anything else than one star (and my guess is that the readers, even those who sometimes like to argue with me, will agree). The short story is that the staff at amazon.com has repeatedly prevented the reviews by Brian Powell from appearing on their website. Arguably, the last reviews are absolutely legitimate and polite. Brian Powell was kind of frustrated that the opinion of a dumb crackpot about theoretical physics is obviously more important than the opinion of a graduate student of theoretical physics. And he summarized his story here.
Sometimes it may happen that a legitimate review is removed because the people are simply not perfect and the "moderators" at amazon.com are no exception. This is why I was not particularly bothered at the beginning. However, yesterday, after a short research that confirmed Brian's assertions, I submitted my own 1-star review. Because I am a verified customer of amazon.com, my review appeared immediately. Nevertheless, this review of mine disappeared within a couple of hours, too. The result is that there are still just 33 reviews of that dumb book, and the average score is - believe it or not - 5 stars! In my review I was polite; my job was mentioned, too. It did not help.
Well, I don't intend to be polite on my blog because in this case it's not compatible with the scientific integrity. Mark McCutcheon is a generic arrogant crackpot whose IQ is comparable to chimps. In his book he intends to unify quantum mechanics and relativity to find the final theory; his unification is based on the assertion that both relativity as well as quantum mechanics is wrong and should be abandoned.
His "derivation" of the equation "E=mc2" is a textbook example how similar cranks operate. They believe that derivations of physics formulae may be reduced to algebraic manipulations taught at elementary schools which is the most complicated insight related to physics that they were partially capable to learn; the exact meaning of the letters is completely inpenetrable for the cooks; this particular one confuses force and energy and he has no idea about various forms that energy can have.
It is not just quantum mechanics and relativity that McCutcheon paints as huge errors. You may look at Chapter 1 of his book; 58 pages are available. For example, page 39 (45th out of 58) informs you about an important principle:
- Therefore, the familiar form of Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation is not a true law of nature, but merely a flawed invention based on superficial similarities in appearance between orbits and the very different scenario of a rock-and-string.
He continues that the introduction of gravity was completely arbitrary and unnecessary, "superfluous and redundant abstraction, both in theory and in practice".
In my opinion, amazon.com is committing fraud because it actively pretends that McCutcheon's piece of rubbish is a 5-star book; what they're doing is equivalent to selling excrements as shampoo which is a pretty bad thing even if 33 people like this "shampoo". The bias is completely clear; nasty reviews of very good books about physics are usually tollerated. I am not sure whether the situation is sufficiently well-defined legally to win a trial against amazon.com; morally, the situation is clearly wrong and it is sad that one of the most important online bookstores behaves in this painful fashion.
McCutcheon's book is not the first example of a similar behavior of the leading online bookstore that I am familiar with. Several years ago, another crackpot named Dean Radin wrote his own book proving the existence of paranormal phenomena such as telekinesis and telepathy:
Later, I was informed about this book. One of the impressive reviews - saying that the book was the most important scientific breakthrough of that year - was written by the Nobel prize winner Brian Josephson, currently the director of the Mind-Matter Unification Project. I was totally shocked and for 10 seconds or so, I was even thinking about the idea that there may be something true about ESP after all; this was before I learned that Prof. Josephson has changed the focus of his research significantly; thanks to Prof. Josephson for helping me to improve the formulation in this sentence. If you study the amazon.com pages dedicated to Radin's book, you will see that some reviews had been removed (mine survived: what a surprise) and Radin was apparently able to control this process. He was also allowed to submit several reviews written by himself and giving his own book 5 stars - at least twice. My conjecture is that similar more-than-standard relations exist between amazon.com and McCutcheon.
Of course, an alternative explanation is that it is just a couple of uneducated people among the moderators of amazon.com that are responsible for these inappropriate decisions which reviews should be kept. In this case, amazon.com should fire these people as soon as possible unless they want to be seen as a company controlled by morons.
Let's make the following competition. The first reader of The Reference Frame who will be able to submit a one-star review of McCutcheon's book that will be at least 200 words in length, satisfy all amazon.com criteria (e.g. you must have read the book before you submit a review), and that will survive at least for 1 week will win 3 dollars (via paypal.com).