List of discredited substances
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This page is a list of substances or materials generally considered discredited.
A substance can be discredited in one of three ways:
- It was widely believed to exist at one time but no longer is. Such substances are often part of an obsolete scientific theory.
- It was once believed to have drastically different properties from those accepted now. It was widely claimed and believed to possess significant properties that are no longer attributed to it.
- It is currently believed to exist as part of a theory that has not met the theoretical and experimental requirements of mainstream science. In particular, such a theory must be predictive.
Alphabetical list of substances whose existence is discredited
|Substance||Theorized by||From when||Alleged definition||Discredited by|
|Aether (classical element)||ancient||A substance with rapid, circular motion that makes up celestial bodies||atomic theory|
|Alicorn||ancient||The horn of the unicorn, has mystical healing properties||failure to find any since medieval times|
|Alkahest||Paracelsus||1493–1541||A universal solvent, which can dissolve every other substance, including gold||(Note that aqua regia can dissolve gold, but not everything.)|
|Caloric||Antoine Lavoisier||1783||Weightless fluid, the substance of heat||atomic theory, in which heat is interpreted as energy of motion of atoms.|
|Coronium||Charles Augustus Young and William Harkness||1869||Chemical element in the solar corona||In the 1930s, Walter Grotrian and Bengt Edlén discovered that the spectral line in question was due to highly ionized iron.|
|Élan vital||Henri Bergson||1907||Substance or force bearing the property of life||molecular biology|
|Elixir of life||mythology||ancient||Substance believed by alchemists to confer immortality||chemistry and biology|
|Erototoxins||Judith Reisman||after 1955||Addictive chemicals produced in the brain by pornography||(There are addictive opioids (i.e. endorphins) in the brain related to pleasure in general, but not specific to pornography.[not in citation given])|
|Luminiferous aether||18th century||Medium for the propagation of light||Michelson-Morley experiment|
|Miasma||ancient||Foul smell believed to carry diseases||modern biology, in particular the discovery of actual infectious agents|
|Nebulium||William Huggins||1864||An element in the Cat's Eye Nebula||In 1927, Ira Sprague Bowen showed that the observed spectral lines are emitted by doubly ionized oxygen.|
|N-rays||Prosper-René Blondlot||1903||A form of radiation emitted by most substances||a simple null experiment, where Blondlot thought he could see N-rays even when an essential optical element had been removed from the experiment|
|Odic force||Carl Reichenbach||1845||Force bearing the property of life||Lack of experimental evidence and any predictive theory. Never accepted by science.|
|Orgone energy||Wilhelm Reich||1930s||Energy bearing the property of life||Lack of experimental evidence and any predictive theory. Never accepted by science.|
|Panacea||alchemists||ancient||Substance curing all illness||biology and medicine|
|Philosopher's stone||alchemists||ancient||Substance transmuting other metals into gold||atomic theory|
|Phlogiston||Johann Joachim Becher||1667||Weightless substance present in combustible materials and released when they are burned||modern chemistry, specifically the discovery that combustion is combination of various substances with oxidizers, most commonly oxygen.|
|Polywater||late 1960s||An apparently polymerised form of water||more careful experiments with rigorously cleaned glassware|
|Ptomaines||alkaloids found in decaying matter thought to cause food poisoning||discovery of bacteria|
|Red mercury||hoax||1979||Controversial substance supposedly of use to terrorists||Its actual nature, if any, is unclear. The notion may have been invented for use by Soviet and Russian sting operations targeting nuclear materials trafficking. It is also possible that the phrase may have originated as a codeword in Soviet nuclear weapons development, much as the word "copper" was once used to obfuscate "plutonium" during the Manhattan Project.|
|J. J. Becher||1635–1682||The forerunner of phlogiston|| It would have had negative weight; Lavoisier's invention of the beginnings of modern quantitative chemistry. Terra Pinguis is equivalent to the absence of oxygen.|
Alphabetical list of substances whose properties are discredited
This is not to be construed as implying that these items–as they are understood today–are discredited. What is listed are fire, water, metal, etc. as universal principles or fundamentals.
- Classical elements and Chinese elements Discredited by atomic theory and nuclear physics.
- The four bodily humours: Blood, Phlegm, Black Bile, & Yellow Bile. Fluids believed to determine health and character. Discredited by modern biology, including discovery of hormones.
- The tria prima of Paracelsus and later alchemy: Salt, Mercury and Sulphur. Discredited by modern chemistry (the atomic theory and modern understanding of elements and compounds).