13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, by Michael Brooks

by Derwood Hunsdale-Talbot on July 30, 2009

The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time

13-things-that-dont-make-senseRight off the bat, you probably want to know what the thirteen things are. Here you go:

  1. The part of the universe that we can see makes up only four percent of its mass. So-called dark matter and dark energy make up the remaining ninety-six percent, but what exactly is it?
  2. The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft launched in the seventies are ever so slightly not following the course predicted by Newton’s laws of gravity.
  3. There is some evidence that the “laws of nature,” at least regarding the emission of light from stars, may not have always been the same as they are today.
  4. There may be more to the “cold fusion” story than the disgrace of two scientists who perhaps spoke too soon.
  5. Not only are the origins of life indiscernible at this time, but there still remain questions on what exactly defines the term “life.”
  6. Did we find signs of life (whatever that is) on Mars, back in 1976?
  7. Did we “hear” signs of extraterrestrial life in August of 1977?
  8. A giant virus was identified in 2003, which may hold clues to the origins of life and an eventual cure for disease, including cancer.
  9. Why do things die?
  10. Sex isn’t necessarily the best way to adapt to a changing environment. (BTW: “…more than 450 species have been documented engaging in nonprocreative sexual behavior–including long-term pairings.”
  11. Free will is an illusion.
  12. The placebo effect.
  13. Homeopathy.
  14. There you go. If you wonder about the progress of science, this book will probably entertain. But only if you keep in mind that science does progress. It is never static. If something seems unexplainable now, the answer isn’t the supernatural or necessarily unknowable. In the late Seventies, evidence indicated that certain stars were older than the universe. Rather than upend the vast majority of evidence that supported a certain age for the universe, levelheaded scientists simply acknowledged the discrepancy and waited for further data (which eventually reconciled the difference). So it probably is with the thirteen seeming anomalies we see in this book. Further, there are some subject covered here that strain even open-minded speculators, cold fusion and homeopathy, for example. It’s simply incomprehensible that “free” energy wouldn’t be front-page news and that pure shaken water can have an effect on physiology beyond quenching thirst.

    This is a good glance at a brief moment in the progress of scientific inquiry.

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