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Why does Physics attract crackpots?

  1. Mar 16, 2009 #1
    Or maybe Science in general? I will casually watch some Youtube videos on some Physics topics and the comments just amaze me. Everyone has their own theory on that topic, whether it makes sense or not.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 16, 2009 #2


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    Physics should be an exception?

    You find people offering half-baked opinions on just about every subject. Legal issues, tax issues (why income tax is unconstitutional, for example), pyschology, religion. You name it, someone will toss in their opinion whether they're qualified or not.

    Mmmmm, but I have to admit, I don't really have any qualifications in sociology or psychology, so this post is kind of an uneducated guess.
  4. Mar 16, 2009 #3
    My guess is that they are mainly trying to emulate the eccentric genius archetype but without all the required information, giving rise to a lot of half-baked ideas full of logical holes.


    As the guy above me posted, you do see crackpots everywhere. I've come to the conclusion that if you define insanity as the inability to correctly perceive reality, then a very significant percentage (if not all) of the human race is insane, but to varying degrees.

    The only thing you can do is make yourself aware of these biases:

    Last edited: Mar 16, 2009
  5. Mar 16, 2009 #4
    I think Mathematics is the only field of study that is immune to attacks. Why? may be because mathematics works only on absolute proofs.

    I think Biology and cosmology are the worst affected ones.
  6. Mar 16, 2009 #5


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    Some people are attracted to notoriety, and certainly the media loves to promote the flamboyant and ostentatious - look at the magazines like US and People, and the tabloid press.

    Most professionals I know work quietly and persistently out of the spotlight.
  7. Mar 16, 2009 #6
    Why does pure substances attract impurities?

    So that we can make distinction.
  8. Mar 16, 2009 #7


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    I think it's because so many people are scared to death of math - especially most of your physics crackpots.
  9. Mar 16, 2009 #8
    I think this woman is onto something about the metallic oxide salts in our water supply.

    Last edited: Mar 16, 2009
  10. Mar 16, 2009 #9
    I dont think it was metallic oxides I think it was the rainbow fairies being mischievous again.I heard the sirens so the police were on their way to arrest them.
  11. Mar 16, 2009 #10
    Hahaha. Thanks for that video.
  12. Mar 16, 2009 #11


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    Maybe it's got something to do with how easy concepts are to grasp, test and disprove. Once someone with no physics background has a rediculous physics-related idea, it'll take some time before they could even begin to understand what's wrong with it. A similarly rediculous idea in a field such as cookery and they'd most likely have the sh**s for a week and never try anything so stupid again.
  13. Mar 16, 2009 #12
    They were most likely sent by the Illuminati using HAARP to use the secret alien time travel devices hidden in our minds to go back and conceal evidence of the 9/11 cover-up so oil companies can keep hiding their over unity devices from us and control the Astral plane.
  14. Mar 16, 2009 #13
    That is why I love mathematics.

    I think physics attracts crackpots because quantum mechanics has become a global phenomena. Everyone "knows" it and everyone thinks they can come up with some nutjob theory that will be accepted.
  15. Mar 16, 2009 #14
    I work for a guy who reads the Introductory sections of text books and never reads any furthur and then claims to be an expert because he can regurgitate the introductory information. Drives me nuts.
  16. Mar 16, 2009 #15
    Why does Physics attract crackpots?

    I don't know about the rest, but I'm here for the open snack bar.
  17. Mar 16, 2009 #16


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    Maybe it's not physics that is the attraction to crackpots?

    Maybe it's ignorance that tends to have an affinity for crackpots, and physics just offers a richer opportunity for expression of ignorance, because it reaches into so many areas of experience? More nests for them to hatch from so to speak.
  18. Mar 16, 2009 #17


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    :rofl: Getting a headstart on the funniest PF member this year.
  19. Mar 16, 2009 #18


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    There's another aspect to this, and as someone who has been on the internet since 1987 (oy vey, I just dated myself) and saw the garbage that got posted on Usenet, I've seen my share of crackpottery. I think that it is easier to spot a crackpot in science, and in physics/chemistry/math in particular. Most of the time, these crackpot use rather strange notation and language, they mix and match terms but in very weird form, and they often make simple, basic mistakes. So for many of us who know the field, and even for many students who have had elementary introduction to physics, we can spot them from a mile away.

    It is more difficult to spot crackpots in other fields, such as politics, economics, social sciences, etc. I would classify Rush Limbaugh as a crackpot, because he has spewed a lot of misinformation based on very little knowledge of what he's talking about. That essentially is a general definition of a crackpot. Yet, no one calls it that, and no one realizes that. The nature of the subject matter that he deals with prevents the obvious and direct check of what he's talking about, and many of these are based simply on a matter of opinion, regardless on whether that opinion is valid or not, or based on valid information. He doesn't publish in academic journals and may, in fact, show a distaste for such a thing (another typical crackpot characteristics).

    So yes, other fields are inundated by crackpots as well. It is just that they can be spotted very clearly in physics, whereas in other areas, they become TV personalities.

  20. Mar 16, 2009 #19
    Sadly no, there's a cottage industry in trisecting the general angle. And proving the 5th postulate.
  21. Mar 16, 2009 #20
    Crack-pottery has more to do with a belief system than critical thinking. I know some exceptionally smart people that succumb to this flaw. They would pounce on you with an utter disgust, and demand their right to free opinion. So be it.

    Belief is so strong in something that it tends to filter out any external stimuli that would contradict it, and if necessary, compels the individual to seek out what's supporting it.

    Millions of years of human evolution does not guarantee that beliefs are to be rational. In many cases they are irrational states of the mind.
  22. Mar 16, 2009 #21
    Science attracts crackpots because of how scientifically illiterate the majority of the population is. It's easy for somehow to fool people if those people don't have any basis in what is actually known on a subject. We need better science education for everyone , regardless of there career path.
  23. Mar 16, 2009 #22
    You seem a bit too optimistic, remember that about 50% of the people are below the average IQ. A lot of people don't care about science, because they will never use it. I expect a lot of people here will find it shocking but most people here are curious, not just in their field but in other subjects too (which makes you guys much more interesting to talk to). I have met a dozen of people who just don't care about even the basics of science or maths.

    P.S. I am not lonely, I promise...:uhh:
  24. Mar 16, 2009 #23
    Focus, we can only speculate but is that disinterest in science because of how they were exposed to it, perhaps even a general failure of the education system, or is it a product of most humans just not being as naturally curious as is often times assumed?

    I don't interest in learning about science necessarily has to have any correlation with IQ.

    Which ever is the actual case: that A) Most people don't care about examining the truth of the universe the live in(science) or B) Education doesn't provided an appropriate introduction to being scientifically minded. I think we can say that susceptibility to "crackpottery" directly follows from that.
  25. Mar 16, 2009 #24
    Underwood Dudley has some good books (I think three of them) on math crackpots. I met few crackpots so far, and it is usually me who suffer. There are crackpots with strange logical system so that we are unable to convince them what they are saying isn't true. There are crackpots that have knowledge to impress the majority of laymen but still have fatal flaw. These people usually tend to work very hard (albeit with knowledge comparable to a third year undergraduate) to prove something.

    So there are three kinds. First kind - ones who try to prove something already known to be impossible (trisecting, contradiction to incompleteness theorem) . Second kind - ones who try to prove something that hasn't been proven yet (Riemann, Goldbach). Third kind - ones who try to find some ridiculously simple proof for result already established (Fermat, Four Colour).

    Some physicists tend to think math is more "immune" to crackpots, this isn't true. Even with the first kind, it is impossible to prove people wrong, because people who judge whether it is right or wrong - usually don't know. And those of us who know already don't need to be told.

    I am familiar with one country where a crackpot professor (YES, PhD with tenure) came on TV to say that he has proven P/NP to be false and to say that this validates existence of ghosts. (really!) Article about him appears on newspaper roughly every year, whenever he feels he's ready to talk to some reporters. And reporters think their country has finally found a brilliant mathematician. And some actually treat this seriously. So far I haven't seen some report disputing this.

    In the same country, there's a famous crackpot who owns like 30 websites. He spends his day googling his name and when his name pops up he will post in that website, send e-mails, or whatever. He says that Wiles's proof of Fermat is worthless, because he proved it in 30 lines using middle school mathematics. And he will work for hours so that he can post it in every website possible. (He also has much easier proof of four colour theorem) I got to talk to him, and he said he submitted his article on four colour to Elsevier. I told him that's not a journal but a company. He didn't know the difference. He also submitted that Fermat paper (?) to journal owned by the country's mathematical society. The society, of course, without going to a referee rejected the paper. Then he stood in front of the office with pickets, protesting. And he has posted legal threats and whatsoever on various websites. Many mathematicians (not two or five, but hundreds) in this country tried to meet him in person and explain or e-mail him, but they all have failed. Next time when the society received his paper (the same paper), they forwarded it to a referee, apparently. I don't know what happened after that.
  26. Mar 16, 2009 #25
    I agree with you there but A) I feel is a more common case. People like ignorance, because truth is sometimes not very pleasant.

    The IQ thing was my little joke. I like stating the obvious (given you take the median to be the average).
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