About the Book

100 The table of elements designed by James Carter.

What drives a man with no science training to think he can succeed where Einstein and Stephen Hawking have failed?

In 1993, James Carter, a trailer-park owner in Enumclaw, WA, announced the publication of a book in which he proposed a complete alternative theory of physics. Gravity and matter, the periodic table, the creation of the universe - all these Carter explained through wildly creative ideas dreamed up during a life spent as a gold miner and abalone diver. He had perfected his concepts in experiments he performed in his backyard using garbage cans and a fog machine to make giant smoke rings.

For the past fifteen years, science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting the works of Jim Carter and other “outsider physicists,” many of them without formal training and all convinced they have found the true theory of the universe. In this ground-breaking book, Wertheim embarks on a journey of discovery into the world of fringe physics that exists in parallel to and often hidden from the scientific mainstream.  Beginning with the life of one idiosyncratic individual, she finds herself drawn towards fundamental questions about the place of theoretical physics in the imaginative landscape of our time.

At the start of the twentieth century, a few pioneering thinkers began to take seriously the work of what has come to be called “outsider artists”, people with no formal training who were producing images of exceptional visual power. Today the world of outsider art has its own system of galleries and stars. In Physics on the Fringe, Wertheim puts forward a parallel project for science. By asking what drives a man like Jim Carter, she raises the question of what role an amateur can play in relationship to science.

Deeply human, literally fantastical, infused with wit and humor, Physics on the Fringe, challenges our conception of what science is, how it works, and who it is for.

See here for a video interview where Margaret discusses the book, with excepts from her film about Carter's life and work.


PHYSICS ON THE FRINGE: Smoke Rings, Circlons and Alternative Theories of Everything

Published by Walker (Nov. 2011, pp336).
ISBN Hardcover:  978-0-8027-1513-5


For Rights and Permission about Physics on the Fringe, please contact:

Michelle Tessler
Tessler Literary Agency
27 West 20th Street, Suite 1003
New York, NY 10011

Phone: (212) 242-0466
Email: michelle@tessleragency.com