Did Josephson Lose His Mind or Was He Ahead of His Time?

[Edit. Professor Josephson was kind enough to send us an email with corrections on few points. We incorporated them in the text with markings as ‘Corrections’.]

Few days back, we wrote about ‘sixth sense’ in nature, and it reminded us of Brian Josephson, who had been rejected by mainstream physics community as ‘voodoo scientist’ for a while.


As graduate students working on superconductivity, we came to know about the fascinating life of Brian Josephson. When he submitted his Nobel-prize winning paper in 1962, he was only 22 years old. Our physicist friends told us that the paper got rejected by Physical Review, the top journal in physics, because John Bardeen did not think it was correct. After all, who would an editor agree with, a two time physics Nobel prize winner, who discovered superconductivity theory, or a 22 year old graduate student? However, based on P. W. Anderson’s essay linked below, the paper was intentionally submitted to the first volume of a new journal (Phys. Lett. 1, 252, 1962), because even Josephson could not believe what it suggested. [Correction. Paper was never submitted to PRB or PRL, because his advisor Brian Pippard wanted to support new European journal Physics Letters. Bardeen seemed to have criticized the work afterward. The decision of journal was not influenced by novel approach or results.]

We also heard from physicists that Josephson could do the work because of influence from his mentor Anderson, a leading condensed matter physicist of the era. That notion had been corrected by Anderson in his beautiful essay - How Josephson Discovered his Effect that is highly worth reading. [Correction. Brian Pippard was his advisor, not Anderson. Anderson was visiting Cambridge at the time.]

Today’s commentary is not about superconductivity, but about what Josephson did afterward. In 1995, a post-doctoral student working with us told me that he ‘simply lost his mind’. That was what all physicists believed, because Josephson never published any more paper in traditional physics journals and there was no media outlet to learn about his research projects. Thanks to the internet, readers can now learn about his ‘after life’ from his own website. Few snippets are presented below.

[Correction. Professor Josephson did publish in refereed journal Foundations of Physics subsequent to his shift in interests, and our readers may find them very interesting.

Limits to the Universitality of Quantum Mechanics

Biological Utilisation of Quantum NonLocality]

Criticism of arxix.org

While many biologists are now turning to arxiv preprint server as something new, Josephson pointed out that arxiv.org was not a proper venue for publishing out-of-the-norm results, because its administrators deleted papers they did not agree with.

Unusually, the administrators of the physics archive at arXiv.org rapidly deleted a paper successfully deposited in the archive, perhaps as a reflex response to the fact that the paper concerned reviewed research in cold fusion. As a service to the scientific community, this 37-page review by Edmund Storms is being made available on this web site. It is suggested that serious scientific comments on the review, by those registered for depositing papers in the archive, be deposited in the cond-mat section, with crosslinking to nucl-ex and a link to the original review (here). However, there can be no guarantee that such contributions will not be deleted from the archive as was the review itself.

Physics of Brain, telepathy and paranormal

Now that so many people are getting interested in brain and neural circuit mapping, the following talk by Josephson could be worth listening to.

Readers may also enjoy the linked video on evolution of telepathy.

Here is another more recent video from Dr. Josephson -

Josephson’s website has many other nuggets of unusual thinking that readers will enjoy.

Written by M. //

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