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Fringe science

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Sep 26, 2012, 12:23am

I'd like to make a shelf of books that would feel at home in a mad scientist's laboratory. Books concerned with what most would consider fringe science, but that take themselves quite seriously.

Any suggestions? Since I only have one shelf to allocate, I'm looking for the best of the best. I other words, books that a relatively intelligent mind might read and almost be convinced that it could be possible...

I know this request is somewhat vague and I hope that I've explained it sufficiently. I'll try to come up with an example or two.

Sep 26, 2012, 6:03am

Perhaps some of the following might be what you have in mind:

Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, Richard J. Herrnstein (A very contentious discussion of IQ.)
Centuries of Darkness: A Challenge to the Chronology of Old World Archaeology, Peter James (An argument over Dating Methodology.)
Catastrophism: Asteroids, Comets, and Other Dynamic Events in Earth History, Richard Huggett (When I was young, scientific gradualism / uniformitarianism were both the 'common sense' and the academic positions. Now this is no longer the case. This book explains why.)
Fingerprints Of The Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization, Graham Hancock (Most definitely Fringe! But in the light of the points made by the above book, perhaps a little less so...)
The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, John D. Barrow (Anthropomorphized Physics.)
The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind, Julian Jaynes (Interesting, but disputed, discussion of the ancient mind and how our subjective sense of self first arose.)
Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered, E. F. Schumacher (Economic heresy.)
The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, Riane Eisler (Feminist Anthropology.)
The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore (Are cultural Memes really analogous to biological Genes?)
The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud (When I was young, everyone genuflected before Saint Sigmund. Now that is all changed.)
Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth, Giorgio De Santillana (Highly speculative discussion of ancient myth cum astronomy. What did the ancients know - and when/where/how did they know it?)
The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, Jose Arguelles (New Age speculation.)
The Deep Hot Biosphere, Thomas Gold (Hydrocarbons do not originate from decayed life. Rather, according to our author, they are natural and may be where life itself originated.)
Race And Human Evolution: A Fatal Attraction, Milford Wolpoff (A defense of multi-regionalist evolution that argues against any racial interpretations of same.)
Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, Ignatius Donnelly (One of the most famous fringe books.)
SAHARASIA: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World, James DeMeo (Very fringe anthropological speculation on the origin of violence. A ton of data made it especially interesting.)
Presence of the Past, Rupert Sheldrake (Modern neo-'Lamarckian' attempt to defend the notion that culturally learned behaviors can somehow be biologically transmitted. He names the mechanism that does so a 'morphic' field. I suspect it will turn out that the new discipline of epigenetics will eventually explain all, or most of, the anomalies that our author builds his case on.)

I have a badly named tag ("Alternate (or Pseudo) History? / Alternate (or Pseudo) Science?") that contains the above books plus some others. You may find something interesting there.

Sep 26, 2012, 10:39am


It might help if we knew the time period you are trying to represent. For example, if you were making some sort of Victorian-era steampunk mad scientist display, the selection would be very different from one gathered today.


Sep 26, 2012, 3:16pm

The Mass Psychology of Fascism I have not read it yet, and I might not disagree with the premise which, as I understand it, is that if everybody had more sex there would be fewer wars.

Edited: Sep 26, 2012, 4:39pm

The secret history of the English language by M.J. Harper
The author is serious as only a true believer can be -- he argues that English (more or less as it is now) is the ur-language, that Old English and Middle English never existed and are the inventions of professors, and that Latin, French, German and I don't remember what-all other languages derive from English. Needless to say the author is an Englishman...

Sep 26, 2012, 7:36pm

I know that my description was lacking... I guess I'm not sure how to describe what I'm looking for.

That said (and hopefully this will help), a few of those mentioned above hit the nail right on the head.


The secret history of the English Language
Fingerprints of the gods
Atlantis: The Antediluvian World

Do those exemplars from the above recommendations help at all? If you are a television watcher, another good analogy is that the book might be one that the protagonists of Fringe or the X-Files believe wholeheartedly and base some of their assumptions on it.

Edited: Sep 26, 2012, 7:51pm

Then perhaps almost anything by Commander X , for instance Reality of the Serpent Race & the Subterranean Origin of UFOs...

Edited: Sep 28, 2012, 5:31am

In that case:

THE OERA LINDA BOOK (there is an English translation) which "clearly explains" how the Frisians were the real bringers of civilization (see also:
Chariots of the Gods , and really just about anything else by von Däniken.
The lost continent of Mu (plus the rest of that series if you like, but it gets repetitive).
The Hollow Earth


Forbidden Archeology
Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings

Sep 28, 2012, 9:51am

Perhaps from any time after the first decade of the Twentieth Century would be any of the Mars books by Percival Lowell such as Mars and its Canals. I saw one of these on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space in the early 1990s as part of an exhibit and upon my return home decided to try to find one. I found a nice copy soon afterward. (I'm glad I wrote this because it reminds me that I did not catalog this book yet because of where it is displayed). The Lowell books inspired a number of science fiction authors who portrayed an inhabited (but sometimes dying civilization on) Mars.

The Hollow Earth theories of Symmes (1818) and others who followed would exist in 19th Century books should one be interested in an earlier mad scientist display. Wikipedia says that Symmes didn't write a book himself though.


Sep 28, 2012, 10:03am

A waste of good shelf space, IMO, but:

Worlds in collision


The Orgone Energy Accumulator

You might want to consult Carl Sagan's The Demon-haunted world and Martin Gardner's Fads and fallacies for many more references.

These are all fairly contemporary. The real beauties are the ancient and medieval manuals, atlases, bestiaries etc.

Except you did say "mad scientist" and not "alchemist"...

Sep 28, 2012, 10:06am

Of course alchemy was considered a science in its time.

Sep 28, 2012, 11:28am

I've been looking for a good alchemy book.

I have dianetics, actually, but I keep it in the religions bookcase.

Sep 28, 2012, 11:21pm

For alchemy try the "Diary of Dr. John Dee" (1842). He was alchemist to the English Crown in the 16th century. Anything you can get by him would be awesome but 19th century diary reprints are the only affordable item. I want to support Keeline's recommendation for "Mars and its Canals" (1906) by Percival Lowell. Lowell was a legitimate scientist (has an observatory named after him) but made a major whiff on Mars. He states "we are assured plant life exists on the planet." Then goes on to hypothesize in the strongest possible terms that the canals could have only been created by intelligent life. Great stuff. For pure chicanery see "Incidents of My Life" (1863) by D. D. Home. He captivated the western world for a while with his tales of communication with spirits. There is no doubt he was a gifted magician but of the kind Houdini, with good reason, despised. Another idea is Charles Keary's "Vikings in Christendom" (1891); which is to say not so fast Columbus. The kind of book that might be less fringe than it used to be! The dinosaur/bird idea started on the fringe so I love stuff that migrates back and forth along that fuzzy line. Good luck with your project.

Sep 29, 2012, 6:50pm

I would suggest, for books that every mad scientist should own:

The Book of the Damned, and any other Fort you may desire;
On the Track of Unknown Animals by Heuvelmans;
Investigating the Unexplained by Sanderson;
The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer
The Secret Life of Plants by Tompkins et al
The Great Pyramid Decoded by Capt. Raymond
Science and Psychical Phenomena by Tyrrell
New Frontiers of the Mind by J. B. Rhine
The Bermuda Triangle by Charles Berlitz
Something UFOlogy-related, maybe by Jacques Vallee?

Book listed above that I would include:
Worlds in Collision
Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings
Mars and its canals
Chariots of the Gods
The Bell Curve
Atlantis: The Antediluvian World

...I could probably come up with as many more quite easily, but you only wanted one shelf.

Sep 29, 2012, 7:45pm

My thanks to you all - a great list!

Sep 30, 2012, 2:25pm

Can't forget idiotic stuff like creation science and intelligent design

A good overview of fringe science is Strange Creations and Kooks, both by Donna Kossy