“Anomalies should be the life blood of science”

sturrockPETER A. STURROCK, professor emeritus of applied physics, has written an autobiographical account of his life as a “conventional scientist” with an unconventional interest in the paranormal.

In A Tale of Two Sciences: Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist, Sturrock recounts the watershed event that propelled him to spend a lifetime studying unorthodox phenomena. On an ordinary autumn day in 1947, Sturrock, then a student studying mathematics at Cambridge University, spied a mysterious round bright-white object moving south along the horizon near the Gog Magog Hills of England. The sighting occurred not long after the Roswell incident had ignited a firestorm in the United States, and Sturrock secretly began to wonder if there was some truth to the idea of UFOs – calling his experience “a profound disturbance to my scientific well-being.”

Sturrock went on to lead a distinguished career as an astrophysicist at Stanford, where he served as director of the Institute for Plasma Research and deputy director of the Center for Space Science and Astrophysics. His book, which examines subjects ranging from extraterrestrial life to reincarnation, attempts to challenge the prevailing attitudes of modern scientists and academics by engaging questions ordinarily dismissed as outlandish or illegitimate – reminding readers that current scientific models of reality are ever fluctuating.

“I have noticed that, when confronted with a new phenomenon … scientists tend to bypass discussion of the evidence in favor of theoretical considerations,” Sturrock writes. “Anomalies should be the life blood of science.”

—Aimee Miles, Stanford News Service intern