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From: Charles Francis <>
Newsgroups: sci.astro.research,sci.physics.research,news.announce.newgroups,sci.physics.strings,news.groups.proposals
Subject: RFD: sci.physics.foundations moderated
Followup-To: news.groups.proposals
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2007 00:54:41 -0600
Message-ID: <nan.20070115065441$>
Archive-Name: sci.physics.foundations

                      REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD)
                moderated group sci.physics.foundations

This is a formal Request For Discussion (RFD) for the creation of the
moderated Usenet newsgroup, sci.physics.foundations.

NEWSGROUPS LINE: sci.physics.foundations

sci.physics.foundations	Fundamental and philosophical physics. (Moderated)

RATIONALE: sci.physics.foundations

A number of independent researchers are seeking a new moderated physics
newsgroup to allow free discussion of fundamental issues in physics,
including discussion of the basic premises which define scientific
theory and philosophical discussion of physics.

When non-physicists become interested in physics it is often the most
fundamental questions which concern them. Intelligent laymen often
strike right to the heart of the philosophical questions concerning the
definition of elementary physical quantities like the second and the
metre. They ask questions like "Why is the speed of light constant?",
"How can the universe be finite and yet have no boundary?", "What
happened before the big bang?", "How can I understand Schrodinger's
cat?" The most important advances of the 20th century, quantum theory
and general relativity, are concerned with deep philosophical issues to
do with the measurement of elementary quantities. Physics text books and
college course are often more concerned with results than fundamentals
and usually do not dwell on such issues. It is also easy for a physicist
to lose sight of the elementary starting points for difficult
mathematical theory. A great deal of insight can be gained on both sides
of discussions between physicists and non-physicists. Such discussions
would be encouraged by the group.

Moderation is required to keep out both the flames and the noise of
patently non-physical theories which characterize the unmoderated
groups. Posts will not be rejected as "speculative" on the basis of a
subjective understanding of current paradigm, but on the objective
criterion of inconsistency with empirical evidence. Such a group will
enable, but will not be limited to, discussion of scientific theories
which are not necessarily a part of established paradigm, it will act as
a sounding board for scientific ideas, and it will assist in trapping
errors prior to submission for publication. It will not host
unscientific theory.

The proponents hope that directing posts about philosophical and
foundational issues to sci.physics.foundations will relieve the burden
on the moderators of sci.physics.research, who have to make a decision
on whether such posts are "overly speculative" according to the charter
of that group. Such a decision necessarily involves a subjective view
which can be frustrating for a researcher wishing to discuss ideas.

Although sci.physics.research was originally set up intending a light
moderation policy which would have allowed much of discussion proposed
for sci.physics.foundations, perhaps with good reason it has been felt
necessary by the moderator to restrict the bulk of discussion to physics
as taught in college. It is often not possible either to air theoretical
research or hold discussion on the fundamental assumptions underlying
accepted physical theory, nor is philosophy of science generally
considered on topic for that group. The proponents believe there is a
strong case for two groups; the existing forum for research under
current paradigms, and a new group permitting free discussion while
remaining within empirical and logical bounds required of scientific

There are a considerable number of groups in the sci.physics hierarchy.
Formerly the unmoderated groups, as well as alt.sci.physics contained a
high volume of lively physics discussion and debate. These groups have
almost entirely been taken over by trolls, flames, "Einstein was wrong"
posts often submitted by robots, and "god did it" posts. As a result it
is very difficult to hold any form of discussion of physics in an
unmoderated group.

Of the moderated groups, sci.physics.discrete was set up specifically to
discuss a particular class of discrete theories in conflict with the
proven empirical results of quantum theory. Sci.physics.strings was set
up to discuss a speculative class of unification theories of which
happens to have gained the attention and interest of a section of the
academic community despite an absence of empirical results. A number of
other specific active fields of research, like sci.physics.plasma are
also covered. This leaves only sci.physics.research as a forum for
general discussion on physics. It is possible to discuss cosmology and
astrophysics on sci.astro.research but this is not the main purpose of
that group and does not include the generality of discussion which is
intended for s.p.f.


The proponents hope to restore to the sci.physics hierarchy some of the
original level of traffic of the unmoderated groups. Much of this has
moved to blogs, of which there are many, but the proponents believe that
the newsgroup format has inherent advantages for serious discussion. The
moderators of s.p.r. reject about 10% of posts, of which they estimate
that 1/3 may be suitable for the new group. To the base figure of 3% one
can apply a multiplier, to allow for responses not written and new
threads not started because a poster thinks they will not be accepted,
and to allow for follow-ups to unwritten and rejected posts. A
multiplier of 10 seems conservative. This suggests that an initial
target of 1/3 traffic on s.p.r. can easily be achieved.


Light moderation is intended, aimed not at restricting subject matter
but at reducing noise. Under this guidance, the following sorts of
material are deemed appropriate for sci.physics.foundations:

Posts on any issue of physics or philosophy of physics, and in
particular posts on unresolved or controversial issues.

We are human beings before we are scientists; posts of a purely humorous
or social nature, e.g. "thanks for the explanation" will be allowed.

The following sorts of material are deemed inappropriate for

Personal attacks (e.g. flames) and overly-scathing corrections;
Discussion that isn't about or related to physics; Multiple responses
which all say the same things; Advertisements unless deemed in the
interest of the group; Posts about theories which are, in the opinion of
the moderator, clearly inconsistent with empirical evidence; Posts about
physics theories with no mathematical or predictive content; Crossposts.

Posters will be expected to maintain high standards of manners. We
should recognize that we all make mistakes, and that making and then
correcting mistakes is fundamental to scientific methodology. Crackpot
physics starts not with making mistakes, but with a failure to recognize
mistakes. Part of the function of the group should be to assist
independent researchers in trapping and correcting mistakes in serious
scientific research. Corrections should be phrased with due diplomacy.

MODERATION POLICY: sci.physics.foundations

Moderation will be aimed primarily at maintaining the level of debate.
It is not intended for the moderators to trap errors in posts about
research, since that is part of the rationale for the group.

If a moderator has doubts about whether a post is "clearly inconsistent
with empirical evidence", the post should either be allowed or referred
to the other moderators for a consensus view.

Posts enquiring about college physics will not be prohibited, but would
be encouraged to sci.physics.research when appropriate for that group.
Posts on string theory would generally be considered more appropriate to

MODERATOR INFO: sci.physics.foundations

Moderator:                Charles Francis <>
Moderator:                Jay R. Yablon <>
Moderator:                Fred Diether <>

The moderators have extensive experience as posters on Usenet, and have
an active interest in physics research supported by submissions to
arXiv, which generally requires the endorsement of an established

Further information on the moderators and on this proposal may be found

Article Submissions:      
Administrative Contact:   



For more information on the newsgroup creation process, please see:

Those who wish to influence the development of this RFD and its final
resolution should subscribe to news.groups.proposals and participate in the
relevant threads in that newsgroup.  This is both a courtesy to groups in
which discussion of creating a new group is off-topic as well as the best
method of making sure that one's comments or criticisms are heard.

All discussion of active proposals should be posted to news.groups.proposals.
To this end, the 'Followup-To' header of this RFD has been set to this group.

If desired by the readership of closely affected groups, the discussion
may be crossposted to those groups, but care must be taken to ensure
that all discussion appears in news.groups.proposals as well.

We urge those who would like to read or post in the proposed newsgroup
to make a comment to that effect in this thread; we ask proponents to
keep a list of such positive posts with the relevant message ID
(e.g., Barney Fife, <>).
Such lists of positive feedback for the proposal may constitute good
evidence that the group will be well-used if it is created.


This document has been posted to the following newsgroups:



Charles Francis <>

Co-Proponent: Jay R. Yablon <>
Co-Proponent: Fred Diether <>


2007-01-15     1st RFD