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Preposterous! It Cannot Be Done! It’s Impossible!

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posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 12:16 PM
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We live in a technological society that many of us could not have imagined when we were younger. Indeed, what the younger generations now take for granted, many in my age group and older considered fantastical at best. Science fiction was fantasy and not to be taken seriously or considered plausible, but here we are in the 21rst century, and so many myths and misconceptions have been shattered, yet I still here echoes of the past in modern voices. It seems that every generation has those who see only boundaries...

“There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” Erroneously attributed to Lord Kelvin circa 1900.

...those who see only possibilities...

“Fields of learning are surrounded ultimately only by illusory boundaries—like the “rooms” in a hall of mirrors.It is when the illusion is penetrated that progress takes place.” William S. Beck 1957

...and those with insight.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler

Lets take a brief look at what was once thought impossible by the brilliant minds of their day...

Analysing the stars:

In his 1842 book The Positive Philosophy, the French philosopher Auguste Comte wrote of the stars: “We can never learn their internal constitution, nor, in regard to some of them, how heat is absorbed by their atmosphere.” In a similar vein, he said of the planets: “We can never know anything of their chemical or mineralogical structure; and, much less, that of organized beings living on their surface.” Ironically, the discovery that would prove Comte wrong had already been made. In the early 19th century, William Hyde Wollaston and Joseph von Fraunhofer independently discovered that the spectrum of the Sun contained a great many dark lines.


The existence of meteorites:

Throughout the Renaissance and the early development of modern science, astronomers refused to accept the existence of meteorites. The idea that stones could fall from space was regarded as superstitious and possibly heretical – surely God would not have created such an untidy universe? The French Academy of Sciences famously stated that “rocks don’t fall from the sky”. It was not until 1794 that Ernst Chladni, a physicist known mostly for his work on vibration and acoustics, published a book in which he argued that meteorites came from outer space.


Heavier than air flight:

The number of scientists and engineers who confidently stated that heavier-than-air flight was impossible in the run-up to the Wright brothers’ flight is too large to count. Lord Kelvin is probably the best-known. In 1895 he stated that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”, only to be proved definitively wrong just eight years later.


Space flight:

From atmospheric flight, to space flight. The idea that we might one day send any object into space, let alone put men into orbit, was long regarded as preposterous. The problem was effectively cracked in the early 20th century by two rocket researchers working independently – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Robert Goddard. Tsiolkovsky’s work was ignored outside the USSR, while Goddard withdrew from the public gaze after scathing criticism of his ideas.


Nuclear energy:

On 29 December 1934, Albert Einstein was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying, “There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” This followed the discovery that year by Enrico Fermi that if you bombard uranium with neutrons, the uranium atoms split up into lighter elements, releasing energy. ...on August 6 1945 the first atomic bomb used aggressively exploded over Hiroshima. Ironically, Fleet Admiral William Leahy allegedly told President Truman: “This is the biggest fool thing we’ve ever done – the bomb will never go off – and I speak as an expert on explosives.”


Wireless communications:

In 1926 Nikola Tesla said in an interview “When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face...”


and in 1953...


The list could go on for volumes. I can't count the times I have read that something is impossible just because our present understanding of physics says it ain't so and can't be so. Interstellar travel for instance, was renounced vehemently in a recent thread. Really!? And cars will never displace the horse and carriage.
Granted, at our present level of understanding and technology, interstellar travel is unlikely for the foreseeable future, but so were a lot of other things that were "impossible", and have now been accomplished. Barring a cataclysm that resets our species back to square one again, I suspect we will not only exceed our current understanding of physics by light years (pardon the pun), but we will achieve the presently impossible even if it takes centuries to do it. Humans have always striven to do the difficult now, and the impossible a little later on.

“You know that it is quite preposterous of you to chase rainbows,” said the sane person to the poet. “Yet it would be rather beautiful if I did one day manage to catch one,” mused the poet. TWH Crosland 1907-08


Sources:
10 impossibilities
Tesla
Lord Kelvin

edit on 2/16/2020 by Klassified because: (no reason given)




posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 12:30 PM
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a reply to: Klassified


The number of scientists and engineers who confidently stated that heavier-than-air flight was impossible in the run-up to the Wright brothers’ flight is too large to count. Lord Kelvin is probably the best-known. In 1895 he stated that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”, only to be proved definitively wrong just eight years later.


I never understood this. Birds are heavier than air. Even flying insects are. The air was filled with heavier than air objects flying around. Yet heavier than air flight is impossible.


“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler


This is true. The majority of people walk around with a device in their pocket with access to most of the knowledge of our entire species yet write it off as just a “phone”. And view it as such. When it’s really one of the most revolutionary things in history.

Another one of those cases where people allow the definition of something to limit it.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 12:34 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

That's good stuff!

I find it truly fascinating what some people believe is and isn't possible.

It does bother me when I see something being pushed as the future when it is at its physical limit already... Like solar panels and chemical batteries.

Discovery in physics and chemistry are where the future must be found.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 12:54 PM
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originally posted by: Bluntone22
a reply to: Klassified

It does bother me when I see something being pushed as the future when it is at its physical limit already... Like solar panels and chemical batteries.


lol Cute joke.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 01:06 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

Yeah...
Solar is a joke



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 01:23 PM
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Even nothing is possible but only when you believe it.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 01:33 PM
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originally posted by: underwerks
I never understood this. Birds are heavier than air. Even flying insects are. The air was filled with heavier than air objects flying around. Yet heavier than air flight is impossible.


Afaik what was very much doubted was the possibility of building a powered heavier than air aircraft, not heavier than air flight itself.

zapatopi.net...

"No; I think it cannot be done. No balloon and no aeroplane will ever be practically successful."

"But, Lord Kelvin, you remember the experiments of the German, Lindenthal, who used a gliding machine, starting from an elevation and riding down the slope of the air?"

"Yes, but Lindenthal simply threw away his life. He was killed during his experiments, and later on another gentleman who had undertaken the same sort of flying also sacrificed his life. They both threw away their lives without any possibility of success in what they were undertaking to do."

"Then it would appear that, in your opinion, we have no hope of solving the problem of aerial navigation in any way?"

"No; I do not think there is any hope. Neither the balloon, nor the aeroplane, nor the gliding machine will be a practical success. The balloon is the best of all."

edit on 16-2-2020 by moebius because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 01:49 PM
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a reply to: Klassified


The number of scientists and engineers who confidently stated that heavier-than-air flight was impossible in the run-up to the Wright brothers’ flight is too large to count. Lord Kelvin is probably the best-known. In 1895 he stated that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”, only to be proved definitively wrong just eight years later.



originally posted by: underwerks
I never understood this. Birds are heavier than air. Even flying insects are. The air was filled with heavier than air objects flying around. Yet heavier than air flight is impossible.


You're right, the quote doesn't make any sense so some context is missing, because this quote wasn't found in a search of contemporary newspaper articles etc:

Lord Kelvin Quotations

"I can state flatly that heavier than air flying machines are impossible." [Note: this quote is widely circulated, especially among self-help gurus, motivational speakers, and the like, but a newspaper archive search and Google book search shows no hits published during Kelvin's lifetime.]


On the other hand, this contradicting quote was found from lord Kelvin:

Some day, no doubt, some one will invent a flying machine that one will be able to navigate without having to have a balloon attachment.


So I think some context is missing when the verified quote contradicts the quote that has not been verified.

a reply to: Klassified

I can't count the times I have read that something is impossible just because our present understanding of physics says it ain't so and can't be so. Interstellar travel for instance, was renounced vehemently in a recent thread. Really!?


You're mixing up apples and oranges here. You're quoting Kelvin's opinion, with no calculations to back it up, and then we see in a contradicting, verified quote he actually said "Some day, no doubt, some one will invent a flying machine that one will be able to navigate without having to have a balloon attachment." So this indicates he wasn't as clueless as your opening post tries to suggest.

More importantly, we can point to one of the most heavily tested models and the equations which support it as reasons why faster than light travel may not be possible. There could be some loopholes, like the Alcubierre warp drive, but that requires a type of exotic matter so we would have to discover that, or use some other loophole. But unless we find a loophole it's pretty hard to dismiss relativity, and just because some people were wrong in the past doesn't necessarily mean anything is possible.

Could our models be wrong and could we come up with new models? Yes to the latter, but any new model will have to do an equal or better job of matching observations as the existing models, so this is a very tight constraint that some people might not appreciate unless they are familiar with the incredible body of experimental knowledge which exists. It's not just incrementally larger than in Kelvin's time, the growth is nearly exponential.

Whether this is precisely accurate, I can't say, but I can say the general trend is there and the level of knowledge today and knowledge growth dwarfs Lord Kelvin's time.

The Knowledge Explosion


Notice as knowledge is growing by leaps and bounds the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics have found more confirmation. We may in fact find new and better theories to replace those, but they cannot be completely different theories because they will still have to match all known observations which already support those two models, which are very extensive.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 02:29 PM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur
Thanks for the clarification on Lord Kelvin. I tried to verify some of these quotes but missed that one. I appreciate the correction.

I am not comparing apples and oranges. You seemed to have missed the point of the OP in your zeal to correct an oversight on my part which I have acknowledged, and again I say, Thank you.
This statement...


I can't count the times I have read that something is impossible just because our present understanding of physics says it ain't so and can't be so. Interstellar travel for instance, was renounced vehemently in a recent thread. Really!?

...was not aimed at Lord Kelvin specifically. It was a general statement encompassing the OP as a whole.

You seem to think I am attacking our sciences overall. Quite the opposite, I am championing our sciences for what has been accomplished, and adding that what makes science stagnant is lack of vision, imagination, and arrogance. Our history is replete with academic fallacies and denials of new ideas that did not fit the scientific consensus of the day. Thankfully, we have always had visionaries who saw the possibilities instead of the boundaries. We have come to this point in our understanding because of those people, not in spite of them.
edit on 2/16/2020 by Klassified because: corrections and more corrections



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 03:31 PM
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originally posted by: Bluntone22
a reply to: schuyler

Yeah...
Solar is a joke


To think we've reached the LIMITS of solar is the joke.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 03:40 PM
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originally posted by: schuyler

originally posted by: Bluntone22
a reply to: schuyler

Yeah...
Solar is a joke


To think we've reached the LIMITS of solar is the joke.


Not really.
The efficiency of silicone solar cells is mostly maxed out.
Thats why I said in my first post that new discoveries in physics and chemistry are The next step.


ieeexplore.ieee.org...
edit on 16-2-2020 by Bluntone22 because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 03:52 PM
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Here's a few good ones:


“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
— Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
— Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 04:08 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

Don't forget the flip side of that argument too. Today's devices use less power than before. Incandescent lights giving way to LEDs and other power saving improvements too. Flat screens replacing picture tubes and such. When wind/solar becomes a practicable way to power a house it will also be because the load needing the power will be much smaller by then.

I just don't see a way around powering AC, water heaters, refrigerators, and furnaces though. But improvements are being made there too.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 04:48 PM
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Well, it's easy enough to find opinions from people in the past who were wrong about things. And occasionally somebody will make a lucky guess about some technical advances in the future. We can only extrapolate from what we know now. So there's a spectrum of guesses. Yes, one guy guesses correctly about cell phones, but there's also not a flying car in every garage. That didn't happen.

And as hard as he worked on it, Edison never invented a phone that could contact the dead. We can call that "impossible" if we want.

So there are limitations. There are laws of physics where the fundamentals of spacetime reach a breaking point where maybe we can invent something like warp speed, for instance, but because of the energy required -- harnessing the power of a galaxy, perhaps -- they're practically impossible. Unless we go through a paradigm shift and start our math and physics and chemistry over from scratch. Only crackpots want to do that.

It's disengenuous to say that nothing is technologically impossible based on inaccurate predictions of the future. You have to start with the limits as we know them now and see if there's a way around them. You also have to recognize when someone in the past has predicted a limit or failure and they were absolutely right.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 05:53 PM
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money can drive about anything, but can it get a person to help another, to show common decency, be kind, not kill.

So you really think we will find something with enough energy to play Star Trek? Maybe a time machine?
Deny reality for science fiction? There is a line, don’t know what it is



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 06:02 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

Oh Really ? What lies Beyond " Carbon Fiber " as a New Building Material ? A Certain Form of Glass Maybe ?....Hmm....



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 06:06 PM
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originally posted by: Raggedyman
There is a line, don’t know what it is

I think it's that fuzzy area between hard reality and stuff like consciousness. Thanks to science we know a lot about levers and sending little bits of electricity through the air and wires, but we basically don't understand diddly about the human mind. So I would say at this point that it's probably impossible to transfer a real human consciousness into a machine. And we'll likely never create a device that enhances our telepathy enough to be used as a practical form of communication. There are a couple of impossible things right there.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 06:07 PM
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originally posted by: Zanti Misfit
a reply to: Klassified

Oh Really ? What lies Beyond " Carbon Fiber " as a New Building Material ? A Certain Form of Glass Maybe ?....Hmm....

Metallic hydrogen.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 06:39 PM
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a reply to: Zanti Misfit

Transparent aluminum.



posted on Feb, 16 2020 @ 06:45 PM
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a reply to: Blue Shift

Just eluding to the line between science fiction and real possibility
Time travel, worm holes, warp drives, imaginations or achievables?



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