Friday, April 24, 2015

Charles Fort and Those Frogs

I have recently read a biography of Charles Fort by Jim Steinmeyer.  What is true is that Charles was a rigorous collector of data and that normally meant data outside the interests of mainstream science. My point though is that the effort was careful and rigorous.  He sought conformation.  For that i must pay attention to those damn frogs.

This takes a neat turn though.  We have already made a critical conjecture regarding slime molds forming  huge methane bubbles and then floating gently up into the stratosphere.  Yet there is little need to go so high either.  Even better we have an eye witness report that saw precisely such a giant bubble.  The light and direction was just right.  I also suspect that a certain class of UFO is just that as well.  Add in eye witness reports of jelly like rain as well and we have these creatures up in the clouds with the moisture.  That will still get them up to the stratosphere.

The immediate gimme though is that frog eggs and salamander eggs and fish eggs will all gather easily within such a bubble forming on the surface of a pond and then go along for the ride.  Better yet they can hatch there and grow without any predation.  In short I have a clear explanation for this unusual phenomena.  This also provides a clear explanation for those blood drops coming out of the sky.  A breaking up slime mold will work wonderfully.

Thus we have a good working conjecture for a completely confounding natural phenomena.  It took me years to piece this all together into a creditable scenario.  This may turn out to be an astonishing successful way to transmit biology over great distances.  It takes benign moist conditions but that describes a lot of area and a lot of seasons in those locales.

Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented The Supernatural, by Jim Steinmeyer

The truth about the man who believed that anything was possible

Thursday 29 May 2008

Most British people will know Charles Fort's name through the idiosyncratic magazine Fortean Times, or the Fortean TV series, with leather-clad biker vicar Lionel Fanthorpe. Fort would have been astonished at both. Charles Fort (1874-1932) was a collector of the weird and wonderful. He wrote four books that brought the incongruities and contradictions of the world before the public gaze. They were greeted with delight by some, derision by others. H G Wells wrote to Fort's friend the novelist Theodore Dreiser, "Fort seems to be one of the most damnable bores who ever cut scraps from out-of-the-way newspapers."

Fort can easily be lampooned as the man who wrote about rains of frogs, but as Jim Steinmeyer emphasises in this intriguing biography, he trod (as "Forteans" tread today) a narrow tightrope between belief and scepticism. He found the certainty of scientists as much a belief system as the credulousness of the religious. Fort is a necessary corrective to those skeptics (they always spell it with a "K") who say with utter certainty, "This or that cannot happen, because science says it can't."

Steinmeyer writes: "Just as it seems healthy to be able to laugh at priests... we need to be able to laugh at scientists." Fort had little time for either. He once wrote: "I incline to the acceptance of many stories of miracles, but think that these miracles would have occurred if this earth had been inhabited by atheists."

Fragments of an unfinished autobiography show the bleakness of Fort's childhood. His father was brutal, and when Fort left home he cut him off financially as well as emotionally. Fort was always poor, living in a succession of scruffy tenement apartments. For much of his adult life, he spent every morning in the New York Public Library or, during the several periods he lived in London, in the Reading Room at the British Museum, scouring books and journals, jotting down whatever caught his eye, particularly awkward anomalies that science preferred to ignore. Every afternoon he would sort his new data, and write. Every evening he and his long-suffering wife would walk to the local picture house to watch a newsreel.

There's no doubt that Fort crossed the line between an enthusiast and an obsessive. His life, as graphically portrayed in this book, was often frustrated and unfulfilled. But the legacy he left makes the world a brighter place: paradoxically, both saner and sillier.

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