Yesterday a very politely written letter arrived at the department, addressed to the physicists. I was curious as to what it was, and read it carefully all the way to the word ‘homeopathy’, at which time I began preparing a space for it in the ‘cranky letter’ folder of my filing cabinet. I will spare you the details of the ‘discovery’, but it concerned the physical reason why rainwater was safe to drink, and water-from-the-tap wasn’t. The letter was even kind enough to suggest some experiments that my department could carry out to validate this discovery.
Many ‘discoveries’ of this nature turn up from not doing properly repeatable, controlled experiments. The orignal ‘discovery’ of Cold fusion in 1989 springs to mind. While I am quite willing to believe that this particular person ‘recovered’ from an illness after switching to rainwater for a drinking supply, I suspect that this had little to do with it. An experiment done once, with a sample size of one, doesn’t make me down tools and rush off to investigate it, however revolutionary it might be.
Finally, my correspondent would probably be horrified to read of the link between rain and autism.