In an age where we still have to convince people that the Apollo landings actually happened and that perpetual motion devices don't actually exist, it's handy to have these Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science around to help the logically disinclined ferret out the charlatans among us:
- The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
- The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
- The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
- Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
- The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
- The discoverer has worked in isolation.
- The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.
These are the characteristics of the lone, rogue scientists who often save the day in badly written sci-fi movies (*cough*The Core*cough*)—and thus they appeal to some rote mythic instinct that compels the more fanciful among us to believe them—but in reality scientists can't and don't work alone, and thus don't confront and recapitulate the entire scientific community with more media appearances than evidence. Thusly, you are forewarned.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.