New theories are hard to get right…but that’s OK

Galileo's Pendulum

I get at least one email each week asking me to read and comment on a new proposed theory, usually having to do with overthrowing the Big Bang theory, refuting Einstein (mostly by contradicting relativity), or replacing dark matter with a new concept. Many of these ideas are quite sophisticated (while others um…are distinctly not), but they share a lot of characteristics:

  • The authors are often intelligent people, frequently skilled professionals in various fields (especially engineering for some reason). They possess a lot of knowledge, but have little or no formal physics training.
  • The theories are presented as logical arguments, sometimes with diagrams, but few or no equations.
  • Similarly, the proposed theories make general sweeping predictions, but few propose specific experiments or observations that would provide a way to test them. (They do often contain thought experiments, about which I’ll have more to say presently.)
  • The authors express a strong…

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