quinta-feira, fevereiro 25, 2021

Cuidado com as crenças cientificas

"Scientific progress has been stifled many times over the years because the gatekeepers who established and enforced orthodoxy believed they knew all the answers ahead of time.


Consider that in 1894, the prominent physicist Albert Michelson argued, after surveying the great advances in physics realized during the late nineteenth century: “It seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established. . . . An eminent physicist remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.” In contrast, over the subsequent several decades, physicists witnessed the emergence of the theories of special relativity, general relativity, and quantum mechanics, theories that revolutionized our understanding of physical reality and thus disproved Michelson’s forecast.


Similarly, in August 1909, Edward Charles Pickering argued in a Popular Science Monthly article that telescopes had reached their optimal size, fifty to seventy inches, and there was thus little point in building instruments with larger apertures. “Much more depends on other conditions, especially those of climate, the kind of work to be done and, more than all, the man behind the gun,” Pickering wrote. “The case is not unlike that of a battleship. Would a ship a thousand feet long always sink one of five hundred feet? It seems as if we had nearly reached the limit of size of telescopes, and as if we must hope for the next improvement in some other direction.”

Pickering was mistaken, of course; telescopes with larger apertures collect more photons, allowing scientists to see farther out into the cosmos and deeper into the past. Pickering directed the Harvard College Observatory from 1877 to 1919, and his unfortunate words therefore carried a lot of weight, especially on the East Coast. As a result, the West Coast became the center of observational astronomy in the United States for decades to come.


Pickering had erred due to his arrogance. Not personal arrogance, but professional arrogance. He thought what his generation of scientists observed, understood, and determined was of interest was the peak of discovery; he didn’t appreciate that the ascent of science is one false peak after another."

Trechos retirados de "Extraterrestrial" de Avi Loeb

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