An autodidact is someone who teaches themselves, rather than going to school. Like if Luke Skywalker skipped studying on Degobah, to go learn the Force all by himself somewhere less swampy. Usually works out exactly like no education at all.

Some things it's just best to learn before you jump right in...

Whatcha doin' Klaus? Teachin' myself brain surgery Ulf.

Just The Facts

  1. Autodidacts are the product of a DIY approach to education.
  2. For every great autodidact, we guess there are somewhere around two hundred and fifty million incompetent autodidacts.
  3. As a result you're usually safe betting anyone who claims to be an autodidact, is full of crap.

DIY Education Q & A

Hey, I take online classes where I don't actually see a teacher. Am I an autodidact?

No, you aren't, at least in whatever subject your class is about. You probably have to write papers, take tests, or prove in some other way that you understand the subject. Autodidacts don't have to do any of that shit, and even if they want to, how can someone test themselves in a subject they know nothing about?

That's true I guess buh, wait just a damn minute, how can I be sure an autodidact actually knows what he/she is talking about?

Generally, there's no way to know whether a person really has the knowledge and skills associated with their stated profession. For example, the only way to know if a guy who says he can build you a pool, really knows what he's doing, is if you or someone you know builds pools too. In that case, why would you let some random dude put in your pool?

Typical autodidact pool, don't swim in it.

Only way huh? What if the guy put in my neighbor's pool?

Well, as with all things there's...

Whatever, listen: I'm not looking for a pool, but if I was, I certainly wouldn't want some self taught asshole to build it for me.

Granted we've never heard of a well known autodidact pool builder who happens to be genius personified, but that doesn't mean autodidacts are good for nothing either. You might have heard about an artist by the name of Leonardo da Vinci, he was an autodidact. Not in art, he learned that from a guy, who had in turn learned from Donatello, but his machines were all DIY forays into aviation, architecture and...

That can't be right, Donatello was the group's inventor and brianiac. Leonardo was their leader, you know, like the real Da Vinci who led Rome and painted a picture of his girlfriend while fighting in gladiator matches.

Wow, unless your online class is history, you could be an autodidact after all.

No, no, it's a study of themes in Keanu Reeves movi... are you saying I'm stupid?

Michael Faraday, the lightning to Tesla's thunder and in general a smooth customer.

Of course not! We're saying you could be like Michael Faraday, an autodidact of chemistry and physics, only in history.

You know what? You guys come off as an arrogant bunch of jerks.

We really don't mean to, really. Perhaps you're just looking at the portrait of Faraday up there and assuming his expression conveys our attitude?

Maybe, he does look like a smug butthole. Who's this Fairygay guy?

Michael Faraday was one of the rare people who could look like a smug know-it-all, yet turn out to be actually intelligent and modest. Faraday is probably best known for generating electricity from mechanical energy, which means he figured out how to make a generator. He also discovered that magnets could affect light, in addition to popularizing terms like anode, ion, and bad motherfucker. Just kidding about the last one, but seriously, this guy was supposedly admired by Nikola Tesla and we'd be willing to wager that even Thomas Edison respected Faraday too.

Weren't Edison and Tesla also autodidacts?

Absolutely, Tesla didn't have any kind of formal education in the fields he worked and Edison taught himself, among other things, how to be an invention stealing asshole. Really Edison was more of an autodidick. Don't get the wrong idea, not all inventors are autodidacts and vice-versa. They tend to go hand in hand though, like Faraday's cage or Tesla's coil.

Nikola Tesla:Autodidact and Thomas Edison:Autodidick. AC/DC.

So, I'm confused, are you saying autodidacts are good or bad? You go out of the way to mention how there are so many stupid ones, yet single out a few humanity probably couldn't exist without.

We're saying that it's not impossible for someone to learn college level shit without going to college, just like it's possible you could win the lottery or get struck by lightning a few times. Otherwise, chances are the autodidact is just an asshole who thinks they're smart. Especially if they actually refer to themselves as such.

Then if I punch every autodidact I meet, chances are I won't be hitting the next Einstein right?

The chances are more like certain, since Einstein went to college and thus wasn't an autodidact. Though you may, if luck smirks at you both, punch the next Tesla. Why would you want to do that?

I wouldn't, stupid, it was a joke. Why are you such a pain in my ass?

Wha, we, you said you wanted to pun...

Nevermind, I was thinking about the whole idea of learning something without being taught, why do so many people fail?

Several reasons, primarily because being taught something is a pantload easier than figuring it out alone. We may hate a teacher riding our ass to do stuff the way they taught it, but this is actually a useful way of learning. Ideally, if we can finally make our English teacher shut up about using there, they're and their correctly, it means we've learned the difference. Without a teacher to constantly remind us what ignorant idiots we are, those taking the autodidact route won't know they're probably doing it wrong.

Less than ideal way of getting a teacher to stop bothering you with his/her weird grammar rules.

But if it's so hard, how can you explain people who do succeed?

Simple; The right combination of intelligence, means, and luck. Actually, mostly luck, since being born smart and wealthy pretty much depend on it. Doesn't necessarily mean good luck for the autodidact, Tesla died almost destitute. Sure was lucky for us though.

Examples of Autodidact

John Hutchison

She blinded me with SCIENCE!! He bothered me with pseudoscience.

Type: Exceptional but average scientific* autodidact.

He knows nothing of the processes which separate science from pseudoscience. Exceptional by having actually been on National Geographic and History channel shows dealing with topics real scientists usually regard as bullshit, like the Bermuda Triangle.

Mostly self taught, he probably went to high school which would include some science, engaged in a quest to understand something he calls the Hutchison Effect. What exactly is that? We suppose it would depend on who you asked, Hutchison says it includes:

  1. Levitation of heavy objects.
  2. Fusion of dissimilar materials such as metal and wood, while lacking any displacement.
  3. Anomalous heating of metals without burning adjacent material.
  4. Spontaneous fracturing of metals.
  5. Changes in the crystalline structure and physical properties of metals.
  6. Disappearance of metal samples.

If you watch the video we included below, you'll notice the effect demonstrated does none of these. Unless you count that clumsy stop motion, illustrated in point 6 up there. Don't get us wrong, he certainly tries covering some of the other points. We saw an empty two liter bottle of soda levitate with either string, or maybe a powerful magnet attracting metal taped under the cap. Is an empty soda bottle really that heavy? Perhaps he meant the surprisingly nasty looking ice cream, simultaneously leaking and plopping "up" towards the camera. That seemed a tad heavier, and required different tri-effects.

Actual scientists describe the Hutchison Effect and its namesake in two points:

  1. This "Hutchison Effect" has been claimed for years, without any independent verification - ever. In fact, its originator can't even replicate it on demand.
  2. Given that Hutchison's claims are outlandish and his credibility damaged by admitted fakery, it is likely that the effect named for him is complete claptrap.

Point 1 is that Hutchison can neither reliably demonstrate the Hutchison Effect himself nor provide instructions so that we can do it. A real autodidact scientist like Tesla did both, regularly, after discovering alternating current. Hell, if your computer is plugged into an outlet, he's still doing it from beyond the grave right now.

Point 2 is pretty self explanatory, he's made wild proclamations then backed them up with questionable and fake evidence before. To be fair, were it not for his autodidact education, he would've known how scientists are supposed to make realistic claims and not fake their evidence.

We'd describe the Hutchison Effect as being incredibly lame and just a little bit disappointing. The words "heavy objects" made us expect something more along the lines of that gray thing behind him, than they did air encased in plastic or demon semen, falling up. Also it's not very well named: If it actually did the stuff he says, a more appropriate name would be Hutchison Effects. But hey folks, let's cut him some slack. He thinks he's a scientist, not an English teacher.


*We want to assume the best about people, but there is a chance he's not so much an incompetent scientist as he is a weirdo looking for attention and money selling videos of his work.

Dr.s Greg and Lora Little

Seekers of Atlantis and professional shrinks.

Type: Exceptional, educated in a totally unrelated subject, autodidacts.

These two are real, genuine, honest to God, license holding** psychologists and are exceptional for the same reasons as Hutchison. We would not question their knowledge of that subject, after all we're not shrinks. They've spent years and years learning that the human mind is something which takes that much time and study to speak intelligently about. We'd bet people like L. Ron Hubbard and other autodidact psychologists, really piss them off. Especially when they don't bother picking up a real book about the subject, then proclaim psychology to be a load of bullshit.

Though the Littles may not mind those L. Ron types after all, since they're essentially doing the same thing to philosophers, historians, and archeologists. Yep, they've decided Atlantis is out there waiting to be found, no matter what the so-called professionals say. That might mean something, if they'd gone back to school and gotten degrees in those fields.

RoboCop went back to school, you can see him around 2:10, why couldn't they?

Instead they read a book about Atlantis written by psychic Edgar Cayce. If they'd instead read Critias, Plato's dialogue, they may not have tasked themselves with finding a hypothetical city-state described in a conversation between four philosophers. The intrepid pair would have known Plato didn't finish that particular work. They'd also know, if one took the dialogue literally, that Plato didn't actually say shit about Atlantis! Timaeus and Critias were the ones talking about it, with Socrates, and Plato was just transcribing the discussion. It was like a philosophical, four way, circle-jerk Plato partially recorded for us. Of course there's also a good chance this conversation never actually happened and he just used names of people he knew.

We can't help but be reminded of Lisa Simpson, recounting what happened when Homer tried reading to her; "...he got confused and thought the book was real. He's still searching for that chocolate factory. It consumes him." The Little's know exactly how Homer Simpson feels, or would feel if he was real.

They illustrate one of the primary problems encountered by any autodidact, how to tell the difference between a valuable source of information and worthless drivel. If you asked the Little's about which one Dianetics is, they'd call it drivel. If you asked an archeologist, historian, or philosopher about Cayce's book they'd call it drivel too.


**Probably, either that or they're wealthy enough by some other means to search for Atlantis.

Dr. Steven Earl Jones

I've dedicated decades of my life to the physics of atomic fusion at low temperature, and I'm telling you, based on that knowledge: The airplanes and their occupants were just something they could attribute the collapse to. Only a flammable mixture of two metals could have done this.

Type: Messianic, educated in an almost totally unrelated branch of a similar subject, autodidact.

A physicist who was once not entirely unknown as a pioneer in cold fusion at BYU. After watching the World Trade Center collapse, he became an autodidact in metallurgy and structural engineering known as Mr. Thermite. Okay, he didn't actually take that name, it's what we like to call him because he's sure thermite was used as part of a controlled implosion. He too knows how much work and study go into becoming a recognized expert in a scientific field, so we'd imagine he's probably not interested in a farmer's ideas on making cold fusion work. Yet he's okay with doing the jobs of people who've spent just as much time in fields like structural engineering, as he has in nuclear physics. Instead of learning a few key concepts by taking more classes and being a devout Mormon, he said something along the lines of: "Fuck that noise man, I'm not starting over again, I already know everything I need to anyway."

Unfortunately, because he'd only heard of thermite and controlled implosion before deciding he was qualified to render his opinion: Dr. Jones doesn't seem to understand either how a controlled implosion actually works, or what thermite is and is not used for. Building demolition falls under the latter. Why? What the hell is thermite? Essentially a powdered metal mixed with another powdered metal/oxygen compound. In it's most common form thermite is just a mixture of rust, AKA iron oxide, and aluminum.

Thermite is really great if you, oh say, are trying to destroy classified equipment you'd rather not give to a foreign power. You know, like maybe North Korea just sort of suddenly goes all pirate on your spy ship, while it's in international waters. Or perhaps when a Chinese fighter collides with your spy plane during a Chinese Top Gun*** moment, forcing it to land in China. In those situations, a bunch of thermite can be placed on top of whatever you're trying to ruin, then ignited with a sparkler. Heat and gravity do the rest. The thermite becomes molten and, we quote: Approximately two minutes are required for the bomb to "spend itself", but the machine will be left burning furiously.

Thermite: Good for burnin', bad for explodin'

The gravity part is what makes thermite a stupid, stupid choice as a cutting charge. Well that and it's also not an explosive either, so even if you could arrange for gravity to somehow go sideways, it'd still take a few moments to burn though. Then there's the tiny matter of what a controlled implosion is, the instant and simultaneous severance of several key support columns. As mentioned before, thermite isn't instant.

The collapse pictured behind Dr. Jones is what happens when support columns on one floor suddenly can't support the eleven to thirty three floors above any longer. Those floors smashed their way down, tipping just a smidge as they did and spilling debr...

Hold it right there jerks, y'all are goin autodidact yourself on this one! I know you don't have a fraction of Doc Jones education on subjects like this!! Listen he...

NO, YOU LISTEN! First, welcome back, we thought you'd left. Second we're not the ones who put forth what we were saying when you interrupted. We're not that hypocritical. After all, here you are, reading about how experts in one field really ought to stick to it and leave other fields for other experts.

Behold the bane of Dr. Steven Earl Jones, a huge report on what happened, by experts in relevant fields known as the Federal Building and Fire Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster.

The secret of NIST: Light reading, in the sense that anything heavier would trap outgoing light.

Look, jerks, I'm not gonna read all that crap. Nobody can!

Don't be intimidated, most of those are appendi on topics as specific as types of steel used and the behavior/egress routes taken by survivors. Oh yeah, there are lots and lots of photos and illustrations too.

Appendi? Is that supposed to be the plural for appendix?

That's right, it both sounds and reads better than appendixes. Though maybe we can save you the trouble, and just summarize both sides.

  • Report: 200 tons of aircraft smashed into the towers going between 300 - 500 miles per hour, severing several vertical support beams and shaking loose fireproofing from the rest. Burning jet fuel ignited plastic, paper, carpet, furniture, doughnuts, and most anything else found in an office environment. These fires produced heat, which softened steel in the remaining columns, until they failed, letting the upper floors collapse through those below.
  • Dr. Jones: The airplanes and fires had nothing at all to do with this collapse. A substance never used in building demolition because it's not an explosive, was placed in the building well before 9/11. The thermite went totally unnoticed by thousands, was used to initiate a controlled implosion despite being unable to do so, and caused the whole thing to fall at once. Though his idea that the building fell all at once fails to account for something we can see in the photo behind him, the debris cloud. Notice there is a big gray cloud at the top, this not something you see on upper floors when all of the floors are falling at once, as in example A down there.


You do see it in cases where upper floors are smashing through lower floors as in example B up there.

Dr. Jones essentially makes the same mistakes as the Littles, insofar as recognizing relevant information and sources. However there is also something else about him which makes his theories kind of dangerous: He's a PhD who talks about an actual event, in a totally ignorant way, thereby spreading false information people are willing to believe because

He's a damn doctor! A doctor of physics, the building was brought down with physics, it's his field!! For the love of Lucas, he's Dr. Jones, like Indiana Dr. Jones. You're a bunch of liars, and are in on this whole conspiracy. Nice try losers, you're not silencing me or Dr. Jones. Dangerous? You're the dangerous ones!! <Kicks a hole in the fourth wall and storms through, angry tears welling in red eyes, sobs issuing forth from a broken soul.>

That was a tad dramatic, but illustrates the danger we were mentioning: People are more likely to believe him, because he's a real scientist. The general public doesn't realize his area of physics is in a whole different area than those who actually deal with what causes buildings to collapse. So folks who really, REALLY want to believe the conspiracy will latch on to him like a Christian to Jesus. Ever tried questioning aspects of JC's life story by pointing out how ludicrous they are, when a Christian tries talking about WWJD? We don't recommend it, the conversation never ends well, and this is usually what happens when you question anyone's messiah. Even if he used to teach nuclear physics at BYU.


***We actually don't even use thermite for this purpose anymore, as of April 2001 at least. When a Chinese J-8 collided with an American EP-3, the crew was directed to pour hot coffee over sensitive equipment, and we don't mean this not so safe for work variety either. The EP-3 crew, poured all their coffee into the secret computers, made some new friends and got to eat REAL Chinese food while the real Chinese looked over our coffee stained spyplane. We tend to think activating a thermite bomb inside the plane and then getting off before it really gets going would've been better than hot coffee.

Grace Olive Wiley

Listen sweetie, just smile big, let the snake do it's thing, and you'll get your kid back.

Type: Dangerous, educated in a mostly unrelated field, autodidact.

Mrs. Wiley, or Grace as we call her, earns props for totally skewing gender stereotypes before most people even knew what the hell that meant. Decades after her death, we went through school, and in the course of doing so met hundreds of girls afraid of bugs. In fact, except for ladybugs, we hadn't even heard of the possibility that a girl could enjoy looking at, let alone touching them. Grace loved them so much she decided to go into entomology, the study of insects.

Based on what you've already read, you know that insects were not her true love. Alas for bugs everywhere, she ran into something else. Something that made her feel like she had never felt before. Grace was in the southwest United States where she encountered and became smitten with, a goddamn rattlesnake.

Jumpin jiminy, it's a musical snake!!

We're not gonna get into a pissing contest over the deadliest snakes, we just know a rattler can kill your ass. There are also two things about this particular type worth mentioning. First, they are usually nice enough to let ya know you're on thin ice, right there in the desert, with their namesake rattle. Second, if one does decide to take a shot at'cha, it'll be so fast you might not even see it. So to sum them up, rattlesnakes are deadly, but not necessarily dangerous so long as you stay away from them, which they'll encourage you to do with their rattle.

Perhaps not recognizing the snake's courteous warning, and being unaware that it was essentially death in a scale covered lightning fast form, Mrs. Wiley pulled a Steve Irwin. She walked right up to, grabbed, and took that scaly fucker home with her. Thus began her career as an autodidact herpetologist, her husband must've been so proud.

Several years and hundreds of venomous reptiles later, Grace was working at the Minneapolis Library. Libraries back then were very similar to what they are now, except with typewriters and without computers. Likewise the administrative portion, being the library's office was very much reminiscent of an office today. Now, we know if you're working in an office, you probably work with some pretty thoughtless asswipes, guilty of all kinds of office crimes against you and others. You also probably bite your tongue and just get over whatever it is they do, for the sake of office harmony. Nobody likes a complainer after all, right?

While that's probably the best way to deal with the guy who smells like a whole bottle of Ed Hardy, what would you do if this happened at work? Upon entering a female coworker's office you catch a glimpse of what looks kinda like a thick rope wrapped around her feet. Only it's not a rope, but a fucking King Cobra warming itself around her legs! The cobra then opens its hood and growls at you like a damn dog. But wait, while you're probably shitting your pants, she's saying stuff like "Oh King's just shy around new people, come on over and pet him!" Here's what we'd do if that happened.

Grace felt that poisonous snakes had gotten a bad rap, could be tamed, and the best way to show this was by letting them freely roam about her office. Kinda puts that asshole always burning the hell out of their microwave popcorn or stealing your lunch in perspective though, doesn't it?

That, oh that's Grace's office, uh-huh we don't go in there. She's got some crazy notion cobras and rattlesnakes can be just as tame as puppy dogs, so she brings 'em to work with her. We're, ah, we're terrified to fire her.

So yeah, she wasn't very popular at the library. Apparently she just couldn't understand why coworkers were uneasy with the concept of cobras, mambas, and asps slithering at will throughout the office. Frankly it's a miracle nobody was bitten, this being Minneapolis and snakes being drawn to warm things in cold weather. Warm things like us. That's why campers sometimes wake up with our courteous, but dangerous friend Mr. Rattler in their sleeping bags. Snakes need heat, will get it anywhere they can, and are also easily scared into defending themselves. We can't imagine the kind of terror involved with what these people endured.

Grace went on to pull the same shit at the Brookfield Zoo, and it went over just as well. We guess she expected more tolerance of creeping death in that workplace, since there were other "dangerous" animals at the zoo. Evidently failing to notice that said animals were kept away from visitors and employees on purpose, she suddenly realized the people she worked with were a bunch of whiny little bitches. "Fuck em." She either thought or said aloud before deciding to start her own reptile zoo and business providing snakes for movies, where her cold blooded friends would be free to roam. So she packed them up and headed to California.

Snakes, why did it have to be your office!?

One day Grace had a guy named Daniel Mannix over to get some shots of her new cobra, and things were going just fine. Mannix, by the way, was also an author and journalist who later wrote both The Fox and the Hound as well as an account of what happened next.

Up to this point in her life, Grace had gotten fame and a bit of money, by bucking a traditional stereotype about women, bugs and snakes. Namely that women do not enjoy being anywhere near the other two. Yet she would find herself brought down by engaging in another female stereotype, vanity. Grace preferred not to be photographed in her glasses. It suddenly dawned on her that she was wearing them during the first few pictures. In a hurry to ditch her nerd lenses, she totally forgot about the new cobra in her lap.

The serpent was already not having fun, that's what it was trying to tell everyone with its open hood. It found Grace's sudden and rapid movement, to put her glasses away, a bit too scary. Unable to communicate fear in any other way, having already opened its hood, the terrified snake bit down on her finger and pumped in its poison. Grace knew this could happen, so like a decade earlier she had bought a cobra antivenom kit. Unfortunately it doesn't have a shelf life that long, but even if it did, as well as somehow being sucked up off the floor after being broken: The hypodermic needle was rusted and brittle anyway. Well shit, guess a visit to the hospital is what the doctor ordered in that case, except none of them had cobra antivenom. Double shit!

We're not sure if it was true, but we remember hearing stories about how they used to be able to make antivenom for you if the dead snake was brought to the hospital too. If so, it wouldn't surprise us that if Grace knew about this source of life saving antivenom precursors, she didn't say anything. Not because she was suicidal or anything, she just probably didn't want her killer pet to die. Which seems kinda short sighted, what about her hundreds of other deadly snakes and reptiles? Who was gonna feed them?

In pursuing her DIY herpetologist studies the way she did, Grace was, to put it mildly, a dangerous and unnecessary menace to public safety. We suggest avoiding the other autodidacts here because they may simply mess up your perception of reality, but demand you completely abstain from any association with a person like Grace. We're usually not down with people telling other people who they can and can't hang around with. Unless possible death could occur because the person you want to chill with loves dangerous shit, like free roaming reptilian death or putting together pipe bombs while blindfolded. It's just self preservation, we mean, what if you accidentally brought a snake or pipe bomb here?


**** We'd probably just go right back out the door and call the cops. Not to handle the snake, we expect they'd call a professional for that, but to arrest the crazy bitch who brought it to work. Back?

Father Adelir Antonio de Carli

Wind!? I'm on a mission from God, who gives a shit about the wind?

Type: Educated autodidact in cluster ballooning.

So if you've read this far, you're probably wondering how a man educated in the field he's endeavoring could be an autodidact. We'll tell you how, by ignoring the education offered in the class he took on it. Okay, so that maybe didn't make much sense either, here's what he did according to Air and Space magazine: De Carli registered at a flight school but refused to attend theory courses, including those on weather, and dismissed his instructors' warnings about prevailing winds.

By now you know that we are not cluster balloonists, so we could be wrong, but understanding how the prevailing wind works seems like it'd be important. If you've ever seen a balloon get away from a kid on a windy day, you know why. This man not only had the opportunity to find out about the wind, but was evidently required to as part of the coursework and he just decided to skip it. He also didn't bother learning how to work things like the GPS he planned to (somehow) navigate with, which makes us wonder why the hell he bothered to go at all. Aside from knowing how the wind will push your powerless bags of helium and where you are, what else is there to learn besides not filling the balloons with air from your lungs?

Actually there is a bit more involved in cluster ballooning, which we won't go into, except to say that this guy didn't know enough about it to make his attempt anything more than a cluster-fuck.

It's clusterfuck, asshole.