The World of Questy

Weird science behind conspiracy theories and urban legends

When I was in high school a friend of mine was really into the Erich von Daniken books, some of you might remember the best-selling books on ancient aliens in his "Chariots of the Gods" series. They were very popular with the geeks of my generation in the 1970s and 1980s The people who followed von Däniken's theories usually followed the overall genre of UFOs and conspiracy theories. I read all the Chariots of the Gods books, the books on Project Blue Book and UFOs, and whatever else I could find on what I collectively called strange science.

In the late 1970s I had a radio show where I discussed Project Blue Book and UFOs. Project Blue Book was one of a series of studies of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) conducted by the United States Air Force. Its ceased operations in January 1970 with the conclusion that there was no evidence that any of the sightings were extraterrestrial vehicles. With thousands of reports to analyze and hundreds of expert witnesses, the stories and conspiracy theories went on long after Project Blue Book was shut down.

I was happy to find my stash of books from the 1970s, as shown in the photo attached to this article. One of the books you see in the photo is "Strangest of All" by Frank Edwards, an American writer and broadcaster. Frank Edwards was a pioneer radio broadcaster in the 1920s through the 1950s, and a writer of a series of popular books about UFOs and "Strange Science."

I would buy a new book every week or two, as well as read about inventors and inventions in magazines like Popular Science or Popular Mechanics. Other than to talk about these topics with my friend, and read a few magazines, I did not have any way to really explore these topics in more detail. Back in the dark ages of the 1970s we did not have the internet to share ideas.  The stories have not changed since I first read them in the 1970s. What has changed is the new vehicle of the internet where myths and legends can take on a massive cult of followers.



Why believe in pseudosciences?

Many of the books on UFOs and ancient aliens are considered pseudoscience, meaning a false science, because they represent ideas and events that can not be validated by appropriate scientific methods. People imply that you are only intelligent if you believe in true science, and often make remarks that only an idiot would read a book classified as pseudoscience.

I can believe in the possibility of many ideas outside the realm of "conventional wisdom" without having to join the cult of a madman. I can believe there is the possibility of life on other planets without believing the information on the UFO websites telling me how aliens from other planets live among us. I can believe the government withholds key information from the public about world events without believing that every strange event is part of a government conspiracy. I spend a lot of time studying the lives of famous scientists and inventors, some of them have some pretty crazy ideas. An expression you will often see used is that there is a fine line between genius and insanity. There are times when we all walk along that line.

I am a believer in the statement made by Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." There are many ideas which are considered pseudoscience that can be very interesting to study, and learning about them will definitely stretch your mind to a new dimension. That's why we are exploring myths and legends here at the World of Questy.

Spreading urban legends

Anytime someone sends me one of those amazing stories emails I often will research it. Before I tell a friend, post it to Facebook, or send it in an email, I like to know more about it. I love to hear about people doing cool things, especially something kind and generous. But if I want to hear about fictional crazy people and their wild adventures, I'll watch a Marvel comics movie. So many stores get passed off as factual, but no one ever does the simplest check of the facts.

Sometimes the answers, or the truth in the matter, is not clear cut. Sometimes a different story told from a different perspective can have a totally different look and feel to it. We can understand that. But some stories have nothing to validate them as being authentic, but for some reason they keep being told, simply because they are crazy or absurd.

Topics such as UFOs and conspiracy theories that were popular in various books and magazines in the 1970s and 1980s, are now generating a new wave of cult followers on the internet. Websites like YouTube can be an amazing place where you can learn a lot. People spend a lot of time creating great videos on how to do many things. On the other hand I have seen many videos on YouTube that were downright crazy in the amount of misinformation they were putting out. I can find thousands of YouTube videos on perpetual motion machines, 200 mpg carburetors, UFOs and aliens

Television shows like the X-files took topics like UFOs and conspiracy theories and carried them from themes followed by a few special interests into popular culture. We all now use the tagline "The Truth Is Out There", thanks to shows like the X-files.

The internet does not always record history, sometimes it creates it. Recently we added the page to Geekhistory.com, "Urban legend: I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." It is a topic I researched years ago as one of the many examples that gives merit to the point that the internet is a place that writes and recreates history based on public opinion, rather than just the facts. That is a major flaw in the artificial intelligence of search engines, specifically Google, who equate value with popularity. If thousands of websites tell us that IBM Chairman Thomas Watson said, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers," in 1943, then it must be true. Doesn't it?

Learn the truth: "Urban legend: I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

Delusional inventors plagued by conspiracies

Over at the website GeekHistory we look at inventors and inventions, exploring when visions became reality. There are a few cases where the myths and legends go deep beyond the history technology become crazy stories of cult followers and bizarre claims. Here at the World of Questy we look at methods and the madmen that take a question where where people have some doubt and create a sermon to answer the question. We look at the many scammers and false prophets that run off and turn an idea into a cult.

Sometimes it is hard to separate the theories of delusional inventors from their fanatic cult of followers who often rationalize the failures of their heroes with various legends of some conspiracy against them. Sadly, I see many people in search of answers who become members of various cults, and don't even realize it. I shake my head while reading comments on an online forum, I ask "can you tell me the exact source of your information." The commenter replies back, "I read it on the Internet."

There is a category of hucksters and outright frauds who we call the snake oil salesmen. In our next article we we explore the scams and hoaxes common in the old west that gave birth to the phrase Snake Oil as an all purpose cure for any problem.

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Why Nikola Tesla has become a cult hero

Every great epic story needs a hero and a villain. In the romanticized story known as the War of Currents, Thomas Edison is the villain. He is the guy everyone loves to hate. Nikola Tesla represents the hero we can identify with, the dreamer in all of us.

Nikola Tesla was a handsome well dressed fellow. He hung out at New York's finest restaurants rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Tesla was an entertaining guy, he had cool party tricks, he invited the rich and famous back to his lab so he could shoot lighting bolts at them. He was a very interesting character.

Thomas Edison is portrayed as the cranky old fart with no sense of humor. Edison symbolizes the establishment. He is your high school science teacher who yelled at you for screwing up your lab assignment. He is the guy that your mother told you to be, why can't you be more successful, you know, why can you be more like Edison. But you never wanted to be like Edison, he looked like he was always working, and would be no fun at parties.

Tesla and Edison were both very influential during their lifetimes. Both men also had a wide variety of personality issues, both men were obsessive compulsive inventors who deserved to be respected, but not necessarily worshiped. If you read about Tesla, you will notice he was interviewed often for magazine articles during his lifetime. He was also a bit of a rebel. He poked fun at the scientists of his day, even dared to call Einstein names. He was an easy guy to like, and it was easy to portray Tesla as the underdog unafraid to take on the establishment.

The internet loves a good story, and the battle of good versus evil makes for a good story with Tesla representing the good, the forgotten misunderstood geek, and Edison representing the evil man who took advantage of the innocent Tesla. It is very sad that to make someone a cult hero, you need to tear someone down as well. Some of the remarks made about Edison are very disrespectful of his contributions to the world of technology. Likewise, men like George Westinghouse who worked with Tesla, as a partner not an adversary, are equally disrespected.

It is the classic story of good versus evil, and everyone roots for the good guy underdog to defeat the evil bad guy. Much of what is written about Edison being the Devil, and Tesla being a God, is based on myths and legends, not facts.



What's behind the cult following for Nikola Tesla?

I often get asked if the fascination with Nikola Tesla is a recent event. I have studied famous inventors and scientists since the 1970s. Different topics seem to rise and fall from time to time over the years. Topics such as UFOs and conspiracy theories were popular in various books and magazines in the 1970s and 1980s, are now being created as websites on the internet. It would appear that Tesla was equally popular in books and television shows, the things we amused ourselves with before the internet, by those who followed conspiracy theories and UFOs since at least the 1980s when I can personally reference the fascination with Tesla.

Even television shows like the X-files took topics like UFOs and conspiracy theories and carried them from themes followed by a few special interests into popular culture. We all now use the tagline "The Truth Is Out There", thanks to shows like the X-files. In the links below I have references to television shows from the 1980s and 1990s that cover Nikola Tesla.

But there is also an increase in the "cult following" of various types thanks to the internet, and especially websites like YouTube. YouTube can be an amazing place where you can learn a lot. People spend a lot of time creating great videos on how to do many things. In that regard I think YouTube can be amazing. On the other hand I have seen many videos on YouTube that were downright crazy in the amount of misinformation they were putting out.

I can find thousands of YouTube videos on perpetual motion machines, 200 mpg carburetors, UFOs and aliens. Likewise, I can search dozens of websites on these topics. Interesting that most of these, what I call "strange science" websites, have something about Nikola Tesla on them. He fits the mold of the mad scientist.

The internet does not always record history, sometimes it creates it. "The Truth Is Out There"

Nikola Tesla covered before the internet

The majority of books and movies made about Tesla are created by people who have a preconceived notion of Tesla, and are trying to prove their point. I am not condemning everyone who believes in conspiracy theories and the possibility of life on other planets, but the information that many of these sites provide is more in the quality of supermarket tabloids rather than non bias documentary journalism.

If you search for videos about Tesla on the internet you will also run across " Tesla - The Eye Of The Storm" produced around 1983. Many of the Tesla fanboy websites have links to calling it a "rare documentary" on U.S. Government conspiracies. It is rare only in the sense that you can't find any first hand information on it.

"Tesla - The Eye Of The Storm" is hosted by Stan Deyo, a host of similar shows on Australian television over the years on UFOs and what he calls "flying saucer technology." Unfortunately, every blog that talks about The Eye Of The Storm video references the Website of Stan Deyo, which currently looks like he is selling supplies and advice to prepare you for Armageddon.

I am cynical about a lot of the claims, I would love to see some references and resources for the origin of much of the so-called "facts" about Tesla's secrets. It appears that Tesla's story has been promoted by the same crowd who follows the UFOs and conspiracy theories for many years.

Leonard Nimoy hosted a "In Search of" television show (1976–1982) that investigated various mysteries. According to IMDB the "In Search of" television show was inspired by von Däniken's work. "This series was created after two successful television documentaries: In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973) based on the book Chariots of the Gods, and In Search of Ancient Mysteries (1973)."

As far as I can tell Tesla's name never came up on the Leonard Nimoy "In Search of" television show, but Tesla's name was used in a book pitched at the same crowd who followed the UFOs and conspiracy theories. The book "In Search of Nikola Tesla" was originally published in 1983 by F. David Peat. It was reprinted again in 1997.

Book Reference: In Search of Nikola Tesla https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10650961-in-search-of-nikola-tesla

Television Show Reference: In Search of... (TV Series 1976–1982)| http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074007/

In 1998 the television show "Phenomenon: The Lost Archives " another show similar to "In Search of" aired two episodes related to Nikola Tesla. The show only aired 14 episodes in total. The two episodes on Tesla were:

- Season 1 | Episode 3 - H.A.A.R.P: Holes in Heaven (discusses Tesla's theories)
"Phenomenon: The Lost Archives" H.A.A.R.P: Holes in Heaven (TV Episode 1998) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412201/?ref_=ttep_ep3

- Season 1 | Episode 9 - Lost Lightning: The Missing Secrets of Nicola Tesla
"Phenomenon: The Lost Archives" Lost Lightning: The Missing Secrets of Nicola Tesla (TV Episode 1998) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898736/?ref_=fn_al_tt_9

Learn more at GeekHistory.com

We have been attacking the many myths and misinformation created by the internet through out our websites.  The strange life of Nikola Tesla often reads like a the science fiction story of a typical mad scientist.

Nikola Tesla the legacy of the most interesting geek in the world  (link is external)

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth (link is external)

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