Followers

July 31, 2010

Things we can't prove exist

RELIGION/TECHNOLOGY - There are lots of things out there we can't prove exist. I can't even prove YOU exist, because for all I know you're a figment of my imagination.

And even if we do assume human beings and the universe around us is real, what about all the other things we have yet to explain or can't prove?

Examples:

God - People have been trying to prove god(s) exist for millenia using nothing more than theology and wishful thinking. That doesn't mean s/he doesn't exist, it just means the concept of god is so pervasive and part of our culture that there is a lively debate about the existence, nature, form, race, gender and motivations of god(s). Scientists have even devoted significant time to trying to discover the "God Particle", a theoretical sub-atomic particle also known as a Higgs Boson... I'll get back to this topic later.

Aliens - Sure there's been UFO sightings, crop signs in fields and unexplained phenomenon, but until we have first contact no one will ever prove aliens exist.

Santa Claus / The Easter Bunny - Yeah, good luck with that one.

Ghosts - If you've ever seen so much as an advertisement for the TV show Ghosthunters you'd know the actors on the show are morons. Try talking to anyone who claims they've actually seen, felt or heard a ghost and you will either conclude they're perpetuating an hoax or just plain wacko. Until they find a way to capture a ghost and put it on display many people will remain skeptical.

Angels - See ghosts above. Until they can provide proof they're either wacko or perpetuating an hoax.

Atlantis - There is substantial geological and oceanographic evidence that Atlantis was a pear-shaped continent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Combine this with linguistic and cultural info about the legendary white magnesium continent which "burned into the sea" around 9650 BC according to Plato, Egypt, India and other sources and its in the realm of pseudo-historical. But until Atlantis rises again no one will ever be able to prove it.

Sasquatches - Blurry photographs don't do much, but fossils have been found of what scientists call "homo gigantopithecus" or "homo giganticus". No one has ever captured or killed a homo giganticus however.

Dwarves - Now obviously midgets, pygmies and other 'small people' do exist. But according to legend there was once a society of small people living in the Black Forest of south western Germany. Like pygmies they were small in stature, but nevertheless human. They were later massacred and wiped out by the Romans. There hasn't been a lot of fossil digs in the region however so nobody has ever proved the dwarf legends were real.

Loch Ness - Nothing more than blurry photographs. However Portuguese fishermen during the 1980s found the body of a plesiosaurus floating in the water in the Atlantic Ocean, suggesting such creatures might still exist and have managed to survive for millions of years (sharks have survived for millions of years, so why not the plesiosaurus?). It should be noted Loch Ness is not the only location with plesiosaurus or similar creature sightings. See Sea Serpents of Canada.

Sub-Atomic Particles - Scientists have been working to unravel how sub-atomic particles work for decades using nothing more than theory and trying to prove their case using what little data they can garner from bouncing lasers off particles and measuring the feedback. They've never been able to prove sub-atomic particles are real, and hypothetical particles like the Higgs Boson (or "God Particle") remain a complete mystery. All we can really confirm is that spectral analysis of laser feedback creates some interesting images.

Quantum Singularities - Quantum singularities exist only in science fiction. No one has ever seen one or proven they exist. Scientists can't even agree on a definition of what one would look or behave like. Essentially its a point in space where time doesn't exist and objects passing through it or around it are ripped apart at the point of contact. The fact its fictional hasn't stopped scientists from studying the hypothetical.

Time Travel - While there's never been any evidence that time travel is possible this hasn't stopped many great scientists from theorizing about how to travel faster than the speed of light by creating a stable warp field (warping time and space) around an object. Einstein's theory of relativity, time dilation, special relativity, yada yada yada...

Love - Psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers and poets have been trying to fathom love for millenia. They've never been able to prove love isn't anything more than a chemical reaction in our brains, something which could be neutralized with a pill or damaged with a swift kick to the head.

Now this doesn't mean that these people should stop trying to uncover the mystery of something simply because there isn't enough evidence to support its existence. If we follow the factual standards of other people then great scientific discoveries like evolution, nuclear fission and fusion and other things we have yet to explain would have never been discovered.

Examples:

Ball Lightning - This is an unusual and highly rare phenomenon. If you were to see one it would look like a sphere of flashing light moving horizontally across the ground. Ball lightning can travel for miles and miles before it finally dissapates. If you saw it you might very well think its an UFO or even a creature in a halo of light. It wasn't until it was captured on video that people proved it existed. Scientists have since managed to artificially create ball lightning in laboratories using a combination of heat, microwaves and ionized gas. The hot ionized gas becomes a good conductor and the electricity inside it moves around giving off light. (You can even make small ball lightning in your 700+ watt microwave if you feel like experimenting.)

Aspirin - Many different cultures have used medicinal ingredients found in treebark. It wasn't until a French chemist, Charles Frederic Gerhardt, decided to experiment with treebark from beech trees to find what was in it that made superstitious people believe it was helping them. His discovery of acetylsalicylic acid in 1853 later led to the production of Aspirin. If it wasn't for him exploring that superstition we might not have Aspirin today.

Anti-Matter - Anti-matter was first discussed by Arthur Schuster in 1898 in which he theorized that particles could exist which are direct opposites of particles we normally encounter, and that if matter and antimatter collided they would annihilate each other in an explosion of energy. This concept was later used in the popular Star Trek TV series to explain how warp engines got their power. What you might not know is that scientists have been successfully capturing anti-matter in an electro-magnetic field using the CERN super collider in Switzerland since 1995. Fifteen years later scientists are still making new discoveries about how we might use anti-matter as an energy source. It is currently a very expensive process and scientists are trying to determine a safe way to gather more faster, thus making anti-matter cheaper. In 2006 scientist Gerald Smith estimated $250 million USD could produce 10 milligrams of positrons (anti-matter electrons).

Just because something has yet to be explained or proven doesn't mean its theoretical existence should be ignored. Scientists will sometimes quote Occam's Razor (the simplest explanation is often the correct one). Occam's Razor however is NOT an irrefutable principle of logic, and its not a result or evidence by itself. Sometimes there is no simple answer, as ball lightning, Aspirin and anti-matter above demonstrates. The answer is simply waiting to be discovered and it may not be a simple answer.

"Not everything is superstitious hocum."

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