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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

50 Things Science Cannot Explain, Part 2

In part 1 of this 4-part series of blog posts, I listed 13 things that science can't explain. Below is a discussion of 12 more things that science cannot explain.

#14 The alignment of quasar polarization vectors

Quasars are very energetic astronomical objects associated with the cores of very distant galaxies. Quasars shoot out jets of gas in a particular direction. Scientists know of no reason why these jets of gas should not be pointing in random directions.

But surprisingly, what are called the polarization vectors of quasars tend to be aligned in the same direction in particular regions of space. In one gigantic area of space, they may be aligned in one direction, and in another huge region of space, they may be aligned in some different direction. This is an unexplained cosmic anomaly that leaves astrophysicists scratching their heads in bewilderment, as discussed here.

#15 The career of Daniel Dunglas Home

Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886) was a 19th century man with a seemingly unparalleled career as a worker of paranormal wonders. He traveled around for many years working wonders in many different houses of the upper class. Many very distinguished witnesses reported that he could do an astonishing array of marvels. These included feats such as elongation (making his body longer); making an entire room shake; playing musical instruments without touching them; picking up hot coals and holding them for some time without damaging his hands; and also the levitation of heavy tables and his own body. In one famous incident, it was reported by 3 distinguished witnesses (including the earl of Dunraven, Lord Adare) that Home had levitated, floated out of a window, and floated back in another window. A very distinguished scientist (Sir William Crookes) investigated Home and reported that several of his paranormal wonders were genuine. Home was never found guilty of fraud. No explanation is offered by scientists to account for these facts.

#16 The large-scale existence of homosexuality

From an evolutionary standpoint, the existence of homosexuality is a great puzzle. It is believed that homosexuality is something inherent, not a choice. So from a Darwinian standpoint, homosexuality must be due to some genetic factors. But if such genetic factors existed, they should have become less and less prevalent as time passed. This is because evolution tends to work very efficiently to increase the prevalence of anything that causes additional reproduction, and it also tends to work very efficiently to decrease the prevalence of anything that causes less reproduction. So from a Darwinian standpoint, the large-scale existence of homosexuality is basically inexplicable. Scientists have made  some attempts to explain the existence of homosexuality, but  none of them are convincing.

#17 Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical technique involving sticking needles in the body. It has a long history of being medically successful in relieving pain and alleviating symptoms, but scientists have basically no idea as to why it should work.

#18 Quantum entanglement

Quantum entanglement is a baffling phenomenon in which a change in the state of one set of particles seems, in effect, to instantly produce a similar (or opposite) effect in another set of particles, even though the two sets of particles may be very far away. Quantum entanglement is sometimes called “spooky action at a distance.” Scientists have no explanation as to why particles should act in such a coordinated way.

#19 The vacuum's low density

Scientists say that the vacuum of empty space should be seething with energy, as what are called virtual particles pop into existence and pop out of existence. Calculations based on quantum field theory lead to the conclusion that ordinary space should have an energy density so great that each cubic centimeter of space should have many times more mass-energy than the mass-energy in a cubic centimeter of solid steel. But for some reason the vacuum of empty space is many, many trillions of times less dense than predicted by quantum field theory. Scientists have no explanation for this, which is one of the great outstanding puzzles of modern physics, as discussed here.

#20 The faint young sun paradox

Models of solar evolution lead scientists to conclude that the sun should have given off much less heat billions of years ago. In fact, a straightforward calculation leads to the conclusion that our planet should have been entirely frozen until about 1.7 billion years ago. But scientists think that life is more than a billion years older than that. How could life have begun if the planet was apparently too cold for that to have happened? Scientists have no good explanation, as discussed here.

#21 Remote viewing

For more than a decade the United States government funded research on remote viewing, which is allegedly the ability of some people to be able to kind of “send out their minds” to get information about remote locations. Despite many successful trials, the program was finally canceled. To explain remote viewing, we would need either an explanation of why it exists, or an explanation of why positive results might have so often been reported if it does not exist. Science offers neither of these explanations.

#22 The fine-tuning of the Higgs field

In modern physics there is a “naturalness” problem regarding the Higgs field, a very important all-pervasive field that helps determine the mass of fundamental particles. The problem is discussed here. The problem is basically that we should not at all expect the Higgs field to have the low value that it has, but some other value more than a billion times larger. Science currently has no good explanation for this anomaly. There is an incredibly ornate attempt to explain it away through a theory called supersymmetry, but recent experimental results at the Large Hadron Collider have almost ruled out that theory.

#23 The exact matching of the proton charge and the electron charge

Our existence depends on an exact numerical coincidence in nature: the coincidence that all protons have a particular electrical charge of 1.6021765 X 10-19 coulomb, which is exactly and precisely the opposite of the electrical charge of each electron (-1.6021765 X 10-19 coulomb). If this coincidence did not happen to exist, stars and planets would not be able to hold together, and we wouldn't be here. Now this coincidence would not be too surprising if all protons had the same mass as each electron. Then we could simply say, “Protons and electrons have the same mass, so it's not too surprising that their charges are the same.” But in reality, each proton is 1836 times more massive than each electron. So the fact that the charge of the proton is the exact opposite of the charge of the electron is something in need of explanation. But modern physics offers no explanation for this coincidence.

#24 The “global consciousness effect” as shown in random number generators

The Global Consciousness Project is a long-running project that uses a worldwide network of continually running random number generators. The project correlates the output from these random number generators with notable world events. The project concludes that there is a very significant deviation between the results of the random number generators (during notable world events) and the output that would be expected by chance. The cumulative deviation from chance is growing larger and larger as time passes. The project estimates the likelihood of the total deviation from chance is about 1 in 3,000,000,000,000. Science has no explanation for this anomaly.

 #25 Brain function anomalies

According to the standard scientific story, your consciousness is produced entirely by your brain. But there are some strange anomalies that seem hard to explain if that is the case. As discussed here, there are documented cases of people who functioned very well even though they had lost half or more of their brains. Science has no explanation for such anomalies, other than the vague word “plasticity,” which doesn't really explain anything.