Re: Useless hypotheses

From: Louis Newstrom (
Date: Wed Dec 19 2001 - 15:15:01 MST

From: "Smigrodzki, Rafal" <SmigrodzkiR@MSX.UPMC.EDU>

> ### Phlogiston as a hypothesis was useless mainly because it failed to
> falsifiable predictions, AFAIK. Vitalism was abandoned once its
> were experimentally disproved (Wohler's synthesis of urea).

Actually, I liked the phlogiston theory. It said that burning was caused by
a single substance. That substance is released by burning. (Evidence for
this was that burned objects are almost always lighter than the original.)

The theory was almost right. Burning is caused by a single substance
(oxygen). Where the theory was wrong was in predicting that burning was a
breaking down of molecules, rather than the building up of molecules.

It did imply that no outside substance is needed for burning. Since this
prediction was proved false, the phlogiston theory was discarded. Like a
search that proves the wanted item is not in a particular room, the
phlogiston theory was useful for disproving some (alleged) causes of

P.S. The reason I enjoyed the phlogiston theory is that some metals
(magnesium?) become heavier with burning. For a short while it was
theorized that phlogiston had negative weight. If they had seen the
Hindenberg they would have been convinced they were right.

Louis Newstrom

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