Re: Open Letter

Amara Graps (
Thu, 22 Jul 1999 07:54:56 +0100

Lee Crocker:
>>Creating serious-sounding organizations makes your press releases sound
>>more credible without having to have any actual credibility.
>I didn't create SPSR (though I'm flattered by your accusation).
>SPSR is a group of trained scientists of various types who
>single-handedly convinced NASA to take a second look, and who
>have presented papers at the American Geophysical Union and elsewhere.

I had to smile when I read this, because I see the other side. Just because someone presents something at a meeting doesn't mean that it's good work. Also, how do you know that those scientists are not simply humoring the person/group, in order to not face a bigger problem?

Oh, NASA and other scientists are faced quite often with the dilemma of what to do about crackpots.

Often, they are simply too busy to do much, so they ignore it.

And even more importantly, those that have large decision-making responsibilities are aware that their actions may look like censuring, and that's something they wish to avoid. And so they walk delicately.

An anecdotal story:

Last year a poster by Hoagland made it into the poster displays of the annual Division of Planetary Sciences meeting. The poster was displayed alongside the other scientific results of Mars research.

I listened to a group of about 6 very smart and reputable Mars researchers I know who were standing around Hoagland's poster and discussing how Hoagland's poster made it through the review process, and what Hoagland's display may do to the overall reputation of the DPS.

What I learned from their discussion is that the reviewers knew very well Hoagland's "reputation", and they felt that others at the science meeting would recognize it for what it was (Hoagland is actually rather famous among planetary scientists as being one of the king of the crackpots).

Also these researchers felt that it was better to simply let it pass, than reject the poster and face the possibility of censuring accusations by the public and giving fuel to any other crackpot people and theories. They were simply ignoring it, the best they could, in order to help it die a slow death.


Amara Graps               | Max-Planck-Institut fuer Kernphysik
Interplanetary Dust Group | Saupfercheckweg 1
+49-6221-516-543          | 69117 Heidelberg, GERMANY *

"Never fight an inanimate object." - P. J. O'Rourke