I love science. I love the fact that there is so much to learn and that new discoveries lead to more questions, which will lead to more discoveries.
If you love science as much as me, then 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense written by the brilliant Michael Brooks is one you should read.
The book looks at 13 anomalies in science that are counter-intuitive to what the science in those fields states.
We tend to think of science as having all the answers, but this book reveals that is definitely not the case. Depending on your point of view, that may be reassuring or frightening.
The things that don’t make sense range from only being able to account for 4 per cent of the universe to whether we have free will or not.
It should be noted that since the book was published in 2008, one of the curiosities, the Pioneer Anomaly has since been solved. However, the other ones still cause baffle scientists to this day.
It’s an eye-opening and thought-provoking read and one that will leave you contemplating just how much of the world we truly understand.
Table of Contents
13 Things That Don’t Make Sense summary
Takeaway 1 – Most of the universe is missing
This may seem like an odd thing to say, but it’s true.
Let me explain:
I don’t mean that part of the universe is literally missing, it’s there. A part hasn’t disappeared into a wormhole and vanished. What I’m referring to is how much of the universe we can account for in scientific terms.
So far, physicists are able to account for 4% of the cosmos. That is a remarkable figure when you think about it. For all the progress science has made over the years, Newton’s laws and Einstein’s theory of relativity, we still can’t account for 96% of the universe.
It’s a staggering statistic!
All the stars, planets and galaxies that we see account for the 4% we understand. The rest consists of material that astronomers can’t see, comprehend or detect.
This may sound like a gross failure on the part of the scientists, but it’s a phenomenal opportunity.
They have an idea of what it might be made of, but they are not certain. Dark energy and dark matter are the terms used to describe the missing 96% of the cosmos. It’s far too complicated to go into detail about it here, but dark matter and dark energy play a fundamental role in the workings of the universe.
We just don’t know what they are made of, or whether they exist at all. It’s a fascinating thought that the majority of the universe is beyond comprehension and just goes to show how much progress we have to make in spite of the strides we have already made.
Takeaway 2 – We may have made contact with aliens
One of the fundamental things that could change humanity in the coming years, decades or centuries is contact with another species. As far as we are aware, we are the only intelligent life form in the universe.
Despite all the UFO sightings around the globe and probes sent into the far reaches of our solar system, we have come into contact with any little green men. However, they may have made contact with us!
On 5 August 1977, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman was going through his usual routine of monitoring the Big Ear radio telescope for the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project. After an ordinary shift, he chalked it down as another day without contact, packed up his stuff and went home.
A few days later, he was checking the recorded data, when he came across an anomaly that impressed him so much that he circled it and wrote wow next to it.
It turns out that on that day in August, the Big Ear had picked up an unusual signal from the direction of the Sagitarrius constellation that had all the expected hallmarks of extraterrestrial communication.
The wow signal, as it has come to be known, lasted for 72 seconds and is the best candidate for contact with an alien civilisation that we currently have.
There’s just one problem:
Despite attempts to subsequently detect the signal, none have been successful. It’s unclear whether this was an alien communication, or whether it came from man-made sources.
We may never know the origin of the signal, but despite our best efforts, we are no closer to deducing where it came from or finding a similar signal.
What it does tell us though, is that we should continue searching. The universe is a vast place and the odds that we are alone are slim.
To find other intelligent life in the universe, would forever change what it means to be human.
Takeaway 3 – Science is in a constant state of flux
Despite what we may think, science is not always settled. Debate, new discoveries and constant tinkering mean that nothing is ever set in stone.
While some things such as evolution, and the sun being the centre of the universe are not disputed, there is a lot of aspects to science that are up for grabs.
Physics is a perfect example of this. Theoretical physics is essentially the best guess at the laws that constitute how the universe works. Einstein’s laws of relativity, and its offshoot quantum mechanics, is the currently accepted model.
However good they are, they do not give us a clear picture of how the universe works. Strands are still to be discovered and despite Einstein’s best efforts, he was unable to devise a grand theory of everything that would tie all these strands together.
Nor has anyone else been able to devise once since his death.
The thing with science is that no matter how often we make a breakthrough and solve one question, that breakthrough often leads to a multitude of other questions.
Science is like climbing to the top of a very large building. No matter how many flights of stairs you ascend, if you look up, you will see many more to go.
It’s a constant task to try and keep climbing these stairs and make new discoveries. Sometimes, we get stuck and remain at one level for longer than we would like, but we are always making progress.
This is the beauty of science. Despite all the advancements we have made, there are many more still to be made. This should not be seen as a downfall of science, but its core principle.
We will never know everything, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!
13 Things That Don’t Make Sense review
This 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense summary has skimmed over the issues that the book talks about. But it’s an illustration of what’s inside.
Despite all the advances that have been made in science, there are many areas that scientists are still in the dark about.
We like to think of science as something that explains the universe we live in. The reality is that we only have a limited understanding of it.
As this book exemplifies, there is a lot we don’t know. The stats regarding the universe were astounding. It’s hard to believe so little is known about what constitutes the universe.
What this book shows is that we don’t have all the answers. It shows that science is a work in progress and our knowledge is constantly refined. Brief Answers To The Big Questions by Stephen Hawking is a good companion to this book if the topics raised pique your interest.
I really enjoyed this book as it taught me a lot and filled in gaps in my knowledge. I hadn’t heard of some of these anomalies and curiosities before, so it was fascinating to read about them.
Not only is this a fascinating book, but it’s also one that will educate you. There can’t be too many better reasons than those for why you read 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense!
Who should read 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense?
If you’re in science in any way at all, you’ll enjoy 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense. The topics that are mentioned are fascinating and will leave you pondering just how much we really know about the universe.
It’s a great book to improve your knowledge on topics such as SETI, homoeopathy and the makeup of the universe.
I can say with some certainty that almost anybody will enjoy reading this book. I’d be amazed if you don’t find it interesting in some way!