Taking a long hard look at Einstein
Without a sense of mystery, the world around us would be just plain boring in my opinion. Sure it's nice to walk in the park or smell the roses, but to me it is the play of infinity in the finite, the hidden import and meaning behind things that really brings them to life. And what greater mystery in life than our reason for being and source of our identity?
Science, never afraid to be called a curmudgeon, normally hates to enter the realm of the metaphysical, but NewScientistSpace has composed a list of 13 things that do not make sense, a confounding compendium of observations of our world and the universe around us, observations which, and maybe I am drawing a rather long bow, hint at the fact that there is more going on here than that which meets the physical eye.
Here is a summary of the list, touching upon mysteries such as dark matter, the placebo effect, homeopathy and life on Mars, mysteries which are covered in depth at space.newscientist.com
1 The placebo effect
"Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away."
2 The horizon problem
"A variation in the speed of light could also solve the horizon problem - but this too is impotent in the face of the question 'why?'"
3 Ultra-energetic cosmic rays
"One possibility is that there is something wrong with the Akeno results. Another is that Einstein was wrong."
"'We are,' Ennis says in her paper, 'unable to explain our findings and are reporting them to encourage others to investigate this phenomenon.' If the results turn out to be real, she says, the implications are profound: we may have to rewrite physics and chemistry.'
5 Dark matter
"Astronomical observations suggest that dark matter must make up about 90 per cent of the mass in the universe, yet we are astonishingly ignorant what that 90 per cent is."
6 Life on Mars?
“Something on Mars is ingesting nutrients, metabolising them and then belching out radioactive methane”
Four years ago, a particle accelerator in France detected six particles that should not exist. They are called tetraneutrons: four neutrons that are bound together in a way that defies the laws of physics.
8 The Pioneer anomaly
"Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972; Pioneer 11 a year later. By now both craft should be drifting off into deep space with no one watching. However, their trajectories have proved far too fascinating to ignore."
9 Dark energy
"It is one of the most famous, and most embarrassing, problems in physics. In 1998, astronomers discovered that the universe is expanding at ever faster speeds. It's an effect still searching for a cause - until then, everyone thought the universe's expansion was slowing down after the big bang."
10 The Kuiper cliff
"If you travel out to the far edge of the solar system, into the frigid wastes beyond Pluto, you'll see something strange. Suddenly, after passing through the Kuiper belt, a region of space teeming with icy rocks, there's nothing.
Astronomers call this boundary the Kuiper cliff, because the density of space rocks drops off so steeply. What caused it? The only answer seems to be a 10th planet."
11 The Wow signal
“It was either a powerful astronomical event - or an advanced alien civilisation beaming out a signal”
12 Not-so-constant constants
"If the observations are correct, the only vaguely reasonable explanation is that a constant of physics called the fine structure constant, or alpha, had a different value at the time the light passed through the clouds."
13 Cold fusion
“Cold fusion would make the world's energy problems melt away. No wonder the Department of Energy is interested”