From Usenet Big-8 Management Board
From: The Big-8 Management Board <>
Subject: RFD: sci.physics.foundations moderated (LAST CALL FOR COMMENTS)
Newsgroups: sci.astro.research, sci.physics.research,
 news.announce.newgroups, sci.physics.strings, news.groups.proposals
Followup-To: news.groups.proposals
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2007 09:15:35 -0600

                      REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD)

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


The B8MB plans to begin voting on this proposal after five days.  Please
offer any final discussion or comments before the end of this waiting
period.  Voting may take up to one week (7 days); a result will be posted
following the end of the voting period.

All discussion of this proposal should be posted to news.groups.proposals.

The full group creation procedure is documented here:

NEWSGROUPS LINE: sci.physics.foundations

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


Reaction to the first RFD was very positive, with a number of expressions
of enthusiastic support.  See the following posts for their actual comments:

Supporters who will likely post to the group

Norm Dresner        <8esqh.387773$>
Ruadhan O'Flanagan  <eoe84b$o2b$>
Doug Freyburger     <>
Oz                  <>
Thomas Cuny         <>
Alf P. Steinbach    <>
Wolfgang Koehler    <>
Andy Inopin         <>
R.L. Oldershaw      <>
Ken S. Tucker       <>
Eugene Stefanovich  <>
Robin W.            <>
Chris Oakley        <>
Carl Brannen        <>
Harald Van Lintel   <>
Cl.Masse            <45afa90a$0$4271$>
Paul (SupremeFunkyBroadcast) <>
Peter Brown         <>
(Dr) A Pilt         <>
Gurcharn Sandhu     <>
Nigel Cook          <>
Hans Devries        <>

Supporters who do not intend to post to the group

Martin X. Moleski   <>
Marcel Beaudoin     <Xns98BAF0166EB72mbeausympaticoca@>

Rob Oldershaw supported the creation of the group, saying it was "long
overdue", though subsequently doubted the credentials of the lead
proponent.  There followed posts in support of the lead proponent and it
was pointed out that the disagreement between the lead proponent and Rob
Oldershaw in a discussion on sci.astro.research would not constitute a
reason to block Rob Oldershaw's posts.  There was no further follow-up.

The only poster writing against the group was Kent Paul Dolan
<>.  He did not
formally oppose its creation and lost some credibility because the
moderator agreed that his post should not have been approved for n.g.p.
It would seem that his requirements for a group are either met by
s.p.r., or by sci.physics, where he is free to be as impolite as he

There was a healthy discussion on moderation policy, which helped to
clarify what would and what would not be allowed, and led to a number of
changes to the charter.  Importantly it lead to the introduction of an
appeals procedure to ensure that all moderators would have to agree on
the blocking of a post.  If was felt that a larger team of moderators
would improve the policy.  Dr Peter Enders has kindly agreed to join the

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. Moderation is required
only to keep out the flames and the noise of patently non-physical
theories. 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.

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.

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 the 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 theory.

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. Sci.physics.strings was
set up to discuss a particular class of unification theories. 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 sci.physics.foundations.


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. One
of the moderators of sci.physics.research rejects about 10% of posts, of
which he estimates 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 sci.physics.research can easily be

It may be possible to gain some traffic from blogs, where discussions
appropriate to s.p.f are often both initiated and discouraged. Prof Woit
has posted to this effect on his "Not Even Wrong" blog. The proponents
will contact the owners of other blogs who may make similar statements.


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 the foundations of physics or philosophy of
physics, 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 opinions
of the moderators, clearly inconsistent with empirical evidence; Posts
about theories of nature with neither mathematical nor 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.

Speed of moderation is important for maintaining good discussion. It is
intended to use ReadySTUMP which combines facilities with ease of use.
Pre-approval for regular posters with a record of adherence to the
charter will be considered, subject to the constraint that
transgressions should result in rapid removal of pre-approval status.
If white listing is used, posters will be asked to complain directly to
the moderators about transgressions rather than by posting to the group.

If a moderator has doubts about whether a post meets the policy
described above, the post should either be allowed or referred to the
other moderators for a consensus view. If a poster disagrees with the
rejection of his post he may appeal to the team of moderators. If any
moderator thinks the post should be allowed, it will be allowed.

Posts enquiring about college physics will not be prohibited, but
posters will be encouraged to send such posts to sci.physics.research
when appropriate for that group. Posts on particular theories covered by
other groups would generally be considered more appropriate in those

MODERATOR INFO: sci.physics.foundations

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

The moderators have, between them, 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 physicist, or by publications.

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

Article Submissions:
Administrative Contact:


This document has been posted to the following newsgroups:



Charles Francis <>

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


2007-01-15     1st RFD
2007-01-24     2nd RFD
2007-01-31     3rd RFD/LCC