How Elite Scientists Can Hold Back Science (

There’s an interesting article titled “Study: Elite scientists can hold back science” by Brian Resnick published on ( which looks at a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled “Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?”.

The study looks at the publishing patterns of scientific articles by top scientists and shows that after the death of these scientists there is a considerable drop-off in publications by their collaborators, assistants and colleagues, and a corresponding increase in publication by non collaborators.

This study concluded:

Overall, these results suggest that outsiders are reluctant to challenge leadership within a field when the star is alive and that a number of barriers may constrain entry even after she is gone. Intellectual, social, and resource barriers all impede entry, with outsiders only entering subfields that offer a less hostile landscape for the support and acceptance of “foreign” ideas. (

The study also found that after the death of these luminary scientists, grant funding in their fields dropped off.

Brian Resnick writes:

All this suggest there’s a “goliath’s shadow” effect. People are either prevented from or afraid of challenging a leading thinker in a field. That or scientific subfields are like grown-up versions of high school cafeteria tables. New people just can’t sit there until the queen bee dies.

What’s interesting is that the deaths seemed to hurt the careers of the luminaries’ junior collaborators, the ones who frequently co-authored papers with them but not in a senior role

While some might like to think of the field science as being impartial and unaffected by human weakness, I don’t think that’s a realistic perception. Human nature can affect any field of human activity, and this study is one example of how the quest for the advancement in knowledge can be affected by the influence of some who command high esteem among their peers.

43 Replies to “How Elite Scientists Can Hold Back Science (”


    Incredibly, exploding wire experiments involving LENRs were actually conducted at the University of Chicago some 86 years ago. In 1922, Wendt & Irion, two chemists at the U of C, reported the results of relatively simple experiments that consisted of exploding tungsten wires with a very large current pulse under a vacuum inside of flexible sealed glass “bulbs.”

    A huge scientific controversy erupted because Wendt & Irion claimed to have observed the presence of anomalous helium inside the sealed bulbs after the tungsten wires were blown, suggesting that transmutation of hydrogen into helium had somehow occurred during the “disintegration of tungsten.”

    After announcing their results at a regional American Chemical Society meeting held at Northwestern University in Evanston, widespread global media coverage in the form of breathless newspaper headlines about “transmutations of elements” triggered a response from the existing scientific establishment in the form of a very negative critique of Wendt & Irion’s work by Sir Ernest Rutherford that was promptly published in Nature.

    Sadly, Rutherford resoundingly won the contemporary debate; he was believed. Wendt & Irion, mere chemists and comparative nobodies from the University of Chicago, were not. They were crushed by the withering blast from Rutherford.

    After 1923, Wendt and Irion abandoned their exploding wire experiments and turned to other lines of research. Sadly, Gerald Wendt died just a few years later; Irion then left the University of Chicago to teach chemistry at a small Midwestern college. No other researchers at Chicago continued their line of inquiry.

    After seeing what Rutherford had done to them, who on earth would have had the courage to follow in Wendt & Irion’s footsteps? In the US, little subsequent research was done on the subject of exploding wires until around W.W.II when Luis Alvarez invented the exploding-bridgewire detonator for the Fat Man-type first-generation fission weapons that were developed under the Manhattan Project.

    1. For more up to date examples, we can just point to extremely negative role of current Deputy U.S. Secretary of Energy in suppression of cold fusion research at MIT. The fish is always stinking from the head…

  2. It’s precisely the other way around. Planck was the person who wrote some paragraphs from which later the “science advances one funeral at a time” quote was distilled, because he faced that reality in his time. The problem is that Planck was lucky enough to survive the process. Nowadays, Alberto Carpintieri was not lucky enough.

    1. And we all should by now know what happened to Julian Schwinger when he attempted to publish his theoretical papers on “cold fusion”. From his Wikipedia page: After 1989 Schwinger took a keen interest in the non-mainstream research of cold fusion. He wrote eight theory papers about it. He resigned from the American Physical Society after their refusal to publish his papers.[3]
      He felt that cold fusion research was being suppressed and academic
      freedom violated. He wrote: “The pressure for conformity is enormous. I
      have experienced it in editors’ rejection of submitted papers, based on
      venomous criticism of anonymous referees. The replacement of impartial
      reviewing by censorship will be the death of science.”

  3. Maybe they should try dedicating a study or two per publication about something surprising or challenging rather than things that are basically just hammering out details of already accepted ideas. Perhaps a portion dedicated to opposing views?

    The nonchalance with which they ruin each other’s careers is telling, and obviously detrimental to the advancement of knowledge.

  4. Galileo the Great, Newton-Nevewrong, Faraday-Maxwell Great-Great, Einstein Ein great – photovoltaics, Plank-Bohr thinkers for progress, Fraudinger, Heisenberg-Dirac great, Feignmann, Whineberg and Gallmann credit parasites i.e. “classifiers”.
    Juxtaposing wrong relative greatness is the tool of the politicians.
    Fact police -> muddling facts.
    “…held back science, is to say black is white.” & yet … They did not hold back science.

    People who steadfastly stick to the wikipedialike-“white”-paper-dogmatism try to hold back science. Lemme check facts with “facts” from the book of approved facts written by my bosses. Doesn’t work in the internet era.

  5. Dense aether model provides geometric insight into fast changing role of scientific elites. In this model the observable universe looks like the surface of water observed by its own waves. At the proximity the spreading of ripples is chaotic and turbulent, but it soon gains a regularity (background independence), as the turbulences tend to compensate mutually. Therefore the more large ripples propagate in regular circles. But this emergent process is reversed at even larger distance, where the effects of background scattering prevail again and the spreading of ripples becomes chaotic again.

    When we explore observable reality, this process is analogous to spreading of ripples at the water surface. At the beginning of human civilization the unorganized intuitive attitude represented the dominant model of reality exploration. But when we advanced with it, then the role of young bright individuals did become more prominent and the science has changed into reductionist formal approach, based on equations and low dimensional models.

    But as we explore the universe even more, this attitude gradually hits its limits and now we are in the epoch, where the hyperdimensional reality strikes again. For their understanding the overly simplistic theories developed during last century aren’t effective anymore and now the science is turning into more empirical and holistic approach again. The young bright individuals face increasing rate of failure of their models (string theory, SUSY, etc.) and the elderly experienced scientists gain their influence again.

    The fear of carrier has lead the young physicists into collective dismissal of cold fusion:

    “In a huge, grandiose convention center I found about 200 extremely conventional-looking scientists, almost all of them male and over 50. In fact some seemed over 70, and I realized why: The younger ones had bailed years ago, fearing career damage from the cold fusion

    “I have tenure, so I don’t have to worry about my reputation,” commented physicist George Miley, 65. “But if I were an assistant professor, I would think twice about getting involved.”

    In the times of Einstein the physicists, who did the breakthrough physics, were actually these bright younger ones in the name of Goethe’s proverb “Junge Revolutionäre, alte Hofraten” (“young revolutionizers, elderly establishment”). Einstein himself was just 26, when he published his special relativity. But today we’re facing the generation inversion: the cold fusion conferences do look like the retirement home and the most raging opponents of cold
    fusion recruit from young people forums, like the reddit. This is because the smooth acceptation and understanding of future physics the holistic thinking and broad life experience will be required rather than savant ability of formal math.

  6. This is why I like Grigori Perelman:

    “In August 2006, Perelman was awarded the Fields
    Medal[1] for “his contributions to geometry and his revolutionary insights into the analytical and geometric structure of the Ricci flow.” Perelman declined to accept the award or to appear at the congress, stating:

    “I’m not interested in money or fame; I don’t want to be on display like
    an animal in a zoo.”[2]

    On 22 December 2006, the scientific journal Science recognized Perelman’s proof of the Poincaré conjecture as the scientific “Breakthrough of the Year”, the firstsuch recognition in the area of mathematics.[3]” “

  7. most great scientiste become great by being rebel agains a apradigm.

    then they hold the paradigm, and slowdown the next one…

    See Shechtman on quasi-crystal facin Linus Pauling the ex-rebel

    Laser was nearly ridiculed by the old guard of previous QM revolution…

    Kelvin was a great innovator and then a great conservative

    that is a rule of science, we should just not be naive and know we have not to trust them blindly after they succeeded.

    1. In many cases the former victim of scientific bullying itself became a bullier later (Linus Pauling, Bardeen, etc..).

      But to be honest, the open bullying of other is attitude typical for subpar scientists – not for these, who already have firm social position. On the contrary, the meritorious scientists exhibit Nobel prize disease instead.

      Some scientists exhibited both Nobel disease, both bullying (Pauiling).

  8. */ there is no reason why elite scientists or anyone else can paradigm shift using science */

    It works in both ways. The scientists indeed want to grab the money with lowest effort exerted, i.e. with using of existing theories. But when the potential of these theories gets exhausted, then even the mainstream science gradually adopts the accidental findings – with smaller or larger delay. The cold fusion gets delayed by one century because it competes the research in many areas of research of energy production, conversion, transport and storage.

    In some other areas, like the high-temperature superconductivity the new finding contradicts no existing research, so it’s adopted rather soon – just the development of theories stagnated, once it contradicts the established theories.

    The scientists are using various tricks, how to extent the life-time of established theories without actually changing them – this is the case of the multiverse concept, for example. Instead of development of new theories, these cheaters rather consider, that another universes exist, which still maintain existing theories, and these universes pervade the observed one, which leads into failure of established theories.

    1. First note that scientist don’t want money for themselves, they want paper published … [smile]

      the problem is that they need funding for their lab, medals, and peer review, which require support from the community, or else a really easy to prove breakthrough.

      Your way of mind match many things I’ve read (read Freakonomics!). people are rational, and Edmund Storms says no less in his recent comments on LANL change of mind, when enthusiasm was transformed into hate because of hot fusion funding at risk.

      You explain well the mystery that many septics use to say LENR is debunked.

      Why do physicists accept many breakthrough but not LENR ? why HTSC not LENR ?

      because LENR break business, academies.

      there is other reasons.

      one is the hierarchy of science that JP Biberian explained in paris presentation.

      at the top :
      -particle physicist
      – theoretical physicist
      – material scientist
      – biochemist
      – doctors

      in fact the more the problem is intrinsically complex the less it is respected.

      people don’t realize that electrochemistry is very near industrial concerns, and far from sexy breakthrough.

      F&P finding is as if an untouchable floor washer in india have found a diamond…
      Sure he would have stolen it, not possible else.

      Moreover F&P did student mistake out of their competence domain with neutrons measurempents…
      and physicist did not accept they did student mistake in calorimetry and electrochemistry.

      one great problem with LENr too is that the scientific domain are not well designed for F&P effect.
      LENR is nuclear, but the competence to measure it is electrochemistry and chemistry competences (calorimetry), if not engineering competences.
      It is a revolution of theoretical physics but the tools are the one of 1900 physics, the same as Marie Curie used.

      1. /* the problem is that they need funding for their lab, medals, and peer review */

        Of course, it’s all about money – I didn’t say, the scientists need the money for themselves.. But the successful scientists are collecting quite interesting income anyway: for example for teaching of mainstream paradigm or for writing of books, which wouldn’t become successful, if their authors wouldn’t get a social credit already.

        /* because LENR break business, academies.. */
        Currently half of jobs in physics are about various methods of energy production/conversion/transport and storage. From hot fusion over solar cells batteries to batteries – these all areas of research are threatened with cold fusion. The contemporary movement for “renewable energetics” actually did the physical circles opposing the cold fusion wider, not smaller.

  9. /* all this suggest there’s a “goliath’s shadow” effect. People are either
    prevented from or afraid of challenging a leading thinker in a field.*/

    This is not a new insight. We for example know, how the values of important physical constants (mass of electron, Hubble constant) evolved, once some influential scientist measured them first.

  10. On the contrary, we are facing nuclear war for the rest of oil sources already – so it may be too late. The cold fusion is suppressed from 1922, and the WWW II was completely necessary, if the scientists would handle the cold fusion findings like the finding of graphene.

    /* In the view of the mainstream, the rejection of Schwinger’s papers was justified, because they represented flawed science.*/

    The problem of mainstream science is, it never attempts for replication of inconvenient findings – the more it remains active in bashing them. In science the experiment is, what actually matters – not your or mine opinion about it. But when you made no replication,then you have nothing to ignore – and this is just the sneaky ignorant attitude of the establishment. The mainstream physics is fully responsible for mess of human civilization after 1922.

    1. You’re not addressing the point. Your argument assumes that cold fusion is proven, and is therefore only effective (to the extent the war argument is effective for anyone) for those who agree that it is proven. It has no effect on those who disagree with this premise.

      That’s why cold fusion is not a useful example of the elite suppressing progress. The only people who are persuaded by it are those who already agree with it.

      It’s better to use examples where the consensus has reached unanimity, like Semmelweis’s hand-washing or Wegener’s tectonic plates. But in these cases, the claims were not first greeted with enthusiasm, and then later rejected with near unanimity. And in Semmelweis’s case — the more egregious one — it was not so much elite scientists, but conservative doctors who resisted progress. And even in that case, Semmelweis was vindicated in less than 20 years. In Wegener’s case, it was an honest competition of ideas and theories played out in the scientific literature. Geological evidence is revealed only slowly, and when the strong fossil evidence was discovered, skeptics capitulated immediately. In the case of Wegener’s idea of an expanding earth, the skeptics turned out to be right. Science is about give and take. New ideas are subject to scrutiny. That is as it should be. The good ideas survive.

      The problem of mainstream science is, it never attempts for replication of inconvenient findings

      I think the modern physics revolution puts the lie to this. The constancy of the speed of light, the ultraviolet catastrophe, the diffraction of electrons, the frequency cutoff in the photoelectric effect all represented inconveniences to classical physics, and all were reproduced in exquisite detail.

      A more recent example is high temperature superconductivity — accepted, reproduced, and awarded a Nobel prize within a year of the first claim.

      And in the case of cold fusion, it’s a matter of record that replication was attempted by enthusiastic scientists all over the world, probably in thousands of labs. Again, Storms account is a good one.

        1. This brings up the philosophical question of what is proof. Proof is in the eye of the beholder, unless one believes in consensus science, which is no science at all. Shall I make a list of the mistakes of consensus science; I don’t have time to make such a huge list.

          1. I don’t believe in any consensus – I do believe in data presented from independent sources, once they get consistent in some extent. Such a consistency cannot be faked so easily, until you’re not quite experienced.

  11. /* enthusiastically cold fusion was initially accepted..*/

    You’re living in illusions. The cold fusion was never accepted with mainstream – no peer-reviewed mainstream journal has published SINGLE ONE STUDY about cold fusion during LAST THIRTY YEARS. Because the peer-review and publication is what actually matters for mainstream science – nothing else. When you don’t allow the scientist to publish in peer-reviewed journals, it effectively means the end of professional carrier today.

  12. /* I posted my source. Was Storms lying? */

    Can you link some cold fusion article from peer-reviewed mainstream journal? This decides, whether establishment science has an interest about cold fusion or not. Work, finish, publish. No publication means no actual interest.

    1. /* I posted my source. Was Storms lying? */

      Can you link some cold fusion article from peer-reviewed mainstream journal?

      As an example, here is the first paper from P&F making the claim: Fleischmann, M., S. Pons, and M. Hawkins, Electrochemically induced nuclear fusion of deuterium. J. Electroanal. Chem., 1989. 261: p. 301 and errata in Vol. 263

      You’re already familiar with Rothwell’s database, which lists dozens more.

      But again, I already agreed that the mainstream (positive) interest did not last long enough for it to get into the most prestigious journals.

      This decides, whether establishment science has an interest about cold fusion or not. Work, finish, publish. No publication means no actual interest.

      Who made that rule? Publication is needed for permanent respect, but even that won’t guarantee it, as demonstrated by the polywater fiasco.However, you cannot deny that thousands of scientists going to the lab to try to replicate a claim, as Storms recounts, represents interest and enthusiasm. You cannot deny that thousands of scientists standing and cheering at a conference represents enthusiastic interest.

      There was, without question, enthusiastic and positive interest in cold fusion from the mainstream, well represented by the quotation from Morrison. But it was short-lived.

      1. /* you cannot deny that thousands of scientists going to the lab to try to replicate a claim */

        The number of E-Cat replications (in A. Parkhomov style) could be counted with fingers at one hand and none of them got into peer-reviewed journal. Who actually replicates the classical Piantelli experiments (just bare nickel and hydrogen)?

    2. there are many PR papers, starting from recent Current Science special issue

      JJAP propose some article like Takahashi’s and Iwamura

      Previously, there is many PR papers listed by jed from the one he have listed

      no less than 153 about excess heat…

      many more if you include He4, transmutations, tritium.

      Spawar made listing of their papers
      Fosley recentky listed key PR papers

      as Brillouin

      anyway the real problem is not peer review, it is the gang of 40 high impact journals.

      they have reviewed pathetic papers by Caltech and MIT despite critics

      this alone show they are out of the standards. their opinion have less value than the one on a soviet biologist under Lysenko.

      they have refused to publish positively reviewed papers like Oriani

      and to avoid that problem of having to refused accepted papers, they decided since to refuse any papers
      eg DeNinno ENEA He4/Heat corelation

      without any rational or competent reason.

      note that review is done to prevent bad papers, errors, to waste the time of researchers.
      This does not mean you have to make creationist review Darwinist papers…

      note that electrochemistry papers published in Journal of electroanalythical chemistry is much more convincing than in Nature.

      1. /* anyway the real problem is not peer review, it is the gang of 40 high impact journals. */

        Unfortunately, just these journals defined what the “establishment” and “mainstream” is. You cannot become significant in contemporary physics, until you have no publication in some of these high-impact journals.

  13. /* the mainstream does not accept your premise, and therefore *to them*,
    cold fusion is not a persuasive example of unjustly suppressed science */

    This is just an example of pluralistic ignorance reasoning and Dunning-Kruger effect. The defenders of mainstream science (like you) are so ignorant, that they cannot realize how ignorant they actually are… The mainstream physics publishes no respectable attempts for replication of cold fusion, it therefore considers it unproven. The ignorant circle of silence gets closed.

    But it’s not secret for me, that this ignorance of cold fusion is economically motivated. Once some finding or idea threats the jobs, grants and income of other people, it gets ignored – no matter how much contributory is for the rest of civilization. If it’s not contributory for current generation of establishment, it gets ignored with no mercy.

    It’s an analogy of dark matter effect in physics.

  14. Every war happens because of economy. The Nazi Germany needed the access to oil reserves at Caspian sea. All the Middle East Wars are all oil motivated. Russian annexation of Crimea is also oil motivated.

    These ones, who cannot admit this reality are covering it. WWW III is not already happening – once it will begin, you’ll recognize the difference immediately.

    1. What a lot of crap! Of course economy plays a role. But my neighbor makes more than I do; but you don’t see me attacking them with violence. The USA makes much more than Mexico, but I don’t see a war of the obvious sort going on. This is just materialistic garbage.

      Nazi Germany needed access to Caspian Sea oil because they were on a war rampage, not the other way around. They didn’t go on a rampage because they wanted oil; they wanted oil because they went on a rampage.

  15. /*….All I’m saying is that the mainstream — for better or worse — regards
    cold fusion as unproven, so cold fusion does not constitute an effective
    example *to them* of unjustly suppressed science… */

    This is just a demonstration of pluralistic ignorance. Of course it does, because the mainstream science doesn’t attempt for experiments in cold fusion. It’s ignorance is just in lack of attempts for replications published in peer-reviewed press. For example so far no test of hydrogen + nickel system has been published in mainstream journal. Why?

    What prohibits the scientists to replicate twenty years old and perfectly documented experiments of Piantelli & Focardi? Well, nothing – but an ignorance.

    1. In fact mainstream scientist, have replicated LENr experiments.

      because before they get fringe, most of the scientsist and engineers who replicated LENr were considered mainstream.

      Edmund Storms, Michael McKubre, Bockris, Fleischmann&Pons, Takahashi, Arata, Iwamura, were all mainstream befors they fall in the dark side of bad science.

      That many mainstream scientists replicated LENr , as much as private company scientist (Amocco), and engineers (Longchampt, CNAM), is a huge evidence it is a real phenomenon.

      the only deniers of LENr are

      – lesser competence physicist who failed, only 3 of them wrote a proposition explanation (lewis, hansen,morrison, ) and all 3 explanation are incompatible with knowledge in electrochemistry and with following experiments done by F&P.

      – competent people who tried to follow the wind, like Wilson who found a tiny correction, dubious in fact, but anyway bashing the 3 previous clowns, and unable to explain the big observed burst

      – failing experimenters who failed to reproduce the phenomenon, in fact less numerous than the replicator despite they make more noise. Their failure as Hagelstein say be explained by later found requirements (except for one dubious)

      – armchair critics, involving theory, or parroting a recursive consensus based on their own moaning

      this is a pathetic story, helped by the fact that it is a nuclear phenomenon in a chemistry context, that thus need to be analysed by chemist not by physicist…

      it is also a phenomenon without a theory, very sensible to condition, condition which are unknown and hard to control.

      anyway there are some clear regularities, the need of triggering, importance of metallurgy, that clearly prove it is material science and not a calorimetry artifact.

      any honest observer should at least admit it is very probably material science, and not the mystical artifact some use as wildcard.

      artifact don’t behave that way.

      1. /* Edmund Storms, Michael McKubre, Bockris, Fleischmann&Pons,
        Takahashi, Arata, Iwamura, were all mainstream befors they fall in the
        dark side of bad science */

        Now we are talking about mainstream scientists who bashed the cold fusion, despite they never did any cold fusion experiment – successful or failed. The people who did it and reported it in relevant way have full rights to doubt it, but not the others.

        /* it is a nuclear phenomenon in a chemistry context, that thus need to be analyzed by chemist not by physicist */

        Cold fusion is interdisciplinary, it needs the cooperation of both.

  16. Oh come on. Even the very first cold fusion observation of Paneth and Peters from 1926 was never attempted to replicate. Whereas the graphene finding of Geim and Novoselov has been replicated in one hundreds of labs within month.

    Does it sound normal for you?

  17. yes!

    note that galileo was condemned more for political reason (he was abusing his theory to fighat agains the nearly scientifically agnostic church).

    The opposition of medecine doctors agains Oliver Gordon de Aberdeen, Semmelweis, Pasteur, was because of theory.
    even more than the prestige of some supporters, it is mostly the fear of having to change of theory.

    LENr denial looks like Semmelweis story. His work was nearly perfect and nobody initially neutral would not be convinced.
    However it was challenging a well entrenched theory, coming from heroic green authors, still alive in the heart of all scientists of that time.

    the problem is theory, not experiments.

  18. /* you can’t use rejection of perpetual motion claims as an
    example of unjustly suppressed science for people who don’t believe the
    evidence for perpetual motion machines has merit. */

    This is utter nonsense, we aren’t paying the scientists for believing and suppressing things, but for doing a research. In science the experiments decide, what is correct or wrong, not theories. The attitude of cold fusion opponents is not only silly and delusional – it’s also nonscientific.

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