No place for the paranormal at physics conference

No place for the paranormal at physics conference
April 29, 2010
Daniel Cressey
The Great Beyond

A strange case of physics vs the paranormal has surfaced via the pages of the Times Higher Education newspaper.

A Nobel Prize winning scientist was left fuming after he and two others were invited to a workshop, only to have their invitations withdrawn due to their occasional dabbling in the paranormal.

The workshop in question was entitled ‘21st-century directions in de Broglie-Bohm theory and beyond’, to be hosted by the Towler Institute, a very pretty looking building in Tuscany owned by University of Cambridge researcher Mike Towler.

According to a posting on the website of Brian Josepheson, head of the ‘Mind-Matter Unification Project’ at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and a Nobel laureate, he was disinvited by a letter from conference organiser Antony Valentini of Imperial College London that read (current page, cached page with full letter):

It has come to my attention that one of your principal research interests is the paranormal. ... Nothing personal, of course. It is a purely intellectual matter.
Science writer David Peat and theoretical physicist Jack Sarfatti were also disinvited on similar grounds, says the Times Higher, under the headline He didn't see that coming, or did he? Although Peat and Josepheson have been re-invited after a bit of email bantering, Sarfatti is still persona non grata at the Casa del Towler.

On his website Josephson writes of the affair:

These letters [to himself and Peat] illustrate well the defensive, paranoid attitudes of members of the scientific community such as those who pressed for this action to be taken; for such people, science equates to 'closed minded enquiry', in the light of which their action is in no way surprising.
The real mystery is how the invitations were extended without the conference team being aware of Josephson’s interest in the paranormal, given that his website clearly outlines his interest in the topic.
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