Are there unsolved questions in science? What are the limitations of our theories? Progress brings new questions, implications that challenge our understanding of the universe and ourselves. Below are four crazy mysteries of modern science. Feel free to leave discoveries that peak your interests in the comments section below.
How hot can it get? Scientists have pondered this question for centuries. Classical physics defines temperature as a measure of energy. Through the late 19th century, most scholars thought that if you could continuously add energy to a system it would become infinitely hot. According to quantum mechanics, however, this might not be the case.
All objects emit light. The hotter the object, the shorter the wavelength and more energetic the light. One of the principles of quantum mechanics is that there is a Plank length, a shortest possible distance between things in the universe. What would happen, then, if an object became so hot that its light’s wavelength reached the Planck length? Could the object become any hotter? Current theories break down at this point. To put it simply, nobody knows.
Are we aware of our senses? Do we have to be conscious to see? Our minds might not be as straightforward as they seem. Many people who experience brain damage lose their vision—or so they think. Experiments reveal that some of these patients respond to visual stimuli without being aware of it. In fact, some patients who are blind react to facial expressions or walk around obstacles without any knowledge that they exist. Though these people have no conscious experience of seeing, their brains still process and react to images from their eyes. In other words, our bodies incorporate information from our senses separately from our awareness of them. This phenomenon challenges our understanding of consciousness itself.
Boiling water freezes: the Mpemba effect
Everyone knows that in the same environment hot water takes longer to cool off than warm water. Or does it? Called the Mpemba effect, this phenomenon is so bizarre that throughout history scientists repeatedly dismissed it as a miscalculation. Under the right conditions, boiling water will freeze more quickly than warm water. Though many people have proposed theories to explain the occurrence (heat travels differently at different temperatures, frost patterns in warm water may insulate it, etc.), scientists cannot definitively explain why it happens.
If there’s an absolute hot, is there an absolute cold as well? Temperature measures the kinetic energy of matter, how fast the particles in a substance are moving. Once the atoms lose all of their kinetic energy, they stand still—and are the coldest objects in the universe. Called absolute zero, this state occurs at -273.15° Celsius (-459.67° Fahrenheit). Scientists have successfully cooled atoms to a few billionths of a degree above this temperature, at which point matter forms a Bose-Einstein condensate, a mysterious state of matter with strange properties. What happens at true absolute zero? We have yet to find out.
So what do you think of the these unsolved mysteries of science? Do they challenge the way you think about yourself and the universe? Let me know in the comments section below! As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday!
Comment question of the week
What’s the coolest mystery of modern science?