In the Washington Post, I have an essay about outsider science, making parallels and distinctions with outsider art. The essay is inspired by the publication of Lawrence Weschler's delightful new book Waves Passing in the Night, about legendary Hollywood film-and-sound editor Walter Murch, who has his own cosmological theory. Weschler's book is an important addition to the growing body of literature on physics outside the box.
Excerpt from Margaret Wertheim's Washington Post essay:
"For the past 30 years, I’ve been collecting ideas [from physics mavericks] and have on my shelves about 300 alternative theories of the universe, each of which claims to revolutionize our understanding of the world. The Internet now is teeming with would-be Corpernicuses and Newtons proffering radical ideas about the cosmos, particle physics, matter, energy, space and time. In “Physics on the Fringe,” I embarked on a sociological study of these “outsider scientists,” a subculture on the margins of academic physics that stands as a parallel to the “outsider artists” who populate the peripheries of the institutional art world.
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As a point of reference, outsider art stands as an interesting case study. A hundred years ago, when Jean Dubuffet first championed what he termed “art brut” — paintings and sculptures by untrained amateurs, which has since been called “folk art,” “vernacular art” and “naive art” — many in the art academy dismissed the work. Yet today, there are galleries, journals, scholarly centers and academic courses devoted to outsider art, while some of its practitioners have been incorporated into canon, Martin Ramirez and Adolf Wolfli most famously.
Might outsider science undergo a similar transformation? Is it possible that any amateur physicist today may in the future be accepted as a legitimate contributor and taught at universities?"
Margaret Wertheim's Washington Post essay - 03/17/2017.
Lawrence Weschlers book, Waves Passing in the Night, Bloomsbury, Feb. 2017, Purchase here on Amazon.