Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marshall chides Ibrahim for El Naschie spat

I strongly disagree with Marshall's criticism.

In the comments of the previous post a reader wrote

Dear Jason

I attended a lecture of Dr. Tarek Ibrahim from Alexandria University. It was a general lecture about the theory or relativity. It was awesome and I enjoyed it very much. That was like two weeks ago. I looked for information about this professor and found this site

In the part of PDF downloads, He put the reports of the referees, they are all Fellows in Royal Society FRS, to reward him the degree of Doctor of Science, D. Sc. Any way in the first one of them, written by Robin Marshall from Manchester University, in the last page of his report he mentioned something about El Naschie and it seems that there was a problem between the two men Ibrahim and the Duke. Any way, I think he said something funny about the great man. He said "discussion with someone called El Naschie". I think you might enjoy this report.

and I responded

Awesome! Thank you for the link and the excellent information.

Readers may remember that Dr. Tarek Ibrahim from Alexandria University is, unlike El Naschie, a real physicist. AU President Hend Hanafi scandalously gave El Naschie an Emeritus type position in the AU Physics department, which must have been annoying to Ibrahim and his colleagues.

Here is Marshall's writeup:

R. Marshall on T. Ibrahim

The part of interest is this:

There is one area where Dr Ibrahim has allowed himself to become sucked into public (internet) discussion with someone called El Naschie. Although many of us can make our judgment, there is a real danger that that some people may not have the necessary background to decide the rights and wrongs and as a result of his engagement, Dr Ibrahim potentially could harm his image or reputation and through his affiliation, his University by arguing in public with someone whom Mark Twain might regard as a fool and hence a danger to argue with, because no one can tell the difference. This is my personal judgment, but then I was asked for it. If this decision were marginal, (which it isn’t), small negative items like this could make an adverse difference. Again, I do not let this change my judgment but with the status of a D.Sc. from a University in the most ancient seat of learning in the world, Dr Ibrahim should be even more able to ignore those who are harmless, even if irritating for whatever reason. This is an area of weakness, although it lies outside the scope of the submitted material.

It is virtually certain that Prof. Marshall learned about the Ibrahim-El Naschie conflict by reading El Naschie Watch. The original sources are Arabic language newspapers that would be obscure to an English physics professor.

Marshall is correct that El Naschie is a fool, but breathtakingly wrong in considering El Naschie a "harmless, even if irritating" fool who will go away if ignored. El Naschie is an Egyptian media phenom. El Naschie even has a position on the faculty of Ibrahim's own physics department, and indeed already had that position on the date when Marshall wrote his ill-informed criticism of Ibrahim!

Is Marshall seriously suggesting that arguing with a fellow physics department member recently appointed by the President of one's University threatens to sully one's reputation on account of that person's reputation as a fool? Absurd.

This is an illustration of the truism that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I am delighted that Marshall reads El Naschie Watch, but I wish he had read it more carefully. His semi-informed assessment does Ibrahim an injustice.

I have sent Marshall a link to this post.

Translate English to Arabic
محمد النشائى El Naschie Watch محمد النشائي El Naschie News محمد النشائى محمد النشائي All El Naschie All The Time محمد النشائى


  1. I'm puzzled: Tarek Ibrahim obtained his PhD degree in Physics at Northeastern University in 1998. Why in the hell was he forced to obtain another PhD in Physics at Alexandria University (in late 2010, apparently)? Pretty strange, I would say.

  2. Shrink, I am guessing that the Egyptian system may consider D.Sc. to be slightly better than Ph.D. In the US they are regarded as pretty much interchangeable if in the same field. In Germany there's some sort of post-Ph.D. degree. I forget its name.

  3. It is not another PhD, it is more important degree called D. Sc. Ibrahim is the only one in physics department of Alexandria University to have this degree now. There was another guy, dead now, who got this degree thirty years ago. It depends on the importance of some one work and the impact of his research on the international level as you can see by reading the reports fo the referees.

  4. OK, well congratulations to Tarek Ibrahim. I nominate him for Head of Department!

  5. Thx for the explanation, Anonymous. Here in Slovenia is pretty the same as in the US and the PhD is the highest academic degree which can be obtained at Universities.

  6. Dear Jason, I assume from your name that English might be your first language but you seem to have failed to understand the English I wrote in my assessment. I am surprised to find a confidential document flapped around the internet, but in the end, I suppose that is the way it is these days and even so, I stand by what I wrote. I was asked to assess the scientific case which I did and I supported the award of the degree of D.Sc. (which has a special status in most universities). As an aside, and taking care to emphasise that it was of low importance, I think I was doing Ibrahim a favour by suggesting that he would be well advised to stay out of public spats which end up being read by people who do not know or understand the background. The science is ultimately the most important factor. I do not regard what I said regarding the public squabbles as a criticism, merely as friendly advice. If it took your breath away, after you had read what was essentially praise for this candidate, then maybe the problem is with your lungs. You are correct that the topic which sustains the public argument between these two people is obscure to me and that is exactly the point I was making and which Mark Twain understood fully. If you argue in public about a matter that is obscure to the average reader then the average reader is unlikely to be able to tell the difference and judge who is right. Therefore it is best not to have arguments in public on obscure topics, especially if you seek international acclaim. I fail to see how anyone could disagree with this gentle view which is primarily a view and not a criticism. I was not asked to read and assess the El Naschie Watch and I am happy to confirm that I know very little about it and I expect this to remain to be the case. I don't need to know. It came up naturally when I did background research on the D.Sc. candidate and I spent some time enquiring other sources to add to the El Naschie stuff. I did not like some of the things that I read and I am disappointed that the central core of my whole career - "the purity of science always supercedes human weakness" is lacking in some of the exchanges. I do not care which side is right or wrong in such a forum. To me it looks undignified for scientists to talk thus. Let the science speak. If you disagree with someone's scientific statements, write a paper showing they are wrong. If you disagree with me Jason, go ahead; it is your prerogative to be able to disagree with me. In your comments above, you come across as rather unscientific, making assumptions and then drawing conclusions from your assumptions. I suggest you try making a raft of assumptions and seeing if the conclusions are the same in all cases. How do you know if or not I am well briefed about what is in Arabic newspapers? Assumption or proven? Ah well. Back to work.


    Robin M

  7. Guys, chill out please. This was a friendly advice to Dr. Ibrahim which he took it to heart with respect and gratitude. You too should thank professor Robin M for his invaluable suggestion to Dr. Ibrahim, instead of getting on his case because of your limited comprehension and inherent trouble with constructive criticism. Scientists appreciate those gestures; you don't and should stay out of it.

    As such, and due to your unwarranted aggression, Dr. Ibrahim removed all the reports despite his appreciation for the great scientists issuing them and whom you're idiotically now attacking instead of rationally appreciating.


  8. and on behalf of whomever has brains to think, thank you Prof Robin Marshall and we are sorry!

    This was totally unnecessary and ironically these useless public debates are the very same from which you discouraged Dr. Ibrahim to indulge. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive us for our hasty ignorance. Sometimes we emotionally get carried away and misjudge. We wasted your valuable time and hope you forgive our ignorance; we'll get there one day -I hope.

    With sincere gratitude and admiration for your well-known scientific contributions and your support to Dr. Ibrahim.


  9. Thank you for your comments, aa. Sorry for idiotically attacking! I am a fan of Tarek Ibrahim, and my criticism of Robin Marshall's piece is only with respect to his line "There is one area where Dr Ibrahim has allowed himself to become sucked into public (internet) discussion with someone called El Naschie."

  10. Don't make me laugh, Anonymous.

    Why should I thank Prof. Marshall? Maybe because he suggests real science must not deal with fake science in the public eye? Give this piece of advice to Nature and Prof. Douglas N. Arnold and tell them how totally unnecessary is to expose crackpots and impostors who would be otherwise regarded as experts by the public.

    As to Dr. Ibrahim: if he changed his mind don't blame this blog for that.