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Scientists are not saints and occasionally make mistakes. In fact, any scientist can make mistakes, even the greatest.

Galileo “saw” Jupiter with the naked eye

Let’s start with 1611, the year before Galileo claimed to have seen the moons of Jupiter, and another highly respected Florentine astronomer, Francisco Cinzi, tried to explain that Galileo was deluding himself. These moons of Jupiter “are invisible to the naked eye, so they have no effect on the Earth, so they are of little use and do not exist,” and although Galileo won the battle with Xinji, this misconception hurt him. Twenty years later, Galileo provided Pope Urban VIII with a detailed mathematical basis to illustrate the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Unfortunately, he used tides as his theoretical basis. Math books say tidal activity should be a day rather than a two-day high, but Galileo refused to admit his mistake, sneering at those who held the idea that the tides were actually caused by the moon.

Kelvin did not believe that X-rays existed

A century later, also in Italy, the pioneer of modern electricity, Luigi Galvani, made a major mistake. As he strung up many frog legs and placed them on the iron fence, the frog legs began to twitch. Galvani thought he understood this phenomenon and proposed a new theory of “animal electricity”, claiming that biological tissues can generate electric currents on their own. Some time later, Alessandro Volta pointed out that hooking a frog’s leg with a copper hook could turn the entire device into a “big battery” powered by chemical energy.

Historically, there have been a series of major mistakes in medicine, perhaps the most terrible of which was made by Stubbins Firth, a medical student in the United States. Firth lived in the United States in the early 19th century, and because the incidence of yellow fever decreased in winter, he believed that the disease was a product of fever and stress, not an infectious disease. To confirm this, he conducted a series of disgusting experiments on himself, even directly in the patient’s mouth, swallowing disgusting black vomit.

Firth survived, not because yellow fever was not an infectious disease, but because the disease could only be transmitted directly through the bloodstream. In addition, some of the top scientists who excel in their field of research make mistakes. In 1896, a year after his resignation as president of the Royal Society, Sir Kelvin declared that the latest report on the “× light” was so ridiculous that it was undoubtedly a hoax. However, after learning that he had made a mistake, Kelvin was more generous than Galile: later that year, after seeing the evidence of × light with his own eyes, he stopped insisting on his original claim and even agreed to have his hands examined ×.

The problem of cosmic expansion confused Einstein

In 1917, before publishing the general theory of relativity, Einstein asked many astronomers whether the universe was expanding. Einstein knew this because his equations described a universe that either expanded or shrunk. Astronomers told Einstein that the universe was actually stable, so he changed the equation and added a “cosmological constant” in an attempt to explain why the universe exists stably. Ten years later, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was indeed expanding, and that Einstein’s modifications were not necessary.

Einstein once said that adding the “cosmological constant” was the “biggest mistake” of his life, which is too early, and recent discoveries about the nature of space and time have shown that we seem to need a cosmological constant in order to match our theories with observations. But Einstein did make mistakes in other ways. In his later years, he devoted all his time and energy to the search for an ultimate unified theory of physics, and the astronomer Arthur Eddington, who was in the same era as Einstein, followed this quixotic scientific path.

In 1921, Eddington discovered that some numbers involving cosmology were clearly coincidental.

He hopes to prove that this coincidence is the clue that eventually led to the emergence of an ultimate theory of the universe. When another researcher proved that one of the numbers was closer to 137 than 136, Eddington eventually changed his theory, indirectly admitting his mistake.

The universe was like a difficult woman, not only capsizing the Eddington gutter, but also fooling the Soviet physicist Yakov Zeldovich into proposing what is widely considered to be the most embarrassing theory in the history of physics. In 1967, observations of galaxies showed an anomaly in the expansion rate of the universe. According to Zeldović, the anomaly is caused by the uncertainty principle of quantum theory. Unfortunately, his calculation of this “zero point energy” is not known to be many times higher than the actual effect.

The detector crashed due to a faulty unit of measurement

Some of the mistakes scientists make are sometimes not difficult to understand. In 1999, for example, NASA’s Mars Climate Explorer found it about 100 kilometers closer than scientists had predicted.

This is not because of problems with space-time, but because of a culture clash in the development of Mars Climate Finder. NASA scientists use metric units (such as meters and centimeters) in their calculations, but Lockheed Martin engineers, who provide navigation software, use imperial units such as feet and inches in their research. As a result, due to the total instability of the orbit, the £80 million Mars Climate Explorer eventually crashed into the surface of Mars to reimburse it.

Perhaps the most worrisome mistake was made by French biologists at the University of the Mediterranean. In 2003, they announced the discovery of the world’s largest virus, the Mimi virus.

The virus is 30 times larger than rhinovirus and cannot be eradicated. Rhinoviruses are viruses that cause colds. To everyone’s slight relief, the experimental results showed that the Mimi virus may not infect humans. However, a year later, a technician in the laboratory of the University of the Mediterranean developed pneumonia induced by the Mimi virus.

The findings found that although Mimi virus is scientifically new, it is no stranger to humans: tests found that 10% of pneumonia patients had antibodies to Mimi virus in their blood.

What lessons can we learn from the above examples? Scientists are mortal, and we should not be surprised or disappointed if they make a mistake. Scientific advances have made life safer, better quality of life and longer for all of us. There will always be setbacks on the road of scientific discovery, and scientific development is a sign of human progress, both now and in the future.