Harry R. Schwartz

Software engineer, nominal scientist, gentleman of the internet. Member, ←Hotline Webring→.

The Crackpot Index

Published 27 Jun 2014. Tags: cranks.

It’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll become a crackpot someday. I’m comfortable with that. As such, I’ve got a certain weakness for the works of fellow. They’re mostly benign and often entertaining.

Nevertheless, it’s important to know whether you’re dealing with a crackpot or not. But the modern world’s a complicated place, what with Twitter and all. Without a PhD in nuclear physics, how can the average Joe be expected to determine whether some blogger has discovered cold fusion?

Luckily there’s The Crackpot Index, a simple guide to determining if you’re dealing with a crackpot. It follows a simple scoring system. For example:

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.

20 points for each use of the phrase “self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy”.

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.

This is a handy tool! However, as far as I know, no one has taken the obvious next step and written an automated crackpot detector. It would take a writing sample from the potential crackpot, do some pattern matching and sentiment analysis, and pump out a crackpot score.

Unfortunately, such a tool would almost certainly be suppressed by the crackpot establishment.