NET NEWS: Popular Physics

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Science  30 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5415, pp. 707
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5415.707c

Summary

The low cost of Web publishing may be transforming science by allowing new journals to blossom, but one new publication for speculation on how the world works has physicists shaking their heads.An e-mail press release heralds the Journal of Theoretics as a "new bimonthly peer-reviewed science journal" that will "publish scientifically credible theories ... that are not yet proven" by experiments. The four debut articles range from "a new concept for the origin of the universe" to something called a "light clock" that's "a new method for measuring time."

Its scientific bona fides, however, are open to question. Editor James Siepmann, a physician in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, could name no actual scientists who are reviewing or contributing to the journal. "It's very curious," says Bob Park of the American Physical Society, who noted a dearth of equations in the articles. "They're philosophical papers, not physics." Physicist Stephen Walton of California State University, Northridge, commented by e-mail: "A physician is as qualified to publish a theoretical physics journal as I am to remove a gall bladder." Siepmann, however, says that's just the point: "Who is to say that a patent clerk, a CAD designer, or even a family physician may not be gifted with the talents to make revolutionary discoveries of thought?"

Web publications like Siepmann's pose no threat to the credibility of electronic science journals run by scientists, maintains Paul Ginsparg, who heads the physics e-print server at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico: "Such things have always existed, independent of the Internet," he says. "They're simply irrelevant, except for the entertainment value."