Does Physics.SE's have any way of dealing with users who are highly persistent, have kook beliefs, and sound impressive? Some of these folks seem to be very successful at racking up reputation points on this site.

The characteristics that I've noticed include

  • Some claim to be self-educated, some to work in other professions and some to be physicists

  • Some claim that the physics community is incompetent

  • Some have publication links to well known advocates of poorly received theories.

  • Some claim affiliation with bodies that are named rather like highly respected organs.

  • Some are highly prolific posters. In the worst case the site often seems to be a forum for dialog between him and the people who correct his mistakes.

  • All three of these folks have high reputation or respectable scores on SE;

  • All of them, occasionally provide correct answers to questions.

  • All of them are skilled at stringing together impressive-sounding terminology in a way that makes them sound as though they are experts.

I don't claim to know everything about physics, but I do have a PhD in the subject, I teach it for a living, and usually I know enough to know what it is that I don't know. Dealing with these users has pretty much eliminated my enthusiasm for participating in the site.

As far as I can tell, SE's design, which made it a killer app in some fields (software and math) simply doesn't work well for physics. I would guess that it works more poorly for physics than for software simply because there are far more people out there who are experts at programming and/or computer science than there are who are experts in general relativity or quantum field theory. We did at one time have relativist Ted Bunn, for example, as an active member of physics.SE, but it appears that he is no longer active (hasn't posted since Oct 13). Physics.SE seems to have found the perfect recipe for driving away competent people like Ted Bunn, while retaining destructive ones.

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    $\begingroup$ There is a policy of long standing--handed down from on high--of preferring to call out content and behaviors rather than users. Not identifying problem users by name is part and parcel of that, so I have edited your post rather heavily. I tried to retain the spirit, but feel free to fix anything I messed up. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Nov 30 '11 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ I occurs to me to ask "Does TheoreticalPhysics.SE have this problem, too?" and if so, how are they coping. I'm going to try their chat. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Nov 30 '11 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ Earlier discussion (and a possibly related post from a couple of days after that). $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Nov 30 '11 at 23:57
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    $\begingroup$ Please leave my name here--- I had to guess he was talking about me from context. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Dec 1 '11 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ I prefer to call out content too. But in this case, the fact that the fellow thinks my answers are incorrect should come with examples of a specific answer which is incorrect. I don't make mistakes here often, but I sometimes do. I have corrected almost all of these. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Dec 1 '11 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Ron: understood, but you now know who was being referred to and there is little to be gained by keeping specific names in the question for the world to see. They are accessible by looking at the revision history, in any case. As for the current revision of the question, we will stick to our normal policy of keeping it general. People higher up in the SE hierarchy are aware of this question and have agreed that dmckee's edit was fully appropriate. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 1 '11 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ I'm going to refrain from locking the post so that people can still post answers and comments, but do not roll it back. Any further edits should avoid mentioning specific names. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 1 '11 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @anna Roll-backs are logged in the edit history, so performing a roll-back makes you an "editor" for the purposes of getting you name and gravitar plastered on there. Fixing the spot where I failed to fully correct the text wouldn't get you in trouble, but I'll do it now. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 5 '11 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee thanks for doing it $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 5 '11 at 4:41

10 Answers 10


As this has become focused on a specific person's bio, I have to say that as a retired physicist I do not find very offensive a statement like:

I think the professionals are, for the most part, completely incompetent

though I would not use "completely incompetent" but rather "civil service minded": pensions, perks, grants and schooling for children.

When I was a student, physics was a vocation, it was a burning desire for answers to questions and I was not alone, that is what most of the students of my graduate classes were feeling. We would spend enormous time discussing solutions of quantum mechanics problems, fighting about who was correct. Maybe I was lucky to be with a clutch of dedicated young physicists.

My first shock came when I was describing the research of our group to an audience of aspiring for a graduate scholarship students, and I got the first question "and what is the insurance plan?".

There has been inflation in the number of people studying physics.

So it is not incompetence I would accuse many current physicists of, but with lack of vocation.

On the other hand, considering that experiments need something like 3000 people to get going it is evident that a civil service mentality can keep such systems working. Vocation is left for the group leaders, but often they are not inspiring enough, having come up from the hoi polloi.

I look forward to the time when a true physicist will be sitting at his/her computer and carry out experiments with robots :) . maybe in 300 years, if we do not blow ourselves up.

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    $\begingroup$ Agreed. I'm much less offended by Ron's bio than the idea that physicists all agree with each other all the time about everything and just spend their days giving each other high fives about how socially well-adjusted the modern scientist is. ;) $\endgroup$ – wsc Jan 15 '12 at 5:02
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    $\begingroup$ ""and what is the insurance plan?"" ::boggle::! $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jan 15 '12 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ and carry out experiments with robots -- Aren't we doing that already, with very large, immobile robots? public.web.cern.ch/public $\endgroup$ – Robert Harvey Jul 15 '12 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertHarvey but need 3000 (2000 physicists, the rest engineers and technicians) to run . I a dreaming of one physicist running such a behemoth. $\endgroup$ – anna v Jul 16 '12 at 3:43

I really sympathize with this, but I'm not sure what to do about it.

One problem is that the "kooks" accuse the legitimate scientists of being wrong as much as the other way around, and even among qualified scientists, there are arguments in which various groups will accuse each other of spouting complete nonsense. And even though I may have a strong hunch as to who is correct and who isn't, as a moderator, I can't take sides in this sort of debate based merely on that hunch. So I can't, say, suspend one user just because another user accuses the first user of being a crank. I'd need to have overwhelming evidence, which means either a strong response from the community (typically in the form of large numbers of downvotes and flags), or I would have to personally be able to evaluate the posts in question to see that they are nonsense getting passed off as fact, and in many fields of physics I'm not knowledgeable enough to do that.

Moderation aside, I could cast a lot of downvotes, but it doesn't feel appropriate to downvote something unless I understand something about why it's wrong. Besides, the system detects when one user casts a lot of downvotes against another and reverses the votes under certain conditions. That sort of behavior is frowned upon anyway.

If you see a post that is incorrect, the best thing to do is to downvote it, and better yet comment on it so that other people will know that the post is incorrect. It is indeed a major shortcoming of the site that we don't have enough people who are knowledgeable enough to evaluate answers in many of the "specialty" subjects.

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    $\begingroup$ Hear! Hear! For "I can't take sides". $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 1 '11 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ A lack of justification in the post can be ground for downvotes. Of course, if there's a justification that you don't understand and you believe that it's wrong but can't be reasonably sure, it's iffy. Nonetheless, I urge you to adopt a hard line on kooks, and don't hesistate to drive away repeat offenders through suspensions. Kooks have killed plenty of discussion sites. Stack Exchange should work well at keeping them out if you dish out the downvotes, close votes, not-an-answer flags and answer deletions, etc. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 1 '11 at 1:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Gilles: very true. My issue is that "there's a justification that you don't understand and you believe that it's wrong but can't be reasonably sure" applies a lot around here. And there is a very fine line between kooks and groundbreaking researchers sometimes. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 1 '11 at 2:08
  • $\begingroup$ @David, in this case i would say that it is not bad risk of looking as being unfair to a small group of persons in order to preserve the overall quality of the site. As a moderator we ask you to use your best judgment, we don't ask you to have infinite wisdom and never fail. $\endgroup$ – lurscher Dec 1 '11 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @lurscher: THere is no need to downvote when in doubt (or upvote either). I only upvote or downvote when I am positive. Still, even with this criterion, you make mistakes. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Dec 1 '11 at 20:27

Regarding The first version

It is impossible to state how ridiculous your statement is. The reason I have so many upvotes is because I answer questions that nobody else here is competent to answer. I don't make mistakes often, and when I do, I correct them or delete the answer. Just read my answers, they are not vague, usually they say precise things.

Regarding the general question

You are partly talking about me, and you do so without posting any links to any answer you think is wrong. Usually when somebody has a gripe about content they tell you what the content is. Point directly to bad content if you have a problem, don't make vague accusations.

The problem is that you are not qualified to judge the content, you just have a feeling that it must be wrong, because it sounds so different from what you believe. But those people who are qualified to judge the content tell you that it is ok, and this is causing distress to you, because you have a PhD, and I do not, and you believe physicists are generally competent, and I am positive that they are mostly dimwits, and so my answers must be wrong, and yet they are upvoted and this is causing you distress.

Well, get used to it.

Recently, somebody ignorantly downvoted this answer: Who first realized the uncertainty principle allows for virtual particle pair production? , without stating a reason. I think that a downvote should come with an explanation. In this case, the explanation is most likely "I feel that something in here must be wrong, but I can't say exactly what it is, -1." If you downvote, say why.

Nobody here upvotes because they don't understand. In fact, most of the best answers, which are the most technically challenging, have a paucity of upvotes because nobody feels qualified to vote it up, because maybe there's a subtle error. This drives away people who are technically competent. When an answer has a lot of upvotes (at least nowadays), you can be sure that the people who voted it up actually read it and understood it. There were times when any answer with formulas in it got upvotes automatically. No more.


This whole thing began when you disagreed with my description of the stress energy pseudotensor in General Relativity. You claimed that the stress energy tensor of matter is the definition of stress energy in GR (which is only true in a locally freefalling frame) and that there is no other definition. I told you Einstein's definition was the pseudotensor, and you said it was not. This only tells me that you haven't read Einstein's papers.

Einstein in 1917 or thereabouts published the pseudotensor for stress energy in the gravitational field, including the gravitational field energy. It was one of Einstein's boldest ideas--- using a coordinate dependent pseudotensor for stress energy, and it was severely criticized by Schrodinger and others as completely wrongheaded, because it is coordinate dependent. It was never fully accepted. To this day, people are confused about stress-energy in GR.

The pseudotensor $t$ has the property that it is coordinate conserved, meaning

$$\partial_\nu t^{\mu\nu} = 0 $$

It is not covariantly conserved. This means that the conserved quantity is the coordinate construction

$$\int d^3x t^{\mu0} $$

which is strange. The pseudotensor gives weird conservation laws, for flows of coordinate dependent stress energy across surfaces, but it is the right concept. The construction is partly explained in the Wikipedia page on Infraparticle, where Noether's theorem is applied to a gauge symmetry.

The pseudotensor only works fully for asymptotically flat spacetime, where you can identify the asymptotic translations with actual physical translations. But when you have cosmological solution, this doesn't work.

If you don't know anything about this, just ask a question. People will be happy to answer it.

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    $\begingroup$ Nobody here upvotes because they don't understand. While I don't know enough to judge your physics answers, and hence don't vote on them, this Meta claim you make here is totally false. In my area of specialization, I've seen tons of nonsensical crank posts (especially on Math SE) that get tons of upvotes and yet experts besides myself agree that the upvoters clearly understand nothing and upvote these crank posts purely because it sounds impressive. I'm posting this comment just in case people get the severely wrong idea from you that upvotes correlate with correctness. $\endgroup$ – user21820 Mar 6 '17 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ " I'm posting this comment just in case people get the severely wrong idea from you that upvotes correlate with correctness." You're response is not very clear. You know that his whole point was that upvotes don't correlate (linearly) with correctness. Also I have personally not upvoted seemingly-impressive-and-high-effort answers because I do not have the expertise or time to confirm - so I think (probably in agreement with the upvotes) that this meta claim is more right than wrong. $\endgroup$ – Steven Sagona Aug 11 '18 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ My six years of SE has taught me that votes mean little in relation to quality, especially in higher counts. Maybe 10% of the posts with a 10+ score have a quality that outpaces the 2+ posts. If it's a 30+ count, forget it. There's no correlation at all. As such, my own personal upvote giving threshold is quite low, being mostly about grammar, clarity, brevity, and glaring mistakes in logic and facts. $\endgroup$ – 21380 May 15 '20 at 0:46

I don't know how those other relatively innocuous posters got lumped in to this discussion, but I'd really like to address the question of Ron Maimon. Is he being persecuted because he unselfconsciously posts a biography which lables him as an outsider? Yes, I find Ron Maimon to be at times annoying but certainly not obnoxious in the manner of such classic personalities as Jim Carr and ZapperZ.

The thing about Ron Maimon is he definitely comes here to talk about physics. I personally can't get into discussions with him for two reasons: first, he's so single-minded in his own point of view that you can't really communicate with him back and forth; secondly, the structure of this forum is simply not conducive to extended discussions. But he sometimes posts things that are so coherently argued and with such intricate detail that even if I can't understand them myself, I just can't believe he's simply pulling this stuff out of his ass. Consider his answer to the question of Why do we not have particles of spin greater than 2? A guy who can write that is either (a) a genius or (b) a total faker. I'm no fan of Ron Maimon but I think it's got to be (a), not (b). You just can't make that stuff up if it doesn't come from somewhere.

If someone thinks Ron Maimon is a crank, then let him argue Ron down face-to-face on his actual physics. Don't tell me that Ron is unemployed and has no PhD. That doesn't prove anything.

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    $\begingroup$ Ok, that's nice of you, but now I feel guilty for just downvoting one of your answers. I think you use the word "genius" way too lightly--- it isn't genius to repeat something someone else said. Genius is only when you say something nobody else has said before, and something right. Even the best people only get to really do that a handful of times. It takes more genius, frankly, to come up with your wrongheaded non-photon semiclassical radiation theory than this answer. Wrong ideas take as much effort as right ones, so it is important to know the wrong turns of the past. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Dec 3 '11 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ At the MIT AI Lab in the 70s I met people who were basically too smart for the usual academic channels (I'm thinking of Richard Greenblatt and Ray Solomonoff). Later when I taught at the college level I had a few students like that. It seemed to me they flourished if they could get under the wing of a mentor (like Marvin Minsky or Seymour Papert) who was not at all bothered by marginal social skills, and who love nothing more than lively exchange of contrasting ideas. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Jan 15 '12 at 1:36

I'm still new here and unfamiliar with the dynamics of the place/people/personalities. I would like to point out that folks here are a lot more touchy and on the edge than other forums. This drives away (new) members.

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    $\begingroup$ Please persist. Take it as a game, answer when you can, comment when you can, upvote if happy with answer, downvote if unhappy and preferably explain the downvote. It helps all readers learn. There are so many by ways of physics and none of us can be competent in all, but we can all learn. Generally treat it as fun, as challenging as a game of chess :). $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 4 '11 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ I have PhD and do university teaching for living and only after few days I fill the very same. I'm being downvoted or criticized for completely correct asnwers by self-taught people. Those who post questions of course cannot discriminate between knowledge and non-knowledge and in long turn self-taught guys win. If I haven't noticed that reading and answering this questions actually improves my knowledge as well as my lectures I would be long time gone. $\endgroup$ – Pygmalion Apr 16 '12 at 8:55

People, please let's celebrate the essence of Physics. Science doesn't discriminate between whether you are a college educated person or a self educated. Either doesn't makes you more knowledgeable, rather an open and inquisitive mind does.

I myself am an engineer in Computer Science, but does that makes me less credible than a physics graduate?? I really don't think so...

and about kooks, isn't it needed in a community to have diversity? Don't get boggled up when others have different idea or opinions. Diversity is what makes physics interesting, rather do-able. I agree some things in physics are called "sci-fi" and "fringe-science", but excluding those, rest of them deserve credibility.

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    $\begingroup$ I somehow agree with you, but I dont like it to see this question popping up at the top of the meta active question list any more ... :-/ $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Apr 8 '12 at 17:51

Not surprisingly the primary tool is voting them down; plus giving better answer and explaining why they are better.

As you noticed, such a user who has a decent knowledge of conventional physics can collect a lot of point making correct answers to basic questions so it is easy for them to stay ahead, and at least some of these troubling users do that very thing.

In the case of at least one of these users I don't know enough about the areas he claims to be expert in to debate him on most things.

This may not be enough, but I don't have an outline for how to fix it.

Now I'd like to go off on a mini-rant, if I may.

As far as I can see the biggest offenders have their pet ideas in the realms of theory most distant from experimental verification. Perhaps giving so much respect to ideas that are beyond testing for the foreseeable future is not such a great idea, eh?

Not that I think that string theorists---to pick a random example---aren't engaged in the scientific endeavor in some way; just that they should spend a bit more time figuring out how to bootstrap feasible experiments into some limits on their discipline.

When you go to string theory talks you never here someone say "that's ruled out by...", it is always "what assumptions did you have to make that allow that?".


Another rantlet.

The establishment of TheoreticalPhysics.SE seems to have moved some of our users better suited to talking to these people to put more energy in over there. Not sure what can be done about, nor that they would agree that anything should be done.


It seems to be too easy to gain reputation.

  • If you ask good questions, you gain reputation, but does that qualify you to give good answers? I think "No."

  • If you give good answers to questions in some fields, does that qualify you to give good answers to questions in other fields? I think "No."

My suggestion for solving this isue is displaying modified reputation scores besides answers and comments (tooltip). This modified reputation score should only include reputation gained on answers in the main tag of the question. There would have to be the concept of a main tag in order to avoid gaining reputation on subtags, which you are knowledgeable in, without having a clue about the main tag.

Downvotes should subtract at least as much reputation as gained with upvotes.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting idea, but I'm sure this has already been discussed on Meta Stack Exchange. You could try searching that site and see what you find. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 5 '11 at 22:29

I want to answer on 2 things you asked:

  • what to do:

Balance the users and community atmosphere, and SE is already doing this by limiting daily rep to 200 for exactly this reasons and personalities you list in your question. You can go further to limit rep gainable in a week/month, something I would recommend here. Does this site really need user who play this site and invests time in it like such one addicted 24/7 world or warcraft gamer? There would be enough other user to anwer questions if the rep-payout would only drive those people to write every 1 days only 1 answer here. For big sites like SO there are enough competitors and questions niches that the 200 limit works, but here and on small betas even more, dominance of very few rep-gamers makes many sites here uninteresting to me, for small topics you get much better and more perspectives on topics over at reddit or quora. That are the 2 sides of reputation, attracting egos like Motl or Ron clashing from time to time and yielding high quality answers by competition via the rep-voting system. But it is evident that discussions about phyics are on SE much harder then on other questions sites because of this system. Still I think SE should start to begin adapting at least rep-limit or voting strentgh on SE sites with diff. topics and community size. I have surfed for a while philosophy, history and economics.SE and it are always the same 2-3 user earning all rep or even voting themselves, these sites are so one-dimensional in their views and boring to read that you wish all high rep users where only allowed to answer 1 question a week simply to make more people contributing to such sites. It kills pretty much any community dynamics and the AREA51 only works if they set up the min. amount of commiters so that more competition exists in the first beta-months.

  • what I feel as a physicist when reading Ron's arrogant insulting Bio:

Well, I wouldn't recommend a site to colleagues where (probably soon) the top-rep poster has such a arrogant Bio and insults all Physicists building the high-technology you use at the moment as completely incompetent. It's awkward that the mods here are obviously not willing to make this guy either changing his incomplete Bio or deactivating his account.

As Ron insults guys like me I may counter: Somebody unemployed with 38 sitting whole day in front of a PC to answer basic physics questions and dubbing others with his Real Name as idiots obviously failed pretty much in a social way in the research group after his graduation. Not able to work in a team or respect other people not wasting 70 hours a week on physics. Not able to understand that science more than ever is a social process of strengthening and falsifying paradigms instead of genius-like theoretical visions in these times. He lacks patience and tranquility obviously to work as a scholar, so sites like this are the only places to pet his ego, he writes answers longer than wikipedia articels and probably socially failed there too as a author in the discussions. He "likes to spread his theories everywhere", well maybe he should enlighten then theophysics.SE and the whole scientifc community with some arxiv papers to boost scientific progress how only he can do it and less game this site, but probably the users over there are even more incompetent to understand his genius-like truths than here. If he completes his Bio with these unmentioned points I'm fine and he should keep it.

I don't know why the mods here don't request the bio change, Georg account was deactivated for some months afaik for insulting comments (I agree with this, while I'm pretty direct and critical too I'm not dubbing people as embarrassing or incompetent) Ron's Bio is even more insulting to me and visible as a constant poster and high-rep user here. And with such users waiting on their RSS-feed to bombard this site with their knowledge or google-wizardry (which many physics graduate with so much time could easily do too), it becomes less and less interesting or valuable to contribute to this site. I'm not interested in the mostly correct views of one person on physics, I want competition, many answers and views (otherwise there is wiki or scholarpedia or personal blogs), without anti-thesis for the pure purpose, scientific progress ends. Too much of those rep-gamers and such sites or forums become a cabinet of vanities. That's why there is the 200 rep limit. And for physics this obviouly has to be adapted, the rate of graduates thinking of themselves as omiscient is esp. in physics pretty high compared to other branches, explains why so many physicists write blogs. Thats a evident psychological pattern on many physicists I know. A rep system just perfectly matches the ego of such guys, writing wikipia articles as answers, so any prof. physicist will never try answer a qestion on his own lacking time. There is not really a chance and need to compete on attention with such fast appearing long answers, so prof. experts leave. It's of course hard to balance his, but I prefer rather a lot competition on lower quality and detail of answer than views of always the same 3-4 gamer here on top of every question. There is a voting-bias to such guys and I will personally more trust a heavy discussed wikipedia article than a single omniscient completely competent user, esp. in Physics.

Just a edit to show that Ron noticed/responded to this answer, and "changed" his bio.

Well, we all know physicists have their very own sense of humour (big bang theory) and worldviews. But, Ron, something to consider: I dont buy from you that you are unaware of how much reputation points your bio costs you. Many user here "non-vote" you because of this IMHO. The average vote sum on our answers seems to be significantly below lubos or other users. Its evident when I look on your christianity or ELU profiles where, funnily, you have the same bio :) and earn alot of downvotes, because user there dont get this kind of "humour" or dont know why you insult physicists (having a high standing on SE this way) on a non-physicist site. You could probably already have 30k rep here without that bio (now it makes probably not really a difference if you remove/change it or not). You can also replace physicists with biologists, priests, creationists,... Funnily here the physicists defend you while your earn downvotes on other sites. I will stop trying to understand this...

I know psychology is a pseudo-scientifc topic and not as interesting as physics, but I dont think understanding humour and human reactions is a matter of incompetence/ignorance. Your bio is just not that funny, more looks like tragedy or a crackpot-theorist (having no big standing on SE ;) ) I dont really want to continue that discussion, I just dont get how somebody so interested in rep and feedback can choose such a counter-productive bio. Maybe I should ask on cognitivesciences.se, but this seems to be a very special case...

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    $\begingroup$ I am surprised. There are people that find text in the profile of a user offensive. Why, then, don't the moderators ask the user to edit his/her profile! $\endgroup$ – MBN Jan 9 '12 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ @WernerSchmitt: Personally I view Ron's bio as a channel marker: he's telling anyone who reads it something about himself. Perhaps David or mbq haven't seen it and will feel differently. But be careful what you ask for. Just how much do you want the moderators acting on what they read into things you write? $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jan 10 '12 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @WernerSchmitt: You really exagerate in demanding Ron to be banned because of this darn sentence in his bio (I agree that it would be better if he would change this a bit). Why dont You just ignore it and try to beat him on physics? I mean try to give better answers if You can, point out mistakes in his physics of there are such, etc.! Ron often gives good and detailled answers, admits and honestly apologizes for his own mistakes; he should not be banned just because he is (a bit too) excentric... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jan 10 '12 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee have you seen how much views his profile has, do you think this is advertising this place? Or common at all on other boards to name all people incompetent. This guy obviously failed socially in his past, it's the question how much of such egos a community can tolerate, the question of OP was if too much scare new users away, and yes, I do think so. Change or complete his stupid childish bio, I can vote his questions, I can't vote his bio. Your reasoning makes no sense to me, how is his behaviour different to Georg's, you are only timeouted for insulting in main posts but not meta/bio? $\endgroup$ – Werner Schmitt Jan 11 '12 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ Pretty much, yeah. Users get a lot of freedom to post whatever they want in their profiles, as long as it's not egregiously offensive. I understand that you may consider Ron's bio insulting, but that doesn't make it offensive. There's a difference. Certainly nothing in there warrants moderator action. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 11 '12 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @WernerSchmitt I've got to say for all your complaining about respect, you're not doing yourself any favors with statements like "Somebody unemployed with 38 sitting whole day in front of a PC to answer basic physics questions [...]" etc. For what it's worth Ron writes reasonable answers to questions at a variety of levels. His personal quirks notwithstanding, he does more good than harm here, and is rather devoted to the site. That's why he has a lot of reputation points. He is NOT the only one contributing, and his contributions don't really seem to scare anyone away. So, um, chill? $\endgroup$ – wsc Jan 13 '12 at 2:12
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    $\begingroup$ If you want to add something to the question make a answer on your own why this community urgently needs guys like Ron, but don't act as a morals apostle for a 38 guy who started insulting all physicists and still does. This shows no life experience and maturity. I dont want to estimate how many votes on his answers his bio costs him (he could have saved at least half the time gaiming this site here for same rep amount), and he is pretty aware of this (thats the funny thing from a psychological pov), but he still insists to keep his childish Bio, it seems really to be ego-odyssee of him, $\endgroup$ – Werner Schmitt Jan 13 '12 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Werner Schmitt maybe You should really stop raging like this now. What about giving some good answers instead, this fits You more as a good physicist ;-)...? Many people are happy with Ron giving good answers here and nobody else but You cares so much about what he writes in his bio. Note that I did not want to upvote Your answer to me, I wanted to FLAG it ... If You dont stop these rants it is YOUR BEHAVIOUR which starts to look like TROLLING ... Just relax and ignore Ron ;-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jan 13 '12 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Werner Schmitt You are acting like a child. It's very sad seeing a real physicist(?) acting like this. $\endgroup$ – Andreas K. Jan 15 '12 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @WernerSchmitt Several others have said it already, but you need to hear it from as many people as possible. Your comments here are despicable. You complain about being insulted, then in the same breath go on to call Ron a psycho, a failure, and a hilarious, sad, poor dead end. You claim not to care about reputation, but you're obviously fixated on it and unable to stop analyzing how much of it Ron has and how little you have. You are a hypocrite. $\endgroup$ – Mark Eichenlaub Jan 16 '12 at 8:49
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    $\begingroup$ Further, yes, Ron does have the right to say that he thinks all physicists are incompetent. The statement isn't libelous. It isn't slander. Yes, we do believe in freedom of speech in the US. Sometimes people say things we don't like. We have to live with that. It's a small price to pay for an essential freedom. $\endgroup$ – Mark Eichenlaub Jan 16 '12 at 8:51
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    $\begingroup$ I am surprised that Ron has not changed his bio. I am not saying that he should, or that it is the right thing to do, nor even that there is a right/wrong thing to do in this case. I am just surprised that after so much talk about it, he himself has not changed it to something less judgmental. For example from 'completely incompetent' to 'I think ...' or anything else that clearly expresses an opinion and not judgment. May be because no one has asked him. So, Ron, could you please change it to something less controversial, which has the same information content. $\endgroup$ – MBN Jan 16 '12 at 9:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Werner: How did I miss this thread? I posted a crackpot's bio because I hate authority and I respect the crackpot's single-minded dedication. I also suffer from a super-inflated ego (not from stackexchange), but my own recognition of my own biology work is not reflected in anybody else's recognition, so I don't have the disease of external validation. Being 38 can be a drag, because it is harder to sneak into universities and merge with the students--- I was just at Chinese University of Hong Kong for a week, and felt a little conspicuous, being non-asian and essentially geriatric. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Feb 16 '12 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ Oh no @WernerSchmitt, why did you have to do this? I really thought this unhappy episode, which brought a lot of disturbance and strife into our physics SE community, could rest in peace till the end of time. And now you have bumped it up again to the top of the meta question list ... :-((( $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 23 '12 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ @WernerSchmitt: I am not interested in reputation I am interested in hearing honest cogent criticism when I say something stupid. I probably won't get that from most people if they don't see me as an arrogant asshole (which is not far off the mark), because people are generally nice to one another. If you say arrogant things, they will give you honest criticism. I think that's worth it. I only have a lot of reputation because I have a lot of answers. Also, my wife keeps changing my bio, but her English isn't perfect, so I was "self-teach" for a while, she doesn't think its funny either. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Mar 24 '12 at 17:15

Rons got a reputation of over 10,000 is that gulling to a professional physicist who have got lazy enough to not spend all day, arguing obscure points about physics. I'm sure it is. I was arguing Everett and QM in sci.physics and sci.physics.research back when I was undergrad and gradute getting his PhD, and me Ron where most on the same side then. I don't doubt that 20 years of learning and practicing arguing about physics will make you very strong at gaining rep on services like stack exchange. Its a pity in fact that his gaining reputation isn't making him money. That lack of a PhD, probably means its very hard for him to get published on ArXiv, Journals or as a science Author. Stack Exchange works better than Technorati for reputation I think. 100 plus articles and I'm zero there, dispite having friends over at science 2.0, and a public name check by Lubos, I've still the Technorati authority of newbie, and only google love from SEO gaming.

Perphaps I'm a crank. I've followed 20+ years of arXiv (many phys-ph), and generate occasional new theories, obviously this time clashes with being programmer, and social life. Imagine a professional physicist of 20 years, post doc to marriage to steady university position (one in who many PhDs) , have had there interesting new ideas cut down by collegues, and fail in practice, or its famous name whos working on it, so regularly they solidly conservative now. In fact zero people have cut down my new idea yet, apart from the rejection letter from Astroparticle physics, for being to constructive or it being well known, (notice not your math fails here, or reference to where else it was tried, not even for it being more than one step beyond current ideas. I.e. the principle that your allowed one new particle or force, but when you have to invoke two at time without a common prinicple, your pushing Bayes belief toward infinitessimal squared.

Do your want public development of physics to go onwards, outside universities? These days I see much fewer undergrads using the net. You could quite easier destroy scientic development with a few reputation winners recanting on they're own subject. Not Even Wrong, and all. I went down the best student book shop in London yestaday, and the books on supersymmetry and supergravity had disappeared from the selves. This is very important sociologically.

I did pick up, [TITLE]Orbiting the moons of pluto[/TITLE] at the bookshop though, solving Maxwells, Dirac and Schoedigers equations in 8d metrics (3,3i,-1,i) and 12d (3,3i, -3, 3i) and the sort of pheno that made me laugh out loud in several places. That's the sort of work that would disappear because of Stack Exchange. Lubos and Ron and other would probably down slap down with 3 time dimensions, your states will all be negative norm, and they'd be probilities would be ghosts. (And they'd say that without knowing the five BDOA loopholes what allow it to succeed in a perfect theory), and in a hundred years, they'd still probably believe it had failed where it could have been sucessful, just due to repetition gaming. I'm too lazy to check those loop holes, probably, and the world is very not encoraging. I here they's a bar mans job going somewhere.

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    $\begingroup$ I would really like back the minute I spent reading this... $\endgroup$ – wsc Jan 12 '12 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ The world is not going to seed, it's getting better. The reason physics books are gone is that they are all available online. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Jan 15 '12 at 18:28