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Notes from a parallel universe
Discover ^ | April 2002 | Jennifer Kahn

Posted on 04/29/2002 6:51:57 PM PDT by lds23

Notes from a parallel universe

Inside the X-files at the University of California at Berkeley, the line between theory and fantasy, science and supposition, starts to dissolve. The authors of these dissertations are obsessed—and scientists are nearly as obsessed with them

Eleven years ago Eugene Sittampalam was sitting in a hotel room on the Libyan coast when he stumbled, as if by fate, on the unified field theory of physics. "I was on an engineering project at the time, with hardly any social life," he says. "I would retire to my room after dinner. I would switch on the radio, relax at my table, and start doodling." The problem that occupied him has stumped physicists from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking: How to join together the profound yet disparate insights of general relativity and quantum theory. But Sittampalam's doodling, apparently, drew connections that the rest had missed. "One thing led to another," he says, "and before the evening was over, I had the inverse square law of gravity derived—for the first time ever—from first principles!"

Sittampalam has no advanced degrees in physics. His theory is girded by mathematics no more complicated than high school algebra. Still, his claims are modest compared with those of other "maverick theorists," or cranks, as most scientists call them. At the American Astronomical Society meeting in 1999, a freelance astronomer argued strenuously that connecting certain pulsars across the night sky made an arrow that pointed directly to a vast alien communications network.

A few years before, at Dartmouth, a dishwasher swamped the Internet newsgroups with his descriptions of the universe as a giant plutonium atom. The man, who identified himself as Archimedes Plutonium, wrote songs praising this atom universe and also provided stock tips. When he appeared on campus, it was in a parka covered with equations like a necromancer's robe.

Letters from crank theorists—often handwritten or manually typed, exhaustively diagrammed, up to a hundred pages long—have inundated university science departments for years. Neel Shearer, the graduate assistant who filters physicist Stephen Hawking's e-mail, says that Hawking receives "hundreds of letters a month, at least, mostly theories about how the moon doesn't rotate, why gravity doesn't exist, how to go faster than the speed of light."

Judging from the reams of odd theories sent daily to science journals, universities, and researchers, science cranks are more prolific than ever. This is true despite a discouraging silence on the part of the recipients. The author of one atmosphere-based theory of gravity estimates that he has mailed 5,000 copies of his work to physicists over the past 15 years but received just two replies. Presentation is part of the problem. "GENTLEMEN ARE YOU INTERESTED IN SEPARATING VALUABLE CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS FROM THE SUNSHINE RAY?" demands one impatient correspondent. Crank papers are so consistent in their tics that they're sometimes hung on physics department bulletin boards and given ratings—with points awarded for bold type, multiple exclamation marks, and comparison of self to Newton, Einstein, or God. But a few, like Sittampalam's, are more difficult to dismiss.

Sittampalam holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Ceylon and has spent 20 years consulting for a number of prominent global engineering firms. His 85-page treatise is formatted with flawless professionalism, and he has no history of psychological disorders. Yet since his "breakthrough" in Libya, Sittampalam has all but sidetracked his career in pursuit of his theory. He has repeatedly sent his treatise to universities, paid to self-publish the work in paperback, and lost "a small fortune in salary" by his own estimation. Seven years ago he even offered a $25,000 reward to any physicist who could refute his theory and, as he puts it, "slap me out of this obsession." So far, no one has come up with a sufficient rebuttal.

Such single-minded absorption is part of the mythology of science. It's no wonder, then, that scientists are nearly as fascinated by cranks as cranks are by science. "It's unnerving," says Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley. "It shows how easy it is to slip from healthy, even necessary, conviction into certainty and delusion. Plus, you realize that you don't always know which camp you're in." There's the rub. Science owes a good part of its success to its capacity to contend with doubt—to engage it, respond to it, and transform itself in the encounter. Yet there's rarely a point at which a good idea becomes clearly, incontestably a bad idea. Neurologist Stanley Prusiner spent 15 years arguing that a misfolded protein called a prion caused the brain decay associated with scrapie and mad cow disease. Researchers snickered at him. Evidence slowly accumulated in his favor, and in 1997 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. "It's like a ball on top of a saddle," Marcy says. "You can't listen too closely to the establishment or you'll never be creative. But if you don't listen enough, you fall over the edge."

I first came across Sittampalam's theory in the Berkeley physics department. There, for the past 20-odd years, the secretaries have diligently compiled what they call the X-files: the mother lode of crankiana. Kept in a three-foot-wide cabinet, the files contain hundreds of submissions, including one man's musical CD about thermodynamics and another's explanation of relativity and quantum mechanics spelled out on six postcards. Elsewhere on campus, researchers maintain what amount to branch libraries of the X-files. "I have an entire shelf of crank mail," MacArthur-winning physicist Rich Muller told me. "My favorite is a book written by a crank that includes all the letters she received from scientists."

Muller's office at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory sits several hundred feet above the city, in a stolid cement building edged by eucalyptus trees. The lab's newly heightened security was in force, and I was allowed through the gate only after a lab employee turned up to vouch for my good intentions. When I arrived, Muller had everything laid out, fat folders of letters and textbooks stacked across half of a colleague's desk. "There was a poster of the universe," he mumbled, peering up at the room's highest shelf. "It was beautiful. I put it someplace special. Now I don't know where it is."

Physicist Rich Muller tries to save every crank missive he receives. Other scientists find the letters both frustrating and fascinating: "No one ever compares himself to a minor genius. They're all Copernicus or Schrödinger."

Superficially, Muller is a bit cranky himself. His hair is thin but mussed, and his office is a cave of overstuffed folders and yellowing articles tacked to a corkboard. He is the author, among other things, of the controversial Nemesis theory, which argues that a second sun caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and a novel that explains some biblical miracles as clever but scientifically consistent sleight of hand. Muller corresponds with cranks and has thought enough about them to sort them into a fairly elaborate taxonomy. "The range . . . is quite broad," he says. At the top of his hierarchy are the merely misguided: retired engineers who have strayed from load-and-strain calculations into surmises about relativity. The bottom of the stack is hairier: the Mullerian estate of the super-crank. Some super-cranks are harmlessly delusional, others dangerously paranoid, but none are very good at listening—a trait that drives Muller bats. "You take the time to explain the mistake in their argument, and they just ignore the explanation," he says bitterly. "They don't realize how much time scientists spend coming up with ideas and rejecting them."

Cranks, of course, see it differently. In their view they are Davids fighting a Goliath. Sometimes their foes may be theorists who have gone too far ("Deception, horn-swoggling . . . Who are you fooling?" demands an opponent of string theory). Other times they are scientists—overeducated, institutionalized, hidebound—who don't dare go far enough.

This confusion over fundamental purpose is understandable, given that modern physics manages to seem at once simple and profoundly puzzling. Astronomers have only recently determined that a mysterious "dark energy" is forcing the universe apart, overwhelming the equally mysterious "dark matter" that seemed to be holding it together. Even gravity, faithful shepherd of falling rocks and fly balls, has recently gone to pieces: At small distances, it may not be constant at all. "Some of the ideas are incredibly counterintuitive," says Nima Arkani-Hamed, a Harvard physicist who specializes in theoretical particle physics. "And they're just getting more bizarre."

Arkani-Hamed himself believes that space contains seven extra dimensions we can't see because they're rolled up like very small window shades. His mannerisms, too, might seem suspect in someone with less impressive credentials. He talks faster than I can take notes, a kind of super-revved speech that still seems to fall frustratingly short of the speed of thought. "Certain traits of personality and character are . . . close," he admits. "The obsessive tendencies, the compulsion, the restlessness. It's not the same, but there's a resemblance." Then he adds, dryly: "A lot of scientists have traits that would be bizarre if not channeled into science. I know that's part of why cranks interest me."

After several days of reading the X-files, I felt as if I were attending school in a parallel universe. "It is imperative that we begin burning water as fuel!" one author urged. Others were more puzzling. A note written on a ripped sheet of notebook paper said only, "I contend the holes on the right side of these pants are not explainable by contemporary science." A few submissions aped the style of scholarly papers, including credentials: An outline for "Symmetrical Energy Structures in a Megadimensional Cosmology," for instance, came from the director of the Alpha Omega Research Foundation in Palm Beach, Florida. But most favored a more urgent style. Arguments crescendoed to uppercase type. Words, boxed and colored, squeezed together on the page like castaways on a homemade raft.

At times the grandiloquence was so ingenuous it was hard to hold much of a grudge. "Readers, stretch your imagination to the very limits!" the inventor of Wavetron theory implored. "Together we will batter back the barbarous hordes!" The boldface words in another paper, taken together, read nearly like verse: "The eye is low / Negative ground / Electricity compressed, dead calm, displacing space / No one knows the cause / displacing . . . / repelling . . . / Well I do." But not every crank is so poetic nor so benign. Arkani-Hamed described one author whose e-mails had become increasingly virulent. Another physicist refused to be quoted by name in this article, replying tersely: "There is no guarantee that all cranks are harmless." Still another described his feelings about cranks as "Neutral. With a touch of fear."

One case in particular has echoed down the years with the force of a small-town murder. In 1952 a man named Bayard Peakes turned up at the office of the American Physical Society at Columbia University with a gun. Peakes was frustrated at the society's rejection of his pamphlet, "So You Love Physics." Unable to find any physicists at the society's office, he shot and killed a secretary instead. (Just months before, ironically, the society had changed its policy to open its annual meetings to public speakers and accept all scientific abstracts—including another by Peakes that aimed to prove that the electron doesn't exist.)

The Peakes case was unique in degree but not in kind. Scientists have been heckled, cursed, and harassed at work (one crank faxed love letters to a department chair and forged the signature of another scientist at the bottom). A few have even had cranks turn up at their homes.

It was hard not to have these cases in mind when I began contacting writers from the X-files, using the information that came with some of the papers. For the most part the authors were elusive. Phones had been disconnected, e-mail addresses bounced. The few who did answer were single-minded. One retired commercial diver answered all my questions with an uninterruptible monologue on gravity (it pushes rather than pulls, he said). An elderly man in southern California called back half a dozen times, each time hinting at his latest discovery.

"With psychosis, there's a kind of pressure to push it out," John MacGregor, an expert in the "outsider art" produced by mental patients, told me. "Sometimes the manic-depressives don't even use periods. They don't want to stop writing!" The trouble starts when such zeal is spiked with paranoia. "Schizophrenics have a tremendous desire to prove that they're sane," MacGregor said. "It could be that they've adopted science in order to prove just how rational and intelligent they are." He paused. "If a paranoid schizophrenic decides that certain rays are emanating from the physics department, it could be dangerous. These are the people who might come in and shoot it up."

Compared with the people MacGregor described—even compared with some of the physicists I interviewed—Sittampalam was charming. On the phone from his home in Sri Lanka, he proved candid but not overbearing, with crisp, British-inflected English pleasantly free of run-on tendencies. He answered questions about his family (he has five brothers and has never married) and chatted easily about his current job at ElectroFlow, a Missouri-based start-up that helps companies optimize their power consumption. He maintained that his physics theories were quite accessible; indeed, he hoped to see them introduced at the high school level.

I liked Sittampalam enough to inveigle a physicist friend to read Sittampalam's paper, with the promise that he remain anonymous. I was secretly hoping the paper would have some merit, or if not, that it would contain a clear error: one that, recognized, would set Sittampalam free from his compulsion. But when my friend got back to me, the news was bad. "As I read this, I kept thinking: 'How hard can it be to prove that this paper is incontrovertibly wrong?'" he said. "But it is hard. Not because his ideas are right. They're not. But because he's created a self-consistent system of arguments."

Self-consistency is not in itself a valuable trait—the theory that aliens created Earth and continue to control its evolution is a self-consistent system—but it can make things hard to refute. "I'd love to find just one equation in here and say, 'We have observations proving that's not correct,'" the physicist said. "But there's no mathematical progression. He starts with some very basic equations from classical mechanics. He mixes, stirs, spends some time hypothesizing in a very general way about physics, and out pops another familiar equation: E=mc2. But really, he's just waved his hands. He could never have gotten to that next equation if he didn't already know what it was—and he knew what it was only because other people had figured it out for him using the traditional framework of physics."

Reading Sittampalam's paper feels a bit like being in a hedge maze: Just when you think you're heading toward some grand, central idea—an explanation of the cosmological redshift, for instance—the discussion loops away for another, more distant destination. There is the matter of Earth, for example. Sittampalam claims that his theory is the only way to explain why Earth hasn't lost enough energy over the years to spiral into the sun. But a physicist who saw the paper wrote in to note that that's exactly what will happen—just billions of years from now. Sittampalam acknowledged that mistake but attributed it to a typo. He had mistakenly left the words "under perturbation" out of his hypothesis, he said. Revised, his theory now explained why Earth, subject to the gravitational pull of the rest of the planets, has never wandered out of its orbit.

"First, he's talking about gravitational radiation, which is a real but minute effect; now he's talking about the solar system being sensitive to small changes," the physicist said. "It's true that if you moved the Earth a little bit today, its position and velocity in a month would become quite different. But that doesn't mean the shape of the current orbit is going to fall apart. We have simulations showing just the opposite, actually: that the solar system is stable over an incredibly long timescale. But that's what I mean. Every error you find, he's just going to change the subject. It's never ending."

Crank letters are so predictable in their grandiloquence that some physicists even rank them on a sliding scale. "There's something beautiful about the language," astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter says. Perlmutter tries to at least skim all the mail he receives. "It may be nonsensical, but often it's very evocative." The truth, dispiriting as it may seem, is that cranks are pretty much never right. "We'd love it if one of these guys were right," Arkani-Hamed says. "A revolutionary idea that works—great!" But real science tends to advance by increments rather than by revolutions. The life of working scientists is long on tedium and short on glory. They write grants, sit on committees, do paperwork. There is pressure to play it safe and be competitive. Cranks, by contrast, are free agents. With no career to lose and no scientific framework to restrict them, they can publish at their own pace and dare to shoot for the moon.

All of which may explain why most cranks aren't scientists and presumably wouldn't want to be. It may also explain why some scientists, when they talk about cranks, evince something close to envy. "There's curiosity, excitement, a kind of purity of purpose," Geoff Marcy says. Unlike conspiracy theorists, science cranks inhabit a happy universe: one that's accessible to those who plumb it ("Dear universal adventurer!" one postcard about quantum gravity begins). To read their ideas is a vicarious thrill, Arkani-Hamed admits, "but eventually you go back to what you were doing. In the end, the thing that makes science so amazing is that it works."

As for Sittampalam, he suspects that the poor reception for his work is largely a political matter. "I can easily answer all the critical points he raises," he replied, when I forwarded the physicist's critique. "But will he be convinced?" In the preface to his thesis, Sittampalam quotes Sir Martin Rees, a renowned astrophysicist and Astronomer Royal at Cambridge University. "Generally, researchers don't shoot directly for a grand goal," Rees writes. "Unless they are geniuses (or cranks) they focus on problems that seem timely or tractable." When I asked Sittampalam which he is, genius or crank, he was surprisingly equivocal. "Perhaps I'm a crank, but that's left for history," he said. "I have no regrets. When your work is for the future, by necessity you are not understood in your own days."

In the meantime, he can take comfort from the case of the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. In 1913 Ramanujan was a clerk at Madras Port Trust—"a short uncouth figure," in the words of one contemporary, "stout, unshaven, not over clean, with one conspicuous feature: shining eyes." Although largely self-taught in mathematics, Ramanujan had the audacity to mail 120 of his theorems to the British mathematician Godfrey Hardy at Cambridge University. Hardy dismissed the pages as gibberish at first, only to find, upon careful consideration, that some of the theorems were truly revelatory. Five years later Ramanujan was elected to the Royal Society of London.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

RELATED WEB SITES:

News and anecdotes about science cranks, plus links to cranks' Web sites and a crank o' the day: www.crank.net.

Read Eugene Sittampalam's "Theory of Everything" on his personal Web site: homepages.msn.com/Terminus/ eugenes/01.Welcome.htm.

A short biography of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan: www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/ Ramanujan.html.

Information about Stanley Prusiner and his work: www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: outsiders; stringtheory; weirdscience; whocansay
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All I want to know is, after being neatly and quietly stored, why the garden hose (or extension cord or Christmas lights) always get tangled. And don't say "torque". That's how. I want to know WHY. WHYYY!!
1 posted on 04/29/2002 6:51:57 PM PDT by lds23
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To: lds23; Orual; aculeus; Romulus; Askel5; Poohbah
"As I read this, I kept thinking: 'How hard can it be to prove that this paper is incontrovertibly wrong?'" he said. "But it is hard. Not because his ideas are right. They're not. But because he's created a self-consistent system of arguments."

Great post.

Chesterton says it all about arguing with madmen, but the passage eludes me. Anyone?

2 posted on 04/29/2002 7:01:13 PM PDT by dighton
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To: AfellowInPhoenix; Alamo-Girl; AndrewC; Aric2000; BikerNYC; blam; BMCDA; boris...
"It shows how easy it is to slip from healthy, even necessary, conviction into certainty and delusion..."

Well that certainly would describe me these days. LOL! As far as the incidents mentioned within this article having any connection with the X-Files, I cannot comment at this time. ;)

3 posted on 04/29/2002 7:05:32 PM PDT by Scully
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To: Physicist; ThinkPlease; Gordian Blade; RadioAstronomer; PatrickHenry; VadeRetro; Scully...
must read crank-report ping and bttt
4 posted on 04/29/2002 7:11:24 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: dighton
I wish I had saved all the letters I've received over the years which promised to help me find oil through the use of divining rods. "Underground rivers of oil", they claim.

I should have put them under glass next to all the patents I've stolen from widows. You know, the ones for the 200 mpg carburetor.

5 posted on 04/29/2002 7:14:34 PM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone
Sorry about the divining rod thing Dog Gone, I thought I had a winner on that one..
6 posted on 04/29/2002 7:23:48 PM PDT by Michael Barnes
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To: Scully
This article does not discourage me from continuing to perfect my anti-gravity machine in my basement la-BOR-a-tory.
7 posted on 04/29/2002 7:30:28 PM PDT by PatrickHenry
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To: Scully
The universe according to Billy Meier:

Billymeier.com

Bily Meier has been taught by space aliens from the Pleides cluster, so you know his theories are grade A.

Pic of Billy Meier:


8 posted on 04/29/2002 7:36:23 PM PDT by Brett66
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To: Brett66
We've had dealings with this individual before. His beard is actually a sophisticated sensor array...at least this is what he claims...
9 posted on 04/29/2002 7:38:50 PM PDT by Scully
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To: unix
I thought so, too, unix, until I drilled two dry holes on your sure-fire prospects...
10 posted on 04/29/2002 7:43:47 PM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: PatrickHenry
I am in the process of assembling my la-BOHR-a-tory (the family has acquiesced, I think perhaps to avoid uncomfortable questions from visitors and family alike). Then, I shall obtain a la-bohr-a-tory ferret and call him "Franklin". :)
11 posted on 04/29/2002 7:44:29 PM PDT by Scully
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To: lds23
Cool post.

There is a guy in Texas with a machine that generates energy from a certain combination of magnets. No power is needed. He has solved the energy problem. Above his work bench hovers a flying saucer he made. It just hovers, and hovers, and hovers. I know that people that have seen his energy device. It scared them.

Since everything is connected, when I type on my keyboard I sometimes knock a sufer off his surf board on the coast of Australia.

People don't age. Everything around them gets younger.

Hey, this is fun.......

12 posted on 04/29/2002 7:47:12 PM PDT by isthisnickcool
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To: Scully
In fact, it's one of Meier's photos that adorns Mulder's office:


13 posted on 04/29/2002 7:51:45 PM PDT by Brett66
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To: lds23
Physicist Rich Muller tries to save every crank missive he receives.

Figures. Check out his web page:

http://muller.lbl.gov/

Did you know chocolate chip cookies contain, by weight, five times the energy of TNT? Muller is also interested in glacial cycles,The Search for Nemesis,Al Qaeda's Anthrax and the Sins of Jesus. Don't miss "Physics for future Presidents", the chapter on explosives is very good.

14 posted on 04/29/2002 7:56:23 PM PDT by LarryLied
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To: Brett66
Yes indeed! Mulder was especially proud of that poster...until it burned in an unfortunate fire. The replacement isn't nearly as good, but the message is the same.
15 posted on 04/29/2002 7:56:59 PM PDT by Scully
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To: lds23
crank theorists? LOL

did the unabomber run a meth lab? how the hell did he support himself?... a book bomb of the month club aint a real moneymaker ... ask OpraH

parallel universes ... that explains where my car keys go from time to time
16 posted on 04/29/2002 7:57:01 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
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To: Brett66
Okay, I'm finally convinced. :)
17 posted on 04/29/2002 7:57:32 PM PDT by DennisR
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To: lds23
I've invented a working model of a time machine, and if I could ever get the US government to allow the patent, I could raise investment funds to add different travel rates. Right now it only has one setting -- advancing 86400 seconds per day.
18 posted on 04/29/2002 8:20:27 PM PDT by jlogajan
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To: dighton;Orual
Can't help with Chesterton, but ...

Me: My name right now is legally Archimedes Plutonium, and I had changed it several times in my life.

PM: Archimedes Plutonium, four days a week he washes pots and pans at Dartmouth's Hanover Inn. For his 32 hours in the suds, Archimedes gets a precious employ benefit, time on the schools computers where he serves the Net and puts out the word on his singular passion, a theory called PLutonium Atom Totality.

Me: Everything that we see, everything that there is, is just one atom! If you know about physics, every electron is a whole bunch of dots, those dots I claim are galaxies. So as you are looking at the night sky, you are looking at one electron.

So, now you know.

Archy's link.

19 posted on 04/29/2002 8:28:29 PM PDT by aculeus
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To: lds23
Enjoyable read. Thanks for posting it.

I had a feeling once about Mathematics - that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me - the Byss and Abyss. I saw - as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor's Show - a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable but it was after dinner and I let it go. Churchill, Sir Winston Spencer

20 posted on 04/29/2002 8:29:27 PM PDT by My back yard
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To: lds23
I used to be a connoissuer of crank physics theories. My main internet hangout before I discovered FreeRepublic was alt.sci.physics.new-theories on usenet.

The challenge was not in debunking the theories, but in distinguishing between, as they say, "those who strain at the oars to reach Kook Island, and those who arrive by magic carpet with no idea they've made the voyage."

21 posted on 04/29/2002 8:29:56 PM PDT by Physicist
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To: Dog Gone
...which promised to help me find oil through the use of divining rods.

I had a water well witched on the farm a few years ago (very successfully, I might add), and as we were finishing up, he pulled out a rod with a butane lighter attached to the end. "Ya want me to see if ya got some gas under here, son?"

I said, "I didn't think there was anything around here. Didn't they try to drill a couple of gas wells over by {politically incorrect landmark} a few years ago?"

The dowser looked down at the ground for a second, then said, "Yeah. I didn't do too well on that one."

22 posted on 04/29/2002 8:33:03 PM PDT by SWake
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To: lds23
But because he's created a self-consistent system of arguments."

---------------

...known in psychiatry as a frame of reference or a closed system of self-referencing hypostizition. It's oneof of the basis's of liberalism and much religion.

23 posted on 04/29/2002 8:51:05 PM PDT by RLK
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To: Scully
His theory is girded by mathematics no more complicated than high school algebra.

Thanks, for the humorous heads up.

I discovered the secret to Sittampalam's successful computations.

Here are the instructions for the digital calculator


24 posted on 04/29/2002 8:55:54 PM PDT by AndrewC
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To: RLK
"...a frame of reference or a closed system of self-referencing hypostizition. It's oneof of the basis's of liberalism and much religion..."

Did you mean, "Hypostatization"? The plural form of "basis" is "bases". And it would be as correct to say "many religions" (as opposed to 'much religion') as it would be to note some slight, pertinent differences between "liberalism" and "religion".

Otherwise you are yourself trapped in a narrow diameter, decreasing radius, downward spiral, closed-loop hypostatization.

25 posted on 04/29/2002 9:49:53 PM PDT by MoJoWork_n
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To: lds23
All I want to know is, after being neatly and quietly stored, why the garden hose (or extension cord or Christmas lights) always get tangled. And don't say "torque". That's how. I want to know WHY. WHYYY!!

Because you fail to give every loop you add to the growing handful of loops a sufficient twist.
26 posted on 04/29/2002 10:02:54 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: lds23
Maybe you were too quiet. I had the same problem with my telephone cord until I started screaming into the receiver.
27 posted on 04/29/2002 10:22:19 PM PDT by apochromat
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To: MoJoWork_n
I makes some hum-dinger tyois and mis-spellings at this hour of the night, depending upon what else I'm doing and my mood. Now, in the above, tyois means typos, but my hand slipped and i's, o's, and p's are all in the same area of the keyboard. Depending upon how close I am sitting to the monitor, I often don't see the error and don't want to spend much time on a response.

As far as the similarities between liberalism and many forms of religion, they are both anchored in frames of reference. That's why liberalism/leftism and many religious bodies are convergent. Have you ever heard the maxim communism is the only true form of Christianity? Many among the religious community believe it.

28 posted on 04/29/2002 10:46:53 PM PDT by RLK
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To: Scully
That is the key to identification of the species. Certainty. Maybe I should hedge that a bit. One of the easy keys to identifying a crank scientist is that he seems to believe his own theory. Real scientists are usually skeptical, especially of their own work. If a scientist is always trying to convince others that he has a great theory, even fellow scientists will give him a wide berth. This probably works outside science as well.
29 posted on 04/29/2002 10:48:01 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: medved
"It shows how easy it is to slip from healthy, even necessary, conviction into certainty and delusion."

Ted, this Bud's for you.

30 posted on 04/30/2002 2:22:12 AM PDT by Junior
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To: dighton; aculeus
Chesterton said about arguing with a madman, "his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle".

Also from Orthodoxy.:

"THE Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the Materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The Materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts."

31 posted on 04/30/2002 3:26:49 AM PDT by Orual
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Comment #32 Removed by Moderator

To: Scully
I am in the process of assembling my la-BOHR-a-tory (the family has acquiesced, I think perhaps to avoid uncomfortable questions from visitors and family alike). Then, I shall obtain a la-bohr-a-tory ferret and call him "Franklin".

Your project has my official approval. But a ferret is a bit too energetic, and potentially destructive. Might I suggest that you get a tortoise instead? A lab tortoise is a wise and silent companion, and in a pinch, you can use it for a footstool.

33 posted on 04/30/2002 4:18:10 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
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Comment #34 Removed by Moderator

To: AndrewC
Is the little hole marked "Memory Storage" where you park your booger while you are calculatin'?
35 posted on 04/30/2002 6:09:32 AM PDT by Rifleman
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To: Rifleman
where you park your booger while you are calculatin'?

Naw. That is for the highly advanced serial memory aka "string". The actual storage place for boogers is in the "booger bay", which is the notch formed at the bottom of the palm when the calculator is in use. This can be seen immediately to the left(that is the hand without the rock) of the "solid state" notation on the instructions. If you have trouble identifying the "solid state" remember snake and the letter "s".

As a side note, the model displayed is for the rock holders. There is a version available for the non-rock holders. In a pinch, the rock holder version may be used by the non-rock holders by reversing the calculator, however the annotations are lost and use of the calculator may be difficult. This also applies to the vice-versa calculator. An ambidextrous version can be made to alleviate this problem, but no one has thought of it yet.

36 posted on 04/30/2002 6:39:57 AM PDT by AndrewC
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To: lds23
All Your Sunshine Ray Are Belong to Us.
37 posted on 04/30/2002 6:53:30 AM PDT by boris
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To: VadeRetro;PatrickHenry;longshadow
Arguments crescendoed to uppercase type. Words, boxed and colored, squeezed together on the page like castaways on a homemade raft.

Does this sound like anyone we know?

38 posted on 04/30/2002 7:02:17 AM PDT by Junior
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To: Junior
Does this sound like anyone we know?

If I think about it, it may ring a bell or two.

39 posted on 04/30/2002 7:07:37 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
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To: Physicist
I came across this guy's work while checking some relationships between physics and prime number theory. I've never made up my mind whether he's on to something or not. Matti Pitkanen. Somehow, p-adic numbers just don't seem right in physics. Any thoughts?
40 posted on 04/30/2002 7:10:46 AM PDT by Virginia-American
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To: lds23, Nick Danger
Admit it! I was pinged to this thread because of my theory that the earth doesn't just look smaller from a distance, but that it actually shrinks in the observers private universe! You laugh now, but when I win the Pulitzer for my Nobel Prize acceptance speech, you'll brag that you knew me when! BWAHAHAHAHAHH!!!!!
41 posted on 04/30/2002 7:14:18 AM PDT by Harrison Bergeron
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To: Brett66
That's real!! I know it is. At least that's what my cat told me
42 posted on 04/30/2002 7:14:50 AM PDT by billbears
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To: All
Welcome to Kook-O-Ramma

Perpetual Motion and Free Energy Machines.
AntiGravity Propulsion.
Space Travel Faster Than Light Speed .

43 posted on 04/30/2002 7:55:26 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
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To: Junior
Arguments crescendoed to uppercase type. Words, boxed and colored, squeezed together on the page like castaways on a homemade raft.

Could be the Blue Weenie.

44 posted on 04/30/2002 8:12:11 AM PDT by VadeRetro
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To: PatrickHenry; Scully
A lab tortoise is a wise and silent companion, and in a pinch, you can use it for a footstool.

I recommend it be named "Teddy." Teddy the Tortoise.

BTW, have you ever noticed that scientific cranks seem to have a disproportionate affinity for animal mascots? What does Plato the Platy have to say about this?

45 posted on 04/30/2002 8:51:06 AM PDT by longshadow
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To: ALL
The question is, how many FR posters have letters and e-mails ensconced in scientists "crank" files; IOW, how many FREEPERS are "cranks"?

All guilty FREEPERS please report yourselves on this thread NOW.....

46 posted on 04/30/2002 8:56:38 AM PDT by longshadow
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To: Orual
That's where I needed to look. Thank you.
Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

-- Orthodoxy.


47 posted on 04/30/2002 9:46:59 AM PDT by dighton
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To: longshadow
BTW, have you ever noticed that scientific cranks seem to have a disproportionate affinity for animal mascots? What does Plato the Platy have to say about this?


Plato the Platypus says: "Planet Eight to you, longshadow!"

48 posted on 04/30/2002 10:20:50 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
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To: Harrison Bergeron
Do you also believe that the moon is swapped out when you ar not looking, sort of a cosmic virtual memory?
49 posted on 04/30/2002 10:30:42 AM PDT by Doctor Stochastic
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To: longshadow
The question is, how many FR posters have letters and e-mails ensconced in scientists "crank" files; IOW, how many FREEPERS are "cranks"?

I am not a crank. That idiot, Einstein, was the crank. AND ALL HIS MINDLESS FOLLOWERS!!!!

I am, rather, the VICTIM OF A CONSPIRACY!!! But I'll show them. THE FOOLS! I'll show them all!!!!!!!

50 posted on 04/30/2002 10:44:18 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
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