Why do we believe in electrons, but not in fairies?

Why do we believe in electrons, but not in fairies?

by Benjamin Kuipers

No one has directly observed either electrons or fairies. Both of them are theoretical constructs, useful to explain observations that might be difficult to explain otherwise. The “theory of fairies” can actually explain more things than the “theory of electrons”. So why do we believe in electrons, but not in fairies?

Is the issue a political one, where the “electron” fans got the upper hand in the nineteenth century, so by the twentieth century the “fairy” fans were a scorned and persecuted minority? Or, have we proved for sure that fairies don’t exist?

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The relativity of wrong

The Relativity of Wrong

by Isaac Asimov

I received a letter from a reader the other day. It was handwritten in crabbed penmanship so that it was very difficult to read. Nevertheless, I tried to make it out just in case it might prove to be important.

In the first sentence, he told me he was majoring in English Literature, but felt he needed to teach me science. (I sighed a bit, for I knew very few English Lit majors who are equipped to teach me science, but I am very aware of the vast state of my ignorance and I am prepared to learn as much as I can from anyone, however low on the social scale, so I read on.)

It seemed that in one of my innumerable essays, here and elsewhere, I had expressed a certain gladness at living in a century in which we finally got the basis of the Universe straight.

I didn’t go into detail in the matter, but what I meant was that we now know the basic rules governing the Universe, together with the gravitational interrelationships of its gross components, as shown in the theory of relativity worked out between 1905 and 1916. We also know the basic rules governing the subatomic particles and their interrelationships, since these are very neatly described by the quantum theory worked out between 1900 and 1930. What’s more, we have found that the galaxies and clusters of galaxies are the basic units of the physical Universe, as discovered between 1920 and 1930.

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