Archive for October 10, 2011

Have you been Drexlered?

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on October 10, 2011 by telescoper

Every time something interesting is announced in astrophysics or cosmology – which is quite often, these days – I get an email from a chap called Jerome Drexler. Last week’s announcement of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics  proved to be no exception and this morning I got yet another message.

It’s interesting that Drexler always writes about himself in the third person, e.g.

Beginning in 2002, Bell Labs-educated (under a three year
fellowship) applied physicist Jerome Drexler utilized this same astronomical set of non-homogeneous-expansion-rate data in conjunction with his dark matter cosmology to find a compatible explanation for the accelerating expansion of our universe. The compatible explanation he discovered did not use either Friedmann’s solutions or the General Theory of Relativity, which rely entirely on gravitational forces. The successful results from his endeavor are reported in Chapter 21 of Drexler’s March 2008 paperback book entitled “Discovering Postmodern Cosmology” and in Chapter F of his October 2009 paperback book “Our Universe via Drexler Dark Matter.”

Indeed, having read a few of Drexler’s publications – none of which has actually appeared in an authentic scientific journal – it seems that his output will be of much greater interest to psychologists than physicists. Drexler, you see, insists that the dark matter, whose presence astronomers have inferred from the dynamics of self-gravitating systems, exists in the form of highly relativistic protons.

There are many problems with this suggestion, most of which will be obvious to anyone with first-year undergraduate knowledge of physics. Most important of all is the fact that protons are charged and therefore accelerate in the presence of a magnetic field. Protons accelerating in the Milky Way’s magnetic field would produce copious electromagnetic radiation and would not therefore be at all dark! Still, we don’t want a little bit of basic physics get in the way of a mania for self-promotion.

Incidentally, it’s not a crazy idea that dark matter could be charged but, if it is, it must consist of particles with mass many thousands of times greater than that of a proton. That way their inertia will keep their acceleration low and restrict the radiation they produce.

I’ve often thought that it might be an interestingly novel way of teaching physics to get students to unpick contributions like this. I’ve got a filing cabinet full of similar “alternative” theories of the Universe and from time to time give one to a student to find fault with. Usually it doesn’t take long. Sometimes they’re wrong, sometimes they’re not even that. I’ll therefore leave it to my highly educated and knowledgeable readership to suggest other failings of the Drexler Universe.

I don’t know what I did to deserve the honour of being placed on Drexler’s mailing list and in any case suspect that I’m just one among many recipients of his missives. I’m sure others have tried to convince him that his model doesn’t make any sense from the point of view of physics, but I’m sure that their attempts have fallen on stony ground. It’s another aspect of the psychology of such individuals that it is inconceivable to them (a) that they could be wrong about anything and (b) that anyone else might know more than they do. Real scientists have quite the opposite attitude.

Here’s how Jerome Drexler describes himself on his email:

Jerome Drexler is a former member of the technical staff and group supervisor at Bell Labs, former research professor in physics at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), founder and former Chairman and chief scientist of LaserCard Corp. (Nasdaq: LCRD). He has been awarded 76 U.S. patents (see Google Scholar), honorary Doctor of Science degrees from NJIT and Upsala College, a degree of Honorary Fellow of Israel’s Technion, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship at Stanford University, a three-year Bell Labs graduate study fellowship in applied physics, the 1990 “Inventor of the Year Award” for Silicon Valley and recognition as the original inventor in 1978 of the now widely-used digital optical disk “Laser Optical Storage System” and the LaserCard(R) nanotech data memory used in six countries. He is a member of the Board of Overseers of New Jersey Institute of Technology and an Honorary Life Member of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Board of Governors.

Anyone know any more about Professor Doctor Mr Drexler? If so, the comments box awaits your contribution…