"Hello Stupid"

by A.L. Kitselman

La Jolla, California, 1962


Do not read this book, unless you are able to benefit from feeling 'stupid'. No one is trying to entertain you or produce a work of art or make money in these pages.

If you feel that the world is a mess, and that perhaps you, too, are a mess - welcome! This book is an emetic, for sick people in a sick world, capable of making you vomit forth your stupidities - that is, if you can get it 'down'.

Can you bear to be presented with proof that almost every trouble in the world today is your fault? If you can, these pages are for you, and the few others like you.

On the other hand, if you feel, as most do, that "they" (the people who 'run' things) are the trouble-makers of the world, kindly do not trespass here. This is not written for you, and I prefer to have nothing to do with you!

A. L. Kitselman

I am so worried about the international situation. If only someone could find an easy inexpensive way to get into space, then, instead of war, we might have twenty or thirty years of competitive space exploration and colonization! And in that length of time, we might even learn to get along with each other!

Near the end of the second decade of this present century, a teen-age amateur scientist discovered one 'easy, inexpensive way to get into space' (there are others); since that time his discovery has been a scientific jewel mounted in a setting of purest stupidity.

As this is a matter which may concern the lives of all of us, being interwoven with world peace, I will tell the story in some detail.

The son of a well-to-do family in eastern Ohio, young Mr. B. dreamed of going into space (as most boys do now). Gradually he became convinced he would find out how to do it.

The most mysterious force that young B. had heard of was the X-ray, something which sounded far more mysterious then than it does now. He wondered if X-rays might be the key to space travel, so he acquired a Coolidge X-ray tube and mounted it in careful balance, as if it were an astronomical telescope. His idea was to point the tube in different directions and somehow find a variation in the power used by the tube, the strength of the X-rays generated, or something.

Nowadays we have radio telescopes which do more-or-less what B. was trying to do, but at the time it was just a teen-age boy's wild idea - no more scientifically practical than ten thousand other young amateurs' notions.

B. didn't find what he was looking for; no matter where he aimed his apparatus, no tell-tale differences appeared. But he did find something he wasn't looking for; he found that the X-ray tube generated a thrust, as if it wanted to move.

Now, why was it that young B. who made this discovery, instead of some scientist of 'standing' or some other user of a Coolidge tube? Well, what scientist of 'standing' would think of experimenting with X-rays as an approach to space-flight? And what user of a Coolidge tube ever mounted one in delicate balance, so that very small forces would be noticed?

B. was born in 1905; he made his discovery shortly after World War 1. He soon learned that the new force was not produced by the X-rays, but by the high voltage which they required. Many experiments were necessary to make certain that the force was not one of the known effects of high voltage, and that it is a mass force, like gravity, rather than an area force, like most known electric forces. He finally produced an apparatus which he optimistically called a 'gravitator'. A wooden box (four inches square and two feet long) containing some lead and some glass (or sulphur or some other insulating substance, which, when stood upright on a scale and connected to fifty thousand volts, would gain or lose one percent of its weight!

All this was done by a young man just finishing school. Although there were newspaper reports of his experiments, no scientist of 'standing' expressed any interest. Considering this remarkable fact, young B. decided to proceed very carefully, so he enrolled as a freshman in the nations finest scientific college (California Institute of Technology) and spent his first school year demonstrating to his instructors that he was a first class 'lab' man.

At the end of this year he sent for his equipment, set it up in his quarters, and sent invitations to those faculty members he felt might have confidence in him - to come and witness 'a demonstration of an electrogravitational force'.

No one came!

When I first heard this, it seemed so incredible to me that I asked the late Dr. Millikan, who had been one of those invited, if anyone had ever found a way of generating or modifying ir influencing a gravitational force. "Of course not," he replied, "such a thing is impossible and out of the question!"

It is a sad fact that discoverers are not indestructible. Young Mr. B, was very hard hit by the treatment he received at the hands of his teachers and supposed friends. He ran away and joined the Navy as a boot; he has never again, on his own initiative, made any bold attempt to present 'a demonstration of an electro-gravitational force'. Nevertheless, his native scientific ability caused Seaman B. to become Lieutenant B. by the middle of World War 11. He was placed in charge of the Norfolk radar school, worked too long and too hard, collapsed, and was retired from the Navy in the early nineteen-forties. After six months of rest at home, he came to Lockheed-Vega as an engineer, and that is where I met him.

I found Commander B. to be a quiet, modest, retiring man - exactly the sort one expects to find in important research installations. He was a brilliant solver of engineering problems, and I soon found that he was more familiar with fundamental physical forces than anyone I had met. So many of us are strictly text-book scientists that it is stimulating to find someone who has first-hand knowledge.

It was many weeks before I found out about Mr. B's discovery - and even then it was not from him, but from Jim A., who had himself known B. for quite some time before learning what he told me. I then began questioning B. in detail, because as a mathematician I was interested in trying to discover the field equations involved. B. would not speak in terms of 'gravity' when describing his discovery; he referred to 'stress in dielectrics', which is pertinent but much less sensational. Even so, our understanding of the force-relations, etc., was at this time quite incomplete.

B. and I were separated for some years right after the war, but we kept in touch. When I was teaching calculus to a group of Navy men at Barbers Point (which is a part of Pearl Harbor), my students built and operated a 'gravitator' and we all became very enthusiastic. The FAWTUPAC Commander took an interest, B. was sent for, and finally no less a personage than CINCPAC Admiral Radford witnessed a demonstration. B. was well treated by his Navy acquaintances, who were of course immensely proud of him, but the demonstrations were still rather primitive, and no scientists appeared. We all thought the millennium was at hand, but it wasn't. Actually, this sort of thing had been going on for years, for even though B. was more of a shrinking violet than a bold promoter, every now and then his friends would try to get somebody interested.

Finally B's friends began to get under way. They rang doorbells all over the country for him - in the academic world, in the business world, and in Washington. B. gave demonstrations by the dozen, but the force was still quite small, and little interest was aroused. Finally, since scientists in America seemed to be in the state of the walking dead, it was arranged for B. to go to England and France and continue his search for a conscious scientist. He had a pleasant trip, received some encouragement, and was 'written up' in international air-and-space magazines.

All this time B. was pondering how to increase the force he had discovered. The discovery of a 1% 'lift' should have caused great excitement in the world of science, but it didn't, so how could the 'lift' be increased? Sometime during the Korean war, B. found the answer.

I remember how excited I was on the day I telephoned B. in Washington after being out of touch for several years, and was told, "The lift isn't just 1% any longer; the apparatus will now lift 110% of it's own weight!" My wife and I immediately flew to Washington and with our own eyes saw a moderately heavy gadget made of metal and Pyrex lift itself right up when 50,000 volts were applied - and float steadily when a slightly lower voltage was used.

We found that B. and friends had organized a corporation, carried on experiments, applied for over 75 patents in 12 major countries (more than half of which have been granted), and are slowly and patiently giving demonstrations for the Pentagon and key manufacturers in the United States.

It sounds good, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. At the present rate of progress, B's company will cause the U.S.A. to come to life and start the space age in about ten to twenty years.

The question is, will the international situation wait that long? Will there be any space age, if we have an atomic war first?

You tell me.

Well, damn and blast!! I have never taken much interest in all this excitement about getting into space - in fact, I never cared whether we do or we don't - but if moving out to the planets is going to reduce the possibility of atomic war, why then, this space business is damned important! Why doesn't Mr. B. get in touch with our scientific authorities so that their resources and know-how can be added to his notions?

Sir, he has, and his friends have. Starting with Dr. Einstein himself, virtually every one of our 'leading' scientific 'authorities' has been approached by Mr. B. and/or his friends, and this has been going on for some forty years now. It would be difficult for you to name an important scientist who has not heard of B's discovery, or at least at second or third hand.

Well, what's the trouble, then? Surely, once these men have seen B's apparatus demonstrated, they will take things in hand and see that things are handled properly. Our best scientific brains can probably make many improvements in B's devices.

Yes, sir. That is what young B thought and what Commander B. still thinks. The trouble is, however, that no scientist of 'standing' will attend a demonstration. Many engineers and technical personnel and business people and service men and even some persons of high governmental authority have seen B's equipment in operation - but all scientists of 'repute' find reasons for being elsewhere when a demonstration is given. They just don't show up!

Well, sir, if they can get away with it, they do not respond in any way to an invitation. If they have to say something, they try to avoid making any comments about the demonstration and simply explain that they will be out of town at the scheduled time. If the time is changed to suit their convenience, they are "unavoidably detained"! If they are caught in a corner and pressed for comment, they will hold out as long as they can and then explain that they are familiar with Commander B's findings, that it is simply a known high-voltage phenomenon, a kind of electric 'wind', that it will not work in a vacuum, etc. When one of our most famous scientists, Dr. T., made most of the above remarks, Commander B immediately arranged a demonstration of lift in a vacuum of 10-6 mm of Hg (it works better in a vacuum) - but there was no word from Dr. T. He was elsewhere.

Now look here - this kind of behavior is ridiculous, preposterous, and absurd. Certainly every responsible scientist should investigate any reasonable proposition that is put to him - that's part of his job. We look to our scientists for guidance; they are supposed to tell us what is possible and what is impossible, what is practical and what is a waste of time - and, damn it all, they are supposed to be upright and honorable people, not devious and crooked and sneaky. What the hell is the matter with them?

Sir, it took me some time to find the answer to that question, because I am a scientist myself, and it was difficult for me to get the proper perspective. What is wrong with our scientists is that they (and the rest of us, too) have a lot of silly ideas about science and scientists. We are told that the study of science is 'ennobling', and that it produces people who are a cut above the rest of us, more dedicated, less worldly, more honest, less corrupt - and so on. This, of course, is just so much malarkey; one does not become wise or virtuous by studying physics or chemistry or mathematics. There are rare individuals who become creative scientists by means of much self-questioning, and this same self-questioning is a source of wisdom and virtue - but, unfortunately, self-questioning is not encouraged or taught in our scientific schools.

What happens when almost everyone thinks that scientists, as a class, are wise and good, while the rest of us, comparatively speaking, are foolish and evil? I can illustrate this best by telling about a conversation I had some time ago with my friend T., a scientist. T. was saying that he didn't believe a scientist should be head of a business - never more than Director of Research. I asked him if he thought it was proper for a scientist to earn $15,000 per year. "Yes," he said, "some scientists should earn that".

"How about $20,000 per year?" I asked him.

"Yes, I think that would be all right."

"What about $50,000?" I wanted to know.

"Oh, no! That would be too much," he protested.

"Then perhaps you should wear your collar backward, T." I grinned at him.

He smiled and said, "Yes, it is something like that".

Now, sir, I believe that T. protested against $50,000 per year because he believed a man making that much money could not retain the impartiality which the scientist must have. I know many scientists and scholars who like to think of themselves as living conspicuously in a quiet, comfortable home - detached and aloof from the world of everyday living. They think of the rest of us as greedy folk who want much more than this. Most of them do not think they feel this way, but they do.

You, sir, are experienced in the ways of the world, and know something of life. Isn't it a fact that quiet, comfortable homes are more expensive than noisy, uncomfortable ones? Isn't it true that scientists eat and drink and breed pretty much as other people do, and that scientists' families have the same need for food, shelter and clothing as do non-scientists' families?

So here we have a class of people who think they want less, while actually they want more, who limit their earnings without limiting their desires, and who think they are wiser and better than the common herd when in fact they are not only no better than others but also too stupid to know it!

What can be expected of such people?

It can be expected that they will live in fear.

Fear of what? Fear of anything that might threaten their already insufficient income, and since a scientist's income and security are dependent upon his prestige or 'standing' or reputation, scientists in general live in fear of anything which threatens prestige, 'standing' or reputation.

And what is it that can ruin a scientist's status more effectively than anything else? Just being identified with some program or project or doctrine or gadget that at some later time is 'discredited' or laughed at or simply regarded as 'old-fashioned' or 'out-of-date'.

This is a chance that no 'reputable' scientist will take; if there is a possibilty that some particular scientific event may turn out to be a fiasco, no 'reputable' scientist will go anywhere near it. In our personal preoccupation with Mr. B's approach to space as a means to world peace, we have been asking scientists to risk their entire livelihood by witnessing a demonstration; it is not fair to expect them to do this. It is tragic, but, so far as anything really new is concerned, all our scientists are dead.

H'm. You tell a sad story, I must admit. I'm not sure that I accept it, but, for the time being, I'll concede that no help can be expected from our scientists. Damn, that's a nasty thought! But you said other people had come to B's demonstrations. What about the business men? Surely they must have been excited about the possibilities?

Yes, sir, they were - at least for awhile. But it seems that the sickness which has incapacitated our scientists has affected us all. No business man will make a move in the world of science without first getting the approval of a scientist of 'standing'! The presidents of hundred-million-dollar corporations have been enthusiastic about B's discovery - until they have asked their own staff scientists for an opinion. What can a frightened man say when such a question is put to him?

If he says, "Yes, B's discovery is sound", his company may find out quickly that he is mistaken, and he will forever after be known as the supposed 'scientist' who endorsed B's gadget! If he says, "No, B's discovery is nothing new", his statement may never be disproved, but, even if it is, he will probably lose his job, but not his status as a scientist. In the scientific world, you can obstruct progress as long as you like, without losing 'face', but you take your life in your hands when you try to help progress along, even when you are right.

Commander B. has a son in college, majoring in physical culture. His father had hoped he would take up some kind of scientific career, but the young B. said, "Dad, I wouldn't go through what you have gone through for anything in the world!"

Stop it, I say! There is no need to get maudlin about it! The situation is bad, I admit, but you talk as if it were the end of the world.

Well, sir -

Yes, yes, I'll say it for you - perhaps it is the end of the world, at least for us. If we have really got to the point where new knowledge is outlawed, and nothing can be done about it, then this civilization is on its last legs. But damn it, man! I don't like to give up without a fight. Maybe something can be done. If our scientists can be made to see what they've done to themselves, or maybe our business people can be told what is wrong with the scientists, or something! Can't you think of something?

Yes, sir, I think about it quite a lot. It isn't easy to live with a situation of this kind, without trying to do something about it. I've tried all kinds of things, some of which seem to be working slowly, like B's corporation. Just lately I decided to try something really wild, something no one in his right mind would ever dream of doing - under normal circumstances, that is. But present circumstances aren't normal, and neither is this scheme of mine. I am writing a book with the express purpose of proving to people how stupid they are - certainly a stupid undertaking if I ever heard of one! Of course the real stupids won't read it, because they'll be sure it isn't meant for them. But there are a few people left in the world who are more-or-less conscious (how they have survived I don't know), and I would like to reach them, if I can.

If a few hundred or a few thousand really conscious people can be 'alerted' to this impossible situation, perhaps something constructive can be done.

No one likes to be called 'stupid', but if a person can be made to see his own stupidity, then that stupidity disappears. This, at least, is my experience. I have made some discoveries myself, in mathematics, electronics, psychotherapy and plain everyday living, and each discovery has arrived at the same time as a realization of my own stupidity. In fact, I think that the two experiences are identical; to realize that something is stupid is to discover how to get along without it.

Can this be the secret of true education? Do we become wise only by becoming aware of our foolishness? If so, it is no wonder that we are so foolish and stupid, for it is our habit to tell ourselves and the world how wonderful we are, and we hide from our faults. As citizens of the world we are stupid, because we are too lazy to think for ourselves, and because we allow our thinking to be done for us by 'experts' who are more dishonest than we are. If we realize this, we will graduate from it. In our fear, we have sought guidance from those who are more frightened than we are; if we see this, we will stop it. In our foolishness, we have relied upon the integrity of those who deceive themselves even more than we do - surely there are less messy ways to commit suicide!

Do you really think that calling people 'stupid' is going to open their eyes?

No - atomic bombs may break their bones, but names will never touch them. I don't think it is of any use to tell people they are stupid; they must see it for themselves before anything is accomplished. They will be annoyed and angry at me if I merely call them names, even if I am correct in what I call them; they will be annoyed and angry at themselves if I somehow enable them to see their own stupidities.

In my home we have a family saying that is somewhat to the point. When one of us does something which indicates extraordinary unconsciousness, that one is awarded the 'stupid' prize for the day. Whoever witnesses the idiotic achievement will say, "I hereby award you the 'stupid' prize for today," or words to that effect. Having won this prize myself times without number, I feel qualified to present it to others.

There is a saying, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." "Vigilance" means watching, looking, inquiring, investigating - being conscious of what is happening. We have lost our liberty because we weren't looking; we were asleep.

To all of us who are inclined to think or feel that it is safe to live without looking into and investigating what happens in us and around us, I award the 'stupid' prize.

To every person (whether scientist or non-scientist) who has the idea that scientists should not be too wealthy because it will make them less inclined to tell the truth - one 'stupid' prize.

To each person who thinks it is easy for a scientist to endorse a really new thing - one 'stupid' prize.

To each businessman or government official who thinks that a supposed scientific discovery or invention is 'without merit' because some scientist of 'standing' has said so, or because no scientist has, as yet, approved of it - one gold-plated, carefully engraved 'stupid' prize.

A special message to each of these prize-winners is on the cover of this book.