Cloudbusting: Was it Science?

Many times we encounter science in our life in unexpected ways.  I encountered the term “cloudbusting” through listening to one of my favorite singers, Kate Bush.  After viewing the video, I was intrigued to find out exactly what cloudbusting was and if it was a really science or just a hoax.  I encourage you to watch the video first.

This video is based on a book ” A Book of Dreams” written by Peter Reich about his father in 1973.  Peter, portrayed by Kate Bush,  and  Wilhelm Reich, played by Donald Sutherland,  tells the story of the  use of a Cloudbuster and Reich’s ultimate arrest.

Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He was know for his radical techniques of using a form of  cosmic energy he named “orgonon”.  He used this energy first in his treatment of his patients.  However, it was the creation of the instrument, called a cloudbuster and the use of the cloudbuster to alter or augment weather that led to the ultimate arrest and imprisonment until his death in 1957.

A cloudbuster (left) is a device which consists of a series of metal tubes that can manipulate streams of orgone to produce rain.  The theory behind how cloudbusting works is based on the principle that orgone flows from a greater concentration to an area of lesser concentration.  When the pipes were grounded in water the cloudbuster would have greater orgone than in the clouds. Therefore, when pointed at the clouds the orgone would flow to the clouds and create rain.  Weather is created and affected by many different influences and is often likened to the Butterfly effect, where a flap of a butterflies wings can eventually lead to a hurricane. Unlike that analogy, cloudbusting is controlled,  not through a series of chaotic influences but through the influence of the cloudbuster operator’s mind (Montalk, Tom, 2004).

In 1942, Reich purchased 160 acres in Rangley, Maine and built a Student Laboratory.  Shortly thereafter he built the Orgone Energy Observatory which included additional laboratory facilities, Reich’s library and study and outdoor observation decks to study atmospheric orgone energy phenomena.  The scientific community was taking notice of his work.  Then in 1947 an article was written against his work and a charge was made by the Food and Drug Administration about his use of  orgone in his patient treatments.  What ensued next was a ten year long investigation by the FDA to discredit Reich in the field of medicine.  Reich then turned to other uses for his newly found source of energy.  Primarily the use of the cloudbuster to create rain. A famous story happened in Maine during a severe drought that had placed the blueberry crops in danger of being a total loss. The farmers paid Reich to use his cloudbuster. The weather department had predicted that there would be no rain for the next few days and Within a ten hours of Reich start to his “cloudbusting” a light rain fell.  The crops were saved and Reich was given credit for a two inch rainfall.

The final ending to Wilhelm Reich came after a student moved a truckload of equipment and books  against a court order.  The ensuing trial ended in both Reich and his student being incarcerated for a two-year sentence.  Reich died of heart failure eight months after his sentencing (Wilhelm Reich Museum, 2006).

Now that you have had a chance to watch this short film and to read this article, click here to take survey.  Many times  throughout history the people who arrived at some our most accepted scientific theories and laws,  were portrayed as insane and their ideas dismissed.  You can  decide what characterizes something that it is considered “scientific” and what is not by keeping an open mind and constantly testing ideas that come your way.

References:

Bush, Kate(2010, September 14). Cloudbustin [video file].  Retrieved from
     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRHA9W-zExQ.
Montalk, Tom. (2004). Cloudbusting Resources. Montalk.net. July 20, 2004.
     Retrieved from http://montalk.net/science/73/cloudbusting-resources
Wilhelm Reich Museum. (2006). Biography. Rangeley, Maine. December
     2006.  Retrieved from http://www.wilhelmreichmuseum.org
     /biography.html#bio
Wilhelm Reich Museum image collection. Image retrieved from
     http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/93
    /WilhelmReichcloudbuster2.jpg.

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10 Comments

  • Kevin says:

    Hi Elizabeth. Awesome site! I ordered one of Reich’s books. I think I may try to build an Orgone accumulator.

  • Bret Greene says:

    Elizabeth,

    Very interesting blog. I try to tell my kids that science is around them everyday and there are literally thousands of different fields of science in which they can take part in. Your insight into “cloudbursting” is a great way to prove this point. There are inventors/scientist throughout history that have worked on different problems, whether they be right or wrong, whether their theories are accepted as common knowledge or not, they are still conducting science and doing research.

    Your blog is the first time that I’ve ever heard of “cloudbursting,” and it sparked my interest. It is apparrent from the internet that Dr. Reich has somewhat of a cult following, and throughout the years since his death there have been several others who have attempted to continue his work and add to it. A site that I found interesting outlined the history of cloudbursting, offered some more information on orgone, and it listed the “rational and irrational users” of cloudbursting technology. This site was a warning to those that wanted to venture further into the science of cloudbursting. I’m definitely going to check this out further and might offer this information to my students as an example of “outside the box” science.

    Here is the website that I found to be very helpful:
    http://www.orgonelab.org/sobuildaclb.htm

    It’s called “So you want to build a cloudbuster?”

    Hope you enjoy it.

    Bret

    • Elizabeth Moore says:

      Bret, I also found the website that you mention to shed a great deal of light on the topic of orgone. It provides information that tends to make a person think that what Dr. Reich had proposed was indeed accurate and reasonable. My only intent in writing this blog is, as you say, to get people to realize that science goes on everyday in many different ways. It doesn’t always appear as that laboratory coat clad scientist in a distant lab somewhere that is supported by an industry giant or grants. It also can show that what people contribute to the the course of science can often be something that is unacceptable to other people. To take it a little further, think about the people that tell us today that they have found a way to run an automobile by burning saltwater. Whatever happens to those ideas?

      Elizabeth

  • Kevin says:

    Hi Elizabeth, Cloudbusting is an interesting topic for a blog. It will certainly lead to discussion between those that believe it is science and those that do not. I found the topic intriguing as you did. I even ordered the book “The Orgone Accumulator Handbook” to investigate further. This website http://www.orgonelab.org/sobuildaclb.htm has several books related to William Reich’s work.
    The video and survey were great additions to the blog. The survey adds interaction to your site. Input gathered from the survey can be tabulated and discussed in class. Science is all around us and using a blog to capture student’s imaginations is a great idea.

    • Elizabeth Moore says:

      The topic also stimulated my interest in trying to construct a cloudbuster. It seems like a simple machine and the logic for how it works seems accurate. However, I wonder if that is where the fallacy in the project becomes evident. Let me know if you are successful in making the device.

      Elizabeth

  • kit says:

    Elizabeth,
    Cloudbusting, Wilhem Reich, and orgonon are very interesting. I am more intrigued after reading your blog. You did a great job. The link to the survey is also a nice touch. I believe that weather can be modified, but until I read your blog I had never heard of cloudbusting. I find myself wanting to know more about Reich and the events that transpired in his life. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Reading about the experiments Reich performed to help control rain reminds me of an article I read in the USA Today about China trying to control the weather during the Olympics. The link to the article is:

    http://www.usatoday.com/weather/research/2008-02-29-china-weather_N.htm

    I am not sure if they actually were able to control the weather in China, but if anyone has the man-power to figure it out, they do.

    Kit

    • Elizabeth Moore says:

      Thanks for this link, it is a good way to go further on this topic. The follow up may be a blog on how other people have attempted to take real science and use it to in ways that others would consider out of the normal.

      Elizabeth

  • Michael says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    This is really interesting stuff. Much like many others, I’d never heard of Cloudbusting, but for sure I’m interested in learning about it now. I thought this was a really great way to start off. This blog really got my attention, and watching the video first was a good primer for what we were going to read about. I feel as though science is an area that always brings about great debate, and many times when a theory is new, seems out of the norm, or hard to accept, it can be dismissed or forgotten. And on the other end many things understood to be true have been proven to be way off mark. This brought me back to thinking about the definition of Science, I found an article with a panel giving their individual perspectives.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/defining.html

    -Mike

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