Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Speed of light

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Case Opened on 02:53, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Case Closed on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Watchlist all case pages: 1, 2, 3, 4

Please do not edit this page directly unless you are either 1) an Arbitrator, 2) an Arbitration Clerk, or 3) adding yourself to this case. Statements on this page are original comments provided when the Committee was initially requested to Arbitrate this page (at Requests for arbitration), and serve as opening statements; as such, they should not be altered. Any evidence you wish to provide to the Arbitrators should go on the /Evidence subpage.

Arbitrators, the parties, and other editors may suggest proposed principles, findings, and remedies at /Workshop. That page may also be used for general comments on the evidence. Arbitrators will then vote on a final decision in the case at /Proposed decision.

Once the case is closed, editors may add to the #Log of blocks, bans, and restrictions as needed, but this page should not be edited otherwise. Please raise any questions at Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration#Requests for clarification, and report violations of remedies at Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Arbitration enforcement.

Involved parties[edit]

Requests for comment[edit]

Statement by Jehochman[edit]

We've had lengthy discussions at WP:ANI about tendentious editing and disruption at speed of light. There are accusations and counter-accusations of behavioral problems. Administrators have not achieved a consensus about how to handle the problem. I've attempted to place topic bans, but am concerned that any such action by an individual administrator, unless based on clear consensus, will be excessively controversial. I feel this dispute is not amenable to mediation. Would you please review the behavior of all involved parties and help resolve the conflict. Thank you. Jehochman Talk 14:36, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

Statement by involved editor Brews_ohare[edit]

I don't think there is much going on here in terms of content. I have pointed out that the lead to this article in some of its forms is contrary to WP:ASTONISH. I have proposed on the Talk page that the formulation noticed by User:NotAnIP83:149:66:11 appears entirely satisfactory.

There is a lot going on here in terms of behavior. I would be satisfied if editors would stick to WP:Talk and WP:NPA. However, these guidelines are continually ignored. Editors read each others' comments rather than the actual material under discussion: like gossip, distortion multiplies. If editors would actually read proposed contributions and address them specifically, rather than repeating harangues about my "crackpot" or "crank" nature and "fringe" viewpoints, that would be fine. I can take a critique of some verbatim quote from my submissions and deal with it; I cannot respond to sarcasm, gossip, and generalities with no specifics.

To deal with me these editors claim I talk too much, but they do not attempt to address the content of my remarks. They prefer to characterize my attitude, or generalize about my contributions as they imagine them. They point to the number of edits I've made as disruptive, but they are in fact no more numerous than the comments they respond to. A simple count is misleading, as I often have edited my responses for clearer wording, or afterthoughts that came to me when I read the first draft.

As an example of my difficulties, I have attempted to add a sub-sub-section to Speed of light as indicated here. I cannot obtain any specific objections to this submission, which is meeting a blank wall of non-specific resistance. In my view it is an entirely non-controversial and well-sourced addition. However, a number of editors read into it things of their own imagining that it does not say, does not refer to, and does not imply. Consequently, their remarks do not apply to what actually is in front of them, which would become apparent if they attempted specific criticism.

All could be fixed by following WP guidelines. Brews ohare (talk) 15:20, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to TotientDragooned:

As explained at Some_comments_from_Brews_ohare, there was a long exchange between D Tombe & I about centrifugal force. Others interpreted this exchange as hostilities, but it was simply an evolution of thought about what should be in the article and how stated. It led to a big improvement in the explanations in the article, and to examples that otherwise would not have shown up. Altogether it was a big plus. It may be a problem that the instinctive reaction of many to discussion is that it takes on only the form of the Jerry Springer Show, or the McLaughlin Report. That can lead to following that pattern themselves. Brews ohare (talk) 17:19, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Dicklyon:

The various links exhibited by Dicklyon should be examined closely, not just counted. For most of the linked discussions, I've presented my response, which I believe to be adequate. Dicklyon is inclined to the cryptic one-line Edit Summary, and numerous, short "hit-and-run" editing changes. When that pattern is interrupted for greater justification, it is not appreciated. It's an impediment to "collaboration". Brews ohare (talk) 23:48, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Martin Hogbin:

My activity at speed of light of late has been largely confined to the Talk page, with the exception of my efforts to incorporate the topic here. Martin Hogbin has adopted the tactics of refusing to discuss the material at all and instead to violate WP:Talk and WP:NPA, and to replace discussion with polls WP:POLLS. Any attempt to alter his formulations is subject to instant hostility as he takes changes in content to be personal attacks upon himself. Brews ohare (talk) 15:18, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Count Iblis:

Count Iblis's description of events is pretty accurate. He has suggested a solution, argument from first principles, which IMO will work under some circumstances. To create an editing environment where that can happen, however, requires that editors carefully observe WP:Talk (especially the focus on specific content of specific statements; not generalities) and WP:NPA. That is not the case at speed of light just now. I in no way wish to imply that Count Iblis is guilty of these crimes: to the contrary, his is a voice of moderation. Brews ohare (talk) 16:06, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Tim Shuba:

Tim Shuba refers to my comments on the Talk page as "an attempt to bait me". He made very extensive edits to Speed of light and when I referred to the resulting page as "his", it annoyed him. As a result he proceeded to delete my comments on the Talk:Speed of light page, see here, and proceeded to violate WP:Talk and WP:NPA. Brews ohare (talk) 18:04, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to A. di M.

I don't think the question of a variable speed of light c plays any significant role in this discussion, and personally I have no position on this subject. At most, I may have used a "what if?" example for exploring the implications for the SI units. A. di M.'s reference to "problems" with the definition of the metre is inaccurate: my objective has been simply to make the implications of the definition clear, as a matter of clear exposition, not as argument about the judiciousness of the BIPM and NIST, which is not relevant to speed of light and is not an interest of mine. It would be helpful if editors would actually respond to points made in discussing these implications of the 1983 definition. Brews ohare (talk) 14:53, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Physchim62

Rather than engage in constructive comment, Physchim62 decided to engage in belligerency, issuing threats to shut me up. See threat on speed of light & threat on my user page. His justification for these inflammatory threats was to attribute to me a complete fabrication of my views with no basis in fact whatsoever. This amazing behavior would be curtailed if insistence were placed upon critiquing specific verbatim content instead of imagined statements. Brews ohare (talk) 18:19, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Finell

Finell has taken upon himself to be schoolmaster of speed of light ("Since you aren't even trying to learn, I'll stop truing to teach you") and to admonish me to abide by WP:Fringe, WP:POV, WP:OR and anything else he can think of. He attempts to provide definitive statements (see, e.g. this & this) about my contributions that in fact demonstrate no grasp of the issues (nevermind the arguments pro and con), providing erroneous versions of them of his own construction (not addressing what actually was said), and spicing his comments with links to crank and other little laudatory items that violate WP:NPA. Again, focus on specific statements rather than generalities, and avoidance of uncritical reliance upon other editors' conclusions, would help matters. Brews ohare (talk) 18:36, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Statement by User:Count Iblis[edit]

The dispute discussed here is a textbook example of how things can go wrong if people refuse to discuss from the fundamentals. Wikipedia policies currently do not recognize this and that's why I've written WP:ESCA, which is based on my experiences editing scientific articles in some of which I've encountered big systematic errors that were present for many years. These were caused by a lack of the "first principles" discussions. It is also based on my experiences where such discussions from first principles helped to solve disputes.

Now, one of the complaints by the involved editors is that there actually too many discussions started by Brews and he has to be stopped. But if you look closely at how these discussions typically proceed, you see something like this: Brews makes some argument, then someone (usually Diclyon) asks: "Source?", Brews replies with a quote and a link to a source. And then you get into a dispute about whether or not the quote by Brews from his source was out of context or not.

Sometimes the dispute then escalates into discussing the competence of editors, and then even further about whether or not Brews should shut up, etc. etc. Even if the discussion stays within the "physics realm" it usually doesn't get into the fundamentals. Usually it is a shouting match in which the different sides have entrenched positions that they defend using their favorite quotes from their favorite sources. Most of the time it is Brews who argues more on the physics (I'm not making a staement about him being right or wrong) and it is the others who tend to be more obstructive.

Brews, Diclyon and some of the other editors also edit a few other physics articles and there you often see the same dynamics.

What I have tried in the last few days was to try a new discussion format with Brews and others on the wikiproject physics talk page. I introduced the new rule: No sources allowed. Argue whatever you want to argue, but base everything on the fundamentals. I think this has been successful in the sense that I have seen a way to get to an acceptable compromize.

A few weeks ago, there were discussion with David about vacuum permittivity and those discussion were less successful. But it has to be noted that had we agreed there to ban direct quotes from books (so, you would have to derive everything from Maxwell's equations), David would not have been able to make his argument (which is essentially an argument based on his understanding what some older sources say). So, if David had persisted in thinking he is correct, he would have had to pause the discussions while thinking about building an argument from first principles.

So, I think the fundamental cause of the problem (if never ending circular discusssions on talk page is seen to be a problem at all) is that the editors do not engage in effective discussions. Partially the blame for this is that Wikipedia policies do not recognize the importance of discussions from first principles on talk pages of scientific articles to settle disputes. The emphasis is too much on sources which can encourage bad unhelpful behavior, as I explained above. Ultimately, you need to discuss sources, but that's when the dispute has more or less been settled and the discussion is about how best to edit the article. Count Iblis (talk) 15:38, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Statement by involved Dicklyon[edit]

Count me as an involved party if you like, as I've been struggling with Brews ohare, David Tombe, and to some extent Martin Hogbin for many months at many articles. The Brews ohare pattern is the most clear. I've asked for help at Wikipedia Talk:WikiProject Physics several times on articles of his current focus. It's always a mess, always the same pattern of him pushing an idiosyncratic point of view, usually with no support from any other editor (though Count Iblis and David Tombe has sometimes taken his side). Dicklyon (talk) 20:10, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

Some Physics project cases about Brews (not all involving me):

and related AN/I discussions in which Brews is involved (though some are more about David Tombe):
and a related bizarre proposal by Count Iblis:

The related thread in all these problems is Brews ohare and David Tombe, egging each other on, whether with or against each other. Both make collaborative work essentially impossible. Dicklyon (talk) 20:10, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

Statement by involved editor David Tombe[edit]

Yesterday I made suggestions for a resolution of the dispute on administrator user:jehochman's talk page. The only way to solve the problem at this stage is to grant restricted access to the article for a limited group of editors with physics backgrounds, who will then arbitrate the dispute. I mentioned two names yesterday, but on reflection later, the name Steve Byrnes user:Sbyrnes321 sprung to mind as the ideal candidate for the job. I have worked with Steve previously and I can testify that he is very knowledgeable about the topic in question. He is an active editor in physics articles. He holds no controversial points of view. His mathematical skills are excellent and he does not lose sight of where the maths links to the real physical world. I believe that he is is currently a Ph.D. student in California. My suggestion would be that all the disputing parties stand back from the article and send an 'open' written submission to Steve regarding what they view as being the main issues of contention. I believe that Steve would be able to weigh these issues up in a balanced manner and write a good coherent article single handedly. There should be an extended period for the disputing parties to raise any objections to Steve's findings, but in this case, Steve's decision should be final. The article should then be protected for a period of sixth months, or semi-protected on the basis of a goodwill withdrawal of all the disputing parties. I think that this is the only way forward in the circumstances. I really can't see how it can be done any other way, since it has now reached the 'pie throwing' stage. It would be totally unjust to ban an editor from one side of the dispute (as has already been done) without also banning editors on the other side of the dispute. It would be equally unjust to make Brews ohare have to operate through a proxy, as this would be most demeaning, and it would totally undermine his credibility.

I would like to point out in Brews ohare's favour that I believe that he is absolutely correct in his assertion that the 'speed of light' in modern SI units is no longer the physical concept that is associated with the 'speed of light' as expressed in other systems of units. And this is because since the metre itself in the new SI units system is now defined in terms of the 'speed of light', the 'speed of light' in that system of units then becomes expressed in terms of itself, and hence loses its physical significance. This matter extends to the fact that a well known experiment in physics for the purposes of measuring the electric permittivity has had to be removed from textbooks that use the modern post-1983 SI metre. So the practical effects of he 1983 definition have been quite significant.

The opposition have been attempting to portray this point of view as crank physics or fringe physics. It is not. It is a well sourced observation. But unfortunately some administrators have been too easily swayed by the oppostion camp. That particular camp have been confident that they can refer to their opponents as 'crackpots' with total immunity. Meanwhile, when under severe provocation, if Brews ohare comes out with anything that is even vaguely uncivil, his opponents rush to AN/I to try and get him disqualified. Brews's opponents have been trying to win this conflict by getting all the opposition players sent off the pitch. We cannot have a physics article written by a team, victorious on the basis that they have been wounded by incivilities and assumptions of bad faith. That's why I think it is now time to hand the entire article over to Steve Byrnes.

As a result of my dealings with Steve Byrnes, I have total confidence that he will know exactly the correct balance to afford to this controversy in the article. David Tombe (talk) 07:03, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Count Iblis:

I'd like to clarify a point in Count Ibliss's statement above. The discussion about vacuum permittivity a few weeks ago did not involve any quotes from sources, old or new, as Count Ibliss has claimed. (It did actually. I provided a link to Maxwell's 1861 paper on a number of occasions, and drew attention to the bit where Maxwell used the experimental results of Weber and Kohlrausch). In that discussion, I was pointing out the fact that when Maxwell's equations are derived from first principles, that we ultimately need to use results from an experiment involving a discharging capacitor, in order to supply the numerical values in Maxwell's equations that link them to the speed of light. And that since the metre was re-defined in 1983, that experiment has been purged from the textbooks, and the numerical linkage equation has had its direction reversed. As to whether that discussion went well or not, only time will tell. But the full discussion was presented at AN/I by Christopher Thomas as evidence of disruptive behaviour, presumably in the hope that it wouldn't be examined in depth by anybody who understood the content matter, because had anybody who actually knows about physics read that discussion, they would have quickly found out that it didn't remotely constitute disruptive behaviour. It was a real physics debate. It's these kind of malicious accusations (producing a lengthy physics debate in an opportunistic attempt at presenting evidence of disruptive behaviour) that the arbitration committee needs to examine in depth. David Tombe (talk) 16:04, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Tim Shuba:

And in relation to Tim Shuba's statement below, it's important that I now defend myself against his accusations. He supplied a list of 50 pdf links. I am only connected with six of those, in that they are listings of my off-wiki activities on an on-line journal. And from what I can see, they have all been introduced into AN/I type debates by other editors who have probably discovered them on-line. I can categorically state that I have not been putting any ideas into wikipedia physics articles that are not mainstream. Tim Shuba removed an important paragraph from the history section at the speed of light article. That was my only contribution to the article. It was a paragraph which I took quite a bit of time in preparing. It relates to an area in which I have a particular interest. I detailed the circumstances of Maxwell's linkage of the speed of light to the electric and magnetic constants. That is public domain 'history of physics' and well sourced. It is in fact thee singular most important story in the history of the speed of light, and Tim Shuba removed it lock, stock, and barrel, leaving a major gap in the historical chronology. He did this when I was page banned and so I wasn't able to do anything about it. Tim Shuba obviously wants his opponents disqualified. I on the other hand have suggested a way out of the impasse that will not involve sanctions against anybody. The article in question is clearly too controversial to be left to normal procedures. Strict control must be taken over the article in an impartial manner, and a physics trained arbitrator tasked with singularly writing the article. Everybody else needs to voluntarily retire. All sides have made their point. The war can't be won in the present state of affairs, unless by default by virtue of biased administrative action. I hope that the arbitration committee examine all allegations carefully, giving any persons accused the chance to defend themselves, because up until now, there have been far too many knee-jerk reactions in which decisions have been made swiftly based on allegations that clearly haven't been investigated at all. David Tombe (talk) 18:07, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Physchim62:

I hope that all those who go around claiming that other editors are being disruptive, are made to qualify and justify these allegations. It seems to me that somebody can go to AN/I and make an allegation of disruptive behaviour, and that that AN/I thread can then be used forevermore as evidence of disruptive behaviour. Physchim62 claims that he believes that my edits to the speed of light talk page were disruptive. I was only involved in all of this for a relatively short period of time. I challenge Physchim62 to come forward with the single best example of an edit of mine that he considers to be disruptive. It strikes me that Physchim62 has been confusing the word 'disruptive' with 'not agreeing with is point of view'. Physchim62 then states that he didn't ask for Brews ohare to be topic banned on that occasion because Brews had been active on the page for a long time, and that he didn't think that there would be any chance of getting Brews banned. That means that Physchim62 only asks for people to be topic banned if he thinks that there is a chance that his request will be granted! And then he admits that the trouble got even worse after I was banned, yet still held on to his view that my edits to the talk page had been disruptive. This entire issue has been badly misrepresented. Brews was not expressing any adverse opinions on the BIPM. He was advocating the view that the decision had a significant enough effect to warrant elaboration in the article. Brews was rounded on, in wolfpack fashion by a group, who for whatever reason, do not want the matter to be elaborated on. I tried my best on the talk page to point out that Brews's point of view had considerable merit, and I got promptly banned for my efforts at the request of Physchim62. Before this is all over, I want to see one single edit of mine that could in any way be considered 'disruptive' by an objective third party observer. There are some people that are far too handy about accusing their opponents of disruptive editing. These people need to be held to account. They need to be made to show exactly what the ensuing disruption actually entailed. If no actual disruption can be demonstrated, then these allegators need to be warned against making any future malicious allegations. David Tombe (talk) 15:52, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to Finell:

Finell wants heads to roll. That's more important than considering measures to get the article written correctly. Finell is concerned about the kind of behaviour that has made user:A. di M. become another casualty. I am eagerly waiting to see examples of the kind of behaviour that he has in mind. Finell seems to have taken on the self appointed role of judge, as to the relative merits of the individual editors, and he seems to be very confident that his judgements will be highly valued by the administration. David Tombe (talk) 19:04, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Statement by involved Martin Hogbin[edit]

My aim in editing the 'Speed of light' article has been to restore the status of the article to FA by cooperative editing based only on established scientific opinion on the subject. This has been greatly hampered by the editing style of Brews ohare. He seems to have some idiosyncratic but strongly held views on some minor aspects of the topic. His methods of editing the article in order for it to represent his views make improving the article and cooperative editing very difficult. I will not attempt to explain Brews' views on the topics under dispute because I do not quite understand what they are. I will leave it to Brews to explain what the problems are.

Disputed topics[edit]

There is a problem relating the the hypothetical reference medium of free space.

There is a problem relating to the speed of light, when expressed in SI units, being fixed by virtue of the definition of the metre.

Editing style[edit]

In pursuance of his aim to express his own views on the topics above, Brews has adopted the following disruptive tactics:

  • Edit storms - bunches of many edits ranging from rewrites of sections to minor fixes, scattered throughout the article at every opportunity in order to bring out his view. These make it very hard to understand the nature of the changes made and to make constructive follow-on edits.
  • Making of points in the article itself, rather than the talk page, by:
  • Quoting multiple and often obscure references claimed to support his text.
  • Inserting direct quotes from sources into the article that may appear to support his views.
  • Repeating what is essentially the same point several times in one section.
  • Adding irrelevant material to a section to make his point.
  • Modifying the lead section to make his points.
  • Rewriting sections on advanced topics, for which he has no specialist knowledge, based on a random selection of online sources.
  • Edit warring against a recent clear consensus supported by definitive sources.

These problems are then compounded by Abtract and Dicklyon who seem to have some vague level of sympathy for Brews' views. They are then further compounded by editors who, often in good faith, attempt to create some sort of compromise solution. The remnants of Brews editing style remain scattered throughout the article.

The net result of all this is that progressive and cooperative editing is almost impossible. Editors who spend time copyediting a section or making improvements to the style often find their work completely wasted due to the results of the above actions. If the article were a stub that might be expected but as a former FA I would hope that the editing would be generally far more conservative. Martin Hogbin (talk) 14:36, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Statement by Tim Shuba[edit]

My involvement in the speed of light article/talk started only on the ninth of August. I have made no effort to challenge or re-revert any changes to any of my edits. Nearly all of my substantive changes to the article were made in the space of two hours. Following this, Brews ohare immediately attempted to bait me into getting involved in his longstanding and tenditious arguments, although I had purposefully stayed clear of altering any text in that area. Brews ohare also opined that I should be disqualified from editing the article, even bringing my statement to "his" (article) talk page. I documented some of Brews ohare's utter disrespect for others in the project with quotes and diffs here. Others can provide evidence of more tendentious editing in the article and talk pages, as I have not been directly involved for long. I am confident that an arbcom decision will address the ownership issues and other violations, thereby severely reducing the battleground status of this topic and hopefully others as well.

I recommend that careful consideration be given to the participation of David Tombe, who has an extensive record of attempting to inject his offline writings and theses into articles. None of these offline writings has a chance of being published in a reliable journal, yet they are strewn around various discussions here (search for "tombe" in this list). This is nothing new, going back several years (one example from 2006), and it appears to me that nearly all contributions to physics topics by David Tombe have been with the goal of promoting fringe science. I hope this behavior is considered in the context of the intent of the arbcom pseudoscience decision. See also David Tombe's extensive block log and the associated discussions from last year. Tim Shuba (talk) 16:36, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Statement by Physchim62[edit]

I'll keep things brief, as there are many relevent points that have already be raised by other editors. I'd just like to mention that a situation where an editor makes nearly 1000 edits to a single article talk page over a six week period [1] cannot be considered to be healthy, not least for the editor concerned.

I asked for, and obtained, a topic ban against David Tombe because I considered his editing at Talk:Speed of light to be disruptive: that is still my opinion. I didn't originally ask Brews ohare to be included in the topic ban because I knew of his long record of editing the Speed of light article and I simply thought that administrators would be reticent about imposing a ban on such an editor. With hindsight, I seem to have made (at the very least) a tactical error, as the disruption has only increased, not decreased.

I do not pretend that the two editors I have named here are the only ones at fault, but I think it is important that we realise why their behaviour is so disruptive of any attempt at collaboration in the production of an encyclopedia. In that sense, I heartily welcome this request for arbitration.

Statement by Finell[edit]

This arbitration should be able to sort out the behavioral problems, and in particular the failure of some editors to follow Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, that have led to the present disputes. The quality of the Speed of light article, and even more so the morale of its editors, has suffered as a result. The statement by User:A. di M., who came to the article only recently and made several non-controversial improvements, shows that he is the latest casualty. He is active in Project Physics and, unlike the editors who are creating most of the drama, actually knows the relevant science.

It is important that the scope of this arbitration be well defined, and that the scope be made clear to the parties. In particular:

  • Will the arbitration address only the behaviour of the editors involved and the remedies appropriate to improve that behavior?
  • Will the arbitration decide the specific issues about the content of the Speed of light article that the editors have been disputing?

Personally, I favor limiting the arbitration to editors' conduct, not article content.

Additional parties: While I appreciate the need to keep the number of parties manageable, I just added Charvest (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · logs · edit filter log · block user · block log) and DVdm (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · logs · edit filter log · block user · block log), both of whom have been involved in the disputes. —Finell (Talk) 17:05, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Response to David Tombe 19:04, 8 September 2009 (UTC):

What I really want is for editors to pay a lot more attention to WP:Civility and collaborative editing, along with other behavioral and content policies and guidelines, without a single head rolling. Lots of warnings and prior sanctions, in this or previous disputes, have been given to the most troublesome of the involved parties here, but that has not been sufficient for these editors to improve their behavior. My own head is on the same block. If I have committed misconduct, then I will be one of the ones to receive a needed education. I believe it is a mistake to think of this process as being about chopping heads. —Finell (Talk) 20:30, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Statement by DVdm[edit]

The article Speed of light and its talk page have become a kindergarten class. It's time to send a few kids home or close the class. This kid took a leave a while ago. DVdm (talk) 18:06, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Clerk notes[edit]

This area to be used by the initiating party.

Please name this case Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Speed of light. Thank you. Jehochman Talk 14:40, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

In keeping with Seddon's comment below about speed, can we open this case now that voting is 8-0-0-0? It seems that everyone looks forward to having a case. Jehochman Talk 21:19, 7 September 2009 (UTC)
This area is used for notes by non-recused Clerks.

Let us hope the name of the case will be indicative of the speed at which it is concluded. Seddσn talk|WikimediaUK 17:44, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

In reply to Jehochman, requests are required to remain here for a minimum of 48 hours after filing. This was accepted unusually quickly, and so we only just hit that mark about half an hour ago. Unless another clerk steps up to take the case, I'll be opening this later this afternoon or evening. Hersfold (t/a/c) 14:51, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Arbitrators' opinion on hearing this matter (9/0/0/0)[edit]

  • Accept. While I would normally push for more dispute resolution efforts, a number of outside parties have tried to help resolve the situation and uninvolved input has been repeatedly sought. Sending this back to the community would only prolong the drama and I believe further resolution efforts, such as mediation, are not feasible avenues for resolving this dispute. The scope I perceive would be conduct issues at Speed of light (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views), Centrifugal force (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views), Vacuum permittivity (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views) and related areas of conflict. Vassyana (talk) 18:28, 6 September 2009 (UTC)
    • Comment. I politely request that parties refrain from further rebuttals, responses, point clarifications, and so forth. The purpose of a request is to illustrate the need for an arbitration case, not to re-argue the various disputed points and conduct allegations. This case is obviously being accepted. Please keep your evidence for the evidence page, ideas of who is disruptive and/or should be sanctioned to the workshop page; and all rebuttals for the associated talk pages. I am also giving fair warning to the parties that I plan on aggressively managing disruptive "walls of text" and incivility during the course of this case. --Vassyana (talk) 00:50, 9 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Awaiting additional statements from the parties, leaning toward accept. Newyorkbrad (talk) 21:39, 6 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Accept. I'm already convinced that ArbCom is the path of least drama. Cool Hand Luke 22:56, 6 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Accept. per Vassyana.RlevseTalk 23:26, 6 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Accept. per Vassyana and CHL. Casliber (talk · contribs) 01:05, 7 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Accept - complex dispute that needs untangling. Carcharoth (talk) 02:59, 7 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Accept Wizardman 03:12, 7 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Accept -- FayssalF - Wiki me up® 19:16, 7 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Accept  Roger Davies talk 11:59, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Final decision[edit]

All numbering based on /Proposed decision, where vote counts and comments are also available.


Purpose of Wikipedia[edit]

1) The purpose of Wikipedia is to create a high-quality, free-content encyclopedia in an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect among contributors. Use of the site for other purposes, such as advocacy or propaganda, furtherance of outside conflicts, or publishing or promoting original research is prohibited.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Role of the Arbitration Committee[edit]

2) It is not the role of the Arbitration Committee to settle good-faith content disputes among editors.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Neutral point of view[edit]

3) All Wikipedia articles must be written from a neutral point of view. Where different scholarly viewpoints exist on a topic, those views enjoying a reasonable degree of support should be reflected in article content. An article should fairly represent the weight of authority for each such view, and should not give undue weight to views held by a relatively small minority of commentators or scholars. The neutral point of view is the guiding editorial principle of Wikipedia, and is not optional.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Neutrality and sources[edit]

4) Wikipedia articles should always verifiably use the best and most reputable sources, with prevalence in reliable sources determining proper weight. Merely presenting a plurality of viewpoints, especially from polarized sources, does not fulfill the neutral point of view. Similarly, relying on synthesized claims, or other "original research", is contrary to the neutral point of view.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Scientific focus[edit]

5) Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and its content on scientific topics will primarily reflect current mainstream scientific consensus.

Passed 5 to 1, with 2 abstentions, on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Reliability and discussion[edit]

6) Maintaining the reliability and accuracy of article content is extremely important. Where the accuracy or reliability of an edit or an article is questioned, contributors are expected to engage in good-faith, civil discussion and work towards consensus. Participants in the discussion should remain mindful of our content principles and avoid debates that are inappropriate for Wikipedia.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)


7) Wikipedia users are expected to behave reasonably, calmly, and courteously in their interactions with other users; to approach even difficult situations in a dignified fashion and with a constructive and collaborative outlook; and to avoid acting in a manner that brings the project into disrepute. In content disputes, editors should comment on the content and not the contributor. Personalising content disputes disrupts the consensus-building process on which Wikipedia depends. Unseemly conduct, such as personal attacks, incivility and assumptions of bad faith, is prohibited.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)


8) Imbalances in methods, quality and volume of communications can both overwhelm and underwhelm attempts at communication on Wikipedia. This applies in all areas, not just dispute resolution. If an editor refuses to communicate, or is not communicating with sufficient clarity, conciseness and succinctness, or with insufficient attention to detail, or fails to focus on the topic being discussed, then this can impede both collaborative editing and dispute resolution. Editors should recognise when this is the case and take steps to address the problems.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Talk pages[edit]

9) The purpose of a Wikipedia talk page is to provide space for editors to discuss changes to its associated article or project page. Talk pages are not for forum-like debates, proposing unpublished solutions, forwarding original ideas, redefining terms, or so forth (see Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not#Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought). Although more general discussion may be permissible in some circumstances, it will not be tolerated when it becomes tendentious, overwhelms the page, impedes productive work, or is otherwise disruptive.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)


10) Wikipedia is not for advocacy. The purpose of an encyclopedia is to state neutrally the current knowledge in a field, not to put forward arguments to promote or deride any particular view. In particular, conjectures that hold significant prominence must no more be suppressed than be promoted as factual.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Good faith and disruption[edit]

11) Inappropriate behavior driven by good intentions is still inappropriate. Editors acting in good faith may still be sanctioned when their actions are disruptive.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Findings of fact[edit]

Scope of the dispute[edit]

1) The dispute encompasses fundamental physics topics, especially in relation to constants, laws of motion, electromagnetism, and free space. Leading up to this case, the conflict was mainly focused on coverage of the 1983 definition of the metre and its relation to the speed of light. However, the broader dispute has affected a variety of articles outside of Speed of light (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views), including but not limited to Centrifugal force (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views), Centrifugal force (rotating reference frame) (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views), Electromotive force (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views), and Faraday's law of induction (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views).

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Locus of the dispute[edit]

2) The locus of the dispute is a debate about the quality and validity of the edits and statements of David Tombe (talk · contribs) and Brews ohare (talk · contribs) at physics articles, especially at Speed of light (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views) and other articles concerning the 1983 definition of the metre.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Editing environment[edit]

3) The editing environment surrounding the disputed matters is hostile. Assumptions of bad faith, personal attacks, "battleground" expressions, and other incivility are commonplace.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

David Tombe and incivility[edit]

4) David Tombe (talk · contribs) has engaged in a variety of uncivil and unseemly conduct, including personal attacks (for example, by comparing users to fascists during the course of this case [2][3]) and gross assumptions of bad faith (for example, by unjustifiably accusing users of perpetuating great wrongs [4] [5][6][7]). He was previously advised about such conduct ([8][9][10]).

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

David Tombe and fringe advocacy[edit]

5) David Tombe rejects large portions of modern physics, inappropriately promoting this fringe view on Wikipedia and violating Wikipedia's principles against original research, soapboxing, and creating battlegrounds ([11][12][13][14][15][16]).

Passed 7 to 0, with 1 abstention, on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Brews ohare and incivility[edit]

6) Brews ohare (talk · contribs) has engaged in a variety of uncivil and unseemly conduct, including personal attacks and accusations of bad faith ([17][18][19][20]).

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Brews ohare and disruptive editing[edit]

7) Brews ohare (talk · contribs) has edited disruptively, engaging in tendentious debates and soapboxing ([21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]).

Passed 6 to 2 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)


Note: All remedies that refer to a period of time, for example to a ban of X months or a revert parole of Y months, are to run concurrently unless otherwise stated.

Editors reminded and encouraged[edit]

1) Editors are reminded to be civil and seek consensus whenever possible. Editors are encouraged to seek dispute resolution assistance as needed.

Passed 7 to 0, with 1 abstention, on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Brews ohare warned[edit]

2) Brews ohare (talk · contribs) is warned to adhere to content policies and the expected standards of behavior and decorum, and to avoid working counter to the purposes of Wikipedia.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Brews ohare restricted[edit]

Expired remedy.

3) Brews ohare (talk · contribs) is placed under a general probation for one year. Any uninvolved administrator may, on his or her own discretion, impose sanctions if, despite being warned, Brews ohare repeatedly or seriously fails to adhere to the purpose of Wikipedia, any normal editorial process or any expected standards of behavior and decorum.

Passed 7 to 1 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Brews ohare topic banned[edit]

Expired remedy.

4.2) Brews ohare (talk · contribs) is topic banned from all physics-related pages, topics and discussions, broadly construed, for twelve months. Modified by motions below 02:41, 27 January 2010 (UTC), which were superseded by motions on 22 August 2010

Passed 7 to 1 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

David Tombe warned[edit]

5) David Tombe (talk · contribs) is warned to adhere to content policies and the expected standards of behavior and decorum, and to avoid working counter to the purposes of Wikipedia.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

David Tombe restricted[edit]

6.2) David Tombe (talk · contribs) is placed under a general probation indefinitely. Any uninvolved administrator may, on his or her own discretion, impose sanctions if, despite being warned, David Tombe repeatedly or seriously fails to adhere to the purpose of Wikipedia, any normal editorial process or any expected standards of behavior and decorum. David Tombe may not appeal this restriction for one year and is limited to an appeal once every six months thereafter.

Passed 7 to 1 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

David Tombe topic banned[edit]

7) David Tombe (talk · contribs) is topic banned from all physics-related pages and topics, broadly construed, for twelve months.

Passed 7 to 1 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)


Superseded, modified or expired remedies.

1) Exception to topic ban

Brews ohare (talk · contribs) is permitted to participate in featured article candidacy discussions for "Speed of light" for the sole purpose of discussing the images used in the article. This shall constitute an exception to the topic ban imposed on him (remedy #4.2).

Passed 9 to 0 on 02:21, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

2) Second exception to topic ban

Brews ohare (talk · contribs) is permitted to edit images used in the "Speed of light" article to address issues regarding the images that arise in connection with the article's featured article candidacies. This shall constitute an exception to the topic ban imposed on him (remedy #4.2).

Passed 8 to 0 on 02:21, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

3) Brews ohare

Brews ohare's topic ban is modified to expire in 90 days from the date that this motion passes. The supplementary restrictions of Brews ohare (namely, restrictions from posting on physics related disputes or the Wikipedia/Wikipedia talk namespaces) will also expire 90 days from the date that this motion passes. Brews ohare is instructed that continued violations of his existing restrictions will lead to the 90 day timer being reset in additional to any discretionary enforcement action taken. (motion link)

Passed 10 to 1 on 20:37, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

4) Brews ohare advocacy restrictions

Count Iblis, David Tombe, Likebox, and Hell in a Bucket are indefinitely restricted from advocacy for or commenting on Brews ohare, broadly construed. Should any of these editors violate this restriction, they may be blocked for up to 24 hours by any uninvolved administrator. After three blocks, the maximum block length shall rise to one week. (motion link)

Passed 8 to 3 with 1 abstention on 20:37, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Modified by the motion below

5) Restriction expiration

Amendment 4 to Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Speed of light ("Brews ohare advocacy restrictions") expires concurrently with remedy 4.2 of the same case ("Brews ohare topic banned"), as amended by amendment 3 ("Brews ohare"). (motion link)

Passed 7 to 0 on 19:58, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

6) Brews ohare topic banned

Brews ohare (talk · contribs) is topic banned from all physics-related pages, topics and discussions, broadly construed, for twelve months. (motion)

Passed 9 to 0 on 16:13, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

7) Brews ohare topic banned

§Brews ohare topic banned (2012)

1. From the statements, it is more probable than not that User:Brews ohare is unable to work cooperatively and effectively with others within the topic and is thus repeating the behaviour which resulted in his now expired sanctions. The earlier episodes were very disruptive and were a great drain on the community's patience and resources.

2. It follows that preventative action is appropriate. Accordingly, the Committee topic-bans Brews ohare indefinitely from all pages of whatever nature about physics and physics-related mathematics, broadly construed. After a minimum period of at least one year has elapsed, Brews ohare may ask the Arbitration Committee to reconsider the topic ban, giving his reasons why the Committee should do so.

3. Should Brews ohare violate this topic ban he may be blocked, initially for up to one week, and then with blocks increasing in duration to a maximum of one year, with the clock for any lifting of the topic ban restarting at the end of each block. All blocks are to be logged at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Speed of light#Log of blocks, bans, and restrictions. Appeals of blocks may only be made by email to the Arbitration Committee.

Passed by motion 9 to 1 on 19:00, 3 June 2012 (UTC)


Enforcement by block[edit]

1) Should any user subject to a topic ban in this case violate that restriction, or any user subject to discretionary sanctions in this case violate a restriction imposed by an uninvolved administrator, that user may be briefly blocked, up to a week in the event of repeated violations. After 3 blocks, the maximum block shall increase to one year. All discretionary sanctions and blocks are to be logged at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Speed of light#Log of blocks, bans, and restrictions.

Passed 8 to 0 on 22:23, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Log of blocks, bans, and restrictions[edit]

Log any block, restriction, ban or extension under any remedy in this decision here. Minimum information includes name of administrator, date and time, what was done and the basis for doing it.

  • David Tombe's topic ban expanded under the general probation provision to include: "beginning or commenting on threads on all administrative boards which involve or derive from disputes stemming from physics-related content, or meta-discussion (policy, guidelines, essays, polls, RfCs and the like) concerning the editing of scientific topics in general, or physics in particular. As always, there a specific exception for Arbitration proceedings concerning the party (up to the discretion of the Arbitration Committee and appropriate clerks), as well as as the natural exception for responding to administrative threads seeking sanction against the party. This does not include being talked about in general." Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Enforcement/Archive48#Request_concerning_David_Tombe --Tznkai (talk) 17:36, 9 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Brews ohare (talk · contribs) blocked for 24 hours per [32]. MBisanz talk 19:45, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
    Repealed. Brews ohare (talk) 22:41, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
suspended indefinitely--Tznkai (talk) 07:35, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
  • as stated here Brews ohare is restricted indefinitely from editing any page except for his own talk page, WP:AE responding to this thread, or the relevant arbitration discussion, OR to open a single thread on the administrator's message board of his choice contesting this decision. This is in lieu of a block for repeated violations of topic ban, misuse of Wikipedia as a battleground, and also authorized under the general probation provision of the relevant Arbitration case. This will be revisited upon the closure of the relevant clarification thread.--Tznkai (talk) 06:13, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

Amendment motions[edit]

Amendment regarding Brews ohare[edit]

The Speed of light case is supplemented as follows:

Brews ohare (talk · contribs) is banned from Wikipedia for a period of one year.

Passed by motion 8 to 1 at 14:50, 18 November 2010 (UTC)