Impossible Science


From human invisibility to amazing demonstrations of levitation, these strange devices, weird experiments and impossible observations – if true – challenge conventional scientific knowledge



Electrodes flash and spark, illuminating the dimly lit laboratory. Vials of eerie glowing liquid bubble and spit. The scientist, with a mad glare in his eyes, closely watches the progress of his secret experiment. Something weird is happening in this dark, cold basement – something the scientist hopes will finally prove what the rest of the scientific world said was impossible.We’ve all enjoyed the image of the mad scientist in the movies as he toiled away in his creepy lab, working on the very edge of scientific knowledge. There really have been such independent scientists, of course. And although they might not quite be mad, their pursuits have been unconventional. Perhaps impossible.


Here are a few intriguing tales of “mad scientists” and their wild inventions. They may be true, exaggerated, hearsay, legends or outright hoaxes – we may never know for certain. But the possibility that they are real is irresistible.


The Invisible Man


Human invisibility is a fun idea, one that has been the subject of several sci-fi books and movies, including H.G. Wells’ classic The Invisible Man and the more recent Hollow Man. Has some obscure scientific genius actually achieved it? Consider this story found on Keelynet:


The scene is a public hall in London England. The year is 1934. A young scientist, claiming he has discovered the secret to electromagnetically induced invisibility, steps into an open-front cabinet on a brightly lit stage before a curious audience. On his head he wears a device he calls an Electro-Helmet along with some other paraphernalia. He reaches up and touches two contacts above his head with both hands, then gives the signal for the switch to be thrown. The switch allegedly sends a current of electricity to his strange devices… and his body gradually vanishes from his feet to his head!


According to the story, spectators could touch and feel his body within the cabinet, but they could not see him. “All one could see,” the story goes, “was the development of a cone of light such as might be projected between the two poles of a powerful transmitter.” Naturally, the inventor refused to reveal how his contraption worked, stating only that it was the result of many years of experimentation.


Was he a brilliant scientist? Or a clever magician? The demonstration sounds very much like illusions performed by top magicians today. The part of the story that makes it most intriguing, if it is accurate, is that his body vanished from toe to head “gradually.”



The U.S. military in recent history is said to have experimented with creating invisibility by bending light through electromagnetic means, and may have been one of the goals of the legendary “Philadelphia Experiment.” Was this “young scientist” decades ahead of them?



Anomalous Transparency: The Faile Effect


Dr. S.P. Faile doesn’t believe he can make himself invisible, but he does think things around his laboratory sometimes inexplicably become partially transparent. In a curious article titled “Observations of Anomalous Transparency: The Faile Effect,” author Nicholas Reiter writes about the weird observations Dr. Faile began making around his home in 1997 and 1998.






Common, normally opaque objects ranging from one’s forearm, to sheet metal, to furniture, would seem to turn partially transparent.


Faile, a semi-retired materials research engineer and scientist noticed the strange effects after he had been conducting experiments in “new energy.” According to the article, “the effect seemed to mainly consist of occasional circumstances where common, normally opaque objects ranging from one’s forearm, to sheet metal, to furniture, would seem to turn partially transparent. More distant objects seemed to be visible through these structures, even to the extent of such details as printed characters.”


Was it just an optical illusion? Failing eyesight? Or had Dr. Faile stumbled upon a new phenomenon?


At first, Faile too wondered if the effect was just an illusion, but dismissed that possibility after numerous experiments and corroborating observations by colleagues. In numerous tests, he was able to observe this transparency both indoors and out, in various kinds of lighting. The effect is not the common observation anyone can make if they hold their hand or an object close to one eye and allow the other eye to see past it, resulting in an illusion of transparency.


So what is it? “At present it seems to be a phenomenon in search of a definition or methodology,” the article states. “One model would place the effect into the realm of anomalous human talent, such as clairvoyance or remote viewing. However, other individuals, with only a minimum of technique refinement, have been able to confirm the effect. Additionally, because a number of ‘real world’ factors such as lighting, location and certain material structures can greatly affect its magnitude, it seems to more properly belong in the realm of optics, and probably quantum mechanics.”


John Keely’s Floating Mini-Solar System


John Worrell Keely (1827-1898) was a rogue inventor who tirelessly experimented with free energy, something called a “compound disintegrator” and numerous other devices on the fringe of mainstream science. He still has a devoted following today of like-minded experimenters who are convinced that free energy is out there somewhere, just waiting to be tapped.


One of the most fascinating stories about Keely concerns his encounter with John Jacob Astor, heir to the Astor fur-trading fortune (and who later perished on the Titanic), at the World’s Fair in the late 1880s. Keely was demonstrating a device he called “The Musical Globe.” This sphere (the story does not mention its size) was painted black on one side and white on the other and was said to contain some secret arrangement of vibrating components. When properly tuned, the sphere would react to the playing of a harmonica and begin to spin of its own accord.






Astor stood looking agape at a completely free-floating, moving representation of our solar system.


Astor was so impressed by the demonstration that he sought Keely out. Allegedly, Keely told Astor that The Musical Sphere was only part of a much more fantastic discovery – the the “good stuff,” he said, was in his laboratory, if Astor would like to see it. Of course, he did.


In Keely’s lab was a very curious device that consisted of a large metal sphere centered on a large ring. An outer, larger ring was supported by the first and in it were nested smaller spheres of various sizes. The appearance was of a mini solar system – planets surrounding a central sun. When Keely turned on his machine and fiddled with some dials to make the necessary fine tuning, the large sphere began to rotate on its axis. Soon the small spheres began to rotate too, and also to orbit the large sphere.


So far this demonstration could be explained by any number of mechanical means, but what happened next enters the realm of the impossible. In just a few minutes, the large sphere, still spinning, rose off of the ring, as did all of the smaller spheres in their orbits. When reaching a certain height, the smaller spheres spread out to their optimum orbits. So what Astor stood looking agape at was a completely free-floating, moving representation of our solar system.


Supposedly, Astor reached up and grabbed one of the smaller spheres – and was carried around the room by it. His touching it had no affect on its height or speed of rotation.


Had Keely truly discovered some fantastic unknown force? Or was it a trick? Or is this just a tall tale passed around by Keely’s fans? If it’s true, how and why would news of such a miraculous device have been kept secret?



There will always be such independent, free-thinking “mad scientists” in our midst. And perhaps one day one of them will incontrovertibly demonstrate a device from his basement workshop that will change the world, and make the impossible possible.

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About peterschow

"the Schow must go on"
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