By its very nature, science seeks to challenge. It asks brave questions, and comes up with answers that may seem ridiculous. Sometimes, those answers are not ridiculous, but become part of common knowledge, accepted by all. Here are just some of those ideas:
1) The Earth being round
The ancient Greeks were the first to realise that the earth is not flat, but round. Evidence included observations of the horizon, and early astronomy (it is a misconception that people believed in a flat earth into the Middle Ages: by then, most people knew it was round). At the time of discovery, the idea of a flat earth would have seemed counter-intuitive to many.
2) The Earth orbiting the sun
It was also the ancient Greeks who established at the earth orbited the sun, and not the other way around. The earth, they realised, was not the centre of the universe, but merely a part of it. This theory – heliocentrism – was espoused by Galileo in the seventeenth century, who challenged the Catholic church’s view that it was against the scripture, who accepted the idea relatively quickly.
Darwin’s theory of evolution ran contrary to the creationist views which were mainstream in his time. However, overwhelming evidence led to its acceptance even by many religious people, although many still hold counter-evolutionary views, especially in the US.
4) Mendhelian inheritance
This is the theory, developed by Gregor Mendel in the 1860s, is the theory of how characteristics are passed down from one generation to another, through genes. His ideas were initially ignored: it was only in the twentieth century that they were taken up by other scientists, and went on to form the basis of modern genetics.
5) Global warming
The first theory that man’s activity could affect the world’s climate emerged in the late nineteenth century, but were disbelieved by most. It was not until the 1930s that scientists began to realise that they were likely true, and extensive research has taken place since. Nevertheless, the idea remains a controversial one, and is still refuted by some.
Other scientific theories are emerging all the time, and many seem utterly implausible. There is still so much that we do not know about our planet, and beyond it. Quantum physicists deal in ‘dark matter’ – so-called because they have limited understanding of what it is, though it is thought to be the basis of ‘black holes’. Other theories which seem impossible, but may yet be proven, are constantly studied. For example, it is thought that teleportation will be possible, perhaps within decades, and embryonic teleportation involving single atoms has already taken place: called ‘quantum entanglement’.
Another unlikely sounding theory is the ‘Copenhagen entanglement’. This holds that it is possible for something to be in two places at once: demonstrated by the ability of a particle to pass through two slits at the same time. There are many possible bizarre manifestations of these theories, and others. Who knows, they may yet come to shape our world.
Rachel is a freelance blogger with a background working on science parks and an interest in making science more accessible.