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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A List of Major Scientific Theories

I sometimes try to think of the theories that shape science today—you know, the ones that provide the underpinnings for our modern understanding of the world; those big ideas that we all just know and through which we interpret the world, or try to deny.

Today I even made a Google search for “major science theories.” This poor choice of words produced little useful information on the first two pages of search results. Consequently, I turned my attention elsewhere and tried to locate a good download counter for my html files that would work on a Windows server. That’s another story.

These are the theories with which I am familiar.
Primarily, we must theorize that we live in a material world. You laugh. Galileo might have been tried for heresey for a belief in materialism. Yep, his cosmological beliefs were a smokescreen for this more dangerous idea that would threaten the spiritualism of the Church. So says P. Redondi in Galileo Heretic.
1. The Atomic Theory
2. The Theory of Matter and Energy: Conservation of Matter and Energy
3. The Cell Theory
4. The Germ Theory
5. The Theory of Plate Tectonics
6. The Theory of Evolution
7. The Big Bang Theory
8. Chaos Theory
9. The “Gaia” Theory of a Sustainable Earth which is illustrated with the idea of Spaceship Earth
10. The Theory of Quantum Mechanics
11. The Theory of Special Relativity which subsumes The Theory of General Relativity which subsumes Newtonian theories of motion
12. The Photon Theory of Light Energy and its speed of light
13. The Theory of Electromagnetism as begun by Maxwell and continued with the work of others
14. The Theory of Radioactivity or Nuclear Theory
15. The Theory of Molecular Bonds
16. The Theory of States of Matter—or is this part of the Atomic Theory and the Molecular Bond Theory?
17. The Theory of Thermodynamics—hey, I guess this theory takes care of the States of Matter and the Molecular Bond theories.
18. The Theory of Homeostasis within Living Organisms
19. The Constructivist Theory of Learning
20. The theories of self and development of mental processes in the brain.
21. Theory of Gravity

Well, I managed to name more than the 10 I vaguely thought I would be able to list. There are more. Each of them explains a major aspect of our world. I have not mentioned theories that deal with weather or population stresses or social and cultural behavior or even the idea that the universe is huge. Maybe some of you can critique the list, add to it, and eventually maybe pare it down to the essential major theories. Mmm. Back to Google.

Anyone care to speculate with me?

According to scientists, the proof is in the pudding. If a theory makes a prediction and the prediction holds up, then there must be something correct about the theory.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

nice, i really like what you have done here. i have worked for a professor that wants me to look up all the major theories in the different disciplines so that way we can do an analysis. perhaps she wants to find patterns in the theories throughout the disciplines? not sure, but interesting and i really like you're mind frame!

Anonymous said...

I can't find anything on the The theory of homeostasis within living organisms. When I googled it all I got was your site. I have to do a project on it and am completely lost! Help

Ralph said...

Nice work. I've been recently studying some of them.

Anonymous said...

This has tons of theories, half of which i've never even heard of but there are most of the major ones there which is good. The only recomendation i would give you was to try to put the dates of when each of the theories came around.

William said...

Love what u have here, this is the start to something great. This is my first time actually looking up any theories. I've always loved the idea of exploring different theories with others who share my interests. I notice you don't have the String Theory listed. It was talked about on an episode of NOVA. Also have you tried looking up Sciencecafe.org? There you can talk to actual scientists about any and everything. Again tho, great site...

Valerie said...

Thanks for the kind words. I was hoping that others would add to the list. Kudos for the addition of String Theory, William.

Valerie said...

Yes, I have visited the Science Cafe site. There is a Science Cafe organization here in my hometown. They present talks on various topics once a month. Check out the national organization at http://www.sciencecafe.org, Folks.

Anonymous said...

Genial post and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

Animaltalker said...

I'd been trying to find a theory to put on a test for my beginning Chemistry students to identify as a theory (as opposed to a law or observation or experiment) you get my drift) and ran across your site.

You might add the Kinetic Theory of Gases which is what most Physicist and Chemists use to discuss movement of gas particles and their interaction with one another (then when they get brave the move on to liquids much tougher concepts)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the link, but argg it seems to be down... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please answer to my post if you do!

I would appreciate if a staff member here at soapboxbyval.blogspot.com could post it.

Thanks,
Peter

Valerie said...

The only link I see posted here is the one to Science Cafe. I had trouble on the first click. The second time I tried the link, I erased the /content/ part and got a blog with instructions to those great home science items like making ooblick and slime and shrunken heads for Halloween. The latest posting was January 2009. Oh, well.

I tried sciencecafe.com and got the international site in another language.

So I Googled it. Here is a better URL:
http://www.sciencecafes.org

Sorry guys, but now we know.

Valerie said...

Alright, now we have 2 additional theories added. Can anyone think of the ones we are missing?

As to dates, and even descriptions or statements of the theories, well, at least I got you thinking. Did Google help you get further? Maybe someday I'll actually write a more complete article.

Anonymous said...

Gravity is not a scientific theory, it is a scientific law, but this is still a very informative list.

Blue said...

Actually, "Gravitational Theory" is the explanation of the phenomenon we know as "gravity".

If you drop something, it will fall to the ground. That is a law of gravity. But it is Gravitational Theory that explains why and how this occurs.

So while gravity is a law, we understand and explain it through the theory of gravity. Thus, it is appropriate to include in this list.

Blue said...

Dennis Gabor, a Hungarian, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his Theory of holography in 1971. In case you wanted to add this to your list :-)

Valerie said...

Another comment from Blue came to me via email:
"Dennis Gabor, a Hungarian, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his Theory of holography in 1971. In case you wanted to add this to your list :-)"

Valerie said...

Thanks to all for adding to the list.

There are more theories, I know; so let's keep growing the list.

Anonymous said...

Hello there,

Thanks for sharing this link - but unfortunately it seems to be not working? Does anybody here at soapboxbyval.blogspot.com have a mirror or another source?


Cheers,
Oliver

Anonymous said...

what is better, yahoo or google [url=http://google.com]google[/url] http://google.com

Anonymous said...

Hello there,

This is a message for the webmaster/admin here at soapboxbyval.blogspot.com.

Can I use part of the information from this post above if I provide a link back to this website?

Thanks,
Thomas

Valerie said...

Thomas asked, "Can I use part of the information from this post above if I provide a link back to this website?"

Yes. Feel free. Of course you would want to cite references, so a link back would be doubly appreciated.

Don't forget to add the additional theories that were provided in the comments.

And Blue's explanation of the difference between law and theory is, to me, spot on. Since she provided a link, maybe you can contact her for permission, too.

I actually wrote another essay that explains the relationship between law and theory and statistics. Maybe you would like to read it. href="http://www.vforteachers.com/essay_chisquarelab.html

Valerie

Valerie said...

Whew what a typo. I got kicked off just as I was trying to fix the link. Sorry.

the link is http://www.vforteachers.com/essay_chisquarelab.html

Valerie

Anonymous said...

Hello there,

Thanks for sharing this link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at soapboxbyval.blogspot.com have a mirror or another source?


Cheers,
Jack

Valerie said...

I checked the link. It is correct. However, I did not turn it into a hyperlink.

Let me try again
http://www.vforteachers.com/essay_chisquarelab.html

Anonymous said...

Greetings,

I have a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at soapboxbyval.blogspot.com.

Can I use some of the information from this post above if I give a backlink back to your site?

Thanks,
Peter

Valerie said...

Of course you may use info with proper citation, and a backlink is most welcome.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

Thanks for sharing the link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at soapboxbyval.blogspot.com have a mirror or another source?


Thanks,
John

Valerie said...

John,
What link? I tested the last link and it works: http://www.vforteachers.com/essay_chisquarelab.html

If you want a copy of the essay without the other stuff around it, let me know, Anyone. I can post a printable copy or send you one. Or you can paste a copy to Word or Open Office and reformat parts of the page yourself.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I am certainly glad to find this. cool job!

Erin Phillips said...

For the bit on Gravity it was a theory but it no longer is. I like where you have gone with this and I think for the most part you knocked it out of the park but the issue with gravity is a rather complex one but the short story is kind of as follows. A theory is a model that has been shown accurate by numerous unrelated sources and has not ever been shown to be incorrect, when it is shown to be incorrect either a new theory emerges to explain the phenomenon or the theory changes. Gravity has been shown to be wrong on the atomic scale and the universal scale. It works well as a model for describing the local phenomenon of the effects of general relativity. General is the current accepted theory regarding the interactions between space, time, and mass. All of that being said the work at the LHC has the potential to find the Higgs boson thus showing that those interactions are caused by the interaction between the higgs boson and the higgs field. But that is a matter of quantum mechanics and is rather irrelevant to the current topic. Anyway, gravity is not a theory, I would like to see it removed.

Anonymous said...

Hey - I am definitely glad to discover this. cool job!

Valerie said...

Erin, I beg to differ. My readings in history of science and philosophy of science seem to indicate a pattern of use that is not so rigid as you describe. The overarching idea that holds facts and principles can be named a theory. The name stays with the concept for identification and discussion even after the idea has been disproven and discarded; or it has been expanded and subsumed within another, broader and probably more accurate theory. Sometimes the word theory is changed to hypothesis in these cases, and sometimes it is used with adjectives like "discarded."

I have noticed that people in biology tend to describe/define theory differently than do the people in chemistry and physics. Can anyone help me out with this?

Thomas said...

To who said "biology different than physics or chemistry" on the 27th, no a theory is no different. I can only guess that you are thinking biologist twist the meaning because there is so much push to get evolution theory taught. A theory in science is as follows: It explains, is able to predict, the observations and is basically a fact, a fact that the scientists use in practice, until a better explanation arises. The new explanation if any, will encompass the same general idea, such as gravity being replaced by minute particle physics gravity. For something such as evolutionary theory, it is unlikely that the observation, mutations in genes causing new proteins, will ever change, unless the molecular processes by which it occurs changes. The fact that there is mutation isn't going away. Maybe they could call it "mutation theory." That sure would help. Did I clarify well enough?

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Anonymous said...

Good day! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form? I'm using the same blog platform as yours and I'm having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=eG7ueitiW-w

go to this video and see a list of more scientific theories!!!

Lindsey said...

theories, huh? would u mind describing what a theory actually IS!!!
thx.
linsdey

Anonymous said...

Am now hooked to this theories. I was doing some class assignment on scientific theories, laws and principles. anyone who can differentiate for me? My favorite is the germ theory of disease or is it the principle of antisepsis/asepsis?
Margaret, Kenya.

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that you should add the Heliocentric Theory to this list because without that I don't think anyone would have really thought that the Sun was the center of the universe. Just a thought!

Carys said...

Using google, from several websites I found that there is a theory that the Universe is a light beige. One website called it 'cosmos latte' based on the facts that the known Universe is a cream-ish colour, but by looking at the way the light colours vary and change through different parts, scientists have come up with the fact that all the light in all of the Universe put together would be a beige colour. This isn't a basic theory but it's pritty interesting.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, regards

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Anonymous said...

Somebody said...
Cool. This is really good, but shouldn't you have the Quantum Theory? Even though it hasn't been proved really, you could still list it.

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Unknown said...

The Theory of Relativity and the Theory of Special Relativity are totally separate and involve different things. Not sure wtf this mess of a list even is. But it has so many errors it is giving me a headache to look at.

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QweftyQ said...

What about string theory or M-theory?

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Anonymous said...

this is a good website. I just want to point out some of them are scientific laws not theories. your teacher might not like you calling them theory's if your doing this for school.

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MrSlade82 said...

Heliocentric theory?

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Anonymous said...

I was reading some of the comments on this page and one struck me as peculiar, considering the current state of understanding... One anonymous post was that Gravity is not a theory but a law, and of course Valerie tried to explain why it is a theory.. Please do not be insulted Valerie, but while you are correct the presentation lacked a full explanation.. The "Law of Gravity" (sir Isaac Newton)Is only a law on earth.. The truth is it is not a universal law. Simply put if I am in space and toss an apple I could likely throw it 100Billion Miles (talk about a pitching arm huh...) In universal terms when we speak of Gravity Theories we are referring more in terms of Laws of Relative Motion, Angular Momentum, Planetary Motion, and a vast number of laws and THEORIES regarding he forces which act on object... In simple terms the Law of Gravity is only a Law here in earth and nowhere else in the universe where other forces are in play... And thank you Valerie for your work on this...