Locklin on science

William R. Corliss and open problems in science

Posted in Corliss, Open problems by Scott Locklin on August 2, 2020

William Corliss was a physicist and rocket scientist from the heroic golden age of physics. He did great work in everything from nuclear engineering, to telerobotics, to neutron spectroscopy, to space flight; a real universal man in the last exciting time in science. What we know him for most these days though are his catalogs of things we don’t know. 

Looked a lot like my late pal Marty as well

He represents exactly my kind of scientist; one who is interested in the cool stuff happening in current year, and all the stuff we don’t know. You infectious human waste “who fucking love science” don’t actually. Science is about the mystery. It’s not a clerisy you can use to bludgeon  your political opponents, nor a series of facts you can feel smug about “knowing” about; it’s about appreciating the wonder of all of it. It’s insufficiently appreciated what a bunch of dumbasses humans are, and how little we actually know about matters of the utmost importance to our self understanding as human beings. Most modern clerisy “scientists” couldn’t even tell you about important open problems in their field. They’re too busy filling out forms, grubbing for money and social status, diddling their students and engaging in maoist witch hunts to bother with the reason all honest people become scientists; appreciating the wonders of nature and figuring things out.

Corliss’ work looks like it more or less wrapped up around the mid-90s; it’s truly enormous and it was almost entirely done before the internet era. He has a sensible rating system involving quality of data and extremity of anomaly. Many of the really big mysteries mentioned are still mysteries. It vast, and at this point I own enough of it I don’t have to worry about you guys cleaning up on volumes I may not have yet. Of course, most of it is not so mysterious, but it is at least noteworthy and thought provoking. Pointing out a certain kind of rock formation is weird and interesting is vastly superior to never mentioning the weird rocks.

Contemplate writing two feet worth of authoritative books on biology, astronomy, meteorology, geology and archaeology before Al Gore invented the internet, while maintaining an active career in rocket science. There’s more to it than meets the eye here; this represents the in-print stuff and a few out of print books I managed to get my hands on: there is more of his work is in out of print books, and some of it only exists in his newsletters, some of which his son has preserved online.

Most of it is taken from Science, Nature and other respectable scientific journals. People will grouse about it, because people always grouse, but he seemed to do a bang up job of picking out interesting things for which there are no reasonable explanations, and a lot more things which are merely “pretty damn weird.” Probably using stuff like index cards.

Now some of it may seem fruity to smug yutzes. Dr. Corliss has a section on the Yeti in Biological Anomalies Humans III. However most of the citations are from, as I said, Science and Nature. Should we ignore these lacunae, “fucking love science” dipshits? I think at this point where even primitive barbarians have ipotato, it’s probable there is no Yeti hominid, but Corliss’ probability of this being a big deal back in 1994 is still approximately correct as far as I can tell. Even if the Yeti is ultimately silly and wrong, his preservation of wonderful tales of the Orang Pendek (a legendary sumatran dwarf homonid race)  or the Agogwe (african mini yeti) a few pages afterwords makes it all worth while.

Since I’ve got this giant stack of books of weird lacunae in the sciences, as I thumb through them, I’ll post a few here, checked against the latest research, at least as well as the most convenient search engines go. Maybe one or two will be worth a full sperdo nerding out on. Ideally to make some of you think about something useful, but at the very least, kick his kids a few bucks by buying his books

A few tastes: 

Fat tropical animals: here’s one looking us in the face: why the fook would fat animals be happy in the tropics? It’s possibly a recent evolutionary adaptation, hippos being in the tropcs, but it’s bloody weird. Most animals, even people are well suited to the climates they live in with physical adaptations that help. BMI3

Human Mortality Correlated with Geomagnetic Activity: here’s one Corliss rated as fairly low in data quality back when he wrote about it, but top notch as an anomaly if it turns out to be true. The geomagnetic field has weird disturbances correlated with the quasiperiodic solar activity. Apparently this also causes premature death. Obviously nobody knows why, but it is fairly well documented at this point;  with the years since Corliss originally wrote about it in BHF32 (Human Anomalies II) (one of his original refs conveniently available here), it’s become fairly well known. I linked seven references above; there are probably a hundred.

Nonrandom Direction-of-Approach of Comets to the Sun: the prevailing theory of the Oort cloud is comets should approach the sun from random directions. People are fairly certain that comet approaches are non-random. Lots of evidence of it; people are more certain than ever that there is something going on here, and various ideas on galactic tidal forces have been proposed to deal with it. (ACB2 The Sun and Solar System Debris)

 Bone Caves, Bone Caches and Other Superficial Accumulations of Bones: -this used to be a trope of H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs books; aka the elephant graveyard of lore. There are numerous examples of this, though Corliss kind of lumps them together in ESD1 (Neglected Geological Anomalies). Some of them are dinosaurs falling into a ravine and being pickled in the moss that eventually becomes coal. But it’s still freaking weird. Other bone caves are just insane; such things used to be considered evidence by geologists for the Great Flood back when that was the dominant paradigm (150 years ago isn’t that long). He gives this top ratings for weirdness; very strong data, very weird phenomenon. Moderns apparently just ignore it, despite the fact that Darwin himself thought it pretty peculiar.

Production-Consumption Discrepancy in Prehistoric Lake Superior Copper Mining. I bet most of you didn’t know that North America had pre-european copper mines; Indians had been mining copper there for 5000 years. Personally I consider this pretty weird in itself. It’s a fact, and it’s largely ignored. What propels it to “holy shit that’s weird” territory is nobody knows what happened to most of the copper (MSE6 “Ancient Infrastructure”). The calculation of how much copper was taken out of there is pretty straightforward, and copper doesn’t disappear easily; there are copper and bronze artifacts from the Americas (and everywhere else) from that long ago. The speculation is that, perhaps Phonecian Merchants (or Egyptians or Aliens or whatever) were trading with the Americas for much longer than we know. It is in principle a knowable thing; one can identify artifacts made with the particular chemical composition of Lake Superior Copper.  Not something likely to make you friends in the Archaeology department though.



19 Responses

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  1. Rickey said, on August 3, 2020 at 2:50 am

    Interesting article. I never heard of William Corliss so I shall go through your links. These anomalies reminded me of Graham Hancock who wrote about how a relatively advanced civilization was destroyed by a comet strike approximately 13,000 years ago.

  2. Walt said, on August 3, 2020 at 5:30 pm


    I don’t know your religious persuasion and am not trying to God-bother you, but this series is full of scientific data that modern scientists dismiss. I myself am curious about the disagreement between various geochronometers and radio-isotope dating and the disagreement between radioisotope dating methods.

    The idea of human lifespan shortening is not only supported by the Bible (Genesis 6). It’s also in the Sumerian king list.

    I think Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard might’ve been better archaeologists than modern ones.

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 3, 2020 at 6:42 pm

      Modern archeology is half a bunch of shaggy dog stories, and half a government make work program (aka you have to pay an archeologist to dig up this pile of pilgrim garbage to build the highway connector), though there is interesting stuff happening in paleogenetics. I suppose in other countries it’s a sort of Annerhabe also; in places like Israel and India where ruling governments make blood and soil claims, and in places like modern West Europe where we claim more or less the opposite nonsense (aka Germans peacefully multiculturally integrated with Romans, and there were chick ninjas everywhere, like in the movies).

      I think Greg Cochran said that first (re REH and ERB).

      FWIIW Corliss draws on a lot of resources for pointing out problems with dating techniques and evolution; many creationists of various stripes were responsible interlocutors, and many continue to help develop evolutionary biology. My 2nd thesis advisor David Snoke among them, the last time I checked. For example: https://www.takimag.com/article/christian_science_scott_locklin/

      I really, really, really dislike the “muh I love science” people in case you couldn’t tell -they’re not doing it right. I think creationists are wrong, but they’re better company, and the smart ones make you think about interesting things instead of wallowing in smugness.

      • asciilifeform said, on August 5, 2020 at 8:36 pm

        > were responsible interlocutors

        Are there “responsible interlocutor” Flat Earth geologists somewhere also? Or can recommend a quality geocentric astronomer these days ?

    • asciilifeform said, on August 5, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      > isagreement between various geochronometers and radio-isotope dating and the disagreement between radioisotope dating methods

      Official Truth is that the decay of a given unstable nucleus is wholly unaffected by external factors.

      However, Simon Shnoll et al. from 1950s to present day gathered evidence for the existence of subtle electromagnetic influence on certain radiodecay chains. Unsurprisingly, treated by “the international community” as a charlatan, despite — near as I can tell — impeccable methodology. Shnoll proposed no mechanisms — simply painstakingly monitored decay of samples in conjunction with sunspot cycle, geomagnetic field strength, etc. ( See also his monograph “Шноль С.Э. Космофизические факторы в случайных процессах” — sadly, AFAIK, not available in English. Though IIRC exists in Swedish translation. )

      Independently, in USA also (1980s) there was a brief period of interest in the possibility of magnetically-accelerated beta decay (implication: potentially not only render most reactor exhaust products safe within months of removal, instead of centuries of cold storage, but at the same time extract substantial stored energy from same) but AFAIK ended with an Official “unhappening” and total disappearance of funding.

      • Scott Locklin said, on August 5, 2020 at 9:03 pm

        It’s the type of thing he would have liked. He never had any physics specific books though. There’s an awful lot of paraphysics out there; those weirdos with their microwave antigravity stuff, White-Juday interferometers. I keep a little file of such things, but don’t follow them avidly as I think most are probably bunk. If you have anything on magnetic beta decay LMK.

        • asciilifeform said, on August 5, 2020 at 10:01 pm

          > If you have anything on magnetic beta decay LMK

          For instance, “Nuclear beta decay induced by intense electromagnetic fields: Forbidden transition examples” (R. Reiss) Phys. Rev. C 27, 1229 (March 1983)

          More generally — AFAIK, the most extensive collection of experimental evidence for simple variability (from straight Poisson dist.) of decay rates, is in Shnoll’s monograph. (Of which the full text is easily found on WWW, but unfortunately I know of no English translation.)

      • Walt said, on September 1, 2020 at 5:01 pm

        I just read this comment. This ties in well with Scott’s previous post about cultures that build. Ours doesn’t. The American mind is coddled and closed. We can’t see out of our mental prison. Ironically, some of the interesting papers, like the one you posted, come from places that practiced Stalinist or Soviet science which produced some laughably-wrong results that we in the West mocked at the time.

        I’m wondering now if the UFOs the NYT (of all places) has been talking about are German WWII VTOL designs that the Chinese managed to take and run with. Given they can’t produce high-quality semiconductors and their cultural and technological development seems hampered by their own corruption and mental blocks, I have my doubts. But maybe not.

        Modern SCIENCE! tells us, “Ye shall be as gods…” but the exact opposite seems to be happening, first in the form of stagnation and now in the form of regression.

        • asciilifeform said, on September 1, 2020 at 5:40 pm

          > …come from places that practiced Stalinist or Soviet science…

          Arguably Shnoll was no more genuinely a creature of “Soviet academia” than e.g. O. Heaviside was of Britain’s, or N. Tesla — of USA’s.

          There’s essentially two types of practitioners — (1), the gray mass, for whom “it’s a job” — T. S. Kuhn’s “normal science” ; (2) the few folks who would (and do) carry on research even in their basement, even when (as in e.g. New York state today) being found with “unlicensed glass beaker” is a criminal offense.

          The two species have very little to do with one another, aside from the fact that (2) often camouflage themselves as (1) in an attempt to find a less-objectionable day job; and that (1) are fond of taking credit for the output of (2) to boost their PR/funding and prop up the political programs of their sponsors.

          > …which produced some laughably-wrong results that we in the West mocked…

          IMHO the current West’s e.g. “warmists” make T. Lysenko or O. B. Lepeshinskaya look rather tame in comparison. And they are being heartily mocked as we speak, simply not anywhere where English-speaking folks will read about it.

          > …German WWII VTOL designs…

          Aside from “cult” appeal, I never understood the attraction of “saucer” geometry from an aerodynamic POV. Nobody’s going “hypersonic” in a saucer — not even with magical “antigrav” engine.

          > …the Chinese managed to take and run with. Given they can’t produce high-quality semiconductors…

          This is a misconception: they can and do produce high-quality (if not groundbreakingly-novel) technological artifacts. Simply not for the $0.03/unit toy store export market.

          • Walt said, on September 1, 2020 at 6:06 pm

            “Aside from “cult” appeal, I never understood the attraction of “saucer” geometry from an aerodynamic POV. Nobody’s going “hypersonic” in a saucer — not even with magical “antigrav” engine.”

            I think they’re useful as a surveillance tool, which is why they seem to be spotted around US military exercises. Imagine trying to get a camera near a military exercise relatively-undetected. How would you do it? You’d put it on a platform that could be covered, such as a UHaul truck or on a small boat with a tarp over it then drive it in as close as possible and fly it in low and slow the rest of the way. Hence, the need for a VTOL. Cameras are mounted on sucky battery-powered propeller-driven drones all the time to take photos.

            “This is a misconception: they can and do produce high-quality (if not groundbreakingly-novel) technological artifacts. Simply not for the $0.03/unit toy store export market.”

            Where can I read more about this?

            • asciilifeform said, on September 1, 2020 at 6:24 pm

              > Where can I read more about this?

              In the public catalogues of their manufacturing co.’s — e.g. “Gold Phoenix PCB” (where I personally commissioned a number of gold-plated multilayer boards at a fraction of the unit cost and production delay vs. what was offered by American board houses; and was entirely satisfied with the result.)

  3. Walt said, on August 3, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    lol. Speaking of chick ninjas, SC Gwynne noted in “Empire of the Summer Moon” that Commanche women would display their breasts to invading Texas Rangers, presumably to demonstrate – as he and James LaFond surmise – that they are noncombatants because they are women. You see this same behavior from women in the latest SJW/BLM uprising. This is a family blog so I won’t link the pictures to you. Anyways, what they do in reality is the exact opposite of chick ninja/Catness.

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 3, 2020 at 8:47 pm

      • Walt said, on August 4, 2020 at 4:37 pm

        haha. Yep, that’s what I had in mind. When the going gets tough, the tough leverage their assets.

        One last question. Do you have an opinion on whether the possibility of non-constant speed of light would have an effect on our estimates of the age of the universe?

        • Scott Locklin said, on August 4, 2020 at 5:22 pm

          I have no informed opinion on the subject, but I’ve a long friendship with a guy who worked on it and am supposed to meet Joao Magueijo socially in the near future. Seems like the type of thing worth thinking about.

  4. Anonymous 2 said, on August 13, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Some of these books are also available through the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=corliss%20sourcebook%20project

    Five of them downloadable without a lot of fuss.

    • Toddy Cat said, on August 28, 2020 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks! I read some of his early stuff when I was a teenager in the seventies, kind of hard to track down now

  5. Lorcan said, on August 30, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Copper mining is fascinating.Did they take some nose candy back on the same voyage too I wonder?
    Testing 21st dynasty or earlier Egyptian artifacts for American copper could be an interesting experiment,though it would not have been Egyptians which did the shipping.

  6. Magnetite Mammaries said, on April 23, 2021 at 4:48 am

    If you like William Corliss, then you should check out Lyall Watson! Corliss cites him a couple times too.

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