Nutters Praise Nutters

The ZX81 certainly kick-started home-computing in the UK, but it had its dark side. Clive Sinclair, one-time head of Mensa, made a personal fortune (circa £39,000,000) for himself amid complaints about abysmal customer service. He eventually lost the right to use his own name on products. He then re-surfaced with that ridiculous electric car. Now then, some people may remember that – just before disappearing as a computer manufacturer – he repeatedly promised that he was going to market cheap super-computers. This was going to be achieved by using entire Czochraski-process photo-engraved silicon slices without cutting them up into hundreds of separate processor units. This would eliminate a lot of the usual cutting, wiring, testing and encapsulating. It would have indeed produced a cheap computer with enormous potential. Where did it all go wrong? Sinclair had made the mistake of listening to a Mr Ivor Catt, who had already failed to sell the idea to major companies. Mr Catt, like Ron, was also unhappy with accepted physics; especially the displacement-current part of Maxwell’s equations. Catt railed against physicists for decades in the pages of Wireless World and its successors. No surprise there: before the advent of modern ‘purpose-built’ crackpot journals, Wireless World was the go-to place for the lunatic fringe (and for the plagiarist, Arthur C.Clarke). And like Ron, Catt did not speak of real scientists in polite terms. Some of his letters sounded like a Russian revolutionary exhorting other malcontents to storm the Winter Palace. This may sound like an obituary, but Catt is unfortunately still with us (unlike that former murderer, torturer and Irish Education Minister). However, some misguided Italian authors have found it worthwhile to write a book about Mr Catt’s travails. There is even talk of making a movie about him. In the lunatic fringe, that sort of naivety (the Italians call him a ‘brave thinker’) is still seen as being too critical. And so it has come to pass that their weak-kneed articles  on Catt have attracted the ire of another crackpot, the Public Dick (S.Crothers to the uninitiated). Electrical engineers are always a little flaky (having been taught physics only on a ‘need-to-know’ basis) and this explains the Italians’ too-indulgent approach to Catt. Crothers nevertheless accuses them, in an IEEE [sic] journal,  of ‘confound[ing] the Catt Anomaly with the Catt Question’. Who cares?  Both are fatuous. Much of Catt’s confusion arises because he cannot reconcile (in his mind) the facts that, whereas electrical signals propagate at near-light velocity in a metal wire, Usain Bolt could easily out-run any individual electron. 

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4 Responses to “Nutters Praise Nutters”

  1. Harry Hab Says:

    Speaking of nutter farming, what does crackpotwatch make of vixra? Public Dick can be found there, of course, but there is so much more crackedness to behold (which is your avowed mission). Be very careful, though, the lesser Gibbs who is in charge there, the primus inter pares of the inmates, is a thoroughly nasty little sort, the ultimate keyboard warrior.

    • crackpotwatch Says:

      We are not fans even of arXiv, so we are not likely to admire its backward, and backwards, alter ego. Our author-friend has discovered something rather depressing, skepticism-wise, about viXra. He will reveal that later. We already have a file on Gibbs. See our posts of 9th March 2016 and 14th September 2014.

  2. Interested Observer Says:

    And nutters praise nutters who praise nutters.

    One of Catt’s heroes is the former medical correspondent of the Sunday Times, Neville Hodgkinson – a known crackpot who left journalism to write a book entitled ‘AIDS, the Failure of Contemporary Science – How a Virus that Never Was Deceived the World’. He then disappeared into obscurity having had a religious epiphany and joined a bizarre millenarian sect.

    Catt admiringly quotes Hodgkinson on the ‘totalist’ scientific establishment and its treatment of ‘heretics’. Hodgkinson disputed the thesis that AIDS was caused by a virus, and claimed that the evidence supporting such a claim was non-existent. Unfortunately for him, his book appeared just as irrefutable proof of the nature and mechanism of HIV infection was published – research which led to the development of combination drug therapy so effective that newly diagnosed HIV-positive patients now have a life expectancy virtually equal to that of an individual never exposed to the virus.

    Not only was Hodgkinson allowed a national media platform to publish his nonsense – he was a prolific contributor to African magazines and newspapers, where his ‘alternative’ theories on HIV/AIDS found an enthusiastic readership, undoubtedly harming the efforts of international health organisations to halt the catastrophic advance of the epidemic.

    The moral? Crackpots aren’t scientific heroes challenging a dogmatic establishment, or even entertaining idiots. They’re dangerous fools whose misguided beliefs can cost thousands of lives.

    • crackpotwatch Says:

      We seem to remember that Hodgkinson, who had an interest in an alternative health clinic, was once vigorously defended on Newsnight by Andrew Neil … whose career somehow survived. Catt signed a petition to the effect that “AIDS is not caused by a virus”. That petition was also signed by the scientist who invented the ‘DNA amplification’ technique which revolutionized forensic science. As our author-friend says, “science is trustworthy; individual scientists can be very untrustworthy”.

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