Despite all the achievements of science, there are still many white spots in it. New Scientist magazine has published a list of mysterious phenomena that scientists are not able to explain.
1. Placebo Effect
Do not try to repeat this at home! For several days, you hurt someone several times a day. You reduce pain with morphine until the last day of the experiment, and then replace morphine with saline. And guess what is going on? Saline relieves pain.
This is a placebo effect: somehow, a composition from nothing can have a very powerful effect. Doctors have known the placebo effect for a long time. But besides the fact that, apparently, it has a biochemical nature, we do not know anything. One thing is clear: the mind can affect the biochemistry of the body.
2. The horizon problem
Our Universe is inexplicably united. Look at the space from one edge of the visible Universe to the other, and you will see that throughout the background the background of microwave radiation in space has the same temperature. This does not seem surprising until you remember that these two edges are located at a distance of 28 billion light years from each other, and our universe is only 14 billion years old.
Nothing can move at a speed exceeding the speed of light, so it is impossible for thermal radiation to travel between the two horizons and balance the hot and cold zones formed during the Big Bang, establishing the thermal equilibrium that we see now.
From a scientific point of view, the same temperature of the background radiation is an anomaly. It could be explained by the recognition that the speed of light is not constant. But even in this case, we are still powerless before the question: why?
3. Ultra-energy cosmic rays
For more than a decade, physicists in Japan have been observing cosmic rays that should not exist. Cosmic rays are particles that travel in the universe at a speed close to the speed of light. Some cosmic rays come to Earth as a result of violent events, such as a supernova explosion. But we do not know anything about the origin of high-energy particles observed in nature. And even this is not a real secret.
When cosmic ray particles move in space, they lose energy when they collide with low-energy photons, for example, from cosmic microwave background radiation. However, cosmic rays with very high energy were discovered at the University of Tokyo. Theoretically, they could appear only from our galaxy, but astronomers cannot find the source of these cosmic rays in our galaxy.
4. The phenomenon of homeopathy
Madeleine Ennis, a pharmacologist at Queen's University of Belfast, is a disaster for homeopathy. She opposed the claims of homeopaths that a chemical could be diluted to such an extent that the sample would contain almost nothing but water, and at the same time possess healing power. Ennis decided once and for all to prove that homeopathy is just talk.
In her latest work, she describes how her team in four different laboratories investigated the effects of ultra-diluted histamine solutions on white blood cells involved in inflammation. To the scientists' surprise, it turned out that homeopathic solutions (diluted to such an extent that, apparently, did not even contain one histamine molecule) worked the same way as histamine.
Prior to these experiments, no homeopathic remedy ever worked in clinical trials. But a Belfast study suggests that something is still happening. “We,” Ennis says, “cannot explain our findings and report them to encourage others to investigate this phenomenon.”
If the results turn out to be real, she believes, then the consequences can be very significant: we may have to rewrite physics and chemistry.
5. Dark matter
Take our best knowledge of gravity, apply it to the rotation of galaxies, and you will immediately find the problem: according to our knowledge, galaxies must decay. Galactic matter rotates around a central point, since its gravitational attraction creates centripetal forces. But there is not enough mass to create the observed rotation in galaxies.
Vera Rubin, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution of Earthly Magnetism in Washington, noticed this anomaly in the late seventies of the last century. The best answer physicists could give was the assumption that there is more substance in the universe than we can observe. The problem was that no one could explain what this "dark matter" is.
Scientists still cannot explain it, and this is an unpleasant gap in our understanding. Astronomical observations indicate that dark matter should make up about 90% of the mass of the Universe, and yet we are strikingly ignorant about what this 90% is.
6. Life on Mars
July 20, 1976. Gilbert Levin is sitting on the very edge of his chair. At a distance of millions of kilometers from it, on Mars, the Viking descent spacecraft took soil samples. Levin's equipment mixed them with a substance containing carbon-14. Scientists participating in the experiment believe that if methane emissions containing carbon-14 are detected in the soil, then there should be life on Mars.
Viking analyzers give a positive result. Something absorbs nutrients, converts them, and then releases gas containing carbon-14. But why is there no holiday?
Because another analyzer, designed to determine organic molecules, which are necessary signs of life, did not find anything. Scientists made a confrontation and declared the discoveries of the Viking false positive. But is it?
Results from NASA’s latest spacecraft show that in the past, the surface of Mars almost certainly contained water and was therefore life-friendly. There is other evidence. “Each flight to Mars,” says Gilbert Levin, “provides evidence to support my conclusion. None of them contradict him.”
Levin is not alone in defending his views. Joe Miller, a microbiologist at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, reanalyzed the data and believes that emissions show signs of a circadian cycle. And this with a high degree of probability suggests the presence of life. Whether these scientists are right is still unknown.
Four years ago, six particles were discovered that should not have existed. They were called tetraneutrons - four neutrons that are in communication, ignoring the laws of physics.
A group of scientists from Caen, led by Francisco Miguel Marquès, shot beryllium nuclei at a small carbon target and analyzed their trajectories using detectors. Scientists expected to see four different neutrons fall into different detectors. Instead, they found only one flash of light in one detector.
The energy of this flare showed that all four neutrons fell into the same detector. Perhaps this is just a coincidence, and four neutrons accidentally hit the same place at the same time. But this is ridiculously unlikely.
However, this behavior is not unlikely for tetraneutrons. True, some may argue that according to the standard model of particle physics, tetraneutrons simply cannot exist. Indeed, according to the Pauli principle, in one system there are not even two protons or neutrons that could have the same quantum properties. The nuclear force holding them together is such that it cannot even hold two single neutrons, let alone four.
Marquez and his group were so overwhelmed by the results that they "buried" these data in scientific work, which indicated a certain probability of the discovery of tetraneutrons in the future. After all, if you start to change the laws of physics in order to justify the connection of four neutrons, chaos will arise.
A recognition of the existence of tetraneutrons would mean that the combination of elements formed after the Big Bang is not consistent with what we are currently observing. And, even worse, the formed elements become too heavy for space. “The universe would probably collapse before it expanded,” said Natalia Timofeyuk, a theorist at the University of Surrey at Guildford, UK.
At the same time, there is other evidence supporting the fact that matter can consist of numerous neutrons. These are neutron stars. They contain a huge number of bound neutrons, and this means that when neutrons gather in masses, forces that are still inexplicable to us come into play.
8. Anomaly Pioneer
In 1972, the Americans launched the Pioneer-10 spacecraft. On board was a message to extraterrestrial civilizations - a tablet with images of a man, a woman and a diagram of the location of the Earth in space. A year later, Pioneer-11 went after him. To date, both devices should already have been in deep space. However, in an unusual way, their trajectories deviated strongly from the calculated ones.
Something began to pull (or push) them, as a result of which they began to move with acceleration. It was tiny - less than a nanometer per second, which is equivalent to one ten billionth of a gravity on the surface of the Earth. But this turned out to be enough to displace the Pioneer-10 from its trajectory by 400,000 kilometers.
NASA lost contact with the Pioneer-11 in 1995, but until that moment, it deviated from the trajectory in the same way as its predecessor. What caused this? Nobody knows.
Some of the possible explanations have already been rejected, including software errors, solar wind and fuel leaks. If the reason was a certain gravitational effect, then we do not know anything about it. Physicists are simply at a loss.
9. Dark energy
This is one of the most famous and most intractable problems of physics. In 1998, astronomers discovered that the universe was expanding at an ever-increasing rate. Prior to this, it was believed that after the Big Bang, the expansion of the Universe slows down.
Scientists have not yet found a reasonable explanation for this discovery. One of the assumptions is that a certain property of empty space is responsible for this phenomenon. Cosmologists called it dark energy. But all attempts to identify her failed.
10. Tenth planet
If you go on a journey to the very edge of the solar system, in the cold zone of space beyond Pluto, you will see something strange. After passing the Kuiper belt - an area of space abounding in icy cliffs - you suddenly see empty space.
Astronomers call this boundary the Kuiper rock, since after it the density of the cosmic stone belt sharply decreases. What is the reason? The only answer to this may be the presence of a tenth planet in our solar system. Moreover, in order to clear space from debris in this way, it must be as massive as Earth or Mars.
But, although calculations show that such a body could cause the Kuiper belt to exist, no one has ever seen this legendary tenth planet.
11. Space signal WOW
It lasted 37 seconds and came from outer space. On August 15, 1977, on a printout of a radio telescope in Delaware, the recorders drew: WOW. And twenty-eight years later, no one knows what was causing this signal.
The pulses came from the constellation Sagittarius at a frequency of about 1420 MHz. Transmissions in this range are prohibited by international agreement. Natural sources of radiation, such as thermal emissions from planets, cover a much wider frequency range. What was the cause of the emission of these pulses? There is still no answer.
The star closest to us in this direction is 220 light-years away. If the signal came from there, then it should be either a huge astronomical event, or a developed extraterrestrial civilization with a surprisingly powerful transmitter.
All subsequent observations in the same area of the sky did not lead to anything. A signal like WOW is no longer registered.
12. Such inconstant constants
In 1997, astronomer John Webb and his team from the University of New South Wales in Sydney analyzed the light coming to Earth from distant quasars. On its 12 billion-year journey, light travels through interstellar clouds composed of metals such as iron, nickel, and chromium. Researchers found that these atoms absorb photons of light from a quasar, but not at all what was expected.
The only more or less reasonable explanation for this phenomenon is that the physical constant, called the fine structure constant, or alpha, has a different value when light passes through the clouds.
But this is heresy! Alpha is an extremely important constant that determines how light interacts with matter, and it should not change! Its value, among other things, depends on the charge of the electron, the speed of light and the Planck constant. Is it possible for any of these parameters to really change ?!
None of the physicists wanted to believe in the correctness of the measurements. Webb and his group have been trying for years to find errors in their results. But they still have not succeeded.
Webb's results are not the only ones confirming that in our understanding of alpha something is wrong. A recent analysis of the only known natural nuclear reactor operating nearly 2 billion years ago where Oklo is currently located in Gabon also suggests that something has changed in the interaction of light with matter.
The proportion of certain radioactive isotopes generated in such a reactor depends on alpha, and therefore the analysis of fission products preserved in Oklo soil makes it possible to determine the value of the constant during their formation.
Using this method, Steve Lamoreaux and his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico suggested that alpha has decreased by more than 4% since it was in Oklo. And this means that our ideas about constants may turn out to be wrong.
13. Low temperature nuclear fusion (NTS)
After sixteen years of absence, he returned. Although, in fact, the NTS never disappeared. Since 1989, the US Navy laboratories have conducted more than 200 experiments designed to find out if nuclear reactions at room temperature can generate more energy than they consume (it is believed that this is possible only inside stars).
Guided nuclear fusion would solve many of the world's energy problems. It is not surprising that the US Department of Energy is so interested in him. In December last year, after a lengthy review of all the evidence, it stated that it was open to suggestions for new NTS experiments.
This is a pretty sharp turn. Fifteen years ago, the same ministry concluded that the initial NTS results obtained by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons from the University of Utah and presented solemnly at a press conference in 1989 cannot be confirmed, and thus they are probably false.
The basic principle of NTS is that immersion of palladium electrodes in heavy water (in which oxygen is connected to the isotope of heavy hydrogen) can release a large amount of energy. The catch is that all generally accepted scientific theories believe that nuclear fusion at room temperature is impossible.