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November 4, 2010

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by Jeff Johnson

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The universe can be a very strange place. While groundbreaking ideas such as quantum theory, relativity and even the Earth going around the Sun might be commonly accepted now, science still continues to show that the universe contains things you might find it difficult to believe, and even more difficult to get your head around.


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Negative Energy

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Theoretically, the lowest temperature that can be achieved is absolute zero, exactly −273.15°C, where the motion of all particles stops completely. However, you can never actually cool something to this temperature because, in quantum mechanics, every particle has a minimum energy, called “zero-point energy,” which you cannot get below. Remarkably, this minimum energy doesn’t just apply to particles, but to any vacuum, whose energy is called “vacuum energy.” To show that this energy exists involves a rather simple experiment– take two metal plates in a vacuum, put them close together, and they will be attracted to each other. This is caused by the energy between the plates only being able to resonate at certain frequencies, while outside the plates the vacuum energy can resonate at pretty much any frequency. Because the energy outside the plates is greater than the energy between the plates, the plates are pushed towards each other. As the plates get closer together, the force increases, and at around a 10 nm separation this effect (called the Casimir effect) creates one atmosphere of pressure between them. Because the plates reduce the vacuum energy between them to below the normal zero-point energy, the space is said to have negative energy, which has some unusual properties. One of the properties of a negative-energy vacuum is that light actually travels faster in it than it does in a normal vacuum, something that may one day allow people to travel faster than the speed of light in a kind of negative-energy vacuum bubble. Negative energy could also be used to hold open a transversible wormhole, which although theoretically possible, would collapse as soon as it was created without a means to keep it open. Negative energy also causes black holes to evaporate. Vacuum energy is often modeled as virtual particles popping into existence and annihilating. This doesn’t violate any energy conservation laws as long as the particles are annihilated shortly afterwards. However, if two particles are produced at the event horizon of a black hole, one can be moving away from the black hole, while the other is falling into it. This means they won’t be able to annihilate, so the particles both end up with negative energy. When the negative energy particle falls into the black hole, it lowers the mass of the black hole instead of adding to it, and over time particles like these will cause the black hole to evaporate completely. Because this theory was first suggested by Stephen Hawking, the particles given off by this effect (the ones that don’t fall into the black hole) are called Hawking radiation. It was the first accepted theory to unite quantum theory with general relativity, making it Hawking’s greatest scientific achievement to date.

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Frame Dragging

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One prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity is that when a large object moves, it drags the space-time around it, causing nearby objects to be pulled along as well. It can occur when a large object is moving in a straight line or is rotating, and, although the effect is very small, it has been experimentally verified. The Gravity Probe B experiment, launched in 2004, was designed to measure the space-time distortion near Earth. Although sources of interference were larger than expected, the frame-dragging effect has been measured to an uncertainty of 15%, with further analysis hoping to reduce this further.

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The expected effects were very close to predictions: due to the rotation of the Earth, the probe was pulled from its orbit by around 2 meters per year, an effect purely caused by the mass of the Earth distorting the space-time surrounding it. The probe itself would not feel this extra acceleration because it is not caused by an acceleration on the probe, but rather on the space-time the probe is traveling through–analogous to a rug being pulled under a table, rather than moving the table itself.


Relativity of Simultaneity

The relativity of simultaneity is the idea that whether two events occur simultaneously or not is relative and depends on the observer. It is a strange consequence of the special theory of relativity, and applies to any events that happen that are separated by some distance. For example, if a firework is let off on Mars and another on Venus, one observer traveling through space one way might say they happen at the same time (compensating for the time light takes to reach them), while another observer traveling another way might say the one on Mars went off first, and yet another might say the one on Venus went off first. It is caused by the way different viewpoints become distorted compared to each other in special relativity. And because they are all relative, no observer can be said to have the correct viewpoint. This can lead to very unusual scenarios, such as an observer witnessing effect before cause (for example, seeing a bomb go off, then later seeing someone light the fuse). However, once the observer sees the effect, they cannot interact with the cause without traveling faster than the speed of light, which was one of the first reasons faster-than-light travel was believed to be forbidden, because it is akin to time travel, and a universe where you can interact with the cause after the effect makes no sense.


Black Strings

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One of the longest outstanding mysteries in physics is how gravity is related to the other fundamental forces, such as electromagnetism. One theory, first proposed in 1919, showed that if an extra dimension is added to the universe, gravity still exists in the first four dimensions (three space dimensions and time), but the way this four dimensional space curves over the extra fifth dimension, naturally produces the other fundamental forces. However, we cannot see or detect this fifth dimension, so it was proposed that the extra dimension was curled up, and hence became invisible to us. This theory was what ultimately led to string theory, and is still included at the heart of most string theory analysis. Since this extra dimension is so small, only tiny objects, such as particles, can move along it. In these cases, they ultimately just end up where they started, since the extra dimension is curled up on itself. However, one object that becomes much more complex in five dimensions is a black hole. When extended to five dimensions, it becomes a “black string,” and unlike a normal 4D black hole, it is unstable (this ignores the fact that 4D black holes eventually evaporate). This black string will destabilize into a whole string of black holes, connected by further black strings, until the black strings are pinched off entirely and leave the set of black holes. These multiple 4D black holes then combine into one larger black hole. The most interesting thing about this is that, using current models, the final black hole is a “naked” singularity. That is, it has no event horizon surrounding it. This violates the Cosmic Censorship Hypothesis, which says that all singularities must be surrounded by an event horizon, in order to avoid the time-travel effects that are believed to happen near a singularity from changing the history of the entire universe, as they can never escape from behind an event horizon.



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As is best shown in the equation E=MC2 , energy and matter are fundamentally connected. One effect of this is that energy, as well as mass, creates a gravitational field. A geon, first investigated by John Wheeler, in 1955, is an electromagnetic or gravitational wave whose energy creates a gravitational field, which in turn holds the wave itself together in a confined space. Wheeler speculated that there may be a link between microscopic geons and elementary particles, and that they might even be the same thing. A more extreme example is a “kugelblitz” (German for “ball lightning”), which is where such intense light is concentrated at a particular point that the gravity caused by the light energy becomes strong enough to collapse into a black hole, trapping the light inside. Although nothing is thought to prevent the formation of a kugelblitz, geons are now only believed to be able to form temporarily, as they will inevitably leak energy and collapse. This unfortunately indicates that Wheeler’s initial conjecture was incorrect, but this has not been definitively proven.


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Kerr Black Hole

The type of black hole most people are familiar with, which has an event horizon on the outside acting as the “point of no return” and a point singularity of infinite density on the inside, actually has a more specific name: a Schwarzschild black hole. It is named after Karl Schwarzschild, who found the mathematical solution of Einstein’s field equations for a spherical, non-rotating mass in 1915, only a month after Einstein actually published his general theory of relativity. However, it wasn’t until 1963 that mathematician Roy Kerr found the solution for a rotating spherical mass. Hence, a rotating black hole is called a Kerr black hole, and it has some unusual properties. At the centre of a Kerr black hole, there is no point singularity, but rather a ring singularity—a spinning one-dimensional ring held open by its own momentum.
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There are also two event horizons, an inner and outer one, and an ellipsoid called the ergosphere, inside which space-time itself rotates with the black hole (because of frame dragging) faster than the speed of light. When entering the black hole, by passing through the outer event horizon, space-like paths become time-like, meaning that it is impossible to avoid the singularity at the centre, just like in a Schwarzschild black hole. However, when you pass through the inner event horizon, your path becomes space-like again. The difference is this: space-time itself is reversed. This means gravity near the ring singularity becomes repulsive, actually pushing you away from the centre. In fact, unless you enter the black hole exactly on the equator, it is impossible to hit the ring singularity itself. Additionally, ring singularities can be linked through space-time, so they can act as wormholes, although exiting the black hole on the other side would be impossible (unless it was a naked singularity, possibly created when the ring singularity spins fast enough). Traveling through a ring singularity might take you to another point in space-time, such as another universe, where you could see light falling in from outside the black hole, but not leave the black hole itself. It might even take you to a “white hole” in a negative universe, the exact meaning of which is unknown.


Quantum Tunneling

Quantum tunneling is an effect where a particle can pass through a barrier it would not normally have the energy to overcome. It can allow a particle to pass through a physical barrier that should be impenetrable, or can allow an electron to escape from the pull of the nucleus without having the kinetic energy to do so. According to quantum mechanics, there is a finite probability that any particle can be found anywhere in the universe, although that probability is astronomically small for any real distance from the particles expected path. However, when the particle is faced with a small-enough barrier (around 1-3 nm wide), one which conventional calculations would indicate is impenetrable by the particle, the probability that the particle will simply pass through that barrier becomes fairly noticeable. This can be explained by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which limits how much information can be known about a particle. A particle can “borrow” energy from the system it is acting in, use it to pass through the barrier, and then lose it again. Quantum tunneling is involved in many physical processes, such as radioactive decay and the nuclear fusion that takes place in the Sun. It is also used in certain electrical components, and it has even been shown to occur in enzymes in biological systems. For example, the enzyme glucose oxidase, which catalyses the reaction of glucose into hydrogen peroxide, involves the quantum tunneling of an entire oxygen atom. Quantum tunneling is also a key feature of the scanning tunneling microscope, the first machine to enable the imaging and manipulation of individual atoms. It works by measuring the voltage in a very fine tip, which changes when it gets close to a surface due to the effect of electrons tunneling through the vacuum (known as the “forbidden zone”) between them. This gives the device the sensitivity necessary to make extremely high resolution images. It also enables the device to move atoms by deliberately putting a current through the conducting tip.


Cosmic Strings

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Shorty after the Big Bang, the universe was in a highly disordered and chaotic state. This means that small changes and defects didn’t change the overall structure of the universe. However, as the universe expanded, cooled, and went from a disorderly state to an orderly one, it reached a point where very small fluctuations created very large changes. This is similar to arranging tiles evenly on a floor. When one tile is placed unevenly, this means that the subsequent tiles placed will follow its pattern. Therefore, you have a whole line of tiles out of place. This is similar to the objects called cosmic strings, which are extremely thin and extremely long defects in the shape of spacetime. These cosmic strings are predicted by most models of the universe, such as the string theory wherein two kinds of “strings” are unrelated. If they exist, each string would be as thin as a proton, but incredibly dense. Thus, a cosmic string a mile long can weigh as much as the Earth. However, it would not actually have any gravity and the only effect it will have on matter surrounding it would be the way it changes the form and shape of space-time. Therefore, a cosmic string is, in essence, just a “wrinkle” in the shape of space-time. Cosmic strings are thought to be incredibly long, up to the order of the sizes of thousands of galaxies. In fact, recent observations and simulations have suggested that a network of cosmic strings stretches across the entire universe. This was once thought to be what caused galaxies to form in supercluster complexes, although this idea has since been abandoned. Supercluster complexes consist of connected “filaments” of galaxies up to a billion light-years in length. Because of the unique effects of cosmic strings on space-time as you bring two strings close together, it has been shown that they could possibly be used for time travel, like with most of the things on this list. Cosmic strings would also create incredible gravitational waves, stronger than any other known source. These waves are what those current and planned gravitational wave detectors are designed to look for.


Antimatter Retrocausality

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Antimatter is the opposite of matter. It has the same mass but with an opposing electrical charge. One theory about why antimatter exists was developed by John Wheeler and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman based on the idea that physical systems should be time-reversible. For example, the orbits of our solar system, if played backwards, should still obey all the same rules as when they are played forwards. This led to the idea that antimatter is just ordinary matter going backwards in time, which would explain why antiparticles have an opposite charge, since if an electron is repelled while going forwards in time, then backwards in time this becomes attraction. This also explains why matter and antimatter annihilate. This isn’t a circumstance of two particles crashing into and destroying each other; it is the same particle suddenly stopping and going back in time. In a vacuum, where a pair of virtual particles are produced and then annihilated, this is actually just one particle going in an endless loop, forwards in time, then backwards, then forwards, and so on. While the accuracy of this theory is still up for debate, treating antimatter as matter going backwards in time mathematically comes up with identical solutions to other, more conventional theories. When it was first theorized, John Wheeler said that perhaps it answered the question of why all electrons in the universe have identical properties, a question so obvious that it is generally ignored. He suggested that it was just one electron, constantly darting all over the universe, from the Big Bang to the end of time and back again, continuing an uncountable number of times. Even though this idea involves backwards time travel, it can’t be used to send any information back in time, since the mathematics of the model simply doesn’t allow it. You cannot move a piece of antimatter to affect the past, since in moving it you only affect the past of the antimatter itself, that is, your future.


Gödel’s incompleteness theorems

It is not strictly science, but rather a very interesting set of mathematical theorems about logic and the philosophy that is definitely relevant to science as a whole. Proven in 1931 by Kurt Gödel, these theories say that with any given set of logical rules, except for the most simple, there will always be statements that are undecidable, meaning that they cannot be proven or disproven due to the inevitable self-referential nature of any logical systems that is even remotely complicated. This is thought to indicate that there is no grand mathematical system capable of proving or disproving all statements. An undecidable statement can be thought of as a mathematical form of a statement like “I always lie.” Because the statement makes reference to the language being used to describe it, it cannot be known whether the statement is true or not. However, an undecidable statement does not need to be explicitly self-referential to be undecidable. The main conclusion of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems is that all logical systems will have statements that cannot be proven or disproven; therefore, all logical systems must be “incomplete.” The philosophical implications of these theorems are widespread. The set suggests that in physics, a “theory of everything” may be impossible, as no set of rules can explain every possible event or outcome. It also indicates that logically, “proof” is a weaker concept than “true”; such a concept is unsettling for scientists because it means there will always be things that, despite being true, cannot be proven to be true. Since this set of theorems also applies to computers, it also means that our own minds are incomplete and that there are some ideas we can never know, including whether our own minds are consistent (i.e. our reasoning contains no incorrect contradictions). This is because the second of Gödel’s incompleteness
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theorems states that no consistent system can prove its own consistency, meaning that no sane mind can prove its own sanity. Also, since that same law states that any system able to prove its consistency to itself must be inconsistent, any mind that believes it can prove its own sanity is, therefore, insane.





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the mick 3 weeks ago ·


alot of weird things about this universe of ours. some of the stuff listed here is only theoretical because we simply do not have the science (or understanding) to prove it. but one thing is for sure, this thing is bigger than the two of us ! 3 replies Reply +127 Report

rsflores9 3 weeks ago ·
well, that went over my head.

2 replies Reply +14


Bob the Builder 3 weeks ago ·
The cosmos is epic.

Reply +148


Kimani 3 weeks ago ·

After I read the first two items my brain went on strike citing difficult working conditions. We did some negotiating and it has agreed to start working again on the condition that I read only one item per hour with the time in-between dedicated to less strenuous topics. 1 reply Reply +12 Report

timothyjames 76p

3 weeks ago ·

I've read about most of these, but unfortunately not being able actually understand the math involved really inhibits a full, true understanding of them. This list was a great introduction to these ideas without getting too bogged down with specifics. The only problem I had was the extension of Godel's Theories to the sanity of the human mind. Misappropriation, if I ever saw it. I understand the idea of relative spontaneity as it relates to great distances (like the firework example), but this - "This can lead to very unusual scenarios, such as an observer witnessing effect before cause (for example, seeing a bomb go off, then later seeing someone light the fuse)." - doesn't make sense to me. How would any cause been seen before effect, regardless of where you are relative to the event? This list is going to have me up all night read more about this. And for that reason, great job, Jeff. 12 replies Reply +7 Report

The Me. 3 weeks ago ·

Interestinggg. Just went through the list for now.. Some of these i'll definitely look into later! Reply +8 Report

Diseased 3 weeks ago ·

This list was wonderful! A pleasant and concise rundown of some of the most baffling things physicists have to tackle with their grey matter today.

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I remember reading in a pop-science quantum physics book about how easily negative energy effects turn up in experimental observations, and even how the negative energy can even be manipulated in various ways the professor (he was a guest writer for one small section of the book) even talked about a simple theoretical method of creating a 'beam' of negative energy, which worried him because although he could find no fundamental logical contradiction that would stop the effect from being created in the real world, the beam would slowly evaporate matter in its path into nothingness, which is obviously a heinous breach of massenergy conservation. 4 replies Reply +6 Report

Ben Corby 3 weeks ago ·

Great list :D #1 seems like an excuse to not do a proper job if I ever saw one :P Reply -113 Report

alex 3 weeks ago ·

i thought this list was supposed to be interesting... what a waste of taxpayers money Reply +10 Report

jonoob 3 weeks ago ·

Reply +8


akino 3 weeks ago ·
Certainly one of my favorite list. Very informative and makes you think outside the box. Reply

Report +9

63jax 67p

3 weeks ago ·

absolutely great list! Reply Report

lalabhaiya 73p

3 weeks ago ·


'For example, if a firework is let off on Mars and another on Venus, one observer traveling through space one way might say they happen at the same time.' - Well, if it'd have been me, I would have just enjoyed the fireworks and not worry about the silly question of which happened first. I would rather they don't happen samultaneously. That way I could enjoy both. :D Also, 'The type of black hole most people are familiar with' sounds something like the black hole around the corner of the street that we pass everyday on our way to work. 'It might even take you to a “white hole” in a negative universe, the exact meaning of which is unknown.' Sounds kind of religious, doesn't it? Hellheaven and all. I guess I got a little carried away. Nice list. Didn't get much of what was written but I commend the effort that must have been put behind it. And yes, Gödel’s incompleteness theorems reminds me of Catch-22. I wonder if Joseph Heller knew about it. Reply +10 Report

V.K 3 weeks ago ·
best list i've read for a while Bravo Jeff Johnson, Bravo

Reply +23


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plum13sec 3 weeks ago ·


I've gone to space a few times. Fairly cheap too. ab0ut $20 an eighth. Reply Report

DogBitez 89p

3 weeks ago ·


I'm not edumacated enough to truly comprehend most of what I just read, but it was interesting nonetheless! Great list. I go to sleep a teensy tiny bit smarter tonight. Of course, by morning, I'll recall none of it and be back to reading the benefits of fiber on my cereal box. 1 reply Reply +8 Report

Danz 3 weeks ago ·
I have a headache after reading #1 lol Reply

Report +4

cambered 65p

3 weeks ago ·

Fantastic list, thank you. I bludgeoned my way through it with a "vaguely general" understanding of what you were trying to say. I particularly enjoyed the articles on antimatter and strings... such incomprehensible ideas that (apparently) make sense. If I had my time over again, which may one day be feasible, I would teleport myself back to my high school physics class and actually pay attention. Reply Report

trinityenigma 74p

3 weeks ago ·


I'm sure this is a brilliant list, and I did try to read it but unfortunately I'm just not clever enough and felt like I was reading a text book. Maybe I'll try again later.... 1 reply Reply +6 Report

ghOst 3 weeks ago ·
very well written list! Reply

Report +2

Gabriel Fonseca 3 weeks ago ·
So, #1 is basically saying we are all crazy... XD God list, though. 4 replies Reply


TimC 96p

3 weeks ago ·


I believe the strangest thing about the universe is that it exists at all... I am always fascinated with the amazing minds that these people must have to develop theories like those in the list. 3 replies Reply +5 Report

Dr. Emmett Brown 3 weeks ago ·
holy hell my brain hurts now Reply

Report +6

hulia 58p

3 weeks ago ·

I can honestly tell that I understand nothing in this list. But thank you anyway for the effort. 2 replies Reply Report

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whereisbrock 3 weeks ago ·
heeeeere brOcky brOcky brOcky... Reply


Report +3

Sailor 3 weeks ago ·

Very interesting list. I consider myself a relatively intelligent fella, but most of that went about 10 feet over my head. Kudos on a well researched and well written list. Reply +4 Report

Barry Wanksock 3 weeks ago ·
Let me get this right, so internal affairs were in on it all along? Reply

Report 0

Pete 3 weeks ago ·

Stand by for a machine-gun-like patter of comments complaining about the science/accuracy of the above list. Reply Report +5

bluesman87 82p

3 weeks ago ·

really interesting , just hard to process , no.2 really blew my mind . A lot of this list was also on that show stephen hawkings universe . If fact if you read this in a robot voice i wouldn't tell the difference . Well done!! After i play the BONGo later ill re-read . 2 replies Reply -12 Report

Zephir 3 weeks ago ·

From perspective od Aether Wave Theory (AWT, the dense aether theory) the 10) Negative energy corresponds the Brownian motion of particles, which the vacuum is formed by 9) Frame dragging corresponds the drag of vacuum fluid during the motion of massive objects through it (equations of gravitomagnetic are isomorphous with Maxwell's equations, which are isomorphous with Navier-Stokes equations of fluid) http://www.aetherwavetheory.info/images/physics/a... 8) relativity of simultaneity and twin paradox is intepreted with this DHTML applet in AWT, modelling this situation with waves at the water surface http://www.aetherwavetheory.info/images/physics/r... http://www.aetherwavetheory.info/images/physics/r... 7 ) Black strings cannot remain stable without many extradimensions, so they're appear like black holes with asymmetric jets, i.e. magnetic monopoles from our 3D perspective. 6) Geon - general relativity predicts, all objects would collapse into singularity, whereas quantum theory predicts, all objects should expand into infinity. This indicates, both these theories are actually wrong and they're forming abstract approximations within AWT. The geons are actually all massive objects from this perspective. 5) Kerr holes correspond the vortex rings in AWT. White holes are actually quasars, which are emanating too much radiation. 4) Quantum tunelling occurs with superluminal speed within logical framework of AWT, because it's mediated with superluminal gravitational waves in it. It can be demonstrated most easily with photon tunnelling between prisms. 3) Cosmic strings - are fillaments of dark matter, connecting the groups of gallaxies. They cannot exist without consideration of many extradimensions, which are making them more fuzzy for observation, than the physicists are expecting. 2) Antimatter - in AWT the antimatter particles are sort of bubble in

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vacuum, forming the portion of vacuum foam with negative curvature, which condensed during Universe formation. They should exhibit a weak antigravity effects, which are the most pronounced at the case of lightweight particles, like anti-neutrinos. The anihillation of particles correspond the collision of pair of chiral vortex rings in vacuum fluid from perspective of AWT 1) Gödel's incompleteness theorems is explained with implicate geometry in AWT. Briefly speaking, in gradient driven reality only the things formed with curved space-time are visible in the same way, like inside of dense gas only density fluctuations of it are visible. But because they're curved, they cannot be never expressed with formal math in limited form. Formal theories consist of mutually inconsistent postulates. If they would be consistent, they could be replaced with single one and whole theory would change into tatology. In such way, the inconsistency of postulates is what makes theories predictable and approximate at the very same moment. Conclusion - dense aether theory enables to interpret/explain all these seeming paradoxes with simple consistent model, borrowed from real life with Oliver Lodge originally. But mainstream physicists are ingoring it intentionally, because it 1) helps them to continue in their useless research and take the money for it from the rest of society like alchemists of medieval era 2) They would be forced to admit their ignorance regarding aether model interpretation during more then century (do you see, how ignorance is self-reinforcing stance?) 4 replies Reply 0 Report

dustin 3 weeks ago ·

at least now i've got something to say to make my friends' heads go haywire 1 reply Reply +5 Report

loapaja 47p

3 weeks ago ·

Wowee, some of this went straight over my head, and even more frighteningly, some made sense. Great head hurting list! Reply +8 Report

Ali Hayat 3 weeks ago ·
The definition of mindfuck. Reply

Report +1

Charles Hansen 3 weeks ago ·
Cool List! Reply

Report +1

stupid is to me 3 weeks ago ·
my tiny little brain is hurting, but I still injoyed the list........ Reply

Report +2

mom424 74p

3 weeks ago ·

Great list, a definite fave. And thanks to PBS, I actually half-ass understood most of it. Sometimes I wish I was just that little bit smarter so I could understand the specifics instead of just the general idea. Oh well, maybe in an alternate dimension eh? For those of you having trouble wrapping your head around some of this stuff - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkxieS-6WuA&fe... Watch this video. It explains multiple dimensions - will get you in the mood for more and help you to understand this list. Question for the physicists - I thought they were chucking string theory in favor of some oscillating donut affair? and is that related to the Kerr black hole? 5 replies Reply Report
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DylnFreGris 3 weeks ago ·
brilliantly researched list. Reply


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oouchan 77p

3 weeks ago ·

Woot! I actually knew one of these! I didn't think I would know any of the list items based on the first few entries. When I started reading I thought this was going to go way over my head but I kept up with it fairly well. Now to let it sink in. :) Interesting list. Reply +2 Report

mixtape 3 weeks ago ·
Great list i even understood a few Reply

Report +3

vanowensbody 50p

3 weeks ago ·

Great list. I hardly understood a word of it, but enjoyed it anyway. Reply Report +3

forsythia 58p

3 weeks ago ·

This is the best list I have seen in a long time, and I must say, there have been some good ones lately. But this is right up my alley. #3 seems to me the most interesting. I have read about it a number of times and still can't get enough! Excellent list! Reply Report -1

needved 13p

3 weeks ago ·

its a little disapointing have the knowledge we never know the Cosmos Reply +1 Report

Reza Sadr 3 weeks ago ·

One of the best articles I've read in a long time! Very good job Jeff Johnson! Reply Report +4

br0ck -86p

3 weeks ago ·

i expected something interesting but those graphs are kind of boring but it is strange i guess 1 reply Reply +5 Report

Mr. Ree 3 weeks ago ·
Lists like this make me realize what a moron I really am... Reply

Report +3

FlameHorse 3 weeks ago ·

I understand every one of these (he says while blinking uncontrollably). 1 reply Reply +1 Report

Odessa 3 weeks ago ·

Wow. Godel's incomplete theorem reminds me of Catch-22. Amazing list. Reply Report

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noahratcl 35p

3 weeks ago ·


Where's dark matter on this list??? Reply +4 Report

Carole 3 weeks ago ·
I have a headache from reading this list but I'm not sure if I do Reply

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Ashe Mignone 3 weeks ago ·

I understood 9, 2, and 1 pretty well, but the rest of it..... SO far over my head. Glad I never had to take physics in high school. It's like geometry, only science-y.*shudders* I don't think I could've gotten drunk before class every day, and still have passed, the way I did with chemistry. 8D Reply -2 Report

Benny 3 weeks ago ·

Wow, Casimir Effect and Electromagnitism! Are you a "Lost"-Fan? Reply -1 Report

MChris 3 weeks ago ·

Not sure if this problem has already been addressed, but whenever I attempt to access the November 2010 lists through the archives link, I receive the following message: "Something is missing... We don't seem to be able to find what you are looking for. Here are some important site links which might be what you are looking for. Alternatively, you can search with Google below or visit some of our most popular lists" I'm using Firefox so I don't know if that could be part of the problem. I can still access the November info through the Categories - Latest Lists link and I don't see it for any of the later lists. Just wanted to let you know the problem was out there in case no one else has run into it. Thanks. Reply -1 Report

Cubone 3 weeks ago ·
Holy crap. Reply

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TEX 3 weeks ago ·

OUTSTANDING LIST - one of the best I’ve ever read on Listverse. Placing Gödel at #1 was insightful and absolutely the best choice - infinite self referential loops - WOW. JF - this is one for the book. Reply Report +4

ames801 49p

3 weeks ago ·

I want, so bad, to understand what I just read. I'll have to re-read it after a bit because it really is an interesting list. I'd say it's well written too but I'm pretty ignorant on the subject so this could all be BS and I'd never know. 3 replies Reply 0 Report

matt 3 weeks ago ·

you missed Paul Dirac for #2, pretty much predicted anti-matter 30 years before they found it. Reply Report

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blaine 3 weeks ago ·


In the string theory he says the strings don't have gravity and later he says they have hue gravitational fields....which is it 1 reply Reply 0 Report

sphillips58 46p

3 weeks ago ·

I (think) I understood most of it, I can tell you know a lot about this subject and it was well researched. Reply Report +1

CatnipTARDIS 32p

3 weeks ago ·

I really enjoyed this list. I found the frame dragging and relativity of simultaneity especially interesting. Kudos! Reply +1 Report

Sandro 3 weeks ago ·
Noº2 is the most weird, but Noº1 is just awesome! Reply

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thorlite 3 weeks ago ·
Can someone answer me this?

Do we know if our universe is moving, as well as expanding? I've just had the thought whilst reading this list, thought I would share my genius with y'all first....(c) 2010 Thor lite 6 replies Reply +1 Report

iggystar 3 weeks ago ·

I believe that most of the persons posting as if they understood one-tenth of that list are just as confused as I am. 1 reply Reply +1 Report

Name 3 weeks ago ·
"Shorty after the Big Bang," change it to shortly. Reply

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Mike 3 weeks ago ·

"This can lead to very unusual scenarios, such as an observer witnessing effect before cause (for example, seeing a bomb go off, then later seeing someone light the fuse)" I got a problem about this analogy Say you are on planet Venus & the bomb is on planet Mars But you are closer to Mars then Venus. According to their theory I should see the bomb explode first then see you pressing the button to explode it? But what about the time it takes for the signal to reach the bomb. Shouldn't that make it so that no matter where you are observing from you always see the you pressing the button first, then seeing the bomb explode? I'm probably wrong here but this makes sense to me ^ 1 reply Reply +1 Report

mordechaimordechai 67p

3 weeks ago ·

i distinctively remember writing a post on this site talking about science and stating, with my poor unscientific mind, considerations identical to the fine chap Kurt Gödel here at number one. Feels so good to know that other people noticed that the nineteenth century expired long ago and believing that science will give us the user's manual of nature is nonsense. There is no such thing as undisputable truths. yeah

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Jonelle 3 weeks ago ·

Great list. I LOVE learning about Black Holes so reading number 5 was really interesting. Reply -11 Report

chris 3 weeks ago ·
wow what a boring list 1 reply

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pwned 3 weeks ago ·
The last one just raped my brain Reply

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ColdSnickersBar 3 weeks ago ·

Yes, simultaneity is relative. No, you can not observe a bomb exploding before the fuse was lit. The fastest something can be graphed on a Minkowski diagram is at a 45 degree angle, which would be the speed of light. So, the fuse could only communicate to the bomb as fast as light and no faster. 45 degrees is too much slope for something to happen after its cause, no matter how Lorentz transformed it is. So, no matter how fast the "fuse" burns, and no matter how long the fuse is, it will never burn its way to the bomb faster than light, and it will never appear to happen after the bomb explodes, no matter how fast the observer is moving. Ever. If you moved at the speed of light, the most transformed the event could become is either: the fuse is lit and the bomb explodes at the exact same time because time collapsed in one direction (and also, every event in the universe, from beginning to 'end', collapses into that single moment, no big deal), or the fuse is frozen in time and the bomb never explodes because time is collapsed in the other direction. You will never see the cause after the effect. Now, if something happened simultaneously (and wasn't relying on one thing communicating to another thing), and you were travelling through space while observing it, thus transforming spacetime around you, you could observe it happening not simultaneously, and what's more, you wouldn't just be observing it that way, it will actually be that way, but just for you. Reply 0 Report

Bryan J 3 weeks ago ·

Great List, Math and science are weird. Does this mean that we can travel through time? 3 replies Reply Report +3

undaunted warrior 1 68p

3 weeks ago ·

Interesting list science has come a long way in the last 2 or 3 decades, as a layman on the subject I cant even scratch the surface trying to understand these graphs - pressures etc. The list was well researched and written, everyone to his own I suppose. Thanks Jeff. Reply +1 Report

Kenny Cheung 3 weeks ago ·
Brilliant List - Thanks Jeff! Reply

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Nick 97p

3 weeks ago ·

2 words: mind fuck Reply Report

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@scottsh115 3 weeks ago ·
Thanks for your great blog post. As you can see, I am a fan: http://labs.blogs.com/its_alive_in_the_lab/2010/1... Reply


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Andy 3 weeks ago ·

I was pleased to see Gödel at #1. Just a few hours ago I finished reading Gödel's Proof, edited by Hofstadter. Reply Report +3

gigo70 36p

3 weeks ago ·

What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise. Reply Report +2

General Tits Von Chodehoffen 67p

3 weeks ago ·

Interesting stuff. I'll have to read over some of these agin to fully grasp the concepts, but number 2 seems a little ridiculous. Reply +1 Report

Name 3 weeks ago ·
well...that went over my head. Reply

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Daniel X 3 weeks ago ·

Cosmic string= like a wrinkle in space-time=A Wrinkle In Time. Huh. Reply 0 Report

Stu 3 weeks ago ·
LOL @ "Shorty after the Big Bang" Reply

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davemartin987 -57p

3 weeks ago ·

There are videos for all this weird anomalies that make it a lot easier to understand. Reply +1 Report

jay 3 weeks ago ·
probably not a good list to read blown Reply

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Vulcan Thee Flagrant 3 weeks ago ·

Post more list like this one... We needs knowledge!!! KNowledge about the Universe! Do my research for meh!!!! Go now J Frater! Reply Report +2

elenasc 1p

3 weeks ago ·

Yes, well, science wasn't my forte!!! Good, so I don't have to live with these 10 question marks!!! lol Reply +1 Report

stevo 3 weeks ago ·

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this is pretty much carl sagan's "cosmos: a personal voyage" in a nut shell...Should have included something about fractals IMO..theyre everywhere...in a sense everything is infinitely rough NO?! YES! Reply +2 Report

maximus 3 weeks ago ·

awesum list, my heads hurting all rite... its amazing how scientists can give so much explanation from almost nothing, eg. black holes - the closest thing to proof is two photos - of a distant star cluster taken before and after, where the second shows a few misaligned pixels indicating where stars have dissapeared... and from that we now have full blueprints for a black hole, with ergospheres, time dialations, event horizons, etc... Reply 0 Report

Kreliho 3 weeks ago ·

Most interesting list I've read in quite a while. Some of these theories I've heard mentioned, while others I am completely new to. It was very fun being able to read a little more about these concepts and some of the implications on the universe. Look forward to more like this! I'll will have to bring this into science class to debate/discuss. Reply +4 Report

Duncan 3 weeks ago ·

Number 8 is incorrect. Althought observers will disagree over whether two events are simultaneous they will never see them happening in opposite orders. Reply 0 Report

fragge 3 weeks ago ·

GREAT list, cheers for the swathe of new information I just absorbed :) Reply Report +2

deathgleaner 57p

3 weeks ago ·

it was so strange that i didn't understand it. Reply 0 Report

thorlite 3 weeks ago ·

PETER..."the term "moving" doesn't really make sense with regards to the entire universe. I assume you mean moving as in like how we move through space relative to something else? the trouble is that the universe is not "inside" any 3-dimensional space and does not take the shape of a 3d object we can relate to physically, but it is in itself the entirety of space that we move around in" I understand what Peter says, I'm just curious if it was something we could measure, probably only theoretically.... But still, if we could it would show that what the universe is expanding into must itself be contained in something else...... Reply 0 Report

diogenescutnpaste 3 weeks ago ·

The grandfather paradox is a proposed paradox of time travel first described (in this exact form) by the science fiction writer René Barjavel in his 1943 book Le Voyageur Imprudent (The Imprudent Traveller). The paradox is this: suppose a man travelled back in time and killed his biological grandfather before the latter met the traveller’s grandmother. As a result, one of the traveller’s parents (and by extension the traveller himself) would never have been conceived. This would imply that he could not have travelled back in time after all, which means the grandfather would still be alive, and the traveller would have been conceived allowing him to travel back in time and kill his grandfather. Thus each possibility seems to imply its own negation, a type of logical paradox. Despite the name, the grandfather paradox does not exclusively regard the impossibility of one’s own birth. Rather, it regards any action that

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makes impossible the ability to travel back in time in the first place. 2 replies Reply +1 Report

poobah 3 weeks ago ·
physicists are nuts Reply

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chickadee 3 weeks ago ·
2 just blew my mind (in a good way). Awesome list 8) Reply

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spiderbait 3 weeks ago ·

These latest lists have been great and this one has been the greatest ever! Reply +1 Report

krillin 3 weeks ago ·
it's power level...it's over 9,000! Reply

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PamelaRose 34p

3 weeks ago ·

I've studied science and I don't mind admitting that I have always had a problem getting my head around the physical realm. In particular, I didn't get the 'Black Strings' theory and 'adding a 5th dimension', What?? So, just how does one add a dimension? I mean where is the 4th dimension? I only know of x,y,z! Also, the idea of things being strings as small as protons but incredibly dense? Or 'Anti-matter'? I like to think about why things are and what creates them and many other ponderous questions, and I'm not too abashed to say I'm 'smarter than the average bear', but what the £$%* leads someone to think about matter opposing matter...err, sorry, antimatter??? Oh dear, I think I need to go and lay down......... Where's Stephen Hawking when you need him?! 2 replies Reply 0 Report

the tasmanian devil 3 weeks ago ·
My dictionary (and brain) just exploded. Reply

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Mussadique 3 weeks ago ·

Benny, actually 'lost' was a casimir and maxwell fan. Awesome list by the way. Managed to describe in simple terms some very complex material :) Reply Report 0

iknownothing 34p

3 weeks ago ·

Well this list went straight over my head, I would have enjoyed it if I understood anything that was written. Next time maybe it could be simplified so the average human can join in. Well done anyway and thanks for the headache, now back to Star Trek for me. 3 replies Reply Report

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