Wikipedia and abuses

Till now, I have avoided to feed this flooding about abuses on Wikipedia. But I think that a few words are needed in order to clarify my position and to let my own point of view widely known.

The problem started when Peter Woit took a look at the Yang-Mills entry of Wikipedia. He has found a section apparently self-promoting my work. What was about this section? The title said “Integrable solutions of classical Yang-Mills equations and QFT “. I think that there is a lot to say about this matter as classical solutions of Y-M exist and is well acquired matter. But in this section a class of solutions were put, cited in the Smilga’s book, that I have generalized and introduced in my papers.  Should they be there? I think yes as they belong to the class of solutions stated in the title. They appear to be too recent for inclusion but this is plain mathematics. Mathematics is a two-way switch: It is either right or wrong and so, if these solutions are right, they should be there as a bookkeeping for the readers.

The worst question is anyhow self-promotion. On this ground Peter Woit did worst: He is self-promoting his book (see here , thank you Lubos). Promoting a book means to earn money for the author while promoting a scientific idea may have the right side that, being the idea good, a good service has been done to the community.

The worst aspect of the story has been the intervention of Woit through his blog. This is a perfect war machine that when activated may leave a lot of casualties. People should be smart at their defense as otherwise the risk is to be counted in that number. A flood of people moved toward Wikipedia with any means trying to remove the questioned section and attacking me and whoever has written it. A lot of comments in Woit’s blog was posted attacking me. I was forced to introduce moderation for comments in my blog. Of course this appears like a kind of lynching without any understanding of scientific merit. Curators of Wikipedia decided that majority was right and Woit have had his win: The section was finally removed.

What next? This situation is quite interesting by my side. The reason is that the physical matter is Yang-Mills theory that is one of the biggest open problems both in phyics and mathematics. There is a lot of very good people working on that in this moment and my view is that a complete understanding is at hand. Ask yourself this question: What would be Woit’s position if I am right? This is not like string theory that we do not know when a confirmation will be at hand. Here we have computers, accelerators and a lot of smart people crunching this problem. In a very short time an eventual Woit’s error will be exposed. And by irony, Wikipedia’s entry will be updated with my ideas. Much better than now.

The question to be asked is: Should Wikipedia support new material? Since the editors of scientific entries in Wikipedia are scientists themselves one cannot ask them impartiality. Science is a dynamic endeavor and Wikipedia a dynamic source of information. They should be merged to meet each other in the right way.


7 Responses to Wikipedia and abuses

  1. Hi Marco,

    It was not Woit that posted the reference to Not Even Wrong in the Gauge Theory article so that doesn’t make it self-promotion.

    In my opinion, new theories do not belong on Wikipedia until they have been accepted as important by a large number of scientists in the relevant field. There are too many crack-pots out there to devote room to everyone with a theory.

  2. mfrasca says:

    Hi Robbie,

    I can say the same: I did not put that section on Wiki. But of course you cannot be satisfied with this as you can always find someone to do the dirty job for you as promoting a book to earn some money.

    That section on Wikipedia just contained a class of exact classical solutions of Yang-Mills equations. It is a well-known matter and are solution in the Maximal Abelian Gauge. See the comments about here

    I have used them in my works and there is nothing bad in citing them on Wikipedia as this is something routinely done by scientists updating entries.

    I am even more convinced that acting without understanding can generate this kind of situations. If Woit would have read and understood the content of that section as all his followers, that section would still be there.


  3. Boaz says:

    Hello Marco,
    This is an interesting topic: the question of what the purpose of Wikipedia is.

    My understanding is that the purpose of Wikipedia is to consolidate information, not generate it or change the course of a subject.

    In your response to Robbie above, you seem to be arguing that what you have done in your Wikipedia article is just to explicate some well known facts about Yang-Mills theory. This seems to me correct.

    But this is not your position in your blog post. You ask about whether you are right or wrong in what you write, and that if you are right, then people should know about it through Wikipedia. But this kind of debate- this kind of proving rightness or wrongness is not what Wikipedia is for. You need to convince people of the rightness and relevance of your ideas in other contexts.

    Best wishes,

  4. mfrasca says:

    Hi Boaz,

    I made a different point. If I am right, more information about my work will be posted on that entry, not just what was written. There is a definition for the present Woit’s win: Pyrrhus’ victory. This what I meant. Not just that the content of that section was to be proved right or wrong being plain mathematics that is also known matter.

    Indeed, in the current entry for Yang-Mills theory there are a lot of missing facts and one of these missing facts are exact classical solutions.


  5. wanderer says:

    Publish in Wikipedia or perish:

    They seem to ask new research to be published in wikipedia.

  6. none says:

    You may be right, but much of what you wrote on the Woit blog is in extremely poor English. The words and the sense might be correct, but the connotations and idioms just sound bizarre. Your posts would be much more persuasive if you first had them checked by somebody who speaks English idiomatically, in my opinion.

    No matter how inaccurate Woit’s ideas may be, he expresses them extremely well and persuasively.

  7. mfrasca says:

    Dear none,

    You are right. I am aware of this. But I am doing science where contents are more relevant than form. Form grants just a momentarily success while scientific ideas are everlasting.


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