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The Hunt for Zero Point

June 6, 2011 at 7:47 pm

A few days ago, I mentioned my enduring fondness for crackpot conspiracy theories.  I have also mentioned my fascination with fringe pseudoscience, fringe history, fringe archeology, and wacko academic pursuits.  The weirder and more outlandish the better!  I'm truly fascinated by this stuff.  The pathology of incredible beliefs, the seductive notion that there's a hidden truth that could make sense of the world…

Back in the day, I was also an avid fan of the X-Files. (Although, just for the record, I knew it was fiction.  I have never believed the show was secretly priming the American people for major revelations about the truth behind UFOs.  Nor did I ever view it as a documentary.  I just feel the need to make that clear.)

All of which means that I was absolutely powerless when I stumbled across Nick Cook's mind-shattering book, The Hunt for Zero Point: Inside the Classified World of Antigravity Technology.

(Below the cut: this baby will Flip. Your.  Wig.  But only keep reading if you're positive that you'll be comfortable living THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.)

Why was this book written for me?  Because it touches on the military industrial complex, military cabals, World War II, Nazis, time travel, UFOs, fringe physics, superconductivity, and government coverups. Not to mention (tangentially, if you happen to know some backstory) ESP, remote viewing, and Uri Freakin' Geller.

Did I mention that it's supposedly nonfiction?  And that it's written by a military-affairs journalist for Jane's Defense Weekly?

Oh, man…  Was I ever in hog heaven when I found this book.

So the author, Nick Cook, was for a long time an aviation editor at Jane's, which is the premiere publication that covers international military affairs and weapons development.  Prior to that he was a journalist.  And, to his credit, I think he really does try to approach this huge story with the same journalistic rigor that he might have applied to a story about mysterious holes in the Pentagon budget.  (Actually, the book touches on a couple of those, too.)   But there's a point in the book where—it seems to me, as a layreader—the author loses his objectivity just a little bit, and starts to sound more and more credulous as the rabbithole gets curioser and curioser.  He also makes a terrible, jaw-droppingly poorly researched choice when he rounds up a science advisor to help him understand some of the physics claims behind this story.  But I get ahead of myself.

The book is written around a fascinating premise.  If somebody turned this into a movie, I would be there on opening day.

Cook noticed* that back in the mid-1950s, most of the major US and Canadian aerospace companies of the time spoke openly about their work on "G-engines", going so far as to state in their advertising and PR material that they were on the verge of cracking antigravity technology.  Soon, within a few years, they claimed, jet engines and rockets would be antiquainted vestiges of the postwar years.   Martin Aircraft (of later Martin-Marietta fame, and still later of Lockheed Martin fame), Bell Aircraft (later of Bell Aerospace fame), and Lear were just some of the companies throwing millions and millions of dollars at this problem.  Lawrence Bell, founder of the eponymous company, said around 1956: "We're already working on nuclear fuels and equipment to cancel out gravity."  The VP in charge of the "G-project" at another company claimed that cracking the antigravity problem would be achieved in about the same time the Manhattan Project produced the first atomic weapon.  Sperry-Rand and General Electric were also in on the game.

And then, by '57, all talk of G-engines and antigravity disappeared permanently.  According to Cook, if you ask around, nobody will ever admit there had even been such talk.  Ever.  He tried to interview George Trimble, that VP in charge of the G-project.  Even though that work had been over 40 years in the past, Trimble canceled the interview when he learned Cook was digging into antigravity research.

Dun dun dun.

One could argue that they dropped the AG stuff like a hot potato once they realized it was a dead end, and that they'd thrown millions of dollars down a well, and that they'd hyped this avenue of research to the sky, and that, in short, they were going to look like idiots to the shareholders.  Or…maybe that's just what they want us to think.  Maybe the work went underground at that point.  Maybe it went deep black.

And it takes off from there.  Cook's investigation takes him through the weird wonderland of T. Townsend Brown (a favorite of the contemporary antigravity crowd), Evgeny Podkletnov and his spinning superconductors, top-secret Nazi weapons development during World War II, Viktor Schauberger's Bell (a favorite of the Nazi UFO crowd), Operation Paperclip, and, eventually, the stealth bomber.  (How does that thing really fly, anyway?)  Along the way, he discovers that all post-Paperclip documents pertaining to the former head of SS weapons development, Hans Kammler, have mysteriously disappeared from the US Archives.

Dun dun dun.

True or not, it's a massively entertaining story.   This interview in the Atlantic, dated from around the release of the book, gives a good overview of the investigation, and Cook's approach to it.

But along the way, Cook delves into some of the theoretical speculation about how antigravity technology would work, and how such a technology would be powered.  But, as he's very open about admitting throughout the book, he doesn't have a physics background and thus can't evaluate the scientific merits of some of the claims that he encounters.  So when talk turns to zero point energy, he turns to an expert for help.

And this is where his journalistic credibility shatters. Why?  Because Cook's chosen expert on the fields of antigravity and zero point energy was one Hal Puthoff.  Cook went to him because Puthoff is the founder of an outfit called the Institute of Advanced Studies in Austin, Texas, where he has been doing gravity and zero-point research for a number of years.

But having read a little book called Mindreach (entirely for amusement but not without a growing sense of outrage) I knew the name Harold Puthoff from a very different corner of his résumé.

This was the same Hal Puthoff who, working with Russell Targ at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s, wrote a couple of papers for Nature claiming to have irrefutably proven the existence of ESP by testing Uri Gellar under laboratory conditions.  The same Hal Puthoff who, working with Russell Targ at the SRI, was completely hoodwinked by Gellar, and later James Randi.  The same Hal Puthoff who, working with Russell Targ at the SRI, wrote an entire book about their supposedly rigorous and scientific examination of remote viewing.  The same Hal Puthoff who ran a remote viewing program for the US intelligence community for over a decade.  And the same Hal Puthoff who, in the early 1970s, was an OT VII within the Church of Scientology, and who openly claimed to have developed his own remote viewing abilities.

To his credit, Cook did at least uncover Puthoff's connection to remote viewing, and even noticed that it wasn't listed on Puthoff's CV.  But he didn't investigate Puthoff deeply enough.  What Cook missed, and this was a huge oversight, was the fact that Puthoff's adventures with "strange science" didn't merely give him an outsider's perspective on potential paradigm shifts.  It completely and irrevocably destroyed his scientific credibility. 

Let me say that again.  Mindreach is the book that Puthoff and Targ wrote in the 1970s to describe what they claimed was their rigorous, purely scientific investigation of remote viewing and other "psychic phenomena".  I read it carefully.  And you know what?  If Puthoff and Targ had been my graduate students, and they had brought this work to me, I would have failed them.  I would have rejected their research as unsuitable for a degree and sent them back to the drawing board.  It's glaringly obvious in the book that their methodology was shoddy, error-prone, systematically unsound, susceptible to human bias, and generally unbecoming of two scientists who spend a great deal of time trumpeting their credentials.  (And shame on Nature for ever publishing that Uri Gellar paper in the first place.) 

But this is the guy that Cook trusted to vet some of the more, um, exotic claims in the book. 

What a shame.  Because, like I said, it's a very entertaining story otherwise.  Even if it reads like a World War II/SF/conspiracy thriller.  Or especially because of that.  Nazi UFOs!  Secret Air Force antigravity technology!  Einstein!  Time travel!  The stealth bomber!  What's not to love?

(*Actually, he was led to notice this via the intervention of an anonymous source.  Cue creepy music in 3, 2, 1…)


Scott Denning June 7, 2011 at 12:10 am
Hal Puthoff pops up all over the place -- I seem to recall he is also mentioned in "The Men Who Stare At Goats", the book. Busy fella. Cook disappointed me by giving rather short shrift to Viktor Schauberger, one of my favorites, a genuine scientific mystic. Or genuinely mystical scientist, if that is more to your taste. But definitely several steps above your usual fringe scientist. One thing that stuck with me from this book was Cook's discussion of all of the material seized by the Allies in the first days of the occupation of Germany, including several thousand *tons* of documents. (I would check the exact number, but there is a gap on my bookshelf where my copy of this book should be. Hmmmm....) These documents were not only military research, but also most of Germany's patents at the time -- spoils of war that helped American industries leap ahead, post-war. And perhaps, leap lightly into the air? "...their methodology was shoddy, error-prone, systematically unsound, susceptible to human bias..." You just described every "scientific" ghost/UFO/monster hunting show on TV. Where're Mulder and Scully when we need them most? (Admit it -- you had a pinup of Scully on your wall. Go on, you can tell us.) Jeanne Manning brought out the book "The Coming Energy Revolution: The Search for Free Energy" back in ... Huh. That book is also missing from my shelf. As are some by Thomas Valone, Trevor Constable Brown, and John Hutchison. What Is Going On Here? Google tells me that Manning's book came out in 1996; in the book, she assured the world that Free Energy was just around the corner. But now her book is removed, expunged. Erased. And Free Energy is nowhere to be seen. And not discussed. As though it never had been.
Richard June 7, 2011 at 8:10 am
When I was a kid I read a book about how to build a UFO using nothing more than synchronized spinning weights. It also explained how the pyramids were built, and other baffling things. But when I grew up I forgot the title and I'm sure the book was 'vanished' from school libraries everywhere because of its dangerous ideas.
Steve Halter June 7, 2011 at 8:13 am
That does sound like a fun book. Fortunately (or unfortunately) many of these conspiracies (the most fun ones) seem to hinge on one small point (the entry to the looking glass). If you overlook that point then the whole thing almost sounds plausible. Of course, there are actual conspiracies out there (see Gunpowder Plot) for an example. This just adds a bit of spice to the whole thing. If none of them were ever true then it wouldn't be any fun. And, of course, things like zero point energy, quantum mechanics, dark energy, ... are all wild enough on their own without really needing to elaborate on them. "Christ, what an imagination I've got." -- Shalmaneser
DMS June 7, 2011 at 9:44 am
I had never considered the possibility of viewing the X-Files as a documentary. Really, do people do that?! The last book I read for amusement, but with a grown sense of outrage was about Quantum Touch. I didn't finish it. I got to the part where you apply a "bandage" by visualizing it as "snug but not too tight" with a special note on the rules for wrapping a broken bone and just had to put it down. And laugh. And cry. Perhaps my yellow was low. Ah, the seductive lure of the anonymous source. Where would Annie Jacobsen's new book be if not for the anonymous source?
Andrew June 7, 2011 at 11:39 am
I love these ideas, conspiracy theories and the such too. I had a subscription to Fortean Times Magazine after all! Its modern day Mythology and like all Myth there is that corner of truth, which intrigues me. I am a believer of the skewed. I've seen evidence on both sides, for instance Geller fans and enemies for instance have some interesting points on both sides-- Magnificient Randy is an Ass who has a tendency to change the rules if some one out thinks him and I can't condone that way of thinking either. I've been an initiate of mystical. I just had my 13th anniversary yesterday for an archetype initiation :) And yet I still have a skeptics edge. I grew up in science family and I do justify my experiences with in the rules of modern sciences. But the usual Skeptic rear their heads in obvious hatreds and prejudices. Nothing in science is that clear cut, pinholding every thought, every Thing when there is a constant evolution all around us... So yay for crazy experiences, conspiracies and altered states, fiction or otherwise. Ian are you a true skeptic?
Steve Halter June 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm
By coincidence, I happen to be reading "The Dervish House" by Ian McDonald and I just came across this paragraph that is nicely relevant: "Mr. Durukan, take it from my own personal experience, real conspiracies are not cool. Real conspiracies are dangerous and bewildering and exhausting and so, so frightening. In real conspiracies, you are all on your own. "
Ian June 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm
By the way, sir, I still have your Viktor Schauberger book. He was, as you say, a most fascinating character. And possibly not as crackpotty as some of the others who have glommed on to his work in the intervening decades. Hal Puthoff is like the Zelig of fringe science. (Hutchison wrote a book?!? How did I not know this?)
Ian June 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm
If you ever remember the name of that book, let me know. I need a hobby. Building a second vehicle might just be the thing. How hard could it be to use a UFO? I have a drill and a hammer!
Ian June 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm
That one little sticking point is what separates the sheeple from the enlightened few!
Ian June 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm
I know there are people who allege that Star Trek: The Next Generation was a stealth documentary. Apparently the writers received the story ideas via telepathic transmission from the aliens. Melinda Snodgrass can tell you all about it! The way I figure it, if Star Trek is a documentary, then the X-Files is practically Frontline.
Ian June 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm
I do lean pretty heavily into skeptic territory. But I'm not really connected to the skeptical "movement". My occasional problem with the skeptic movement is that much of the discourse I see on that side of the fence can be rude and condescending. Even when I agree with the points being made, I sometimes feel they could be made differently (flies and honey and all that jazz). Not that there aren't poor communicators and bad attitudes within all walks of life, of course, because there are. But I do believe in the need to publicize things like the very questionable and fraudulent claims made by antivaccination pundits, for example. I have always been, and always will be, a devoted fan of crazy experiences, whether explicable or not. I mean, that's life in microcosm, right? :-)
Tengland June 7, 2011 at 10:44 pm
I'm so glad someone is reading this crap so I don't have to.
Scott Denning June 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm
No such book ever existed. Nor was it released by Thunderbird Photo Press in 1986. Those who claim to have seen such a volume are obviously victims of fringe-cultural influences.
Richard June 8, 2011 at 8:32 pm
Found it! Apparently it's enough to Google 'How to build a flying saucer' and it comes right up. New copies are selling for over $100! But you can get a used one for as low as $6 and I'd like to hear any theories about that discrepancy. Anyway, if you check the 'People who bought this also bought' section it reads like a dream list of alternative technology.
Ian June 8, 2011 at 11:45 pm
Anyway, if you check the 'People who bought this also bought' section it reads like a dream list of alternative technology. I looked at that list, and perhaps you won't be surprised to know that I have several of those books on my "special" bookshelf. A couple of them, in fact, are part of the sequence leading up to Ceridwen's favorite book of all time.
Charlie June 22, 2011 at 12:59 am
I am impressed that the author of this blog appears to be taking this book pretty seriously even if skeptical. For that I would like to help you in your journey if you are still willing to keep an open mind. You are right that Cook appeared to be on the right track and goes off the tracks with Puthoff.. but consider that maybe that's Puthoff's purpose.... Here is a great quote from Puthoff that really explains his whole existence, keep in mind before Puthoff studied science he worked for the Department of Naval intlligence. The Navy's CIA. "A difficult question," Puthoff admitted. "Obviously during the Cold War one could argue that advanced forms of technological development perhaps should stay with the military. These days it is not so clear-cut. There are additional factors such as potential destabilization of economies by leapfrogging technologies in energy and transportation. In these days of increased terrorism, rogue states, etc., how it should be handled requires a lot of consideration. Anarchy we don't want, but neither do we want a police state. Tough decisions." Then take Bob Lazar.. Bob Lazar is best buddies with a guy named John Lear. John Lear's dad was one of the guys promoting antigravity the most before it went black. John Lear also flew for the CIA. Now he spends all his time claiming aliens live on Venus and the Moon. Bob Lazar claims to be bringing us alien disclosure. He sells dangerous chemicals for science experiments over the web and you can find a video of him showing us how we could be driving hydrogen cars if only the government would legalize the needed materials. the perfect cover for someone suppressing super technologies. Do you know what a disinformation agent is? Did you know that the perfect shape for radar stealth is a saucer shape and that saucers were first seen over Nazi Germany... and that this was in the time when the allies invented radar... Did you know that Viktor schauberger's theories and work are perfectly validated and mirrored by TTBrown;s work? Imagine that the US government was 50 years ahead of the general population technologically.. and they discovered tech that was so dangerous and easy to make that your average Joe could go to a local hardware store or junkyard and get the pieces necessary to make something more powerful than a nuclear bomb. How do you think our government and military would deal with this? I'll give you a hint.. why is the educational system of the richest country in the world so abysmal? Did you know that Bob lazar came on the scene later in the same year Pons and Fleischman happened to stumble on cold fusion? And the system Lazar described that powered alien saucers was eerily similar to the process Andrea Rossi has described in a patent explaining his cold fusion system.. except the element 115 Lazar claimed you needed is not necessary in Rossi's system. Here you only need one of the most plentiful elements on earth - nickel. I also find the timing of the possible release of cold fusion very interesting.. 2011-2012. a lot of weird stuff going on this year.. in Japan and the Middle East Did you know Japan was the country most involved in researching cold fusion? And the Middle East is the country that would be most damaged by cold fusion. Check out this video.. this was made a few days before the Japan quake that took place on 3-11. I hope this isn't too cryptic or just stupid sounding. It is very difficult to relate this information. I could go on and on.. I need to write a book..
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