Hey, ever wondered how physicists have achieved a kind of teleportation thanks to a bizarre quantum phenomenon called entanglement? New Scientist Tech present ten things that were once considered utterly impossible that are now, well, completely scientifically possible! As much as I appreciate when formerly mysterious things are decoded by science, I do think that if ever scientists were to figure out the workings of the human soul, that I’d be a bit let down. There is something really compelling about a good conundrum. If we all knew exactly how and when we were going to reincarnate, for example, wouldn’t the fun of imagining the phenomenon fade a bit if the obscurity were eradicated?

10 impossibilities conquered by science

  • NewScientist.com news service
  • Michael Marshall

What is truly impossible? To accompany Michio Kaku‘s article on the physics of impossibility, we have rounded up 10 things that were once thought scientifically impossible. Some were disproved centuries ago but others have only recently begun to enter the realm of possibility.

1. Analysing 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.”

Comte’s argument was that the stars and planets are so far away as to be beyond the limits of everything but our sense of sight and geometry. He reasoned that, while we could work out their distance, their motion and their mass, nothing more could realistically be discerned. There was certainly no way to chemically analyse them.

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.

By 1859 these had been shown to be atomic absorption lines. Each chemical element present in the Sun could be identified by analysing this pattern of lines, making it possible to discover just what a star is made of.

2. Meteorites come from space…

Check out the complete list, here.