On An Apparent Resolution of the Catt Question
Here I publish a link to a paper submitted by Stephen Crothers to IOP Physics Education Journal On an Apparent Resolution of the Catt Question. The editor replied with the following: “We regret to inform you that the Board Member has recommended that your article should not be published in the journal, for the reasons given in the enclosed report. Your manuscript has therefore been withdrawn…I really don’t see the value to educators of Physics Education publishing this letter. The initial paper had some value in that it flagged up an interesting teaching point that teachers could use but which they would probably not have heard of. I don’t see as an argument about it presented in this manner is going to be of interest to our readers. If this argument had been related back to teaching models used in secondary education then it might have been of interest. Not only that but this letter doesn’t appear to be particularly convincing. It’s quite easy to cite an example of group velocity where something appears to move quickly even though the parts move slowly – a Mexican wave at a rugby match. I could go on, but as I’ve already said; I don’t think the pages of Physics Education are the place for this argument in this manner.”
This negative report being the justification for the editor to reject the Crothers paper deserves examination. The main reason given is that it doesn’t have value to educators of Physics Education. In a previous letter written by myself and cosigned by Stephen Crothers, and others, the exact reasons why the subject was important to readers of Physics Education was discussed in detail. In fact that was the main point of the letter, which said that the subject paper to which Stephen and myself objected, was not a good guide for teachers to use in teaching physics and laid out in detail the reasons for this conclusion. The final conclusion of that letter was this: “Finally, we believe that the physics education community needs to take a close look at the role of electron current as it is currently being taught in physics classes, in order to take into account the issues that arise from the Catt Question.” The editor of Physics Education did not bother to submit this letter to a adviser, he rejected it outright. Perhaps because it was indeed of value to physics teachers who need to be informed regarding the difficulties in teaching the current physics syllabus. It is clear that the editor did not think that that recommendation was relevant to his readers, because they might actually understand that there is a problem with the present teaching syllabus.
The rejection says that the paper published by the editor of Physics Education, which is the subject of our criticism, “flagged up an interesting teaching point that teachers could use”. The problem with having published the paper that raised an interesting teaching issue “which they would probably not have heard of” is that the claimed advice to teachers of physics is completely false and incorrect in multiple ways. These reasons were initially pointed out in the first rejected letter, and given in much more specific detail in the second rejected letter written by Stephen Crothers. Since the original paper is erroneous, one would think that publishing a correction of that misleading analysis and its false conclusions, would be of the first importance to the editor of Physics Education so as to best serve his readers.
The reviewer goes on to say the following which is very revealing: “I don’t see as an argument about it presented in this manner is going to be of interest to our readers.” This is very astonishing. The editor published a paper dealing with this topic and then his board member gives advice that the topic is not of interest to the readers of Physics Education. This makes no sense, since it should obviously never have been published to begin with, by this reasoning. So the real reason is that the reviewer says that he doesn’t think that readers of Physics Education would be interested in learning the facts at issue in the controversy, because he doesn’t want the dispute to air in this journal. But, he already did air the dispute when he published the paper, that is the subject of the criticism, because the arguments contained within it are erroneous. The editor has already initiated a dispute and the editor doesn’t do a service to his readers by suppressing a fair and honest debate about it.
Next the reviewer reveals that he has a firm opinion regarding the correct physics being disputed when he says: “this letter doesn’t appear to be particularly convincing. It’s quite easy to cite an example of group velocity where something appears to move quickly even though the parts move slowly – a Mexican wave at a rugby match. I could go on, but as I’ve already said; I don’t think the pages of Physics Education are the place for this argument in this manner.” In other words the issue is already a settled one as far as the reviewer is concerned. But he goes on to make a false statement as regards the applicable physics. This is exactly the point that was severely criticized in the first letter that was refused publication. That letter stated very forcefully that there was no analysis that justified the conclusion that in the case of electricity, electrons can move very slowly, while the signal moves at light speed. There is absolutely no proof of this provided any place in the physics literature. In fact it is exactly this proof that the Catt Question is aimed at obtaining. Instead of providing the required proof in sufficient detail that it can be examined and critiqued, the claim is that the Catt Question is not a legitimate question, but only an apparent paradox. The paradox is said to be resolved based upon a pseudo-argument that the electrons can move slowly while the energy moves at light speed. But that is no proof or demonstration in the paper that this is indeed actually possible, while there is a lot of experiment evidence that refutes it. Stephen does a good job of showing that what the Italian paper says regarding the resolution of what they call the apparent Catt anomaly is totally incorrect.