Tuesday, February 06, 2007

NTU Presidential Quackery

Sometime in the 16th century thinkers in the west began rejecting the supernatural as an explanatory mechanism for events in the world, resulting in enormous progress in human understanding of the way things work. Yet in all modernized human societies, supernatural thinking exists side by side with scientific thinking, and academia is no exception. Here in Taiwan, academics at National Taiwan University are involved in a longtime controversy over the behavior of the President of National Taiwan University, traditionally the top-ranked university in Taiwan:

Research into paranormal activity supported by the head of the nation's most prominent university has drawn the ire of members of its physics department, who accuse their chief of violating scientific ethics.

Shortly after National Taiwan University (NTU) president Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) reportedly announced last year that the university's electrical engineering department had achieved a breakthrough in research on extrasensory perception (ESP), physics professor Yang Hsin-nan (楊信男) sent an assistant to the campus library to locate a paper discussing the findings.

Yang could have used a bit of ESP himself, because Lee has blocked access to the paper, authored by an NTU student, for 10 years.

"By the author's request, public access to this thesis is restricted until the year 2016," library staff reportedly told the assistant.

Further piquing Yang's curiosity were alleged changes to the thesis' outline on the department's Web site, including the removal of references to Lee's research into ESP.

The full version under lock and key at the library, meanwhile, has been edited down to 60 pages from its original 70, former director of Academia Sinica's Institute of Physics Tsong Tien (鄭天佐) confirmed yesterday.

Previous references in the thesis to Lee's papers on psychokinesis -- the ability to move objects with one's mind -- and clairvoyance are gone, Tsong said.

It sure would be interesting to read the original thesis.

Academics yesterday slammed Lee for authorizing the block, saying that he had violated an academic tradition of open exchange of information.

Tsong said that blocking access to research papers for a few years while their authors seek patents for the ideas contained within is a common practice.

"But to deny access for 10 years, and in the meantime try to secretly revise or destroy part of the thesis is in violation of scientific ethics," Yang added.

The director of Academia Sinica's physics institute, Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆), said that Lee's actions were improper unless "he [could] provide reasons to justify his act."

Wu added that denying access is sometimes required in cases regarding national security.

"I had a similar experience while working in the US. About 20 years ago, I was contacted by the CIA, which was concerned that my work on high-temperature superconductors had national security implications. They restricted public access to my research, but then lifted the blocks after examining [my] work," Wu said.

Speaking to the Taipei Times yesterday, Lee admitted to authorizing the block, but said he had done so to protect the author's ideas while the author seeks a patent for them.

Because the supernatural does not exist, its advocates typically have to turn to the "persecution" thesis to justify their behavior and belief. "My greatness is just around the corner! If only my critics would quit trying to destroy me!"

"These critics are the same professors who have been unhappy with my own research for a decade," Lee said, referring to Yang, Tsong and others.

Appointed president of the nation's premier university in 2005, Lee has come under constant fire from colleagues in the "hard sciences" for his research into the paranormal.

A leading figure in the university's Star Trek and ESP student clubs, Lee made numerous academic enemies by holding classes on ESP before being promoted to president of NTU.

Lee said the hostility his colleagues harbored toward his "spiritual" research had sparked the current debate on the "top-secret thesis."

"I haven't done anything illegal or improper," he added.

When asked how scientists viewed Lee's research, Tsong said:

"We forbid quacks from practicing medicine, but we let a fake scientist lead the most important university in the nation."

Tsong is incorrect. Quacks practicing medicine are part of the National Health Insurance system, while NTU President Lee has real academic publications to his credit. Whatever you may say about him, he is not a "fake scientist."

Lee's description on his home page reads (my emphasis):

He served as the chairman of the department from 1988 to 1992 and now is the dean of academic affairs of National Taiwan University. His current research interests are in the device application and the growth kinetics of InGaAs/GaAs strained layer quantum dot device, InGaAs/InAs room temperature infrared light emitting diode and photodetector with applications to the pollution detection and biological reaction of cells. In addition, he is also interested in hydrogenated and deuterated amorphous and poly-silicon (carbon, germanium) hydrogen material and devices, such as thin film transistors and neural network image sensors. Since 1988, he pioneered a research work on the Chinese traditional qigong and somatic science which reveal the physiological principle of certain extraordinary ability of human body, such as character recognition by finger, psychokinesis, unification of mind and materials and spiritual world.

The research into "Chinese traditional quigong and somatic science" is complete nonsense and his publications are all in Chinese-language journals devoted to the study of the paranormal. In addition to serious stuff, like...

Y. T. Dai, J. L. Shen, Y. F. Chen, S. Z. Chang and S. C. Lee , 1998, " Nonparabolicity and Effective Masses of Conduction Electron in InxGa1-xAs Alloys", Chinese J. of Physics, 36, pp. 20-26.

J. H. Wei and S. C. Lee , 1999, " Improved Stability of Deuterated Amorphous Silicon Thin Film Transistors", J. Appl. Phys. 85, pp. 543-550.

J. H. Yeh and S. C. Lee, 1999, "Amorphous-Silicon Thin Film Transistor with Liquid phase Deposition of Silicon Dioxide Gate Insulator", IEEE Electron Device Lett., 20, pp. 138-139.

A. Shih, S. C. Lee and C.T. Chia, 1999, " Evidence for Coupling of Si-Si Vibration and Si-D Wagging Vibration in Deuterated Amorphous Silicon", Appl. Phys. Lett., 74, pp. 3347-3349.

.....you can find, side-by-side, wacky publications such as:

S. C. Lee , C.L. Sun, J. C. Shen and J. Z. Ho, 1999, " Revival of Peanut by Psychokinesis", Chinese Journal of Somatic Science, vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 52-54. (in Chinese)

S. C. Lee and C. R. Shih, 1997," Character Recognition by Fingers", J. Chinese Medicine, vol. 8, No. 1,pp. 1-15. (in Chinese)

S. C. Lee , 1998, "The Mechanism of Character Recognition by Fingers (Third Eye) withAssociated Physiological Measurements", Chinese Journal of Somatic Science, vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 105-113. (in Chinese)

S. C. Lee , 1999, "Unification of Mind and Material - The Macroscopic Quantum Phenomena", Chinese Journal of Somatic Science, vol. 9. No. 3, pp. 124-128 (in Chinese)

S. C. Lee, C. I. Sun, J. C. Shen and Y. C. Lin, 1999, "Microsculpture by Psychokinesis", Chinese Journal of Somatic Science, vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 153-155 (in Chinese).

...my favorite being "Revival of a peanut by psychokinesis" which would make a great blog title (one of his "experimental" papers is online in translation). He has also published a book, 人身極機密, which is apparently related to his spiritual...uh...expertise. Lee also frequently engages non-scholars, since that's where the money is. In addition to writing informal articles on the paranormal, like this one....

Many scientists joined the Yen Hsing Chikung Association which was founded after Master Yen Hsing immigrated to the United States in 1990. If the above mentioned experiments can be replicated in the United States, they will more objectively prove the existence of the distance transmission of forces.

I have been trying to scientifically determine if forces can be transmitted at a distance, and if so, what the theory is to describe this phenomena. Although I have not reached definitive conclusions which support a theory, I have noticed some significant phenomena in the series of experiments with chikung masters I have conducted over the last ten years. I have noticed that in experiments in which their EEG waves were measured as they claimed to be transmitting forces, the Chikung master's alpha waves were measured at exactly 8 herts. We can, therefore, make a fundamental presumption that chikung masters may make use of the electromagnetic wave of the earth to transmit their message and force/energy.

There is an electron ion layer surrounding the Earth at a height of 100 kilometers which forms a ball-shaped resonance belt allowing a vibration resonance of electromagnetic waves all over the earth. In 1959 the German scientist Schumann predicted the existence of such waves which were scientifically established in 1960 as the Schumann Resonance. A Schumann wave is eight hertz at its lowest frequency with a wavelength 40,000 kilometers long - just long enough to completely circle the Earth. Therefore, when lightning occurs any place on Earth it will trigger a Schumann wave to travel around the world immediately. So chikung masters may have the ability to use such a channel to deliver their forces.

In one of my experiments conducted at the National Taiwan University Hospital I measured the brainwaves of a Chikung master surnamed Chung who claimed to be able to transmit his forces at a distance. When he closed his eyes in a meditative way, the mainstream for his alpha-wave was measured at 11 hertz. However when he started to transmit his forces to a target place, we measured a large peak of brainwaves at exactly 8 hertz for ten seconds. Such experiments may give proof to the mystery of delivering forces and signals from a distance.

.... Lee also speaks on the paranormal (presentation in San Francisco):

Lee Si-Chen, professor of electrical engineering and a dean at National Taiwan University, who has been studying in the areas of psychokinesis and finger reading for a long time, recently gave a speech in the Silicon Valley. Many people from high-tech areas were curious about the scientific proof of supernormal powers and the spiritual world through experiments. The lecture hall of the presentation sponsored by the Yushan Science and Technology Society in the Silicon Valley was filled with people.

Lee Si-Chen stated that human supernormal power comes from somewhere beyond the feelings of our five sensory organs. Some people have this power from birth, while some people develop it through qigong exercise or longtime training.

Through repeated experiments on children at the Electrical Engineering Department of National Taiwan University, he confirmed that the supernormal power of "finger reading" exists among many children between the ages of 7 and 13. Their powers would increase through repeated exercises, and their finger-reading powers were reduced or even disappeared when they exercised less frequently. However, those who had the power from birth were not affected by the frequency of the exercises.

During more than 10 years of experiments, Lee Si-Chen typically wrote down Chinese characters or English letters, or drew a pattern on a piece of paper with colored pens. Then he folded the paper into a small paper ball and handed it over to a child, allowing him or her to put it into their ear or hold it in their hand. It usually took anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes for the children to "see" the words or patterns on the paper.

These children expressed that they "saw" the contents of the paper balls when their brains showed the images that were written on the paper that they had touched with their fingers. However, this kind of induction could show an incomplete image with missing words or sections of words when the "power was not strong enough" or "induction was incomplete."

The article goes on to discuss bog-standard fraudulent medium stuff, which anyone who has studied the matter has encountered before, complete with the fake ex post facto predictions, and a mysterious spirit guide. Lee's appointment made international news in science circles due to his support of the paranormal (Chronicle of Higher Ed, requires subscription), and he had promised to end his experiments into the paranormal when he was tapped for the position. The controversy, however, continues.


Karl said...

My Magical Spirit Guide would kick Lee's Spirit Guide's ass. On January 3, Magical Spirit Guide, through me, predicted the Colt's Superbowl victory. This is undeniable scientific proof of my psychic powers, and James Randi owes me a million dollars.

Big Ell said...

A leading figure in the university's Star Trek and ESP student clubs Thanks for this article that line made my day.

Anonymous said...

The "revival of a peanut" actually refers to attempts to re-animate Chiang Kai-shek. It's scary stuff this guy's getting into.

porkbarrel said...

Lee really should have seen this coming...

Mutantfrog said...

Re-animate Chiang Kai-shek? You can't just say that without giving more information or some kind of source! Please, I want to know the whole story!