ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why Can't We Admit That We Don't Have a Clue?

Updated on August 27, 2009

Some ideas of atoms

Thompson thought the atom looked like this
Thompson thought the atom looked like this
This would be like the Bohr model where it all looks like the solar System with nice circular orbits.
This would be like the Bohr model where it all looks like the solar System with nice circular orbits.
Again this is still like the Bohr model.
Again this is still like the Bohr model.
Here is the electron cloud theory that is taught to High School students today.
Here is the electron cloud theory that is taught to High School students today.
Now while this isn't a picture of an atom it represents another theory called the string theory.
Now while this isn't a picture of an atom it represents another theory called the string theory.

What Brought This On?

When I was in the seventh grade, I got real interested in nuclear physics. I must've read eight or nine college texts on the subject. I was fascinated with the history of the atomic bomb, and how nuclear power was supposed to affect our lives in the future. I had everything worked out. I was sure I knew just how everything worked. I gave a lecture to the high school physics class outlining everything that I had learned. I had certainty.

Then the high school physics professor gave me a book! My world was shattered, because in reading the book I realized that no one had a clue as to how the atom was really put together. Now I might have survived this if in all those college physics books, just one person had mentioned that all of this was just theory. I was so upset that I gave up studying science until I got to college.

Now in all fairness, I probably overreacted, but there were college textbooks teaching the Bohr atom as the gospel truth. Nowadays any seventh or eighth grader could tell you that that theory was wrong, and a large number of high school students could tell you why. My point is, that when you're teaching children, if something is a theory it should clearly be stated as such. Now some people might argue that there's nothing you know with absolute certainty, and so should we tell children that we really don't know anything. Well I don't know that we don't know anything. I'm pretty sure that the chair I'm sitting in is solid (though some would argue that it is mostly space) and I'm pretty sure that it's too hot for me outside, since my outdoor thermometer says 103. There are a lot of things we know.

There are some things which we not only don't know, but which would be very difficult to know, since they can't be observed. The atom is just one of those things. There is a theory currently held by some, which I won't get into at this point, because it's very complex, and is argued by many to not exist, and that is string theory. This theory is supposed to tie everything together, but this theory contains about 50 sub-theories. An oversimplification would be that very tiny strings are the basic unit of construction of the universe and that all subatomic particles are composed of strings. This theory would fit in very well with science fiction since it is based on the existence of multiple universes.

So in closing I like to say that I realize nowadays textbooks often state things as theories and that it is probably not a good idea to give kids the impression that we are sure of nothing. The point is that, it is ok to state that something is a theory if we really don't know, and it is not ok to state something as an absolute truth if we are only guessing.

Science as we know it.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • mega1 profile image


      9 years ago

      You are probably right - but what if there IS no clue?

      The whole subject blows my mind. But its fun. String theory kind of presupposed that the atom is not the smallest particle, then, eh? gosh Do you study the Chaos theory also? Or has it all gone much further than that? My theory re Chaos involves camouflage - fun huh.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)