In one of my responses to a comment on a previous essay, I used an illustration from the history of theoretical physics to make a point about the difference between reliance on authority and reliance on scientific reasoning. I thought it might be good to expand that illustration into a separate essay in the hope that it will get a bit more exposure.
By the mid-1920s a new area of theoretical physics was developing that went by the name of quantum mechanics and that concerned the behavior of subatomic particles. [OK, let me stop right there. If you feel that the following paragraphs are hard to follow or just plain boring, then go ahead and skip to the fifth paragraph. I don’t want to lose your attention.] Research in this area had been yielding some very strange results that seemed to call for a fundamentally different view of the world.