Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TRF guest blogger Paul Frampton arrested

Off-topic, digitized Einstein: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has put thousands of scanned Einstein documents to AlbertEinstein.INFO
Yesterday, Fox News brought us some news that were surprising to many of us:
North Carolina physics professor in Argentine jail on drug charges (Fox News)

UNC professor arrested in Argentina (WRAL, local NC source)

Drug smuggler? Victim of scholar envy? UNC prof in Argentine jail (Charlotte Observer)

'I am innocent': U.S. professor held in Argentina prison charged with smuggling cocaine insists drugs were planted in his bag (U.K. Daily Mail)

David Stallard: Surely innocent (News Observer)

Distinguished British scientist faces 16 years in Argentine jail after being caught with suicase of cocaine (Telegraph, more on the model)
Two kilograms of cocaine were cleverly attached to his luggage in order to be exported from Buenos Aires, Argentina somewhere to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The author of 421 papers listed by INSPIRE (including 6-7 papers during the last 12 months and not including 2-4 papers he's completing in the prison now) was arrested on January 23rd but we only learned about it now.

Paul has done made many nontrivial findings in physics during those years.

He was one of the guys who proved the absence of ghosts in string theory, if I use the modern language; predicted axigluons from his chiral color model; studied holography, vacuum decay, anomalies in 10D gauge theory, p-adic strings, cyclic models in cosmology, big (and little) rip, dark matter models with flavor symmetries, grand unification with really large groups and extra families, and many other things. His co-authors have included Nobel prize winners Nambu (decay rates of highly excited string states, in 1970), Glashow (neutrino CP-violation and cosmology, 2002), and others.

Paul with Helena Halperin at the Sidneyfest. The glass only contained legal substances; I had personally checked it.

Almost 20% of the visits to this blog right now come from UNC so it's not shocking if you are sitting there, too.

The only open question is whether this clever attachment was done by Paul himself or not. I guess that even if it were the job of someone else, Paul may have trouble to prove his innocence, and in that case, I would wish him lots and lots of luck and good lawyers. He says he possesses some marvelous proof of his innocence. BTW it has happened in the past that the drugs were attached by malicious third parties to luggage of innocent tourists.

Two years ago, Paul wrote a guest blog on TRF:
Dark energy, the holographic principle, and IPMU
If you click at the link above and try to read the article with lots of historical and personal references, you will also see that it was even translated to Spanish, so that everyone in Argentina could understand it. I didn't believe the text was right but it is still plausible that they could have paid 2 kilograms of cocaine for it in Argentina. ;-)

Paul is mentioned several times on TRF. One blog entry contains an ironic remark responding to a comment in Paul's article: "TRF has a clear underrepresentation in the 18-24 age group. Well, no, Paul Frampton, it doesn't seem like TRF is focusing on high-school drugheads."

I've met him in person, a very amusing independent, and adventurous guy which is why I wish him to get out and why I have mixed feelings on whether or not the bizarre accusations are plausible – but of course, I do consider the law and justice when it comes to drugs justified, fair, and primary. Despite my good wishes and above-the-standard treatment of folks who are just publishing things as guest bloggers, TRF has neither resources nor intent to intervene into similar legal matters to protect its former guest bloggers from seemingly plausible accusations. Sorry, Paul!

Paul who claims he's innocent and who has been an independent physicist since March 1st has calculated the probability to be free by the summer as 99.995 percent.

I know nothing whatsoever about this topic – not even whether this stuff is being eaten, inhaled in the cold state, or burned as in cigarettes, or pumped into blood, I really have no clue – but sources indicate that 2 kilograms shouldn't be more expensive than $40,000 or so.

In that case, I would think that the incorporation of the material into a $107,000-per-year professor's luggage would be an unfortunate career move. Unfortunately, this logic doesn't prove anything about whether or not he did it... David Eby, a PhD student and Paul's recent co-author, said that Paul is still helping him to do physics by phone. Eby hasn't been told that he was calling a prison until Sunday. ;-)

That's not the only reason why I agree with Paul that it is unfortunate and surprising for his university (Provost Bruce Carney in particular) to abandon him already at this point. The University would behave very differently if it were e.g. Virginia rather than North Carolina and if he were accused of fabricating graphs to get $2,000,000 in grants instead of smuggling $40,000 of a powder (I suppose it's powder).

I do urge the officials at Paul's university to revert the provost's decision and respect the presumption of innocence at this point. Meanwhile, Paul's friends at Princeton (they may even mean Juan but what do I know) have already contacted their friends around Buenos Aires and guaranteed that Paul will have a job over there in coming months.

Other people with planted drugs

Phil Gibbs mentions the case of Sharon Armstrong of New Zealand who was caught in Argentina last year and accused of smuggling 5 kilograms of cocaine. She's still there and claims to be innocent: she was attracted to Argentina by an "Internet lover". According to a commenter (unconfirmed!), Paul Frampton went there to visit a "model". ;-)

Do you see a possible pattern here?


  1. That's really unfortunate. I hope he gets off, if he's innocent.

    Totally reminds me of that time when I was younger, when I had quite a few joints and got arrested. They tried to say I was selling the dope and whatnot, but the judge was fortunately not a moron. My ex Lisa got off even luckier though because they didn't bother to search her car. They would have found more than enough to also charge her with trafficking. Such was life amongst such good friends, who most definitely did not help me in any way -- financially, spiritually, emotionally.

    Sounds like Bruce Carney is a total waste of skin, kind of like my ex.

    Anyway, the police are well-known to entrap people by unknowingly turning them into cocaine mules. It happened to an acquaintance just a month ago here. Obviously the guy had some information that the police wanted, because he's still walking around instead of sitting in jail. I mean, if all was sane and as it appears, my acquaintance would be in Frampton's shoes.

  2. I wrote a rather rude email to Bruce Carney to the effect of...

    "I bet Anonymous will not like this. I posted a link to the story on an Anonymous blog. Perhaps they will help clear the matter up. That said, don't bother suing me or calling the police because you yourself had a direct hand in the construction of a globally circulated news article. Have fun."

    It is not proper in a legal or moral sense to either publicly or privately work against the presumption of innocence. It is practically treason against humanity. Reminds me of those f***ing idiots running Iran and China.