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Measuring the Mindless

(Extract from a 'paper' I was recently asked to write for a science website)

Proposal for an Index of Woo

I propose a new SI unit for woo, suggest a criterion-based open-ended scale, and provide illustrative examples of use.

Woo (sometimes doubled to woo woo) is a term given to pseudo-science masquerading as genuine science, often co-opting phrases/terms from real scientific disciplines in an attempt to imply credibility and scientific bona-fides. Most scientists will be aware of the issue - though it is most common and most serious in physics (particularly relativity and quantum physics) and biology (particularly evolution/genetics). Whilst there is general familiarity with the issue, there is currently no agreed metric for woo which means scientist are often forced to use highly subjective terminology when discussing the issue with colleagues or in the wider community.

In order to bring discussions of woo into a properly scientific framework, I propose the introduction of a new SI unit for woo. In science it is standard practice to name units after individuals who have been influential in the field where the unit is most commonly used. I wish to continue this practice, and I suggest naming the unit after one of the most prominent and influential woo practitioners currently alive.  I therefore suggest that the new unit be called the Chopra

The 'woo index' score is a highly flexible scale, in units based on the 'Chopra' and ranging from 0 - 10^18+ Chopras using the following range criteria:

The Chopra scale can also double as a general purpose honesty scale, with a normal distribution, when applied to a random sample, as follows:
Then I will give the higgs field a peta chopper or chopra it was, Smile
Huh? The Higgs field? That's a maximum of 2 microchopras. Predicted by theory 30 years ago, necessary for the proper functioning of the standard particle model and finally discovered more or less where it was predicted to be.....that's about as scientifically valid as you can get.
I'm just saying that the community for those who are into even thinking of rateing science, are just giving each other exachopras... Give it up!

On your scale, a lot of science (scientific work) moves in the deci-chopra to 10k chopra range. Take e.g. history and archeology. The outcome will be dependent on era and place as well as political correctness in some areas.

How to count.. you seem to adopt peer reviews as a criterium, but peer review is (just) a safeguard, assuring the presentation layer of science nowadays is respected and acknowledged. But the numbers are always limited, the audience is often small. Any claim about psychology, or even biology and medical science is a specialized claim: few people understand and few people have a complete overview. Science has become very complex. In most fields, there is always some support, people read and comment on publications, but to get your paper actually peer reviewed is a privilege. You visit a congress, you see the same people every time. It's a small world !

I've worked in phonetics/phonology in the 90s. Our group participated in new and interesting research in the field of speech production, but in your scheme it would be around 1 chopra.. new disciplines often have no broad "basis" and your chopra's are increased accordingly, depending on support of others. Sure, some conservative (mainly older) researchers wrote these 100 milli chopra papers, reproducing sound models with a lot of literature referenced etc..

I doubt if your median of 250 milli chopra can be achieved in phonetics/phonology anyway. It is - or was - quite new to formalize e-g stress and intonation patterns. My own contribution (in hindsight) about 10k chopra. They got cited. I only got published in a reader.. real attention was limited. And my content was quite well organized ! people that called me, told me they appreciated my paper. But that does not count as peer reviewed.

Your favorite near-zero chopra science does not actually add knowledge, it strengthens existing knowledge or paradigm. But science moves, paradigm can be shifted by science itself. I wonder how many milli chopra's per year paradigm is moving..
Fair criticism methinks. Particularly the point about gradual development vs paradigm shift. My model DOES favour the 'safe'. In defence I would say that most development is actually incremental and 'boring' and it is only very occasionally we see a complete paradigm shift. So in physics we go from Newton to Einstein, but that encompasses a hell of a lot of incremental development including giants such as Maxwell.
But I recognise the criticism and see that it has some validity so I would (bearing in mind that the original article is somewhat tongue in cheek) invite alterations/alternatives.........
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