Death of a Welsh Crackpot#2

We have received a comment on our previous post, with the above title, and we think that the comment, and our reply, deserve wider dissemination:

“Wow what a reflection on you as a person to write about a man who has passed and who is no longer to debate or refute your comments which have intent to discredit! I have had the honour of working with Professor Viv Pope and what a lovely humble man he was. For those that do not know the man here is a documentary I helped produced for him –”



“We do not like crackpots here, and see no reason why the mere fact of death should sanctify their loony ideas. Do you really think that people like him are amenable to reason when they are alive? We have always tried to engage with loonies whenever possible and they have always refused to reply, or just repeated their misconceptions like a mantra … or simply hurled abuse and threats. They always deliberately put themselves outside of mainstream science simply because they always have other aims: they want to be ‘the new Einstein’ or they want to provide theoretical backup for their perpetual-motion or antigravity machine or cancer-cure. We are well aware that Pope collaborated with a university-employed mathematician. That may mean a lot to the layman, but it means nothing to us: the layman assumes that the crackpot has been ‘elevated’ by such a link, we instead wonder whether the mathematician deserves his job. We can cite mathematicians who have backed crooks, such as John Searl, using virtuoso displays of mathematics. What does that tell you? We know what it tells us! The ‘strike but hear’ pose is often the favored one of the ‘humble’ pseudoscientist. We see only the ‘umbleness of Uriah Heep. Now let us come to your own deceptiveness: you claim to have worked with ‘Professor’ Pope. Perhaps you would care to tell us whereof he held his chair. Did he have his own university or institute, located in his cottage, like many another? Where was his office? Was it perhaps shared ‘in spirit’ with another of his ilk at Keele? People like Pope, ‘Ron’ and yourself are a menace to the education of young scientists and, in the cut-throat world of technology, no nation can afford to have its young people crippled by the deceptions of the lunatic fringe.”

We can certainly agree that one cannot trust everything that comes out of universities: loonies seem to gravitate towards them with the same alacrity with with paedophiles gravitate towards schools and TV. They unfortunately also seem to be welcomed with the same alacrity. We also agree that angular momentum is not well understood by some people. But is that because of any fundamental failing, or simply because nearly all textbooks present the topic on a need-to-know basis? The subtleties of the subject are often neglected. The late (and, yes, unlamented by us) Eric Laithwaite once published an entire article which ‘proved’ (with a thought experiment) that linear and angular momentum are not separately conserved (thus contradicting a fundamental physical law). The article would have fooled most readers, but Laithwaite’s reasoning appeared to work only because of the sloppiness of presentation of most textbooks. To put it starkly: we say that a non-rotating object, moving in a perfectly straight line, can possess angular momentum. Sounds loony, right? But we are correct. Would Pope have agreed? Does his acolyte above agree? 

PS The real sting-in-the-tail here is that Professor Alan Winfield of the University of the West of England (or Bristol Technical College, as one of us remembers it before the cash-strapped UK government magically turned all such colleges into ‘universities’ overnight in order to be able to milk more students for cash) is a member of the UWE’s ‘Science Communication Unit’. Can one really imagine a worse person for such a task than crackpot-befuddled Winfield? In his defence, one must  mention that he is an electrical engineer, and they are always ‘physics-challenged’.

And of course Winfield is a completely unbiased, even-handed and disinterested individual,

LOL, LOL, LOL, … LOL ad inf.




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