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When Continental Drift Was Considered Pseudoscience

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the drifting-to-the-truth dept.

Science 214

Lasrick writes "I Love this article in Smithsonian by Richard Conniff. One of my geology professors was in grad school when the theories for plate tectonics, seafloor spreading, etc., were introduced; he remembered how most of his professors denounced them as ridiculous. The article chronicles the introduction of continental drift theory, starting a century ago with Alfred Wegener. From the article: 'It was a century ago this spring that a little-known German meteorologist named Alfred Wegener proposed that the continents had once been massed together in a single supercontinent and then gradually drifted apart. He was, of course, right. Continental drift and the more recent science of plate tectonics are now the bedrock of modern geology, helping to answer vital questions like where to find precious oil and mineral deposits, and how to keep San Francisco upright. But in Wegener’s day, geological thinking stood firmly on a solid earth where continents and oceans were permanent features.'"

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214 comments

Ambiguous references to persons (3, Funny)

sideslash (1865434) | about 2 years ago | (#40208295)

"I Love this article in Smithsonian by Richard Conniff. One of my geology professors was in grad school when [...]

It's always the little details that insufferably nag you. For example, after reading this poorly written (or edited) summary, I will always be haunted by the ambiguity of whether Richard Conniff was actually the submitter's geology professor, or if those two references without any explicit tying together are just that. I will carry this burden to my grave.

Re:Ambiguous references to persons (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208369)

Learn to read. That was a period after Connif, not a comma, idiot.

Re:Ambiguous references to persons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208505)

He pretty clearly treated it as a period. The question is whether the two statements are completely unrelated (in which case, why?), or if they're related because Richard Conniff is his geology professor and this point was poorly conveyed.

Critical thinking. Try some. In the meantime, you might do well to avoid calling people idiots when you don't understand what's going on.

Re:Ambiguous references to persons (4, Informative)

sideslash (1865434) | about 2 years ago | (#40208515)

It's an awkwardly written summary that jumps back and forth not once, but twice between the Smithsonian writer and the guy's professor. It also inappropriately capitalizes "love" and is redundant right before the beginning of the quote ("century ago" etc.).

And just changing the period to a comma would actually increase the ambiguity from a "I wonder if" to an "aaaugh" level, dude.

Re:Ambiguous references to persons (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208815)

I agree it's pretty awkward, but I don't understand how you can be confused as to whether Conniff was the submitter's professor. AC's point about the period was that it makes it obvious he is talking about two different people. There's no ambiguity, just poor writing.

I don't know where you are getting the idea that it "jumps back and forth" between Conniff and the professor, either. Conniff is mentioned only in the beginning. Do you mean because after talking about the professor the submitter quotes the article?

Even in the 1960's There was Doubt (3, Informative)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 2 years ago | (#40209445)

I took a geology course a decade ago, and my professor discussed the previous theories of geology. Geosynclines [wikipedia.org] were part of the idea to explain what we geologically observe. I don't have too much of an understanding of it, but it amounted to saying that landslides and similar types of sediment transport were responsible for the underwater landscape. My professor said that even back then it didn't make too much sense.

theories (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208309)

So the OP's professor was in grad school circa-1912?

Also, a lot of people don't realize (and the OP confirms) that almost all geological science to date has been funded by oil and mining companies.

Re:theories (3, Interesting)

sideslash (1865434) | about 2 years ago | (#40208683)

So the OP's professor was in grad school circa-1912?

No, there are two theories spoken of here -- the original idea of continental drift a century ago (which showed up without much of an explanation, hence viewed by some as pseudoscience), and the more modern theories about plate tectonics and seafloor spreading, which serve to validate and explain continental drift. The latter were evidently emerging when the prof was in grad school.

Re:theories (5, Interesting)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | about 2 years ago | (#40209235)

No, there are two theories spoken of here -- the original idea of continental drift a century ago (which showed up without much of an explanation, hence viewed by some as pseudoscience), and the more modern theories about plate tectonics and seafloor spreading, which serve to validate and explain continental drift. The latter were evidently emerging when the prof was in grad school.

The theory of plate tectonics was developed in the 1950s and 1960s [wikipedia.org], as people worked through the implications of the older idea of continental drift and worked out mechanisms for it, and as things like sonar mapping of the seafloor came into being.

My father is a geographer and was in grad school from 1966 to 1971, and he's talked about the fighting over plate tectonics going on among the geologists and physical geographers at his university. At the end of his time in grad school there were a few older geologists who adamantly refused to buy into the idea. Most people in the profession were convinced very quickly of the reality of plate tectonics, once there were good tests of the theory (like the Vine-Matthews-Morley hypothesis [wikipedia.org]). But the "anti-drifter" stance was only killed off by attrition, as the people opposed to it either retired or else died with their boots on.

It's a pretty interesting example of the emergence of a major new idea that completely reshapes a field of knowledge, and does so very quickly once a good explanatory mechanism is found. There's probably a good book-length study of it, and if there isn't then there should be.

Re:theories (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208829)

"Also, a lot of people don't realize (and the OP confirms) that almost all geological science to date has been funded by oil and mining companies."

[Shrug] So? If you want to find stuff in the Earth, then you hire a geologist. Where do you think the silicon in the chips, the gold in the connectors, the indium in your lcd display, and the plastic in your computer comes from? To find things in the Earth that people need, geologists develop theories to better understand how the Earth works, and how natural processes have concentrated minerals into economically useful deposits. But it is an exaggeration to say that "almost all" geological science is funded by companies looking for economic deposits. Much of it is studied for purely scientific reasons, and the other major reason is for the sake of human safety hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunami, landslides, volcanic eruptions, etc. and environmental hazards such as ground water contamination. It's a fairly diverse field in terms of study and funding sources.

Re:theories (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | about 2 years ago | (#40208905)

Grad school prof.. maybe? I dunno. I remember in public school ~2000 I had a teacher was adamant that continental drift was an impossible pseudoscience. Spent a whole day's lesson explaining its flaws. The bizarre thing was he was supposed to be teaching U.S. history from the revolution to the modern day.

Re:theories (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#40209369)

Grad school prof.. maybe? I dunno. I remember in public school ~2000 I had a teacher was adamant that continental drift was an impossible pseudoscience. Spent a whole day's lesson explaining its flaws. The bizarre thing was he was supposed to be teaching U.S. history from the revolution to the modern day.

Bizzare drift frightens Continentals. Silversmith Paul Revere rides warning Red Hot Coats drifting this way.

Did he have a lesson plan for that?

Did this happen in PS2000? Is he in one of New York's celebrated Rubber Rooms?

Re:theories (1)

Rostin (691447) | about 2 years ago | (#40209287)

If the submitter is 60ish and went to college in ~1970, he could have had an 80ish year old professor who would have been in grad school in the 1910s. I'm currently in grad school, and I took a class from a professor who is now close to 90. He regularly regaled us with tales of famous now-dead physicists and chemists (like Pauli) whose seminars he attended when he was a graduate student and post-doc.

Re:theories (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 2 years ago | (#40209299)

So the OP's professor was in grad school circa-1912?

No. Pretty much the whole point of TFA is that it took a half-century for Wegener to be vindicated. Continental drift theory was not generally accepted until the 1960s, and I remember that in the 70s there was still considerable debate about whether or not it really explained the modern shape and placement of the continents. It's not at all surprising that he ran into someone who still dismissed the whole idea as nonsense if he was in grad school in, say, the mid-60s -- or even up to the 80s, if the prof was particularly ossified.

Heat and movement (1, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40208337)

denounced them as ridiculous

It was completely ridiculous before atomic energy and computers.

In a pre-atomic era, there seems to be no rational way to avoid a frozen solid earth. Frozen solid = no movement.

Virtually no effort was put into why the continents move and it took decades to come up with a reasonable story based on all kinds of wild fluid dynamics.

He was, of course, right.

He was, of course, making irrational stuff up, that accidentally happened to turn out to be correct. Kind of like the ancient greek version of atomic theory.

If real, usable, economic warp speed spacecraft propulsion is ever invented, that doesn't mean the "star trek" writers should get credit.

Re:Heat and movement (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208371)

Typical total pompous slash dot crap.

Re:Heat and movement (5, Funny)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 2 years ago | (#40208453)

economic warp speed

? sounds like a new function describing our national debt.

Re:Heat and movement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208717)

That's not economic warp speed. That's economic going plaid.

Re:Heat and movement (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208463)

He was, of course, making irrational stuff up, that accidentally happened to turn out to be correct. Kind of like the ancient greek version of atomic theory.

If real, usable, economic warp speed spacecraft propulsion is ever invented, that doesn't mean the "star trek" writers should get credit.

You were aware that he actually had a fair amount of evidence for continental drift, right? Including fossils (particularly plant fossils) and geography on both sides of the continents that had drifted apart? The fact that he didn't have a mechanism doesn't make it irrational.

Re:Heat and movement (5, Informative)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 2 years ago | (#40208471)

Wegener's evidence was hardly irrational, and there was still opposition from mainline geologists in the 1940's. That would be well after atomic decay releasing heat was well known. In fact, the first measurements of atomic decay and heat pre-dated Wegener's first publications about the existence of an "Ur-kontinent." Wegner, while foolhardy, was no irrational fantasist. He and his brother Kurt pioneered using weather balloons to map air masses, and drilling ice cores. He wrote what may be the first serious scientific study on paleo-climatology.

He didn't "just happen" to be right, he was a serious scientist who correctly observed evidence for geological change, and correctly supposed that slow gradual movement of landmasses over time was indicated.

If that's the case Gallileo shouldn't get credit (4, Insightful)

brennanw (5761) | about 2 years ago | (#40208485)

for advancing heliocentrism.

Because when he did, he insisted that all orbits around the sun were perfectly circular. He rejected the idea of elliptical orbits -- an idea that had already been proposed. As a result, the mathematics involved in his model to calculate the "movement" of the stars was significantly less accurate than the then-current and accepted model using epicycles.

But he was right, generally, even if he got the specifics wrong.

Re:If that's the case Gallileo shouldn't get credi (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208925)

Because when he did, he insisted that all orbits around the sun were perfectly circular. He rejected the idea of elliptical orbits -- an idea that had already been proposed.

It's actually much worse than that. Galileo made up a lot of stuff that went contrary to empirical data, and he claimed that all sorts of things were "true" when there was no empirical data to support them. See this article: http://www.heracliteanriver.com/?p=433 [heracliteanriver.com]

Of course, Galileo was a great scientist and more of an empiricist than a lot of his peers in other matters. But on the heliocentrism question, his evidence was pretty darn murky (and perhaps even should be considered downright "unscientific").

Re:Heat and movement (4, Insightful)

bug1 (96678) | about 2 years ago | (#40208547)

He was, of course, making irrational stuff up, that accidentally happened to turn out to be correct. Kind of like the ancient greek version of atomic theory.

Kind of like you are doing now...

Re:Heat and movement (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208591)

You are a fool. You mistake not understanding how things work for not knowing that they work.

You are the same kind of person that would have thrown Galilleo into jail for not explaining how things work.

Science is NOT about showing how something works first, then detecting it. Instead, real science is about DETECTING SOMETHING, proving that it is REAL, then figuring out how it works.

We looked at the earth, found clear evidence in multiple forms - similar plants, animals, land shapes, fossil records, etc. etc. that showed continental drift. That is more than enough to prove something. Otherwise you are the idiot who says bumblebees can't fly despite the clear evidence that they do (Note, they fly using the same principles of a helicopter, not a air plane).

Having someone say "You must be wrong because we don't know how it works" is not science, it is arrogance.

The people that thought plate techtonics were stupid and foolish - ignoring the actual evidence obvious to any three year old looking at a map of Africa and South America, because they didn't understand how something could happen as opposed to checking to see if it actually did happen.

Re:Heat and movement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209255)

The GP was wrong. However:

You are the same kind of person that would have thrown Galilleo into jail for not explaining how things work.

Science is NOT about showing how something works first, then detecting it. Instead, real science is about DETECTING SOMETHING, proving that it is REAL, then figuring out how it works.

By that standard, Galileo should have been thrown into jail, or at least disqualified as being a "scientist." In arguing for heliocentrism, his primary arguments depended on supposed facts that were contradicted by OBSERVABLE, DETECTABLE EVIDENCE (like the fact that tides occurred twice, not once, per day), he claimed that things were REAL but offered no actual PROOF (even though the type of proof required was predicted at that time, like stellar parallax, but Galileo had no evidence of it), and rather than "figuring out how it works" by going with a theory that actually fit the empirical evidence -- Kepler's elliptical theory -- he relied on Aristotle and perfect circles in his model of orbits, even though they resulted in as many epicycle problems as the geocentric model.

Galileo fails all your qualifications, at least in his heliocentric fight. (In other matters he was obviously a great scientist.) See "Why Galileo's fight against the church should not be a model for modern science." [heracliteanriver.com]

Re:Heat and movement (-1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40209883)

Having someone say "You must be wrong because we don't know how it works" is not science, it is arrogance.

Because it can't work, is completely different than because we don't know how it works.

Because it can't work is a perfectly valid way to disprove a scientific theory. Based on heat flux thru the surface of a cooling body with no internal source of heat, either no liquid water exists on the surface of the earth before a recent interval for which we have nearly universal geologic evidence of water deposited sedimentary rock, or the bulk average temperature of the earth is frozen solid rock. Does not prevent substantial local variation from global average such as an occasional volcano. With out atomic decay heat there is no way to melt the core and float the continents. Therefore his theory is disproven as outright impossible, until the 1930s / 1940s.

There were also some pretty serious fluid dynamics issues until some simulations were run. For example, by surface tension alone, the solid parts should intuitively glom together, and rotation of the earth should put all the continental mass at the equator. Turns out if you do enough fluid dynamics simulations, you can whip the numbers into allowing the observed slow drift, and then apply the whipped numbers to seismological simulation and you see wave propagation that fits. But you pretty much need computers and recording seismographs and lots and lots of data. None of which existed before and the intuitive answer makes a lot of sense.

I am primarily guilty of not worshipping at the feet of a saint, which doesn't really bother me. It turns out he was correct but at the time of his flights of fancy, he was completely wrong, his theories simply don't work unless you have atomic energy and computers and electronics. Until then its just coincidence or anecdotal data, not a real unifying theory.

Re:Heat and movement (1)

Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) | about 2 years ago | (#40208661)

In a pre-atomic era, there seems to be no rational way to avoid a frozen solid earth. Frozen solid = no movement.
wtf? Didn't they have volcanos back then?

I am old enough to remember when "the jury was still out" on continental drift. What convinced me as a teenager was that the S America and Africa coastlines match pretty accurately, even down to the kinds of rock. Claiming Wegener was just lucky just demonstrates your own ignorance as to how he assessed the evidence.
So, what's the story on Intelligent Design?

Re:Heat and movement (4, Funny)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#40209003)

Volcanoes were invented shortly after World War 2, following the demonstration by the crew of the Manhattan Project that it was possible to melt rock. They were so impressive that they were then retroactively added to various historical documents around the world, thru a combination of warp drive and continental drift.

Proof by analogy (2)

dtmos (447842) | about 2 years ago | (#40209587)

Volcanoes were invented shortly after World War 2, [. . .] they were then retroactively added to various historical documents around the world. . .

This wouldn't be the first time the past was revised in such a way. I present the non-obligatory non-XKCD link [multifamilyinvestor.com].

Re:Heat and movement (1)

green1 (322787) | about 2 years ago | (#40209163)

What convinced me as a teenager was that the S America and Africa coastlines match pretty accurately, even down to the kinds of rock.

And this is what surprises me about the whole thing. Until this article, I didn't realize that there had ever really been any controversy on this subject, (or at least none since the first published map of the world.) Even as a child in elementary school I had a map on my wall and the coast lines of not just South America and Africa, but many other places as well just seemed to mesh too well to be coincidence. Before anyone had told me about continental drift I had always assumed it to be the case just based on my map at home. Later as the geology and biology was explained to me it just confirmed what I already thought I knew. I'm honestly a bit perplexed that this should have been any more than a "well duh!" moment in science.

Re:Heat and movement (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209375)

So, what's the story on Intelligent Design?

Was that a serious question? If so. Not ID, but Creationism; you can pick your power as you wish, but I call it God. Anyway, on to continental drift...

Mainstream science is making the same mistake here as they've made repeatedly in other areas. They assume that the ratio of carbon isotopes has been constant throughout earth's history; whenever the earth starts a heating or cooling trend they assume it will continue on that trend indefinitely and they start screaming the sky is falling; and they assume that the continents have always been drifting at the same rate as they are today. Which, of course, is absurd. There must be some losses due to friction. It is vanishingly improbable that the system is in perfect harmony such that the energy driving the continents is exactly matched by the energy lost due to friction and heat of friction.

According to the ID model, there was a catastrophic event at some point in earth's history which broke up the landmass and started the continental drift. Whether that is a massive volcano eruption or an asteroid hit is beyond me, but it is assumed that things rapidly shifted to near their current states before friction and heat dissipated the massive amount of energy that was necessary to cause this. They have, ever since, been drifting gradually.

Creationism claims that this was the same event that triggered the worldwide flood described in Genesis. The heat would undoubtedly have caused accelerated evaporation and so it's not improbable that you'd get abnormally bad rain.

Anyway, that's it in a nutshell.

Re:Heat and movement (1)

el jocko del oeste (2450190) | about 2 years ago | (#40208677)

He was, of course, making irrational stuff up, that accidentally happened to turn out to be correct. Kind of like the ancient greek version of atomic theory.

If real, usable, economic warp speed spacecraft propulsion is ever invented, that doesn't mean the "star trek" writers should get credit.

I agree. And it's high time that we stopped giving Darwin credit for that evolution thing. He had no idea how it worked! Genes and DNA? He'd never heard of them.

Re:Heat and movement (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#40208719)

As others have said, he had some evidence, but not enough. He was not 'making stuff up', but he was making claims beyond what he could support at the time. He had a novel but implausible theory to explain certain facts that he had uncovered, but couldn't provide a mechanism to build a reasonably complete hypothesis.... so he jumped from A to C, which people were right to be skeptical of until enough pieces came together for a complete picture.

So like many things, the reality is somewhere between the two.... he was not just randomly or accidentally right, but nor was he an unsung genius who was being blocked by orthodoxy. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. He made an extraordinary claim but only had mundane evidence. Such cases do not mean the person is wrong, but if they claim to be right right then scientists should be skeptical.

Re:Heat and movement (4, Interesting)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 2 years ago | (#40209607)

Wegener actually proposed sea floor spreading. What was missing was the understanding of how plates act. Wegner's hypothesis, unsurprisingly given his career, had land masses acting like sheets of ice floating above rock, this wasn't indicated by the geology. Boundary ideas can be found in the 1920's. Many of the pieces of the puzzle of tectonics came together because of improved measurement, and improved understanding of the dynamics of large plates of rock. Wegener, not surprisingly given his work, looked at continental crust as floating on top of sea basalts – this was both a common view of the time, and in line with Wegener's artic experience of glaciers and ice sheets. It is this that really marks the difference between "continental drift" as a theory, which supposes that continents are "pushed" by some dynamic force, and plate tectonics, which sees plates as rising and being subducted. Improved seismology and sonar allowed for a more precise view of the earth in three dimensions.

The tectonic view is far more predictive of a wide range of phenomena, including gravity anomalies under mountain ranges, zones of vulcanism (e.g. the "ring of fire" around the pacific) and so on. Wegener's role in modern geology is somewhat similar to Lorentz' role in the development of relativity. The Lorentz contraction is an effect, but Lorentz was unable to place it within a theoretical framework which unified many other observations. Wegener did not unify the action of the mantle with the action of crust correctly. Lack of a mechanism does not stop us from studying, for example, Kepler or Newton. Newton offers no mechanism for gravitation, and Kepler no mechanism for his orbital dynamics.

Wegener died relatively young, in an attempt to save others in the arctic, and had the misfortune of being too far ahead of the available observations. He was, on a key point, simply wrong about basalt dynamics.

Re:Heat and movement (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#40208789)

He was, of course, making irrational stuff up, that accidentally happened to turn out to be correct.

Yep, he was totally making up the sea-shells found atop the highest mountains, and of course volcano's weren't invented a 100yrs ago.

Re:Heat and movement (4, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#40208837)

Making an observation that something appears to have happened, but failing to explain the mechanism for is not "making irrational stuff up". It's "presenting an hypothesis", which is part of the scientific method. It's an entirely different thing from imagining something fanciful out of nothing factual because you want it for a work of fiction. It's perfectly rational to say "we can't fathom why or how yet, but let's see if this might be true". For example, Newton didn't have any real explanation for what makes gravity work (nor did anyone else, for centuries), but his formulas describing his observations of orbital mechanics were genuine science being practiced, not "making irrational stuff up".

Re:Heat and movement (2)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 2 years ago | (#40208861)

Actually, it could be posited that Star Trek inspired many to go in to the space business, and thus, should warp travel be achieved, could deserve partial credit for helping to create the time stream that led there.

Re:Heat and movement (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#40208951)

In a pre-atomic era, there seems to be no rational way to avoid a frozen solid earth. Frozen solid = no movement.

Wouldn't hundreds of active volcanoes all over the Earth, spewing out liquid lava, be a pretty good counter-argument to the "frozen solid" theory?

I understand that people back then didn't understand why the interior of the Earth was molten, but it should have been pretty obvious that is was.

Re:Heat and movement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208973)

So.., despite his having had the courage and wherewithal to follow his instincts even when his peers bullied him.., when his instincts told him that something interesting was going on and in fact indicated an objective truth, he was according to you, still wrong because he couldn't explain the nature of that truth using the limited knowledge of the day? That simply because he couldn't explain what he was seeing, the truth had to remain officially false and the falsehood had to remain officially true?

That kind of behavior fits neatly into several definitions of insanity, where one is determining reality based on ego, on prior-held beliefs leading to, (and this is the big indicator), aggressive emotional attack and defense mechanisms springing up to protect the delusion.

True Science is all about observing, theorizing, testing and waiting to see. Not ridicule and name-calling. This world has seen a lot fewer real scientists than it has mean cowards in lab coats.

Comparing to Star Trek, which is making no assertions about what is real and what is not, (being a work of fiction), is obviously faulty logic. If you are using obviously faulty logic to press your point, then it indicates a problem with the way you allow your mind to function.

Ask yourself this: Is it possible that your own self-defense mechanisms have sprung into action?

The ego is a powerful and frightened creature which dominates nearly everything anybody ever does, and usually without one even being aware that it is happening.

Re:Heat and movement (1)

j-pimp (177072) | about 2 years ago | (#40208989)

He was, of course, making irrational stuff up, that accidentally happened to turn out to be correct. Kind of like the ancient greek version of atomic theory.

If real, usable, economic warp speed spacecraft propulsion is ever invented, that doesn't mean the "star trek" writers should get credit.

"Making stuff up" is an educated guess, or hypothesis. You can keep dividing matter into smaller and smaller pieces. Is that infinite or not? Saying "there must be atomic particles" is as educated a guess as "matter may be divided infinitesimally" if you know as much as the ancient Greeks. The same exists with continental drift. Look at a map and see that the continents kind of fit together like puzzles. Also note that sometime the earth shakes and bleeds (volcano's). So even without all the data and knowledge of fluid dynamics, you have a guess that makes as much sense as "the earth is static except for when it bleeds lava or shakes"

In the same sense, science fiction is based on science fact. Yes Gene Roddenberry did not produce any research to lead to FTL travel, but he certainly had some scientific knowledge on the matter

Re:Heat and movement (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#40209181)

If real, usable, economic warp speed spacecraft propulsion is ever invented, that doesn't mean the "star trek" writers should get credit.

Actually, it just might. That's how we got self-opening doors. When TOS came out and Disney was planning EPCOT, they saw Star Trek and their "imagineers" went to Paramount to find out how they accomplished it. They were discouraged when told that the "self operating" doors were opened and closed by stagehands, by hand. Less than ten years later they were on almost every grocery store.

I'd say that if someone came up with a way to warp spce, Star Trek should get some credit.

Oldest professor alive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208373)

So your professor must be what, 120 years old? Sounds like you've decided to personalize this one to suit your needs.

Oversimplified article: (5, Insightful)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#40208385)

Wegener's idea of continental drift was correct, but he didn't have a good mechanism for how these continents could plow through oceanic crust to move. That takes a massive force, and there wasn't enough energy to do it.

Later it was realized the continents were relatively light and floated atop moving plates. That provided a mechanism where the internal heat engine of the earth could provide enough energy to make them move.

It wasn't just stodginess that kept Wegener's idea from being accepted. It was also real physical objections. Until the 50s/60s and the discovery of seafloor spreading from the patterns of magnetisation in the seabed, the dynamics just didn't work out.

Now, in hindsight, it's "obvious". But it certainly wasn't at the time. The matching of geological features was intriguing, but without a mechanism for the continents moving, it couldn't overcome the objections.

Re:Oversimplified article: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208501)

Just like timecube!

Re:Oversimplified article: (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#40208939)

Science is a process, not the fact.
Real Scientist will follow the Scientific method, and based on the method it will either prove or disprove their hypothesis. For continental drift. You are going on the fact the contents would roughly fit together like a puzzle, so perhaps they were at one time put together. That is all fine and good, you now have model to base your hypothesis on. Now other then just a though experiment, you need to go to the next steps and try to prove your theory. If you are unable or unwilling to come up with tests, then you are not doing science, you are just blindly coming up with an idea. The fact your Hypothesis is correct or incorrect doesn't make it good science. Science is the process to strengthen or weaken or outright prove and disprove your argument.

Re:Oversimplified article: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209189)

It wasn't just stodginess that kept Wegener's idea from being accepted. It was also real physical objections.

No it wasn't. They were operating on an ages-old assumption about the Earth, and when presented with his evidence they could come up with no evidence to support their own solid-earth theory. However, they were operating as if the solid Earth theory was already established fact, and expected him to provide proof which is adequate to overcome established fact, instead of understanding that up until that point nobody had established jack shit. The refusal to accept that their own assumptions were not established scientifically is where they were being stodgy.

Continental Drift (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208399)

Sir Francis Bacon remarked in 1620 that it is no accident that the western and eastern hemispheres appear to fit together.

Because Wegener's original theory was wrong (3, Interesting)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40208401)

Continents don't "drift" on the ocean like Wegener imagined, rather the motion of continents is caused by continental and oceanic plates engaging in tectonic events.

Re:Because Wegener's original theory was wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208701)

I remember my geophysics instructor in 1961 stating that Professor Carey's publications should be filed under "Science Fiction". I have no doubt he changed his mind later, so I'll leave him (and me) anonymous.

Professor Carey published the very first paper about plate tectonics, in 1958.

Science should never be dogmatic (2)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | about 2 years ago | (#40208405)

What I find interesting about the account is the way a formerly iconoclastic scientist became part of the establishment that Wegener had to overcome:

Like Wegener, University of Chicago geologist Thomas C. Chamberlin had launched his career with an iconoclastic attack on establishment thinking....But he had also become besotted with his own theory of earthâ(TM)s origins, which treated the oceans and continents as fixed features.

Re:Science should never be dogmatic (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 2 years ago | (#40209333)

That happens all the time. Remember Einstein's resistance against quantum physics, even though his paper on the photoelectric effect was what started it.
Scientific revolutions don't happen by convincing people but when the old guard dies.

Just like global warming!@!@!!!!!!!!!@!@!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208419)

Global WARMing is a hoax! Same thing! Scientists are bullied to not talk about global warming.
The earth is not warming up. It is cosmic rays and sunpots!
Scientists are victimized!

Re:Just like global warming!@!@!!!!!!!!!@!@!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208687)

This has nothing to do with global warming, it is about evolution, which IS a hoax and a massive one at that. All the amazing evidence for creation has been systematically suppressed and the top knotch scientists that push the leading edge of creationist theory are shunned and discredited by the powerful liberal elite academics who control our institutions.

Re:Just like global warming!@!@!!!!!!!!!@!@!! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208757)

Your analogy is bad. Man-caused global warming has been around as a theory for a very long time. It's something that climatologists are split on whether or not its happening. Most on both sides say it's way too early to make any predictions about, since wide variations happen over short time frames, which are long time frames by todays standards.

The reason that global warming is talked about so much is not because of scientists, but because of politicians. Remember that Al Gore said that our last chance to stop it was "now" because if we wait until 2000, it would be too late. If we didn't get rid of oil based methods of transportation by 2000, nothing would matter any more. His book outright stated that we would all be better off if we just buried our cars. After that didn't happen, he then formally changed his prediction to say that the North 'polarized' (sic) ice cap would be gone in 2009.

The hype from politicians has sold. Most people believe in this pseudo-science today. I think this article is a good reminder that things that seem obvious to some people today may seem silly years later.

I can't count how many friends of mine have replaced their 4-year old washing machine with a new piece of crap with thinner metal parts, just because it claimed to be more efficient, and the consumer wanted to spend their money to "save the environment". The result is that we have 3x as many washing machines entering our landfills each year, compared to the past. Cash for Clunkers [wikipedia.org] was another perfect example of increased consumerism in the guise of saving the environment. This type of idiocy has to stop.

Someone is probably going to tell me to "not feed the trolls", and they're probably right.

Pseudoscience? (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#40208429)

I believe the term "Pseudoscience" is reserved for "not even wrong" type things. The scientists of the era considered him incorrect in his conclusions, not pseudoscientific.

Re:Pseudoscience? (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 2 years ago | (#40209663)

I wish I could mod this up to +6: insightful

The scientific method is based on the idea that you create theories, present them to the world who tear the theory apart and examine it, then create better theories if they can. Putting forward a new theory that gets challenged, argued over and torn apart is not pseudoscience.

Re:Pseudoscience? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#40209767)

The scientific method is based on the idea that you create theories, present them to the world who tear the theory apart and examine it, then create better theories if they can. Putting forward a new theory that gets challenged, argued over and torn apart is not pseudoscience.

I agree entirely. I think even among people who like science, there's a lack of appreciation for the philosophy of science and the value of wrongness. In fact, even in the scientific community, we don't dedicate enough effort to assuming hypotheses might be wrong. Confirmation bias is a harsh mistress and we don't do enough to fight her.

Exoplanets (1)

Froeschle (943753) | about 2 years ago | (#40208435)

I am not an astonomer, but I seem to recall much debate regarding the the very existence of exoplanets. Now we take their existence for granted even though they are difficult to detect. I always wondered why there was even any debate regarding the subject? Why did scientists even bothering with that particular argument?

Re:Exoplanets (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208659)

Why did scientists go down that road? An old and decidedly not funny joke is helpful:

Three scientists were walking near the lab where they worked during lunch one day.

One pointed to an animal on a nearby hillside and said, "Gee, I didn't know there were black sheep around here."

The second said, "Don't jump to conclusions -- all you've seen is ONE black sheep, so you don't know if there are others."

The third said, "Don't jump to conclusions about that one sheep. So far, all you've seen is one side of one sheep that appears to be black from this distance."

In short, scientists have to be this fussy about reading things into data, even when the conclusions they reach were "obvious" to lay people (like me) much earlier.

Re:Exoplanets (1)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | about 2 years ago | (#40208919)

Newton, in his quest to "learn more about our Creator", came to the conclusion that we must assume other stars out there have their own systems of planets in orbit. That was the 18th century, and it has been the pervasive theory since then.

I do remember there being a lot of discussion about "Planet X" [wikipedia.org], when I was young, though. It was stated to be a large planet, beyond the reaches of Pluto, capable of sustaining life, and harboring aliens. Of course, this is just one of the craziest of the many theories surrounding the mythical planet. Several people had devoted their lives to searching for this mythical planet, while others claimed that we had the science to disprove the existence of any large planets in our system beyond Pluto's range. This may be what you were thinking of.

Those who claimed that undiscovered planets larger than Pluto did not exist were partially right and partially wrong. Eris [wikipedia.org] (originally named Xena, to go with the whole 'X' motif) is 27% more massive than Pluto. In a twist of irony, though, neither Eris or Pluto are officially planets today, though. So in a way, the pseudo-experts of my youth were technically accurate.

Re:Exoplanets (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 2 years ago | (#40209023)

I seem to recall much debate regarding the the very existence of exoplanets.

I don't, and I'm seventy years old. Do you have a citation for that?

In the Fifties there were a number of claimed detections of exoplanets, and those met with entirely valid rejection because the means of detection weren't up to it. The astrophysics community wasn't saying "There's nothing there" -- it was saying "You haven't demonstrated a statistically valid pattern in all that noise."

Wegener was right and wrong (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208497)

Wegener was correct about the continents moving around, and amassed plenty of evidence that the continents were once grouped together into the supercontinent of Pangaea (e.g., similar land animals and plants in rocks of the Carboniferous and Permian on continents now separated by wide oceans). But he was completely wrong about the mechanism. He proposed that the continents were plowing through the ocean crust kind of like icebergs floating on the sea, but when you work out the physics of that situation, the ocean crust is too strong to allow that to happen (continental lithosphere is too weak, and you'd crush them before being able to push them through the oceanic lithosphere even if a suitable force were applied). So, without a valid mechanism that made physical sense, geologists rejected his model. Plate tectonics didn't originate until the 1960s or 1970s when people realized that, essentially, the oceanic lithosphere was moving along with the continents, being formed at mid-oceanic ridges and destroyed at subduction zones, so the physical problems with Wegener's original continental drift no longer applied. People often think continental drift and plate tectonics are the same theory, but they are fairly different. The largely rejected original theory transformed into the new, modern one. Wegener still deserves a lot of credit for bringing together the evidence that the Earth's surface really did move, and by the 1970s that motion was directly measurable. It's pretty cool to imagine that every year the distance between, say, Europe and North America, gets a few cm longer.

Re:Wegener was right and wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209481)

It's pretty cool to imagine that every year the distance between, say, Europe and North America, gets a few cm longer.

Don't let the airlines find out, or we will start paying the Continental Drift fee, to account for the extra fuel needed.

predictive modeling and pseudoscience (1, Insightful)

gadget junkie (618542) | about 2 years ago | (#40208513)

I sensed, more than saw, a comparison between global warming and Wegener's model. In my opinion that would be far fetched, because no one had a penny in Wegener's theory, whilst global warming has spawned an "industry" across accademia, manufacturing, tax farming that only in Italy, where I leave, is worth 110 Bn Euros a year, and in Germany approximately twice that.

Re:predictive modeling and pseudoscience (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 2 years ago | (#40209067)

whilst global warming has spawned an "industry"

...which is in direct competition with the fossil fuels industry for the same dollars.

Re:predictive modeling and pseudoscience (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209657)

Don't mix politics with science.

Anthropological Global Warming (AGW) is a scientific theory, that has been shown to be quite correct over last number of decades.

Carbon taxes, crap and trade, green subsidies, etc. are ALL political inventions about how to *fix*, which generally involve funneling money into their pork spending projects.

Personally, I believe revenue neutral carbon taxes are the only way to go. Subsidies for specific "green" industries are just a plan for an economic boondoggle of historic proportions.

Anywa,y AGW just tells you the earth is warning because of sequestered carbon emissions back into the carbon cycle. This simply means reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuels will stop AGW from progressing. But how this is achieved is politics, not science.

A point of caution (4, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about 2 years ago | (#40208633)

I understand and very much appreciate the point of the article.

A similar situation happened, as I understand it, with the idea that ulcers were caused by h.pylori - a huge level of institutional resistance to a clever new insight, eventually realized to be true to the point of "how did we not see how obvious this was"? Heck, germ theory itself and the idea of sterilization fought the same uphill battle.

Nevertheless, when reading the always-popular stories about the "outsiders" with the "radical" new theory fighting uphill to achieve fame and ultimate confirmation and vindication, it's always important to keep in mind that this DOESN'T imply any sort of validation for every crackpot theory that's out there. There are a lot of very, very stupid ideas that are reviled BECAUSE they're wrong.

Being very self-assured and certain you're right has nothing to do with actually being right. Life isn't a storybook. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. In the case of the OP, it took the discovery of evidence that made the energy-level math work out. Before that, even though the theory (today) seems to be right, it was CORRECT that mainstream science rejected it until it was supportable.

Sometimes you might have a great idea, and you might even be right, but it may take longer than your lifetime for it to finally be proved.

Re:A point of caution (2)

Jiro (131519) | about 2 years ago | (#40208947)

The ulcers story is in fact another example where the outsiders with the radical new theory really weren't. There was a Skeptical Inquirer article which fortunately was on the web.

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bacteria_ulcers_and_ostracism_h._pylori_and_the_making_of_a_myth/ [csicop.org]

Summary:
-- research studies take time. Given this, scientists accepted the theory reasonably fast.
-- the scientist who tested the theory on himself didn't develop an ulcer.
-- existing non-antibiotic treatments did work, though they were not as good at preventing recurrences.

Re:A point of caution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208961)

One step further. I think every new theory SHOULD be highly questioned. They may be right, but the overwhelming burden of proof is upon the new theory, before it gains mainstream acceptance. So, in this case, science worked out correctly. Poo poo a new theory. New theory gets more evidence to be compelling. New theory is accepted theory. Accepted theory becomes old theory. New theory arises. Poo poo new theory. Repeat process.

Re:A point of caution (1)

swell (195815) | about 2 years ago | (#40209005)

Well this gives me hope that my theory will be accepted in my lifetime. I can't yet prove that zombies are visitors from our own future or that they evolved due to excessive use of facebook, twitter and cell phones. I'm getting pressure from certain manufacturers and service providers who conspire to dumb down the masses. I hope to survive the threats and innuendo long enough to see acceptance of my theory and a revival of good healthy Old Time Radio.

Re:A point of caution (2)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | about 2 years ago | (#40209237)

"They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." -- Carl Sagan

Re:A point of caution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209291)

Nevertheless, when reading the always-popular stories about the "outsiders" with the "radical" new theory fighting uphill to achieve fame and ultimate confirmation and vindication, it's always important to keep in mind that this DOESN'T imply any sort of validation for every crackpot theory that's out there. There are a lot of very, very stupid ideas that are reviled BECAUSE they're wrong.

Pejorative terms indicate emotional involvement and bias. This is the first step away from being able to perform clean science.

Being very self-assured and certain you're right has nothing to do with actually being right. Life isn't a storybook. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

What's wrong with plain, old "proof"? Why does it have to be affixed with another emotionally active term like "extraordinary"?

In the case of the OP, it took the discovery of evidence that made the energy-level math work out. Before that, even though the theory (today) seems to be right, it was CORRECT that mainstream science rejected it until it was supportable.

"Rejection" is a strong term, and again it indicates emotional thinking.

Mainstream science was not, I think, correct to reject it, as they continued to labor under the misapprehension that they had the right answers when in truth they did not. The correct course of action would have been to say, "Interesting. Your observations, while they do not fit our current understanding, are nonetheless intriguing, suggesting that there is something we don't know. Since we know that we don't know everything, let's put this one in the pot and think about it all some more."

Emotionalism and herd-like fear of rejection, (something which geeks in this day and age are particularly afflicted with, thanks to the whole jocks & cheerleaders paradigm in the school system), is the bane of science.

You may call it "Continental Drift" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208679)

But I call it Pangaean genocide.

Does anyone else find it highly improbable... (0)

thepainguy (1436453) | about 2 years ago | (#40208783)

...that all the continents were lumped together into one big continent?

I'm no geologist, but that doesn't seem to pass the sniff test.

I'm not saying that continental drift didn't occur, but I have a hard time believing that everything started out as one giant continent (given the current state of affairs, for one thing).

Re:Does anyone else find it highly improbable... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40209187)

I find it incredible that people will swallow ideas like there's a big sky daddy who will answer prayers but won't accept ideas that are based on careful work and lots of documented evidence.

Re:Does anyone else find it highly improbable... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 2 years ago | (#40209213)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercontinent_cycle [wikipedia.org]

It's happened not once, but several times. You're right, it would be highly unlikely that all the continents were lumped together one and only one time, and then assumed their current fairly scatted forms. Instead, they keep merging together and then breaking apart.

Re:Does anyone else find it highly improbable... (1)

amoeba1911 (978485) | about 2 years ago | (#40209311)

The mid-ocean ridges, the fossils, and the myriad of other evidence discovered fits pangaea theory like a glove.

So was every other theory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208809)

>Continental Drift Was Considered Pseudoscience

So was Einstein's and Copernicus theories. Copernicus looked at the prevaling theories at the time and thought they didn't make sense. It was more intuitive to think of the sun as the center of the solar system. He then went out to try and prove his theory. (A history of science will show that that's how most scientific discovery is made.) Imagine how terrible it would have been had we demanded that his theories stand to rigid scientific theory while he was still developing his ideas. In today's scientific climate, he would be a laughing stock.

We tend to treat bourgening theories that compete or don't quite fit with our current world view as nearly herectical. (And don't think that because we don't burn people at the stake that we don't treat them as heritics. The fact that we don't follow such pratices is more a quality of modern day society than anything else. We punish the people as severily as society will allow.) Slashdot is particularily guilty of this, which is unfortunate because that is the process by which truly paradigm shattering science comes to be.

Re:So was every other theory... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 2 years ago | (#40209579)

So was Einstein's and Copernicus theories.

Einstein's work was never considered pseudoscience by those knowledgeable in the field. I really wish people would stop repeating this myth. Relativity theory was groundbreaking, to be sure, but both special and general relativity were widely accepted within a few years of publication because they so neatly solved so many problems which had been bugging so many physicists. It seems we're so wedded to the story of "great scientist mocked by his peers but vindicated by history" that we tell that story about every famous genius, even those to whom it doesn't apply -- while, sadly, nearly forgetting many to whom it does, including Wegener.

As for Copernicus, the idea of "science" in the modern sense didn't really exist in the 1500s, so "pseudoscience" didn't either. The objections to heliocentricity, and to the nature of Copernicus' investigations, were entirely religious in nature; scientific debate, as we would understand it today, never even entered into it.

Intelligent Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208849)

Ha, now all you slashdotters beating up on ID will be eating your words when it becomes the foundation of modern evolutionary theory!

Re:Intelligent Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209177)

what does identification have to do with evolution?

Gaia Today (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 2 years ago | (#40208851)

It's the same thing that is happening with the Gaia Hypothesis today. Rejected by both biologists and geologists without examination (based on popular mis-stated re-interpretations of the book). The most useless criticism I've heard from Biology--the Science--is that there is no control mechanism.

But apparently there is a control mechanism (called DNA) for single cells, grouped cells such as lichens, multicellular animals (DNA controls the individual cells AND the multiple cell reproduction), trees (which include individual cells, leaves and constructed spaces such as sap tubes) and wolves, including their pack behavior. But DNA cannot control anything larger such as Gaia. Demonstrates to me the myopia written about in Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolution.

Read The Gaia Hypothesis yourself if you consider yourself a scientist.

Re:Gaia Today (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 2 years ago | (#40209461)

Part of the problem is that the "Gaia hypothesis" is misnamed; it's not a single hypothesis to be tested. Obviously there exist regulatory feedback cycles within the environment; the question is how strong those feedback cycles are. If you want to think of the entire planet as a single self-regulating organism, you certainly can, but it really doesn't change the nature of the investigation into how specific parts of it work.

WHEN SLASHDOT WAS CONSIDER NEWS FOR NERDS !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208901)

Now it's just plageristic spiel-drivel !!

Expanding Earth Theory (1, Interesting)

bhlowe (1803290) | about 2 years ago | (#40208935)

And now Expanding Earth Theory [expanding-earth.org] is considered pseudo-science...

I am not a geologist, but I find it a pretty interesting theory.. and the author makes a good case.. The site is interesting reading and is a good example of thinking outside the conventional norms. And is also another example of scientists ridiculing a theory while (seemingly?) failing to debunk it.

Re:Expanding Earth Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209453)

Don't give this cocksmoker any traffic. If you want to know about this theory, start with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expanding_Earth

Summary:
"There are 3 forms of the expanding earth hypothesis.

        Earth's mass has remained constant, and thus the gravitational pull at the surface has decreased over time;
        Earth's mass has grown with the volume in such a way that the surface gravity has remained constant;
        Earth's gravity at its surface has increased over time, in line with its hypothesized growing mass and volume;

Current Status of Acceptance:

- Measurements with modern high-precision geodetic techniques show that the Earth is not currently increasing in size to within a measurement accuracy of 0.2 mm per year. The lead author of the study stated "Our study provides an independent confirmation that the solid Earth is not getting larger at present, within current measurement uncertainties".

- Mass accretion on a scale required to change the Earth's radius is contradicted by the current accretion rate of the Earth, and by the Earth's average internal temperature: any accretion releases a lot of energy, which would warm the planet's interior.

- Expanding Earth models based on thermal expansion contradict most modern principles from rheology, and fail to provide an acceptable explanation for the proposed melting and phase transitions.

- Examinations of data from the Paleozoic and Earth's moment of inertia suggest that there has been no significant change of earth's radius in the last 620 million years.

Now, go shill somewhere else.

But they got it right, in the end (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208941)

Everyone likes to point out how the scientists originally objected to this idea. But that's how the process works-- they shoot everybody down, and the ones that turn out to be bulletproof get to come join them. You've got to compare this to every other institution on the planet: the Democrats? The Catholics? the Star Trek fans? Who else has a mechanism in place that allows them to change their views as new information comes to light? Only the scientists. And that's why science is so damn successful at the real world.

Unscientific Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40208985)

I interviewed Dr. William Glen, Historian of Science and Editor at Large of the Stanford University Press. In this video interview Dr. Glen discusses 'how science works in a crisis' and the how the scientific community finally converged on the continental drift theory. It's fascinating to learn how learning disabled science can be. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7JNssOvy14&list=PL688CCE896D05286B

Good Try (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209037)

I always love it when somebody whose pet theory of the day is rejected by science exclaims, "b.. b.. but other theories were rejected too." The implication being that their cockamamie pseudoscience is correct, but that they're just the "victim" of science too ... just like plate tectonics. The article makes no mention of the entire basis of Wegener's theory - that it was aerodynamics that pushed continents around - probably because it was pseudoscientific bullshit. An article showing how the scientific community rightly rejected an incorrect theory doesn't serve the same ends, does it?

I remember (3, Interesting)

boristdog (133725) | about 2 years ago | (#40209077)

My sister's science fair project in 1972 was on "continental drift" and she had to add "theory" to the title because several of the district science fair judges did not believe that it could possibly be true.

"He was, of course, right." (1)

MYakus (1625537) | about 2 years ago | (#40209089)

The arrogant phrasing of that statement is no different from anyone in the past who made similar statements. Anyone foolish enough to make a categorical statement about a theory (even one that the evidence suggests is true) is open to derision in the next century. Now, let's get back to global warming, global cooling, and the Mayan calendar.

scientific method (1)

Zobeid (314469) | about 2 years ago | (#40209265)

The scientific method as I was taught...

        observe a phenomenon
        repeat
                devise a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon
                test the hypothesis
        until( the hypothesis is proven )
        adopt the proven hypothesis as theory

What sometimes happens...

        observe a phenomenon
        repeat
                disregard or explain away the phenomenon
        until( it just can't be ignored any more )
        repeat
                repeat
                        devise a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon
                        attack the credibility of the researcher who proposed the hypothesis
                until( everyone fears even being associated with this field of study )
        until( all the old guys have died off )
        repeat
                devise a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon
                test the hypothesis
        until( the hypothesis is proven )
        adopt the proven hypothesis as theory

Why did continental drift not disalign pyramids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40209585)

Some suggestions were submitted by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 24, @03:17PM

- http://science.slashdot.org/submission/1993063/why-did-the-continental-drift-not-disalign-the-pyramids-in-africa

What's the favorite of /. folks, or are there better and more funny suggestions.

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