In the late 1800s, Albert A. Michelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in the sciences, devised an experiment to prove the Earth is moving through space, through a medium for bearing light called the “aether.”
If he could show that light was slowed down by being fired into an aether headwind, like a swimmer swimming against a stream, Michelson reasoned, it would prove the Earth’s motion through space.
But the experiment didn’t work the way he expected. In fact, it proved the opposite.
The world of science was baffled. Was the Earth not moving?
Eventually, however, another Albert, with the last name of Einstein, developed a theory called special relativity to explain Michelson’s results.
It wouldn’t be the last time, a startling new documentary called “The Principle” suggests, that scientists had to scramble to make their theories about space fit observable facts and experiments that didn’t jive with their prevalent understandings.
Increasingly, bizarre and unproven theories such as the mysterious “dark matter,” “dark energy,” “multiverses” and the creation of “everything from nothing,” the moviemakers claim, have been thought up to try to make the hard data fit with an underlying assumption science has accepted since the 16th century.
But what if instead of dreaming up wild theories to explain away inconsistencies, the moviemakers suggest, scientists allowed the facts to challenge the underlying assumption itself? What if everything science believes about space … is wrong?
“The Principle,” which is opening now in select cities around the U.S., boldly challenges the widely accepted Copernican Principle, named after Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. He famously argued Earth revolves around the sun and went further to suggest Earth is in no central or favored place in the universe.
We inhabit, in famous cosmologist Carl Sagan’s words, “an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”
Written by DREW ZAHN
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