Friday, October 13, 2017

The reappearing Nassim Haramein posts, and an update on his science claims

Last week I received an intimidating letter from a lawyer on behalf of Nassim Haramein demanding that I take down some of my old blog posts, which freaked me out. So I took them down.

This week, having had time to recover from the panic and get my senses back, I've decided to reinstate all my blog posts relating to Nassim Haramein, including the original one and the 948-comment discussion underneath it.

It's unnerving to find yourself on the receiving end of legal threats and accusations. It's certainly a first for me. But when it's as patently ridiculous as what was emailed to me last week on Haramein's behalf, I've realised that it shouldn't bother me, and it would be unethical to go along with it.

I'll leave last week's post up because of what it says about the level of petty bullying and control-freakery on the part of Haramein and his institution.

Haramein is a public figure making and personally profiting from scientific claims in public, claims that I regard as deeply misleading. If he were genuinely entitled to legal protection from having his claims called into question, the world would be a dark place indeed. That certainly isn't how respectable science has ever operated or should ever operate, and it isn't a world I intend to inhabit.

So now that I've been prompted to focus on this stuff all over again, and as we haven't had a post on his science claims in more than seven years, it'd be a shame to pass up on the opportunity for a little update.

Some resources to shed a bit of light on a few of his papers and other offerings:

Analysis of Haramein & Val Baker's 2016 paper "The Electron and the Holographic Mass Solution", in which the mass of the electron is found to be equal to the mass of the electron (!) but the authors believe they've discovered something new.

Analysis of Haramein's 2013 paper "Quantum Gravity and the Holographic Mass" and his false claim to have precisely predicted the muonic charge radius of the proton, frequently touted as his greatest scientific achievement.

(In fact he fell for a numerological coincidence between a number that any physicist would recognise as four times the reduced Compton wavelength, known for nearly a century, and a charge radius from a 2010 measurement that he already knew, then claimed it as a prediction when the same group re-did the same measurement. 

That particular paper by Haramein gets top marks and a gold star for pretentiousness and buzzwords. I've never seen a paper claim to be utilising so many fashionable branches of physics in their work at the same time, even in a parody. The contrast with what is actually being calculated is rather comical.)

Analysis of Haramein's 2010 paper "The Schwarzschild Proton" in which he calculates the mass of a proton to be 855 million tonnes. Which of course it isn't.

Notes on Haramein's misleading TEDx talk.

A record of what happened when someone set up a Wikipedia page presenting Haramein as a physicist.

A record of what happened when someone set up a Wikipedia page about the film portraying his the illustrious research career he wants us to believe he has had. When a copy of the film temporarily appeared on Youtube, here's what the documentary enthusiasts of Reddit made of it.

Haramein's latest venture is selling naff crystals for $1200 each, making a slew of pseudoscience claims for them. To state the blindingly obvious: if he genuinely wants to be seen as a groundbreaking scientist rather than a scam artist, this is an odd way to market himself. He may as well stamp the word SCAM in giant red letters across his website.

It's hard to find any discussions of Haramein's work in a scientific context. (There's a very simple reason: it isn't science. Scientists can see this.) For informal scientific comment, here are the full search results for his name on the four big Reddit science forums: Physics, AskPhysics, Science and AskScience. You might spot a pattern. It's not subtle.

Of the dozen or so papers he's written in the past 15 years, only the 2013 paper has passed anything like formal peer review in a physics journal. So does that make it legitimate science? Well, here's what remains of the Wikipedia entry for the publishers of that journal. (For anyone not familiar with predatory publishing, here's an article showing how low the bar is for these journals.)

Has any of Haramein's work been recognised by the scientific community? We can search for his work in the international repositories of trusted physics content that physicists actually turn to. Each of these contains a million or more academic papers and other documents. We find...

Nothing under "Haramein" on the enormous CERN document server.

Nothing under "Haramein" on the huge InSPIRE high energy physics information system.

Not even anything on Cornell's gigantic arXiv preprint server. Pretty much every physics graduate has work on here, and some undergraduates. For work of the significance Haramein claims, this is a very low bar. But no.

This is what we have after well over a decade of exceptionally high-profile claims to be actively involved in revolutionising physics as we know it.

When things are this bad, there's only one place to go, and that's to resort to massive conspiracy theories. There must be powerful academic forces at work, ensuring that your self-evident revolutionary genius is silenced! Maybe if you sue some obscure blogger, all the critics will melt away and the science community will take you seriously! But no, there is no conspiracy. And anyone who knows how to google can see how not silenced you are.

This is just what naturally happens when a competent scientific community encounters incompetent, narcissistic, pseudoscientific pretence. 

It is considered, and it is dismissed.

It's not complicated.

A personal note: 

(I wrote the note below 18 months ago, but never published it. This seems a good place for it.)

As a physicist, I love encountering novel and unorthodox scientific ideas. I have no prior motive to push against anything new or different. I never wish to pass criticism on something I don't understand. I would never dismiss anyone's ideas as bogus without trying my absolute utmost to explain exactly why, as honestly and as openly as I can.

If you have a deep and joyous faith in Haramein, then this place isn't for you. I have no wish to prevent Haramein doing what he does, and I have no wish to prevent his faithful followers from enjoying it in peace. There is no need for you to defend your faith because it is not under attack. Please move along.

If you are curious about science, and want to find out more, I hope you'll explore some of the things I'm shining a light on, and discuss in the comments if you wish. Do let me know if you think I've been unfair or got anything wrong.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The disappearing Nassim Haramein posts

You may have noticed that some of my posts from 2010 discussing the physics of Nassim Haramein have disappeared.
Using legal intimidation to shut down legitimate informal debate of your scientific claims is a childish and pathetic way to behave. It's so far removed from the behaviour of any scientist I could respect, it beggars belief.
I have taken them down because lawyers acting on the behalf of him and his institution have sent me a 37-page legal cease and desist letter. This is a full seven and a half years after I wrote the posts.

The letter has both my name and my address wrong. I don't know what his source was for my personal details, but evidently they were not especially competent.

I received the letter yesterday by email at the address that appears on this blog.

The tone of the letter is crass and threatening, and the content presented is extreme and distorted. Much of it is downright absurd. I have complied with the demands of the letter, which were to take down certain posts, not because this makes any sense but because I have no idea what refusing to do so would entail.

To me, the idea that a scientist could act in this way is bizarre. This is an obscure, anonymous blog with a few posts on mathematics and physics and nature; it had very little traffic before I wrote a piece attempting to explain Haramein's work, and he and his supporters brought attention to it.

In contrast to his behaviour towards me, I haven't called for him to be stopped, or for his site to be taken down. I haven't called for any of his fans to turn away from him. I'm not competing with him in any way. Unlike him, I'm not making a dime out of anything connected to his ideas or the rejection of them. Unlike him, I don't have a well-funded organisation behind me. I haven't lorded credentials or authority or legal threats over him or encouraged anyone else to do so. None of the scientific journals that have rejected his papers are doing it because of anything I've said, and I haven't communicated with any. None of the speaking engagements he's been rejected from have done so because of anything I said, and I haven't communicated with any. None of the multiple times his page has been rejected from Wikipedia occurred because of anything I said.* None of these decision-makers rely on people like me. They can think for themselves. They can see for themselves. It's not subtle.

On this blog and elsewhere, I've discussed the physics content of his talks and his writings, and I've responded to things that I consider to be misleading or false. I'm not interested in discussing Haramein as a person, just the physics claims that he has made, from my perspective as a physicist. If a scientific claim is made in public that I believe to be misleading or false, my view is that it is right to question and discuss it in public. I have done this openly, inviting discussion from all sides. There were over a thousand comments on those pages, representing a very wide range of views.

Now I've taken them down. At least for now.

Using legal intimidation to shut down legitimate informal debate of your scientific claims is a childish and pathetic way to behave. It's so far removed from the behaviour of any scientist I could respect, it beggars belief.


To his fans: here's a very helpful link to the exciting crystals he now sells that "use the zero-point dynamics of the vacuum to link with and harness the energy and information of this primary quantum field."

To anyone who is more scientifically literate than a box of nuts: yep. That really is what we're dealing with. 

It's not subtle.

*I participated in the discussion on the most recent Wikepedia page attempt for Haramein in August, because Wikipedia encourages contributions from anyone who feels they have some insight into a topic. I initially argued for his page to be kept, and made more informative and critical rather than merely promotional, but I was overruled. As you can see it was deleted in August on the grounds of his non-notability and his complete absence of scientific impact. Of course there's nothing legally wrong with arguing against someone having a factually-inaccurate fantasy promotional page on Wikipedia, no matter how inflated his fans sense of entitlement may be! It's hardly likely that the decision would have gone the other way if I hadn't been involved – it wasn't a close call. But I suspect this may be what provoked the legal letter a few weeks later.