The Science Is Not Settled Memristor Edition
    By Sascha Vongehr | April 29th 2014 05:14 AM | 10 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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    A rare opportunity, likely unique for many readers also in its clarity of how different interests clash, a look behind the curtains of ‘scientific peer review’ as it corrupts science; moreover, revealing sniffs of the stinking swamp that is the established community researching memristors, but the implications are general and can be only more severe with issues where more money than Hewlett Packard’s is involved or hugely powerful political interests like with global warming.

    Two reviewer’s reject a draft (NOT my draft and I do NOT know the authors, neither will I reveal the journal!); they reject for different, mutually inconsistent reasons, out of pure self-interest. The Science is not settled on any controversial issue, simply because the creation of scientific “consensus” is a corrupt game of bullies and interests alien to what scientistic apologists like ‘new atheists’ for example often believe, namely an ideal scientific method being central and a somehow “nice” (free, democratic, … whatever) discourse among selfless people full of wisdom.

    The poor authors, my sympathy goes out to them, are left with two options: (1) Do not sell out completely and revise according to good science, retry in low impact factor journals with few reviewers, hoping for luck perhaps on the fourth trial, maybe one reviewer agreeing while the other does not care. The current round took them half a year or more (probably because the established guy waited as long as possible to reply – the usual tactic), and it got them nowhere.

     Or (2) remove all criticism and submit to a higher impact factor journal where all the reviewers will be likely in on the enforced consensus and may say OK because it benefits their own citation record. The author’s jobs hang on impact factors, so you know the parallel futures: In some, they support the established bullies’ consensus; the other futures do not remember their names.

    Before I get into the meat, I declare my own interest in publishing this. Look at the three reviews, decide which one you trust, and then decide which scientific writings to take seriously: those proposed by the crackpot, the ones proposed by the established bully, or those recommended by the rare reviewer who takes not only science but also the peer review process as a vital part of science seriously by providing a helpful review.

    One reviewer is a crackpot, because he/she only accepts “nonlinear resistors with memory” although the memristor was defined (!) as a separate scientific concept in 1971 (it may not exist as a real object, but it is not just a resistor with memory, by definition!). Neither papers from the 50s nor recent papers on resistors with memory will ever scrub the memristor concept from history:

    “This survey is full of inaccuracies and errors that before it could be published it needs a major restructuring. First of all, memristors, namely nonlinear resistors with memory is not a concept first proposed and discussed by Chua in 1971. This shows only ignorance of some fundamental physics theories that were well known since the 50s’. For a recent paper showing that resistors with memory have been known and described on rigorous mathematical grounds well before 1971 please see the paper Nanotechnology 24, 255201 (2013) that uses the well-known Kubo theory (from the 50s’) to show that memristors are resistors with memory and were well known.

    Second, we should stop writing false statements like “In 2008, HP lab proved its existence”. This is blatantly false! Thin films of TiO2 sandwiched between metals were very well known since the 60s’. HP did not prove anything. They simply showed that their system could be described using resistors with memory.

    For a comprehensive review of this history the authors should read Advances in Physics 60, 145-227 (2011). All these statements need to be revised accordingly in the abstract/intro and other parts of the review with the proper references before I can recommend it publication”

    Note how the reviewer mainly wants a certain ‘Advances in Physics’ paper cited and indicates to likely recommend publication if only the references are cited and the worst of what he does not like is changed, which is very little given the lengthy draft, which even has a section on memristors in brain science.

    Let's translate for those who are not used to interpreting peer review reports in order to strategically revise drafts so to get published and survive in this silly game: Cite me, change what I do not like, and I will no longer care about the rest, but if you keep supporting my enemies, I will report “full of inaccuracies and errors” to ensure rejection.

    The next rejection is obviously from the opposite camp, the one that has for now won the memristor fight and is confident that bullying is all that is left to do. The author’s English is not much worse than what one can see published (published (!), not just under review with revision still to come) by for example Japanese authors even in journals like PRL. Hence, the message is basically: Go away with your Chinglish; everything worth saying on memristors is published by me and friends; our rejection does not need to mention more but the convenient routine bashing of uncomfortable international authors by claiming their English is too bad, and a few side issues found glancing at the figures, not even telling you what we want to see presented as “imortant [sic] mile stones”; we are established, so it is obvious how to get in line:

    “Unfortunately, the paper is not well written with so many language problems that it makes no sense to list them all in these comments. Please ask a native speaker.  There are many problems, e.g. (page 2) the memristor is not a crossbar structure, imortant mile stones are not given in Fig.1,  the quality of Fig. 2 is poor with no description of the content, the feature of a memristor is the pinched hysteresis loop (see page 3: all resistive switching memories meet Lissajous..),...etc.

    Memristor overviews are already given in the books:

    1) Memristors and Memristive Systems, (edited by R. Tetzlaff) , Springer 2014,
    2) Memristor Networks (edited by A. Adamatzky and L.Chua) , Springer 2014
    Furthermore there special issues, e.g. IEEE CAS Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2013.”

    We may not all be able to appreciate the details, especially because good information on the memristor is hard to find, but we can all pick up on that the two reports above oppose each other: The first tells of huge problems, none with the authors’ language, instead all around the memristor, and it almost mentions that Hewlett Packard pulled an advertising stunt.

    The second one seems as if there is no discussion at all, everything is clear and has been published by those in bed with HP money and comfortably positioned in the hierarchies. No mentioning of that the authors dared to cite a critical paper, which is probably the only reason for the second rejection, since otherwise, the draft is conformist.

    The first and especially the second type of reviewers are typical for scientific peer review as I witness for almost 20 years. The next most typical would be a guy somewhere in the middle of the hierarchies finding his own paper being quoted among nonsense and replying: OK – publish.

     A third reviewer was me, a rare type, as I try helping the authors to improve, on a scientific basis, taking the whole draft seriously, not only what may get into the way of my interests, but respecting what the authors want to accomplish (such needs a sympathetic, charitable reading):

    1) The paper claims to give a historical overview, but fails to mention the researchers who found the structurally equivalent memristive devices before 2008 [H. M. Upadhyaya and Suresh Chandra, Semicond. Sci. Technol. 10, 332, (1995). Suresh Chandra, IETE Technical Review 27, 179 (2010)].

    2) The authors claim (Page 2, Line 14) that all previous researchers, who found memristive devices before 2008, did not make the connection to the memristor (as if they failed to notice a connection). However, they were well aware of the memristor concept, and thus knew that these devices are only memristive; that is why they did not call them “memristor”.

    3) The paper presents only a single critical author (and only on the very last page) whose “criticism” is well known to be unsubstantiated and only published on the pseudoscience webpage vixra (not even on the proper arxiv anymore). This is unacceptable, because presenting it like this makes it appear as if all criticism is pseudoscience. Serious criticism has been published in the peer-reviewed literature [S. Vongehr, Adv. Sci. Lett. 17, 285-290 (2012)].

    4) Equation 2 is already wrongly described, because w=1 does not result in R_on. It should be w=D instead. I suggest that the authors check all equations and their explanations carefully.

    5) Section 2 claims that there are very different models, but all, even the filament growth, are a traveling boundary (which memorizes the charge). In this sense, they are all emulators, namely, they are mechanisms that remember the charge. The authors should explain what the difference between ‘a mere emulator’ and ‘the real thing’ is. If there is no fundamental difference, either the “emulators” [for example the solid state ones of reference 56] are equally memristors, or the found “memristor” is also only an emulator of the true memristor. That something is nano-sized does not make it more real (rather than being a nano-size emulator).

    6) Section 4.2 should perhaps be removed or needs to explain more carefully what the memristive devices’ role is. The revolution in brain science is that the plasticity of the dendrite/axon/synapse structure increases the number of primitive units 100 fold (count synapses and fast electrical gap-junctions, not neurons). Thus, sub-ms precision spike-timing has replaced the old model, which centered on the average firing rate of I&F neurons; an early model that averaged out all the information in the firing pattern that high level neurons (retina or cortex) use to “talk to each other”.

    All of this is relatively novel but precedes the current memristor hype by at least 10 years and has nothing to do with memristive devices! Memristive devices may be one of many ways toward the plasticity of an artificial synapse. That they are the most efficient way is far from obvious. Writing as if the use of memristive devices can suddenly hand us a brain where neural-networks with differently provided plasticity failed, is naïve and must be regarded as hype.

    7) The English could be much improved, but such is secondary to the science. Nevertheless, at least the title should not be [this section removed].
    In summary: I am happy to review more positively on such a review around this interesting topic, however, only after a major revision by the authors. As of now, it is too biased, too much copying of undigested hype in order to justify publication.

    If you agree that this at least tries to review helpfully rather than being purely a self-interested rant or call to “get in line”, perhaps you like to read the one paper of my own I recommended [Adv. Sci. Lett. 17, 285-290 (2012), extended version at]; sadly, I still can recommend nothing else comparable in terms of proper, non-crackpot criticism of the memristor scandal.

    This reflects badly also on science blogs. They claim to be a new mechanism of oversight by pointing to very few instances like the scandal around arsenic life forms, where science blogs helped to criticize. However, science blogs mainly, if not just regurgitating press releases, glorify a systemically corrupt system that ever more inflates by constructing false knowledge. The bloggers suck up to the established in-crowds in the hope for a few morsels falling from the table, internet links from those who made it, a book deal to feed their narcissism.

    The science is settled, yes, but how, who settles it how?

    Please do not forget that the issue is not just terminology (the Wired article makes it out to be about some people being obsessed with words). The memristor, the one that was actually predicted, may actually exist! Just think about the Higgs boson: Would you agree to go with something fake instead of the real discovery, thus stopping the research for the actually predicted entity?


    It’s really astonishing that there are still scientific publications addressing the “memristor” stuff. The whole story was a hoax. Actually, Meuffels and Soni have told us all about the fundamental problems with “memristor” concept in “Fundamental Issues and Problems in the Realization of Memristors” (2012,

    From the abstract of the article you recommend:
    "The device will operate for a certain time like a "chemical capacitor" until the chemical inhomogeneity is balanced out, thus violating the essential requirement on a genuine memristor, the so-called "no energy discharge property".
    Yes, that is a rather strange putting of one of the many problems already pointed out in the Advanced Science Letters article (posted on the archive two months before the article you mention, if I may boast so, but anyway, we agree on such details, as they are obvious, but obvious is not enough with us humans - we need authority): The found device, much like a battery, cannot even count as a 'basic circuit element' of circuit theory!

    Nice reporting. I agree with you. I think that one solution to this whole issue is to support open reviews. that is not only report the name of the reviews (as Frontiers is doing), but also publish the reviews (I know of one journal "Papers in Physics" that offers the option

    A most interesting article.  I can’t get the best out of it, though, because I’m not quite sure what the memristor scandal refers to.

    However, your delineation of the three classes of reviewer is only too true.  On one point, it would be all too easy to blame the “Chinglish” when the difficulty in understanding actually arises from bad cross-referencing of items within the paper itself, or something like that.

    As what what science blogs may become, here is an elegant piece of writing from G.K.Chesterton.  


    When a dead body is rotting, it does not diminish; it swells. Ignorance of this elementary truth is at the back of nearly all our political blindness. When we speak of a decaying people or a dying institution, we always have somehow the notion of their dwindling; of sparser and sparser tribes gathering on their mountains, of meaner and meaner buildings arising in their skies. But it is not so that social bodies really rot. They rot like physical bodies, being horribly distended from within by revolting gases demanding egress. Institutions, like corpses, grow larger and larger as they grow more and more shapeless. A dying monarchy is always one that has too much power, not too little; a dying religion always interferes more than it ought, not less. Our own country is really in this state of swollen decay, and the test of it is this: that every function of the State has grown more formless and more vast. Every power, public and private, has been stretched long past all sane definition and we live under a government of entangled exaggerations. It is a government that has all the practical effects of anarchy. Indeed, it is something worse than chaos; a warring polytheism. It is a conflict of incalculable autocracies, under any of which at the moment we may fall.

    Daily News, March 11th, 1911

    (Look at the date, how bad thngs were then! )

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    The memristor scandal:

    and and some other places at least dare to mention the huge elephant.

    Chesterton again hitting the nail on the head. I often think about it in terms of bubbles, like housing or stock market bubbles, where a subfield with its main players and journals and conferences and all of that, self-creates and inflates itself as much as possible. Peer review should include two reviewers from outside of the specific subfield (not invested in the respective bubble). Science subfield bubbles do not burst like housing bubbles, but produce more bubbles and bury the old nonsense with yet much more nonsense.

    The main problem is not "truth", but people being of course not satisfied with working their time away for what they know at least unconsciously is of no value. You find happier people almost anywhere now; science is no longer a recommendable career. If you are not as happy as a poor sick guy begging outside, you are stupid, no matter degree or title. Few smart people go into science now.

    Thank you, Sascha.  The “Wired” article has given me the handle I needed to get into your “Detractors” article — if that sounds odd, you can put it down to the way my mind works!
    The “Wired" article brought to mind a terminological howler that made no sense to me when I was discovering radio over 50 years ago.  Individual transistors were still very expensive, and most of the books and magazines still dealt with valves (UK) / tubes (USA).   Most high frequency valves were pentodes, but one stage in their evolution was the tetrode.

    These, however, were unsuitable for amplifiers because secondary electron emission from the anode gave rise to a phenomenon called negative differential resistance.  Because of this, circuits built with them would oscillate, and an extra grid called the supressor had to be added, giving the pentode.

    (Though one other way round it was to add plates to specially beam the electrons, as in the KT66 power amplifier valve beloved of rock musicians.)

    But all the books simply talked of negative resistance, which even with a graph like the one above, did little to help understanding.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    One should not, like the Wired article sadly does, reduce the issue to some guys being stuck up on words. The memristor was predicted just like the positron and the Higgs boson for example; it may exist! Counting somehow similar gadgets being hyped as scientific discoveries, partially because one has trouble finding the real thing, thus stopping to look for the real thing, is a very different issue.
    The memristor scandal is not yesterday's news but a current issue. The memristor has not been discovered and should be looked out for, or, we should discuss why it may not exist (I suggested possible reasons, but have not come to a conclusion on that, thus, as far as known, the real memristor can still be discovered).
    @ Sascha: too many words that ignore the next great contribution of Hewlett Packard, the universal new memory devices "memresistive" will provide a saving of 90% energy of total computer´s requirements, according to studies in 2020, 30% of the electric power consumed in the world will be of computation machines, that if that to protect the environment Well HP!

    That HP has a lot of hype going on just proves that they like hype a lot, that is why they pulled the stunt, but you don't seem to understand the issue. Look, even if HP cured cancer while terraforming Jupiter, the issue for science is that the predicted memristor may still be out there to be discovered. It is not ok to go along with a fake instead, basically stopping the search for the real thing, even if the nicest otherwise most useful person wants us to do so.

    I read your reply to L.R. and this immediately jumped into my mind:

    ... I think it is important to make a distinction between the conviction that one is in the right and the conviction that one is “righteous”, that one is a good man.  Since none of us is righteous, the second conviction is always a delusion.  But any of us may be, probably all of us at one time or another are, in the right about some particular issue.  What is more, the worse man may be in the right against the better man.  Their general characters have nothing to do with it.  The question whether the disputed pencil belongs to Tommy or Charles is quite distinct from the question which is the nicer little boy, and the parents who allowed the one to influence their decision about the other would be very unfair.  (It would be still worse if they said Tommy ought to let Charles have the pencil whether it belonged to him or not, because this would show he had a nice disposition.  That may be true, but it is an untimely truth.  An exhortation to charity should not come as rider to a refusal of justice.  It is likely to give Tommy a lifelong conviction that charity is a sanctimonious dodge for condoning theft and whitewashing favouritism.)

                                 (C.S.Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, Chapter 2.)

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England

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