13 Things That Don't Make Sense, The Article
In XXXX 2005 I came up with the idea for a cover feature for New Scientist: 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense. The idea was to have a quick glance over the various anomalies that science currently faces.
When the article was published, it was put up on the New Scientist website, with free access. It quickly became a big talking point on the web: the article was pinged around so many times that it wound up as the 6th most circulated article in 2005 – not bad for a science story. 13 Things was beaten by another science story, though -- something about scientists creating zombie dogs. Sometimes you just can’t win….
The original New Scientist article had a slightly different set of Things. I’ve made a few substitutions for various reasons. Some of you out there might feel these are contentious, so let me skim over them.
I felt the tetraneutrons were just not standing the test of time: it’s a result that really was a one-off. In science, you can’t read too much into that. The ultra-high energy cosmic rays first reported in Japan more than a decade ago have more or less been ruled out by results from the Pierre Auger Laboratory in Argentina. The horizon problem is kind of solved by inflation which, though still flakey, is getting lots of attention. The eventual form of the solution will be something like inflation, making it unlike dark matter and dark energy, which could well be mirages. The Kuiper Cliff? Well, I felt that we didn’t have a good idea what SHOULD be out there, so maybe it’s not as strong an anomaly as some of the others. And if there is a Planet X out there that’s swept the area clean, the explanation is so straightforward and mundane, there’s not really much in the way of implications to discuss. Perhaps most contentious of all is the fact that Homeopathy is still in the list. Read the book and you’ll see why: when our understanding of the placebo effect is so wobbly, homeopathy still gets to make a few claims that can’t be dismissed without accusations of prejudice. You’ll get, from the fact that I even mentioned the ‘P’ word that I have some. I have never paid to consult a homeopath, and I don’t think I ever will. But that doesn’t make it hokum. And science hasn’t managed that either – yet.