(Notice to the uninterested, the lede is significantly buried here, but this is a blog, not a newspaper)
Eli and the seven bunnies are quite into arrogant physicists, one of them, Arthur Smith, even spent some time laying the species out.
Eli, of course, having been demoted to mere chemist by the real physicists Gerhard Gerlich, Ralf D. Tscheuschner is not qualified to comment on these matters, other than to note that their recent diatribe in IJMPB
In general though, physicists have good reason to be arrogant. Each of us in the intellectual world is like an armed policeman. A certain swagger is justified, we feel confident we have the tools to handle any situation. A problem asserts itself, and we walk in with the self-assurance of those who have tackled thousands of similar cases in the past. For a really challenging problem we know how to put out a call for reinforcements. One all-purpose tool is reductionism - breaking a problem into smaller more comprehensible pieces, and then tackling those one by one. . . .
But sometimes that arrogance and self-assurance and collection of intuitions lead us, or at least a few of us, astray. We forget that there are other smart people in the world, who have been thinking about their limited problem for a lot longer and perhaps have a deeper understanding than we give them credit for. We jump in with our simplified models and ideas and then wonder why they don't find them helpful. Or we too deeply trust the intuition of a colleague who has been often right before or who we trust for other reasons, but in a particular instance has not put in the effort to properly understand the problem, and ends up only embarrassing themselves, and us by association.
One should keep in mind that we are theoretical physicists with experimental experience and, additionally, a lot of experience in numerical computing. Eli Rabett and Joerg Zimmermann, for example, are chemists. We are not willing to discuss whether they can be considered as laymen in physics, in particular laymen in thermodynamics.Is a strong contender for the Boojum's Golden Horseshoe Award
Which kind of brings us to the almost end, with the appearance of the obfustication aka the commentary appended now to the American Physical Society's Statement on Climate Change. John Mashey spent a great deal of time tracing the attack on the the APS Climate Change Statement back to a few nests of "motivated" (Judith Curry instructs Eli not to use the words denialist, or reactionary) physicists at a few places including Princeton. Which, finally, brings Eli to the point. Jonathan Katz, Professor of Physics at Washington University, was one of those who petitioned to change the APS policy statement. Katz had previously been a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, and was evidently recruited for JASON at that point, something he shared with other petitioners.
In Dashiell Hammett’s story The Golden Horseshoe, much of the action takes place in a bar of that name in Tijuana. At one point the narrator, an operative for the Continental Detective Agency, kills a few strategic seconds by studying the decorations:
I was reading a sign high on the wall behind the bar:
ONLY GENUINE PRE-WAR AMERICAN AND BRITISH WHISKEYS SERVED HERE
I was trying to count how many lies could be found in those nine words, and had reached four, with promise of more …
Sometimes I come across an article, web posting, advertisement or other statement that makes me feel when I read it just as I imagine the Continental Op did in that Tijuana bar.
JASON is a small advisory group of arrogant scientists which grew out of the Manhattan project to advise the Departments of Defense, Energy and Spooks about scientific matters. To cut to the chase, Steve Chu turned to JASON in order to get an evaluation of how to deal with the oil well blowout in the Gulf and the impending disaster. They sent a few members, including the aforementioned Dr. Katz, and as it happens, people started looking at the members' web sites.
Dr. Katz has the habit of posting essays (sub - blogging as it were) on his web site, and one of them turned out to be, well, homophobic. Dr. Katz was landed upon, and disinvited
His comments about climate change incorporate the equally charming mixture of naivety, agression and arrogance that characterize physicists of a certain training, and the dénouement was about as predictable.
Jonathan I. Katz, a professor of astrophysics at Washington University in St. Louis, ''will no longer be involved in the [Energy] Department's efforts'' at addressing the oil spill continuing to spread in the Gulf of Mexico, a Department spokeswoman relayed on Monday night, May 17.
The news came after what the spokesperson, Stephanie Mueller, termed ''controversial writings'' – which included a ''defense of homophobia'' – spread out over the web on Monday, writings of which she said the Department was unaware when it sought his assistance.
On May 12, Energy Secretary Steven Chu ''assembled a group of top scientific experts from inside and outside of government to join in today's discussions in Houston about possible solutions,'' according to a Department news release. Katz was one of five outside scientists noted in the release. Bloomberg News reported about the group of scientists on May 14, reporting Chu ''signaled his lack of confidence in the industry experts trying to control BP Plc's leaking oil well by hand-picking a team of scientists with reputations for creative problem solving.''
Perhaps we might now start a discussion of Prof. Katz's take on climate change? Eli's take on that is that the cheerful assumption that no one else was paying attention to the various ups and downs in radiative forcing over the last 150 years, is, as usual with such characters, charming.
Stumbling across campus to talk to people with a clue might have helped. Pierrehumber's Law.