Unexplained Phenomenon: Leading North Carolina Physics Professor Arrested In Argentina For Allegedly Smuggling Cocaine

Professor Paul Frampton of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is not in his classroom his week because he is sitting in Devoto Prison in Buenos Aires for allegedly smuggling cocaine in his luggage. Frampton insists that he is innocent and that he will return to his research into “phenomenology” at the physics department. Frampton is an accomplished physicist and an adviser to the National Republican party, including drafting the science portion of the Republican platform for the 1988 Convention.


Frampton was arrested in Buenos Aires on January 23rd after police say that they found 2 kilograms of cocaine in a specially built compartment in his luggage before he boarded a plane to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Frampton insisted that there was ample evidence of his innocence and lack of knowledge. The problem for the defense will be the weight and size of the cocaine. Two kilograms of cocaine translates into 4.40924524 pounds of the powder. That is not an insignificant amount to hide in luggage.

Having said that, it is not unknown for innocent tourists to be turned into unwitting drug mules without their knowledge. In this case, however, the drug smugglers would have had to gain access to his luggage to add the secret compartment either at his hotel or at the airport.

Notably, the university cut off his pay after his arrest. I am rather astonished by that action. Frampton is presumed innocent and it is now finding it difficult to fund his own defense. He has served the university well since his hiring in 1981 and held one of its top positions as a chaired professor. Frampton is reported as saying “The university has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to help me. You would expect a university of that caliber would do everything possible to get me out of prison.” I am not sure about “everything possible” but he has a going point about cutting off his $106,835-per-year pay. Notably, Frampton has continued to work on peer-reviewed publications with his colleagues while incarcerated.
Before you assume that a “phenomenologist” is by definition a narcotics suspect, let me clarify. Particle phenomenology is the field of theoretical particle physics dealing with the application of theory to high-energy particle physics experiments.

Frampton holds the prestigious Louis D. Rubin Jr. Distinguished Chair of Physics and Astronomy. Here is his “short” vitae:

Paul Howard Frampton – Louis D. Rubin Jr. Professor of Physics

Degrees

BA 1965 (Oxford Double First)
MA and DPhil 1968 (Oxford)
D.Sc. Advanced Degree (Oxford) 1984
Research Areas

High energy theoretical physics including particle phenomenology
Theoretical cosmology
Research Support Sources

DOE grant, Principal Investigator since 1981
Five Representative Papers

“Anomaly Cancellation and Conformality in Quiver Gauge Theories” (with E. Di Napoli) Phys. Lett. B638, 374-381 (2006). hep-th/0603065.
“Turnaround in Cyclic Cosmology.” (with L. Baum) Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 071301 (2007) hep-th/0610213.
“Dark Matter Candidate from Conformality.” Mod. Phys. Lett. 22A, 931-937 (2007). astro-ph/0607391.
“Flavor Symmetry for Quarks and Leptons” (with T.W. Kephart) JHEP 09:110 (2007). arXiv:0706.1186
“Cyclic Universe and Infinite Past.” Mod. Phys. Lett. A22, 2587 – 2592 (2007). arXiv:0705.2730
Books

Gauge Field Theories, 1986, 2nd edition 2000, 3rd Edition 2008.
Dual Resonance Models, 1974, 2nd Edition 1986.
Major Distinctions

Louis D. Rubin Professorship
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science 1990
Fellow, British Institute of Physics 1986
DOE Outstanding Junior Investigator 1981
Fellow, American Physical Society 1981
200 refereed journal papers cited 5 thousand times
Total number of publications over 350
Major University Responsibilities

Chair of Established Lectures Committee, 1992-97
Major External Responsibilities

Wrote Science and Technology plank in National Republican (NR)
Platform. NR Convention, New Orleans 1988
Project director. Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) in North Carolina for the NC state government. May-August, 1987
Chair of the Organizing Committee for the following conferences: Eighth Symposium on Particles, Strings and Cosmology, 2001
Tenth and Last Workshop on Grand Unification, 1989
Third Workshop on Grand Unification, 1982
First Workshop on Grand Unification, 1980.

Source: Fox

24 thoughts on “Unexplained Phenomenon: Leading North Carolina Physics Professor Arrested In Argentina For Allegedly Smuggling Cocaine”

  1. No, according to him,somebody gave him the lugagge that belonged to a woman, a fashion model whom Frampton met through internet and was planning to meet in Argentina. A single man without experience and naive: that is what drug dealers are always looking for….
    On the other hand, if he is inocent I am sorry for him, Argentinian prisons are not exactly American prisons…

  2. Perhaps the cocaine was planted in the professor’s luggage afer his arrest. Or perhaps UNC pays so poorly that he was smuggling a little something to help him make ends meet.

  3. What amazes me about the whole thing; “IF” and a mighty big IF, he was trying to smuggle the snow. Why in the hell didn’t he just drive to the Wild Wild South (Florida) and go for the higher discounted dope. Sounds pretty lame for a professor.

  4. I found his publication list via the UNC website. he has over 400 pubs, but many of what he calls publications are papers abstracted in meeting proceedings–most accomplished (or unaccomplished) academics don’t bother to cite these. Most of his more recent pubs are in low impact journals. He claims about 7000 citations, which for 400+ papers is actually quite modest for a major figure in his field.

    I still suspect that something odd is going on here that makes his faculty glad to be rid of him. Perhaps they’ve been trying to force him into retirement. Perhaps his colleagues suspected that he was doing more than writing about dark matter.

  5. OK, I’m stepping outside the box here. But has anyone considered that perhaps there is a reason that someone with a brain of this calibre might be better off detained, than somewhere else? I mean, has he possibly been working on something that someone doesn’t like? Possibly researching something someone doesn’t like?

    He could be totally guilty, of course, I have no clue. But I can also see this being an elaborate setup to get someone out of the way, or off the trail of something. That job description just makes me wonder . . .

  6. “let me clarify. Particle phenomenology is the field of theoretical particle physics dealing with the application of theory to high-energy particle physics experiments.”

    So glad you clarified. : )

  7. “Rich” wrote

    “From the short cv, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t someone who once was accomplished but lately has been coasting or crashing and burning himself”

    A quick search on the SLAC database “Inspire” shows he published around 24 papers in 2010-11. One of them already has 105 citations. If that’s coasting, I wish we had some people in our department coasting like that.

  8. Thank goodness for friends… (This will be an interesting one to follow.)

    From this article: He is “an adviser to the National Republican party, including drafting the science portion of the Republican platform for the 1988 Convention.”

    From the following link/Charlotte Observer: “A friend who teaches at Princeton alerted academics in Buenos Aires, who have rallied to help him, Frampton said. They arranged an offer of a university job there, which his lawyers think could win his release while he waits for trial. If allowed to leave prison, he would have to agree not to leave the country and wouldn’t get his passport back.” (from the following link)

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/03/20/3112431/drug-smuggler-victim-of-scholar.html#storylink=cpy

  9. I’m pretty sure 1988 is the last time the Republicans actually had a science plank in their platform. Now it’s mostly superstition.

  10. There are plenty of incidences of highly accomplished individuals making extremely regrettable mistakes… While his record does help his case a bit, it certainly isn’t equivilent to innocence.

  11. Mespo,

    With citizen united….. It’s not that easy to follow the money….

  12. The cocaine had to come from somewhere and be headed somewhere and for a specific purpose. I suggest the police “follow the money.”

  13. The university was shortsighted in terminating his pay but that also makes me wonder if they have more of an agenda around him than just his criminal charges. From the short cv, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t someone who once was accomplished but lately has been coasting or crashing and burning himself. His representative pubs are not recent (unless its an old cv) and his honors and other superlatives are mostly from 20-30 years ago. I’ve known deadwood with endowed chairs at other institutions, including someone who was deposed as department chair for not doing his job.UNC pays its faculty relatively poorly, but he should be making somewhere around the maximum that NIH or other govt funders will support for a year (~180K). The DOE Grant is not described and he could be a PI on a training award or other non-research grant.

  14. Believe it or not good luggage has storage compartments for valuable items…. It’s gonna be one of those Paul McCartney moments….

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