The Crackpot Index
A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions
- A -5 point starting credit.
- 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.
- 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.
- 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.
- 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful
- 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results
of a widely accepted real experiment.
- 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those
with defective keyboards).
- 5 points for each mention of "Einstien", "Hawkins" or "Feynmann".
- 10 points for each claim that quantum mechanics is fundamentally
misguided (without good evidence).
- 10 points for pointing out that you have gone to school, as if this
were evidence of sanity.
- 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying
how long you have been working on it. (10 more for emphasizing that
you worked on your own.)
- 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.
- 10 points for offering prize money to anyone who proves and/or
finds any flaws in your theory.
- 10 points for each new term you invent and use without properly
- 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".
- 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory
is "only a theory", as if this were somehow a point against it.
- 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".
- 10 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Einstein, or
claim that special or general relativity are fundamentally misguided
(without good evidence).
- 10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting
edge of a "paradigm shift".
- 20 points for emailing me and complaining about the crackpot
index. (E.g., saying that it "suppresses original thinkers"
or saying that I misspelled "Einstein" in item 8.)
- 20 points for suggesting that you deserve a Nobel prize.
- 20 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Newton or
claim that classical mechanics is fundamentally misguided (without
- 20 points for every use of science fiction works or myths as if
they were fact.
- 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined)
ridicule accorded to your past theories.
- 20 points for naming something after yourself. (E.g., talking
about the "The Evans Field Equation" when your name happens to be
- 20 points for talking about how great
your theory is, but never actually explaining it.
- 20 points for each use of the phrase "hidebound reactionary".
- 20 points for each use of the phrase "self-appointed defender
of the orthodoxy".
- 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.)
- 30 points for suggesting that Einstein, in his later years, was
groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.
- 30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by an
extraterrestrial civilization (without good evidence).
- 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.
- 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to
Nazis, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.
- 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.
- 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that
a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.
- 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.)
- 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but
giving no concrete testable predictions.
© 1998 John Baez