Our resident polymath, Stranger on a Train, is, no doubt, a pretty smart fellow. He knows lots about lots with many here having remarked on the breadth and depth of his knowledge. I share their adulation, but only regarding his intellect and vast understanding. In terms of his “interpersonal skills”, or stated in a less contrived way, in terms of his manners, he is actually one of the more stupid people on these Boards.
What I mean by the last sentence above is nicely illustrated in this thread entitled, Gravity’s attraction and 2 ships attraction, which is currently active in GQ. As one often does when opening a thread in GQ, the OP of this one, kanicbird, implicitly admits his ignorance by posting the question. In this case the question was more of a very preliminary, almost intuitive, and absolutely non-rigorous description of a ‘new’ approach to gravity. Regardless, kanicbird, by posting it and posing it, was bascially saying, “Is there anything to this? I don’t know enough to take it further. Can you advise me. Can you teach me”. And, what responses did this ‘question(s)’ engender?
It is instructive to compare the good Chronos’ answer with that of the Stranger:
Note how Chronos has acknowledged (by alluding to Feynman) that, indeed, others have wondered along similar lines. But, he simultaneously sets kanicbird straight. All done without condescension or aggression.
Note the sarcasm and impatience displayed (“There is already a very elegant theory . . .”; “Invoking a nebulous aether . . .”). Not a terribly empathic way of responding to an honestly asked question. But, not totally jerkish. That came in his next post.
So, the OP is being “inane” for asking a (follow up) question and is criticized for not doing, or attempting to do, what only a trained physicist could (i.e. “no attempt at a rigorous definition of the mechanics and no conception of why said theory has been dismissed in the past”), and which he obviously has no chance of accomplishing (indeed, his OP itself proves it - Stranger has said as much in his dismissal of it).
I am always amazed that people can respond to another person’s honest request, or quest, for understanding in such a condescending and arrogant manner. After all, even to me, a person of much more modest abilities, it seems self-evident that you don’t attack a person for admitting they don’t know. On the contrary, you encourage them to ask. You find the kernel of “truth” or understanding in their question (to encourage them and reassure them that they’re not stupid), and use that as a starting point to teach them a thing or two.
I guess the ‘bottom line’ is that I’m disappointed that anyone can lambaste anyone else because the question they asked was “inane”. To me, that’s Pedagogy 101 and should therefore be known, or even intuited, by a person of Stranger’s enormous talents.