By Debra Kelly via Listverse
Science is something of . . . well . . . an inexact science. Throughout history, there have been countless explanations of natural phenomena that we’ve considered true, only to discover decades later that we were really off the mark. There are some scientists, though, whose theories seem so far out in left field that they’re not even playing the same game.
10 • Wilhelm Reich Orgone
Born in 1897, Wilhelm Reich was a psychiatrist enamored of the works of Sigmund Freud. He briefly worked with Freud and later started his own practice in 1922. By 1940, he had moved to the United States and fully developed his theories.
According to Reich, he had scientifically proven the existence of a compound that he described as a form of energy in the body that was the physical manifestation of the libido, building up in the body until it was successfully discharged through an orgasm. Reich built a machine that would allow him to study this energy, crossing the threshold between not only psychology and biology, but also between Eastern ideas and Western methods. He named the energy “orgone,” as he had first discovered it while researching the mechanics of the orgasm, but he soon was looking at orgone in areas outside of human biology. It formed a crucial part in his theories about everything from gravity to the weather.
Reich and his supporters have done a massive amount of research and experimentation on the properties of orgone. In 1947, he wrote a book called The Cancer Biopathy based on his experiments injecting cancerous cells in mice with what he called “bions,” or the most basic element of the energy of life. According to Reich’s theories, cancer was largely the result of the breakdown of these elements, and he claimed to have been able to extend the lives of his mice by weeks—and even longer when he used the energy collected from his orgone accumulator.
Today, there are still organizations (like the American College of Orgonomy) that formally study Reich’s work and offer Medical Orgone Therapy as an option for the treatment of disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
9 • Frederic Petit Another Moon
According to astronomer Frederic Petit, Earth has a second moon. Working in 1846 from an observatory in Toulouse, France, Petit claimed that the presence of the second moon explained away all the astronomical irregularities that other astronomers were having difficulty with. He claimed this second moon had an orbital time of only 2 hours, 44 minutes, and 59 seconds. At its farthest point from Earth, Petit’s second moon was about 3,570 kilometers (2,218 mi) away.
No one took his findings seriously when he made them public, but he continued to release new findings about his moon and its effects on the real Moon and the Earth for 15 years after his initial discovery. Petit’s theory might have gone completely unnoticed by the scientific community if it hadn’t been picked up by Jules Verne in From the Earth to the Moon.
The reference is a brief one, but Verne comments about this second moon and names Petit as the man who discovered it. Instead of fading into scientific obscurity, amateur astronomers started searching the skies for evidence of this second moon, which has caused many other discoveries about the celestial bodies in the Earth’s orbit. In 1989, a man named Georg Waltemath claimed to have discovered that the planet was orbited by not only a couple of moons, but a whole network of mini moons. Some of these moons illuminated the sky with the same strength as the Sun, he claimed. Waltemath also released a series of dates and times at which people would supposedly be able to see these mini moons passing in front of the Sun. A lot of people spent several days in February 1898 staring at the Sun, but no one saw anything out of the ordinary.
Nikola Tesla has become something of an Internet hero. According to legend, he was a mad genius who almost never got the credit he deserved in the money-hungry world of science. It’s easy to argue that Tesla didn’t make it further because of his eccentricities: He hated everything, suffered from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, and might have been autistic. The truth, however, is far simpler: Many of his ideas just weren’t viable. Although many people would like to believe otherwise, Tesla was far from perfect.
10 • Alleged Eidetic Memory
It’s often claimed that Tesla never needed to write anything down because he had either a photographic or eidetic memory. While scientists have not ruled out the claim, the researchers who have studied the phenomenon have admitted that they can’t even prove its existence, although others have pointed out flaws in their methodologies.
As a brilliant scientist and inventor, it’s quite possible that Tesla had excellent visual memory, but it was never tested. It’s certainly not true that he never needed to write anything down—Tesla kept copious notes on his inventions and ideas, many of which have survived to this day. Scientists were thrilled by the possibilities they might contain, but upon examination, these notebooks were found to be highly speculative and contain no useful scientific knowledge.
9 • Irresponsibility With Money
Many people claim that Tesla died penniless, and some go so far as to say he always was. This is decried as a great injustice against such a brilliant mind. The truth, much like the man himself, is a little more complicated. There is some evidence that he could have made more money if his patents had been secured better or he had not been exploited by people like Thomas Edison. Tesla never cared much for the business aspect of his work, though, and even if he had made a fortune, he likely would have blown it.
Tesla had a reputation for hemorrhaging money. He lived in fancy hotels and sunk the rest of his money into increasingly ambitious—and expensive—projects. He had a history of borrowing money from friends and getting evicted from those hotels. He would sometimes even leave some of his notebooks behind as collateral for the debt when he moved out.
Tesla once commented on his poverty when the city tried to force him to pay a tax bill, admitting that he had no money and “scores” of other debts he owed. He explained that he had been living on credit at the Waldorf for several years. He had plenty of opportunities to pay off his debts and keep his patents from lapsing, but instead, he maintained his lavish lifestyle until the day he died.
8 • Wild Claims
Thanks to the Tesla revival, every absurd claim he made to newspapers back in the day is now being repeated as fact. The truth is that Tesla made many claims so far out of left field that they would destroy a scientist’s credibility even today, often with no evidence or results to back them up. But if Tesla was crazy, he was crazy like a fox. Oftentimes, his claims were reported shortly before the historical experiments of other scientists.
For example, when Marconi was gearing up for some important radio signal tests, Tesla told the media that he had already received radio transmissions that he believed were from Mars. With his technology, he claimed, we would soon be able to communicate with other planets almost instantaneously. Other projects he claimed to be working on included a torpedo that could be recalled even after being fired and a powerful death ray.
As bizarre as these claims sounded, they gave the impression that Tesla was light-years ahead of everyone else. But if the general public was impressed, the scientific community was decidedly not, regarding Tesla as being mostly full of hot air. While this is an overreaction—Tesla certainly did contribute to our body of scientific knowledge—the plausibility of many of Tesla’s inventions is greatly exaggerated.
7 • Strange Visions
Tesla’s tall tales weren’t confined to his inventions or supposed interactions with Martians. He also believed that he received a variety of important visions. The first occurred when he was walking in the park with a friend after suffering a nervous breakdown due to his constant lack of sleep.
According to Tesla, he had a vision of the entire model for his AC motor and started drawing it in the dirt. Considering that he had already stated that he had been thinking about the idea for about six years, he probably wasn’t being entirely truthful.
His second “vision” occurred much later in life, involving his beloved pigeons. He claimed that he was alone in his hotel room one night when a white pigeon for whom he harbored particularly great affection came to see him. He was then suddenly blinded by two powerful beams of light that communicated to him that he had finished all of his life’s work and would die soon.
6 • Insomnia And Addiction To Work
Tesla’s visions could probably be more reasonably attributed to his lack of sleep than any mystical properties. He was known to be a workaholic, to the point that any kind of rest was inconceivable. He claimed that he went to bed at 5:00 AM and rose only five hours later, and only two of those hours were spent sleeping. Once a year, he indulged himself and actually slept all five hours. He never stopped thinking about his work, even when he was snoozing.
There’s no doubt that Tesla’s insomnia had a profound impact on his physical and psychological health for his entire life, but it’s likely that its extent was another of his exaggerations. Humans simply aren’t capable of maintaining such a lack of sleep and remaining alive. However, it is possible Tesla had simply deluded himself. The hotel employees who attended his room said they often found Tesla standing silently, apparently awake but totally unaware of his surroundings. It’s likely that he slept more than he realized, falling into these nap-like trances as a natural reaction to that level of sleep deprivation.