Click here to go back to the main page
Archive of Useless Research
Rather than offering a contribution to the existing body of scientific research, the works in this collection offer to replace it, to overturn it, to oppose it or merely to attack it. More often than not, the celebrated scientists themselves are the subject of the attacks which, at times, revert to name calling. But established scientists have better things to do than argue with the cranks. So, rather than take up the various challenges presented in such work, they either dispose of the material, or keep it for amusement in their "crank files." And it is from these "crank files" that the collection was formed.
For years MIT's Engineering Library held on to the crank files of its past researchers which, collectively, became known as "The American Institute of Useless Research." In 1940 Albert Ingalls, an editor for Scientific American, contributed his own bulging crank file, as well. The amalgamation of MIT's and Ingalls' material comprise the current collection, which fills six file boxes, available for perusal by interested scholars, journalists and laypeople. Though the Institute Archives stopped adding to this collection in 1965, more recent examples of "useless research" may be found among the personal papers of individual scientists.
Among this collection are some beautifully and elaborately self-published books; one immediately wonders how their authors--in an age when printing was considerably more costly than today--were able to afford it. Kathy Marquis, the former "Reference Archivist" who took an interest in the six "useless" boxes, thinks that being "driven" was probably enough:
Though each pamphlet, book or paper in the Archive is unique, they all deal with similar questions or seek to prove similar propositions. As one might expect, many of them "solve" the ancient problem of squaring the circle, prove that Einstein is wrong, or that Gravity is bunk. In her years as Reference Archivist, Kathy Marquis observed three specific recurring themes:
Frequently, the authors' theories, opinions and rants are represented as "discoveries."
Seabury Doane Brewer, for example, made no less than 124 discoveries. His poster-sized treatise entitled, "124 Discoveries Made between 1892 and 1930 by Seabury Doane Brewer, of Lake George, New York, and Montclair, New Jersey," contains the revelation "that temperature, with its variations, is one of the most wonderful things, and is always present everywhere," and "that physicians should be compelled to destroy all unfit specimens of humanity immediately upon their birth." At the time of publication Brewer was in his seventieth year and still making discoveries.
Brewer didn't restrict himself to just one field of science, or to even just science. The subjects he explored include: Psychology, Government, Life, Evolution, Miscellaneous, Education, Astronomy, The Laws-of-Nature, Fire Balls,--of Lightning, Shadow Bands,--of Sun's Eclipses, Northern Lights, Radio, Mathematics, "Nothing" and Myself; he also adds a postscript concerning atoms and comets.
Though there isn't room here to list all 124, the following abbreviated list of Brewer's Discoveries is a fair representation of the type of material found in the archive:
Discovery #108, isn't really a discovery; it's the story of Brewer's correspondence with Einstein and a "Mr. Poor," which he carried on under his astronomical noms-de-plume, "Mrs. Mary Bryant" and "Shirley Brown":
Brewer is a good example of someone who wants to replace the scary and impenetrable theories of 20th century science with good old-fashioned common sense, or, in some cases, a strange admixture of common sense and strong opinions.
George F. Gillette, whose contribution to the Archive is Orthod Oxen of Science, is similarly critical of Einstein but, unlike Brewer, is not above simple name-calling. Of the mental giant he wrote, "it were difficult to imagine anyone more contrary and opposite to what a scientist should be... As a rational physicist, Einstein is a fair violinist." What's more, relativity is the "moronic brain child of mental colic" and "the nadir of pure drivel." In 1929 Gillette predicted that by 1940 the theory of relativity would be considered a joke.
Newton however, is the greatest genius of all time. Gillette's "spiral universe" is an improvement on Newton, but even "out-Newtons Newton" himself. Gillette's spiral universe is made of of units called "unimotes," which comprise our immediate universe called a "supraunimote." But he doesn't stop there, or at the entire cosmos, which is called the "maximote," for there is also something called the "ultimote," which is the "Nth sub-universe plane." Gillette explains the significance of this: "Each ultimote is simultaneously an integral part of zillions of otherplane units and only thus is its infinite allplane velocity and energy subdivided into zillions of finite planar quotas of velocity and energy."
This doesn't sound very Newtonian, so far. But if you've ever taken high school physics, you may remember Newton's theories as represented by the motion of billiard balls. Gillette seems to have taken this interpretation to heart, for the only things that ever happen to objects in the universe is that they go straight, or they bump, just like billiard balls. "All motions ever strive to go straight--until they bump. ...nothing else ever happens at all. That's all there is. ...In all the cosmos there is naught but straight-flying bumping, caroming and again straight flying. Phenomena are but lumps, jumps, and bumps. A mass unit's career is but lumping, jumping, bumping, rejumping, rebumping, and finally unlumping."
Since he reveres Newton, Gillette believes in gravity, but embellishes Newton's original laws with his "backscrewing theory of gravity." Gravitation, he says, "is the kicked back nut of the screwing bolt of radiation. ... Gravitation and backscrewing are synonymous. All mass units are solar systems... of interscrewed subunits."
As for the title of his book Orthod Oxen of Science, Gillette is referring to the "orthodox oxen" of science. There is "no ox so dumb as the orthodox." These "built up favorites of publishers" are "the reverse of true scientists, ...cramped with Homoplania, ignorant of ultimotically related sub and supraplanias."
For more, see the book Kooks : A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief
This article was not made by Insolitology, but is held in archive.
This article is © Copyright 1995 Donna Kossy, used with permission.
Please do not reproduce without permission.