I belong to an internet group called the UCF, who started out as members of John Scalzi’s Wateveresque forum until an army of trolls came in and set up residence in that once-fine space. We gradually retreated to our own blogs and set up an online community for ourselves. Most of us are aspiring writers, all of us are science fiction fans, and we’re all a little goofy, but that’s about where the similarity ends. We run the political spectrum from socialist to me. There is a lawyer, a film and TV location manager, an administrative assistant at JPL, and editor for Linux Journal, several other IT professionals of various stripes, an architect, a marine biologist, and a former Navy Chief Warrant turned writer and woodworker, among others (oh yeah, and me, a chemist). Over time, I’ve come to regard all of them as friends, although I’ve only met two of them in meatspace.
We are the future of the internet: a self-selecting band spread over tremendous geography (from the UK to Pakistan) brought together by common interests, kept together by good will, who gradually developed our own bozo filter for the net. And we have one other quality in common: we don’t suffer fools gladly.
As evidence of this, one of our number has a regular feature on her blog called “’Tard of the Week”. A while back, she brought my attention forcibly to the lawsuit against the Large Hadron Collider, the existence of which (the lawsuit not the collider) I had been blissfully ignorant. Her “’tard” was one “Dr.” Walter Wagner , and his idiocy upset me enough that I did a little digging into “Dr” Wagner. This resulted in a blog post called “Mixed Nuts”. I pointed out various irregularities in his claims of qualifications, and I suggest you read that piece before reading further in this one.
Wagner hisveryownself came by and dropped some snark. I dropped it right back, with the intent of “luring the tiger from the mountains” – getting him to make some outrageous claims about his background that I could point future defendants in his lawsuits to. I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. He made claims that upset a large number of my friends in the UCF, crossing from my area of expertise (academic and industrial science) into theirs: from radiation safety (Wagner claims a stint as the guy who checks the film badges at the X-ray department of a VA hospital makes him qualified to talk about LHC safety, and our Chief Warrant, also a military-qualified RSO, begs to differ) to law (our Public Defender differs quite forcefully with Wagner on whether holding a JD entitles one to call oneself “Dr.”). There are 102 comments on that post, but our resident marine biologist made a yeoman’s job of summarizing the sheer, incomprehensible stupid of it all. All I did was drop some more snark.
One thing even senior officers in the Navy fear to do is upset a Warrant. Wagner apparently does not have the sense of self-preservation that even echelons above reality do. Jim did a really nice job of looking at the psychology of “Dr.” Wagner, a beautiful piece that starts off with a naked guy running across a military airfield in Iceland and ends with questioning Wagner’s physics. Go on, go read it, I’ll still be here when you get back.
Eric, our Public Defender, however, was not one to rest on Jim’s laurels, and he kept digging. And digging. And eventually our friend Google brought the coup de grace. But there’s more. And Eric used it all to drop the hydrogen bomb on Wagner. If you haven’t read any other link in my post, go read Eric’s. Like Jim’s, that post is a thing of beauty. It shows just what a group of people with determination and complimentary skills can accomplish. It’s been linked by anti-crackpot sites, and Jim’s even been invited to write this whole mess up for a popular science publication. The UCF doesn’t suffer fools gladly, especially fools who waste our tax money and motivate death threats to Nobel laureates.
What floored us, though, is that, despite the extensive coverage over Wagner’s lawsuit in the press, no one had compiled all this information on Wagner. Where in the hell has investigative journalism gone, we wondered.
Now, when I Googled this mess after reading Janiece’s blog, it took me all of one search to come up with the actual court document that contains Wager’s claims about himself:
1. I am a nuclear physicist with extensive training in the field. I obtained my undergraduate degree in 1972 at Berkeley, California in the biological sciences with a physics minor, and graduate degree in 1978 in Sacramento, California in law.
He also claims to be a “Dr.” in every venue he can get on that won’t challenge him, such as Blogtalk Radio .
Does no one check sources anymore? Now I’m not going to beat on Jazz Shaw too badly for not verifying Wagner’s bona fides, but only because he is a subliterate moron who fulfills the MSM stereotype of the blogger who does not have the professional training to check his sources.
But surely the plethora of MSM stories did something to help deflate the ego of a man who claims to be a published scientist because he once wrote a letter to the editor to Scientific American. Right? Not really:
One of the plaintiffs, Walter L. Wagner, a physicist and lawyer, said Wednesday CERN’s safety report, released June 20, “has several major flaws,” and his views on the risks of using the particle accelerator had not changed.
If you read Eric’s post, we’re not even sure he’s really a lawyer, and he sure as hell ain’t a physicist by any normal human being’s definition of the term.
But surely the Brits still do a better job at checking sources than those uncouth Americans:
Meanwhile Dr Walter Wagner, an American scientist who has been warning about the dangers of particle accelerators for 20 years, is awaiting a ruling on a lawsuit he filed a fortnight ago in his home state of Hawaii.
Nope. Daily Mail: epic fail.
Fox News? We report “facts” so loose you can’t decide:
That hasn’t stopped several people, including a former nuclear engineer from Hawaii and a German biochemist, from speaking out against the project.
Nuclear Engineer? Where the hell did that come from?
MSNBC?: another fail.
But the plaintiffs in the federal civil case – retired nuclear safety officer Walter Wagner and Spanish science writer Luis Sancho – voiced fears that the machine could create black holes or bits of exotic matter capable of destroying the earth.
Using the word “nuclear” puts Wagner one step closer to claiming “nuclear” physics as a specialty. The proper title is “Radiation Safety Officer”.
But surely the Gray Lady gets it right? Right? Say it ain’t so, Joe:
Mr. Wagner, who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, studied physics and did cosmic ray research at the University of California, Berkeley, and received a doctorate in law from what is now known as the University of Northern California in Sacramento. He subsequently worked as a radiation safety officer for the Veterans Administration.
Every undergrad with a science degree “studied physics” at one point in their college career. A minor does not a physicist make. The whole cosmic ray thing is another red herring – he was a lab tech (who was merely thanked in the acknowledgments of a paper, and manifestly never was an author of a paper, as one would expect someone who “did cosmic ray research” to be) in a lab that once found  an anomalous particle, which he insists was definitely determined to be a magnetic monopole despite the retraction 3 years later. And a JD is not really a “doctorate” in law, the Ph.D. is. At least they get radiation safety officer right.
But this one, this one really chaps my rear end. National Freaking Geographic:
Luis Sancho and Walter L. Wagner, independent astrophysicists in Hawaii, petitioned the U.S. District Court in Honolulu, Hawaii last spring to stop the progress of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
Pardon my French, but just WTF is an “independent astrophysicist”? Furthermore, just where did astrophysicist come from? Wagner’s gone from nuclear physics to astrophysics? This one gets me the most because of the byline. The author, one Anne Minard , claims to hold a Master’s in Biology. I’d like to think that training in the sciences leads one to a) have a bit of a BS detector about science credentials, and b) makes you more apt than the average J-school grad to check sources. Sadly for Ms. Minard, no. I realize her editor may have had a hand in that, but she put her name on the byline. Both she and her editor owe society at large an apology and a retraction of that statement.
I have stated more than once that every single time I’ve been privy to information about a news story, the MSM has gotten some fundamental detail wrong. Now I have yet another datapoint. Long live the blogosphere, and long live my UCF, doing the job we pay the fourth estate to do.
 P. B. Price; E. K. Shirk; W. Z. Osborne; L. S. Pinsky (1975-08-25). “Evidence for Detection of a Moving Magnetic Monopole”. Physical Review Letters 35 (8): 487-490. American Physical Society.
 Price, P. B.; Shir, E. K.; Osborne, W. Z.; and Pinsky L. S. Further measurements and reassessment of the magnetic-monopole candidate Phys. Rev. D 18, 1382 – 1421 (1978)