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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorIan_Durham
    • CommentTimeApr 11th 2010
    Dear nLabers,

    I would like to apologize for helping to escalate the rhetoric on two of the threads here. I have a non-standard interpretation of GR born out of a great deal of unconventional thinking and, perhaps, too many hours spent enveloped in Eddington's bizarre writings on the subject (his later work, not his standard early stuff). I did not mean to come off as intimidating. From my vantage point I was attempting to defend myself against what I viewed as accusations that I lacked basic knowledge in an area I care deeply about and have spent many years working on. Nevertheless, I should have reacted differently. It has been a stressful year for a variety of reasons, which is not an excuse simply an explanation. As I said, I should not have reacted in the way I did.

    I was also unaware that so many of my entries were deemed "bad" by nLab standards and I apologize for wasting anyone's time. It was unintentional (though I still suggest the front page be changed so that it does not include what is inside the box that starts with "The purpose of the nLab is ..."). I appreciate the assistance I have so-far received and particularly wish to acknowledge David and Eric for their kindness and patience (and attempts at diplomacy).

    I suspect the vision I have for physics is probably not entirely compatible with the goals of the nLab, though that isn't to say that what you're doing here isn't a fantastically rich and fruitful endeavor. It is and I laud you all for it. I will, perhaps, continue to lurk a bit in case our paths converge again in the future since I still think category theory has a fundamental role to play in improving the "language" of physics (ironically I have written about the lack of care in the language of physics in the past - guess I failed to follow my own advice). And I will be the first to admit my knowledge in category theory is negligible.

    I wish you all the best and thank you again for all your assistance. If anyone is still interested in pursuing any of the things I have attempted to pursue here, feel free to contact me personally (my e-mail is on my bio page on nLab). At least for now, however, I think it is best if I step back a bit from the nLab and concentrate on some other things.

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeApr 11th 2010
    • (edited Apr 11th 2010 by Mathforge Admin)

    That was very nice, Ian. Probably many of us are feeling some regret about how the prior discussions played out, but this entry of yours is a large-spirited gesture to help close out those discussions.

    I’d like to respond to part of what you said:

    I have a non-standard interpretation of GR born out of a great deal of unconventional thinking

    I still suggest the front page be changed so that it does not include what is inside the box that starts with “The purpose of the nLab is …”

    That kind of distinction between what the conventional and unconventional is proving to be very important as the nLab grows, and good Lab denizens like Eric are careful to flag the more speculative or experimental pages as such and actively seek feedback (cf. his comment here). I appreciate the awareness you evince of that distinction in your comment above.

    I personally wouldn’t change what is inside that box, but we might think about at least amplifying that statement with another statement that experimental or speculative pages, flagged as “experimental” and written in a spirit open to critical reactions, are welcome at the Lab. I’m not sure about how to best word that, but it may be something to discuss. Maybe we could also link to illustrative examples to give readers ideas of what is possible at the Lab (some pages are highly polished and are close to professional articles, some are more half-baked, some are even wild and woolly, etc.).

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeApr 11th 2010

    Argh. I don’t even know how to quote anyone anymore under the new XHTML.

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeApr 11th 2010

    Ian, thanks for your contributions, and I’m sorry that things didn’t work out.

    Have you written up your non-standard interpretation somewhere? Honestly, I don’t think that the ideas on this thread make sense in the end, but if you’ve ever written it up carefully, then it would be better for me to read that.

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorIan_Durham
    • CommentTimeApr 11th 2010
    An addendum to additionally thank Todd and Toby as well for their understanding.


    Some of what I've written up is in my PhD thesis (which was going to be a book until my computer crashed last summer - argh!) but that was awhile ago. I started writing up something for the annual Gravity Research Foundation essay contest this year, but ran out of time. If I write something up I'll let you know. The basis of my idea is that there appears as if there ought to be a symmetry between mass and charge but that the symmetry is "broken" (I don't know if it is in the technical sense, e.g. spontaneous symmetry breaking, nor do I know if this is actually an old idea that I'm recycling which is partly why I haven't officially written anything up). The idea came back to the fore when I chaired a session on foundations at the latest APS meeting and some guy brought up a similar idea. I initially dismissed him as a nut in my head until I started thinking more deeply about it.
    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeApr 12th 2010

    I wish you the best in your future endeavours, Ian, and that the nlab can help in some small way towards your research.

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorEric
    • CommentTimeApr 12th 2010

    I’d be interested in seeing a copy of your thesis (assuming it didn’t disappear when your computer crashed!)

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeApr 12th 2010
    • (edited Apr 12th 2010)

    You're lucky that I don't know anything about physics, because you would have gotten an MO-style ousting if I did. =p

    • CommentRowNumber9.
    • CommentAuthorEric
    • CommentTimeApr 12th 2010
    • (edited Apr 12th 2010)

    For the record, I don’t think your entries on the nLab were bad at all. Initially they were somewhat incomplete, but with the help of others turned into something pretty decent I thought. That is the way it goes. Start with something incomplete (while noted as such) and others contribute to help make it complete.

    I think some of your comments left while in a rush were less than perfect, but have all been fixed by now. So no harm done.

    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthorIan_Durham
    • CommentTimeApr 12th 2010
    • (edited Apr 12th 2010)

    LOL. Took me a minute, but I got it. You're a bright guy. You'll do well in life. Keep the faith.


    There are a couple of purely historical parts (like the biographical stuff) that aren't that great. The main thing I was going to do for the book (which has a legit publisher interested so it can't be that bad) was add some stuff based on some things both I and other people (mostly other people) have done in recent years on quantum foundations. I also think my view of one or two things has changed over the years, but you can judge for yourself what you think.

    Update: In particular, see p. 96 in regard to what we've been arguing about here.
    • CommentRowNumber11.
    • CommentAuthorIan_Durham
    • CommentTimeApr 12th 2010
    Oh, and as a warning, I have this odd penchant for hunting down the graves of famous people so the manuscript has a bunch of pictures of headstones in it. :)