“crackpots” who were right: the conclusion

I have been posting a blog series about scientists who were called “crackpots” but eventually turned out to be right. There is a convenient archive of the posts under the tag crackpots-who-were-right in case you missed any of these fascinating stories. I could carry on the series forever, but I want to do other things so I’m going to conclude it with this last post.

If I had continued I would have gone on to tell you about Barry Marshall who got the Nobel Prize after showing that stomach ulcers are caused by a bacterium rather than stress as everyone believed. He found it so difficult to convince anyone that he eventually drank a petri dish of the bacteria to prove it. I also wanted write a bit about Robert Chambers who wrote a popular book about evolution before Darwin. He was ridiculed by biologists for his misuse of terminology but the public were won over and he paved the way for acceptance of Darwin’s theory while much of  the scientific establishment held on to creationism. I also never got round to the famous case of Hannes Alfvén another Nobel laureate who faced ridicule when he realised that plasmas and magnetic and electric fields are important in galactic physics, not just gravity as everyone else believed. Nor have I mentioned Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who showed that stars above a certain size would eventually collapse to form black holes at a time when others did not believe they could really exist. The lambasting he got from Eddington almost ended his brilliant career. Then there was Joseph Goldberger who showed that Pellagra is a disease caused by dietary deficiency but for political reasons his opponents continued to claim it was infectious. Others on my list are William Harvey for blood circulation, Doppler for light frequency shifts, Peyton Rous for showing viruses can cause cancer, Boltzmann, Dalton, Tesla, Alverez, Margulis, Krebs, and on and on. All of them had to fight against resistance before their ground breaking work gained the recognition it deserved.

But so what? What can we draw from this? Some people have commented that these people were not real crackpots. They worked as real scientists and had ideas that just took time to establish. They are not like the people who turn up in physics and maths forums with crazy ideas that have no respect for hundreds of years of progress ins science. Furthermore, our “crackpots”-who-were-right are a tiny minority compared to all the ones who were wrong.

I disagree with these points. Firstly, these people really were treated as crazy and were subjected to ridicule or were ignored. The cases described here are the extremes. There are many more who have merely had an important paper rejected. In fact it is hard to know the real extent of the problem because only the most important stories get told in the history of science. My guess is that these people represent the tip of a large iceberg most of which lies hidden below the threshold it takes for historians to take note.

Furthermore, even if the “crackpots” who were right are the minority among all “crackpots”, they are still the most significant part. It is better to create an environment in which these people can have their theories recorded for the sake of the few who are right, than to try to dispel them all because of some irrational fear that they disrupt real science.

And, even amongst those who have really crazy ideas there will be the people like Ohm who also have some valid ideas hidden underneath. No amount of peer-review or archive moderation can reliably separate the good ideas from the bad. The only solution is to allow everyone to have their say and to record it in a permanent accessible form. Some people ask me why I expect scientists to wade through so many papers looking for something they find worthwhile. The answer is I don’t. Work of no value will be ignored while useful ideas will be found by someone doing related research who finds it through keyword searches or other means. Even in the academically run archives there are vast numbers of papers that will never be cited or read by many people. Scientists find out about new ideas through citations, seminars, conferences, word or mouth, etc.

I hope that some people at least will read this series and get the point about why we run the viXra archive with an open policy that allows any work on scientific topic to be recorded. I can’t say that some future Nobel Prize winner will be among our deposits, but it is not impossible. More likely there will be lots of smaller good ideas that move science along in less dramatic steps, but that is the way most science is done.


35 Responses to “crackpots” who were right: the conclusion

  1. Ulla says:

    In fact stomach ulcers come from stress :)
    It is the stress (or other similar disturbancies) that make a change in the stomach conditions as acidity, and as a consequence the flora is changing to worse. Remember Helicobacter is in our natural flora too. So, in fact, he was wrong, only on short terms right.

    I do not claim it was a bad discovery. Only that it isn’t interpreted as it should.

  2. This crackpot hunting is disgusting. I remember that one particular hunter concluded in some blog that Einstein was a crackpot since he had also some wrong ideas. The most important method in science is trial and error. If scientists does not have the courage to apply this method he remains a mere CV builder.

    We are just humans. In the extremely competitive atmosphere of scientific community people become simply jealous for anyone able to generate ideas easily and with the courage to develop the. Crackpot label is an excellent weapon against this minority who actually are responsible for the development of science. Only few of them are lucky and get influential position to work without ridicule.

    For myself the behavior of finnish scientific community has been a continual cause of amazement. It is really stunning to find that full grown people who you have regarded as rational human beings pretend year after year that you do not exist! Quite literally! They have never heard of you. Never seen you. It is is easy to laugh for this kind of strange behavior as an outsider but when you become the victim situation changes. Neglect is one form of passive violence and very effective. Very few of us can continue as a Zombie for a along time.

    • Ulla says:

      So, those that claims you are a crackpot is actually lying? Why would they lie?

      Collective stupidity? Fear? What would they fear, ideas? It is a very odd situation in theoretical physics if ideas was seen as dangerous, when it is standing still and in fact NEEDS NEW IDEAS very keenly.

      It is not only the CV. It is the money. And that brings us outside science. The reason is not logical.

      And society needs its victims, because the victims makes the others FEEL as if they was right.

      The same thing happens with alcoholics. Also abusements, mobbings, social rankings in every form. Society wants to keep them there, because it gives it a reason to feel as if it was right. And it leaves to the victim only one possibility – to fight back. To save the will to have a piece of the cake, or surrender and act as a victim.

      If I could fish I would…

      I know you are no crackpot, but one of the most wise men in the world. I wish the circumstances would be others. Wishes…

      This must be discussed as it is in reality, no cosmetic discussion helps.

    • Ulla says:

      I’ve told you, you should not use that word about yourself, nor about anyone. It should be banned completely. But especially not about yourself :) Never. Because spoken words are realities. Always remember that. They work like a boomerang, what also Lubos will see.

  3. The internet is a powerful tool that has finally enabled the publishing of alternate ideas and truths (without being strangled by the peer review process). Sites like http://www.viXra.org and http://www.worldsci.org are amazing. Keep up the good work!

  4. Luboš Motl says:

    Dear Philip, I think your classification of people as crackpots is truly bizarre if you include people like Galileo Galilei – who is really the Godfather of all of empirical science – or Svante Arrhenius or Alfred Wegener etc.

    They were surely full-fledged scientists, and usually enjoyed a lot of support from important branches of the scholarly establishment, too. Even when you talk about pure sociology, many of them had careers in several disciplines at the same moment. What do they have in common with the people who are called “crackpots” e.g. by myself?

    I think that a classic example of a crackpot who was write was Balmer,

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2008/07/excitement-about-numerical-coincidences.html

    from the Balmer series of the Hydrogen spectrum. He was an average mathematician who did nothing noteworthy in maths but who was obsessed with physics. His reasoning in physics really made no sense. But he just caught the right formula for Hydrogen in his numerological enterprise that otherwise resembled Alejandro Rivero’s or Kea’s in many ways. Balmer was lucky and he was both a crackpot and an outsider in the field he really cared about.

    In some sense, Eddington could have been classified as a classic crackpot in the 1930s as well. Of course, this only works according to the opinions of everyone about his work at that time. However, by that time, he was already an established scholar so it didn’t hurt him existencially when he went nuts. However, Eddington of the 1930s wasn’t a crackpot who was right. He was always wrong.

    The separation to crackpots and non-crackpots is a procedure that can only be done well with a lot of experience and knowledge. It’s just an approximate classification that allows one to estimate the probability that someone is right by purely personal criteria. Of course that such a thing can never work perfectly. What a surprise. But if someone divides people to crackpots and non-crackpots according to completely crazy criteria, so that Galileo, Wegener, and Arrhenius end up in between crackpots, then he is pretty much guaranteed to reach wrong conclusions who is right most of the time.

    • Ulla says:

      Collective behaviour is often behind this labelling, and collective intelligence is seldom advanced, rather the opposite. I dare say it is not done by knowledge. Maybe you have a good ‘nose’ for it, and others exaggerate you? That is initution and very much emotions. As for myself, how dare you to speak of crackpot for someone not even a physicist? But you are lucky, because I don’t care about your opinion in that case very much.

      Your claims are simply a way to make yourself rightous? A much better way would be to ban that label completely and let the time show if someone is right or wrong. Show respect for others dignity.

    • Hey, yep, in the days when we run the long thread in numerology, and also when I did the plots for the Z0 /pi0 coincidence and the counting for the sBootstram, the analogy with Balmer was in my mind too. Except that he was sixty when he indulged into the physics numerology play; posibly a more appropiate age that late thirties.
      Still, I think that there are some value on Balmerish approaches; they show that there is regularity in apparently random numbers, and by using high precision, they seem to stop other crackpots. A least, I was under this impression during the days of the long thread in physicsforums, which asked both for simplicity and precision (up to order alpha, so better than 1%) of the formulae.
      Of course, in the particular case of the masses of the standard model, one needs to assume that mass relationships are a low energy effect, more than a running down from Planck scale. This can be considered theoretical crackpottery in a different level, but the question of the nature of the higgs is not settled yet.
      And the yukawa coupling of the top quark is 1.

  5. Philip Gibbs says:

    Lubos, I agree with some of what you say, but first let me clarify an important point. I do not classify any of the people on this list as crackpots. To be a true crackpot I think you have to be wrong, (or at best right for entirely the wrong reasons) The classification is of people who were treated as crackpots by at a majority of scientists who were considered experts in the field, but then they turned out to be right (about the things that people thought were wrong). I indicate this distinction by putting the word “crackpot” in quotes. I’ve explained this distinction before but I don’t say it at the start of every post and it may not be obvious, so it is worth repeating here.

    Galileo was tried as a heretic by the orthodoxy of the time, and this counts as being treated like a crackpot by my definition. This is not completely objective so I can accept some disagreement if you insist.

    Most of the people I have included were in some way outsiders to the field they made advances in. Some had non-scientific jobs that were related, or they were academics in a different subject. This is also often the case for people who get called “crackpots” today. Others were well trained in the area under dispute, but that did not stop them being treated as crackpots.

    There is a whole spectrum of people who have ideas about science ranging from people who have absolutely no idea, to experts in the field. If it was easy to draw a line and say everyone on one side is a crackpot while everybody on the other is a good scientist then there would be no need to make the points I am trying to make, but that is not the case, otherwise there would be no “crackpots” who were right. There also would not be people like Eddington who were good scientists with some bad ideas thrown in. I agree with your assessment of Eddington and would not include him in this series.

    I would not include Balmer in this series either because I don’t think he was treated as a crackpot in his time. Whether he should be considered a crackpot with hindsight is debatable. It’s not really what counts in my classification. He is certainly an interesting case though.

    • Luboš Motl says:

      Dear Philip,

      I haven’t made it clear enough – but how one is *treated* is of course not a good guide to estimate how important and valid contributions he will make. What is a better – but not perfect – guide is *how the person actually thinks about the world*.

      That’s an entirely different issue. If someone thinks in the same way as the people who repeatedly failed in the past, chances are that he will fail, too – although it’s not guaranteed. But whether or not someone is treated as an idiot is neither a sign that he is right, nor a sign that he is wrong. It also depends who is actually treating or mistreating the person, doesn’t it?

      Galileo was badly treated especially by religious bigots. But some crackpots of the present are badly treated by people who have nothing to do with bigotry. These are different things and most of them are irrelevant, anyway. What matters is how people think.

      You don’t seem to know who Balmer was. He was a classic crackpot and most people thought so. For example, see

      http://www.chemteam.info/Electrons/Balmer-Formula.html

      “Balmer was devoted to numerology and was interested in things like how many sheep were in a flock or the number of steps of a Pyramid. He had reconstructed the design of the Temple given in Chapters 40-43 of the Book of Ezekiel in the Bible. How then, you may ask, did he come to select the hydrogen spectrum as a problem to solve?”

      [By a coincidence. Crackpots may hit a correct idea or formula but it's really "by chance".]

      Cheers
      LM

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        The case of Balmer and numerology in general is interesting, thanks for mentioning it. I’ll think about it a bit more and see what other cases there are.

  6. John.St says:

    “The only solution is to allow everyone to have their say and to record it in a permanent accessible form.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Anyone should have the opportunity to have their say – but they have to accept getting lambasted if their ideas go against what we think we know, and they must understand that science (also) makes its advances because of merciless attacs on hypothesis and theories, right or wrong.

    As for Galileo – he was mostly up against religious infallability, not science (at least not in our sense) “vehemently suspect of heresy”.

  7. John.St says:

    You do of course know the Baez Crackpot Scientist index: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html

  8. Philip Gibbs says:

    John, Of course people should also be allowed to criticise anything they do not agree with. On viXra.org we have comment boxes on all abstracts and we also accept trackbacks when we find them. So long as these are not personal attacks we will not censor any criticism. You will find that arXiv.org does not have the same policy.

    The Baez crackpot index is just silly. You should judge any scientific work on its scientific merits, not on superficial socialogical metrics.

  9. John.St says:

    Philip, I wouldn’t call the Baez crackpot index silly, but funny, as in:

    20 points for every use of science fiction works or myths as if they were fact.

    30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by an extraterrestrial civilization (without good evidence).

    30 points for allusions to a delay in your work while you spent time in an asylum, or references to the psychiatrist who tried to talk you out of your theory.

    But then again, this may not be funny in the US, where some 40% believe that the Sun is orbiting Earth and only 41% accept evolution – as opposed to 0.2% resp. 83% in my country – around here the crackpot index is hilarious.

    I use the index only in cases where e.g. the genius claims that the speed of light in vacuum is 684 km/s (which was needed to make his hypothesis fit).

  10. Philip Gibbs says:

    I am aware that the crackpot index is intended to have a comic element. Where I come from (the UK) the word “silly” implies such a comical element.

    I don’t understand why you need the crackpot index if someone claims that the speed of light in vacuum is 684 km/s. Surely that is far enough beyond emprical evidence for you to dismiss his theory on scientific merits. If he or anyone else continues to disagree, the crackpot index will not help you convince them.

  11. John.St says:

    Aha, philip, had I known then I had known. Insert ‘you are British’ and ‘that silly means funny’ as apropriate :)

    I don’t *need* the crackpot index but when a person is totally immune to facts, I find it handy. Some people I have debated with, actually think they know better than everybody in science, whom they consider partakers in a conspiracy to hide the real (= their own) comprehension of The One And Only Truth.

    I don’t debate with them as such, how do I care what they believe themselves – live and let live – but the IMO genuinely dangerous crackpots carpet bomb with “authoritative statements” on internet sites where 7 years old to undergraduate get information. Have to be kept in short leash, even if that means using ridicule after 15 attempts to calm them down, and we do NOT want to ban them – free speech and that sort of rot :)

  12. Nigel Cook says:

    It’s a shame that you missed out Aristarchus of Samos, who came up with the solar system in 250 BC but was ignored in favour of Ptolemy’s later innovation in 150 AD of the mainstream epicycle theory of the Earth centred universe. People were convinced that Aristarchus’s idea that the Earth is rotating (instead of the stars and sun orbiting daily) was crackpot. Ptolemy’s complex epicycle model was said to be proven correct by its wonderfully sophisticated mathematics and its accurate predictions of the latitude and longitude of the stars and planets. It failed to accurately model the distances to the stars and planets, and ended up with a false model for the Moon’s orbit that would make the moon appear to double in size over the month (which isn’t observed). However, the mass of predictions made it the “standard model” of its day, and anomalies were easily ignored.

    Ptolemy’s “Almagest” contains a lovely ridicule of Aristarchus’s solar system, claiming that if the Earth was really rotating daily clouds would have to fly over the equator at 1000 miles per hour; because this doesn’t occur, the Earth cannot rotate. Ptolemy makes no admission that the laws of motion and meteorology were not known to him in 150 AD; he just assumes Aristotle’s false laws of motion are right and uses those errors to “ridicule” Aristarchus’s solar system theory.

    For Aristarchus to have managed to overcome prejudices and make the solar system the mainstream theory, he would have thus had to do a lot more work than he actually did. He would have had to work out a better way to predict in detail the planetary positions (which would have needed Brahe’s kind of painstaking data collection with Kepler’s painstaking analysis that led to the discovery that the orbits are elliptical, not circles), worked out the meteorological consequences of the Earth’s rotation for air masses and clouds, the Coriolis effect (which would have first meant discovering Newton’s correct laws of motion), etc.

    So he didn’t have a hope. His book was unpopular so the last copy supposedly burned with the library of Alexandria, leaving only his treatise of calculations on the distances of the sun and the moon, and some indirect references to his solar system book in the writings of his ignorant, unconstructive, scoffing “critics”. I was pretty amazed to read recently that the one guy who tried to defend Feynman’s theory, Dyson, was initially as critical as the Pocono conference people (Oppenheimer, Teller, Bohr, Pauli, et al) and Dyson only came around to Feynman after a long argument during a 2,000 mile car journey the shared from Ithaca to Albuquerque in 1948. See Dyson’s “Disturbing the Universe” (Pan, London, 1981, p61):

    “Dick distrusted my mathematics and I distrusted his intuition. … You could not imagine the sum-over-histories picture being true for a part of nature and untrue for another part. You could not imagine it being true for electrons and untrue for gravity. It was a unifying principle that would either explain everything or explain nothing. And this made me profoundly skeptical. I knew how many great scientists had chased this will-o’-the-wisp of a unified theory. The ground of science was littered with the corpses of dead unified theories. Even Einstein had spent twenty years searching for a unified theory and had found nothing that satisfied him. I admired Dick tremendously, but I did not believe he could beat Einstein at his own game.

    “Dick fought back against my skepticism, arguing that Einstein had failed because he stopped thinking in concrete physical images and became a manipulator of equations. I had to admit that was true. The great discoveries of Einstein’s earlier years were all based on direct physical intuition. Einstein’s later unified theories failed because they were only sets of equations without physical meaning. Dick’s sum-over-histories theory was in the spirit of the young Einstein, not of the old Einstein. It was solidly rooted in physical reality.

    “But I still argued against Dick, telling him that his theory was a magnificent dream rather than a scientific theory. Nobody but Dick could use his theory, because he was always invoking his intuition to make up the rules of the game as he went along. Until the rules were codified and made mathematically precise, I could not call it a theory.”

  13. Nigel Cook says:

    (Actually, Dyson’s claim that Feynman’s rules were being made up arbitrarily as he went along wasn’t 100% true, because particle physics data codified in structures like Heisenberg’s 1946 scattering or S-matrix analysis already existed and provided solid empirical guidance for constructing Feynman’s rules: “The S-matrix elements … exhibit a definite structure, which allows one to identify factors and features with different aspects of the corresponding Feynman graphs. The same identification between the mathematical expressions and Feynman graphs is possible for all processes.” – Franz Mandl and Graham Shaw, Quantum Field Theory, 2nd ed., Wiley, 2010, p118.)

  14. first congratulations again to Dr Gibbs for the creation of viXra

    i already highlighted the quest of viXra and arXiv before with respect to moderation and endorsements etc using Einstein and Robert Millikan as an example ..and Millikan dealt with Einstein like Einstein were a crackpot

    like it or not for some readers of this blog or specially the people that says to Dt Gibbs that the “crackpots that were right” were not crackpots at all Milikan treated Einstein as a crackpot….he tried to prove that Einstein was wrong….his experiments did exactly the opposite…..he proved that Einstein was right

    see Millikan biography in

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Andrews_Millikan

    from there i took this extract

    ———————————-
    Photoelectric effect
    ————————————-
    When Einstein published his seminal 1905 paper on the particle theory of light, Millikan was convinced that it had to be wrong, because of the vast body of evidence that had already shown that light was a wave
    ————————————-

    now imagine Einstein sending photoelectric paper to arXiv and guess what????Millikan as an arXiv moderator…..of course Einstein paper would be rejected and would appear here on viXra…and remember that Einstein received the Nobel Prize in 1921 for the photoelectric effect..so i hope the prediction of Dr Gibbs about a foture Nobel coming from viXra will one day be true because viXra have the potential to do so…

  15. Giacomo says:

    A famous crackpot that was right was Ritter, the man who discovered UV radiation. He was a crank by any definition of the term. Nevertheless, he discovered UV light.

  16. Jim Arnold says:

    A good solution for evaluating “crackpot” theories would be assigning grad students to read some number of them and either find critical flaws or discover that they seem to be worthwhile. Besides helping to break through the jeer-review process, it would help to sharpen the students’ critical abilities.

    I’ve taken the time on several occasions to point out what I considered the critical flaw in theories I’ve been presented with (“if x [an essential component of the theory] were true then y [an impossibility] would have to be true”), and asked for clarification. It gives the theorist the opportunity to abandon a pointless pursuit, and it can actually be an interesting exercise in puzzle-solving.

  17. Janne says:

    If I was a professional scientist, and was called out as a crackpot in public media, I’d sue for libel.

  18. Janne says:

    Oh and I thought the “crackpots who were right” series was the best thing on this blog. You should definetly continue writing it, IMHO.

  19. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    Who is a crackpot and how a crackpot is defined is subjective. There are two physicists live today who has done first rate work who exhibit elements of what might be called crackpottery. The first of these is Don Page. He has posted a number of physics based defenses of fundamentalist Christianity, and has said that Christianity must be true, for otherwise hundreds of millions of people would not have come to believe it. The last part is a clear fallacy of informal logic. The other person is Frank Tipler, who over the last 12 years of so has written some entertaining but preposterous ideas in books claiming resurrections and trinities and other theological and eschatological notions. He has come in opposition to the accelerated universe data and so called eternal inflation, apparently because it conflicts with his theo-physics that requires a recollapsing universe. Are these two guys crackpots? Don Page is maybe less so, and even with Tipler he has focused his mind on reasonable work, but there is a sort of off the wall element to aspects of what they write.

    Another physics who displays element of crackpottery is Lumo Motl. He is capable on this blog of arguing elements of string theory and physics quite cogently. A recent blog entry by him on the postulates of quantum mechanics was spot on as I read it. However, he has consumed a form of meme-toxin or neuro-toxin called politics, which is a nasty mind-poison somewhat related to religion. As a result Lumo writes stuff about climate change that is total rubbish, often filled with ad homonym attacks against people who argue the science — and the real science is pretty conclusively, and increasingly all the time, demonstrates our impact on the climate. Yet true to the effects of these poisons, religion and politics, it causes people to say and write various forms of garbage.

  20. Janne says:

    So you are claiming that having a different belief system than your own constitutes for declaring that person insane?

  21. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    Janne,

    I think there are modes of thinking that lead to what might be called insanity. In our current age we are seeing the rise of fundamentalisms. Of course there are the standard religious fundamentalisms, particularly Christian varieties in America and Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. We also have political fundamentalisms as well: free market fundamentalism, gun-rights fundamentalism, Constitutional fundamentalism, and so forth. There has also been a rise in interest in Ayn Rand, who promoted a sort of narcissistic philosophy bent on being an economic theory or politics. I leave you to read the following interesting and disturbing article on Ayn Rand in her early years:

    http://www.alternet.org/books/145819/ayn_rand,_hugely_popular_author_and_inspiration_to_right-wing_leaders,_was_a_big_admirer_of_serial_killer_?page=1

    The entire social milieu over the last two decades has degenerated into a lot of not just talking past each other, but of yelling, fist pounding, denigrating others, and Anne Coulter calling for liberals to be sent to “re-education camps,” and so forth. Hey, Ms. Coulter, isn’t that what the communists did? To give Lumo a bit of an excuse I suppose after eating the fecal matter Communists crapped out until 1989 he somehow thinks the bile the American right wing spews out is tasty. Yet in the end it is all the same, it really is poison. It also stems from a manner of thinking that has little to do with brains, but much to do with glands and endorphin rushes people mistake for smart thinking.

    This tendency towards insanity occurs with religion and politics far more than with anything else. Lumo a couple of weeks ago said the Israel should be the first post WWII nation to use the atomic bomb Sorry folks, that is insane thinking — Lumo might be smart, but he is tending towards madness if that is what he thinks. Further, political ideology is really just a secular form of religion. Politics often tries to assume the mantle of religion, in particular with the conflation of economics and divine will as proposed by Lord Calvin. When it does not tie itself of God, political ideology attempts to claim some status of being equivalent to natural law, such as “scientific Marxism,” or the silly ideas of the market place being some sort of extension of evolutionary principles. Ayn Rand claimed to have some foundation theory of “everything.” Political theory then trumps actual science, as seen with Lysenkoism in Russia or the anti-environmentalism by the neo-con right. After all if the economic system is damaging the planet the data which points to this “must be false” for it is counter to the grand ideology and its “inherent truth.” As such a society so guided can end up existing in a state of denialism and ultimately decay. The Ottoman Empire in a sense went down that road. Further, in order to uphold falsehoods of this type you have to make ever more exaggerated mendacious claims, propose more and more conspiracy theories, make people fearful and so forth. So as I see it people who think this way have at least some facet of crackpottery.

    Politics is poison.

    • Ulla says:

      What is your recipe against this kind of social collective stupidity that makes people label other people as crackpots?

  22. Janne says:

    Fair enough, promoting nuclear warfare or sociopathy as a virtue seems criminal and deprived to me too. But then again, not very uncommon in the scientific community. The driving force to get the Manhattan Project started was the US scientific community, right down to Einstein.

  23. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    This connects to WWII in that the beginning of last century saw an unfolding of events that really have to be seen as collective insanity. This seems to happen around the beginning of each century, or with some episodic period of 100 years. I don’t pretend to have any theory for why this is, but the century prior to the last episode there were the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, and it goes on to several centuries beyond. My big point with this is our current time appears set for the “next tango.” The mental and social faculties of people, around the world but particularly in my country, are becoming unhinged as we see this growth of uncompromising fundamentalisms. If this continues and there is the growth of ever more extreme political rhetoric, violent ideations and proposals by power brokers (who increasingly are in the media industry), and people acting this out in response we might be begging for the next global episode of ghastliness. It is worth pointing out that with each century when these happen the body counts are multiplied by factor of around 10, and we clearly have to tools to go beyond that level of carnage.

    Of course this has diverged some from the topic of crackpots who were right. Yet there are various forms of crackpots out there.

  24. Janne says:

    This being the blog of the viXra, which was founded as a free open alternative for the arXiv, this seems very much on topic.

  25. John.St says:

    In your “Semmelweis” article are two typos: “Semmelwies” and “In 1956 Jozsef Fleisher, an assistant to Semmelweis” – read: 1856.

    Although comments are closed on the article you may want to know, that my paternal grandmother died at home in her third child birth, from puerperal fever as an unpleasant “gift” from a midwife – as late as 1923.

  26. Jim Arnold says:

    Is this crackpot right?

    I’ve posted a paper entitled “A hypothesis on the nature of light” at http://vixra.org/abs/1008.0093 suggesting that if light is at absolute rest its peculiar qualities become intelligible. It sounds crazy, of course, but surely that isn’t reason enough for it not to be evaluated on viXra.

    The hypothesis has been criticized as “wild”, “outrageous”, and “pretentious”, but never on its merits. In every “crackpot” theory there is a fatal flaw. Someone please identify this one so I can return to digging ditches.

  27. Eddington was right and as he said his ideas were no more bizzare than Diracs. His quantum relativity of 1929 settled the case on the level of the importance of that theory. We need no so much crackpot indexes as their own anti-particles but a deep understanding of “fundamental theory” where there are those in the know and those hidden in dimensions for who is crackpot and who is not. But for those who claim outlandish things as if science can make judgement on God or the supernatural or dismiss the science if say Eddington dabbled in some spiritual pursuits- well, His theory was one of the first string theories as a theory of everything and his issues relavant to this day. How many on the sciencechatblogs dismissed me for even mentioning the I Ching when since the 1600’s Liebnitz pointed out its binary utility which of course was the beginning of information theory as you are now observing and using it for computers?

    • Janne says:

      “How many on the sciencechatblogs dismissed me for even mentioning the I Ching when since the 1600′s Liebnitz pointed out its binary utility which of course was the beginning of information theory as you are now observing and using it for computers?”

      Haha! That’s some delicious irony. Good example how people don’t perceive the ideas themselves but the sociological environment surrounding them.

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