“Qui tacet consentit”: an answer to the Royal Society Open Science Journal on an paper accepted with a mathematical error

By Dr. Florin Moldoveanu


Florin Moldoveanu researches the foundation of quantum mechanics with emphasis on quantum mechanics reconstruction and solving the measurement problem. After getting his PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Maryland at College Park in 1999, he pursued a career in industry. Three years ago he started the transition back from industry to academia and became an adjunct professor at George Mason University. His earlier graduate student research papers in theoretical physics received 267 citations to date.


Very recently, I brought attention to the editorial process of the Royal Society Open Science Journal regarding the manuscript “Quantum correlations are weaved by the spinors of the Euclidean primitives” where the author, Joy Christian, claims that Bell’s theorem is incorrect. Shortly after, the Royal Society Open Science Journal arrived at a final decision about the manuscript, accepting it without changes or amendments. They justified their decision in an explanation which can be read here: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.201777

Much more disturbing than their publication of an incorrect manuscript is the editors’ set of excuses. I cannot in good conscience remain silent about it: “Qui tacet consentit” (silence gives consent).

Let me start with the journal name:Royal Society Open Science Journal”.  The name contains the word science. What is science and what is scientific? When teaching introductory physics classes to hundreds of students, I explain the difference between science and pseudo-science (astrology, intelligent design, alchemy, dousing, homeopathy, flat earth, etc.). It is not that science is correct and pseudo-science is wrong. There is no question that Newton’s mechanics is scientific, but it was superseded by relativity and quantum mechanics. Science obeys the criterion of falsifiability, as Karl Popper has shown. Scientific theories can be proven incorrect and when this is achieved, the theory collapses.

If we reject falsifiability, then we are doing pseudo-science. In an era of “alternative facts”, conspiracy theories, and “fake news”, who cares about a little fake science?

Richard Feynman famously coined the term “cargo cult science” which I think aptly applies here:

In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he's the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.”

To come back to the editorial process of the concerned article, I would like to respond to some of the statements made in the Royal Society’s post hoc assessment:

The journal answer is signed “The Royal Society Open Science Editorial Team”. It is a good thing the journal finally formally acknowledges and owns the decision of keeping a faulty manuscript. I did not ask to review the manuscript, the journal invited me to do so. My original assumption was that we are doing science here. Realizing now that this is not the case, I refuse to be used as window dressing in a fake peer review process and this is why I am speaking out. A mathematical error is not subject to interpretation and it does collapse the entire argument provided we are doing science and not pseudo-science. There is no “math war” coming just as the cargo military planes do not land anymore in the South Seas.

The Royal Society Open Science Journal claims to be ”A fast, open journal publishing high-quality research across all of science, engineering and mathematics” (see https://royalsocietypublishing.org/journal/rsos)

Editor-in-Chief Professor Jeremy Sanders I ask: How can you claim that the Royal Society Open Science Journal publishes “high-quality research” when editorial decisions are made to maintain articles based on mathematical errors? Qui tacet consentit.

Comments (1)

  1. Richard GillRichard Gill
    RichardGill at 01.12.2020
    Meanwhile, Joy Christian did not remain still. The RSOS publication gave him a passport, a scientific legitimacy, to publish more, in real scientific journals. Christian eschews the junk journals of predatory publishers based in developing countries. No, he aspires to scale the summits of academia. There followed two major papers by him in “IEEE Open Science” and one in “Communications in Algebra”.

    I decided to play along with RSOS. (I’m retired! Gives me something to do). I wrote a rebuttal, containing a critique of modern academic publishing. By making articles rapidly and freely available, and publishing referee reports, they are relinquishing all editorial responsibility, all quality control. Yet the published paper, like an expensive chateau wine, gets a fancy label. Paid for by the author. The paper is being processed. I look forward to the referee reports.

    Naturally, I posted my manuscript as an arXiv preprint. It was stopped by the moderators. The reasoning was ludicrous. I objected. arXiv maintained their decision. My paper does not look like a scientific paper. Only if it gets peer reviewed and published will they consider accepting it on arXiv. I put it on viXra (I’m retired, right, I can do that now!). https://vixra.org/abs/2010.0219

    Meanwhile, I was thinking of an alternative proof of Bell’s theorem, using Fourier theory. I am stuck with a technical issue. I’d like some help. Anyone? I posted a nearly finished paper, written with a student, on arXiv. It contains an open problem. It has been put on hold by arXiv moderators. I will have to post it on viXra again, they have a nice forum discussion facility with each paper. Meanwhile you can read it here. https://www.math.leidenuniv.nl/~gill/Author_tex-v2.pdf

    I also wrote a rebuttal for IEEE Access. It operates like RSOS. It publishes garbage under the flag of rapid publication, open science (referee reports are published). I got twelve referee reports and was urged to add an appendix to my paper containing my response to the referees, so that readers can follow the exciting debate. The debate is a kind of wrestling match. I have revised my paper and resubmitted. This time I did slip by the arXiv moderators. https://arxiv.org/abs/2001.11338

    Incidentally, his disproof of the Hurwitz theorem got published in “Communications in Algebra”. I wrote to the editor and also solicited advice from John Baez. I’m not really an expert on division algebras, the Octonions, and Clifford algebra. The paper was rapidly retracted. But: how did it pass the attention of reviewers and editors of a serious pure mathematical journal that they were publishing a paper which contradicts a famous known theorem?

    Answer: the author did not mention the contradiction. This guy is cunning, you must give him that! You can read all about that, on Retraction Watch.

    Earlier, one of the IEEE Access papers appeared briefly on Annals of Physics. It was scandalously retracted by the editors - they did not inform the author they had done that.

    An earlier paper was published by IJTP whose editorial board consists mainly of octogenarian Nobel prize winners. I wrote that the paper should be retracted. I was asked to write a rebuttal. The publication fee was, however, not waived. Elseviers!

    Christian’s orCid page and his social media accounts contain falsities concerning his academic CV. I complained. The various organisations said they could only process a complaint if it was submitted by Oxford University. On an Internet forum, someone twigged that Christian was not at Oxford University. He said he was and said that Roger Penrose would confirm. I emailed tonSir Roger but Indidn’t get a response yet.