Thursday, April 8, 2010

Amusing Science

The most amusing read in the Scientific American is their regular feature called 50, 100 & 150 Years Ago. It is a compilation of what appeared in this very magazine so many years ago. Some of them make a very interesting read, such as this one ... It is called Electric Theory and appeared in the magazine in April 1860.

The results of the experiments instituted by Sir William Grove are exceedingly curious, and must be regarded as all but proving the truth of the modern theory, which assumes that electricity is not, in any sense, a material substance but only an affection (state) or motion of the particles of ordinary matter. If electricity is unable to pass over or through a vacuum, it is probable that all other so-called imponderable forces - light, heat, magnetism, and possibly attraction - obey the same law, and as these agencies freely travel the interplanetary spaces, the supposition of Newton that such spaces may be filled with an ethereal form of matter receives an indirect but powerful support.


Note the flow of 'logic' here: an experiment on the nature of electricity is extrapolated by using "probable" and finally an assertion - "powerful support". Now, it is not clear if this logic was proposed by Sir William Grove or the reported who put together the article, though I have a very good idea about it.

We may laugh about it now. But the fact remains that science progresses by propounding and then challenging hypothesis. One wonders 150 years from today, what will seem so comical. Dark matter, Dark Energy, Environmental debate? Any guesses?

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