I’ve been getting a lot of “cutting edge” “science” in my email over the last few weeks, and it occurred to me that some aspiring crackpots need just a little extra push before they can achieve greatness. As a public service, let me tell you what separates the great crackpots from the also-rans. Brownie points will be given to the resulting crackpot theory which most completely incorporates these lessons.
- Ed Witten wants to know what you have to say. The best, most audacious letters I’ve seen have been sent not only to me, but cc’d to some of the most prominent physicists in the field. The kind of boldness that proclaims, “Nobel laureates will disregard their entire careers in favor of my hastily-scrawled equation-free manifesto,” is so obviously correct that I’d be a fool to doubt it.
- Be persistent. My spam filter might inadvertently prevent me from reading your manuscript the first time, so make sure you send it at least once a week, and address your email as though I had somehow subscribed to your newsletter.
- Be confident and begin with statements of fact. For example, “All particles are held together by goblins.” Who am I to argue?
- Your sentences should either be six words or fewer; either that or the better part of a page. If you repeat short phrases like a mantra, your audience will eventually come to see your point.
All particles are held together by goblins.
Particles are goblin eggs known as goblitons.
Goblitons are held together by goblins.
It should also take common, but poorly understood concepts and conflate them:
Dark Matter is small goblitons.
Dark energy is springy goblitons.
- MS Paint figures will really bring your point home. Have a theory about how all fundamental particles work, but don’t have the time to actually learn string theory or even the standard model? No problem. Just illustrate your point with, say, this:
- Shoot for the moon! Why simply worry about the systematic errors in observations or the coupling constant in an interaction when you can make your entire theory an indictment of relativity, quantum mechanics, or the standard model. In this case, it’s important to strike the proper tone. Relativity should be treated as though it’s the ramblings of some dude at a party and not, for example, one of the most successful physical theories ever, and one that has passed every observational and experimental test thrown at it for a century.
- Any theory that doesn’t explain everything, explains nothing. We haven’t detected the Higgs particle yet? That’s because the standard model is completely wrong; mass is created by goblins. There’s an observation at the 1- level which contradicts every other experiment? That’s the only one to focus on.
- Invent your own language. The disadvantage of arguing with scientists in their own language is that they know what words mean and how to turn things like “sentences” into other things like “equations.” But if you simply invent, or even better, re-purpose words for your own use, how can you possibly be refuted? I’d personally recommend “flux” and adding “-ons” to the end of words not generally associated with physics.
- Imply that there is a deeper reasoning behind your screed. Load your email with parenthetical comments (actually, there are 6 such Goblins, each with a different beard style) as well as a few generally true but trivial statements: “The Goblin force, like other (wrong) force models drops off to zero at infinity, since Goblin arms are short and stubby.” but then follow it with an extraordinary wrong comment: “Other force models must put in this behavior by hand, but the finite-armlength theorem produces it naturally.”
- Have a kick-ass manuscript. This should generally include a pdf of no less than a 100 pages which spells out your theory in full, is replete with equations that resemble well-known equations, but with subtle sub- and super-scripts that are never explained. You should also use the notation, where applicable, from 100 year old papers rather than the contemporary versions that people are well aware of.
Follow these simple steps, and you may potentially revolutionize science!