Friday, July 1, 2022

The Anti-Science Attack on Scientific Peer-Review

Antiscience is the rejection of mainstream scientific views and methods or their replacement with unproven or deliberately misleading theories, often for nefarious and political gains. It targets prominent scientists and attempts to discredit them. — Peter J. Hotez (Scientific American, 29 March 2021)
Readers of Dale Myers’ blog Secrets of a Homicide: JFK News, Commentary, & Opinion probably know that in June 2021 (just over a year ago) I wrote an extended, in-depth, quasi-technical article that provided a critical look at Josiah “Tink” Thompson’s 2021 book, Last Second in Dallas (LSID for short). Entitled The Ghost of the Grassy Knoll Gunman and the Futile Search for Signal in Noise, the article was respectful and polite [1], but it nevertheless identified several serious technical problems found in Thompson’s new book.
Tink Thompson is a first-generation assassination author who published a generally well-regarded pro-conspiracy book in 1967 entitled Six Seconds in Dallas (SSID); the similarity of the new book’s title to the 1967 classic is suggestive of its “sequel-like” character. I was specifically invited to review LSID because I relied on data (based on an analysis of the Zapruder Film) found in SSID for a 2018 peer-reviewed scientific journal article on the physics of JFK’s fatal wound published in the Elsevier journal Heliyon. [2] As a first-generation Warren Commission critic who had raised some valid questions at the time, Thompson deserved a careful and honest reading of his 2021 book. And given Thompson’s intellect and exceptional communication skills, he is not one to be easily dismissed.
However, Thompson’s new book was flawed in several areas, not least of which were various aspects of the forensic analysis and the conclusions drawn from it. Most glaring among these were the attempted “resurrection” of the now-thoroughly-discredited “acoustics evidence” (the DPD radio Dictabelt recording), along with the “blur illusion” (the erroneous contention that Zapruder Film panning error blurring caused the “illusion” of forward motion on the President’s head during the fatal shot). Other technical problems with the book were also identified, but even these were only the tip of the iceberg given the arguably more detailed critical review by Louis T. Girdler featured on the John McAdams Kennedy Assassination site.
Although I anticipated some backlash, and duly noted so at the time, it was not fully fathomed just how low it could go. Without warning, in November 2021 a pair of defamatory hit-pieces, entitled “‘Peer Reviewed’ Medical/Scientific Journalism Has Been Corrupted by Warren Commission Apologists” (Parts 1 and 2), [3] were featured on the website called Kennedys and King (K&K). [4] The K&K website is, for the most part, obstinately committed to the fringe notion that a massive, faceless, monolithic Deep-State Government Conspiracy was responsible for the assassination of its Chief Executive, the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy in a Dallas motorcade on 22 November 1963.
The pieces in question were written by Gary Aguilar, M.D. and Cyril Wecht, M.D., J.D. (hereafter, “GA/CW” for short), and while both men are intelligent, qualified, establishment physicians (GA being an ophthalmologist and CW being a forensic pathologist), their complaints had very little to do directly with Thompson’s book or anything else of substance. And going far beyond a mere ad hominem diatribe against the author (NRN) personally, they instead chose to launch an anti-science [5] slander against scientists and contemporary peer-reviewed science publishing, with the 2018 Heliyon paper, interestingly enough, being the designated scapegoat.
Prior to issuing these, GA (Dr. Aguilar) had directly reached out to me on several occasions via email in 2018 (following the publication of the Heliyon paper), and then again in 2021 (following my subsequent review of Thompson’s book). In these emails, the tone was polite, as one might expect professionals to act in formal correspondence.
The more recent email exchanges in 2021 were mostly questions about the “jet effect” (i.e., the physical explanation that JFK’s initial rearward lurch was initiated by a recoil of his head brought on by the directional escape of mass from the wound, much like a “jet”), followed by invitations to attend a meeting hosted by Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) that was planned in Dallas in November 2021. The email exchanges were collegial enough, and in spite of what I had been told about GA’s reputation, the benefit of the doubt was afforded within patient and professional replies.
However, at no point in these email exchanges did GA raise a question about the Heliyon peer-review.
As mentioned above, the focus of GA/CW’s K&K pieces, especially Part 1, was not only an all-out ad hominem attack directed against me, but more egregiously a vindictive fulmination against a legitimate scientific journal (Heliyon) and its peer-review process, along with a host of other notable scientists and experts. These included Larry Sturdivan (wound ballistics expert for the HSCA), the late Prof. Luis Alvarez (a Nobel prize winning physicist who published a paper in the American Journal of Physics analyzing the Zapruder Film), the late Dr. John K. Lattimer, M.D. (a WWII U.S. Army physician who was the first non-government physician to examine the JFK medical evidence in the National Archives, and would go on to publish several peer-reviewed papers and book on the wound ballistics of the Carcano rifle), the late Prof. Vincent Guinn (professor of physical chemistry at UC-Irvine known for his work on Neutron Activation Analysis), Luke Haag (an internationally recognized experimental ballistics expert who has published numerous peer-reviewed papers on the ballistics of the Carcano rifle), and Prof. Ken Rahn (a former professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Rhode Island who taught a college course on the science of the JFK assassination).
GA/CW did not explicitly deride other scientific luminaries who have contributed to the JFK case, such as the late Harvard University Nobel Prize Laureate Prof. Norman Ramsey and Dr. Ralph Linsker, who both published peer-reviewed papers that have invalidated the “acoustics evidence,” as well as several others. Not to mention the eight unsung experts of the HSCA forensic pathology panel who definitively concluded that JFK was “struck by two, and only two, bullets, each of which entered from the rear”, namely: Michael M. Baden, M.D.; John I. Coe, M.D.; Joseph H. Davis, M.D.; George S. Loquvam, M.D.; Charles S. Petty, M.D.; Earl F. Rose, M.D., LL.B.; Werner U. Spitz, M.D.; and James T. Weston, M.D.
And let us not overlook that Dr. Wecht also served on the HSCA pathology panel but would ultimately make a name for himself as the lone dissenter on the panel. Prior to the HSCA, Wecht espoused more conventional views, and unbeknownst to him, he would inspire a (then teenaged) Canadian “conspiracy freak” by the name of Fred Litwin. Litwin reminds us in his 2018 book, I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak, [6] that CW published the following conclusion in the peer-reviewed journal Forensic Science [7] in 1974:
The wound in the President’s head, as evidenced by the autopsy photographs and X-rays, can only have been fired from somewhere to the rear of the President. [8]
Using the photographic evidence found in the Zapruder Film, the 2018 Heliyon study simply corroborated Wecht’s earlier conclusion, which in turn corroborated the earlier autopsy conclusion in 1964. There was not really anything controversial or profound in the Heliyon paper conclusion, but because it provided an independent forensic (quantitative) corroboration of the primary evidence, it was considered to be a publishable new contribution to the peer-reviewed science literature.
This article corrects a number of specific outright falsehoods alleged in the GA/CW smear pieces pertaining to the Heliyon peer-review, some potentially libelous, and then contrast them against the light of science and the scientific method.
Contemporary Peer-Reviewed Science and the 2018 Heliyon Article
GA/CW make numerous false and potentially libelous accusations against named scientists personally, and Elsevier’s Heliyon journal specifically. Furthermore, GA has gone on to repeat these false claims on other forums, including blogs (e.g, Quora), broadcast email lists, and podcasts. Rather than regurgitate these ad nauseam here, the following sample is representative of the three of the more egregious claims.
  • “Even sillier, and perhaps fraudulent, is Nalli’s ‘acknowledging’ the ‘critical reading and constructive professional feedback of the three anonymous peer-reviewers’ of his paper. For, as I’ve [GA] proven at Kennedys and King, Nalli’s reviewers were obviously neither knowledgeable, independent referees, the very definition of ‘peer review’, nor were they anonymous.” [Quora comment, dated 22 January 2022]
  • “Heliyon’s policies corrupt the very concept and principles of legitimate peer review. The ‘peer review’ process that gave both your [NRN’s] original paper and your subsequent, published ‘correction’ were simply fraudulent.” [Broadcast email addressed to my professional corresponding author email address along with 60+ other CC’d recipients (aka, Paul Hoch’s email group) dated 3 December 2021, 8:17 pm]
  • “What's so flagrantly fraudulent about it is… he [NRN] thanked his anonymous peer reviewers. What a bunch of rubbish. What a lie. They weren’t anonymous. He told Heliyon, the editors who he wanted to review it… you can bet that he didn’t get anyone who knows anything about the subject, who wasn’t a Warren Commission loyalist review. I’m sure he went right down the list. I’m sure Larry Sturdivan was on the list, Dale Myers is on the list, probably…” [“Black Op Radio” Podcast, Show #1077, Original airdate 13 Jan 2022]
The blatant mean-spiritedness pervading the GA/CW pieces and exemplified in the above already speaks for itself and ought to be disturbing to anyone with a modicum of good will. The behavior is more akin to that of schoolyard bullies than that of professional physicians, and the slander they levy against professional scientists and experts, who never did anything to deserve it, is nothing short of nauseating.
That said, irrespective of their spitefulness and vacuity, these allegations, taken individually and collectively, are also manifestly false.
On the counsel of others, I refrained from issuing an immediate direct response, and instead deliberately remained silent for an extended period to allow time for them to back off. But alas, internet trolling continued and even intensified over five months, so by mid-April 2022 it became clear that silence was falling on deaf ears.
Therefore, provided below are the facts pertaining to contemporary peer-reviewed science publishing generally (circa 2010 to the present) and the 2018 Heliyon article specifically. These were openly shared on Paul Hoch’s email group (with CC to Gary Aguilar) on 20 April 2022, along with an open exhortation that GA “apologize… for repeating these blatantly false statements and errors… cease from further such activity, and ensure that major corrections or full retractions are made on the K&K website.” As of this writing two months later (late-June 2022), their false statements have not been retracted or corrected, nor has there been any apology.
Facts Pertaining to Contemporary Science Publishing and the 2018 Heliyon Article
  1. The contemporary practice of science journals asking for authors to suggest peer-reviewers (also called “referees”) is commonplace. The practice of journals inviting reviewer recommendations, as well as anti-recommendations, from authors during manuscript submission is now commonplace, including professional society journals where I have published, namely the American Geophysical Union (AGU), IEEE, Optica, and the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Elsevier’s Heliyon manuscript submission was no different.
  2. No reviewers were suggested by the author (NRN) for the Heliyon manuscript. Nevertheless, in this specific case, Fact #1 is moot: I did not make any suggestions to the journal regarding reviewers to include, or exclude, pertaining to the Heliyon manuscript. In fact, I did not know of anyone with the requisite expertise (classical dynamics as applied to terminal ballistics) to recommend. [9] 
  3. The 2018 Heliyon article referees were anonymous. Single-blind reviewer confidentiality is a standard editorial practice, and the publisher recently affirmed this to me directly when I inquired about it. Given that the duty of scientific peer-reviewing usually does not come with any rewards, some authors will, as a matter of common courtesy, acknowledge the paper referees (anonymous or otherwise) in the Acknowledgements, as I did.
  4. Nevertheless, the anonymous reviewers all had relevant expertise in applied classical physics. In spite of their anonymity, the journal nevertheless recently confirmed with me that all three anonymous referees had expertise germane to the manuscript subject matter as follows: (Reviewer-1) Forensic science, ballistics, projectiles; (Reviewer-2) Forensic Ballistics, trauma research, wounds, injury; (Reviewer-3) Projectile impact, gunshot injury, head injury and impact.
  5. Larry Sturdivan was not one of the anonymous reviewers. The journal also confirmed to me that Larry Sturdivan was not one of the peer reviewers (and, in fact, none of the reviewers were from the United States). The claim that Sturdivan was a reviewer smears not only the publisher, journal, and author, but also Sturdivan himself, given that I consulted with him during the writing period and explicitly (transparently) credited him as such in the Acknowledgements. [10] I consulted with Sturdivan because of his previous research (unrelated to JFK) on physical models for gunshot head injuries, especially his drag equation for projectiles through visco-elastic material (i.e., human tissue), which was rigorously derived from dimensional analysis.
  6. Heliyon is not a “vanity journal.” Heliyon is not a “vanity journal” by any definition (and Elsevier is not a predatory publisher by any metric [11]). Heliyon has a legitimate anonymous peer review process, one that I found to be no different from any of the other published peer-reviewed scientific journal articles found in my professional bibliography and research profile
  7. Publication charges are standard practice for science journals. Nearly all of today’s professional scholarly science journals (that I have published in) have what are called publication charges (or publication fees), also sometimes referred to “pub-fees” or “pub-costs” for short, or article processing charges (APCs) in the case of open access journals, including those of professional societies with membership dues and library subscriptions. [12] It is commonplace. As such, research grants and contracts always contain a budget for pub costs. 
Response and Commentary
If he talks for five minutes, it takes an hour to straighten out the record. — Wesley Liebeler [13]
How dare you? How… dare… you?! — Former President Bill Clinton [14]
On Reviewer Recommendations
Regarding the practice of authors being asked to provide reviewer recommendations, before AG/CW decide that they have their work cut out for them and launch K&K anti-science tirades ranking on the AMS and AGU, perhaps they may have considered for a moment that there actually might be a method to the madness: Reviewer suggestions assist an Editor in finding qualified subject-matter experts for reviewing a specialized technical paper. Among other things, the names of potentially qualified reviewers serve as professional network nodes for finding other qualified candidates with relevant specialized expertise (which is easier said than done in today’s highly specialized science community).
The invitation to suggest or exclude reviewers is often optional (as it was in the case of Heliyon), but not always. Either way, good faith must be presumed on the author’s part to provide the names of competent reviewers, not sycophants, and this is self-enforced from the mere fact that no professional scientist wants to put their name on erroneous published material.
Nevertheless, should an author recommend reviewers, the Editor is not under any obligation to select them, and a potential reviewer is obliged to reveal any conflicts of interest. Unless they explicitly request to have their names revealed, the referees eventually selected by the Editor are kept anonymous (single-blind), and possess relevant expertise, as a matter of scholarly protocol. [15]
On “Vanity Journals”
Perhaps one might have cut GA/CW the benefit of the doubt that they honestly believed that the author of the Heliyon article would have been so careless as to put his name on an article in a “vanity journal.” That said, however, honest “critics” would have first broached the subject with the author (me) directly, especially when one of them (GA) had already emailed me on several occasions at my corresponding author address following the Thompson book review in 2021. But not a peep out of them regarding the Heliyon peer review. If they had asked me, or researched the question just a wee bit more themselves (and then consulted with me), they could have saved themselves a lot of time and embarrassment.
On Publication Fees
Regarding the publication charges, at $1250.00 US (in 2018), Heliyon’s open-access APC was a bargain compared to other journals, which in the past have run $2000 or more, depending on the number of pages, color figures, etc. As already established above, publication fees for peer-reviewed science articles are standard practice, including traditional library-subscription journals of well-established international scientific professional societies (e.g., AGU, AMS, IEEE, and Optica).
In the case of the Heliyon article, it should be kept in mind that part of the pub cost was to cover the egalitarian open-access license, which transparently allows everyone full access to the article (downloads, printings, high-res figures, etc.) free of charge. When it comes to the question of how publishers are supposed to subsist by publishing open-access articles for free, it is not clear what AG/CW were thinking, or indeed, if they even gave thought to it at all. And before they (AG/CW) pivot and decide that they now need to denigrate “open-access journals” (as opposed to “vanity journals”), they might want to think twice: The trend in science publishing is toward open-access, and this includes the journals of professional societies already mentioned. Elsevier’s Heliyon journal is but one small, legitimate manifestation of this overall trend.
On the Presumption of Good Faith
Among other things mentioned above was the fact that when it comes to science publishing, a certain degree of good faith has to be assumed on the part of scientists. It is simply impossible for reviewers and editors to vet every last detail of a technical article — indeed, not even all the coauthors in a multi-author work can do that.
Fortunately, the vast majority of scientists possess the requisite good faith on the part of their work. This should not be hard to comprehend when one considers the cost-benefit of 6+ years minimum of higher education (both undergraduate and graduate school) versus the relatively modest career monetary payoff in the world of science research, especially in government and academia. Scientists, generally speaking, are not in it for the glamour, perks, or money, but rather because of innate personality traits, which include intellectual curiosity, creativity, conscientiousness, analytical abilities, self-discipline, and a rational, altruistic worldview. None of this is not to say that scientists are infallible and that they cannot make honest mistakes in peer-reviewed published research, or that there is not an occasional bad apple here and there, but by and large, scientists are ethical, honest, and studious individuals.
On the Author’s Credentials
GA/CW also repeatedly mischaracterize me as being “an atmospheric chemist with no prior credentials in the JFK case…” Although my degrees are in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I cannot take credit for being an “atmospheric chemist” (I know several such individuals, but I am not one). This might seem a relatively minor point given that atmospheric chemistry is a subdiscipline of the atmospheric sciences, but it is still relevant in that my expertise is much closer to applied classical physics (which is germane to terminal ballistics) than it is to chemistry. Perhaps they were thinking of Prof. Ken Rahn, who is an atmospheric chemist. However, if GA/CW are going to bring up people’s credentials, which are easily verifiable, then they had better get them right, especially when they have assumed an openly hostile posture. I do not think GA would appreciate continually being referred to incorrectly as an “optometrist” with no prior credentials in the case.
Which brings us to the more curious latter part of the statement about “prior credentials.” This coupled with some of the false criticisms quoted earlier about the expertise of the anonymous Heliyon peer-reviewers seem to suggest that GA/CW see the “JFK case” as some sort of discipline unto itself. Such thinking reveals the mindset of individuals far too ensconced in their own niche echo chamber. There is no college major or science discipline called “JFK Assassinationology” — everyone who has contributed to this case (including GA/CW) did not come with “prior credentials in the JFK case.” They merely applied their respective expertise (e.g., in physics, chemistry, ballistics, acoustics, photogrammetry, pathology, physiology, law, history, etc.) to a specific high-profile case.
On Peer-Reviewed Science and the Scientific Method
The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it. — Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson
By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox. ― Galileo Galilei
In a nutshell, science gives us reliable, realistic descriptions of how the natural world works. In terms of methodology, science combines empiricism (repeatable experimentation premised by realism, which assumes the existence of an objective “real world”) with rigorous logic (both inductive and deductive), this often involving mathematics. The scientific method enables the establishment of universal principles and theories (sometimes called “laws”), which can then be applied to extremely specific cases via deductive reasoning, and this comprises the basis for the forensic sciences.
We could go off on a long tangent here about the miracle of modern science and its immeasurable contributions toward human progress, but what is particularly relevant to the current discussion is the notion of objectivity, and specifically that empirical conclusions are repeatable and thus independent of the observer.
As an analogy, a scientist-observer acts somewhat like an umpire for a baseball game. An umpire is a “neutral party” on the playing field whose job it is to call plays as they are. Unlike the pitcher, batter, or season-pass holder, the umpire does not (or ought not) have an immediate self-interest in calling plays one way or another. However, he does have self-interest in calling them accurately. Ideally, accurate calls will be in agreement with the other (neutral) umpires and (honest) spectators the majority of the time. It should go without saying that it is not an umpire’s job to call plays in favor of the team he is personally a fan of — indeed, such behavior is unethical and illicit. Nor is it in his power to change the rules of the game as he sees fit. The rules are what they are, and they are immutable. In natural science, the “game rules” are what are sometimes called the “laws of nature.” And an overzealous, biased fan’s protest of a particular umpire who makes a call that goes against their team does not change the validity of the call.
Which brings us to the practice of scientific peer-review. “Peer-review” has not always been a part of science publishing. Indeed, Sir Isaac Newton did not have “peer-reviewers” when he published his masterpiece, The Principia, and in the early 20th Century, Nobel Prize winning physicist Albert Einstein once pulled his manuscript from a journal because the Editor had sent his manuscript for anonymous peer-review (before it was a standard practice), which Einstein took offense to. [16] Peer-review (as we have come to understand it) has its earliest origins in the mid-19th Century, and did not really develop into the standard practice we are accustomed to today until 100 years later. Its original purpose was to protect the reputation of specific journals, and then it evolved into a more general protection of the reputation of the entire scientific literature. [17]
Peer-reviewers are the equivalent of having additional umpires on the field — this analogy is reinforced by the fact that they are even called “referees.” Their main purpose is to read through a paper as the author’s peers, and “quality-assure” their work in a spirit of collegiality, and this is mostly in the form of looking for honest mistakes, incompleteness, flawed premises, etc. Peer-reviewers submit a report along with a specific recommendation to the Editor about whether to accept it or not, and it should go without saying that the report is generally on the paper’s content, not the paper’s authors. The most common Editorial decisions are “resubmit after major (or minor) revisions” and “reject”; very seldom, if ever, is a manuscript outright accepted without some sort of revision. The usual tone of the referee reports is one of respect, and the comments usually contain constructive criticism and requests, even in the case of rejected manuscripts.
In the end, peer-review does not guarantee perfect, error-free papers, but it does guarantee that “a few (1-4) people [with relevant expertise] read it over and didn’t see any major problems…” [18] (in the case of the 2018 Heliyon article, this included 3 anonymous reviewers, journal editors, Larry Sturdivan, and others). Peer-reviewed publications remain the best system we have for vetting scientific research, which makes the anti-science attack on peer-review by GA/CW all the more reprehensible.
Concluding Thoughts
The readers of this journal [the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners Journal] are advised that subsequent to my response, I received a vitriolic personal attack in the form of an email from Dr. Wecht; one so unpleasant that it makes responding to this latest Letter to the Editor seem pointless and futile insofar as any intellectual discussion with Dr. Wecht regarding the physical evidence in the Kennedy assassination. — Luke Haag [19]
The truth is that I know that such zealots exist and that I will never be able to change their irrational beliefs. I have learned to live with it. — Larry Sturdivan [20]
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? — Atty. Joseph Welch to Sen. Joe McCarthy
On the one hand, I did not take pleasure in writing this article. There is nothing edifying about cleaning up after overt attempts to discredit scientists and peer-reviewed science. Indeed, I would not have wasted my time if it were not for the repeated false and potentially defamatory claims.
While it may seem hard to believe to some out there that, in a world full of cynicism and close-mindedness, some of us still attempt to assume good faith on the part of individuals with whom they disagree, and perhaps even try to empathize with their position. It thus brought me no joy to spend my time on an article focused not on the open discussion of ideas on the road to enlightenment, but rather to respond to extremely bad, unprofessional behavior of elder, but none-the-wiser, individuals (establishment physicians, no less) who ought to know better.
Indeed, as the reader might imagine, the specific provocations aimed at undermining my own professional reputation required no small measure of restraint to withhold an in-kind reaction.
It is analogous to a pupil sitting in a library diligently doing his homework, and then suddenly getting sucker-punched by a bully unprovoked. More often than not the best response to a bully is to ignore them, but sometimes they make this impossible when they literally will not let you alone. In such cases a measured response is warranted, and one needs to be cautious about not descending to their level. And thus, to that end a choice was made to leverage the opportunity as another “teachable moment.”
One might presume that GA/CW are intelligent, and we might appreciate that they may have dedicated a good portion of their lives to a cause that they saw as important. But the tactics of bitter personal vendettas, attempted character assassinations, and overt (albeit failed) efforts at destroying reputations of otherwise competent scientists is deplorable, making a mockery of both science and common decency in a progressive society.
As implied in the quotes at the top of this section by Larry Sturdivan and Luke Haag, both in response to AG/CW, reasoning with such individuals may be futile. As the old proverb goes: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. But we can always retain some hope for an eventual change in heart, and it is never too late for anyone to do so, no matter what stage of life they are in.
Yes, it is a bitter pill to swallow, after close to 60 years, accepting the grim truth about what actually, really happened to the 35th President. Been there, done that. The reality is much, much worse than any imagined conspiracy, and truth is stranger than fiction. But in the end truth and honesty are the best medicines for an embittered heart. No one will hold you in contempt for coming to the light… except, of course, those whom you have left behind, who choose to remain in the dark.
Acknowledgment [21]
I would like to express my appreciation to Dale K. Myers, Paul Hoch, Fred Litwin, Michael O’Dell, Max Holland, Martin J. Kelly, Jr., Louis T. Girdler, and others for their support. [END]
[1] Some of my JFK-related friends and associates, who had also read Thompson’s book, thought the review article was too diplomatic and genteel. The article goes well beyond being a mere “book review,” however, so readers otherwise generally interested in the JFK case are encouraged to read the full article featured in the June 2021 Secrets of a Homicide.
[2] Nalli, N. R., 2018: Gunshot-wound dynamics model for John F. Kennedy assassination, Heliyon, 4(4), e00603, doi:10.1016 /j.heliyon.2018.e00603. As is typical in a specialized scientific research paper, the Heliyon study scope was quite limited, concerned only with the terminal ballistics of the fatal shot as observed in the Zapruder Film. Its non-controversial conclusion was simply a confirmation that, based on analysis of the film, JFK was shot in the head from behind. The paper was explicitly agnostic on the question of a hypothetical conspiracy, but not on the question on the origin of the fatal shot, which unequivocally originated from behind the motorcade.
[3] Aguilar, Gary and Cyril Wecht, “‘Peer Reviewed’ Medical/Scientific Journalism Has Been Corrupted by Warren Commission Apologists,” Part 1 and Part 2.
[4] Formerly known as the Citizens for Truth About the Kennedy Assassination (CTKA), the site is edited by James DiEugenio, who recently contributed to Oliver Stone’s return to JFK assassination conspiracism, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass.
[5] “Anti-science” in today's context does not mean the outright rejection of science itself — indeed, we would be hard pressed today to find such thinking — but rather, as quoted at the top of this article, it means “the rejection of mainstream scientific views and methods…” and the targeting of scientists in an attempt to discredit them.
[6] Litwin, F., 2018: I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak, NorthernBlues Books, First North American Edition, ISBN: 978-0-9948630-2-7, 271 pp. Litwin has gone on to author another well-researched book entitled On the Trail of Delusion along with a daily blog dedicated to re-exposing the unethical, fraudulent, and homophobic NOLA District Attorney, Jim Garrison. History has already rendered its verdict about Garrison, but Stone premised his 1991 blockbuster Hollywood movie JFK loosely on Garrison’s book On the Trail of the Assassins. Litwin, himself an openly gay man, is frequently the target of personal attacks and ridicule on the K&K website, especially from the Editor, Jim DiEugenio.
[7] The journal Forensic Science is now known as Forensic Science International, which by the way also happens to be an Elsevier journal, the same publisher as Heliyon, albeit it was not open-access, which means you, dear reader, either need to pay or have a library subscription to access it legally.
[8] Wecht, C. H., & Smith, R. P., 1974: The medical evidence in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Forensic Science, 3(2), 105–128.
[9] The Heliyon paper was, at that time, a somewhat unusual “blip” in my publication record in that it involved an interdisciplinary topic applying classical mechanics to something outside of my normal specialty area in geosciences. The usual network of colleagues in geosciences simply would not have been suitable to recommend as reviewers.
[10] A good faith consultant for a manuscript would recuse him/herself as an anonymous reviewer.
[11] cf. Shrestha, J., K. P. Timsina, and S. Subedi, 2021: Predatory vs legitimate publishing and its consequences: A review, QQML, 10(2), 169-176.
[13] Wesley Liebeler, an assistant counsel of the Warren Commission legal staff, referring to his frustration in having to clean up after JFK Conspiracy Theorist Founding Father, Mark Lane (cf.
[14] Response of former President Clinton in 2007 after “9/11/01 Truther” Conspiracy Theorists heckled him, claiming that 9/11 was an “inside job.”
[15] For example, from AMS and AGU we have: “An editor must protect the confidentiality of all reviewers unless the reviewer reveals their identity to the author.” See Obligations of Editors and Reviewers in the AMS Scientific Publication Process - American Meteorological Society.
[16] Baldwin, Melinda, 2017: In referees we trust? Physics Today, 70(20), 44-49, doi: 10.1063/PT.3.3463.
[17] Op cit.
[18] Op cit.
[19] Author Response: “Tracking the ‘Magic’ Bullet in the JFK Assassination,” by L. Haag, AFTE J, Vol 46, No 2, Spring 2014, pp 104-113; “President Kennedy’s Fatal Gunshot Wound and the Seemingly Anomalous Behavior of the Fatal Bullet,” by L. Haag, AFTE J, Vol 46, No 3, Summer 2014, pp 218-223; and “President Kennedy’s Fatal Head Wound and his Rearward Head ‘Snap,’” by L. Haag, AFTE J, Vol 46, No 4, Fall 2014, pp 279-289
[20] Response from Larry Sturdivan: “Tracking the ‘Magic’ Bullet in the JFK Assassination,” by L. Haag, AFTE J, Vol 46, No 2, Spring 2014, pp 104-113; “President Kennedy’s Fatal Gunshot Wound and the Seemingly Anomalous Behavior of the Fatal Bullet,” by L. Haag, AFTE J, Vol 46, No 3, Summer 2014, pp 218-223; and “President Kennedy’s Fatal Head Wound and his Rearward Head ‘Snap,’” by L. Haag, AFTE J, Vol 46, No 4, Fall 2014, pp 279-289.
[21] As a reminder: Acknowledgements are a simple act of common courtesy. They are not a Conspiracy.


Anonymous said...


Keep doing what you've alway done: Use science and research to continue making your case. It is 100% logical to defend both yourself and your work against those trying to capitalize on their 15 minutes of fame. This country needs more people like you, and i'm not just talking about the JFK related issues. You have many fans, and your meticulous insights always provide for interesting conversation. Job well done.

Dale K. Myers said...

Anonymous: Thanks, but in this case, kudos go to Nick Nalli for pointing out the obvious in attacks on his peer-reviewed work.

Unknown said...

Dr. Nalli takes great exception to the critiques both "Tink" Thompson and I have lodged against Nobel Laureate, Luis Alvarez.

Namely, that in his 9.76 Am. J. Physics article, Alvarez wrote, inter alia, "It is important to stress the fact that a taped melon was our a priori best mock-up of a head, and it showed retrograde recoil in the first test…If we had used the ‘Edison Test,’ and shot at a large collection of objects, and finally found one which gave retrograde recoil, then our firing experiments could reasonably be criticized. But as the tests were actually conducted, I believe they show it is most probable that the shot in (Zapruder) 313 came from behind the car. ... ."

First, as Thompson pointed out, a soft-skinned, wrapped melon is not at all like a bony human head, Alvarez notwithstanding.

Second, we learned from photos provided by Warren loyalist Paul Hoch that Alvarez HAD, in fact, "shot at a large collection of objects." Alvarez not only didn't report that in his "peer reviewed" paper, it turns out that all the other objects Alvarez fired upon flew away from the rifleman, not toward him, a fact worth at least a footnote I should think.

Moreover, Alvarez only achieved "jet effect" recoil by firing at melons from close range with non-jacketed bullets flying at 3,000 ft/sec, not with Oswald's much slower, jacketed bullets from 270 feet away. Alvarez didn't report that, either.

In defending Alvarez, why didn't Nalli address those specific, scientifically salient criticisms?

Thompson also discovered that Alvarez had issued a "government-friendly" research report that concluded that U.S. allies, Israel and South Africa, had NOT conducted a nuclear blast in the Indian Ocean in the so-called "Vela Incident." It turned out that the Vela Incident was indeed a nuclear blast, one that embarrassed the U.S. government when it was confirmed by Seymour Hersh (see "Samson Option") and the U.S Naval Research Laboratory. [See footnote #18, here:]

These events speak to Alvarez's trustworthiness when he is called upon to weigh in on issues of great political moment. Should we ignore his history when weighing what the Nobel Laureate says on as politically controversial a subject as the Kennedy case is?

So, again, why does Nick Nalli not specifically address these damning accusations, particularly when he purports to champion fact and science?

Gary L. Aguilar

Tod Morrow said...

Fascinating review. But honestly, why does Dr. Nalli take so long to critique Tink Thompson? The attention to detail lends far more credibility than Thompson deserves. Five paragraphs are all that is needed to put the final nail in Thompson’s coffin. While Thompson raised some intriguing questions about the Warren Report back in the 1960’s, he has been on a steady collision course with forensic science ever since. He simply outlived his 15 minutes of fame. He is no longer a credible source on the Kennedy Assassination.