15 Facts Proved Science Got Something Wrong
What geological theory sent a bunch of sailors to go die on icebergs? What is Planet V and where can you find it? From Flat Earth to Hollow Earth, here are 15 times science came up with something that turned out to be dead wrong.
Geocentrism is the notion that the Earth is a stationary object in the universe and that the Sun, Moon stars, and every other object in the universe revolves around it. This was the official position of most astronomers – and the Catholic Church – during the Renaissance, which made it hard to argue with. But most working astronomers accepted Heliocentrism – the fact that the Earth rotates around the Sun – in the mid 17th century, and the Catholic Church reluctantly agreed with the idea in the 18th century.
14 Miasmatic Disease Theory
Medical professionals since ancient times believed that diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis and chlamydia were caused by a “miasma.” In other words, they believed that these major diseases were caused by clouds of noxious air. These theory was eventually replaced by the germ theory of disease, which showed that diseases are caused by specific germs.
13 Ulcers are from stress
Until very recently, doctors believed that stress caused peptic ulcers. While ulcers are complicated and have multiple factors, it is now known that stress and diet have very little impact on ulcers. They are actually caused by stomach acid and other digestive juices burning the lining of your internal organs.
12 Open Polar Sea
It was once thought that the ice and glaciers of the Arctic were just a barrier, and that there was an “open polar sea” just beyond. This belief led many sailors to search for the path through the ice that would lead them to this polar sea, opening up new shipping lanes. As you might expect, this belief resulted in a lot of ships sunken on icebergs.
Alchemy is kinda almost like real science. It’s a precursor to modern chemistry, and its practitioners studied the changes in different types of matter. But it also had an element of mysticism to it, and was rooted in the belief of a universal life force flowing through all things – even metals and minerals. But most of its users were primary concerned with how to change things into gold. Modern chemistry showed that gold was a unique element… so you can’t just make it from nothing.
10 Immobile Continents
Geologists have not been speculating about the position of the continents for that long, because we’ve only had accurate world maps for about a century or so. It was assumed that continents were stationary until some European cartographers in the 17th century noticed the continents of Europe, Africa, and the Americas seemed to fit together like a puzzle. The first time the theory of continental drift was posed was 1596. But it wasn’t fully developed and accepted until 1912.
9 Steady-State Theory
Fun Fact: The term “big bang” was coined by a guy who expressly disagreed with the Big Bang theory. Sir Fred Hoyle actually used the term “big bang” as the beginning of the universe because he thought it sounded ridiculous. His argument was for the “steady state” model of the universe, in which the universe is static, and not expanding. The Hubble Space Telescope has more-or-less debunked that theory, but Hoyle died before he saw it.
8 The “Young Earth” Theory
Okay, this is sort of cheating. Young Earth creationism has never actually been scientifically accepted. There is a mountain of evidence in to disprove it, and basically nothing scientifically in favor of it. You can use carbon dating, ice layering, the lack of DNA in fossils, or even sedimentary dating, as well as dozens of other scientific methods to prove the earth to be at least millions of years old. The generally accepted theory is that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
7 Maternal Impression
Until about the 19th century, it was strongly believed that a mother’s thoughts would imprint upon a child while she was pregnant with it. A woman with negative thoughts during pregnancy was thought to produce a child that was “marked” by evil. This was disproved as superstition in the 20th century, but it is true that stress and psychological illness can have an adverse effect on a fetus.
6 Classical Physics
It’s not that Newtonian physics are wrong as we’ve come to know them. It’s just that they’re not 100% right. They still work under most of the conditions we face here on earth. But the models of simple motion, force, and velocity that we know and love have been superceded by Einstein’s theory of relativity. So classical physics are still “close enough” for us. But those models are basically useless when it comes to explaining things like planetary orbits and interstellar travel.
5 Hollow Earth
Another theory that was never widely accepted, but has gained traction as a conspiracy theory is that the Earth is hollow, and we live on the inside of it, rotating around an inner Sun. This isn’t so much science being wrong and admitting it… it’s more like one scientist being wrong and everyone else pointing it out.
4 California Island Theory
Cartographers in the 16th and 17th century frequently printed maps showing California as an island. Despite explorer evidence to the contrary, it was widely believed not only that California was an island, but that it was separated by a “Gulf of California.” It was also widely believed to be a sort of unattainable island paradise.
3 Planet V
Around the time astronomers found Mars and Jupiter, they noticed that the two planets weren’t behaving as they should. The assumption was that there was something else affecting their orbits. Something between Mars and Jupiter. That much, they were right about. But they thought it was a planet, rather than just an asteroid belt. There are legitimate theories that the asteroid belt is the remains of a fifth rocky planet. But obviously it’s not a planet now.
2 Four Bodily Humours Theory of Medicine
Hippocrates in Ancient Greece proposed that the human body was made up of primarily four types of fluid, or “humours.” Those were blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Each humour was linked to a season, and element (meaning air, water, earth and fire) and a set of characteristics. It was thought that the secret to good health was to keep these humours in balance, and not have too much of one or another. And that’s why bloodletting was considered a legitimate medical practice until the beginnings of modern medicine in the 19th century.
1 Flat Earth
The Earth is round, kids. Actually, few credited scientists have ever actually believed the Earth was flat. Even ancient Greeks dating back to Aristotle and Pythagoras in the 5th century B.C. knew the Earth was round, and that notion has carried through most of history since. The idea eventually spread through Old World Europe and was undeniably proven in a practical sense by Ferdinand Magellan about five hundred years ago. Sure, some European royalty may have historically believed in a flat Earth, but they also believed they needed to inbreed with their siblings and children to keep their bloodlines pure. Not the strongest sources of information, there.