While Douglas Adams may have told us that 42 is the meaning of life, he did not provide the question everyone forgot, nor did it reveal all mysteries of the universe. Nonetheless, the scientific and technological advancements will always help mankind develop more complex hypotheses regarding the cosmos.
In spite of the plausibility some of these theories have today, they all started out the same, as crazy notions taken out of a science-fiction novel. Before we present the hypothesis, it is necessary to mention that science does not consider anything 100% certain and hence, there is always a new element that can be discovered to further confirm or disapprove a theory.
1. Big Bang
Perhaps the biggest question of them all implies the birth of the universe and how everything came to be. Granted, nobody can state for certain how all this started. However, considering that science found evidence of an ever-expanding universe, the big bang theory seems like a valid hypothesis. Essentially, because it is assumed the cosmos is constantly growing, research suggests that at one point everything was very close together and the expansion was the result of a collision effect.
2. The heliocentrism of the solar system
The discovery of the heliocentrism of the solar system was made in an age when the church reigned supreme. By constantly observing the sky, Nicolas Copernicus and afterwards, Galileo Galilei concluded that the Earth is revolving around the Sun and not vice versa as claimed by the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the world was not ready to give up the church’s geocentric vision in their time. The theory only became a widely accepted notion in the 18th century.
3. The existence of black holes
The concept of black holes has been circulating since 1783 and the existence of these phenomena seemed very logical and plausible at the time. However, the reality of a celestial object that is so dense and has such an extraordinary gravitational pull that nothing can escape it was accepted much later after extended astronomic observation. Nowadays, black holes constitute an uncontested reality even though their functionality and role in the universe are yet to be unraveled.
4. The universe is constantly expanding
The concept of an expanding universe is nowadays supported by two scientifically proven theories. The first one is Hubble’s Law, a hypothesis that earned its validity via the observation that the object moving away from the Earth appears in the red part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The problem with this theory is that it raised an important question regarding the size of the universe. Even though the dimensions are currently unknown, scientists accept the idea of the Cosmological Constant (suggesting the cosmos has fixed dimensions) proposed by Albert Einstein.
In spite of the fact that the atom theory is currently the cornerstone of scientific research, the “crazy” notion took centuries before it could gain acceptance. In a way, it is understandable considering that Leucippus and Democritus viewed the atom as the smallest particle that stood at the base of all building blocks and therefore, was invisible to the naked eye. In addition to being invisible, ancient people found it hard to dismiss the fact that everything is constructed from the basic four elements (water, fire, wind and earth).
6. The reality of comets
For millennia, comets have been perceived as signs from gods and indicators of dire things that are about to happen. In fact, in some parts of world even today locals believe that comets bring onwards a catastrophic event. Regardless of how much evidence various Roman and Greek philosophers brought, the existence of comets could not be accepted because ancient societies believed in the notion of celestial immutability. However, after Tycho Brahe proved the latter hypothesis is wrong, the reality of comets as we know it today became widely accepted.
7. Planet Neptune
The laws of gravity proposed by Sir Isaac Newton allow scientist to calculate the orbital paths of the known planets in the solar system. What stroke scientists as odd is the fact that Uranus’s orbit presented inconsistencies, whereas the rest of the planets behaved in a very predictable manner. What seemed like a crazy explanation at the time – Uranus’s orbital path is influenced by an invisible planet – was accepted very soon with just one degree of inconsistency regarding its location. On a side note, a similar thing happened when the planetoid (as it is defined today) Pluto and its satellite Charon were first discovered.
8. The Earth is round
Even though the fact that the Earth is round represents an universal truth today, this notion was not always held with so much certainty. The first suggestion about the possibility of a round planet came from Greek mathematicians, although the spherical Earth theory was dismissed in the early modern history. The hypothesis became credible much later, during Renaissance once the great empires at the time began to explore the planet via water vessels. The observations of the first navigators determined many to embark on an adventure to circumnavigate the earth, trips that confirmed the fact that the Earth is round.
While mankind needed quite some time to accept the existence of the atom, science did not make a similar mistake and dismiss the possibility that subatomic structures – the quarks – exist. When the notion of elementary particles that enter the constitution of the atom was launched in the 1960s, everyone dismissed it as too absurd and difficult to research with the equipment of the time. However, the quarks validity was proven during the next decade when research found mounting evidence that could no longer be denied.
10. The existence of the universe
Until the 14th century, many believed in the notion of celestial immutability. According to the theory, all the changes observed on the night’s sky were taking place in the space between the Moon and the Earth; everything beyond the natural satellite was unchangeable and fixed. Thanks to Tyco Brahe who most likely witnessed a supernova, the idea of a variable universe was adopted without a shadow of a doubt.