One of my papers that is on the arXiv, and that a real editor of a real (i.e. not predatory) journal asked me to submit to them, was rejected by a different journal that I (foolishly) decided to send it to, with a report (written by a real referee, who had spent some weeks on this) of three words: “lacks physical understanding”. I respectfully suggest that the referee “lacks mathematical understanding”.

It is of course perfectly normal for a referee to completely fail to understand what a paper is about. This has happened to me occasionally even when I have written papers in pure group theory. But it is almost inevitable whenever a paper is in any sense at all interdisciplinary. The paper talks about interactions between discipline A and discipline B, and is sent to a referee in discipline B, who doesn’t understand the part that belongs to discipline A, so ignores it and then (obviously) cannot understand the part that belongs to discipline B, so rejects it on the grounds that the (slightly surprising) implications for discipline B do not agree with the referee’s prejudices.

This is a huge problem for the progress of science in general. There is a huge prejudice against interdisciplinary research, which means that interdisciplinary scientists can’t publish their research, can’t get jobs, and whole areas of interdisciplinary research simply die. Funding agencies are desperate to support interdisciplinary research, and it is obviously crucial is so many areas, but they can’t do it, because the fundamental human imperative of survival undermines all their efforts. And the name of this imperative is subject prejudice.

If it was racial prejudice, or gender prejudice or any number of other prejudices, it would be illegal (in some countries). But because it is subject prejudice, it is not illegal, but is every bit as insidious. It is completely obvious to a mathematician that theoretical physics has got bogged down in some mathematics that doesn’t work. Or rather, it does work, up to a point, but it is inconsistent and therefore needs to be sorted out. It is completely obvious that physicists, left to themselves, have failed to sort out the problems that were obvious nearly a century ago. It is completely obvious that physicists need help from mathematicians. It is completely obvious that physicists reject help from mathematicians. It is completely obvious that this strategy will not work.

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August 9, 2021 at 6:51 pm |

Alternatively, the paper is sent to a referee in discipline A, who says this is all well-known, what is new here? – and doesn’t understand the part that refers to discipline B, where the new part is, so ignores it.

August 9, 2021 at 6:54 pm |

Or, if you are (un)lucky, it gets sent to two referees, one in discipline A and one in discipline B, and the first says “this isn’t new enough to be interesting” and the second says “this is too new to be right”.

August 9, 2021 at 6:56 pm |

Then the editor rejects, without taking account of the fact that the two referees flatly contradict each other.

August 11, 2021 at 1:00 am |

If either one of them had a geniune arguement on this paper (or any paper, whatever it is about), then I would be glad to listen to it, and hear out the reasons for the rejection, because they would likely have some great value.

But instead I see no arguement whatsoever. Not even a trace, or a hint of one that just was not shared with you. They have none. Certainly when you can’t point out anything wrong about a preprint, then reject it, causing readers of the journal to not review it either, then the system is not working.

“There is nothing new here”, is just not a viable arguement. It only says to us that they can recognize some symbols they’ve seen before. And then they don’t bother to fully comprehend the actual ideas.

Or maybe that’s too harsh, but since the arguement of theirs is so generalized and arbitrary, that’s what I am drawing from it…

August 9, 2021 at 7:04 pm |

Maybe I am looking at this report too negatively: in the light of Richard Feynman’s famous remark that “no-one understands quantum mechanics”, perhaps I should interpret the phrase “lacks physical understanding” as putting me in the same category as Richard Feynman? 😉

August 10, 2021 at 5:49 pm |

I apologise to the referee for suggesting they took weeks to come up with these three words. The electronic record proves it took them less than 7 hours, certainly far less than would be required to gain a reasonable understanding of the content of the paper. The rest of the 6 weeks was spent on the editor’s desk.

August 11, 2021 at 12:27 am |

Here’s something that sort of fits for the last post. Arnold’s trinities relate the numbers 5, 7, and 11 to a handful of mathematical structures. This is pure geometry, however, but physics uses some of these structures, namely E6, E7, and E8……

The groups PSL(2,5), PSL(2,7), and PSL(2,11) form one of Arnold’s trinities. So there is a correspondence here with icosahedral symmetry, the Klein quartic, and the Buckyball surface, which are analogous to the respective groups.

Arnold conjectured that all of the trinities may be unified, via “rectangular commutative diagrams”, also called “functorial constructions [to connect all of the trinities]”.

However, all that currently exists is a list of these mathematical trinities, named Arnold’s trinities, which chart relations, but require some faith to believe it is important, a kind of mathematical “religion”.

Parallel to Dixon’s mathematical resonance philosophy, the first trinity is the division algebras, C, H, and O.

Another one is the exceptional Galios groups, L2(5), L2(7), and L2(11).

And then there’s the Platonic solids as the tetrahedron, the octahedron, and icosahedron symmetries.

There’s quite a few more trinities but these are the ones that relate (trivially, most likely) to your last post on Mobius transformations…

August 11, 2021 at 12:23 pm |

I put in my formal appeal against the rejection. I don’t suppose it will do any good, but I felt it necessary to do it anyway. To be honest, I don’t care whether they publish the paper or not. Before I retired, it would have been important to be able to put some published papers into my annual report, but now it is largely irrelevant.

If physicists wish to ignore my work, while I am busy developing a quantum theory of everything in front of their very eyes, that is their prerogative. If they chose instead to jump on the bandwagon, they might beat me to the prize. But the chances of that happening seem slim to the point of irrelevance.

Six substantial papers on the arXiv in a year I think proves that on the scale of crackpottery I come quite low. The arXiv have only rejected half of my papers in physics, which is not bad considering I am not a physicist. The seventh paper is well on its way, having reached 15 pages by now, and may be ready in a few weeks.

It has an important new idea: symmetry-breaking in my model(s) is a symmetry-breaking of spinors, while in the standard model it is a symmetry-breaking of the *labels* on the spinors. These are not the same thing, as any philosopher will tell you.

August 12, 2021 at 5:00 pm |

With all of the hidden assumptions in physics that you have pointed out, including the importance of 2×2 matrices, 3 Lorentz groups, and Dirac’s use of time where he makes it anticommute with space… There might be another hidden assumption that underlies them all. The use of the algebra C x H.

There are other forms of Quaternions, and nature could be using a different one. In which case the C x H algebra has been the ultimate limiting factor towards unification. If this speculation is right, then C x H would have to be corrected, or replaced with the Dual Quaternions, or the Coquaternions.

The Coquaternions are interesting because they are isomorphic to the ring 2 x 2 real matrices. They can be simplified to real matrices, so possibly relevant for spacetime?

As for the Dual Quaternions, we have an 8-dimensional space, with 6 degrees of freedom, or 3 for rotations, and 3 for transformations. That sounds like the Lorentz group, only acceleration with Dual Quaternions is limited, in a way that looks useful for Quantum Mechanics?

If C x H is a wrong hidden assumption, then these other forms of Quaternions might be what nature chose instead. In which case they would give a more accurate model. C x H seems like it is at the root of a lot of other hidden assumptions, even in Yang-Mills…

August 13, 2021 at 4:07 pm |

I feel it may be worthwhile emphasising the distinction between “mathematician” and “mathematicist” that I learnt from someone who calls himself “budrap”. Mathematicians, as I pointed out, are rejected by physicists. Mathematicists, on the other hand, *are* physicists, who treat mathematics not as a tool, but as a fetish.