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Thread: The public "right to know"

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    The public "right to know"

    Some people have agendas, and will feign clever questions to entrap scientists, astronauts and organisations.

    Others do not have agendas, but have genuine scientific questions.

    I am not advocating ATM or conspiracy theory, but am asking whether, for example in this case, the LIGO team in a democracy has a scientific, moral or even legally enforceable obligation (under German law?) to respond in writing to a 3-short straightforward question petition as to the technical accuracy, and hence validity, of their results, in the purported public interest of maintaining confidence in scientific integrity in the pursuit of novel human knowledge?
    Last edited by wd40; 2016-Aug-04 at 08:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    Some people have agendas, and will feign clever questions to entrap scientists, astronauts and organisations.

    Others do not have agendas, but have genuine scientific questions.
    Which group do you think the creators of this petition belong to?

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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    Some people have agendas, and will feign clever questions to entrap scientists, astronauts and organisations.

    Others do not have agendas, but have genuine scientific questions.

    I am not querying the LIGO results, but am asking whether the LIGO team has a scientific, moral or even legally enforceable obligation (under German law?) to respond in writing to a 3-short question petition as to the technical accuracy, hence validity, of their results, in the purported interest of maintaining scientific integrity in the pursuit of novel human knowledge?
    I don't think the LIGO team has any obligation to even respond to the guy who wrote this "petition." When did science become a game show talent contest with call-in numbers to vote for your favorite? If he's got some science of his own, let's see it. Including the moral and legal questions in this is even more ludicrous.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cougar View Post
    I don't think the LIGO team has any obligation to even respond to the guy who wrote this "petition."
    Unusually, this petition seems to originate from a woman

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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    Some people have agendas, and will feign clever questions to entrap scientists, astronauts and organisations.

    Others do not have agendas, but have genuine scientific questions.

    I am not advocating ATM or conspiracy theory, but am asking whether, for example in this case, the LIGO team in a democracy has a scientific, moral or even legally enforceable obligation (under German law?) to respond in writing to a 3-short straightforward question petition as to the technical accuracy, and hence validity, of their results, in the purported public interest of maintaining confidence in scientific integrity in the pursuit of novel human knowledge?
    Is LIGO in Germany?

    In any case, the LIGO organization has published their methodology and accuracy estimates. Before asking questions, one should do homework.
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    I know nothing about German law nor the particulars of this case. But my quick reading of the petition is that this is someone with a grudge against LIGO and Prof. Karsten Danzmann for some reason. Petitions to change.org are not a way to do reasonable science.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    Unusually, this petition seems to originate from a woman
    At the risk of sitrring a pot, why is that unusual?

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    LIGO is in the US, and is partly funded by the government, so I think there would be an obligation to respond to FOI requests.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    LIGO is in the US, and is partly funded by the government, so I think there would be an obligation to respond to FOI requests.
    Not really. The FOIA covers the government's policies, records and communications. It doesn't always cover the recipient of government funds or attention.

    However, Caltech has a webpage for FOIA because some of their information is subject to FOIA. Most of it looks pretty boring to be honest. Proposals after awards, award amounts, grant papers, progress reports, etc. It appears Caltech doesn't directly answer these requests, they simply reply back to the requester with the government department they should contact. Requests go up to general consul at CalTech and that person makes sure that the requester gets the appropriate response.

    However, since they have a name listed to back-check these request directed to government offices, it is entirely possible that they fork over information even if it isn't a legal requirement. Goodwill... and the practical matter of simply having the details on hand, possibly even on the web already.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Not really. The FOIA covers the government's policies, records and communications. It doesn't always cover the recipient of government funds or attention.
    Thanks for that. Yes, "FOIA applies to every “agency,” “department,” “regulatory commission,” “government controlled corporation,” and “other establishment” in the executive branch of the federal government." - source

    In a slightly more complicated case, the U.S. Supreme court held:


    We hold here that written data generated, owned, and possessed by a privately controlled organization receiving federal study grants are not "agency records" within the meaning of the Act when copies of those data have not been obtained by a federal agency subject to the FOIA.


    Forsham v. Harris, 445 U.S. 169 (1980)
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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    Since LIGO is the most accurate piece of equipment ever made it is not surprising that it is difficult to explain in layman terms, much more difficult than explaining the idea of gravity waves. Although these requests seems to be couched as reasonable scientific questions about how do you know a signal is not from some other explanation, the accuracy is mind boggling the more you think about it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    LIGO is in the US, and is partly funded by the government, so I think there would be an obligation to respond to FOI requests.
    Well, it would seem LIGO is not bound by German law, unless that is a contractual obligation from German funding. My daughter works for a German company in NYC. German law doesn't apply to workplace and employment conditions there; if it did, the people there would be a lot less on edge about random lay-offs. National laws, in general, stop at the border.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2016-Aug-05 at 11:28 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Well, it would seem LIGO is not bound by German law, unless that is a contractual obligation from German funding. My daughter works for a German company in NYC. German law doesn't apply to workplace and employment conditions there; if it did, the people there would be a lot less on edge about random lay-offs. National laws, in general, stop at the border.
    Until this question came up, I didn't know that anyone in the world could make a FOIA request.
    Solfe

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    If Prof Danzmann himself does not answer/address her 3 questions (are they genuine, reasonable or loaded?) to whom does she turn to get a response?

    Can the pressure of a public petition or press article alone compel him or someone senior at LIGO to respond to her, or can he be ordered to by his employers?

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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    If Prof Danzmann himself does not answer/address her 3 questions (are they genuine, reasonable or loaded?) to whom does she turn to get a response?
    The idea that there should be someone to turn to, for every question that might pop into anyone's head, requires examination.

    Grant Hutchison

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    It's been a while...a couple of decades and then some...but I used to be a unit FOIA representative in the military. As I recall the rules, FOIA requests must specifically identify the type of records being requested and their time frame. We were not required to create records simply for the purpose of responding to requests. We only provided copies of existing records to the extent required/allowed by law. This would seem to place the petition questions well outside the scope and intent of the U.S. FOIA (5 USC § 552). I've no clue how it fits in with FOI laws in other countries.
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    There might be an amount of time the researchers have the data to themselves like a year before it is published to the public, I think Hubble use to or still does work this way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    If Prof Danzmann himself does not answer/address her 3 questions (are they genuine, reasonable or loaded?) to whom does she turn to get a response?
    You can't always get what you want. — M. Jagger (1943–present), K. Richards (1943–present)
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    It's been a while...a couple of decades and then some...but I used to be a unit FOIA representative in the military. As I recall the rules, FOIA requests must specifically identify the type of records being requested and their time frame. We were not required to create records simply for the purpose of responding to requests. We only provided copies of existing records to the extent required/allowed by law. This would seem to place the petition questions well outside the scope and intent of the U.S. FOIA (5 USC § 552). I've no clue how it fits in with FOI laws in other countries.
    I have been searching for a missing document on Sea Dragon. http://neverworld.net/truax/

    There is a volume 1
    http://neverworld.net/truax/Sea_Drag...t_Volume_1.pdf

    A volume 3
    http://neverworld.net/truax/Sea_Drag...t_Volume_3.pdf

    But no volume 2.

    Any ideas?

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    I have been searching for a missing document on Sea Dragon. http://neverworld.net/truax/

    There is a volume 1
    http://neverworld.net/truax/Sea_Drag...t_Volume_1.pdf

    A volume 3
    http://neverworld.net/truax/Sea_Drag...t_Volume_3.pdf

    But no volume 2.

    Any ideas?
    Smithsonian National and Air and Space museum has a listing of the personal effects of Robert C. Truax. Of particular note is an item listed as "Box 4, Folder 5-6 'Sea Dragon Binder (1963)" on page 8 of this document. It's a thing, an article of private or business correspondence by an individual, therefore doesn't land in FIOA-land. It is accessible via the Museum, unfortunately possibly only in person and by appointment.

    If this collection contains volume 2, it is likely one of many sources which are fairly unique. I don't know anything about "Sea Dragon" or Truax, or General Tire, but if was an idea pitched to the government and rejected, you are only going to find these items in various private collections.

    Part of this stuff is digitized and available on the web, here. Since I don't know anything about the subject, I didn't look too far into it.
    Solfe

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    I am not advocating any conspiracy, but the moon conspiracists thrive by making much of NASA's total non-response to what they consider as straightforward questions eg for 40 years they have been writing to NASA as to why is the sole of the astronaut's boot illuminated whilst everything else is in shadow etc, which the Lunar Photographic Section should be able to permanently lay to rest with a one paragraph letter.

    Presumably NASA deign such questions to be contemptible and not worthy of response and don't want to get endlessly embroiled in what they deem as a waste of time folly with unqualified idiots, and since they don't respond, they must not be under any legal obligation to reply. Are Prof Lanzmann and LIGO similar?

    If however they received a pointed question by formal letter from a top mainstream scientist eg Prof Hawking, the Astronomer Royal, Sandage, or even from Phil Plait, and still did not respond, that some would view as odd.

    For those of a certain bent, furtive, fertile, fervent, even fetid thought processes thrive in a world of non-response and lack of clarity!
    Last edited by wd40; 2016-Aug-07 at 01:06 PM.

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    The usual place for this conversation is in the correspondence section of scientific journals. A paper is published, someone writes to the journal requesting clarification of the methods, the authors respond. If the letter-writer thinks the response inadequate, they can follow up with another letter, or muster their argument into an opinion piece which they can submit to the same journal, or a rival journal. Journals love that sort of debate, because it gets them readers.
    There doesn't seem to have been any debate about the LIGO calibration in the journals. That speaks volumes.
    Quote Originally Posted by wd40
    If however they received a pointed question by formal letter from a top mainstream scientist eg Prof Hawking, the Astronomer Royal, Sandage, or even from Phil Plait, and still did not respond, that some would view as odd.
    It's the "pointed formal letter" that would seem odd, not the lack of response to it.
    As soon as the discussion involves pointed formal letters, petitions or FOI requests, it has stopped being about science.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    [...] and don't want to get endlessly embroiled in what they deem as a waste of time folly with unqualified idiots, and since they don't respond, they must not be under any legal obligation to reply.
    Indeed. I expect they are under no obligation to answer questions.

    foia.gov USA Freedom of Information Act FAQ

    What can I ask for under the FOIA?
    A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. You can also specify the format in which you wish to receive the records (for example, printed or electronic form). The FOIA does not require agencies to create new records or to conduct research, analyze data, or answer questions when responding to requests.
    [Bold mine]

    On the other hand I have asked questions of NASA and they have kindly answered them. Maybe the conspiracists never ask. Or they do ask, get an answer and then they do not tell anyone about it -- because it's not the answer they were after.

    Are you sure top mainstream scientists have not asked questions of NASA and published the responses? Somehow I think it wouldn't be hard to find an example of that.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    That didn't take long. Example:

    Bad Astronomy: A Physics Outsider Says NASA Asteroid Scientists Are All Wrong. Is He Right? (Spoiler: No)


    At this point, the accounts diverge. Myhrvold says the team was not cooperative about their work and gave him “cryptic” answers to his questions.
    [Amy] Mainzer [NEOCam Principal Investigator] told me a very different story. She said she worked with Myhrvold multiple times, trying to show him where some of his ideas were either incorrect or not applicable to the work they were doing, but he remained defiant.
    I await your apology to NASA and top mainstream scientists.

    (You sure you're not advocating a conspiracy?)
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    (You sure you're not advocating a conspiracy?)
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    A moving story but how is this relevant to a LIGO petition, other than that it seems to be a similar situation? Or did I miss something?
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    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



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