WANTED: mysteries of the universe

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My arrogant friend who is a physics major says he's bored with science, b/c now when he looks around at the world, he sees little that he can't explain. This is his away message on aim:

My goal, is to find 10, really cool things not explainable by science. I'm looking for unexplained wonders; mysteries of science. If you have a suggestion, send me one.

Will you guys please come up with some stuff to get him to shut the hell up and put him back in his place?

Thanks! :tongue2:
 
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  • #2
Bystander
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Have him calculate the first ionization potential of helium from first principles.
 
  • #3
Ivan Seeking
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Here are a dozen or more that apply.
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=58374

Not to mention that we don't have a TOE [a unified theory of physics], we don't know how the universe came to be, we don't understand dark energy, dark matter, black holes, we don't know if time travel is possible, we don't know how to make fusion work in the lab...

Also, point out to your friend that we just recently realized that about 90% or the universe was never noticed before; dark energy and dark matter. And the universe appears to be accelerating not slowing down. Whoops. :yuck:

I am confident that many more surprises are in store. People have been saying what your friend says since about the year 1890. I think we have discovered a few things since then.

Oh yes, and it appears that no one can make a coffee pot that doesn't dribble. I consider this the greatest challenge of all.

You might also run this by him.
http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/15/4/2/1

Also, to date I think nearly every successful space mission - Mars, Jupiter, Saturn etc - has produced more questions than answers.

Maybe your friend is bored because he really doesn't like science?
 
  • #4
Moonbear
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Have him explain how the brain works, ALL of it: map out ALL the pathways in it and explain what they do. Then suggest he tell us what all those genes identified in the human genome project do. When he's done with that, he can explain what life is; what's different from one moment to the next that makes someone alive in the first moment and dead in the next? Oh, I'd also love if he would share with us the cure for all cancers and AIDS. And while not so lofty a goal, does he have anything to cure the common cold and flu?

And when he's done with all of those, ask him this one (it's old but good):
If toast always lands butter side down, and a cat always lands feet first, what happens if you strap toast to the back of a cat, butter-side up, and drop it from the balcony? :biggrin:

It is only with a shallow understanding of science that someone could think there are no mysteries left unanswered
 
  • #5
Ivan Seeking
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Also, I knew I had a good link:

Open Questions in Physics
While for the most part a FAQ covers the answers to frequently asked questions whose answers are known, in physics there are also plenty of simple and interesting questions whose answers are not known. Here we list some of these. We could have called this section Frequently Unanswered Questions, but the resulting acronym would have been rather rude.

Before you set about answering these questions on your own, it's worth noting that while nobody knows what the answers are, a great deal of of work has already been done on most of these subjects. So, do plenty of research and ask around before you try to cook up a theory that'll answer one of these and win you the Nobel prize! You'll probably need to really know physics inside and out before you make any progress on these.

The following partial list of open questions is divided into five groups:

Condensed Matter and Nonlinear Dynamics
Quantum Mechanics
Cosmology and Astrophysics
Particle Physics
The Big Question™

However, given the implications of particle physics and nonlinear dynamics on cosmology, and other connections between the groups, the division is somewhat artificial, so the classification here is somewhat arbitrary.

There are many other interesting and fundamental questions in other fields, and many more in these fields besides those listed here. Their omission is not a judgement about importance, but merely a decision about the scope of this article.

Since this article was last updated in 1997, a lot of progress has been made in answering some big open questions in physics. We include references on some of these questions. There is also a lot to read about the other open questions--especially the last one, which we call The Big Question™. But, we haven't had the energy to list it. [continued]
http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/open_questions.html
 
  • #6
arildno
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Or, a humbler one: Make him predict the onset of separation in fluid flow.
 
  • #7
Monique
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pattiecake said:
My arrogant friend who is a physics major says he's bored with science, b/c now when he looks around at the world, he sees little that he can't explain.
That means he has only a very shallow understanding of the world :bugeye: :rolleyes:

Does he understand why there is no cure for Hiv infection, why Hiv causes immunodeficiency, how a virus takes over a cells metabolism, how a virus enters a cell, how a virus exits a cell, why you get a sore throat when you have the flu, what causes you to sneeze, how many people you can infect when sitting in a room and sneeze without your hand in front of the mouth, and without, how long the virus survives on your hand. Let him get detailed scientific answers to those..
 
  • #8
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Good stuff! Thanks guys!!!
 
  • #9
Nereid
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If math is more his thing, how about he solve the N/NP question for us?

Or perhaps he could design and construct a quantum computer? (this one is already on Baez' list)

In astrophysics, rather less grandiose than those on the Baez list, how about:
- the nature of the 'central engine' in quasars?
- full characterisation of polar jets and accretion disks (quasars, protoplanetary nebulae, AGNs, ...)?
- detailed evolutionary models of stellar systems, i.e. a theory-based taxonomy of exoplanetary systems, so there will be no surprises as these continue to be discovered?
- relationships between stellar rotation, magnetic field, age, composition, mass etc, i.e. 'explain' how stars come to have the rotation rates and magnetic fields that they are observed to have.
 
  • #10
brewnog
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Ask him to explain how helicopters work.
 
  • #11
matthyaouw
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This was quite a good article https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=67688
(thanks Ivan)

Moonbear said:
And when he's done with all of those, ask him this one (it's old but good):
If toast always lands butter side down, and a cat always lands feet first, what happens if you strap toast to the back of a cat, butter-side up, and drop it from the balcony? :biggrin:
Simple. The cat lands on its feet, but quickly falls over from shock, rolling onto its back, after which you are promptly arrested for animal cruelty. :)
 
  • #12
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pattiecake said:
I'm looking for unexplained wonders; mysteries of science. If you have a suggestion, send me one.
Let him try explaining Ivan. That should keep him busy for a couple of lifetimes. :tongue:
 
  • #14
Ivan Seeking
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Danger said:
Let him try explaining Ivan. That should keep him busy for a couple of lifetimes. :tongue:
Oh ya! Well, uh, hmmm, let me see, um, well, hmmm... :grumpy:
 
  • #15
FredGarvin
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brewnog said:
Ask him to explain how helicopters work.
Only us geniuses can explain that!
 
  • #16
brewnog
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FredGarvin said:
Only us geniuses can explain that!
Speak for yourself.



Oh, you were.
 

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