During my “free time” – I know, ha-ha right? – one of my passions is researching and either verifying or debunking strange and wild claims. In fact, together with a good friend from the UK, we started a website devoted to investigating such bogus science claims. While that research started primarily focused on Ufology, lately we’ve started branching out into fringe science and physics.
One of the most amazing things that you’ll discover when you start poking around into the field of fringe science is that it’s a field filled with about 90% scam artists (most researchers label them as snake-oil salesmen), and 10% legitimate science. Many of you have probably seen some of the outlandish bogus science claims related to free, renewable energy technologies, anti-gravity devices and the like – but there is also some remarkable research taking place in legitimate labs across the country. One example would be brain-wave interfacing with computer systems, a cutting-edge technology which even the U.S. Army is currently exploring.
Now, the fact that there could be legitimate science mixed in with all of the bogus science claims leads countless risk capital investors to throw their money away by investing in many of the snake-oil salesmen schemes. Due diligence only goes so far – some of these con-artists are brilliant at making quantum physics theory sound practical. So, where should people go to try and verify whether any of these fringe science claims are legitimate?
I’m going to resist the urge to plug my own website, because there are so many sites out there that have been at this work for far longer – so here are the top 5 websites where you can research wild and bogus science claims.
Exploring Fringe Science – To Debunk Or Not To Debunk?
Exploring the world of the strange and unusual can be difficult for a lot of people. While you want to open your mind enough to the possibilities – as a friend of mine once told me, you also don’t want to open up your mind so much that it becomes a wind tunnel. To truly explore the edge of science, you need to maintain a conservative, guarded yet open-minded approach. The following websites will help you with that, so that you can explore these amazing new areas of science without slipping off the cliff and falling down a bottomless rabbit hole.
The first website is also one of my favorites – The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
The “Committee” is more popularly known as “CSI-COP” since 2006, they changed their Acronym to simply “CSI,” and they publish the magazine called the Skeptical Inquirer. The organization is run by founder and Chairman Paul Kurtz, Chairman Richard Schroeder, President Ronald A. Lindsay, Executive Director Barry Karr and Research Fellows Joe Nickell, Massimo Polidoro and Richard Wiseman.
As a team, and with the support of Fellows and writers from across the world, this organization and website stands as a beacon of truth for all serious investigators in the areas of the paranormal and fringe science.
The next excellent resource for hard-hitting reviews of the latest fringe research is Popular Mechanics.
Popular Mechanics is the first place that I often go during my lunch break if I’m in the mood to discover the latest news in science. Covering areas like space, the environment, robotics, health and more – this is the place where it’s all happening. The writers at Popular Mechanics are highly credentialed and very intelligent. They aren’t taken in by junk science – but they do report on the latest and coolest scientific discoveries and research of the day.
The next fringe Science site that I’d like to call your attention to is Robert Carroll’s The Skeptic’s Dictionary. While I realize the word “skeptic” has poor connotations among many people who are interested in paranormal and fringe science, it is actually those who get labeled as “skeptics” that make the most scientific progress, because they focus on legitimate science, verified facts and they are not distracted by all of the nonsense.
Robert Carroll retired from teaching philosophy in 1977. His credentials stand on their own – having taught courses in things like Logic & Critical Reasoning, Critical Thinking About the Paranormal and World Religions. He also published Becoming a Critical Thinker in 2000 and The Skeptic’s Dictionary in 2003.
Robert is obviously the perfect guy to run one of the best investigative sites on the net that focus on weird and wacky claims, covering topics like ETs and UFOs, Junk Science, New Age and Paranormal. I encourage you to visit Skepdic.com and support Robert Carroll in his efforts to promote logic and reason.
It goes without saying that one of the greatest and best-known Skeptics (with a capital “S”) of all time is the amazing James Randi.
I had the pleasure of interviewing James Randi back in 2007 while I was investigating some particular scientific claims related to parapsychology. Randi has a great deal to say on the topic of parapsychology – in fact he played a major role in the history of the movement – at one point injecting his own team of two amateur magicians into the “scientific” research of parapsychologists. Through his efforts, he exposed how easily parapsychologists can be fooled by simple magic tricks.
Today, James Randi is considered the “hit man” of Science – mostly because he takes a no-holds-barred approach to attacking especially ludicrous paranormal claims and driving them directly into the ground. His website is one of the most entertaining places to learn the true nature of many of the claims produced by junk scientists.
Finally, if you simply want to discuss particular fringe claims with other open-minded skeptics like yourself – I highly recommend that you head over to Physics Forums.
While the majority of the site is dedicated to mainstream science and physics discussions – even entire areas devoted to science education, mathematics and engineering, you’ll discover the Scepticism & Debunking section under the PF Lounge area. This section is one of the most active and entertaining forums on this site – where you can discuss and analyze some of the latest unexplained phenomena claims. Just be ready for some lively conversation!
Do you have your own favorite places to go when you want to research weird science claims? Share your own resources in the comments section below.