Topic: Physics/Publications

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Bogdanov affair

Biography France Physics Skepticism Physics/Biographies Physics/Publications

The Bogdanov affair was an academic dispute regarding the legitimacy of a series of theoretical physics papers written by French twins Igor and Grichka Bogdanov (alternately spelt Bogdanoff). These papers were published in reputable scientific journals, and were alleged by their authors to culminate in a proposed theory for describing what occurred at and before the Big Bang.

The controversy began in 2002, with an allegation that the twins, celebrities in France for hosting science-themed TV shows, had obtained PhDs with nonsensical work. Rumours spread on Usenet newsgroups that their work was a deliberate hoax intended to target weaknesses in the peer review system that physics journals use to select papers for publication. While the Bogdanov brothers continued to defend the veracity of their work, the debate over whether or not it represented a contribution to physics spread from Usenet to many other Internet forums, eventually receiving coverage in the mainstream media. A Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) internal report later concluded that their theses had no scientific value.

The incident prompted criticism of the Bogdanovs' approach to science popularization, led to multiple lawsuits, and provoked reflection among physicists as to how and why the peer review system can fail.

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Goethe's Theory of Colors

Physics Books Alternative Views Color Physics/Publications

Theory of Colours (German: Zur Farbenlehre) is a book by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe about the poet's views on the nature of colours and how these are perceived by humans. It was published in German in 1810 and in English in 1840. The book contains detailed descriptions of phenomena such as coloured shadows, refraction, and chromatic aberration.

The work originated in Goethe's occupation with painting and mainly exerted an influence on the arts (Philipp Otto Runge, J. M. W. Turner, the Pre-Raphaelites, Wassily Kandinsky). The book is a successor to two short essays entitled "Contributions to Optics".

Although Goethe's work was rejected by physicists, a number of philosophers and physicists have concerned themselves with it, including Thomas Johann Seebeck, Arthur Schopenhauer (see: On Vision and Colors), Hermann von Helmholtz, Rudolf Steiner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Mitchell Feigenbaum.

Goethe's book provides a catalogue of how colour is perceived in a wide variety of circumstances, and considers Isaac Newton's observations to be special cases. Unlike Newton, Goethe's concern was not so much with the analytic treatment of colour, as with the qualities of how phenomena are perceived. Philosophers have come to understand the distinction between the optical spectrum, as observed by Newton, and the phenomenon of human colour perception as presented by Goethe—a subject analyzed at length by Wittgenstein in his comments on Goethe's theory in Remarks on Colour.

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There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom (1959)

Physics Physics/Publications

"There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom: An Invitation to Enter a New Field of Physics" was a lecture given by physicist Richard Feynman at the annual American Physical Society meeting at Caltech on December 29, 1959. Feynman considered the possibility of direct manipulation of individual atoms as a more powerful form of synthetic chemistry than those used at the time. Although versions of the talk were reprinted in a few popular magazines, it went largely unnoticed and did not inspire the conceptual beginnings of the field. Beginning in the 1980s, nanotechnology advocates cited it to establish the scientific credibility of their work.

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