7 (Stupid) People Who Sued the Scientific Method

7 (Stupid) People Who Sued the Scientific Method

Scientists study for years to give us advances like computers. Lawyers sue scientists on behalf of people who can't operate computers, earn ten times as much and, in doing so, raise horribly relevant questions about which group is actually smarter. Here we see seven of the worst offenses of law against science:

Flower Power Versus Particle Physics

Walter Wagner enjoyed a lot of media attention a few months ago, bringing a lawsuit against the Large Hadron Collider which he claims will destroy the world. While Wagner repeatedly pointed out that he's a scientist, he failed to mention that he's a botanist, also known as a "plant scientist", also known as "the closest they come to particle physics is sneezing at pollen. Now, while we're sure Wagner knows his way around a tulip, it's important to note that his only recorded experience with nuclear science comes from working in a hospital that performed nuclear medicine and, unless they treated Galactus, that doesn't involve a lot of superstring ultrascience.

"Bees...pollen...bees- My God...the LHC will destroy us all."

Get over yourself, Wagner. Plenty of unqualified smartasses warn the world about the LHC, but they're not suing anyone.

While his website is quick to point out his impressive credentials ("wikipedia science editor"), as well as remind everyone how expensive his particular brand of scientific exploration is going to cost ("We expect to encounter expenses in excess of $100,000 in this action" ), it strangely fails to mention his 2004 indictment for first-degree identity theft and fraud in Hawaii. Also missing from the website: reasonable, non-retarded evidence to support his claims about the collider. Still, Wagner believed he was going to save the world, and if that meant getting totally rich and famous in the process, Wagner was prepared to carry that weight. He truly is a hero.

Or, at least he was: the judge in the Honolulu court he filed the case in had to explain that they don't actually have jurisdiction over Switzerland.

"Exhibit A, your Honor: A map of America that doesn't feature Switzerland. I rest my case."

Since Switzerland is pretty clearly not part of this country, that ruling may not surprise you. In fairness, though, Wagner's a flower doctor, so you can't expect him to understand something as complex as geography. You can, however, still donate to Wagner and his cause, in case you either support lunatics or just plain hate real science.

What a Victory Would Imply:

That one man with a lawyer is recognized as a better expert on a field than every expert on the planet in that field put together, with a billion dollar budget, working for over twenty years. Society itself would break down as every skilled worker in the world just gives up and either goes to law school or takes up professionally hurting themselves for money. Think Mad Max meets Jackass with lawsuits instead of gasoline.

Voting Machine Makers Sue to Prevent Testing

Sequoia Voting Systems sued to prevent Princeton computer scientists from studying their voting machines on the grounds that it would damage their business. Which is fair enough, because scientific reports confirming that the machines can't count and often don't turn on probably would. Election clerks ordered the study when they found that the machines had miscounted the number of voters, and since the sole function of the machines is "count the number of voters" that's kind of a serious problem.

Sequoia's ominously-titled "Vice President of Compliance/Quality/Certification" issued this statement: "We will also take appropriate steps to protect against any publication of Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same or any other infringement of our intellectual property."

Vice President of Compliance/Quality/Certification."

That means we're not even allowed to talk about the voting machines and when a "Vice President of Compliance/Quality/Certification" says "appropriate steps" we get a little nervous.

What a Victory Would Imply:

That companies can sell you things and you are legally barred from complaining if they don't work, or even checking if they do. Under this framework Apple could start shipping white-painted rocks in boxes saying "iPod" and you couldn't complain. Not that the Apple fanboys who waited in line for three days to get an iStone would anyway.

Redefining Pi

There's the famous false story of the state that tried to redefine the fundamental mathematical constant pi to 3, but of course no one would ever be that stupid. Though, in Indiana in 1897, they tried to pass a law setting it at 3.2, which is only 0.2 less retarded.

House Bill 246 in the Indiana House of Representatives, introduced by representative T. Record, offered three different numbers to replace the "confusing" value of pi. Because nothing simplifies things like offering three different values for a fundamental constant. The bill was first seen by the Committee on Swamp Lands, then the Committee for Education and then the Committee for Temperance - possibly as the legislative system attempted to find someone dumb enough to deal with it.

Committee on Swamp Lands' Senior Vice President

Since the (evidently) extremely influential Committee on Swamp Lands saw no issue with the new definition, the bill actually had a chance of passing until, thankfully, a mathematician just happened to wander into the building on other business and, after checking the bill out, effectively informed those present that he wouldn't wipe his ass with the bill for fear it would miscount the number of cheeks.

What a Victory Would Imply:

Start with the collapse of Euclidean geometry and spacetime, then work up from there. Basically, Salvador Dali paintings would become still lifes and everything you know would be wrong.

And if you're okay living in a world like that, congrats on being the oldest living-person, Mr. Chairman for the Committee on Swamp Lands.

Homeopath Versus Multiple Nobel Prize Winners

In 1988, noted immunologist Jacques Benveniste got bored with "the respect of his peers" and "scientific credibility" things and published a paper claiming that water retains the memory of useful medicines that had been dissolved in it, even when so diluted that none of the original medicine remained. This line of reasoning is vaguely reminiscent of homeopathologists, aka "those people who don't wash and sell the very expensive water." It appeared in Nature, whose Editors apparently only read as far as his name before hitting the print button.

Benveniste also claimed that this information could be digitized and transmitted by telephone. Let us restate that: He claimed that you could turn a glass of water into useful medicine by calling it on the phone.

"Yes, I still have leukemia. Yes, I drank the water. That scientist is retarded."

Not surprisingly, some scientists had a bit of a problem with this. And by "some" we mean "all," including Nobel Prize winners in physics and medicine Georges Charpak and Francois Jacob. When they pointed out that his claims were a bunch of horseshit (probably in a much more cultured turn of phrase) Benveniste sued them for libel. Despite the fact that every single experiment to replicate his Jesus-like transmogrification of water either failed or were rigged.

Luckily, Mr Benveniste's case was thrown out of court because he filed the wrong type of lawsuit (which we like to interpret as the judge reading the claim and responding, "Oh, no, you need to file this in Pretend Court. We're a real court, we work with science and humans. Have a good one.").

"No, your courtroom is in space."

What a Victory Would Imply:

That the universal cure to all your ills already dispenses from your tap (since the sea has, at one point or another, dissolved everything). Any illnesses you may think you're suffering are merely figments of your imagination, and the cure is just a phone call away.

Vitamins Cure AIDS

Vitamins are good for you, but it's not like they can cure AIDS. If you agree with that statement, you could be sued for one and a half million dollars. That's what journalist Ben Goldacre discovered when he called attention to some slightly dodgy behavior by Matthias Rath. Here "slightly dodgy" is defined as "putting out full page ads in South Africa, claiming that AIDS medicines are useless but vitamin pills will cure you, where tens of thousands of people die every month from AIDS".

"Well I do want to get rid of this AIDS. But $15.99? I don't know..."

Why yes, Mr. Rath does own a vitamin company and, while we don't know this information firsthand, we can only speculate that his balls are somewhere in the realm of "super huge." While the case failed, for the entire year it dragged on Mr. Goldacre was barred from even mentioning anything to do with the case. Which, since he's a journalist, kind of made it hard for him to do his job.

What a Victory Would Imply:

When you can be successfully sued for claiming that vitamins don't cure AIDS, it's the end of public communication, since the last count of "things that don't cure AIDS" came in at approximately "everything." If someone can be sued in the face of such a basic fact, we'll have to take up coded sign language just to avoid litigation.

Suing About Polar Bears Being Endangered

The Center for Biological Diversity counted the number of polar bears left and found that, holy shit, those things are endangered. In a sign of just how legally messed up things are, they're having to sue the government to get the status changed from "threatened" to "endangered." That's right, the scientists whose job it is to track endangered animals still have to bring a court case to get that tracking recorded, and that's not even the worst lawsuit involved.

A countersuit has been filed by the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Iron and Steel Institute and others who clearly have no ulterior motives whatsoever. The countersuit is seeking to not only block the upgrade but to remove the "threatened" status, even though few of their legal statements even address the number of polar bears at all and amount to "Ah, they'll be fine".

Look at that guy. He's living the dream.

They point out that with the cost of gas the way it is, the bears should not be considered "endangered." Our understanding of bear-mating is woefully underdeveloped, but we don't think those things check the price at the pump before deciding whether or not to produce offspring. The companies also complain that Alaska has to deal with special conservation rules that other states don't. The fact that Alaska is the only state that actually has polar bears doesn't really seem relevant to them.

What a Victory Would Imply:

That you don't even have to address the issue of the case. For example, you could beat a murder rap by simply proving conclusively that going to jail for twenty years would significantly damage your ability to make a decent living as a hitman.

Deep Impact Suit

The Deep Impact mission was an effort by NASA to find out what was inside the comet 9P/Tempel, which they did by slamming a three hundred kilogram copper bullet into it at ten kilometers per second.

Which was awesome, because not nearly enough space missions are directed by Michael Bay. The day after the mission, Russian astrologer Mirana Bai sued NASA for $300 million for "moral suffering." Apparently, making a small hole in a comet no one had ever heard of in its un-holed state had ruined the natural balance of the universe and affected her horoscope.

The thing is, 9P/Tempel doesn't actually appear on the horoscope. Pedantic, we know, but if you're going to go to court based on the magic future-predictions of little spots in the sky, you should make sure that you're actually talking about one. And three $300 million? Is she claiming that the change to her horoscope prevented her from meeting a tall dark stranger? A tall dark stranger with forty winning lottery tickets in his pocket?

What a Victory Would Imply:

When an astrologer is credited with a better understanding of space than NASA, it's time to turn off modern civilization, move everyone back to the caves and start over.

Read more of Luke's stuff at LukeMcKinney.org.

For more infuriating cases, check out Luke's look at 9 Insane Cases that Prove the US Legal System Is Screwed. Or for examples of why you may not want to mess with scientists, check out his look at The 6 Most Badass Stunts Ever Pulled in the Name of Science.

Or, visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see what sites we were surfing while avoiding the inlaws this holiday season.

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