Nature magazine accused of libel
Professor compares himself with Einstein and says expert witness is not sufficiently qualified to understand his work
A scientist who is suing one of the world's most prominent scientific journals for libel compared himself to Albert Einstein in the high court on Friday as part of his evidence against the journal. Professor Mohamed El Naschie, also claimed that an eminent physicist brought in by the journal as an expert witness to analyse the value of his work was not sufficiently qualified to do so.
El Naschie is suing Nature as a result of a news article published in 2008, after the scientist's retirement as editor-in-chief of the journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals. The article alleged that El Naschie had self-published several research papers, some of which did not seem to have been peer reviewed to an expected standard and also said that El Naschie claimed affiliations and honorary professorships with international institutions that could not be confirmed by Nature. El Naschie claims the allegations in the article were false and had damaged his reputation.
On Friday, Nature called Professor Neil Turok, a cosmologist and director of the Perimeter Institute in Canada, as an expert witness to assess some of the work published by El Naschie.
Turok described his expertise as being in cosmology. "I work at the theoretical end of cosmology… my work consists of applying unified theories, such as string theory, to the most difficult questions in cosmology, namely the beginning of the universe or the initial singularity, the moment where everything was at a single point in the conventional description."
In his evidence, Turok said he found it difficult to understand the logic in some of El Naschie's papers. The clear presentation of scientific ideas was an important step in getting an idea accepted, he said. "There are two questions – one is whether the work is clearly presented and readers would be able to understand it. It would be difficult for a trained theoretical physicist to understand [some of El Naschie's papers]. I couldn't understand it and I made a serious attempt to understand it. The second question is about the correctness of the theory and that will be decided by whether it agrees with experiments. Most theories in theoretical physics are speculative – we form a logical set of rules and deductions and we try, ultimately, to test the deductions in experiments. For me, clear presentation is the first thing in the presentation of a theory."
In response, El Naschie pointed out that even Albert Einstein had made mistakes in his publications. "Einstein is the most sloppy scientist ever. He never defined his quantities, he doesn't put in references and he made so many mistakes of mathematics and concepts. He was a very natural man when he explained something to lay people. But Einstein, whom I admire very much because he had imagination and the courage to stand up to the bloody Nazis, Einstein was an extremely sloppy man."
Later in the session, El Naschie accused Turok of having "no idea" about mathematics and being unqualified to assess his work. "If somebody doesn't understand things, it's his own limitation," El Naschie said.
Turok was questioned by El Naschie, who is representing himself in the trial. During the cross-examination, the judge, Justice Sharp, interrupted El Naschie at several points to remind him to ask direct questions and allow the witness to answer, rather than making lengthy statements.
For long periods the questioning focused on Turok's knowledge of the history of physics, the identity of specific Nobel prize winners and how aware he was of the pioneers in theoretical physics.
Sile Lane, a spokesperson for the Libel Reform campaign said: "Scientists expect publications like Nature to investigate and write about controversies within the scientific community. The threat of libel action is preventing scientific journals from discussing what is good and bad science. This case is another example of why we need libel law that has a clear strong public interest defence and a high threshold for bringing a case. The government has promised to reform the libel laws and this can't come soon enough."
The trial continues.
El Naschie may have been prompted to compare himself with Einstein by this comment, but it's possible no prompting was necessary.
The Queen's Bench List has been updated, and the trial continues on Monday.
Before MRS JUSTICE SHARP
Monday, 21st November 2011
At 10 o’clock
TLJ/10/1474 El Naschie v MacMillan Publishers Ltd & anr Pt Hd
We still have no idea what "Pt Hd" means, nor do we know what "Jury List" means. Is there a jury, or not?
- February 14, 2009: Fight!
- March 2, 2009: He's toast
- February 18, 2010: El Naschie vs Nature news
- April 1, 2010: El Naschie wins law suit against Nature!
- April 17, 2011: El Naschie vs. Nature law suit news
- June 12, 2011: El Naschie vs. Nature BOMBSHELL!
- June 12, 2011: El Naschie vs Nature: Paragraphs 4 and 5
- September 21, 2011: Nature zaps Yahia's blog post!
- October 21, 2011: Excitement builds: Countdown to 31 October
- October 24, 2011: My email to Nature's law firm
- October 24, 2011: Judge hails from One Brick Court!
- October 24, 2011: El Naschie v Nature pre-trial review in 3 hours!
- October 28, 2011: El Naschie v Nature starts Monday morning
- November 10, 2011: My patient Mohamed is not feeling well today
- November 11, 2011: BBC report on El Naschie v Nature!
- November 14, 2011: PhysOrg article on El Naschie v Nature
- November 14, 2011: The Scientist magazine on El Naschie v Nature
- November 14, 2011: British Medical Journal subscriber sought
- November 15, 2011: El Naschie has not appeared in court even once!
- November 16, 2011: Mathlog on El Naschie v Nature
- November 16, 2011: El Naschie finally shows up in court!
- November 17, 2011: Egypt is unaware of El Naschie v Nature
- November 18, 2011: The Guardian on El Naschie v Nature