“Big bang,” relativity, quantum physics – scientists and scholars have been trying since the beginning of time to explain away the universe. But do you need an advanced science degree to uncover its secrets? Just as there are “outsider artists,” those with no formal training whose work has surprised its way into galleries and collections, there is also a world of passionate, dedicated “outsider scientists.”
Working in backyards, basements and their own imaginations, these unusual thinkers challenge us to rethink the role that amateurs play in our relationship to science.
Margaret Wertheim first became interested in outsider physicists when she came across the works of Jim Carter. His self-published book, “The Other Theory of Physics,” offers a fresh and completely alternative description of the universe, based on a theory he calls “Circlon Synchronicity.” Not just an extension of current theories of physics, but a wholesale reconstruction, Carter’s book captivated Wertheim with fresh theories of matter, energy, gravity and a complete account of the creation of the universe, complete with diagrams drawn in the author’s own hand.
This led Wertheim into a fifteen-year odyssey into the minds of Carter and other outsiders, from 17th-century philosophers to modern-day thinkers. Their creative, sometimes bizarre approach to answering age-old scientific questions offers a fresh perspective on what science is and who it is for. Physics, their work tells us, is for everyone – not just those in the hallowed halls and laboratories of academia. And in these days of instant information accessibility, anyone with a laptop can publish their own theory online.
Which begs the question -- what should be our criteria of credibility in this field? In 2012, Jim Carter will have been working on his theory for fifty years. Does he have the answer to the secrets of the universe? Do you?
Margaret Wertheim, author of “Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons and Alternative Theories of Everything” (Walker Books)
This evening, Wertheim will be in conversation with outsider physicist Jim Carter at the ALOUD series at the Los Angeles Public Library, discussing Carter’s theory of matter, energy and gravity. For more information, click here.