Almost Open Criticism Of Nano Physics In Established Journal
    By Sascha Vongehr | September 30th 2012 07:21 AM | 15 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    If you believe in scientism, you trust such tales as that, for example, the criticizing of a scientific paper is published in the same journal as the criticized article. Science writers, say people like T. Dorigo right here on Science2.0, eagerly help to disseminate such falsehoods about the peer-review system. How far do these cheerleaders themselves buy into such convenient rationalizations of the power structures that feed them? In truth, critical papers are outright rejected, whistleblowers blacklisted. “Criticism” in academic culture is a show-dance that increases established players’ citation counts. True criticism is silenced; it can be happy to land in a ‘dump-journal’ that is listed on the scientific citation index (SCI) at all. Such is tolerated, like for example with the takedown of the fake 2008 memristor discovery, because insiders know that nobody reads such journals; they are excess dumps stabilizing publish-or-perish.

    That is why the article “Promoting Statistics of Distributions in Nanoscience3 is remarkable. Published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, a reasonable impact factor journal of the American Chemical Society (ACS), it writes right in its introduction:

    “Knowledge of the statistics of random processes can predict resulting statistical distributions. This often reveals unexpected and at times surprisingly large systematic errors ... This important aspect of the scientific method is almost as central to modern medicine and particle physics as their own specific theories, but it must be expected to lack proper status in still relatively novel fields like nanotechnology, which barely went though the pioneering phase. We have previously called attention to this by providing examples in the subfield of nano clusters.1,2 The present work similarly discovers large systematic errors and advertises the relevance of statistical errors and the shape of statistical distributions, this time in the field of nanowires.”

    Readers not used to academic papers may find nothing remarkable here, but this is already way more critical than relatively unknown authors are usually allowed to write. Moreover, the two quoted references [1,2] are both articles that were given the usual treatment: Rejection by all scientific journals that publish in the criticized or even just related fields until the authors gave up and dumped into journals that nobody in the addressed field would ever touch, all after having wasted huge amounts of time with revising and arguing with editors and reviewers of up to ten different journals and so on, all this deeply impacting their careers while those who published the criticized nonsense in high impact factor journals go on to be read, cited, funded, celebrated.

    Lengths vs. diameters of fragments. The gray line is the usual method’s estimate of Llim as originally published. The range at 450 nm is indicated in blue. The gray line cuts far below the true Llim.

    In order to have any chance of appearing anywhere, criticism was again hidden so far that no lay person is able to realize that this is a critical paper at all. It looks like as if the work improves some important method, so all seems fine in holy science, its surface stays shiny. Only if you are an insider can you realize that all these papers, the new one as well as the two citations, are about huge mistakes in nanoscience that are committed routinely, with measurements being often wrong by more than 100% while, as usual, accompanied by claims of high accuracy (see also Nefarious Numbers and Usual Cheating on that issue).

    The core is, as so often, trivial, but criticism must be veiled in front of the naked emperor. In this case, when cutting a stick into halves, then repeating to split the halves and so on, the shortest fragments are only half as long as the shortest that can still be cut. If the last one that you can cut into two halves is one inch long, its smallest fragments are only half an inch long. Too difficult for you? I don’t think so. Nevertheless, such trivialities are easily found all over the place in science, if you dare and look for them. However, science as a social construct selects us scientists for looking the other way. Reproducibility is worthless and harms careers in some fields.

    The criticized work was originally published in “Advanced Materials”, a journal with the relatively large impact factor of 11. That would have been a nice boost for the authors of the criticism, which was, as is the norm, simply thrown away by the editor without involving peer review, a move that squarely belongs to what is nevertheless called "peer-review system".

    How much longer will I participate in this charade and prostitute myself? At some point, especially today, as we are forced in front of computer screens all day and salaries are appalling, a grown up person asks, what for? For an ultimate religion? I have achieved precisely nothing with my life as a scientist except for indirectly supporting a huge lie, while even the dumbest marihuana dealer helps a lot of people that the system has condemned to illegal self-medication. I am too afraid, too chicken to throw it all down and leave it behind. Oh if I had only never started science but finance instead, I would be relatively free and evil today, instead of being a slave and evil on top. Too sick to join the clochards, I feel their scoffing looks burning on my skin. They have all reason to look down on me, fool that I am.


    [1] Vongehr, S.; Tang, S.C.; Meng, X.K.: “Collision statistics of clusters: from Poisson model to Poisson mixtures.” Chin. Phys. B 19 (023602), 1−9, (2010)

    [2] Vongehr, S.; Tang, S.C.; Meng, X.K.: “On the Apparently Fixed Dispersion of Size Distributions.” J. Comput. Theo. Nanosci. 8, 598−602, (2011)

    Internet Article: No Mysterious Symmetry in Ultracold Helium Nanodroplet Science.

    [3] Vongehr, S.; Tang, S.C.; Meng, X.K.: “Promoting Statistics of Distributions in Nanoscience: The Case of Improving Yield Strength Estimates from Ultrasound Scission.” Journal of Physical Chemistry C 116, 18533−18537, (2012)


    Keep up the good work Sascha and don't forget your own very self enlightened testimony, explaining why you definitely shouldn't 'throw it all down and leave it behind' in your article 'Another One Throws The Towel And Leaves Science' at where you wrote :-

    "See, here is how I do it: There is almost not a single day that I have been anywhere in science, be it in theory, experiment, as a student, teaching, whatever, that I have not enjoyed the project I was doing and getting more out of it than I put in, in whatever strange way (reading what I am interested in anyways, cooking up 'research chemicals' in my lab, whatever). If I did not like a project, I convinced supervisors of better ways. If they did not appreciate it, I went somewhere else."

    "And yes, I am poor (still a rich white guy though) and maybe have no further position next year, but see, that is no problem as long as you know what life is all about and you can at least claim not to have ‘worked’ for a single day for almost 40 years and even have gotten some money for it. I would have done it for free, too, seriously! Every single day especially these days, I do what interests me and I do not care much about anything else."

    There aren't many people in the world who are lucky enough to honestly be able to make these claims Sascha, especially while they are also being feared by powerful naked emperors and admired by their less honest minions!

    You are correct to point out my inconsistency. The pressure is now also creeping up on me; considering zero retirement options while age starts to get my bones does not help; and yes, of course I would not mind having some sort of respected (by society) result from my work, too, just like any other human. I am not sure why you write "being feared by powerful naked emperors". Nobody fears me, nobody needs to.
    Nobody fears me, nobody needs to.
    Well they ought to. Anyone who challenges the ancien regime so relentlessly - and so comprehensively - must be threat. Just because you don't do too much damage directly, doesn't mean you're not subversive. People read you and some of it, at least, does make a difference. Keep it up.


    The Hero Action theme, makes for great movies, but no one in their right mind really wants to live that life, the Die Hard series are great movies, but John McClane gets his ass kick the whole time.

    So, there are those who fight the good fight, regardless of the price they pay. I can't say whether that should be your path or not. But I also know good scientists and engineers can make the world a better place working in the commercial sector.
    Never is a long time.
    But I also know good scientists and engineers can make the world a better place working in the commercial sector.
    And have made it better too! That's often forgotten.

    Well don't participate in the charade.
    But don't complain about it either.
    I know you are smart.
    It isn't fear that holds your fate; it is courage.
    Build the life you want.
    Start where you are; know the direction you want.
    Michelangelo as an old man said something like, "It would have been better if I had spent my life in the sulfur mines; gathering sulfur for match sticks."
    I offer no apology for Michelangelo.That is how he felt.
    Thanks for sharing how you feel.
    Be well or not.
    I will find and post that I wrote for myself that helps me focus.

    So I've reread your last paragraph.
    Sorry that's how you feel.
    It's presumptuous of me to think that something I wrote myself on Dec 2, 1999 might be helpful to you today.

    A man, an ideal man, a rich man is a being
    .. empowered
    .. capable
    .. intelligent
    .. and free enough
    to define and create
    .. himself
    .. and his world
    as a beautiful and balanced whole of
    .. physical
    .. emotional
    .. intellectual
    .. and spiritual activities
    which is the foundation for
    .. his personal self
    .. and social relationships

    Be well Sascha
    You must struggle as long as it takes.
    And always remember who you are.

    On the topic of lack of reporting in science of negative and critical results. This video explores the consequences for medical research on drugs.

    "How much longer will I participate in this charade and prostitute myself?"

    Unfortunately, FOREVER! It's the only game in town.

    This is by no means advice for you (you'll do what you gotta do). Let's just call it my wish list for you. Making the Leap: A Founder's To-Do List is about venturing into your own business, but I would love to see you apply these 20 points to your own endeavors whatever they may be, but ideally to your TOT (Theory of Totality). You have some of them covered already, but... whoa... if you would only embrace item 1. :)

    Item #1: Let go!
    Sounds easy. Let go of what? Of writing? Of resistance? Let go is rather negative. I'd rather have something to aim for. Let go is much easier then.
    "I'd rather have something to aim for. Let go is much easier then. "

    Exactly! I (and I would say many others, especially here) would love to see you aim for your TOT? Let go and get it out of your head and onto paper. If you set your aim true, the 20 points will help you hit your target. If anything blocks your view of that target, work around them, work through them, better yet, get over them. Rise above them to the next level where your TOT already is.

    John Hasenkam
    Any publication that challenges a method widely used within a discipline is likely to face dismissal if published or rejection. In relation to statistics usage in biology and biomedicine the economist Deirdre McCloskey has co-authored a damning paper on the widespread misuse if not outright abuse of statistical analyses. See
    The Unreasonable Ineffectiveness of Fisherian 'Tests' in Biology, and Especially in Medicine.Biological Theory 4(1) 2009: 1-10. From Chps. 14-16 in The Cult of Statistical Significance.

    In that work they cite the statistician Jack Cohen who in the 60's found that it was statistically impossible for so many abnormal psychology studies to be published. Then there is the work of Baumeister et al(2002) which found that of the 10,000 studies they had collated for a meta-analysis on self-esteem studies only 200 met their criteria for admission to the meta anlaysis. Self-esteem is a stupid concept. When people asked me about it I asked, "how can I have faith in that illusion?" Psychology is replete with bad and mad studies. 

    Over a decade ago someone sent me a paper about the lack of reproduction across many neuro-imaging studies. The paper was rejected by every journal he submitted it to. In the last few years major studies have found that the abovementioned author was correct. What happened? Well, Ioannidis has a lot to do with the new found interest in this problem. He was the chap who blew the whistle on why so many biomedical statistical analyses are just plain wrong. So he had form and recently published another paper making similiar findings in relation to Neuro imaging studies. You see, Ioannidis's original paper attracted a lot of attention, he became an influential figure. That paper I read a decade ago, written by just another bod, who cares about his opinion when everyone else thinks otherwise?

    If we did not have people who challenged the status quo the status quo would move very slowly. It can take decades for big changes to permeate through a culture or sub-culture. Consider the cholesterol question. As a biomarker cholesterol is not good, calcium scores are a much better predictor for cardiovascular risk but to this day most people and most GPs are still regarding cholesterol markers as risks for cardiovascular complications. That can be true but it is much more complicated than just being about cholesterol. But it is easy and cheap to measure, and you can do something about it(statins- sort of, lots of problems there too). A calcium score though, expensive and resolving high calcium loading is difficult. Only now, after decades of warnings about how bad cholesterol is, are we beginning to get beyond that simplistic analysis. Cholesterol can be a problem but it is not THE problem. 

    Or think about Robyn and Marshall, two Aussie doctors who received the Nobel for their findings that H. pylori was the real culprit in ulcers. A decade of kicking against the pricks but it worked, that time. The tragic case is of another Aussie, Ted Steele, who claimed evidence of epigenetic transmission(or at least fast evolution of the immune response) well before epigenetics became all the rage. His career is over(for other reasons but being a heretic doesn't help) but he was right. What did they argue about? They rejected his statistical analyses. Why? Most probably because he was committing a heresy of the evolutionary theory type. 

    Did you actually choose your course in life Sascha? I tend to think that is an illusion we like to carry but I suspect you are aware of that. I think you should continue kicking against the pricks. I think you enjoy it but as I say: if you are an outsider don't expect an easy ride. Maybe you should forego the intensity somewhat, treat it more like a game, have fun with it. I don't watch much TV, mostly comedies. I have to do that to stay sane. It's crazy out there! 

    No, I don't think you would have ever being happy in finance. You're too curious, you want to know too much. You may have ended up very wealthy but beyond a certain point that is not the road to happiness. 

    Long comment with some interesting factoids and references - maybe you should make an article out of it.

    As I told the first commentator already, I admit to be not quite honest in my exit rant. What I get out of science is that I am playing around and do whatever I like for 20 years now, and I could not do so in finance. This month I played with a mathematica 9 trial version if not doing philosophy about how to defend decision theory in the context of a description as fundamental as tautological modal realism [where there is no choice (that should answer your question about my choosing my course)]. The main point though stays and is even supported further: Correct, this is nothing but a game we play, and the science thus produced via the main focus being to game the game for our personal advantages, well - I for one don't trust it no longer; not after having seen so many different fields from the inside.
    John Hasenkam
    Correct, this is nothing but a game we play, and the science thus produced via the main focus being to game the game for our personal advantages, well - I for one don't trust it no longer; not after having seen so many different fields from the inside.
    Not being on the inside of any field I cannot relate to your experience. Having read thousand of papers relevant to my neuroimmunology interest(and now seriously behind for a May 9 dead line!) I long ago developed a strategy to avoid the usual cognitive traps when reading scientific literature. Of course it doesn't work but I am surprised at how many people seem to just read the papers but have not developed a clear analytic method for addressing so much information when so much of it is nonsense. Too much publishing not enough thinking. You've been there long enough so a change might be in order. 

    I reckon if you began searching around you could find some way of making reasonable money and still have enough time to play your games. In fact getting away from the field might be a good idea. As one physicist recommended:

    From the Ten Commandments of Leo Szilard:

    Do your work for six years; but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the recollection of your friend does not hinder from being what you have become.

    So perhaps it is time to change Sascha. You can do that but I hope you keep up the explorations. You're a damn fine explorer. 

    Greg M.
    Maybe you should forego the intensity somewhat, treat it more like a game, have fun with it. I don't watch much TV, mostly comedies. I have to do that to stay sane. It's crazy out there!

    This is very wise advice. :)
    Begin with this assumption: it's all a joke. Then you will see the humour in everything.

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