Cranks approach scientists more often than you would guess. The main strategy for dealing with them is never to get into an argument, for they will not spare any of your time to convince you that they are right. The other useful trick is to convince the crank that you do not have the required expertise to be initiated in their sacred truth.
Another strategy: Academician N.N. Bogoliubov at Moscow State University was once approached by a crank. "I unfortunately am not qualified to discuss your work" Bogoliubov told the man, "but Academician Lev Landau is working on related problems. He is the man you are looking for." [...]
On another occasion... two men from the Shah of Iran's Vienna Embassy showed up [at the Institute for Theoretical physics in Vienna where the author was located at that time]. One of the two Iranians excitedly told us about their discovery, while his companion nodded along. They had apparently discovered that time does not exist. Their proof was eminently simple. "By the time I say now, now is already over. Quot Erat Demonstrandum." Did we not agree that this was a major discovery, and what should they do with it? Armed with our two principles, we agreed that the discovery was major and suggested they work out all its implications, especially practical applications, for they would likely make a great deal of money. This did the trick; the two left happy men.
Monday, December 26, 2011
The fifth candle: Advent calendar encore
While I was looking for fodder for the advent calendar, I came across this story in "A Passion for Discovery," by Peter Freund. Freund, a professor emeritus for theoretical physics, recalls anecdotes that he has witnessed or has been told throughout his career, such as this one: