Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Portrait of a Crackpot

Well, tonight thanks to an unsolicited email to anticrackpot@gmail.com (keep them coming!), I have discovered crackpot gold. Rather, Eric (who does not indicate his last name) is a criminal defense attorney in the US, and did some digging on our favorite anti-LHC crackpot, Walter L. Wagner. It would seem this particular crackpot has something of a hero complex. For the uninitiated, Wagner is behind the Hawaii lawsuit against the LHC (which was recently thrown out of court) as well as the previous lawsuit against the RHIC collider (which was also thrown out).

Before he started his campaign to rid the world of particle colliders, he attempted to rid the world of uranium-glazed tiles in California. Rather than repeat everything Eric has dug up though, let me just refer you to his blog, Return of Radiation Man, where you can read all the details of his dubious education, criminal history, and how many days he spent in California jails (and why).

For some reason, some people still doubt us when thousands of scientists come out and say "this guy is nuts"! Maybe a lawyer saying the same thing will help.

Thanks Eric!


Eric said...

You're welcome. The name of the blog is "Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets" (a jokey Newton reference, of course, though it's not a dedicated science blog by any means), and I don't mind my name not being called attention to, but it does appear in the copyright information at the bottom of the page.

More importantly: keep fighting the good fight!

Baragon-Kun said...

this is winning stuff, now seriously, i hope this demostrate better than worse that this crackpots are retards...

but be carefull guys, maybe some pesky crackpots should watch us, but we can fight them!!!!

(im beign funny for eliminate stress^^)

Anonymous said...

Recommended reading: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ad-hominem.html

In other words, this kind of personal destruction argument may be able to sway somebody with an IQ < 90, but may well backfire with intelligent non-physicists.

(As an aside, this particular guy seems to be a little into self-aggrandizing and to get a little obsessive about things, love objects included. No "respectable" physicists like that? Come on.)

Stick with the issue, not the people.

De Bunker said...

Anonymous, I agree that ad-hominem attacks are distasteful, and didn't intend this post to be an attack. The referenced blog dissects his credentials, in particular, which is useful.

The issues have been hashed and rehashed many times over, and this has been discussed in many places. A particular characteristic of crackpots is that they do not accept new arguments. Rather, they simply repeat old, debunked arguments. So what is a rational person to do? Just keep repeating the refutation, ad infinitum? This is one reason that most people ignore the crackpots -- you can't have a logical argument, and they will take all your time if you let them.

I think it's reasonable to examine how/why such an antagonistic crackpot came into being. Part of my motivation with this blog is exactly to examine the long-ignored crackpots. I would prefer to ignore them, but at the point they are causing harm to our experiments and even causing deaths, something must be done.

Anonymous said...

De Bunker, I'm delighted you (and people like Eric) are doing this work. I told all my colleagues at work about Wagner's antecedents, and (except for one guy who thought stalking was a sign of being "a romantic") they all agreed that this shows that the true motivation behind his attacks against science is most likely a mixture of a profound inability to handle rejection (in love or elsewhere) and some form of narcissism or other personality disorder. So this is definitely not an "ad hominem" (calling this an argumentum ad hominem would also presuppose that there is in fact a debate about "LHC safety" to be had with Wagner and his ilk), but in fact an interesting empirical study in what drives crackpots.

Baragon-Kun said...

you know, today came to my mind that, how a person like Wagner did too convince the people like Luis Sancho and "JTankers" of his "Revolutionary Visions".

and this is kinda speculative, but, did you think that Rossler and Plaga (who had little or null knowladges about this issue) had started their visions, cause of the vision of Wagner, what can be thinkin when they know about this evidence recently discovered, of course i think they will try to came in defense of Mr.Wagner but if that is the case, may they already know about Wagner "historial" and they just were "hired" or perphaps have similar historial to agreed with him.

this is just a personal opinion from a non-scientist, but you have no idea how joy and pleasured make me feel discover that the men who started all this (should i say it) bullshit, was exposed, and people can know the kind of men who "terrorize" them with fears based on a lie

Ian O'Neill said...

Wow. Having had a long and involved conversation with Wagner on a radio discussion, I really wish I had read the Radiation Man first.

I understood that he had attempted to shut down the RHIC, but I had no idea he was a radioactive tile crusader too!

Now it all makes sense - Wagner remarked in our conversation that he wants the LHC to be "100% safe" - it would seem that his reality is slightly different to everyone else's. There's a big difference between low calculated risk and immediate danger, alas Wagner will always believe the former.

Plus he thinks he's a superhero, which is never a good thing.

Loving the blog by the way :-)

Cheers, Ian

John the Scientist said...

Anonymous 3:05 - I am going to break this up to avoid the spam filters, because I'm providing links, some of which contain Wagner's own comments, to back up my assertions.

I am one of the group that engaged Wagner (I also hold a Ph.D. in Chemistry, which gives me some insight into the ascientific methods of Wagner et al.). We directly challenged him to present his arguments . He has failed to do so, except by pointing to Plaga and Rossler's debunked papers. He claims those papers are correct. When asked why he should be believed on this issue, he trots out his supposed credentials.

John the Scientist said...

Other members of Eric's internet group, including Jim and me, have challenged Wagner to pony up proof either of his credentials or his science (in the form of a non-reviewed paper on arXiv). We've been nice, we've been blunt, and we've been insulting. Nothing of substance has come forward.

What has come forward is "I'm as smart as a physicist because I aced a California elementary teacher's exam", "I can play chess better than some physicists, therefore I am one", "I'm a published author because I wrote a letter to the editor at Sci Am", and "that one paper in 1974 where i was listed in the acknowledgments was really my paper, and we really discovered a magnetic monopole and member of the National Academy of Sciences Buford Price buried a Nobel-worthy discovery in his 1978 retraction just to keep me down". I kid you not, go read the comment thread at my site if you can stomach 102 comments, half of which are idiotic.

Don't wade into this discussion thinking Eric's post is the first one. We've given Wagner every chance to explain himself logically, and what we get back in response is "I'm more accomplished and smarter than you". I would submit that when a person uses that logic, they have opened themselves up to legitimate ad hominem attacks.

Baragon-Kun said...

you know guys, i know my english is almost broken, but, i want to adress this situation in my personal opinion and based on all the things that has been happening over this issue, but it will be on my native languaje and i asking you (when it was done) to translate it and share it (with your personal oppinions as well), and share it to the scientific community, but as well to the normal community (wich i belong), to stop this bullshit once and for all

by now i will say something, that i was thinkin to myself in the past, and NOW I CAN FINALLY SAID WITHOUT FEAR OF RETRACT MYSELF

Walter L. Wagner IS (Without a doubt) the Jack Thompson of the Science Communty (you know who Jack Thompson is right???)

John the Scientist said...

Baragon-kun - if your native language is Japanese, I can take a stab at helping you translate. My Japanese is OK, not great, but I can get help if need be.

Baragon-Kun said...

actually sir, im mexican, my native language is spanish, but im honored and glad, and all i have to say is thanks.

my essay will be post in the next 3-4 days

Ptrslv72 said...

Speaking of crackpots, have a look at the webpage of Luis Sancho, the other intellectual giant of the Hawaii lawsuit:


no need for ad-hominem attacks here, the guy himself does all the work for you... ;-)

Enjoy, Ptrslv72

John the Scientist said...

Ah, the "kun" threw me off - it's a term used with kids instead of the honorific "san" in Japanese.

Spanish is one I can't help you with, sorry.

Eric said...

Baragon-Kun: the Jack Thompson metaphor is surprisingly apt, in my opinion.

Baragon-Kun said...


my issue will be up the next couple of days

Baragon-Kun said...

the 1st part of my essay is here


(warning, is in spanish)

Baragon-Kun said...

just to let you know guys, that the final part is my issue is finally written, but may i will update it in the next days, but for now, here is part 3


Ronald@physicsworks.ca said...

Hello all,

It's not always obvious who is a crackpot or not. Lots of physicists are fooling themselves by assuming for instance that there is a God and Jezus etcc ...and there is intelligent design going on. Yeah right...what a waste of money to study physics and after graduating still have belief there is some sort of upper creature, who is also a textbook writer for one and the same version of the textbook for thousand of years called The Bible.

Take care guys.

no one said...

Have you heard of George Ryzanov? A lot of people think he is a crackpot but I am pretty sure there is something special going on inside his writings

luis sancho said...

just for the record and to be brief, as so many people have posted accusing me of 'crackpot', during those years, accusations i didnt answer to focus on the real problem, our life safety, my work on science has established the paradigm of fractal space-time, which is substituting the quantum paradigm as it:
1) advances mathematics into the XXI c. by completing the 5 postulates of Non-Euclidean mathematics and fusions them with fractal mathematics - the task left unresolved by Riemann and mandelbrot:
2) It unifies the electromagnetic and gravitational membranes, resolving the concept of mass - the task left unresolved by Enstein, and FUSIONS the 2 concepts of time developped by BIOLOGY (Darwin) and PHYSICS (Einstein):
And the result is the explanation of all the systems and entities of the Universe as forms of fractal space/time whose existence occurs under the same laws of XXI century non-Euclidean fractal mathematics and non-Aristotelian complex logic:

Those 3 papers/conferences i gave as chair of duality on the International Congresses of Systems and Complex Sciences and the thousands of pages that complete those models published in spain will be more important for science and with no cost and risk that anything CERN will ever do. I would apreciate if NYtimes has the deference to publish this note to close this thread so people with intelligence can assess by themselves who is crackpoting, with the authority of truth not the truth of authority.
The same authority of truth, is what we seek and failled to obtain in the lhc case. So just to wish you good luck from XXI c. science, you are gonna need it. Alea Jacta Est...
luis sancho

Michael Varney said...

Too bad blogging was not available during the heyday of sci.physics on Usenet. Your blog would have been fun to reference.
You would have also been able to draw from some of the giants in the physic and math crank world!

Also, perhaps you should ask readers to submit their first crank letter?


(First crank letter usually comes after first big publication, such as in Nature or Science or such).


Jerry said...

Great post! I am a college sophomore with a dual major in Physics and Mathematics @ University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. By the way, i came across these excellentphysics flash cards. Its also a great initiative by the FunnelBrain team. Amazing!!!