Here’s a way to make a lot of money. Publish a speculative scientific article with equations nobody understands, put out a press release, throw in a few credentials (say, a degree from Harvard or M.I.T.), and get a few bloggers to spread the word. In the meantime, quietly start a company based on the idea—the grander, the better.
The latest example of the scientific hype machine is a paper that comes from Alexander Wissner-Gross, a research scientist and entrepreneur affiliated with Harvard and M.I.T. who, according to the bio on his Web site, has “authored 15 publications, been granted 19 issued, pending, and provisional patents, and founded, managed, and advised 5 technology companies, 1 of which has been acquired.” According to one report (by a well-respected science journalist), Wissner-Gross and his co-author, Cameron Freer, “have figured out a ‘law’ that enables inanimate objects to behave [in a way that] in effect allow[s] them to glimpse their own future. If they follow this law, they can show behavior reminiscent of some of the things humans do: for example, cooperating or using ‘tools’ to conduct a task.” A start-up called Entropica aims to capitalize on the discovery; the futurist Web site io9 and the BBC have both gushed about it.