This speech in 3 parts (posted on youtube) explains
why and how the teaching of modern physics in academic systems
worldwide remains largely suboptimal, and why freedom may be a
better learning framework instead.
- (1/3) gives some key ideas how the curriculum of modern
physics needs to be restructured, and explains why it is
nobody's job to care about it.
(2/3): I report some
observations that diplomas are not much valuable as a source
of credibility in people's eyes.
- (3/3) questions the value of diplomas on a
practical level (for their general usefulness as a source of
jobs and the rest of needs in life)
Hello. My name is Sylvain Poirier, I am French, and I develop the
site settheory.net where I try to share my understanding of
mathematics and physics, just freely by myself, outside any kind of
In this video I will introduce myself, and the motivations for the
development of this site. I will tell some observations about the
academic system, why it didn't make sense for me as a student, and
still not as a university teacher, and why it seems to be a
worldwide problem. And thus, why, if you are deeply interested in
mathematics or physics, you wish to learn relativity theory and
quantum physics, you might also rather avoid formal education, and
decide to learn by yourself. Or maybe we can try to do something
First something about my life. I was passionate about mathematics
and physics since teenage. At 13 I read Einstein's book on
Relativity. After one year struggling with the Lorentz
transformation formulas I found that they could be simplified, by
diagonalization in light coordinates. I was quite excited about this
sort of... discovery.
Was it a discovery ? Yes and no, because it was just a simple thing
that all physicists know, but it looked as if it was unknown, as so
many courses on the subject still ignore it. How strange : if by
simple and well-known concepts it is possible to explain a theory
better than the way usually presented in books and courses, then why
do people still keep these books as references, ignoring the
possibilities to do better ?
Then I continued, trying to learn Electromagnetism and General
Relativity. I had books on these subjects, from which I took some
necessary information, but I didn't find there the understanding I
was looking for. I only found the satisfaction of understanding
later, as a fruit of my own research, with my own notations.
First trying to understand electromagnetism. You know, the usual
expression of electromagnetism treats space and time separately,
putting all 3 space coordinates together forming vectors on the one
hand, and letting the time coordinate just alone on the other hand.
This is how it was expressed in the 19th century, when Special
Relativity was not known yet, so that physicists were not aware that
time and space had a common nature. But I didn't like that, as I
knew that it was not the right picture of things. So, to really feel
that I understood electromagnetism, I needed to see it in a way that
treats space and time in the same manner.
I managed to express electromagnetism in such a way, usually ignored
by books on the subject, I don't know why, as any physics student
knowing Maxwell's equations, can easily find it by taking these
equations and separating the 3 space coordinates from each other. It
is longer to write, it takes 8 big equations instead of 4 smaller
ones, but then, you can admire how space and time play similar roles
This study of electromagnetism helped me to understand how, when
treating space and time as similar, the energy density is just one
component of a field with 10 components, including pressures. I used
this to express the relation between energy and space-time curvature
in General Relativity, also with my own notations, when I was still
One key step of that research was to consider the case of the universal
expansion. Now that piece of reasoning is presented in my
site, so you can follow it and understand this way the relation
between energy and curvature, with its justifications.
Soon later, I expressed the forms of gravitational waves, and
spherical black holes, even with an electric charge. Then I made a
little computer program showing a particle moving around the
simplest black hole. All this, just in my free time by my own
research, as I was still in a standard high school. You can guess
how much I was bored by the math lessons at school.
Still we may wonder if the understanding I had of electromagnetism
was really better than the usual one. Indeed, as it was expressed in
a coordinates system, it was not completely transparent to the
symmetries of space. And for the same reason, its unification of
time and space was not completely transparent either.
So, it needs a more systematic treatment, with short notations
instead of long lists of coordinates, and more direct evidence that
the choice of coordinates does not break the geometrical symmetries.
The framework that makes this is already well-known. It is tensor
calculus, that is needed everywhere in theoretical physics. It is
not only necessary for the 4-dimensional view of electromagnetism,
for general relativity and for quantum physics, but it can also
clarify two important aspects of classical physics:
Some physicists may argue that, to express electromagnetism without
separating space and time, we first need tensors, but we can't
introduce them at the undergraduate level because this formalism is
too obscure and difficult for that level.
- One is vector calculus, used to describe solids, fluids and
electromagnetism in 3 dimensions.
- The other is Screw theory, that describes the conserved
quantities of mechanics.
Indeed I had a hard time trying to understand it. At some point I
had the chance to read the book Classical Theory of Fields by Landau
and Lifshitz. This is a great book that helped me, but still I was
not completely satisfied, and I kept searching for the best way to
Actually, I found it not only very important, but also possible to
explain tensors more clearly, to make this understandable to
undergraduates. So it's a pity to see physics teachers either
ignorant about how tensors can clarify classical physics, or knowing
but assuming that the usual awkward presentation of tensors would be
the only way. Either way they let undergraduates struggle with
expressions of theories that are inconvenient.
And it's also a pity to see all authors of recent books and courses
perpetuating this situation by still repeating the same traditional
formulations of physics without question, ignoring that, through a
careful global redesign, things could be made clearer.
In fact I don't claim my way to be the best for everybody, just a
possible way, as not all students need the same kind of teaching.
But a problem with the academic system is its intolerance, and its
double passive assumption that there is only one right way, that
only varies somehow with geography, depending on the professor a
student happens to be with, but moreover that this one way is just
given by what was already done in the past, without trying to wonder
if another way would be possible or even better.
But in the rest of this video I will explain why I think these are
not just exceptional problems to be fixed by some modifications in
the curriculum, but symptoms of much deeper flaws in the academic
system, that cannot be resolved - and don't even need to be
resolved, since it can be much better to get out anyway.
Now : some people may dismiss this view as not serious, as it seems
quite strange and bold. Indeed I do agree it is rather <
incredible > to say that all these thousands of professors around
the world, just passively keep following an old teaching way,
ignoring possibilities to do better. They are supposed to be the
right people to know how to explain things, and express that in
their teaching. So if they aren't, this needs an explanation.
In fact I understand such reactions, because many times such
reactions would be right.
I mean, there are many pseudo-scientists out there who cry against
the establishment, accuse scientists of conformism, and claim to
have made wonderful discoveries that refute currently established
And usually indeed, such fringe people are wrong, while the current
theories of physics are really seriously well-established. I have
seen such claims, and how they are just nonsense, these people did
not even understand the theories they claim to criticize, their
criticism of the scientific community is based on ignorance and
>= you know what ? Some of these fools have high academic ranks
But also, if there are so many fringe scientists who did not
understand current science but who think they can criticize it so
easily, isn't it also because of these very troubles with teaching
I'm telling about ?
This huge discrepancy between the high quality of the scientific
knowledge that exists for experts, and the low quality of the
teaching that is supposed to express this knowledge, but doesn't do
it properly ? How can any reasonable person guess that scientists
are serious and reliable in their research and knowledge, if they
don't behave seriously when expressing and teaching this knowledge
to students ?
But you may say, even this combination of claims, that scientists
did a good work finding the right theories but a bad work teaching
them, is still incredible, and terribly insulting towards professors
who are often well qualified people dedicated to their job.
You know what ? I agree that this is a terrible claim, very absurd,
It looks much nicer and more plausible to think that their teaching
is good too.
Yeah... much better assumption.
You know what ?
I like it.
Very interesting view.
What ? You are surprised ? Why ?
Ah, you mean because I said, that...I oppose this view ?
But, what's the problem ?
I like this view, I think it's very interesting, and I'm going to
explain why it is wrong.
Ah, because many people don't like to think about views they
disagree with ? But what can be the sense of a disagreement with
something that you don't consider ?
You know, the truth is not a matter of what we like, it doesn't
care. And something interesting in mathematical reasoning, is the
possibility to prove a result by contradiction.
So, in order to prove that a claim is false, a good way can be to
first accept it as true, and then, admire its logical consequences.
One time I was traveling, I talked with a physics student, trying to
explain that I have a way to introduce Special Relativity theory
clearer than the usual way.
But the reply was that they would not be interested, not just for
the lack of time, but also because they already have an excellent
professor in their university, giving excellent lectures on this
I was a bit puzzled to hear this, as it seemed so exceptional, so I
needed to check how it was actually done. So I asked for the text of
But then you know what ?
There were no available written notes, no plan, nothing, because the
professor was old and not familiar with computers.
So I could not check how good or original it was.
After all, it could be a wonderful lecture indeed.
But... well... there is still something strange here.
You know, it's not as if it was an industrial secret that needs to
be kept to let a competitive advantage to the company. Because, this
is a public university, financed by the same education ministry
supposed to care for the quality of teaching all around the country,
and that also pays other professors in other universities to teach
the same subject to other students. c So, if the best lectures on
this topic are made here, then, what are all other professors
teaching the same subject elsewhere supposed to be doing ?
Are they supposed to teach it in a not so good way, not knowing how
the best one is doing, because he did not publish any notes ?
Because these other teachings are still better than nothing,
But... you know, the working time of a physics professor is a very
precious thing. There is a lot of possible research that can be done
for the progress of science and technology, that needs many
qualified physicists, and I guess that many of the same physicists
now good enough to teach relativity but not doing it best, would
still be good enough to be well demanded and well paid for other
So : instead of wasting their time and a lot of public money in that
teaching, wouldn't it be both cheaper for taxpayers and better for
many students, to just pay a cameraman and a few other technical
assistants to record the best lectures being done, make transcripts,
and then distribute this around the country, and why not also around
the world after translation into other languages ?
You may say this can be done for pure lectures, but not for students
questions and interaction. Well, many defenders of the academic
system like to philosophize about this, but seriously, I didn't see
much worthy place for interaction when I was student, except of
course for the many times I had to warn my teacher about the errors
or omissions he made when writing on the blackboard the texts of
problems we were supposed to resolve.
It is not very practical in a class with 1 teacher in front of a few
dozen students, which divides the interaction time by the number of
students, and I don't even see it as deserving much place in an
ideal world, or some students may need it but not all, so why oblige
them all to stay together in a class ?
I mean, a perfect lecture should be understandable without many
questions, while for any meaningful question the answer should be
integrated in the lecture. Some students may need more explanations,
so that a lecture in a web site should contain links with possible
questions and answers in separate pages for those who need. Once
done, much of other needed interaction might just be tried between
students before asking a teacher, so without any cost of teachers
work, then questions may be asked online and teachers may reply if
still needed. But, if it was so interesting for a student to observe
other students interacting with a teacher, then why don't the videos
of such interactions have more success than this on youtube ?
So, on each subject, either there exists a perfect course publicly
available, or there isn't.
If there isn't, then we need some original work to make a better
one, closer to perfection.
But this only needs to be done either once by one person, or by a
few people contributing to different aspects of the improvement, but
they should form a team, or use any method or technology such as a
wiki to collect and compare their contributions so that they add up
to form better and better versions of the course, and not cancel
Anyway the perfect course only needs to be done once, then we come
to the other case, as concerns the rest of teachers around the world
: if they cannot do better than the best, then they should repeat
it, with no need to be original. But then why take a qualified
person to repeat it, if books, web sites or videos can do it best
And this is supposed to be one of the most qualified jobs in the
world, the ultimate dream and vocation of many of the most
intelligent, most original minds, who are obliged to give many years
of their life as students, all the energy of their mind, just
obeying and following the system, trying to prove how intelligent,
original and knowledgeable people they are, but just for the purpose
of getting the privilege to be considered good enough for... just
repeating. Just repeating like a machine, like the stupidest robot
or TV set. But even worse, since a tv set can repeat a lecture
perfectly, while a human's repetition cannot be perfect. So, one of
the stupidest tasks in the world.
Now consider this question about quality education : should the work
of teaching, be an original work or not ? This is a very interesting
political question to be discussed in a ministry of education.
Because, well that is what a ministry of education is here for: it
has to take political decisions on how all teachers should work. But
anyway it has to treat everybody equally, because, you know, it's a
national policy that should be right and fair to everybody, not
making any discrimination between people.
And so to treat everybody in a fair manner it must take the
Either every teacher should be original, teaching to his students
something completely different from what other students will learn
from other teachers, but anyway, that's how they will all get an
Or, no teacher should be original, so they must all copy the
contents of their lectures from each other without trying to think
how good or bad it may be. (Well be careful, only teachers should
work like this, not students)
Or, we should continue like now, something in between these
extremes, in order to combine the defects of both ?
So teachers should copy their courses from each other because, well,
from which other source do you think they should copy ?
Do you think the original copy should be written by the ministry of
But, why would the education ministers go to explain modern physics
to teachers ? That's not their job. The job of the education
ministry is to administrate the academic system, taking political
decisions on how to organize the work of all teachers to ensure the
equality between citizens.
The work of explaining physics, is the job of the physics teachers.
So, who should explain physics to the physics teachers, then ?
Maybe high-level physicists should do it.
One time, people of course don't know me, they cannot guess if my
ideas for teaching modern physics better are serious, they oriented
me to first contact some professors involved in the question, for
peer review, you know. In particular I was told about a good
physicist there who had written an article some years ago on a
different way to teach relativity, so surely he must be a good
authority we can refer to, I should contact him, so he can judge if
my ideas are serious, and then recommend me if they are.
So first I had a look myself at his article and saw, well indeed
this is different from the usual way, it's more geometric, but... I
could still see some big defects in his article, but to whom could I
say this, I had to talk with him directly.
Then one day I met him, so I tried to talk with him, but the
discussion ended after 2 minutes. You know why ?
Because he was not interested in the subject.
He is a high-level physicist, you know, so he has much more
interesting problems to focus on than the question of how to explain
some basic things.
So you wonder, why did he care to write an article about it then ?
Because of course he was puzzled to see the terrible way in which
relativity was being taught around him, so he needed to mention that
there is something wrong with it, and it is possible to do it
differently. But, he never meant to be really interested in the
question and to bother finding out what should precisely be the
This seems to be generally the case for most physicists.
First for their natural taste, they prefer to discover new results
and explore the most difficult theories than clean up the basic
concepts, I find it strange, as I love to find out the most perfect
ways to understand not too complicated theories that play a
fundamental role in the universe.
Maybe they have painful memories of their learning efforts as
students, to which, after all, they could adapt, but they wouldn't
like to struggle again with this mess, or to understand how unlucky
they were to have learned things in a way so far from the best
Second, because of what determines the hierarchy in the university
system, that is, the amount of specialized research publications,
disconnected from the quality of one's teaching, because, once
again, we need a grading system applicable to the whole academic
community, and since it is not possible for every professor in the
world to bring continuous revolutions to the teaching of the same
basic theories, and since ideally anyway, teaching should be one of
the stupidest tasks in the world, most professors need to show their
originality in a way where many of them can be original and interest
someone else, that is, in anyone of thousands of specialized
research subjects, each of which can just interest a few
And maybe, physicists just prefer to keep the virtue of humility.
You know they need to be respected and praised by their peers to get
good academic positions, so how could they come to attack all
professors in the world saying Your way of teaching is wrong and
everybody must start teaching things in the new way I'm showing you,
but still for the same salary no matter how hard and disturbing it
may be to change your teaching plans, because, again, this is public
education, everyone is equal and must be paid the same way for the
same amount of teaching ? Or worse, you need fewer hours to teach
this, so some downsize may be needed in your team.
It would be foolish to try such a thing.
Finally, in the whole academic system, are there any people
interested in how to best understand modern physics ?
Yes there are, but mainly in the philosophy of science sections. But
philosophers have a different culture of what is interesting and how
to work, than scientists. You know, science aims to find the truth,
so scientists care to discern what is right and what is wrong, to
select the good quality works and to reject bad ones. But
philosophers follow different purposes. They usually can't clearly
know where the truth is, but they don't need to really discover
anything anyway. They just need to discuss and philosophize on
tastes and colors of ideas, and what may be seen as the deep essence
of things, to feel that they are dealing with the most important
things, the substance of the universe.
But if philosophers of science do not actually produce useful
discoveries, they still need to justify their jobs anyway. And so by
necessity they need to follow ways that can justify life-long jobs
for their large numbers. Namely:
Now who can be interested to work in philosophy of science sections
? You know, there are many people looking for positions in the
academic system, some have the quality to be good scientists, but
there are also many cranks interested in science, who can't properly
understand it, but they are very convinced of their ideas and they
need an academic position where they can develop and even teach
their misunderstanding of physics. As they may have problems to fit
with the community of physicists, they look elsewhere and easily
find philosophers interested with their unconventional ideas.
- The larger diversity of opinions the better. So philosophers
are tolerant and like to review what everybody thinks.
- Also it is better to develop more obscure explanations with a
perspective that it will require endless further comments and
re-explanations, than a final perfectly clear and simple
explanation that would close the debate on a given subject.
The result is that the community of philosophers of science is
easily taken over by cranks who are there because they feel better
there than with hardcore mathematicians and physicists.
So, what's the picture:
Now the problem is : Is there any pilot in the plane ? And who cares
? A huge lot of money is spent worldwide on education, millions of
students give many years of their life trying to learn science in
the way it is taught, but does it interest anyone to wonder whether
all this activity makes any sense, and is going to the right
direction ? It seems not. There is a widespread social illusion to
assume that if everybody works this way it should be because it's a
serious way to work, so we should trust and follow it, as who are we
to disagree ? But in fact, everyone is just trusting someone else
who assumes that he trusts someone else who should be serious, but
who in fact never really meant to guarantee that things were done
right, or if he did, it's not because he really knows it, but just
because that's his job to pretend it no matter what. So if I claim
that the teaching system is going to the wrong direction, I'm not
making any extravagant claim, and I'm not contradicting anyone,
because it has never been anyone's responsibility to ensure that the
system was going right in the first place.
- Physicists care for their specialized research, not for their
- Science teachers care to repeat things as faithfully as
- Education ministries care to ensure that everybody gets equal
rights and that many students get high diplomas
- Science philosophers sometimes discuss how to understand
physics but usually don't deserve to be taken seriously
- Students must prepare for their exams, as they have no choice.
But then, we can wonder, if by nature somebody existed that would
naturally like to care about the problem, and to improve the
curriculum, then what will happen to him, where can you find him ?
Well I can't speak for all of them, but I have one example to tell
When I was a teenager, I already tried to tell the problem to
my parents and other people, that school is very bad for me and the
teaching system needs a change.
But they couldn't hear such a criticism. First they insisted that I
cannot ask the world to adapt to me. As if I ever asked anyone to
adapt to me, I only needed people to stop bothering me and let me
alone to educate myself, but visibly it was too much demanding
already, they could not afford the mental effort to understand such
a thing, since this possibility may have been dangerous for other
pupils who really needed the dictatorship of the education system to
give them a chance to get an education, but since we cannot
discriminate between pupils and give anyone a favor, letting me an
option out of this dictatorship could have also resulted in letting
some of them escape too, so that they would run the risk to miss any
education and become jobless. Poor dears. They need our care. And
you know, the administration could not afford either the work to
take note and draw any consequence from the testimony of any parent
or teacher who already noticed how different I was and how better I
would be learning freely by myself than under school obligations.
And, the education minister could not afford to think about any
possible exception to the rules. Such a mental effort may have been
much more expensive to him than the money he actually spent for my
so-called education. Since of course, it did not cost him anything
as it was paid for by taxpayers instead.
But not only I was kept jailed in school by the brutal force of law
up to some legal age of right to get out, I was also kindly advised
to keep staying there after this by the opinions of people around.
Well it wasn't exactly a kind advice to me, but rather a kind advice
to my mother, herself a school teacher, to let her think that, for
my own good, I would still need to be brutally forced to keep
following the system anyway. Because I was just a mere teenager
knowing nothing about life and about the world, and thus incompetent
to speak about my own future, but no matter that I already
understood maths and physics much better than them, anyway they
adults had a higher wisdom about how the world goes, a higher vision
about my life and my future that I as a teenager couldn't have. And
so, this higher wisdom and knowledge of adults about life and about
the world, justified her to put this dictatorship of the academic
system over my life and over my mind, letting me no right to answer
or disagree, while safely staying totally blind to the amount of
mental torture that this treatment may cause to me.
And the justification of this kind advice was the idea that, beyond
any possible debate about what I really needed by the necessities of
nature to become a great scientist, it was anyway absolutely
necessary (or maybe sufficient, who knows ?), for pure
administrative reasons, that I sacrifice my youth to the obedience
of the system and to run after diplomas, in order to get from the
rest of the world one or more of the following administrative
- The privilege to live a life in harmony with my intellectual
aspirations, with a job I like, instead of I don't know what in
fact, maybe become homeless or be obliged to do some stupid
physical tasks 10 hours a day, no matter that in fact, there
were already almost enough resources in the family for me to
live correctly all life without working. But I'm not even sure
if a physical work would have been so bad if it could let my
- The privilege to officially exist for who I was, to be taken
seriously, heard and respected by the rest of the world for my
ideas, for my scientific knowledge and my discoveries.
- The opportunity to bring a change to the academic system, by
becoming teacher and putting into practice my ideas of how to
better explain maths and physics.
So roughly these were the higher purposes, for which they were
sure I absolutely needed high diplomas, even at the cost of
putting me in that kind of mental slavery for so many years.
And they took themselves seriously.
Let us check these higher purposes one by one.
First about the privilege to bring a teaching reform, which was
the previous question. What happened to me after my PhD ? First
not much, as I was depressed. Then I was recruited as assistant
professor of mathematics at university. So was it the right
opportunity I needed to bring my ideas into practice ? No chance.
So what happened ? First of course I was just a newbie there
having to find my place in the timetable organized by other
faculty members who did not have such concerns as I had. Then,
well that's a French university, and, in the French higher
education system, the best math students usually don't go to
university but only to these concentration camps, the famous
Classes Préparatoires, where I had already trashed 3 years of my
youth as a student, with absolutely no freedom of life, no freedom
of thought, hardly any right to sleep, no freedom even for
teachers to question anything of the curriculum anyway, so where I
couldn't see a sense to go teaching since I needed freedom.
So I went teaching at university, but, what was I doing there
either ? Most math students weren't really interested, and hardly
understood anything of math anyway, so I was there to teach to
some kind of void, and what could I do ? I had the obligation to
follow a standard curriculum, taking students who had learned
previous things from other teachers in the way they did, and
preparing them to their exams. It already took me all the energy I
still had to just get ready for my own lectures, I had no time to
create anything else.
Because my dream was to bring a global restructuring of the
curriculum, or at least a significant part of it, so, much more
than what I was actually there to teach myself, but that task of
writing down all the contents of the courses, all the necessary
concepts, that would be needed for such a new curriculum to become
actually available and make any sense, cannot be done in one year.
It requires many years of writing work. But I had no time for
this, because I had to prepare myself to follow the existing
curriculum. So, I could do nothing there of what I really wished,
but I kept wasting more and more of my time serving a system that
I didn't believe in. As if I hadn't wasted enough time of my life
for that monster already.
So after one year teaching I stopped, for depression. Then
finally completely out of the system, and thus free from the
disturbance of all that nonsense, or not even really as I'll
explain later, I found much better conditions, just alone with a
computer, to write down what I wished to write down. But still
after several years I feel so sorry to see how far I'm still from
completing all the work I wish to do, because of all that waste
I've been through.
I heard some claims about how the intellectual productivity of
scientists evolves in life. Some say the best time for learning
and curiosity would be childhood, and I also heard that creativity
decreases with age during a research career. But even if these
claims weren't generally valid, don't you think that anyway, any
years of the life of a scientist should be highly respected, and
the first years of life may have a major influence on the rest of
But the method of the academic system is to first waste the most
precious years of the future scientists life, to just destroy them
doing nonsense. And then, as time passes, those who most
successfully dumped their youth into that nonsense and still
survive or just fit, become the most respected scientists, but
their potential may be already in decline. But, given these facts,
did it cross the mind of any education minister that there may be
something deeply wrong with the current system, and that a big
change is needed ?
Visibly, they didn't care. Because they must fulfill a much more
important democratic mandate, to ensure that every citizen is
equal, and to not let anybody be any more equal than anybody else.
In these conditions, how hard should they make it for people to be
recognized as qualified scientists ? Should it be easy for
everybody, or hard for everybody ? In order to be fair and
democratic, the condition needs to fit the majority of people. But
how hard is it for the majority of people to become qualified
scientists ? For most people, such a goal would be very ambitious
indeed. It clearly requires a huge lot of work, training and
exercise. Therefore the requirement of going through many years of
intensive training, needs to be equally applied to all candidates.
And people should not be allowed to judge by themselves if they
succeed, of course it would be too easy as many people have this
ambition of getting a comfortable life-long academic job, so they
have to be judged so by others. So we also need many judges to
select them. Then the works of teaching and assessing the
competence should have the quality of being stupid enough to be
industrially applicable to the whole population in an equal
manner, by many not so intelligent teachers and judges.
But then, the minority of young people having the natural quality
for being the best future scientists, are also obliged to go
through this, no matter if it does more harm than good to their
real potential as future scientists. Because becoming official
scientists must also be a very ambitious goal for their life too.
Yeah... what a bold and hard ambition it is indeed...
to go expect those bureaucrats to recognize one's intellectual
value, as they live in a so different universe.
So young geniuses will be kindly advised to sacrifice their
youth, to submit themselves many years of their life as mental
slaves to the system, waking up early every morning, arriving
always on time at the lesson, spending most of their days in that
training of trying to win the race of writing speed against their
teacher, and so on. And for which future privilege should the
future best thinkers of the country, the most talented and
intellectually creative people, see it worth to go through all
these sacrifices ? In order to get RECOGNITION for their talent.
Well, maybe the problem was bigger when I was a child, there was no
internet, so, ideas and works couldn't be spread by anyone so
easily, it may have been a problem to publish one's work and reach
any readers, without showing one's diplomas to some editors and
journalists, that, May have been much too stupid to otherwise
directly see its value. And...= it may have been a little bit hard
to find any official scientist to understand one's work and
recommend it to these media people. By the way, ah, no, for
publishing research articles in scientific journals there was
already that system of anonymous peer review since a long time, so
the problem wouldn't have been there.
Because it cannot suffice for talented people to just really have
the talent they have.
Even if you are just the best scientist or the best in any kind of
talent, and produce the most valuable discoveries or works, it
will still be useless because you cannot expect anyone to listen
to you, take you seriously and appreciate your work, as long as
you cannot recommend it by your official diplomas and high social
Uh, is that clear ? (???)
But, what a strange argument is this: when I was a child, everybody
around was amazed by my exceptional intelligence, they easily
understood that I could very well become a great scientist just by
myself, and they were also aware and strongly warned me that
despite this already accomplished fact, it would still remain a
much bigger and completely different problem for me to cross the
huge distance to the formal recognition by diplomas. This would
require that I dedicate myself to it body and soul for many years.
But they also strongly warned me of the absolute need for me to
actually follow this path of sacrificing my life and my
intelligence for this quest of diplomas instead of, in their own
words, wasting my time with my intellectual quest, black hole
equations and so on, as only a diploma can give me a chance to
convince everybody about this reality of my scientific
competence. Everybody knew very well that my official status could
have big troubles to ever properly reflect my real level of
competence which they already knew quite well, but they warn me
that themselves will be proudly justified to never accept to
believe in the possibility of this discrepancy. Probably because,
well okay, it will be different people. The problem won't be with
these simple people who already knew me so well, but with other
people, some authorities above them. Because these authorities
would be much too wise, fair and intelligent to ever be able or
have any responsibility to grasp these facts.
But... should diplomas be made for humans, or should humans be
made for diplomas ?
Anyway I needed for my own good to sacrifice my youth, making myself
a mental slave of that nonsense all these years, in order to get a
wonderful PhD that could bring me the privilege of SOCIAL
RECOGNITION for my talent. And what kind of wonderful social
recognition should I expect from my PhD, that could be worth that
sacrifice ? It must be a wonderful privilege indeed. I must surely
be feeling like a king now. Do you think that when I go to walk in
the street I can display my PhD diploma on a hat and expect passers
by to be amazed and to congratulate me for it ? One PhD graduate
among many thousands of others out there. Or do you think that when
I join a Free Hugs event, my PhD can help me to attract more pretty
Now that internet allows anyone to publish anything, can a PhD
still help to give someone credit in people's eyes ? In many
cases, people will simply be interested in your work, if, first of
course you could actually make this work instead of wasting your
life getting degrees, and second, if it is actually interesting,
without caring about your degrees. But still I observed an example
when degree mattered. At some time, the French popular science
magazines have presented Laurent Nottale as the author of a new
theory of everything of physics. By heavily displaying the status
he had in the French scientific institutions, he convinced the
public to buy his book, which became a best seller. In fact his
status was the way to make people, including philosophers of
science, enthusiastic for his ideas just as a matter of faith, as
a substitute for any better argument that would be based on an
actual understanding, since there was nothing to understand in his
so-called theory. Indeed, his ideas that he popularized this way
were dismissed as crackpot by the physics community.
So people may happily refer to diplomas of authors as long as this
can comfort their beliefs, or at least not disturb them, and as a
substitute for any more meaningful argument. This way, conformist
people with high status can find it great to be praised by the world
for their status, which gives them good chances to be heard for
telling just standard things or what people already expect to hear
or don't need to understand, and that they are great thinkers. So
then these speakers can warmly witness about this advantage, and
recommend to others the value of getting high ranks too.
However, could their testimony also apply to my case if I was
looking forward to be heard not just for the pleasure of being seen
as a great scientist, but more especially for the case I would
really have new important things to say, some new understanding,
ideas away from the beaten paths, that would effectively contribute
to the world's progress ?
Can degrees and diplomas also be helpful in such a case ?
Unfortunately, it doesn't work like this. Indeed, for example, there
were times when my contributions in online forums were just
dismissed without any care to check the arguments, by participants
who saw me there as a stupid arrogant crank when my claims did not
fit with what they liked to hear and were ready to see as serious
Including when I was just trying to report the current state of
scientific knowledge on a given question, to people who didn't know
it and couldn't believe it. And of course when I tried to criticize
the academic system, saying that a science genius may have better
options in life, more interesting discoveries and useful works to do
for mankind, than following a standard academic career. That the
world needs a change and that it needs creative intelligent people
to design and produce the right change outside existing institutions
and traditional fields of research.
In all that, was my academic status ever considered as a possible
motivation to still try to take me seriously ? Not the least bit.
But if anyone trying to criticize the academic system is immediately
dismissed as not serious, not only independently of any possible
argument, but also independently of his academic degrees, then what
kind of defense of the system are people making ? This kind of
defense has a name, it is called unfalsifiable. But if a view is not
falsifiable, then it is not scientific. It just does not fit the
normal standards of scientific rationality.
Who cares ? This question isn't the object of any scientific
Okay, you may reply to this : of
course, because a PhD is not such an amazing qualification after
all. You still need a higher rank to make people take you seriously.
Now I ask you in your opinion, which scientific rank do you think
may suffice to help someone be taken seriously even for saying
something that people wouldn't naturally enjoy and be ready to
seriously consider otherwise ?
> For example, do you think that a Nobel Prize in Physics may
suffice ? mm ?
Actually, I have already seen a discussion where participants just
simply dismissed as an idiot a Physics Nobel laureate, absent from
More precisely, they considered him crank and ignorant about quantum
Even though his Nobel prize was precisely granted to him for his
theoretical works in quantum physics.
And which kind of people may have treated him in such a way ?
This was done by members of the movement called scientific
skepticism, in continuity with the general views of this movement.
It is the very movement of defense of science and rationality in its
most materialistic, conformist and pro-institution form, that
proudly displays the presence of other Physics Nobel Laureates among
I won't try to discuss whether having a Nobel Prize in Physics
should be accepted as sufficient evidence of mental sanity. It was
just to point out that such reactions are possible without any
But I also had myself some troubles with
these so-called scientific skeptics.
First time, when I had written in my web site a detailed criticism
of Nottale's ideas but I was the only one doing that on the web,
only supported by my google rank, while physicists who knew that it
was crackpot hadn't written anything significant about it, because
information to the public is not their business.
So I tried to contact a French journal from that movement, that
focuses on scientific information. Its purpose is to promote
scientific rationality and warn the public against pseudo-science.
But they dismissed my request and refused to publish a word about my
arguments because I only had a PhD, which couldn't rival the
scientific status of Nottale. And because the editors of this
journal didn't have another way to decide about it, because their
job is to inform the public on the difference between science and
Not to understand physics.
Is that clear ? no ?
Ok, I'll re-explain.
There are people who inform, and people who know.
Those who inform, inform about what they know. But they didn't know
about this case because they were not informed by those who know.
Because those who know don't inform. Got it ?
Nice division of work, isn't it ? Just like the academic system.
Second time, I happened to criticize the methods of that skeptics
movement itself, on other topics. I was not the only one, others
criticized them too, in fact they already had a bad reputation as
they are not as rational as they pretend. And you know what ? I have
even been regarded as a psychiatric case in their public forums
without this judgment being opposed by others, and one of their
eminent members even personally wrote me the advice to visit a
psychiatrist to check if I wasn't mad, which in his opinion I wasn't
able to figure out by myself, so something quite stronger and more
personal than what I had written about them. They didn't consider my
In fact I had already visited a psychiatrist. Not for any serious
reason to doubt about my mental sanity, but as an administrative
obligation from the fact my depression didn't let me fully complete
my teaching year. So just because my life had already been too much
devastated by the administrative nonsense, that same administration
which had created my troubles decided to manage them by forcefully
orienting me as if I was the insane one, formally obliging me to
obey the psychiatrists I would find. And what did the psychiatrists
think about my case ? Actually, their view of life which they had
learned in their own academic studies and for which they received
their professional qualifications, is that, essentially, a
combination of depression, rational intelligence and originality
should be considered highly pathological, an evidence of total
insanity that urgently deserves the strongest life-long treatment
without any hope of a way out. And so, in the very name of their own
academic qualifications, they saw it their duty to not have any kind
of respect for the integrity of my person and the value of my PhD,
but to just treat me like a rat, pushing further the
administration's work of destruction of my life and my brain by
another technique. For this, my psychiatrist kept secret from me his
views and plans to not let me any chance to check them and assess
their validity myself, and, in the precise day when I told him that
I had enough of his poisons and I clearly didn't want anything that
may have any long-term negative effect, he told me lies to trick me
into trying the most devastating pill he could find, whose negative
effects I still suffer after 1 take, several years later.
So, what was that higher purpose, in the name of which I absolutely
needed to sacrifice the best years of my life ?
Did I really need to aim giving the work of my life to serve and
follow the rules of an institution that would be so dumb that it
wouldn't consider to recruit me based on the reality of my knowledge
and abilities, but would require me instead to have got that sheet
of paper, that sheet of diploma ?
But why did those teachers who advised my parents, feel so sure that
I needed that ? Because they witnessed it from their own experience,
of what they needed and how they succeeded to get the job they had.
That so stupid job, the job to just repeat.
Because they cannot figure out why and how in the universe it may be
possible for an intelligent and creative person to follow another
purpose, another aspiration.
But in this way, they are not just forgetting that there are
different kinds of people with different kinds of aspirations, and
that the universe offers many options of what can be done with
creative intelligence, other than that stupid task to just repeat.
They also forget that this world which they think they know, and
where they could get their own job, is itself not fixed in time. It
is perpetually evolving, sometimes in continuity, and sometimes in
disruption. Of course predictions may be hard to make, especially
about the future, but anyway an advice to follow academic studies
for getting diplomas, expecting them to be useful, is a speculation
about the future, no matter if we like it or not.
And when a social system contains major flaws, even if it is very
big, even if it is very powerful, even if it has been there for a
very long time, and we cannot see any way out of it, this still does
not mean that it is immune from any risk of a global collapse.
Remember what happened to the Soviet Union. All the people who
dedicated their energy to oblige other people to keep pretending
that they believed in an ideology in which, in fact, fewer and fewer
people were still seriously believing anymore. One day, everybody
just realized that there was no point to keep playing that comedy
In fact, there are several good reasons to expect the academic
system to more likely collapse now in this generation, despite the
long stability it had in the past.
One reason is, the Internet. Education is a way to share knowledge,
a diploma is a social information about someone's qualification, but
new technologies are becoming available for better sharing and
processing information on a global level. So, new information
networks can be developed including a better educational environment
and more meaningful and reliable information about people's
qualifications, that would make the current teaching and
qualifications systems obsolete. Actually I did provide in my web site
the description of a new social network with many purposes
including a qualifications system, it just needs a few web
programmers to make it.
Second, the academic system essentially works as a pyramid scheme,
that can only sustain itself as long as it can grow. Because it is
there to receive students who come there not to find knowledge
(since knowledge is freely available outside), but the hope of
earning money later by a job that requires not knowledge but the
diplomas provided there. These are mainly the jobs provided by
academic and other state institutions, especially more teaching
jobs, that will only be open as long as we can expect more teachers
to be needed to receive more and more students. Without that growth
perspective, we wouldn't need to recruit so many further teachers,
but then, which employment perspective can still give enough
financial value to diplomas, for making formal higher education
attractive to students anymore ?
Third, remember, the increasing public debts of so many countries.
Why invest your life for the expectation of a life-long job paid by
a public administration that is running into bankruptcy anyway ? We
can admire here the fruits of this public education which failed to
wake up citizens about the expectable future consequences of growing
public deficits. Of course, public education is not a place to
discuss politics. Still it is a place to speculate about the future
value of diplomas. Not by any rational arguments, but just by blind
faith. Well it is very understandable indeed that teachers have to
ignore the problem and can not cry out the emergency to cut public
spendings if they want to keep their own jobs.
Fourth, the official studying activity is not only getting heavier
in number of members, but also heavier in each member's life, as the
average length of education is getting longer without providing
better enough results. If more people need to spend more years just
to have higher grades to compare themselves with others without a
real improvement, then the resulting formal qualification loses its
value, obliging people to keep following longer and longer studies
for getting higher titles and keeping their comparative advantage.
The waste of efforts by those who give their life to the race for
diplomas will get heavier and heavier.
But this may finally make them lose in the competition of reality
against those following more meaningful life plans. Because in a
free market environment, nothing obliges businesses to follow
senseless administrative criteria for hiring people. And people with
enough creativity to make start-ups don't need diplomas either. What
could make it so hard for a creative scientist to get a decent
living on this planet just if he hasn't got that piece of paper ?
Look how salaries differ between countries, how you can work where
they are high, and then get a home where things are cheap. Or
combine both, working online.
So when it will appear that the brightest people succeed without
official diplomas while only not so bright people keep getting
diplomas and finally fail, then what will a diploma be worth anymore
And finally, in a world of technological prosperity where so many
people's income is quite higher than what they really need for a
decent standard of living, getting the most stable well-paid job is
no more the biggest problem in life. Why waste many years getting a
high degree if it will take you a smaller amount of productive work
to get the money you really need for the rest of your life ? But
then we can remember that there can be other important problems in
life, that need to be cared for instead.
We may need love. The main cause of my depression, was that with all
those years I wasted, I didn't find love.
I didn't need the world to organize for teaching me science, as I
could manage this better by myself. But I would have needed just a
little bit of help to find my match as it was not so easy for me, I
was shy, with my tastes and differences. Just this help getting a
date would have probably been much cheaper than so-called education,
and it could have saved my life to become a very productive
scientist, but the brain of administrators couldn't afford to
The year I was teaching, this trouble was so heavy, I considered
trying a dating site that might have saved me, but without a home
computer I tried to connect at university but dating sites were
censored there. These dumb administrators couldn't afford those few
cents cost of bandwidth. They wanted to ensure I'd stay depressed,
then they could afford the much higher cost of my depression.
But what else could help me, for better chances to find my match ? I
needed to be young. The older I get, the less chances I have. Youth
is a qualification that a PhD cannot replace. Or can it ? When I was
a teenager, my mother claimed to me that without high diplomas to
ensure a good job for life, girls won't be interested with me. But
the thing is, if teachers cannot figure out how I can survive in
this world without their sheet of paper, it still doesn't mean that
the girl I need will also have to be that stupid too.
And why is it that so much public money is spent on education, but
none on dating ? One reason may be that without help, many people
can easily find a date but not educate themselves, so everybody must
follow the answer to this majority's needs or die. But I see another
possible explanation. That
Indeed, these considerations are the only ones that matter for the
comparison of what should be done. Because, of course nobody ever
cares about the reality of what is needed, nor which activity could
actually help its intended purpose.
- On the one hand, teaching is a reliable method to be mistaken
as a master of knowledge and intelligence for doing a stupid
task, and, independently of any reality, it is always possible
to pretend that the teaching system is right and that the only
wrong thing is to not follow it, so that anyone who cannot or
does not want to follow can either be blamed and mocked, or be a
chance for the system to praise itself for its generous special
help to make him forcefully follow anyway whatever the waste and
torture this implies.
- On the other hand, undertaking
collective dating projects would be a reliable method to
be anyway mocked, blamed and insulted for doing a work that
would actually require a lot of creative intelligence to be done
with a reasonable efficiency, even though its overall cost may
be much lower.
And nobody ever cares how many geniuses and other people are pushed
to suicide by the current system. Because of course suicided
geniuses don't have a voice, they will no more bother anyone's
conscience with their complaints and testimonies. Testimonies that
nobody ever listened to anyway, since anyone considering suicide
shouldn't be heard but should be mocked and blamed instead for his
wrong philosophy, and just needs to be blindly spammed by the kind
advice of the stupid happy to think that the sun is shining and
there will be no problem.
Because young geniuses don't yet have the age to vote nor to get a
tenure that would let them the opportunity to speak out and be heard
about the horror of their student's life. But if they survive, after
having enough carefully and successfully spoiled their life, or
maybe if they could somehow fit with that nonsense, and then get
this tenure and the right to speak, then they should have no more
interest to complain anyway because it will be too late to change
the past, while serving and praising the system will then be their
only available method of survival and the only means for them to
have any right to speak at all. So in a way or another, since no
respected person ever complains, it makes people happy to think that
everything is all right.
Still there is a certificate I would need, but that no institution
is currently providing. The certificate that I'm not a naturally
negative person. The certificate of the fact that the troubles of my
life, my depression and my difficulties of socialization, were not
caused by any pathology from myself, but mainly by the madness of
other people who set up a world that fits them, but which happened
to persecute me and destroy my life because of my qualities, by its
pathological way to administrate my difference, without letting me
any decent option to escape. That it is the higher level of my
interests, my projects, ideas and knowledge, that isolates me so
much and makes it harder for me to succeed or find any meaningful
friend, in a world of superficial people who cannot properly grasp
or care about such deep issues.
The certificate that I'm absolutely not arrogant, misjudging or
over-complaining by nature. That I'm definitely not the kind of
person that can ever dare to make any accusation that would be
anyhow biased, speculative or whimsical. That I was extremely
patient in the persecutions and injustice I suffered before daring
to complain, and I am extremely demanding from myself and reliable
in the validity, objectivity, and multiple-checking of the evidence
I need to find before daring to draw and declare any conclusion,
especially when it would feel insulting to others, so that the shock
of my conclusions is not my fault but the fault of the reality of
facts which I did not make up, but that I have the courage and
wisdom to recognize as such. And that precisely this is the only
defect that could be seen as a possible cause for my troubles. This
fact that I was naturally much too shy, serious, carefully listening
and trying to trust and respect the authority of seemingly
authoritative people, so that I could not fully detect their madness
and revolt against them early enough to eventually protect my life
from the devastating consequences of their so-called kind and wise
advice, insofar as they ever let me any right or material
possibility to do so.
This concerned not only the school system and psychiatrists, but
with its so-called testimonies and claims of divine authority that
once diverted me from the emergency of chasing love on time.
The certificate of the fact that the direction my life, the
intellectual and academic paths I followed, were not the expression
of any character of vanity and arrogance by which I would have
decided to sell my soul to the devil in a desperate and ridiculous
try to use these so obviously nonsensical academic statuses as a
trick to put myself forward and insult others in lack of any more
And that my courage and abilities to discern and tell the truth and
my crime of having due evidence to support it but that people don't
want or have the patience to listen to or understand, happened to
repel so many truth
haters and thus did not let me any friends.
And also that I'm just depressed by the fact I couldn't find love
yet, so that just the event of starting a relationship would suffice
for me to feel much less negative than now.
I would need this certificate because without it many girls have big
problems to ever grasp or admit the possibility of these facts, but
often mistake me as a wrong, failed and arrogant person instead.
We need useful certificates, not absurd ones.
So I wish to find love with a clever girl interested in science, but
I don't need her to have any degree. They often think they have no
time because they must go to lectures and prepare for their exams.
What for ? You'll have all the knowledge you like at home. I have
enough financial resources already. And I also have too many ideas
of what needs to be done for my projects, for which I need someone's
Because truly creative people don't need any administrators to give
them a job, to tell them what they can do with their intelligence.
They need freedom. The large freedom that is directly given by
nature like fresh air. Not the one than any institution can collect
in bottles and come to sell you at a high price.
Now to not always stay on a computer, I'd be ready to offer small
series of talks in maths and physics, if there are any groups of
interested students, rather in Europe where I live. I don't need
money now but I wish to find people with some time, skill and
motivation to help my projects.
Thank you for your attention.
Links to other sites
criticizing the academic system
Back to site : Set theory and
foundations of mathematics