Mohamed El Naschie
| Style over substance|
Mohamed El Naschie is an Egyptian mathematician, physicist, engineer and crank. He served as editor-in-chief of the pseudojournal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals and has held positions at a number of universities in Europe and Egypt. As editor he published hundreds of his own papers about his unorthodox physical theories, and achieved some measure of notoriety when he sued Nature for libel over an article pointing this out.
His research centers on a theory of everything called "E-infinity theory",[note 1] a "fractal cosmology model" which he developed in 1994. The basic idea of E-infinity theory appears to be that at a small scale, the Universe is a fractal modeled on "random Cantor sets". El Naschie's theories have not received widespread acceptance, though a handful of researchers around the world continue to pursue his ideas. E-infinity theory also appears to enjoy a strong online following, though a judge found that El Naschie's associates commonly sent emails under false names.
Research and career
El Naschie is a prolific author of mathematical and scientific papers. A quick bibliographic search reveals that he has published well over 300 papers over the course of several decades, primarily centered on E-infinity theory, though he has also dabbled in related areas of quantum mechanics and non-linear dynamics. In a typical work, El Naschie observes, among other things, that:
“”The tying of a knot in the rope shortens the end to end length. This reduction can be used to measure the so called open thickness energy of knots. There is an incredible correlation between this energy and particle physics.
El Naschie's papers are typically full of this sort of thing; in the above-cited work, he notes:
The number 78.541020 is arrived at via a little-explained sequence of equations, and it's not even particularly close to either of the numbers mentioned. Of A note on quantum gravity and Cantorian spacetime, a MathSciNet reviewer concludes "This paper seems to the reviewer to contain no mathematics." The physicist Neil Turok characterized another paper as "merely a collection of buzzwords".
El Naschie has nonetheless attracted some followers of his own, who string together many of the same buzzwords. Ji-Huan He, a professor at Donghua University who has repeatedly cited El Naschie's work, wrote that "Men of genius like Einstein and Elnaschie [sic] very often ask some straightforward and seemingly innocent questions, which may turn out to have undreamed of answers". El Naschie's supporters have claimed that his work is worthy of the Nobel Prize, and that the work of physicist Gerard 't Hooft (an actual Nobel winner) is derivative of his own.
El Naschie received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of London. He holds honorary positions at a number of universities in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and is the principal advisor to the Ministry of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. Several claimed affiliations could not be confirmed by Nature and were later discredited in court, but a number are indeed valid.
Chaos, Solitons & Fractals
Given the "long tail" of poor journals which has been observed throughout academic publishing, many "non-mainstream" scientists have found journals willing to carry their articles. El Naschie is distinguished among these in that he not only found avenues for publication, but that he became the chief editor of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, a mathematical journal published by Elsevier, a leading scientific publishing house.
Having established himself in this position, El Naschie continued to publish at a prodigious rate, almost entirely in the journal of which he was chief editor. Volume 38, Issue 5 of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals contained no less than five articles by El Naschie himself, and he managed to publish several hundred of his own articles during his tenure, seemingly without satisfactory peer review. Due to El Naschie's habit of citing his own past articles (and, apparently, instructing authors to cite other articles in his journal), Chaos, Solitons and Fractals soon rose to have a higher impact factor than any legitimate applied mathematics journal. El Naschie's editorial conduct was harshly criticized by Douglas Arnold, the president of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
Moreover, due to Elsevier's practice of "bundling" journals, so that universities receive substantial cost breaks for purchasing subscriptions to pre-determined sets of Elsevier journals, many university libraries were all but forced to shell out thousands of dollars for subscriptions to the dubious journal of which El Naschie was editor. An (unbundled) yearly subscription to Chaos, Solitons and Fractals costs in excess of $4,500.
The CSF debacle underscored the inherent difficulty of ranking universities and journals based on citation counts. In addition to the unreasonably high impact factor that El Naschie's self-citation garnered CSF, he also single-handedly made a mockery of the Times Higher Education rankings of world universities: in the category of citations, The University of Alexandria (where El Naschie holds a visiting professorship) finished no less than 4th place worldwide, ahead of Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and a host of other major research institutions.
After the nature of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals became apparent, it set off a storm among mathematical bloggers, who blamed Elsevier for shoddy editorial standards and objected to the pricing of their journals, and the practice of journal bundling in particular. The story was soon carried by more widely-read sources including Slashdot and was the subject of an article in Nature. In face of this opposition, after some foot-dragging, Elsevier obtained El Naschie's resignation as editor of the journal.
Many major mathematical blogs (perhaps most notably John Baez's n-Category Cafe) carried analyses of the El Naschie saga. Some of these posts were subsequently removed in the face of legal threats from the El Naschie's representatives. Much of the deleted material was hosted on the blog El Naschie Watch.
Following online backlash against El Naschie's journal, Nature carried an article summarizing the charges against CSF and was subsequently sued for libel by El Naschie. After a trial that featured two law firms dropping the case and El Naschie eventually appearing without a lawyer, Nature's publisher emerged victorious. The decision generally confirmed what veteran El Naschie-watchers already knew about his editorial habits. As usual, choice tidbits from the decision may be found at El Naschie Watch.
Proponents of libel reform pointed to the case as evidence that laws in the UK are in need of reform: what should have been a fairly cut-and-dried case dragged on for four years and forced the publisher to spend a large amount of money on their legal defense.[note 2] If the claimant had a stronger case, or the defendants had not had upwards of a million pounds to drop on legal expenses, the case might have gone the other way.
El Naschie was a candidate in the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections.[note 3] Needless to say he never had a chance, and didn't win.
- The El Naschie saga is chronicled in considerably more detail at El Naschie Watch, which also hosts some material removed from other sites after legal threats from El Naschie. See in particular Introduction to Mohamed El Naschie for an overview of El Naschie's career.
- Case Law: El Naschie v Macmillan – claim against scientific publisher dismissed – Gervase de Wilde. An analysis of El Naschie's failed libel suit against Nature
The "so-called Rashenal wiki"
- The theory appears to have nothing to do with the legitimate mathematical concepts of E∞-operads and related structures.
- In the end, Nature was awarded an undisclosed amount of legal costs.
- The original article appeared on Nature blogs but was later removed. Fortunately, El Naschie Watch has mirrored it.
- Sock puppet writing style
- El Naschie v. Nature decision
- M.S. El Naschie, "Fuzzy multi-instanton knots in the fabric of space–time and Dirac’s vacuum fluctuation", Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, Volume 38, Issue 5, December 2008, Pages 1260-1268.
- MathSciNet MR1428296
- Schiermeier, Q. Self-publishing editor set to retire Nature 456(7221):432, 2008.
- Physicsforums thread
- Physicsforums thread
- L'Affaire El Naschie
- SIAM: Integrity Under Attack: The State of Scholarly Publishing
- Elsevier: Chaos, Solitons and Fractals
- NYTimes: Questionable Science Behind Academic Rankings
- El Naschie Watch on rankings
- Slashdot: Crackpot Scandal in Mathematics
- Emails exchange with Baez
- PressGazette story
- BBC News story
- "Nature journal libel victory prompts libel reform call", BBC News, 6 July 2012
- El Naschie Watch on the decision
- BBC News: Nature journal libel victory prompts libel reform call
- Rosa Online archived text. Translation.