In 2009, quite a few posts on this blog featured vigilante anti-denialist Dr. Seth Kalichman, social psychologist at the University of Connecticut, who had researched HIV/AIDS dissidence by attempting to disguise himself as graduate student “Joseph Newton”, corresponding with several RA members and even attending a Duesberg conference on aneuploidy and cancer.
In recent weeks, some correspondence among RA members has focused on the fuss over Ebola. A search for the first studies of Ebola virus led to some 1977 articles in The Lancet, in issues not available to me direct on-line or in print. Our excellent Interlibrary Loan service delivered them to me very promptly, copied in the Storage Facility holding overflow material from the university’s main library.
To my astonishment, at the head of the text of the copied articles there appeared in large font the name Joseph Newton!
Could Kalichman/Newton have hacked into my university account? Had he been keeping tabs on me all these years?
That paranoid thought had at least some slight basis in sort-of evidence: During the e-mail exchanges in 2009, Kalichman had at one time sent (as Kalichman, not as Newton) some information intended for essentially all of his correspondents, and had — surely by mistake — included among the addressees not only me but also a psychologist in this university’s Psych Department; which explained for me how Kalichman/Newton had gleaned such inside information as that I had been a quite well-regarded Dean. Could Kalichman have used that contact to find ways to infiltrate my university accounts??
At any rate, I needed to find out how on earth “Joseph Newton” had appeared as the header on those Ebola articles. So I sent a query to Interlibrary Loan Services.
The reply was reassuring: There is a man named Joseph Newton working in our Storage Facility.
Some people might regard this as an astonishingly improbable coincidence. But I’ve had the benefit of personal instruction by more than one distinguished probabilist and have long understood that there’s nothing at all objectively remarkable about such coincidences, no matter how subjectively striking they may seem; see pp. 59-63 and 213-4 in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies (University of Illinois Press, 2001).
“Newton” is not so common a name, but it isn’t all that uncommon either. My eccentric interest of longest standing is Nessie, the Loch Ness “Monster”, one of the iconic cryptids studied by cryptozoology; and one of the compendia of cryptozoology is authored by a Michael Newton — Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers.
What’s more, that book was published by McFarland, who also published my last two books.