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Examples of accepted theories once rejected?

  1. Nov 21, 2008 #1
    Can any of you think of examples of physics theories that were at one time rejected by the scientific establishment but later were accepted? Can you beat these examples?

    • Heliocentrism (Galileo in particular) - I don’t count this since he was primarily rejected by less scientific groups.
    • Newton says light is a particle – I don’t count this since Newton didn’t present a testable theory.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2008 #2
    Well, one example that comes to my mind is dark energy, the supposed impetus behind the accelerating expansion of the universe. Einstein created the fudge factor in his solutions to the Einstein Equations that came to be known as the cosmological constant. This was later rejected, but has now come back with the spicier name "dark energy."
     
  4. Nov 21, 2008 #3

    matthyaouw

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    Plate tectonics/continental drift. Proposed in the early C20th, but it wasn't until the '50s and '60s that ocean exploration led to the evidence to confirm it.
     
  5. Nov 21, 2008 #4
    I'll have to research Einstein's cosmological constant because I thought the only reason he through that in is because he thought that the universe size couldn't change. So the constant counteracts expansion. Dark energy is a cosmological constant but it's repulsive and causes expansion.

    Tectonics, I like that. I didn't know it had been rejected by science at one point. I see that in Wikipedia so far.

    I'm starting to think Heliocentrism is not such a bad example. I found that scientists at the time insisted that we would get blown right off the planet if we whipped around the sun at a thousand miles an hour.
     
  6. Nov 21, 2008 #5

    Redbelly98

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    This wasn't actually a new theory, but the idea that a relativistic object would appear to be rotated, rather than simply contracted, was not realized until James Terrell figured it out in the mid-to-late 1950's. Half a century after Einstein's 1905 paper!

    EDIT: Terrell had a lot of trouble convincing other physicists of this.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2008
  7. Nov 21, 2008 #6
    the cosmological constant of einstein was repulsive. It counteracted gravity. Depending on its value it could have caused expansion. It wasn't put there simply to keep everything static. It was put there to stop everything from crunching together.
     
  8. Nov 21, 2008 #7
    Thanks Tribdog. That makes sence.
     
  9. Nov 21, 2008 #8
    hopefully its correct then.
     
  10. Nov 21, 2008 #9

    Pythagorean

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    not sure if this qualifies, but Bose with Bosons

    most of the scientific community thought he was making mistakes in his paper to arrive at his conclusion (ironically, a mistake was what inspired him)

    It wasn't until Einstein read his ideas that they gained credibility.

    This was a rather short period of rejection, though.
     
  11. Nov 21, 2008 #10
    How about Darwin? It's still being rejected even though its correct.
     
  12. Nov 21, 2008 #11

    Pythagorean

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    the world is round... that one was in... then out... now it's back in.

    (along with the hollow earth society)
     
  13. Nov 21, 2008 #12

    Pythagorean

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    by the scientific community?
     
  14. Nov 21, 2008 #13
    Christian Science
     
  15. Nov 21, 2008 #14
    I read somewhere that the 19th century theory of vortex atoms is similar to Roger Penrose's twistor theory, which I have no understanding of but I gather is sort of an equivalent of string theory in that it tries to address some of the discrepancies caused by particles being singularities in the models of mainstream physics. (So like string theory twistor theory is entirely unproven.)

    Direct citation to an 1880 issue of Nature. Do I win some kind of prize for Most Ancient Journal Citation Ever on PF?
     
  16. Nov 21, 2008 #15
    Wasn't that corpuscular optics? Surely it can count a little bit. But I thought it originated with some Italian monk or something, not Newton.
     
  17. Nov 22, 2008 #16

    Office_Shredder

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    Newton's theory of light as a particle was considered to be true, not rejected, for quite a while until people got sick of it not explaining things like diffraction.
     
  18. Nov 22, 2008 #17

    Hurkyl

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    I don't count this because the current theory of light doesn't resemble Newton's ideas, except at this very superficial level. Saying that Newton had thought up the modern theory of light is like saying Democritus thought up the modern atomic theory!
     
  19. Nov 22, 2008 #18

    Vanadium 50

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    Continental drift is perhaps the best example. Even then, I am not so sure how good an example it is, as the flaws pointed out were essentially correct. Plate tectonics was a much better and more inclusive theory, and while it also predicted continental motion, it was rather dissimilar to Wegner's theory.

    Yang-Mills theory is an interesting example: it was proposed and rejected as a way to explain the strong nuclear interaction, but it turned out to explain the weak nuclear interaction. Right answer - wrong question.
     
  20. Nov 22, 2008 #19

    Redbelly98

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    Another problem: light was exclusively a particle, and not a wave, in this thinking.
     
  21. Nov 22, 2008 #20

    jambaugh

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    He asked for scientific theories not religious dogmas. Putting "science" in the name doesn't make it science. The discipline of empirical epistemology makes it science.
     
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