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Amazon.COM controlled by crackpots?



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.

Challenge:

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).

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snail feedback (34) :


reader Plato said...

Lubos,

Would you consider Brain Josephson sick if he was held in context of this?

If one wanted to curtail and limit the readers to what the originator wanted of lets say a blog like Peter Woits, then he might only limit those statements that he feels appropriate to comments about how he feels about string theory?

Is he fair in this acceptance and rejection knowing the bias he has?

I trust from my perspective that he would be fair and honest in this regard, but it is a very hard thing to remain unattached, to the bias's we adopted. I give him credit for his stance and the leadership you and him try to excell too.

While I agree with what you are saying about comment on Amazon, it is obvious the "consumer marketing" is at work, and overides the opinions you might have or other of scientific status.

I would say such opinons about Brian Josephson might be less cruel, and am thinking that you mean he is ill, not in the psycholgical sense?

Might Bohm have been sick too? I see such inclination to faiths in a God, and still scientifically held positions with the greatest clarity.


reader Lumo said...

Dear plato,

the definition of a mental disease is an extremely subtle thing, and it is always to some extent a matter of social conventions whether you will consider a certain behavior to be a sign of illness.

I personally consider those who believe that remote objects are moved by mental powers (and they have witnessed such things) ill. It does not mean that one cannot talk to these people etc.; but during such a discussion it is recommended to systematically realize that something is unusual about these people.

I have no idea whether it is right to answer that David Bohm was also ill. Uri Geller convinced David Bohm that Geller was able to bend the keys, and do many other things. In my opinion Bohm believed these things because his physical intuition was not terribly good, not because he was downright sick.

Best
Lubos


reader Lumo said...

And one sentence I forgot: unfortunately, mental disease does not avoid you just because you discover a superconductive junction 30 years ago. Unfortunately, no one is safe.


reader Leucipo said...

Is it usual that most reviewers of a book only have reviewed this book?


reader Quantoken said...

Lubos said:
"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 and that will survive at least for 1 week will win 3 dollars (via paypal.com)."

Three dollars is damn cheap :-)

I am not going to comment on the book or the author because it is unwise to comment on something you have not seen or read by yourself. And I am not interested in buying the book either.

It is worth noting that AMZON allowed only authors, publishers, or readers to provide reviews. If you have not read the book yourself, then you are not reader of the book and really can not comment on it.

I would think that AMAZON would prohit providing book reviews without actually having read the book, and suspend priviledge of any one who are caught doing just that. It makes perfect business sense. AMAZON runs a business. As their frequent customer I often rely on customer reviews before I decide to buy a book. If I know all those reviews are written by some one who haven't actually read the book, it's a big turn off factor and AMAZON could lose customers because of that.

So, all I want to say is if you are interested in commenting on the book, buy it first and follow whatever guideline AMAZON ask you to follow. Lubos, by publicly advocating behaviors not in compliance with AMAZON request, you could well find youself losing the priviledge commenting on another book in the future.

So don't do it, unless you are willing to waste $20 on the book. I don't, and I won't comment on it.


reader Lumo said...

Dear Quantoken,

I've personally read a sufficient portion of the book to know what kind of book it is.

Concerning the competition, I also encourage the participants to read the book or its parts, too, before they write a review.

All the best
Lubos


reader Quantoken said...

I am sorry. I withdraw my previous comment. Looks like you provided a link to which one can read a substantiate part of the book. If you do read it through certainly you perfectly have the right to comment it on Amazon.

I will still reserve my own judgement until I have read through it.


reader Lumo said...

Dear Quantoken,

thanks. I am personally interested what you're thinking about such books.

The author refers to other people who write about physics as either degenerated mainstream physicists or crackpots, thinking that he is a special third category. ;-)

Best
Lubos


reader Quantoken said...

On the David Bohm thing. A good scientist has very good physics intuition, but he would adhere to the principle that observations are really the final judge regarding whethere something is possible or impossible.

I have not seem any one performing the bending of keys and I would first assume it's probably some kind of magician tricks. Putting yourself in the position of Bohm, if he saw something performed like that right underneath his nose, he would first try to explain it away using magician tricks. But if you watch very closely and could not find any indication of magician trick, and you determined you are not in a sleeping or dreaming state, and you try all possibilities and really can not give a reasonable explanation in physics, and it is happening right in front of your eyes, and there is no reason to believe there is any problem with your eyes. Then what do you do.

In my opinion, if you have exhausted all reasonable explanation you can think of, as a good physicist you admit it is real and it is something un-explained by known physics. It could well be that the magician trick is just too damn good that Bohm was unable to see it through. But his response is perfect normal then, for a scientists.

And probably you want to reserve your negative comment about Bohm, until you have seen the same thing that this Magician performed, with your own pair of eyes, and you draw your own conclusion.

Quantoken


reader Plato said...

Lubos, Quanto,

Had there ever been "anomalistic behavior" that existed, that any good scientist, althought being very well in performance of scientific requirement, had not been able to supply a clear and viable definiton with evidence, should reject it from the reality?

I am just wondering.

I am thinking of Einstein here, and his motivation when given a compass as a youth, could have understood such a anomalistic behavior to the compass. That he would be moved in the rest of his life, explaining such wonderments. Thank goodness.

Could it be sadly said, this might never worked for some, and forever be derailled to illness as a special and precautionary stance now taken about their ethics?

How far then has string theory gone that it titters on such a brink of such scientific requirements that those like Peter Woit might say, such precaution had to be now taken with those who now engage this subject?

While we know well this "unseen force",it might be not all to clear for somethese abstractions, the dynamcis of that reality to many, who would have preferred the more tangible evdience of observation. Yet we know well that such abstraction appeals nicely, to our views of a very dynamcial world and one we might have seen inherent in the bulk.

Many have stopped short of this, and preferred to work the Special Relativity, before engaging the further roads lead through by, Hulse and Taylor.

While admitttingly, we can now percieve how close we are to such definitions, it would also be very clear, how far some of us take our perceptions.

I for one admit to working these thoughts of GR and the road we had been lead through. There is "tangible experimental evidence" that such works are real and substantial, with what means we will go to test these theoretical definitions.

All is well.:)


reader Quantoken said...

Lubos wants to hear my opinion of this book. Wow! I feel complimented that for the first time Lubos may think that my opinion is important to know.

My opinion is this book is not worth the paper it is printed on. This guy obvious has NOT received any decent education in physics and he could not understand some of the most basic concepts.

But Gee you can disagree with him all you want, but this guys is truely fascinating and mind provoking. He got all the concepts wrong, but he does asked a few good questions and he does know all the colorful terminologies theoretical physicists love to use.
This guy almost seem like a visitor from outer space. He does NOT seem to be science illiterate at all, but he does NOT seem to have received the kind of regular education most people have received.

My speculation. This is a subculture formed when one has not taken a single class of general physics, but one does read tons of the popular reading material about stuff like extra dimention and fabric of cosmos etc. If all your physics knowledge were obtained in reading such popular reading materials, instead from taking a few good general physics classes, and you spend a lot of time trying to invent weird ideas, and you presume the more weird an idea you come up with, the more scientific you will look like, then you end up being just like this author.

As for the AMAZON customer review policy. I do not think there is a conspiracy. The point is they expect a review that is informational, and none-judgemental. Exactly like the basic requirement of a journalist, where one is required to report the facts and provide a balance view, without contributing one's personal opinion or judgement.

I do not know how one can do such a review, without imposing personal judgement. Other people may can. But I probably can't. Whenever I comment on things it is always with a strong personal opinion expressed, to the point that most people may feel offended. I just do not know a way to hide personal judgements.

I guess Lubos is probably like me in this aspect. You said you meantioned your job to back your review up. What for? You are trying to emphasis that your personal opinion is credible? They don't want you to provide personal opinion, but rather an informational review, just like journalists do. That's why Lubos's review is erased by AMAZON as well.

Quantoken


reader Brian Powell said...

Quantoken

I totally disagree. The customer review service is not a place for writing objective commentary like a journalist. That is what the book description on the back cover is for. People use the customer review forums as a place to communicate their opinions to other readers. What would be the purpose of a service that offered 32 objective reviews giving the play by play of a book? How else are stars to be awarded if one's opinion is not to be used?
It's a great service is used properly. Amazon is simply not using it properly, that's all. By the way, there are plenty of positive reviews up there for this book that only state the reader's opinion, and are not objective in the least! Amazon is definatley playing favorites here.


reader not_well_known said...

Is it possible that Amazon lends a certain amount of control over the acceptance or moderation of customer reviews to every author, but only certain authors take advantage of this? A delusional or not-quite-sane author may not be tolerant of criticism and therefore might abuse this particular right where others might not. Of course this argument assumes that Amazon does actually give authors this degree of freedom.


reader Brian Josephson said...

If I am ill, my doctor seems unaware of the fact. I have not seen a doctor for a couple of years as it happens, and take no medication, except for vitamins. I have just returned from the CASYS2005 conference where I gave an invited planery lecture, which I believe was well received, on the subject of 'General Principles for Brain Design'. This statement you can verify by looking at the conference's home page at

http://www.ulg.ac.be/mathgen/CHAOS/CASYS2005.htm

I have given a lecture at an earlier CASYS conference, so it cannot be that the organisers simply made a mistake in inviting me and did not realise what they were letting themselves in for.

Could it be that Lubos relies on unreliable information sources, and does not bother to check his facts?

BDJ


reader Lumo said...

Dear Prof. Josephson,

thank you very much for your message. Incidentally, it is probably hard for a doctor to be aware of the condition of a patient whom he has not seen for years. ;-)

Good luck
Lubos


reader Brian Josephson said...

Re Lubos' comment:

If I were ill in the way in which Lubos seems to have wanted readers of his blog to infer, it is unlikely that I would have avoided coming to the attention of the medical profession. I trust therefore that he will withdraw his suggestion that I am 'somewhat ill'. Incidentally, the conference to which I referred presented me with an award for 'outstanding scholarly work' and for the keynote lecture. I also received an award for earlier research on this subject at the 2001 Messina Complex Systems Conference, where I talked on 'Abstractions and the Brain'.

BDJ


reader Lumo said...

Dear Prof. Josephson,

your happiness is very high on my list. I am happily going to remove the "somewhat" comment.

Looking forward to your new helpful comments...

Luboš


reader Brian Josephson said...

Lubos says: "He [Radin] was also allowed to submit several reviews written by himself and giving his own book 5 stars - at least twice." In this regard: (i) anyone can submit a review of a book they have read; (ii) as far as I can see, only one of the reviews listed in "Reviews Written by D. Radin (CA USA)", is a review of his own book (are you counting the same review twice, perhaps?), and that consists purely of a response to unfavourable comments by others. This all seems perfectly reasonable to me. And since Amazon appears to require authors to give a star rating even to their own books, it would be a little unusual for him not to have chosen 5 stars out of the possibilities available to him.

And now my own Challenge:

Even though, as you say, my main focus for a number of years has been on areas outside physics, I have in fact co-authored a paper showing how paranormal phenomena can come about in principle on the basis of a causal version of QM. This was published in a physics journal (the refereed journal Foundations of Physics), and can be seen on my web pages at www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/papers/bell.html. Anthony Valentini, a Cambridge graduate, discovered the same basic idea independently, and at almost the same time, developed it in detail, and was awarded a Ph.D. at SISSA/Trieste for his work. No one has yet notified me of a flaw in the arguments; will Lubos be the first to discover one? If not, I hope that that link may be helpful.


reader cruz said...

who is this mark mccutcheon ? what institution (if any) is he affiliated with ? where did he recieve (if, at all, he did) his phd ? why is there no personal info on him (as is usually the case) on his website, www.finaltheory.com ? How come his work isn't published in any journals ? I don't hear anyone asking these questions, this is bothersome.


reader tex said...

I do see a few negative (i.e. one star) reviews--perhaps we should try and see how far we can make the 4.5 star rating fall?

Next stop: Intelligent Design.


reader tex said...

Also, has anyone noticed that one has the option to buy this book AND Weinberg's "Dreams of a Final Theory" together? Perhaps someone should tell Dr. Weinberg...


reader Clark Goble said...

Has anyone noticed that most of the positive reviews are by people who've never reviewed other books or if they have they don't involve other physics or even philosophy books?


reader Leucipo said...

Clark indeed I noticed it above :-) but it is good to stress this point and it could be argued against amazon editors.

Ah, bad English is not an excuse to avoid the competition!! I found I can adapt some of my own rejection letters... and for sure everyone has one or two.


reader Paul said...

Hidy Ho!

Regarding the first topic of Brian Powells Amazon censorship, I must say that you, Brian, had wrote negative reviews of the book that you didn't completely read. I'm glad that you tell us that openly but I don't think you should be putting comments on a review forum until you fairly read the whole thing for true fairness. If writing a review is that important to you then you must take the time to objectively read the entire thing. If you conclude it would be a waste of time to do so, then fairly you should not earn a review writing. You are however free to comment on the 1st few pages and research that you went over, but you fairly did not belong on a review of the entire book, which is what the reviews are for.
Having said that, Amazon really had no right to censor you. Though technically it is thier house and so thier rules but with such fascist rules why would you or I care to enter such a house or what activities go on in there? If in fact the book and many other books are bogus let them inflict ingorance upon themselves for it is the people who decide to enter Amazon's house free choice and free choice to believe them.
Censorship is always wrong, and I'm with you there Brian, but they do, like you and me, have the right to practice their house-rules the way they want.
Considering the civil nature of their letters, I wonder if you pointed out only strictly the error of his (Mike Mcutchen) logic would they accept it. Simple declaritive statements like a robot spitting out observations of logical errors. Like when you wrote "Force is not Energy". Plainly speaking, if you neutered yourself, so your emotions would not be seen or detected by thier emotions, and made declaritive statements of the errors of logic in those 25 pages then perhaps you would elude their sensitivities.
I intend to one day read that book, and I'll put my review and see what happens. To be honest, science is mostly theory. Everyone should tackling it by the horns even if so bold as our friend Mike Mcutcheon.
Best


reader Atraxani said...

Is this contest still alive? I wrote a 450 word review of "The final theory" about three weeks ago, and was able to convince Amazon to keep the review, after several rewrites and email exchanges. As of today, it's still there.

Review:

The premise of the book is that there are considerable flaws in today's science, supposedly because certain questions are left unanswered, and also because there are supposed contradictions in existing scientific laws. The book spends much time elaborating on these shortcomings and contradictions, and then lays the down some tenants of an alternative view of physics.

The book fell short of convincing me. I found serious problems with the book. I'll list four of them here:

1)It misrepresents current theory, ignoring the rigorous aspects and muddling many of the important concepts. For example, it argues that gravity violates the law of conservation of energy, because it causes kinetic energy. It never mentions potential energy, and the fact that a falling object decreases potential energy as it increases in kinetic energy. It conveniently leaves out many important concepts like this, which frustrates anyone with a firm understanding of the concepts at hand.

2)It tries to answer unanswerable questions, and attacks science for failing to answer these questions. The book takes issue with Newtonian Mechanics because it introduces the idea of a force to explain observed phenomenon, but does nothing to explain what a force is. "Why does a force," the book asks, "cause an acceleration?" It is neither the goal nor responsibility of science to answer these types of questions. The purpose of science is to predict nature through observation, and it does this by forming theories. These theories never attempt to comment on the nature of how things are, but rather attempt to make accurate and falsifiable predictions on nature.

3)It relies on common sense appeals. It often criticizes theory for "violating the laws of common sense." Much of the book relies on the notion that science shouldn't be mysterious or hard to understand, and that "common sense can be trusted," as the author puts it. He's not familiar with the fallible history of common sense. From common sense we have learned that the earth is flat, that the sun orbits the earth, that large metal objects cannot fly, and that an anvil will fall faster than a quarter. No serious scientist would ever rely on common sense.

4)After all this, it replaces standard theory with something that isn't science. Current physical theory is rigorously formulated, and leaves no room for ambiguity. It makes strong, testable, tentative predictions. This book provides a series of non mathematically rigorous conjectures that make no new predictions that differ at all from current theory. Since it makes no differing predictions, it isn't falsifiable. To quote Wolfgang Pauli, it's not even wrong.

The book has little acceptance among the scientific community, for precisely these reasons and others. It misrepresents science in order to attack it, and replaces it with something that's not science.


reader Lumo said...

Very interesting adventures. For everyone: if you look at "links to this post" at the bottom of this article, you will find an article "Anthony Karmis wins 13.08 dollars"... So you're not quite the first one, but your success is appreciated anyway. (Nonfinancially.)

All the best
Lubos


reader Atraxani said...

Thanks, I missed that link at the bottom. I checked the other 1 star reviews, and none of them had more than 200 words or were over a week long. I posted because books like this frustrate me, and Amazon's behavior is upsetting and disappointing. The five star reviews on the book are revolting. Why do books like this sell so well? Can anything be done? Is it hopeless? Are our efforts a losing battle?


reader ts said...

if he saw something performed like that right underneath his nose, he would first try to explain it away using magician tricks. But if you watch very closely and could not find any indication of magician trick, and you determined you are not in a sleeping or dreaming state, and you try all possibilities and really can not give a reasonable explanation in physics, and it is happening right in front of your eyes, and there is no reason to believe there is any problem with your eyes. Then what do you do.

You stop being a gullible yet arrogant (they go hand in hand) idiot who thinks he can tell when he is being deceived by a professional magician.

Sheesh, how do people get to be so stupid?


reader Paul said...

I gave The Final Theory a 5 star review on Amazon. Not because it's accurate physics, or because it was well written, but because it's so inspiring. It helped me to understand that physics is about models and observations. It does not matter whether we can explain the physics we observe as a whole using strings or expansion theory or mickey mouse; it makes sense to pursue multiple avenues. Why should expansion theory should be debunked so easily? It could turn out to be a simpler way of explaining things than what we have now. There's holes in Mark's physics, but he's just one man with an idea... The Final Theory is just a beginning.

But yes, Amazon.com is controlled by crackpots. Some of the reviews are so terrible, they make me wince. A bunch of what appear to be AOL users are exclaiming that now they finally understand gravity, thanks to the Final Theory, or they now know that their teachers were lying to them. His book was badly written. He's tried to tackle a problem which required bigger physics than what he's capable of, and he's only managed to brainwash a bunch of numbskulls and make money from them. Shame on Amazon for accepting all the ridiculous reviews.


reader software said...

I too have been censored by Amazon, and I have to say that it appears that Amazon censors negative book reviews in order to not hurt sales.

My review of this book, http://www.amazon.com/Algorithms-Optimization-Discrete-Mathematics-Applications/dp/1584887184/ref=sr_1_1/104-8190331-6508708?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176317146&sr=8-1
A Java Library of Graph Algorithms and Optimization (Discrete Mathematics and Its Applications

has been removed twice now. Both times I contacted customer service ad both times they apologized and offered me a canned response as to their motive (they claimed,ridiculously, that I had talked about the subject matter and not the book. I suppose that happens, but it was NOT the case in the least and moreover, the book is about Graph algorithms- not a hot political topic).

There is but one review, apparently by the author himself, and he gives himself five stars. At least I assume it's the author, given that it has be rewritten multiple times, and each time, carefully countering a complaint I had about the book which appeared in my post.

This is astonishing. Authors are apparently given free rein to censor criticism and post their own 5 star review.

I am currently in process with Amazon regarding my mysterious disappearing reviews.

It seems to me that there's a lawsuit in here.

First of all, Amazon provides the reviews as a form of advertising for their books, specifically, they claim that they permit users to post reviews and do not tell readers or reviewers that reviews will be pulled merely for being negative. Reviewers labor under the false assumption that fair reviews will be published. If this is not the case, then the reviewers are nothing more than free PR monkeys for the books Amazon wishes to sell.

From the consumer's point of view, their assumption is that the reviews posted are representative of fair reviews received. Consumers make purchasing choices based on this assumption, which assumption is reasonable since nowhere does Amazon list "not liking the book ad saying so" as a reason to pull a review. In this way, consumers are being harmed- they are given a manipulated and false impression of the book's merit or lack thereof.

I smell class action lawsuit.

I am quite angry that I spent first 100 bucks on a bad book, then I was unable to have my extremely fair , impersonal and on topic review of the book presented to other potential purchasers. I have to assume that that poorly authored books I purchased from Amazon were had their ratings, and therefore my buying decision similarly tampered with.
Amazon's reviews in my opinion constitute little more than fraud.
I want to take action against Amazon; does anyone have any suggestions?


reader gordsellar said...

I think the best remedy is to post critical reviews elsewhere. Clever people will google authors' names and find your reviews. The rest, we can't do much about anyway.

A single nonprofit book-review site, though, might be worth trying to set up. A clearing-house for book reviews (or reviews of all kinds of stuff?) might do the job that Amazon is loathe to perform because, hey, bottom lines do matter to them.

Surely with all the opened-up APIs for different social networking sites, tons of book reviews would be available. The problem, though is that many of those would be positive toward crackpots -- the only improvement would be that the negative ones wouldn't be unfairly pulled.

So the real solution -- the glaringly obvious one -- is better advocacy for improved education, and much better science education in schools. That's where the real root of the problem is.

As for Brian Josephson, though I'm not a scientist and can't comment on flaws in his argument, I'll note that the absence of criticism doesn't always mean nothing's wrong. People are busy enough studying real science that they're not going to spend free time poking holes in crackpottery. Other fields' peer-reviewed journals publish trash that nobody bothers to point out as such, because there are only so many hours in the day. In fact, an absence of criticism, to me, would be an indicator of how silly and useless the scientific community in general regards the claims made in the paper.

I could be wrong, but don't young, up-and-coming scientists flock towards New Cool Stuff to Pull Apart? Wouldn't several flaws have been pointed out by now unless Brian Josephson is such a genius he got every tiny detail right? And isn't that a bit ludicrous to assume, given the highly speculative nature of the claims made in the paper?


reader gordsellar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

reader gordsellar said...

Also, a rather general interest in all things generally considered crackpot (cold fusion, homeopathy) evinced on Mr. Josephson's site is not encouraging in terms of whether we ought to entertain his theories.

Not that we can dismiss a man for believing too many silly ideas -- one or two may not be. But unless a surprising number of other scientists have joined him in his search for QM-powered psychic abilities, I think it's fair to say we don't need to dismiss him: he already has been, probably with sad hearts.


reader Lord Harlow said...

Hi Lubos,
I also spent some time posting a critical review of that book, which was removed within a few weeks back in 2004. I posted another and it was also removed, after which I emailed amazon and they sent me back a snarky email about removing "irrelevant reviews" Needless to say I decided it wasn't worth the trouble, and I let it go.
Daniel Harlow