How to spot the crackpot — pseudoscience in Pakistan

Published: May 27, 2012
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The writer teaches physics and political science at LUMS. He holds a doctorate in physics from MIT

The writer teaches physics and political science at LUMS. He holds a doctorate in physics from MIT

These days astonishing science claims abound in the media (there’s one fairly recent one in this newspaper too!). For example, a self-taught engineer in Swat claims he can “fix Pakistan’s energy problem in 3 years” by splitting water to produce free electricity. Last year, a Fellow of the Royal Society from Pakistan published an article saying that the HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme) experiment in Alaska caused floods and earthquakes in Pakistan. Then there are hucksters who run companies which freely advertise “magnetised water” for boosting crop yields and making mangoes taste better. Of course, this is laughable nonsense because every scientist knows that water cannot be magnetised.

Bogus science is sharply rising everywhere. One reason is that the science behind everyday stuff is now more involved than it used to be. For example, until 30-40 years ago, you could understand how every part of your radio or car works using principles learned at school. That’s not true anymore. So, even in advanced countries, large swathes of the population are at the mercy of scientific fraudsters.

Fortunately, this does not mean detecting pseudoscience is a hopeless task. Indeed, this article purports to provide the reader with a do-it-yourself guide for spotting quack science. But be warned that although such guidelines can be helpful, more may sometimes be needed.

To begin, let’s look at the sort of quackery around us. Consumer stuff is relatively harmless. If a woman has fallen for some advertised facial “magic cream” that will change her complexion from ‘sanwali’ to ‘gori’, then that is her stupidity. And if someone actually tries out herbal recipes for baldness, there’s no tragedy there. Ripping such people off is just a voluntary self-administered tax on ignorance.

But other forms of quackery can be less benign and potentially damaging to health. Supporting quack science can also harm the credibility of official bodies. For example, aromatherapy (curing through smelling aromas) and chromotherapy (curing through looking at different colours) have zero scientific validity. But quack scientists propagating this junk science receive official support for “research” from Pakistani government organisations such as the Higher Education Commission.

A recent physics thesis, which resulted in the award of a PhD degree by the University of Balochistan, has stirred some controversy. Guided by a “HEC meritorious professor”, and with publications paid for by the HEC, it was entitled “A quantitative study on chromotherapy”. Several notable Pakistani physicists, who actually know their subject, said the thesis was nonsensical. But after months of trying they still failed to convince the HEC. As a last-ditch effort, I sent a copy to physics Nobel Prize winner (1979), Steven Weinberg, and another to the physics Nobel Prize winner (1988), Jack Steinberger.

Weinberg wrote a point by point criticism which ended up saying: “I am appalled by what I have seen. The thesis shows a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of physics. This thesis is not only unworthy of a PhD, it is positively dangerous, since it might lead patients with severe illnesses to rely on ‘chromotherapy’ rather than on scientific medicine. I find it difficult to understand how this thesis could have earned its author any academic degree”.

Steinberger was equally shocked: “A reasonable physics department should not have accepted anything like this work…. Following world news this past decade, I have been very unhappy about the Pakistani political instability and social problems, but I had imagined that its cultural level was better than what I now see.”

To move to general principles, any time that you hear some unusual or astonishing scientific pronouncement, or some claim of a breakthrough, there are three questions that you should immediately ask: First, is the person involved actually qualified? Could he/she pass a beginning level professional examination in the subject? For example, an engineer who knows the second law of thermodynamics would never claim inventing a machine that runs without fuel. This law is one that every undergraduate student of physics and chemistry has to know well; it says you cannot get energy for free.

Second, how has the claim been announced? Quack science gains publicity through mass media and press releases but avoids professional journals or conferences. For example, in spite of continued superstition that surrounds HAARP, one cannot find a single academic paper written by a meteorologist, published in a scientific journal, which supports the claim that HAARP can cause weather change.

Third, using the alleged “revolutionary” idea or theory, has any machine or piece of equipment actually been built and shown to work? Hand-waving and loud talk does not work in science, or in industry. Similarly, if a purported invention or new process has an unusually long gestation period without commercialisation, then this suggests that there’s something wrong.

While the above guidelines are often good for quack-busting, they cannot resolve all controversies. For example, take the dispute currently raging in the media. Two of our most celebrated bomb-makers, Dr Samar Mubarakmand and Dr A Q Khan, have locked horns on whether coal from Thar can be gasified underground in a commercially viable way. One notes that neither is a mining engineer, or is known to have earlier experience in the field.

In repeated articles, interviews and TV appearances, Dr Mubarakmand says that his gasification project will change Pakistan into a mighty Saudi Arabia of coal. Bitterly criticising those in the Planning Commission who say that his pilot project has flopped, he demands another 105 million dollars to carry on. But Dr Khan says the project is doomed to fail, and “my sincere and considered advice is to give the Thar coal project to Shenhua Group of China”.

This controversy cannot be resolved without transparency, data, and an independent evaluation by experts familiar with mining, chemistry, soil mechanics, and hydrology. Because none exist in Pakistan, perforce such experts should be sought in Australia, China, or elsewhere. Common sense says that a detailed, independent feasibility plan is the very first step in a mega project. Why the Planning Commission has not already done so is a mystery.

Quack science does not just cost money. It also confuses people, engages them in bizarre conspiracy theories, and decreases society’s collective ability to act sensibly. The good news is that simple common sense is often enough to boot out the quacks. The bad news is that we don’t exercise common sense often enough.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (91)

  • May 27, 2012 - 10:53PM

    another sixer

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  • sidjeen
    May 27, 2012 - 10:59PM

    Great article once again Dr Hoodbhoy but teaching people to be critical of pseudoscience in a country like Pakistan is an exercise in futility after all how many people in Pakistan actually believe in science to be aware of quackery we in Pakistan actually believe in miracles which have no scientific basis whatsoever.

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  • Zamir Malik
    May 27, 2012 - 11:06PM

    Dr Samar Mubarakmand needs some more work to do and he should involve mining and chemical engineers in it and in my view Coal Gasification is a workable solution but it needs proper planning and as Pointed by Hoodbhoy it requires detailed Feasibility study and by those in who are engaged that Peculiar field must do that. As far as Pseudoscience in Pakistan is concerned it is a fashion now a days to claim you know all and that is pretty dangerous.
    One recent example is my friend who is Executive in One telecom firm in pakistan and claims to know all about Telecommunications asked me that Could i expalin that why we use Nyquist Criteria which is infact the fundamentals in Communication engineering. He is a Telecom executive and he dont know about it. Pakistan needs a long way to go and at present our education is in ruins.Recommend

  • May 27, 2012 - 11:08PM

    The author claims that “bogus science is sharply rising everywhere”. He adds that “one reason is that the science behind everyday stuff is now more involved than it used to be”.

    The fact is that advanced science is becoming much more accessible to a wider number of people through movements such as the world-wide DIY movement spurred by better low-cost tools and technologies for things such as “bio-hacking” and development of artificial intelligence. It’s no longer an exclusive preserve of a few elite scientists in multi-million dollar labs.

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2012/03/genomics-biotech-advances-in-pakistan.html

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  • Zamir Malik
    May 27, 2012 - 11:14PM

    @Riaz Haq: Well your Comment is the perfect example of Know All Syndrome indulgence in pakistan where Hoodbhoy is like talking about North and You reached South and then say yes i understood the whole Article. Anyway a nice effort to promote your blog that have nothing to do with the above Article.

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  • May 27, 2012 - 11:29PM

    Zamir: “Well your Comment is the perfect example of Know All Syndrome indulgence in pakistan..”

    Instead of responding with snide remarks, I suggest that you get yourselves educated about the transformation of R&D in science & tech taking place by reading about Stewart Brand’s DIY movement and the work of Singularity University in Silicon Valley where I have spent the better part of my life. A good reference for you is a book titled “Abundance” by Peter Diamandis that covers the subject well. Recommend

  • Lobster
    May 27, 2012 - 11:45PM

    Nobody should criticize Dr. Hoodbhoy the physicist without same level of qualification as he has, its another matter to criticize on other political cultural stuff!

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  • Ali Wali
    May 27, 2012 - 11:53PM

    Today I read a statement attributed to Dr. Khan, that given chance he will solve Pakistan’s energy crisis in 90 days for ‘300 years’, unfortunately I may not live that long,by the way what is our obsession with 90 days! Any power engineering student will tell you that promise of Atomic energy is flawed and expensive, secondly even if we start building one 1000 MW nuclear reactor today, no one in the World finished such project in 90 days, may be Dr Khan can do that!! in reality our energy shortage is more than 6000 MW. Our neighbors China, India and Iran are spending gazillions of dollars on infrastructure projects for future and we are still living in fantasies, for example our extensive railway network is falling apart, while Iran has laid thousands of kilometer of new rail tracks, underground railway etc and their next five years railway budget is near 20 billion dollars. Sir let’s not start on quality of engineering scholarship in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Iron hand
    May 27, 2012 - 11:55PM

    When a culture substitutes religious myth for science and critical thought, it slides into the dark ages.

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  • May 27, 2012 - 11:56PM

    @Lobster: “Nobody should criticize Dr. Hoodbhoy the physicist without same level of qualification”

    Regardless of his qualifications, the real question to ask is what significant published scientific research has Hoodbhoy done in the last several years? Can you cite any?

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  • fahad
    May 28, 2012 - 12:01AM

    Both AQ Khan and Samar Mubarakmand are executive managers rather than hands on scientist….Its just weird how academia makes someone so dumb….do you even know that all those mining companies in China and Australia have few mining engineers sitting in top executive positions. I am sure they have a team of chemical/mechanical/mining engineers who are doing dirty work.

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  • John B
    May 28, 2012 - 12:02AM

    Alchemy gave rise to modern chemistry. Hopefully,pseudoscience everywhere will give rise to commonsense. But pseudoscience in PAK university is worrisome.

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  • Farooq Bashir Butt
    May 28, 2012 - 12:04AM

    I am astonished how Dr.Sb is professor of Political Science besides Physics as he has got PhD in Physics.Could any body clarify

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  • Parvez
    May 28, 2012 - 12:13AM

    Great read.

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  • HK
    May 28, 2012 - 12:16AM

    @Riaz Haq: “Regardless of his qualifications, the real question to ask is what significant published scientific research has Hoodbhoy done in the last several years?”

    You can use google scholar to find out hoodboy’s research publications and references to it (and I just checked and they are impressive). The difference is that Hoodboy after doing his phd from MIT is sitting in PK and trying to make a change. You, on the other hand, after having a degree from C-tier NJIT and running two crappy startups are criticizing for the sake of it…

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  • Irfan
    May 28, 2012 - 12:27AM

    Can somebody plz show this article to all these so called news channels. Broadcasting propaganda all day long. Thank you Dr. Sahib for a wonderful article. But I would not b surprised if tomorrow someone makes sugar out of sand.

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  • Dinar Wali
    May 28, 2012 - 1:00AM

    Excellent piece by Dr, Pervez Hoodbhoy The man of reason, logic and science beyond that a true intellect who always speaks the truth.. He has rightly pointed out the paranoia which prevails among our pseudo scholars, academics,scientists and highly charged jingoistic media persons. In one of his article published by the News honorable Higher education chairman Mr, Javid Laghari claims that lignite and other minerals exists in the highly exaggerated Thar Coal worth are above $25 trillion. This staggering figure is beyond comprehension considering the total GDPs of USA, China and Japan are probably less then this amount so this shows how irrationality and pseudoscience has overtaken objective and critical thinking among the people some of whom are at the top level of government functionaries.

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  • Tch tch
    May 28, 2012 - 1:28AM

    As you mentioned Weinberg why dont you inform your readers about the cosmic disappointment I.e that Abdus Salam (His other reak accomplished aside) did not deserve at all the 1979 Nobel prize for the Unification theory. . You and I both know that the 1979 prize was awarded on the basis of a non-peer-reviewed publication which quotes an unpublished lecture.(Ref:Abdus Salam: A Reappraisal PART I How to Win the Nobel Prize Norman Dombey. Arivx.org)

    If the Nobel Committee can be bamboozled and brow beaten by a connected shrewd maneverer, in Pakistan the cargo cultist (Samar Mubarik) and snake oil salesmen has ree reign.
    While you continue your pointless and vindictive Jehad against Attaur Rehman for his benign one paragraph blunder in the Back Pages of DAWN regarding HAARP. Other offender escape your wrath unscathed.
    AQ Khan has since four years warned us about Mubarikmand, yet you have spared him for unknown reasons for all this time. Yet we both know of all the examples quoted he has caused the most financial, moral damage possible .As a Nuclear Physicist weren you surprised by your colleagues sudden mastery in a unrelated profession? Why speak now after keeping mum for 4 years Or do your buddies get a free pass???Recommend

  • Sinclair
    May 28, 2012 - 1:31AM

    @Lobster: “Nobody should criticize Dr. Hoodbhoy the physicist without same level of qualification”

    He would probably be fine with it. Take it as questioning (however ridiculous) than criticizing. It doesn’t make a dime’s difference to him anyway.
    .
    @Riaz Haq

    “Regardless of his qualifications, the real question to ask is what significant published scientific research has Hoodbhoy done in the last several years? Can you cite any?”

    You Sir, most probably were the pioneer of Cold Fusion in Pakistan even before the bomb happened. I pay my humble respects.

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  • Asad
    May 28, 2012 - 1:31AM

    And then there are the youngest Microsoft certified programmers popping up here and there.

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  • Kamran Shah
    May 28, 2012 - 2:06AM

    Very biased and irrational article. Pervez Hoodbhoy as always been very cynical. I saw “the self taught mechanical engineer” whole interview and the guy never claimed that he will produce electricity without fuel and for free offcourse. Instead he was talking breaking of water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen as a fuel is also been used in Honda Clarity. Honda Clarity’s technology is bit different from the technology of “self taught mechanical engineer” in a sense that hydrogen is combined with oxygen instead of breaking the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen to get energy. Hoodbhoy has twisted “the self taught mechanical engineer” interview to make a folly of himself instead.
    As a scientist myself, It is laughable that he is criticizing others while his own article includes false references.

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  • Explorer
    May 28, 2012 - 2:06AM

    Would like to know Pervez’s perspective on Shourrya Ray’s solution to Sir Isaac Newton’s problem.

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  • Learner
    May 28, 2012 - 2:28AM

    Mr Hoodbhoy is a professor of political science at one of Pakistan’s top universities while having a degree in Physcs. Going by the general logic of his article and common sense, either he should not teach political science or one should simply rubbish whatever he says in that domain.

    Unfortunately, this is typical of people trained in the so called “hard” sciences. Without proper qualification and research, one should not even open his/her mouth about scinece. But when it comes to humanities and social sciences, it’s fair game for these know-all “scientists”. Talk about double standards.

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  • Raj - USA
    May 28, 2012 - 2:32AM

    I recall it was Dr. Samar Mubarakmand who published an article saying that the HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme) experiment in Alaska caused floods and earthquakes in Pakistan. Dr. Samar Mubarakmand was the head of HEC. He also believes that he can draw electricity from jinn and in miracle pots that can produce endless quantity of chicken curry.

    Having said this, few years ago in India someone claimed to be able to produce crude oil from some plants and wanted government funding for his project. Even some top officials of the government were fooled. It was found out that the claimant was using simple magic tricks to fool people.

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  • abd
    May 28, 2012 - 2:38AM

    Dr. you are sending the thesis of most neglected province of Country where no experimental facilities exist to two noble laureates who make the other EXTREME of the spectrum. Physics is not my field so i cant comment on it but i can say the universities like oxford and cambridge and harvard very rarely send Doctoral thesis to a noble laureate. If you have issues with HEC because you were not given the reigns of it then please admit it rather than being so cheap of humiliating a young girl who has shown courage by breaking the norms and reaching till level of doctorate. Her thesis might not be good but the way you are projecting it is a shameful act.
    You are a black sheep and this is an act of education terrorism!!!!!
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  • indian
    May 28, 2012 - 2:39AM

    hats off to this awesome article. Remind me of dark ages in Europe. I hope renaissance will take place some day in Muslim world in general and Pak in particular before its too late!

    your fan

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  • White Russian
    May 28, 2012 - 2:51AM

    In one thing I disagree with Prof Hoodbhoy. The announcement of (junk) scientific claims is no longer restricted to mass media outlets.

    All over Pakistan, universitis are busy churning out non-sensical publications in so called peer reviewed periodicals. Getting tenures, positions, and hefty salaries on the basis of such fraudulent publications has become a norm rather than exception in Pakistani academia.

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  • Qazi
    May 28, 2012 - 2:52AM

    The moral of the story is that there are no quick fixes for chronic problems. The prevalence of quackery in Pakistan is an outcome of prolonged neglect of investing in quality education.

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  • Sky
    May 28, 2012 - 3:30AM

    This article in for Tribune and Dawn editors and reports who without doing their home work publish what ever pseudoscience they see around. It can be expected from the Urdu media but we thought the english media was more sensible.

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  • ayesha_khan
    May 28, 2012 - 5:30AM

    @fahad: “Both AQ Khan and Samar Mubarakmand are executive managers rather than hands on scientist…”

    A Q Khan clearly was an executive manager when he was leading Pakistan’s atomic program. HE is not in charge of any institution at this time. He also claims credibility for his current opinions on the Thar coal issue by citing his scientific credentials. So it is quite appropriate of Hoodbhoy to question those credentials in the light of the subject where he is providing that opinion.

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  • Visibly Invisible
    May 28, 2012 - 5:30AM

    On a side note, I don’t get Dr. Samar’s obsession with mining first Riko Deq and now Thar coal.

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  • ayesha_khan
    May 28, 2012 - 5:31AM

    @Riaz Haq: Advanced science maybe more accessible to people in silicon valley but that is certainly not true about lay people in India and Pakistan. In the context of this article your comment has no relevance and is simply an attempt to market your blog.

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  • Cynical
    May 28, 2012 - 6:03AM

    Great piece.Should be included as a preface to every elementery science text books at the school level.

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  • Arif Belgaumi
    May 28, 2012 - 7:00AM

    Excellent article professor. One thing is for sure, there is nothing common about common sense.

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  • Ahmed
    May 28, 2012 - 7:23AM

    Funny that Riaz Haq is criticing dr. Hoodbhoy. Riaz is a well known Internet troll and the only reason he posts here is to attract visiors to his own blog. His posts are always either Pakistan is great or Pakistan is greater than India. My guess is that he is trying to make some advertising.Recommend

  • A H Nayyar
    May 28, 2012 - 7:50AM

    @abd:”rather than being so cheap of humiliating a young girl who has shown courage by breaking the norms and reaching till level of doctorate. Her thesis might not be good but the way you are projecting it is a shameful act.”
    This is not about “a young girl”, it is about pseudo-science (or non-science, or nonsense) being accepted as a piece of academic work worthy of a PhD degree. It is also about a body that is supposed to monitor academic honesty and quality failing to do its job. HEC must be criticised by each and everyone of us for failing to do what it is supposed to do after consuming so much of public resources.
    Please also note that wrong or nonsensical academic work cannot claim acceptability merely because it comes from the university of a poor province or from a poor “young girl”.

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  • May 28, 2012 - 8:22AM

    I know! Very well said.

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  • Mirza
    May 28, 2012 - 9:12AM

    This clearly explains why most of Pakistani degrees are not accepted outside Pakistan. In Pakistan everybody can become graduate with a BA, BS, or B.Com, in 14 years of schooling. While in the US it would take 16 years to earn the same degree and it would be called “under graduate”. A graduate degree takes higher than 16 years of schooling in the US. Great myth buster and kudos to PH.

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  • A H Nayyar
    May 28, 2012 - 9:16AM

    @Riaz Haq:
    The basic axiom: Ask not who said it; see if makes sense. Thus is the way to the truth.

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  • Nanga Pir
    May 28, 2012 - 9:34AM

    ClassiAKlmechanics does not answer to the problems posed by quantum world. Biological world is one step further with evolution. He confuses people when mixes reductionist ideas into living things. He should focus on his own field. Produce at least one good physicist. But from his tone it appears that he works for some agenda under guise of science. That makes him a big hypocrate to start with.

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  • May 28, 2012 - 9:40AM

    Science is nothing more than peer reviews by corporate scientists. Monetize everything good with exorbitant price tags. This article is just one of those attempts, really sad. For reference electricity would have been free if JP Morgan hasn’t moentize Nikolai Tesla discoveries. As for HAARP just Google “2/10/2012 — MUST SEE ! 2011 earthquakes WORLDWIDE plotted and animated (with sound intensity)” and check yourself how natural was the earthquake occurrence compared to others.

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  • kris
    May 28, 2012 - 9:42AM

    Riaz Khan is a self-proclaimed expert on anything to do with India that is NEGATIVE. For example, he is an expert statistician on open defecation in India.

    Riaz Khan’s background in electronics/computer engineering does not make him an expert in science, medicine and other subjects. His primary goal seems to be to put down India and a give false sense of hope and accomplishments of Pakistanis. But, Pakistanis have enough talking heads that spin all kinds of conspiracy theories to explain the state of Pakistan instead of facing realities. It is about time for Pakistanis to discourage and reject so called “experts”.

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  • ahmad sohail
    May 28, 2012 - 10:23AM

    good article giving sense to the intellectuals of pakistan,the unrealistic and miracle claims have already created doubts about Thar coal potentials.

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  • Saurabh
    May 28, 2012 - 10:46AM

    abd: You’re doing a great disservice to your countrymen by using sympathy to excuse fraud. This is highly unfair to the thousand of Pakistani students who do genuine work but will not find their accomplishments recognized in the world due to the suspicion caused by such incidents.

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  • adam
    May 28, 2012 - 11:28AM

    Great article Professor, the problem why pseudo science gains acceptance in the media and elsewhere is because people want to believe in quick fix solutions and promises without examining them, especially in times of distress when they are looking for a quick escape. They would rather believe something rather than closely look at it to see whether it matches with the actuality. To inquire into something requires close examination, a sharp independent mind, patience to look without jumping to hasty conclusions and a lot of questioning and experimentation. A lot of energy needs to be put into examining something closely. To believe in something is very easy, it requires no work at all. It is what lazy minds automatically do.

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  • habibullah
    May 28, 2012 - 11:45AM

    National Science Foundation NSF USA was funding on some research project based on Fuzzy Logic. A representative in US congress critising the NSF for its useless spending gave example of this fuzzy project, thinking it is as fuzzy as its name implies. But today Fuzzy logic is being used to control trains, planes (autopilot) and in areas of network security. It is possible that some ideas may not seem workable at start might prove really worthy, but yes they must comform to basic laws of physics.

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  • Random
    May 28, 2012 - 11:47AM

    One of the few times i agree with you Dr Sahib. However in some of these cases the issue is with correct reporting as well. Mass media should atleast check and verify the claims before they publish. Unfortunately this does not happen…

    To all who are going personal on Dear Dr. In order to have a healthy discussion you should focus on what he is saying and negate it based on evidence rather than bash his personality….

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  • Raw is war
    May 28, 2012 - 12:06PM

    @ Riaz Haq

    you seem to find a silver line on nuclear muashroom cloud.

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  • May 28, 2012 - 12:47PM

    iLike

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  • Toba Alu
    May 28, 2012 - 1:37PM

    Can you expect any different in a nation that says that it is based on a belief system for which there is neither rationale nor evidence. As long as so many subjects in Pakistan are sensitive there will never be serious questioning, neither any honest public debate. Fertile soil for creationists, evolution deniers and therefore pseudo scientists. There is hope as long as honest believers keep their relation with the divine between them and their divine in the confines of their homes and start living and acting as good people both inside and outside their home.

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  • Ali
    May 28, 2012 - 2:11PM

    Dr Hoodhbuays political views may not be very mature but what he is doing for science in Pakistan is remarkable. I hope Pakistan can bring back engineering and Science in their right spirit. All the UET engineers come out to become technicians. Engineering has gone horribly wrong in Pakistan.

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  • Asad
    May 28, 2012 - 2:26PM

    So Steven Weinberg made a conclusion about Pakistan’s cultural level based on an instance of a shoddy PHD thesis. Great work Mr. Nobel Laureat!

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  • Waqass
    May 28, 2012 - 2:26PM

    @Riaz ul Haq
    Such stunts with borrowed tech are quite cheap now. Dr Hoodbhoy is actually pointing towards same science. Our educated people use a ‘tarka’ of science and construct a media hype. Just like you saw Samar Mubarak and AQ Khan.
    I can get my complete genome mapped for 3000 USD. This is not an accomplishment at all. 1000 USD cost for coding/functional genes.
    May I know any single benefit of coding the genome . Pakistani molecular labs and institutions are doing research since decades what has been its application?
    MY answer is nothing except some publications and increment in pay.

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  • Kashmirian
    May 28, 2012 - 2:37PM

    Everything in this universe is governed by fundamental laws of physics, if anything violates them it is absolutely pseudoscience and not worth paying attention to.

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  • Saima Khan
    May 28, 2012 - 3:54PM

    I think HEC needs to intervene – perhaps make a policy that all PhD thesis before being approved in the future should have at least one external committee member (preferably cross-country), who is well-known for his/her work in that area of study? Well, to reduce the likelihood of such occurrences in the future – for a start..and then more complicated policies (that are mostly of less use) can follow later ;-)

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  • usmani
    May 28, 2012 - 4:31PM

    @ abd Well said about the Mr. Hoodbhoy.

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  • ashar
    May 28, 2012 - 4:37PM

    Thank God you have come back to your own arena. A Superb article. I would love to read more on it from you.

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  • Khan
    May 28, 2012 - 4:50PM

    Dear Dr. Hoodbhoy,
    Another nice article.
    But, isn’t the same goes to you as well? If you are a Physicist, then stay in your field. Why we see your articles in Foreign policy, Politics, Religion, and so on and so forth?
    It is the time for you to self-analyze yourself too.

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  • Noble Tufail
    May 28, 2012 - 6:02PM

    @khan. use of common sense, he argues in the last paragraph,and i agree .. is enough to boot out the quacks. and for other topics he writes on … the quality of his arguments.. as i see them is of no match.

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  • Singh
    May 28, 2012 - 6:18PM

    “The good news is that simple common sense is often enough to boot out the quacks. The bad news is that we don’t exercise common sense often enough.”
    Well said about Pakistan populace after reading their comment every day.

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  • antanu
    May 28, 2012 - 6:26PM

    <p>@Mirza:
    fully agree with you buddy..it is very easy to get a degree in India and Pakistan..right onspot</p>Recommend

  • Summer_Festival
    May 28, 2012 - 6:29PM

    @ayesha_khan:

    Dr. A Q Khan was only leading the centrifuge project in KRL, (one important link in the chain) and not the entire nuclear program.

    The rest consisting of 20 labs and projects of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission included uranium exploration, mining and refining, production of uranium hexafluoride gas for enrichment, fuel fabrication, civil and military reactors such as Chashma and Khushab, reprocessing labs such as New Labs, nuclear weapon design (Theoretical Physics Group), development (Wah Group, DTD, Trigger Mechanism Group) and testing projects (Chaghi, Kharan, Kirana Hills) that were being developed and run by PAEC chairman Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan from 1972-1991 and Dr Ishfaq Ahmad, 1991-2001.

    Dr. Samar Mubarakmand was heading one specialized group in PAEC working on nuclear diagnostics for testing the nuclear device and in the 1990s headed the National Development Complex, another PAEC project which gave birth to nine different types of solid-fueled ballistic and cruise missiles. He supervised Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998 in his capacity as Member (Technical)The first cold test of a working nuclear device was conducted on March 11, 1983 by PAEC’s Directorate of Technical Development (headed by Mr Hafeez Qureshi) followed by two dozen more. It was the same DTD that carried out the six tests at Chaghi in 1998.

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  • Rehan J
    May 28, 2012 - 6:35PM

    very well said ……………………
    I wish we as nation would exercise common sense more often to not only weed scientific but all sorts of quacks from our life religious quack, political quacks ,cultural quack , and I apologise to the geese but unfortunately Pakistan is full of quacks. Quack Quack Quack…..

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  • Wajahat
    May 28, 2012 - 6:36PM

    “Indeed, this article purports to provide the reader with a do-it-yourself guide for spotting quack science”

    Which part of the document did this ?

    “Quack science does not just cost money. It also confuses people, engages them in bizarre conspiracy theories, and decreases society’s collective ability to act sensibly. The good news is that simple common sense is often enough to boot out the quacks. The bad news is that we don’t exercise common sense often enough.”

    so you were just here to tell us we need to use more common sense. sheeesh c’mon.

    If this last paragraph came right after the introduction and the article ended there, I don’t think it would make it any less valuable :P

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  • Riaz Khan
    May 28, 2012 - 8:37PM

    PH, You are simply SUPERB!

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  • A. Khan
    May 28, 2012 - 9:48PM

    There is a lot of research being conducted to splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Its called Fuel Cell technology. I don’t know why Prof Hoodbhoy is making this individual seem like a quack.Recommend

  • ayesha_khan
    May 28, 2012 - 9:53PM

    @Summer_Festival: Unclear about your rebuttal. My point was that EVEN IF A Q Khan was an executive manager in the past, he is no longer so. The credibility of his opinion on Thar Coal needs to stand on its own. It cannot be based on the assumption (as someone else had made) that people reporting to him have made detailed research which he is quoting in an executive capacity – since he no longer is operating in an executive capacity.
    Your rebuttal does not provide anything that contradicts my opinion.

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  • Shakir Lakhani
    May 28, 2012 - 10:45PM

    The other day I was surprised to see a woman compering a “food making” program tell a diabetic woman to eat honey! If this happened anywhere but in Pakistan, she’d have been sued.

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  • Concerned
    May 28, 2012 - 10:54PM

    I fully endorse authors thought provoking observations except for the one that water cannot be magnetised. Magnetised water(MW) is currently used to increase crop yield in Australia, China, England, Japan, Russia and USA. Lin and Yotcol from China are the pioneers in this field. However, the use of MW to increase yield in crops is restricted to specific crops only. MW is also used in China to increase milk produce and eggs in dairy cows and hens respectively.

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  • zanjabeel
    May 28, 2012 - 11:15PM

    We are not using common sense which is not common!

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  • John B
    May 29, 2012 - 3:23AM

    @Kamran Shah:
    “……breaking the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen to get energy”

    Energy is spent in breaking the bond between hydrogen and oxygen not gained. Please correct your understanding, since you say you are a scientist.

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  • John B
    May 29, 2012 - 3:50AM

    @Concerned:
    Please do not make up things. Where in US magnetized water is used to increase crop yield, and how exactly the water is magnetized?

    Water is a charged ionic dipole molecule. As a charged dipole species it can respond in magnetic field, (that property gave rise to MRI) and can create a magnetic field in certain conditions, but cannot retain magnetism.

    please take a high school text book and find out why water cannot be magnetized whereas iron can be magnetized.

    While you are at it, understand the Lord Kelvin water battery (electrostatic water battery ) and explain to your Gand ma, why electricity is made in this system and why therefore water cannot be magnetized.

    I am really concerned. IS US dealing with this type of gang in foreign policy and international affairs ?

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  • Shahzad
    May 29, 2012 - 6:26AM

    I heard Professor Mubarikmand speaking in Lahore he said Pakistan and India have dirty “bums” and we need to clean them otherwise we can’t use them for positive explosions like desilting explosion for dams. Can any engineer amongst you explain this please. Also he felt the close proximity of the two countries ie India and Pakistan meant if either uses it depending on atmospheric conditions radiation from and I quote “from dirty bums” would hit both countries.

    I have quoted directly from the good professor and I hope ET would indulge me.

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  • Som
    May 29, 2012 - 8:19AM

    @Moise:
    “Science is nothing more than peer reviews by corporate scientists.”
    Well… Now I see… Professor Hoodboy is to obvious when he wrote this article.

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  • May 29, 2012 - 6:39PM

    @John B:

    “@Kamran Shah:
    “……breaking the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen to get energy”
    Energy is spent in breaking the bond between hydrogen and oxygen not gained. Please correct your understanding, since you say you are a scientist. “

    Wasn’t this type of expertise, according to Dr Hoodbhoy was being patronised by HEC bosses etc?

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  • Rehana
    May 30, 2012 - 11:47AM

    Great article Pervez!Thankyou!!! @ all those who give excuses for poor work in the form of saying that the student should pass bec he is poor or belong to a poor province would you give the same excuse for a surgeon who does wrong surgery or an engineer for making a bridge that collapses etc they too could be poor or belong to a poor province!!!!!

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  • Saima Khan
    May 30, 2012 - 2:03PM

    Perhaps HEC needs to intervene – and make it obligatory for the committee approving a PhD dissertation to have at least one external committee member who is an expert and well-known in that field of research (if an international committee member can be added, which is not always so easy, it would make the research more authentic and world-wide accepted)

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  • Dr q
    May 30, 2012 - 6:13PM

    nice artical by Dr Perviaz but PhD student should not be discouraged rather she has given direction and revision of thesis.

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  • Dr q
    May 31, 2012 - 2:48AM

    HEC should give equal money to Research, Lecturership and Enterprise. This is the concept of a modern University. One cannot ignore any side of this triangle. All the angle and sides should be also equal. It means that paying huge money only on publication is not durable idea and vanish soon because it will not create any industry in the country and quality students by teaching. This is the worst discrimination of the world that only of the publication you can get 4 time more than your other competent colleages. Fair distribution would be to double the salaries of everyone in the Universities on the basis of the triangle. Any way this system is very good for me but I know that this would be end soon if someone came clever.

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  • May 31, 2012 - 9:26AM

    Well written Dr Sahib, but could you please answer to the question raised by ‘abd’ in his/her comment?
    You said there is no free energy? But can you refuse to acknowledge the technology which uses ‘Hydrogen’ in vehicles?
    I don’t know whether HAARP exists or not, but even though it exists, no one would be able to do “research” on it, because when you do research you need to access your ‘subject’.

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  • May 31, 2012 - 9:44AM

    Lol.. I found comments more “thought-provoking” than the article.

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  • M N Majumder
    May 31, 2012 - 10:54PM

    Your efforts are laudable.But not only such pseudo science,even outright laughable superstitions galore in India and elsewhere too. I have tried to fight these for over a decade in the 1980s. But no success. I now realize that such attachments to pseudoscience, fads and fallacies are of psychological origin.Reason gets defeated against superstition and magical beliefs inculcated in infancy.

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  • M N Majumder
    May 31, 2012 - 10:55PM

    Your efforts are laudable.But not only such pseudo science,even outright laughable superstitions galore in India and elsewhere too. I have tried to fight these for over a decade in the 1980s. But no success. I now realize that such attachments to pseudoscience, fads and fallacies are of psychological origin.Reason gets defeated against superstition and magical beliefs inculcated in infancy.

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  • Dr q
    Jun 1, 2012 - 5:38AM

    To run a engineering project like producing energy from coal is not Rocket Science any good sceintist can do that. 42% of world’s electricity is produced by coal. I mean that can be given to any reasonable, honest, hardworking, energetic, politically powerful and dedicated person. Dr Samar is trying to make a very big project. He should make a very small project with available resources and produce something (output) but he is working on big project for big money. It is very difficult that the funding people trust him, because they have very little resources. In my opinoin, he has got the money but fail to deliver something. Actualy he was been working in Atomic Engergy where whatever he demanded he had got but this time situation is different and wasted the golden opportunity and nation is living in dark. He should understand the energy crisis and produce something very small just supply electricity to few home initially and gradualy expand the network. He has to wait now till someone trust him again. But my advise him to deliver something and expand, instead of starting a big project. Mr Khan if you seperate social issues, politics and international affairs from the life of the scientists and Engineers, they literaly become Zombies.

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  • Blue Fire
    Jun 1, 2012 - 8:04PM

    There might be some rational views about taking things in wrong way as some do (as if it is happening in Pakistan only; western people are more dramay baaz in coming up with stupid ideas) in this article but how can you say that water cannot be magnetized when there are numerous journal articles about magnetized water and magnetic treatment???? Decades research has been made on this area and in case you have not noticed these researches are not solely Pakistan’s. As for the HAARP you have anchored your claim that it does not exist through a very classy move by criticising the folly of Pakistan’s people which has become an obvious excuse for many things.

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  • quark
    Jun 1, 2012 - 8:32PM

    Who needs science when you believe in miracles? Taking a country out of darkness is the job of a leader. The leaders must try. Once they try, and I am assuming a few good leaders are there who believe in science, they will get support from common people. Moreover, there are establishments who support miracles, anti-science and all bad things. Religious institutions are the worst offenders. They are incorrigible. But efforts must begin with fixing less rigid places, including educational institutions. Governments need to create a movement for science with scientific writing and research awards, science camps etc. Best wishes to all pakistanis.

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  • Jun 2, 2012 - 10:13AM

    Waqass: “Such stunts with borrowed tech are quite cheap now. Dr Hoodbhoy is actually pointing towards same science.”

    All science is borrowed…Arab & Persian Muslims borrowed from Greeks, Europeans in the Renaissance borrowed from Muslims often without acknowledging etc etc.

    The claim of Muslims as being mere “conduits” of knowledge has been rejected in “Lost Discoveries” by Dick Teresi. Says Teresi, “Clearly, the Arabs served as a conduit, but the math laid on the doorstep of Renaissance Europe cannot be attributed solely to ancient Greece. It incorporates the accomplishments of Sumer, Babylonia, Egypt, India, China and the far reaches of the Medieval Islamic world.

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2009/06/obama-islam-and-science.html

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  • Dejay Hajat
    Jun 8, 2012 - 7:16PM

    Great Guru, the same thing was riding my mind from the past one month, you again revealed my mind pain by writing about the topic.
    i appreciate the critical way you keep on your eye on every single event going in our motherland. we all are responsible for the events which are being created or being exaggerated, thanks you my Dear Guru

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  • Farooq Bashir M.Phil,LLB,MBA
    Jun 8, 2012 - 9:53PM

    Marvellous and an eye opener. Kudos for Dr sb.

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  • Jul 11, 2012 - 8:12AM

    I want to give a special thanks to Dr Hoodbhoy for this awesome post. I think it will increase our responsibility to Pakistani people.

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  • Jul 11, 2012 - 8:15AM

    I want to give a special thanks to Dr Hoodbhoy for this awesome post. I think it will increase the responsibility of Pakistani people.

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