Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Technology Crackpots

To be really cool, technology must be different, quirky, non-corporate and non-mainstream. The more different it is the better I’d like it. There really should be a playful, humorous, tongue-in-cheek zaniness to it. Not everybody had to get the joke, but it had to be there somewhere. Otherwise its not weird, its just half assed crackpotism.

If you talk a while with any aggregation of rocket builders, catapult enthusiasts, or high voltage experimenters, there’s a farily good chance that one or more of them will prove to be card carrying crackpots.

Here's a rough transcription of a conversation I had with a guy who's spent some time thinking about crackpots.

“I’m a crackpot observer,” he said. “I sometimes seek them out and add them to my list of observed species just the way birders seek out hawks and finches.”

“I think the most common variety of crackpot is the Religious Crackpot. These are to Crackpot Observers what robins are to bird watchers. Religious crackpots have great ability realize and understand the True Meaning of a particular religion that somehow the other 25 million adherents overlooked. It’s an amazingly self involved genre.”

“But probably, the more interesting are the Physics Crackpots,” said my friend. “Have you ever tried to really tried to understand intricacies of modern physics? It’s too hard for most people to understand. There’s so many abstractions, so many vague and arcane definitions. Because modern physics is so complicated, it provides opportunities for taking parts of abstruse ideas and weaving them together to come up with semi-plausible sounding revolutionary physics ideas. When someone tells you about a ‘previously overlooked explanation for the origin of the universe’, there’s a good chance that the person talking is a crackpot. Physics Crackpots are terrific at selectively interpreting (or more likely simply perverting) existing theories.
Just listen for the code: “free energy”, “antigravity”, “the zero point”, “dimensions beyond space and time”, and so on.

“I also find Engineer Crackpots quite interesting. Engineers differ from physicists in that they take the basic knowledge and theories of the physicists and turn them into practical and meaningful applications that society needs. In the same way, Engineer Crackpots take the pseudoscientific ideas of the Physics Crackpots and make up lots of impossible and incorrectly understood technology. You see them all the time: perpetual motion machines, almost any CIA/FBI/KGB suppressed Nickola Tesla invention, cold fusion, and things that go faster than light, its all engineering crackpotism.”

“At the top of the list is the Conspiracy Crackpot. This is the most inspiring subgenus of crackpotism. The conspiracy crackpot can take a theory from one discipline, marry it to a fact from another field, sprinkle in a few coincidental facts or examples and bingo! a brand new theory is produced. The really facile ones can include aliens, the CIA, quantum physics, and directable electromagnetic fields, all at the same time.”

The signal aspect of the conspiracy crackpot subtype is that a conspiracy exists, the purpose of which is to stop the dissemination of the crackpot’s theories and knowledge. Why has the physics crackpot been prevented from getting the funding that would allow the colonization of Mars? Why has the engineer crackpot been prevented from moving forward on her 150 mpg auto engine? It must be a conspiracy-- say the conspiracy crackpots – and probably involves the oil companies, the British royalty, Microsoft, and of course, the Jews.

So, what's your favorite type of crackpot? Religious, Physics, Engineer, or Conspiracy? Or perhaps, some other genre?


Anonymous said...

You should take a look at Insolitogy.com which has an assortment of crackpot already laid out in various categories:


Dave said...

And of course, we have our own movie; "Conspiracy Theory," 1997, With Mel Gibson at his "Lethal Weapon" zaniest best. A true classic (it's a wonder the CIA conspiracy lets it stay on video store shelves)

Billll said...

Many of the engineering types can be found at DMSC.org. Of course most of our stuff actually gets built, so maybe we're not crackpots after all.
I do love a good conspiricy: Smoking bananas we probably the best of the late 20th century.