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This question has lain dormant for months. It wasn't bumped, nothing happened. Suddenly, I get three downvotes (and one up vote) within a 24 hour period. How can I be sure somebody isn't meat puppeting or sock puppeting? Can an admin review the votes and assure me that it was a legitimate coincidence? Is it even possible?

Which subjects in physics should I choose if I want to help tackling today's energy and environment related problems?

The answer is cold fusion related, and it was at a (suprising) +1 before the current episode. It is possible that you have community vigilante patrols looking for oddball answers, I don't know. But it is not plausible that three votes come on a long dormant answer in a few hours. That has never happened before, and is unlikely considering the reduced traffic on the site.

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    $\begingroup$ A detailed review of the voting would require the team as vote anonymity is maintained for diamond moderators. We get some info about some anomalous patters, but no general access. Members of the team do come by the site metas pretty regularly, so perhaps they'll have a look. I don't find anything actionable (or even interesting) with the tools I have. (I do see the four vote's your asking about, I just can't connect them with anybody so I can't draw any useful conclusions.) $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jan 15 '12 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ I voted it down (since I don't believe in cold fusion), but just once. The question is not that far down on the front page right now; I don't know why. I expect other people saw it the same way I did. No sock puppets here. $\endgroup$ – Peter Shor Jan 15 '12 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't three downvotes and one upvote a net of +4 rep. points? $\endgroup$ – MBN Jan 15 '12 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ Not for questions. You only get +5 for an upvote on a question. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 15 '12 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ I downvoted it, too, and perhaps it is merely that any activity bumps the question back up in visibility so other sensible people downvote it too. I wish I were a sock puppet of Professor Shor's.... $\endgroup$ – joseph f. johnson Jan 16 '12 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ @David Zaslavsky, right, but here we are talking about an answer. $\endgroup$ – MBN Jan 16 '12 at 9:08
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    $\begingroup$ @MBN: oh, right, for some reason I thought it was a question. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 16 '12 at 9:10
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    $\begingroup$ I also voted it down, so I guess I'm the last suck puppet. The real question is, why did anybody vote it up... $\endgroup$ – Heidar Jan 18 '12 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Heidar: You can vote either way as you like. Let me tell you why I upvoted it. The P-F effect is full of unknowns, but it has not been disproven by any means. Instead it reminds me of electric lighting before Edison, when it was thought impossible to "subdivide light" (arc light), or heavier-than-air flight before the Wright brothers. It is hard work to make it reproducible and really understand the theory (or know why you can't). If it were easy it would have been done earlier. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Jan 18 '12 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ Ok guys--- sorry for my paranoia--- +1 for everybody. I would urge those who are skeptical to review the plastic detectors of the SPAWAR group, and Arata's gas-loading experiments. These have no source of error. Also the multiple reports of radioactive elements generated in the cathode is to my mind 100% conclusive. I do not begrudge the downvotes, I just didn't know that there was such a thing as an activity bump. Sorry guys. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Jan 20 '12 at 5:03
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Sometimes I personally just wander about the site aimlessly. And if I find a question that has had no traffic, or very little traffic, I may do some actions which will drive the question up on the land page (where questions are ordered by activity). Once there, many other people may have seen it. Actions such as an edit, an answer, or even a vote can put the question into an area of visibility that it may not have had for a while. If you just answered that question, it popped up for notice.

Also, overall, due to the low quality of other question/answer sites, I think StackExchange is getting more and more users. Having that happen now may have been part of what got it the votes. And then if someone sees a -1 vote on a question, human nature would have others follow the leader in that regard.

That said, looking at your answer, it was not really one that is deserving of +1 votes. The entire cold fusion fiasco was just that, a fiasco!

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    $\begingroup$ No doubt I'm stupid, or credulous, or something, but I found Ron's take on "cold fusion" really interesting. I have no reason to be sure it's not like aviation before the Wright brothers. There's no theory that disproves it; there are tantalizing possibilities; it is very hard to reproduce, but some people claim to have seen it, and I have an open mind that they're not all deluded or cranks. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Jan 15 '12 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeDunlavey I did not at all insult YOUR intelligence! Far from it. However, the experimental controls and then the subsequent repeatability of the experiment do not merit serious consideration. Of course, that is my opinion, your mileage may vary. $\endgroup$ – Larian LeQuella Jan 15 '12 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ Right, it's an area where people have differing opinions. The way I see it is, of course strong skepticism of positive results is essential, but the upside is so huge that there needs to be equally strong skepticism of negative results. We can certainly have our doubts or even strong opinions, but to be honest, we just don't know. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Jan 15 '12 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry to keep going on, but I'm a case of someone holding a viewpoint very much outside the mainstream, in software engineering. If you present my position to the entirety of academia, 99.9% will reject it out of hand. Like cold fusion, the upside is huge. Unlike cold fusion, however, it's easy to demonstrate, and in fact many programmers have discovered it on their own, as shown in the comments and votes. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Jan 15 '12 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ Not to beat a dead horse, but I like to see things that many consider impossible, when I think there's a chance they're wrong. Inventions are like that. (My name is on a few patents.) Thomas Edison loved nothing more than being told something was impossible. There's a thrill in finding the hidden possibilities. (It's happened a lot in aviation.) $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Jan 16 '12 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ I am happy that the votes were sincere, and reflect ongoing skepticism and not some skullduggery. I urge the skeptics to review the experimental data before coming to conclusions, because there are dozens of extremely good experiments with consistent reproducible effects. I don't know how someone can disbelieve in cold fusion after reading lenr-canr articles for a few hours--- I found myself reluctantly forced into a paradigm shift. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Jan 20 '12 at 5:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Ron: I just Googled "James Randi Cold Fusion" and found his video. I think he's terrific, and I liked his take on ECat. His take on hearing Pons&Fleischman (with Carl Sagan) was extremely skeptical, to say the least. That's OK, skepticism is good. Other than that, it appears he's really had his mind on other things. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Jan 21 '12 at 3:11

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