Too Theoretical

The Towler Institute, an Italian “science research centre, art studio, conference venue, and cinema” owned by an accomplished British Scientist, Mike Towler, is hosting a conference in August. The institute invited Europe’s leading physicists. And then it uninvited several of them. According to an article by Matthew Reisz in Times Higher Education:

Conference organiser Antony Valentini, research associate in the Theoretical Physics Group at Imperial College London, wrote to three participants to say their invitations had been withdrawn.

The physicist and science writer David Peat, biographer of David Bohm (co-founder of de Broglie-Bohm theory), was considered tainted because of his books on “Jungian synchronicity” and “connections between Native American thought and modern physics”.

Brian Josephson, head of the Mind-Matter Unification Project at Cambridge, was rejected on the grounds that “one of his principal research interests is the paranormal”.

Josephson is admittedly a little odd. In 2001 he somewhat controversially wrote that research in quantum theory “may lead to an explanation of processes still not understood within conventional science such as telepathy, an area where Britain is at the forefront of research.” But then, Josephson also won a 1973 Nobel Prize for Physics.

According to the article, Josephson was sort of annoyed by the revocation of his invitation:

Speaking this week, Professor Josephson said: “I was keen to attend the conference and would have concentrated on the theoretical ideas and touched on the paranormal as only one aspect. I thought it would be an interesting opportunity for cross-fertilisation.”

Ok, fine, said Valentini, who reinstated Josephson and Peat’s invitations. The third person uninvited from the conference, American theoretical physicist Jack Sarfatti, will not be let back in. According to the article, Sarfatti sent Towler several hundred emails about the conference, many apparently suggesting that Towler Institute was funded by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

UPDATE: Sarfatti denies this, explaining in an email that,

Mike Towler lied about me. I did not send him a hundred emails in a week and I did not say he worked for the CIA! Higher Educational Supplement in fact apologized in print on that. In fact I am an advisor to a high-level CIA official on fringe physics topics.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer