Why have the scientific brilliance of Einstein when you can promote the theories of a man who believed that the universe was one big hall of ice mirrors? Here's the bizarre teachings of Hanns Hörbiger, and why Nazi Germany loved them so much.
In the 1920s and 1930s artists and writers flocked to France and to Spain, but scientists went to Germany. Physics and mathematics flourished in universities around the nation. Then the trouble started. Universities were public institutions, and the state could control the faculty. The Nazis took over, imposed their ideology, and one of the most advanced scientific nations in the world destroyed itself.
The dismissal of Jews, anyone who objected to such dismissals, and any visitor whose country might soon be at war with Germany was only the first step. The Nazis soon took to banning the teaching of "Jewish science," by which they meant relativity. Unfortunately for them, not teaching something doesn't make it less true, it only allows a lot of false things to be taught. To fill the intellectual void, they decided to promote acceptable scientists, and one of these scientists was Hanns Hörbiger.
In Hörbiger's defense, he was dead well before his teachings were promoted by the Nazis. Born in 1860, he made his fortune working as an engineer, but he made his name by writing a 1913 book, co-authored by an amateur astronomer, in which he put forward the idea of Glacial Cosmogony. Hörbiger did not believe there was any star other than the sun. The lights that people saw in the sky, he explained in his book, were nothing more than distant glaciers reflecting the light from the sun. Hörbiger's idea, also called World Ice Theory, admits the existence of other planets, but insists that the Earth is the only planet not covered by ice.
Lest anyone get too comfortable, he explained that the Earth, and everything else in the universe, would slowly spiral into the sun and be burned, and that would be the end of the universe. To top it off, Hörbiger believed in a Teutonic Atlantis, which, he claimed, had been destroyed when Earth "captured" the moon.
Hörbiger died in 1931; would that his theory had died with him. It's hard to believe anyone could believe World Ice Theory, given that people had literally been able to see that other planets — which were not covered in ice in the least — for quite some time, but that's what happens when you dismantle your own national brain trust.