Experiments that Changed the World

For scientists, experiments are the test of reality, because, there, in the lab, they have the power to confirm or rule out all the assumptions about the birth, nature and evolution of the universe. As a result of scientific experiments, they destroyed myths, mysteries have been enlightened, super technologies have been produced and, finally, our perception of life, of reality and what we are has changed.

Pasteur and the microbes

Despite the general belief that life arises spontaneously from dead matter, the French chemist Louis Pasteur rather believed that this is due to the invisible microbes or germs from the air. To prove his theory, he introduced pieces of boiled meat in many tight sealed bottles with S shaped necks. The old theory was that, in a few days, life forms were supposed to appear miraculously in the deposited flesh. Still, after months of waiting, nothing happened, and it was clear to Pasteur that boiling the flesh had the effect of destroying the germs present in it. This is how the Pasteur effect or the pasteurisation process was born.

Einstein and the gravitation experiment

On November 7, 1919, Albert Einstein found out that he became, overnight, the most important scientist of the modern world. The press worldwide has made public the results of an experiment demonstrating that his theory of general gravitation replaced the old Newton’s theory. According to Einstein, gravitation is the result of curving the space and time, which alters the trajectory of light rays passing through the vicinity of any solid masses.

Enrico Fermi and the first nuclear chain reaction

60 years ago, the idea of extracting energy from atoms was considered absurd even by some of the greatest scientists of the world, including Albert Einstein. But that was not to last for long. On a cold day in December 1942, the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, at the University of Chicago completes the construction of the first reactor. Spherical, not aesthetic, Chicago Pile 1 (CP-1) contained tons of radioactive uranium and graphite, with bars of cadmium, as control elements. The ensemble was constructed to absorb neutrons emitted in the cascade of uranium atoms, which triggers the chain reaction.

Oswald Avery and the DNA structure

Experiments conducted by Oswald Avery and his colleagues at Rockefeller University in New York lead to the discovery of the DNA that every living cell of every living organism contains. For years, the scientific community avoided the study of the structure of DNA, considering it too simple to be able to describe the impressive diversity of life. Avery showed that, with the transfer of DNA from a microbe to another, its characteristics are also transferred. Crick and Watson decided to continue Avery’s experiments and the result has brought them a Nobel Prize.

Wilmut and the cloning process

In February 1997, on the front pages of newspapers throughout the globe, appeared the picture of Dolly, which was a perfect genetic copy of a sheep. It was obtained by a group of researchers from the Roselin Institute from Scotland. This group of scientists, with Ian Wilmut as their most important asset, managed to clone the sheep using DNA extracted from a single cell. After this, they also revealed that they successfully created two new clones which were named Molly and Polly. Their DNA had been altered to carry a human gene in order to produce in the milk of the sheep a blood clotting agent, indispensable for curing haemophilia.