The scientific facts in which it is difficult to believe


Any person in the world didn’t go on foot to Alpha Tsentavra. Any person in the world didn’t see an electron. But the culture trained: we know, for example, that the distance to Alpha – the star system, next to the Sun, – makes a little more than 40 million kilometers, or 4,3 light years.

The classical “mad fact” manipulates this the size, absolutely abstract for us, so that it became less abstract. It translates it into ancient “language” with which our thinking still operates. It is possible to transfer, for example, distance to Alpha Tsentavra to football fields or number of steps, or to gasoline costs in case of a trip for such distance on the car. Even a concept of “light year” – an example of the translation with absolutely unclear on a little more clear.

But complexity of scientific perception of reality far isn’t limited to lengths, distances and quantities. On the contrary, it is far heavier to apprehend the facts which are qualitatively contradicting common sense in its traditional, still a “monkey” form.

Fact No. 1. Time depends on height

Perhaps, the richest source of the reliable, experimentally checked and almost applicable, but absolutely mad facts are theories of Einstein.

If to put clock on top of the mountain and the same hours – at its bottom, and through some time to verify them, then hours will go differently. The farther from the Earth’s surface, the weaker it gravitation, and the quicker flows time. These are not just theoretical creations, but real experimental data which are well-known already hundred years. Having armed with hours more precisely, scientists marked time stretching, even without getting on the mountain: some thirty centimeters were enough to register a deviation. People on the tenth floor in direct and absolutely literal sense grow old quicker, than on the first.

Of course, these effects are so small that in everyday life don’t play any role. But they become critical when the distance from Earth increases, and requirements to the accuracy of measurement of time repeatedly grow. The most known example – GPS companions: without amendments on “time curvature” they would be absolutely useless.

Business here in gravitation. According to Einstein, it – not just force which it is necessary “to deliver” from one point in another a particle or a wave. It is a space time curvature around the bodies having weight (so, and energy). For example, if you stand on the earth and throw a ball parallel to it forward, then actually it flies in a straight line. But as Earth – very heavy object, in its vicinities directly – means is bent. The space and time are weaved indissolubly, and they are distorted only together. Therefore the mass of Earth bends not only a trajectory of a ball, it deforms also its movement in time. Falling to the ground, the ball “is at the same time slowed down” from our point of view.

Fact No. 2. Gravitation in a plate

The mass of strangenesses in general is connected with gravitation. It would seem, living beings got used to terrestrial gravitation since the beginning of times. But if to look at it from science line items, gravitation will be one of the most mysterious – and essential – the phenomena in the Universe.

Gravitation also is important for the person, and not only terrestrial. You sometime thought that practically all energy which is used by live organisms including us, comes from gravitation?. Really, except for some bacteria and the Archean, living beings receive energy or from the Sun, or eating those who received energy from the Sun. But from where there is an energy of the Sun?

The sun is a huge sphere from hydrogen and helium. It is so big that gravitation squeezes it under own weight. Simplifying it is possible to tell that in a subsoil of the Sun pressure reaches such values that kernels of hydrogen are pressed each other with a huge force and merge with formation of helium. In case of this merge a lot of energy is emitted. The core of the Sun is in a condition of continuous thermonuclear explosion which counterbalances compression of a star under own weight – otherwise the surface of the Sun would continue to fail inside and to collapse. Many years later radiation from this very long explosion reaches a surface, and then reaches also Earth. Here it is caught by pigments of plants and bacteria which transfer it to a chemical energy, that is to our food.

Fact No. 3. We live in the past

The theory of relativity doesn’t keep within a framework habitual because life in general and our evolution in particular proceed at very small speeds at which time, the space and gravitation seem fixed and steady.

Our feeling of a present situation is connected with the same fitness to small speeds, for example. We don’t feel a pause between what occurs around, and a moment of the perception of the events. Even in case of a video call to Australia we are inclined to write off a communication delay on bad Internet connection.

Actually the same Special theory of relativity imposes a clear boundary on the speed with which can move anything, – including, for example, packets of digital data or light from an object to our eyes. Matter isn’t that in Australia always the bad Internet – even in case of instant handling of a signal the speed of communication is limited to velocity of light. In usual conditions it is imperceptible, but at huge distances is quite notable.

For traders at the exchange even several milliseconds of a delay can be critical. The most known example – the message between the exchanges of Chicago and New York. The fiber-optical cable laid in the 1980th wound here and there and delivered a signal for 14 ms. Today it is possible to deliver the same signal bunches of microwave beams, however, for access to transmitters it is necessary to pay for 8 ms, and it is a lot of.

Also our capability is in the same way limited to perceive reality: no information moves instantly. But absolutely far in the past we are rejected by much more considerable factor – transfer of a nervous impulse. In comparison with light, the signal on neuron moves ahead with a speed of a snail: 0,5-100 m/s. As a result any signal – from a retina, an ear, skin, language, a nose or muscles – is late for quite noticeable time: about 0,1 pages. Our consciousness lives in the past. And doesn’t even suspect about it.

Fact No. 4. In the middle of the overview – it is empty

The brain in general is surprisingly adapted to simplify reality, otherwise life would be extremely inconvenient. For example, if to connect your eyes to the television screen right now, then the turned image with an empty spot in the middle would turn out. It is valid “the crude picture” which the brain receives from eyes. And having received – retouches for your convenience.

Evolution improves us so, it is how necessary. It has no abstract feeling of perfection. Our eyes not bad work – why them to modernize further? For example, why to take away an optic nerve on back side of a retina if it is simpler to teach him not to notice a brain?

The brain not only retouches “failures” on the pictures delivered by an eye. From the optical device of an eye obviously that the image gets on the retina screen turned. The brain adjusts also this technological imperfection. And if to carry some time the special device overturning the image, then the brain will soon adapt again: the image will turn over once again and will become normal, without bringing any inconveniences. And if then to return to regular sight, then some time will be observed boomerang effect – the brain will see everything in its initial, turned type.

Fact No. 5. The mathematics is more difficult, than we think

Simplification of reality a brain shan’t be physical. The person developed in himself unique capabilities to abstract thinking, including to mathematical calculations. But “biological arithmetics” isn’t always exact. Because of it there can be strict, from the point of view of science too, but “mad”, from the point of view of household logic, facts.

Are able “to consider”, generally speaking, even plants. They usually accumulate energy in the afternoon, and spend it for growth and a metabolism at night. Estimating amount of cumulative energy and dividing it into time which remained till the dawn, the plant “calculates” the optimum speed of consumption of inventories.

And our brain goes in for arithmetics continuously, carrying out calculations of probabilities, speeds, forces, balance, etc. But for the last centuries the “cultural” mathematics with its figures and formulas fairly overtook such extramental, “biological”.

Classical example – statistical paradoxes. Present, for example, a game TV show. Before the player three doors, behind one of which – the car, behind two others – silly goats. The leader suggests the player to choose at random one of doors to find the car. That chooses, for example, the first. But the skilled leader decides to tense even more passions in studio and instead of the first opens the third door, showing to everything that behind it there is a goat. And then the leader asks the player: Whether “You want to change the decision?”

It would seem, nothing exchanged: the car can still be both for the first, and behind the second door. “Why to change the decision?” – the player thinks. He feels unshakable determination – during evolution the brain got used to connect it in any difficult situation. Most of people will refuse the proposal of the leader.

But simple mathematical calculation shows: paradoxically, but if in this situation to switch to the second door, the chance to win the car increases twice! Analysis of the reasons of a paradox of Monty Hall is beyond our article, but you can be convinced of it experimentally – having just repeated “game” many times and having counted victory frequency in each of situations.

Similar examples set. For example, it is very difficult to explain to ours mathematically to a naive brain that if to connect two different groups of data in one, interpretation of these data can exchange on opposite.

Let’s assume, reception on philological and mathematical faculties is conducted. Submitted applications for faculty of philology of 80 women from whom 30 arrived, and 20 men from whom 5 arrived. On mathematical faculty there passed 15 of 20 women and 50 of 80 men. If to count all entrants combined, leaves that 45% of entrants and 55% of entrants were accepted. Gender discrimination is available! By the way, the University of California in Berkeley faced a similar problem in 1973 – business even came to court.

The court, fortunately, understood: once you look at data separately, the situation sharply changes. On philology in our example 37,5% of women against 25% of men, and on mathematics – 75% of women against 62,5% of men arrived. Women went over with great success everywhere, than men – but without separation into faculties data look exactly the opposite.

We analyze, we shorthand and we interpret the world around every second. Even if something seems obvious, it is impossible to forget that in case of all the advantages our brain isn’t perfect.

Fact No. 6. Our nearest relation – a monocelled microbe

At last, the separate group of “the fried facts” can be under construction on juggling habitual, though absolutely artificial, categories – products of our culture.

Biologists argue on value of the concept “type” not the first hundred years. With the higher organisms the problem is slightly simpler: in case of sexual reproduction it is easy to check whether types among themselves can be crossed and bring forth prolific offspring. But how to be with bacteria and others monocelled which breed simple division of own cages?

The answer to this question will never because the nature doesn’t care about our be. Determinations are thought out by ourselves, and then argue on them when the reality doesn’t wish to keep within their framework.

In 1951 at the afroamerican Henrietta Lacks sample of cells of tumor of a uterus was taken. The patient died of months, but her cages continued to live in a test tube – it was the first case when scientists was successful a similar experiment (in more detail we wrote about this strange story in number for January, 2014, in the article “Eternal Life of Henriette Laks”).

Since then there was a huge number of other immortal cellular lines, but cages of HeLa continue to live in culture and to be used in scientific research by thousands of laboratories. In 60 years their quantity began to be estimated already in tons, they saved up lots of mutations and chromosomal violations (HeLa has usually from 76 to 80 chromosomes, in comparison with 46 at the person), and in general quite far left from a regular human cage.

Many biologists consider that cages of HeLa and to them similar represent not a type of Homo sapiens, but other, monocelled types which are very close to us genetically, but exist separately and regardless of the person. Others don’t agree with them: such type (for cages of HeLa it was christened by Helacyton gartleri) doesn’t fit into a harmonious evolutionary tree in which monocelled microbes separated from animal billions years ago and since then went with them in the different ways. If to recognize HeLa as a separate type then emergence of any cancer tumor should be considered an evolutionary event!

However, and why isn’t present? Cancer cells result from mutations which give them the chance quickly to share. In most cases it is stopped by immune system. But some cages manage “to break” and continue reproduction without thinking about other organism. Than it is not natural selection of especially successful risen cages which suddenly decided to refuse a mnogokletochnost?

The scientific reality can be unclear, strange, contradictory. In it wine of our own brain: its restrictions, conventions, habits and biological “settings”. On the other hand, unless from it the science becomes less fascinating? Awareness of own limitation – always the first step on the way to something devilishly interesting.

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