The seventies was a hot time in the solar house world. One creative genius, Steve Baer, built a "drumwall" of 55 gallon drums filled with water that would heat up in the sun during the day. Then at night, giant insulated wall panels would be winched closed so that the heat could be retained inside. Baer was not an architect or an engineer; he was a welder. In his book The Solar House, Anthony Denzer quotes Baer explaining why his system worked and a previous one didn't:
He decided it wouldn't work. But that was because he didn't do it the right way. And he didn't keep on. If he had been some crackpot, he might have.... The crackpot is ready to explore new territory without government funding. There's gotta be room for crackpots in any society.
Steven M. Johnson's idea for a solar home is not much different from Baer's: The drum is in the sun in the daytime and inside at night. In some ways it is more sophisticated, as the sun can get at the bulk of the drum all day long whereas Baer's house faces one direction all day. Thank heaven for the crackpots of this world.