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?
Next page: John Keely's floating mini-solar system