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Author Topic: what are some scientific things belived in the 1800's, that are false today?  (Read 5762 times)
septango
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« on: April 28, 2014, 06:26:18 am »

the more obscure/out-there the better
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 06:28:33 am by septango » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2014, 09:29:50 am »

It was suggested the Earth started out small, and then expanded over time. This would then be why the continents fit together, as they moved apart during the expansion and the seabed is what filled out the cracks.
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rod-on
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« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2014, 09:55:04 am »

Wrong ... the earth is flat, watch out for the edges!
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Antipodean
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« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2014, 10:22:45 am »

The theory that diseases are caused by "bad air":
Theory of the four bodily humours:
Stress theory of ulcers:
Immovable continents:
Static universe: Prior to the observations made by astronomer Edwin Hubble during 1920s, scientists believed the universe was static
Alchemy:
Spontaneous Generation: maggots come spontaneously from rotting meat:
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« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2014, 01:51:07 pm »

I would say a few of the things antipodean mentions are really from earlier eras.
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Mr. Boltneck
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« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2014, 03:56:39 pm »

Caloric theory is one of my faves. It was starting to show some holes at the end of the 18th Century, but wasn't really supplanted until well into the 19th. If you look at early-19th Century texts on steam mechanics, they generally refer to caloric, the substance of heat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caloric_theory
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Rockula
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« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2014, 04:14:23 pm »

Phrenology.
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« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2014, 04:20:39 pm »

Female Hysteria (but we can pretend it still exists if you want to  Grin)
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Rockula
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« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2014, 04:25:30 pm »

Eugenics.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2014, 05:03:14 pm »

Phlogiston theory (precusrsor to caloric theory mentioned above)

Preformationism (debunked with cell theory)

Although I think that many people rejected these ideas already by the 19th. C.


And these two are not really that interesting, mostly because they can be considered to be "true" or accurate under certain "everyday" or "practical" conditions, and definitely are regularly used in every day physics and engineering computations today:

Dalton's interpretation of atoms as being indivisible (superseded by particle theory and quantum mechanics)

Newtonian Gravity (superseded by Einstein's General Relativity)
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 05:20:16 pm by J. Wilhelm » Logged
J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2014, 05:33:14 pm »

I was going to say Hollow Earth Theory, and certainly you even have 20th. C. theories in than vein, but unfortunately it was already mostly refuted by the 19th. C.  Primarily because Newtonian Gravity (mentioned above) offers mathematical "obstacles" to most theories.  Primarily, a hollow spherical shell of mass (m) can be shown tp have an internal zero-gravity field (I performed these calculations using calculus in one of my orbital mechanics classes in college).  Basically the gravitational field (generated by the shell's mass) within a massive shell happens to cancel itself out at every single point within the void, as a matter of mathematical serendipity (geometric shape of a sphere combined with the inverse square law of gravity).  The minute a planet is not perfectly spherical you get small deviations from the zero gravity field (so technically inhabitants of a hollow Earth would experience a small amount of gravity because the surface of the Earth is not perfectly spherical.

Quote (Wiki):
Quote
Gravity

Another set of scientific arguments against a hollow Earth or any hollow planet comes from gravity. Massive objects tend to clump together gravitationally, creating non-hollow spherical objects such as stars and planets. The solid sphere is the best way in which to minimize the gravitational potential energy of a physical object; having hollowness is unfavorable in the energetic sense. In addition, ordinary matter is not strong enough to support a hollow shape of planetary size against the force of gravity; a planet-sized hollow shell with the known, observed thickness of the Earth's crust, would not be able to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium with its own mass and would collapse.

Someone on the inside of a hollow Earth would not experience a significant outward pull and could not easily stand on the inner surface; rather, the theory of gravity implies that a person on the inside would be nearly weightless. This was first shown by Newton, whose shell theorem mathematically predicts a gravitational force (from the shell) of zero everywhere inside a spherically symmetric hollow shell of matter, regardless of the shell's thickness. A tiny gravitational force would arise from the fact that the Earth does not have a perfectly symmetrical spherical shape, as well as forces from other bodies such as the Moon. The centrifugal force from the Earth's rotation would pull a person (on the inner surface) outwards if the person was traveling at the same velocity as the Earth's interior and was in contact with the ground on the interior, but even the maximum centrifugal force at the equator is only 1/300 of ordinary Earth gravity.

The mass of the planet also indicates that the hollow Earth hypothesis is unfeasible. Should the Earth be largely hollow, its mass would be much lower and thus its gravity on the outer surface would be much lower than it is.

An interesting fact for those Steampunk out there writing about a hollow Earth!!
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 05:41:11 pm by J. Wilhelm » Logged
Peter Brassbeard
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« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2014, 05:54:43 pm »

Probably not obscure around here, but don't overlook Aether theory of the propagation of light.

Not exactly scientific, radium based medicines of the era which were more likely to kill you.
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MWBailey
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« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2014, 06:10:09 pm »

-Canals and greenery on Mars (caused by aberrations of optics of the time period, plus the effect of the planet's distance and rotation).

-Belief that both Jupiter and Saturn were solid body planets.

-theoretical calculation for planetary locations of the "outer" planets - largely correct, save for insisting that there had to be, or had to have been, a planet where the so-called Asteroid Belt is located (It may be that I have incorrectly dated this body of mathematical research; it may date from a later period of history, but I think it at least had its beginnings in the 1800s).

-The Watchmaker's Universe paradigm (perhaps more a philosophical than a scientific issue).

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« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2014, 08:07:52 pm »

In a larger sense, science in the 19th Century not only had individual theories which the subsequent century discarded, it had an entirely different worldview. It was the era of "classical" physics, and by the end of the century, with Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism, a decent theory of thermodynamics, and major discoveries in chemistry and biology, you get the sense that for a number of scientists at the time, most of the heavy lifting seemed about done.

Physics from that era seems like an alien culture from the modern viewpoint. They had some ideas about atoms, and these lived up to the Greek root of the word, as things which could not be further divided. They knew, in a deep-down sort of way, that physical processes were smooth and continuous, rather than given to sudden jumps. Time was an independent measurement. The cosmos revealed by telescopes was big enough to be satisfyingly celestial, but fairly stable and static, and fairly soon, they planned to figure out exactly what those fuzzy nebulae really were.

The first couple of decades of the 20th Century must have come as a bit of a nasty shock.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2014, 10:16:48 pm »

Which actually provided literary authors like HP Lovecraft with some fodder.  All his talk about other dimensions and "non-Euclidean geometry" was fuelled by his very vague understanding on the science of Relativity (vis-a-vis Lorentz transformation). The first 20-30 years of the 20th, C. were radically changing science and our understanding of the cosmos.
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Keith_Beef
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2014, 10:44:47 pm »

And how many years have we had, now, to get our heads around Bose-Einstein Condensates and Superstring Theory? Go and ask a molecular biologist about those subjects, and tell me what he thinks…

One enormous difference between the Victorian age and our own is that back then a fully rounded scientist could have a good grasp of all the sciences. Nowadays, everybody in science has to specialize.

A few are able to work in two or three fields, of of those a few are able to write in a way that the layman can understand: so the gulf between one discipline and another, and between scientist and layman, seems to widen every year.
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2014, 11:00:58 pm »

Spectroscopy. Following Fraunhoffer they understood that different elements have different emission / absorption spectra, but they couldn't really explain them. I can remember reading a book written around 1860 on the subject and it was really a long way off...

The interior planet Vulcan was supposed to exist, to explain anomalies in Mercury's orbit : Einstein explained that one.
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2014, 11:14:12 pm »

Eugenics.

Eugenics isn't exactly false.  The idea that certain traits can be increased in the population through selective breeding is obvious to anyone with an understanding of agriculture, let alone genetics.  

The application of Eugenics has proven to be abhorrent, and I agree that we have hopefully left the concept that people can be forced to be sterilized or bred behind for good.

Back on topic, there was also a Mechanical Aether theory for gravity.
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« Reply #18 on: April 29, 2014, 05:09:53 am »

http://www.john-daly.com/history.htm
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-Karl
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« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2014, 05:27:55 am »

Wrong ... the earth is flat, watch out for the edges!

It is NOT flat- remember mountains & valleys.  Think of a VERY irregular waffle...!
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Rockula
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« Reply #20 on: April 29, 2014, 12:01:59 pm »

Wrong ... the earth is flat, watch out for the edges!


It is NOT flat- remember mountains & valleys.  Think of a VERY irregular waffle...!


http://www.starpulse.com/news/Paul_Levinson/2014/04/13/da_vincis_demons_24_copernican_revelat
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James Harrison
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« Reply #21 on: April 29, 2014, 07:08:31 pm »

The idea that the Universe is inherently stable.  Not expanding, limited to the limits of our sight and formed only of our galaxy.  It was not until the late 1920s that Edwin Hubble started to shake these ideas.   
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« Reply #22 on: April 29, 2014, 07:21:30 pm »

To prove the Earth is flat get a picture of it taken from space...now look at it 'edge on'...is it flat?... that's a fun thing to do in a pub as a bet, provides endless free drinks.
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pakled05
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« Reply #23 on: April 30, 2014, 04:32:20 am »

I believe there were considered 400 or so races, each one conveniently located inside national borders.

I don't have the details, but supposedly there was a theory that insanity was localized in the body, and by slowly pruning back all extremities, it could be cured (though I think that was more early 20th Century). Can't remember what it was called.
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MWBailey
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« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2014, 06:35:03 am »

To prove the Earth is flat get a picture of it taken from space...now look at it 'edge on'...is it flat?... that's a fun thing to do in a pub as a bet, provides endless free drinks.




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