There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff – we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.
If everyone who saw this today donated $5, we would meet our goal for 2021.
| Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.|
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with !
Torsion fields really do exist, in the advanced physics of Einstein-Cartan theory. However, the concept has been adopted by woo-salesmen who love the sciency sound to the phrase, but stand no chance whatever of understanding the truly scary equations of the real Einstein–Cartan theory. Accordingly, the torsion fields you are liable to hear about on such thoroughly unscientific outlets as Coast to Coast AM have approximately the same validity as a fortune cookie.
- 1 The Russian con-trick
- 2 The Hoagland version
- 3 External links
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
The Russian con-trick
Starting in the 1980s, Anatoly Akimov and Gennady Shipov began torsion field research at the state-sponsored Center for Nontraditional Technologies in Moscow. Their theory was loosely based on Einstein-Cartan theory and some variant solutions of Maxwell's equations. However, the group disbanded in 1991 when their research was exposed as a fraud and an embezzlement of government funding.
The Hoagland version
Pre-eminent among the pseudoscientists using this idea as a means of increasing their sense of self-importance (not to mention selling books and trousering lavish conference appearance fees) is the former museum curator Richard C. Hoagland, who describes himself as a scientist despite having no standing in, or special knowledge of, any branch of science.
What he says the torsion field is
The idea (it does not amount to a theory) is that massive objects, rotating at high speed, create torsion fields that propagate through space[note 1] and interact with any matter they pass through, changing that matter's inertia. Hoagland
stole this idea from was inspired by the amateur scientist Bruce DePalma. On his web site, Hoagland explains as follows:
- DePalma -- since the 1970's -- had been carrying out perhaps the most exhaustive laboratory studies of "bodies in rotation" -- including MASSIVE objects (~ 30 pounds ...), spinning at very high velocities (~ 7600 revolutions per minute ...) -- that I had ever seen; he had, thereby, accumulated an extensive experimental database on a subject not normally dealt with in mainstream physics or mechanics: Rotation.[note 2]
- DePalma proposed, as a result of his wide-ranging rotational experiments, that "rotating masses" in general set up some kind of hitherto unrecognized "inertial field" in their vicinity (the more widely-used term for this field now, because of how it's accessed, is a "torsion field" -- because "torsion" means literally "rotation").[note 3]
"Massive objects" includes distant planets and even the Sun. Hoagland has extended the idea to stating (without proof) that large pyramids amplify this effect.
The Hoagland "experimental apparatus"
His apparatus consists of a Bulova Accutron wristwatch[note 4] hooked up to a precision frequency sensor, which is in turn cabled to a laptop computer whose display plots the exact frequency of the watch's tuning fork as a function of time. He likes people to think he rigged this all up himself, but in fact the MicroSet™ sensor and software were supplied by Bryan Mumford of Mumford Microsystems, and the computer hookup was done for him by Bill Alek.
Hoagland, together with his companion, the homeopathist Robin Falkov, has taken this equipment to Mexico, Florida and the UK to test the idea, usually taking it to some massive stone structure at the time of an eclipse or transit. In every case he has proclaimed the results "stunning," "astonishingly confirmatory" or some such hyperbole. After the abortive expedition to Mauna Kea in May 2013 he said "This technology can save the planet."
However, quite apart from the shakiness of the underlying idea, there are a number of very grave problems with his protocol and data interpretation. He calls his sorties "experiments," but as science they are unconvincing to put it mildly.
Problem 1: Data spikes
The normal behavior of the tuning fork in the Accutron watch is to vibrate at precisely 360 Hz. Reading his explanation, the expected data return would be a steady 360 Hz trace, changing to a steady trace at a different frequency when the torsion wave takes effect (at onset of an eclipse, say.) In no case has Hoagland shown such data. In every case for which he has published data, the trace consists of sharp spikes, some up and some down, some during the eclipse/transit and some not. Here are the details:
Venus transit 2004: many upspikes during the "influence," even more outside that time. 0 downspikes[note 5]
Teotihuacan 2009: 2 upspikes, 0 downspikes[note 6]
Tikal 2009: 7 upspikes, 9 downspikes
Stonehenge 2011: no data published
Avebury 2011: no data published
Silbury Hill 2011: no data published
Annular eclipse May 2012: 7 upspikes, 1 downspike
Venus transit June 2012: no data published
Chichen Itza Dec 2012: no data, Hoagland ejected.
Mauna Kea, May 2013: no data, battery went flat.
Problem 2: Orientation of the tuning fork
Again reading his explanation, it is extremely clear that the orientation of the tuning fork in relation to the spin axis of the remote object is of vital importance. Reporting DePalma's original hook-up, he writes:
- "If measured along the rotational axis ... this "torsion field" from the resulting rotation seemed to increase the inertia of other moving objects (such as the tuning fork inside the Accutron); but, if the watch was rotated 90 degrees -- into the plane of the masses rotation -- the Accutron's tuning fork inertia abruptly decreased ...!"
However, in no case has he reported the orientation of the tuning fork. In the only video showing Hoagland "in action" -- the hilarious escapade at Chichen Itza in December 2012, when he was ejected from the site for not having a permit[note 7] -- it is perfectly plain that he is not controlling the orientation of the device at all.
Problem 3: Lack of baseline
Hoagland has never published any baseline data. Thus, there is no way to tell if the data spikes are an indication of meaningful data, or simply the normal behavior of a malfunctioning 40-year-old wristwatch.
In fact, on at least two occasions Hoagland has hinted that the baseline data may be highly problematic.
On Coast to Coast AM June 2012, he reported "The Accutron went nuts for 12 hours non-stop" in his office on the occasion of the summer solstice.
During a panel discussion at the Glendale Awake & Aware conference, April 2013, he said this:
- "It used to be that I could do measurements in my office and I would get nothing but noise—straight line. You have to go to a pyramid, or to that mountain, to get really interesting stuff. Over the last several months, particularly the last several weeks, I have seen readings [...] that are as boggling as any at any pyramid anywhere in the world, just sitting there in the office."
Problem 4: Lack of controls
For Hoagland's data to be acceptable as science, he would have to publish control tracings from identical Accutron/MicroSet™ setups that are guaranteed not to be influenced by the torsion field. To give support to his idea that pyramids amplify the effect, he would need to show data from a control tuning fork that was remote from a pyramid. He has stated on one occasion that he has controls[note 8], but has never published them.
Problem 5: Vague predictions
On Red Ice Internet Radio, February 2013, Hoagland stated "The predictions of the model are overwhelmingly confirmed." This statement is
bullshit an exaggeration. The fact is that his "model" is loosely defined and he has never made a specific enough prediction to test. Although he has said repeatedly that he has measured the torsion field, he has never stated any actual measurement or even said what units the field would be measured in. Neither has he ever stated the mathematical relationship between the frequency of the torsion field and that of the Accutron.
Problem 6: He broke it
On his radio show, 1 April 2018, Hoagland announced that the Accutron was broken.
“”I made a mistake the other day and dropped the damn thing on a hardwood floor. It obviously has incredible fine wires. It broke.
He appealed for donations to pay for repairs but there is no sign that his very small audience coughed up.
- Some enthusiasts claim that torsion information travels at "billions of times the speed of light"
- If any engineers working in the field of gyroscopes or turbo-alternators ever come across that page, they're liable to die laughing.
- It would have been more accurate if he had written that torsion is resistance to rotation.
- The last Accutron was manufactured in 1977. Therefore, the age of this apparatus can readily be calculated by deducting 1977 from whatever year you are reading this in, and realizing that that is a minimum.
- Those wishing to examine this data can choose between two incompatible traces, both published by Hoagland. this one, or this one
- This trace was supposed to record the torsion field at the moment of dawn. However, the trace did not begin until six minutes after dawn
- Hoagland evidently doesn't realize that, in Mexico, "permits" bear a remarkable resemblance to 100-peso banknotes
- Appearing on Gaiam Inspirations TV with Jay Weidner on May 16th 2012, Hoagland stated that he planned controls in Chicago and Florida during the upcoming annular eclipse.
- Kruglyakov, Edward P.. "Pseudoscience. How Does It Threaten Science and the Public? Report at a RAN Presidium meeting of 27 May 2003". Zdraviy Smysl (Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society).
- Hoagland's web page, explaining the concept
- Bill Alek comments in an online forum
- Malfunction must really be suspected in this case. No eclipse or transit was in progress, yet this trace features the wildest excursions of all, from 15.531 Hz to 949.586 Hz
- Site of this trace was the terrace of the High Finance restaurant, Sandia Peak, with the Sandia mountain standing in for a pyramid. There are labeling problems with this trace, too
- Video at Chichen Itza