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Seven Rules For Spotting Bogus Science 759

keynet writes "Robert L. Park is a professor of physics at the University of Maryland at College Park and the director of public information for the American Physical Society, wrote a list of warning signs to help federal judges detect scientific nonsense. (OK, so it hasn't worked and the Patent Office sure hasn't got a copy.) As he says, 'There is no scientific claim so preposterous that a scientist cannot be found to vouch for it'. What he doesn't say is that there are plenty more who will invest in it or base legislation on it."
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Seven Rules For Spotting Bogus Science

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  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:02AM (#5457981)
    will of course point to this list as yet more proof of the gov'ment trying to silence them.
  • Dangit... (Score:4, Funny)

    by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:03AM (#5457985) Homepage Journal
    Does this mean all those infomercials for "like-magic" healing bracelets on TV might be bogus to? These rules seem tailor-made for them.

    Owwww, my wrists!!! I think the placebo effect is wearing off... Curse you, /.!

  • by CFBMoo1 ( 157453 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:05AM (#5457993) Homepage
    8. Logically if it weighs as much as a duck, it must float. Since it floats it's made of wood, and therefore!
    A WITCH!!!!!!!
  • Rule #1 (Score:3, Funny)

    by SpanishInquisition ( 127269 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:05AM (#5458003) Homepage Journal
    If you saw it on slashdot, there's a good chance it's a hoax.
  • by sanctimonius hypocrt ( 235536 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:06AM (#5458016) Homepage Journal
    Every day I take a big placebo. It works for me!
  • by GeckoUK ( 58633 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:06AM (#5458017)
    Why did he release these so called new "rules" direct to the media instead of having them peer reviewed first? I smell a rat :)
  • by spakka ( 606417 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:10AM (#5458043)
    'Creation' preceding the word 'science' should have been one of the indicators.
  • by phrantic ( 630202 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:14AM (#5458071)
    ....The Patent and Trademark Office recently issued Patent 6,362,718 for a physically impossible motionless electromagnetic generator....

    For sale desgin for Flux capacitor, will pay shipping in US....

  • by llamalicious ( 448215 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:14AM (#5458075) Journal
    1. Scientist making claim lives in isolation in the cellar of a large mansion or castle.
    2. Scientist's hair is pure white, sticks out perpendicular to his/her head at all tangents, and/or carries it's own, large static electric charge
    3. You are not allowed to view the creation because "you could be working for them"
    4. You are told you cannot understand the principles involved with the new creation because your brain is not sufficiently advanced to comprehend it.
    5. The invention/revelation has been "coming real soon now" for so long that no one remembers what the hell they're waiting for.
    6. The scientist has an assistant named Igor, Quasimodo, Hand, Pinky, etc.
    7. The invention/claim is patented at the USPTO.
  • by llamalicious ( 448215 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:16AM (#5458096) Journal
    Because a shadowy goverment agency is conspiring to prevent him from releasing the list in the first place!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:16AM (#5458099)
    Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?
  • Isolation (Score:1, Funny)

    by Vollernurd ( 232458 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:23AM (#5458164)
    "6. The discoverer has worked in isolation."

    But this list was developed by one guy. Ack, I don't know what to believe anymore :(

    Maybe he knew that I could not handle the truth?

    Now, where's my hazel twigs...
  • by HedRat ( 613308 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:23AM (#5458165)
    ...should be: if it has a missing step before Profit!, it's probably bogus.
  • by kevinvee ( 581676 ) <ktvaugha&unity,ncsu,edu> on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:24AM (#5458180)
    It fails on the first two counts, and probably a couple others too. (These were just the easiest to find examples of.)

    1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media. (Good Morning, America [go.com])

    2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work. (beware of elderly [com.com])
  • The rule numbering actually ranges from 1 to 8. This is because...

    "There is no rule number 6."
  • by dave_f1m ( 602921 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:30AM (#5458242)
    Actually the world was created all in one tick, about 1billion seconds ago. The gods created everything (fossils, old starlight, bible-thumping fundementalists, etc.) to fool us, and lead us to follow the dark side.
  • by ConfusedMongoose ( 636679 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:35AM (#5458288)
    Is a similar set of 7 rules for spotting vaporware ;o)
  • by eurostar ( 608330 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:38AM (#5458317)
    Ho ! these laws can also be used to detect religeous bunk...
  • Re:Rule #1 (Score:5, Funny)

    by syle ( 638903 ) <syle@w a y g a t e . org> on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:41AM (#5458363) Homepage
    If you saw it on slashdot, there's a good chance it's a hoax.
    You mean "dupe."
  • by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @10:44AM (#5458405) Journal
    Nonsense. The earth, was created 5 minutes ago, complete with all evidence saying otherwise, including your memory.

    You know why the speed of light is finite? Well, that's so that you cannot see that the universe is still under construction. Until the universe is finished, no one will be enabled to find faster-than-light travel.

    And yes, I can even make a prediction: For the forseeable future, no one will invent a working warp drive - constructing an universe is a complex task, and will last quite some time. Therefore every day from now on, where no working warp drive is invented, is clear evidence for my recent-creation-theory.

    Anyone who can show any evidence that I'm wrong? (Remember: Evidence for an older-than-five-minute universe is evidence for my recent-creation-theory, because it explicitly states such evidence was created.)

    And of course, you cannot say it could not be falsificated. Show me a working warp drive any time soon, and you've disproven it.

    Well, it seems like a quite good theory, after all :-)
  • by buzolich ( 582360 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @11:00AM (#5458582) Homepage
    1. If the announcement is made by AOL and IBM, and not an antivirus company, it's a hoax.
    2. If anti-virus programs can't save you, only deleting this file will help, it's a hoax.
    3. If it tells you to email this to everyone you know, it's a hoax.
    4. If a little kid in India is trying to get his letter around the world...sorry I digress.
    5. If it was sent from my Dad in all caps, probably another hoax.
  • by pretoris ( 442079 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @11:32AM (#5458898)
    ... It crashed at 7 times as fast so I had to slow it down to 6 times as fast.
  • Rule #1 (Score:3, Funny)

    by essdodson ( 466448 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @11:54AM (#5459088) Homepage
    If you find it on Slashdot, it's bogus.
  • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:12PM (#5459255) Homepage
    Religion is all bunk. - Thomas Edison
  • by Sans_A_Cause ( 446229 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:39PM (#5459526)
    I'm a biophysical chemist. My Dad used to be a state legislator in Mississippi. One day, some crazy inventor actually got some of the legislators to listen to his "discovery" of an engine that produced more energy than it used. He wanted the state legislature to pressure the U.S. patent office to give him a patent, which it had so far refused to do. I had to explain why this couldn't possibly be (Dad, just put your hand on it.: is it warm?). But, man, is it hard trying to explain thermodynamics to the layfolk.
  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:20PM (#5460033) Homepage Journal
    Hmm. [visits site, notes top left corner]

    "Sorry, your browser doesn't support Java(tm)."

    Hey! who took my magic Java crystals??!

  • by lethe1001 ( 606836 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @02:06PM (#5460561)
    The Crackpot Index
    John Baez

    A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics:

    1. A -5 point starting credit.

    2. 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.

    3. 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.

    4. 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.

    5. 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction.

    6. 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.

    7. 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards).

    8. 5 points for each mention of "Einstien", "Hawkins" or "Feynmann".

    9. 10 points for each claim that quantum mechanics is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

    10. 10 points for pointing out that you have gone to school, as if this were evidence of sanity.

    11. 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it.

    12. 10 points for mailing your theory to someone you don't know personally and asking them not to tell anyone else about it, for fear that your ideas will be stolen.

    13. 10 points for offering prize money to anyone who proves and/or finds any flaws in your theory.

    14. 10 points for each statement along the lines of "I'm not good at math, but my theory is conceptually right, so all I need is for someone to express it in terms of equations".

    15. 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is "only a theory", as if this were somehow a point against it.

    16. 10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory predicts phenomena correctly, it doesn't explain "why" they occur, or fails to provide a "mechanism".

    17. 10 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Einstein, or claim that special or general relativity are fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

    18. 10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a "paradigm shift".

    19. 20 points for suggesting that you deserve a Nobel prize.

    20. 20 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Newton or claim that classical mechanics is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

    21. 20 points for every use of science fiction works or myths as if they were fact.

    22. 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.

    23. 20 points for each use of the phrase "hidebound reactionary".

    24. 20 points for each use of the phrase "self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy".

    25. 30 points for suggesting that a famous figure secretly disbelieved in a theory which he or she publicly supported. (E.g., that Feynman was a closet opponent of special relativity, as deduced by reading between the lines in his freshman physics textbooks.)

    26. 30 points for suggesting that Einstein, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.

    27. 30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by an extraterrestrial civilization (without good evidence).

    28. 30 points for allusions to a delay in your work while you spent time in an asylum, or references to the psychiatrist who tried to talk you out of your theory.

    29. 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.

    30. 40 points for claiming that the "scientific establishment" is engaged in a "conspiracy" to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.

    31. 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.

    32. 40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is. (30 more points for fantasizing about show trials in which scientists who mocked your theories will be forced to recant.)

    33. 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.

"We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement." -- Richard J. Daley