Two reports indicate that what we know we don’t know vastly exceeds what we think we know.

Isaac Newton once said of his monumental scientific work, “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”  Some scientists today err on the pride side, using the oft-repeated phrase “Now we know” this or that.  Two recent reports prefer Newton’s assessment.

What creatures inhabit our planet?  There are billions of people on this globe, living almost everywhere, even in Antarctica.  Humans have driven submarines to the deepest ocean trenches, and sampled the upper atmosphere.  They have sampled every portion of every continent.  One would think they’ve seen everything by now.  Not so; in an article entitled, “What We Know and Don’t Know About Earth’s Missing Biodiversity,” Science Daily said,

Most of the world’s species are still unknown to science although many researchers grappled to address the question of how many species there are on Earth over the recent decades. Estimates of non-microbial diversity on Earth provided by researchers range from 2 million to over 50 million species, with great uncertainties in numbers of insects, fungi, nematodes, and deep-sea organisms.

…and that’s just living species.  The fossil record hints of far greater biodiversity in the past, multiplying our ignorance about life on Earth.  When we don’t know what is alive today, we can’t know what medicines they might be able to provide (consider, for example, that penicillin was discovered in a fungus).  One researcher remarked, “The problem is how one protects an animal that has never been seen.”

What makes the cosmos work?  We’ve reported several times that most cosmologists believe that 95% of the universe is composed mysterious, unknown stuff called dark matter and dark energy.  But that’s just the unseen unknowns.  More profoundly, most of the stuff shining right into our telescopes remains unknown….

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