Back in the day, popular science put forth a great deal of things that we now know to be total poppycock. For instance, phrenology told you that you could read someone’s mind through the bumps in their skull, spontaneous generation argued that mice could pop right out of some old blankets and alchemy turned shit into gold. SOLID GOLD! From Tesla’s death ray to a hollow Earth, we’ve been through a lot of crap to get where we are now. Of the many unbelievable theories scientists have put forward over the years, here are 11 of the absolute weirdest.
1. There used to be another planet (besides Pluto).
Mercury has a notably peculiar orbit, which led 19th century scientists to posit that there was another planet between Mercury and Venus that caused the planet to behave this way. Led by the renowned mathematician, Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, this school of belief led to widespread sightings of the non-existent planet all the way up until Le Verrier’s death in 1877, when he was still credited as the discoverer of his own planet. However, Einstein’s 1917 Theory of Relativity explained away the oddities of Mercury’s orbit, and there was no longer a scientific need for Vulcan. However, stargazers claimed sightings of the planet up until the 70s, when the planet’s memory drifted away. As a consolation, the non-existent mass did inspire the planet of the same name in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, where it lives on forever in science fiction.
2. You can write on the moon in blood.
While uncovering a theory that changed mathematics, not every Theorem that came out of Pythagoras’ brilliant skull was genius. There were some duds in there, and by far the biggest was the mathematicians’ far-fetched hypothesis that you could write on the moon in blood using a simple system of mirrors. Pythagoras never fully detailed how one would go about this, but it involved writing a message on a mirror in blood and then flashing it at the moon. Considering that Pythagoras was legendarily eccentric — ordering his cult of followers to stay away from beans — I guess it’s not terribly surprising that he would come up with something this weird.
3. We are ice people.
Before we got to our relatively sane theories of existence today, we had to get through a lot of crazy shit. One of the weirder ones was Austrian engineer Hans Horbiger’s “Ice Theory,” which posited that ice was the building block of life, the universal substance that form to all of existence. Horbiger talked of ice planets, ice stars, ice moons and (theoretically) ice people. We are all made of ice. Despite how insane that sounds, Horbiger’s hypothesis found a great deal of backing, notably from Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Chamberlain was German composer Richard Wagner’s son-in-law and a major force in Germany’s Third Reich movement.
4. The sun is actually really cold — we swear.
In the 1700s, William Herschel’s innovations in telescope technology helped revolutionize the ways that we’re able to look into space — all from the privacy of our own homes. However, Herschel used his telescope to come up with some out-there ideas, like that the sun’s surface is cold and fully inhabitable, populated by aliens whose heads are acclimated to the enormous amount of sunshine. Herschel thought that an average human head would combust due to the sun’s rays, but these aliens had adapted to the bright atmosphere. Herschel thought that the sun was a planet and that all planets could naturally sustain life without the help of oxygen, water or stable conditions. If the sun looked dangerous and hot, he argued, that’s just because the planet’s clouds were confusing the human mind. His theories would be thrown out within 50 years.