Scientists can be the life of the Halloween party

Scientists can be really interesting people. No, really, I mean it! I know we kind of have a reputation, but we’re just misunderstood. Did you know that we are especially popular at Halloween parties? 

Take Isaac Newton, for example. Sure, he was a little irascible at times. OK, he was a pain in the neck, opinionated and rude. But he was an interesting conversationalist and would have been great fun at a party. 

Besides being a cutting-edge scientist for his day, he was extremely fascinated by the occult. Some of his religious beliefs, like his anti-Trinitarianism, were a little ahead of his time. Still, he combined his mathematical descriptions of the universe with biblical numerology, his invention of the reflecting telescope with astrology, and his work on calculus with his quest for the philosopher’s stone. 

I suppose his occult leanings were a little more sophisticated than today’s tales of the zombie apocalypse, so maybe it would have to have been a nerd Halloween party. He did predict the end of the world around 2060 based on biblical numerology. Judging from current events, he may not be far off. 

Halloween is often a time for imagining various fantastic beasts. After all, if one is familiar with a narwhal, other odd things begin to seem plausible. 

Carl Linnaeus was an 18th century biologist who created a systematic method of describing, naming and categorizing living things. His contribution has been invaluable to the life sciences. However, his famous work, Systema Naturae, included a section on Animalia Paradoxa which listed fantastical animals’ specimens that had been described by explorers that seemed suspect. He included legendary animals like the satyr and the phoenix on the list. He first placed the pelican in this section of the book because he doubted its authenticity.

There was one mythical creature which he was apparently obsessed with: mermaids. He spent a considerable amount of time and energy chasing after reported sightings and captures and discussed the possibilities with others. He even urged the Academy of Sciences to launch an expedition to capture a specimen. It should be noted that his early training was as a botanist, which probably explains a lot. 

Isn’t “Wolfgang Pauli and the Pauli Effect” just the coolest name for a rock band? Actually, Wolfgang was a physicist who discovered the Pauli exclusion principle. It stated that no two electrons could exist in the same quantum state, later described as electron spin. I don’t know exactly what that means, but he was far more interesting for his psychokinetic effects. 

He, and numerous colleagues, believed that he interfered with electrical equipment simply by being in the vicinity. Pauli firmly believed that mind and matter were interconnected and that human consciousness could have an effect on the material world. He was therefore quite proud when his friend Otto Stern banned him from his lab for his “disturbing effect.” 

I know, for a fact, that the Pauli Effect is a real phenomenon. I saw it demonstrated time and again when I tried to use the copy machine in the biology department at Colorado Mesa University. You could invite me to your Halloween party to demonstrate it, but I might interfere with everyone’s cellphones, and they wouldn’t like that. 

If you come to believe in invisible energies such as radiation, I think you can be excused for believing in mediumship. Pierre and Marie Curie attended séances held by the Italian mystic Eusapia Palladino, and were very impressed and interested. Radiation killed Madame Curie, but she and her husband live on in fame for their work on it. Poor Eusapia was exposed as a fraud just a year after Pierre’s death, and that pretty much ended Marie’s interest in séances. 

So, if you are planning a Halloween party this year, you might want to consider inviting a scientist or two. They often prove quite interesting and well-versed in the supernatural. 

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Colorado Mesa University.


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