I define the fringe as anyone trying to make a contribution to a field where they are not employed or do not have a degree in the subject.  I happen to be a fringe physicist because my degrees from MIT were in Biology and Chemical Engineering.  My current job is in software with no connection what-so-ever with physics.

Most fringe savants babble physics.  There are the words of physics combined in ways that do no make sense to people trained in the arts.  Babbling is how babies learn language, even deaf babies babble in sign language.  I had my babbling phase back at Christmas in 1988 when both my mother and sister separately bought me the book "A Brief History of Time".  So much made sense to me, I wanted to talk all about dimensionless anit-particles interacting with their particles.  I was aware that my readings of technical encyclopedias did not mean I was making sense.  

I decided to study physics in the background.  Moving back to Boston meant I could take one class a semester from Harvard, MIT or BU.  The first class I took was on the history of science where we recreated experiments done by Galileo, Newton, and Franklin.  Galileo worked without algebra, so all things had to be expressed as dimensionless ratios.  Newton used the Sun for his experiments with the optics, and the Sun keeps on moving (we cheated on this detail).  Franklin's discussion of one of his experiments let Priestly guess that electric attraction was governed by an inverse square law.  Reliving vital experiments is a great form of training.

Special relativity is a briar patch for fringe physicists, more than half toiling to show where Einstein got it wrong.  Fortunately I was trained by Edwin F Taylor who was writing "Spacetime Physics" with Wheeler at the time.  We got drafts from Copy Cop which we were told to edit and provide feedback.  These mandated careful reading and reflection, and if we dare, polite confrontation.  The idea that a suggestion might be incorporated was energizing.  This may be the best book for folks learning about special relativity with a background of high school algebra.

Working as a molecular biology lab technician, I had to get a signature from the physics professor to take the year long quantum mechanics, then relativistic quantum mechanics at Harvard.  That was the biggest benefit of a job whose research vision looked limited.  I was always the first person who knew recombinant DNA technology from the medical area to take their class on the main campus.  I feel quite certain I would be a run-of-the-mill fringe physicist without that training.  Perhaps it is possible to be better grounded these days with on line classes from Stanford or MIT, but in the early 1990s, being in Boston and taking classes was the way to go.

As I took my experimental approach developed as a molecular biologist and applied that mind set to theoretical physics, it was clear I would need tools.  I bought a Mac Plus and put 10M of RAM in it so that it would run Mathematica 3.0.  I was not a rich guy, so that box took significant money to set up.  It did mean that I became accustom to testing out math equations with an unbiased jury.  Mathematica is a bitch about details.  It has caught me thinking I had solutions that are not valid.  If even 5% of fringe physicists use Mathematica, I would be surprised.  The same might be true for professional physicist who hide behind a great wall of jargon at the bleeding edge.  Mathematica can tell you you are wrong.  Who wants to hear that?

The ultra conservative fringe likes to hear about errors.  Over the years of my efforts, I have interacted with professional who provided critique no more than a half a dozen times.  Each critique required months or years of effort to understand, and reformulate my work.  The pros were always right - I needed to do something different.  I have been fortunate that I have found new roads around the blocks they found.

Let me give you a concrete example.  I showed a field equation I claimed could unify gravity and EM to a physics professor at MIT.  He said I needed to find the Lagrangian, show that the Lagrangian led to that field equation, find the solutions to those field equations, show those solutions where consistent with current tests of gravity, and define what test would show that my field theory was any different from the current work.  I nodded, said that sounded true, and thanked him for his advice.

It took a year and a half just to understand what a Lagrangian was, or how to use the Euler-Lagrange equation to get to the field equations.  I still have my Zeroxed copy of Landau and Lifshitz "The Classical Theory of Fields".  The most startling thing I learned was that once I "got it", the "it" was not that hard.  It is easy to be super scared of the jargon, but the underlying idea can be dead simple.  In the case of a Lagrange density, it is all the ways energy can be stored per unit volume.  Take different derivatives to get to the forces, to the field equations, to the energy density, all because the Lagrangian represents all ways to trade energy.

On the ultra-conservative fringe, I am comforted by finding out what I have done has been done before.  I avoid making up a new word, the surest way for for a fringe effort to stay in isolation forever.  It is unfortunate that I have to use unpopular words with my work.  For a while, I worked things out with quaternions (a 4D division algebra, a mash up of scalars, 3-vectors, and complex numbers), then presented them using tensors because quaternions are tensors that happen to be limited to working in 4D.  Avoiding the subject of quaternions has not panned out because the power of a mathematical field (the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide) is just too important.

Do I have any "converts"?  I have no interest in a convert.  I am interested in people carrying bats, ready to swing and smash this body of work, listening for the sound of an idea shattering under pressure.  There is one part-time physics grad student who works on this collection of ideas.  It was pressure from him that is making me try to rebuild quaternion quantum field theory from the uncertainty principle on up.  Insane mission, but fun.

I do hope to find a solid technical reason why my unified standard model Lagrangian and field equations are wrong.  That way I can retire delusions of grandeur and go back to a normal hobby.  Any skeptical assistance is appreciated.