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Scientifically discovered or mathematically proven objective truths are often called counterintuitive when intuition, emotions, and other cognitive processes outside of deductive rationality interpret them to be wrong. However, the subjective nature of intuition limits the objectivity of what to call counterintuitive because what is counterintuitive for one may be intuitive for another. This might occur in instances where intuition changes with knowledge. For instance, many aspects of quantum mechanics or general relativity may sound counterintuitive to a layman, while they may be intuitive to a particle physicist.
Flawed intuitive understanding of a problem may lead to counterproductive behavior with undesirable outcomes. In some such cases, counterintuitive policies may then produce a more desirable outcome. This can lead to conflicts between those who hold deontological and consequentialist ethical perspectives on those issues.
Counterintuition in science
Many scientific ideas that are generally accepted by people today were formerly considered to be contrary to intuition and common sense.
For example, most everyday experience suggests that the Earth is flat; actually, this view turns out to be a remarkably good approximation to the true state of affairs, which is that the Earth is a very big (relative to the day-to-day scale familiar to humans) oblate spheroid.
Furthermore, prior to the Copernican revolution, heliocentrism, the belief that the Earth goes around the Sun, rather than vice versa, was considered to be contrary to common sense.
Another counterintuitive scientific idea concerns space travel: it was initially believed that highly streamlined shapes would be best for re-entering the earth's atmosphere. In fact, experiments proved that blunt-shaped re-entry bodies make the most efficient heat shields when returning to earth from space. Blunt-shaped re-entry vehicles have been used for all manned spaceflights, including the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions.
The Michelson-Morley experiment sought to measure the velocity of the Earth through the aether as it revolved around the Sun. The result was that it has no aether velocity at all. Relativity theory later explained the results, replacing the conventional notions of aether and separate space, time, mass, and energy with a counterintuitive four-dimensional non-Euclidean universe.
^http://galileoandeinstein.physics.virginia.edu/lectures/michelson.htmlThe Michelson-Morley Experiment. "As a result of Michelson's efforts in 1879, the speed of light was known to be 186,350 miles per second with a likely error of around 30 miles per second. This measurement, made by timing a flash of light travelling between mirrors in Annapolis, agreed well with less direct measurements based on astronomical observations. Still, this did not really clarify the nature of light. Two hundred years earlier, Newton had suggested that light consists of tiny particles generated in a hot object, which spray out at very high speed, bounce off other objects, and are detected by our eyes. Newton's arch-enemy Robert Hooke, on the other hand, thought that light must be a kind of wave motion, like sound. To appreciate his point of view, let us briefly review the nature of sound." Retrieved: 09 NOV 2010.
Alvermann, D. E.; Hague, S. A. (1989). "Comprehension of counterintuitive science text: Effects of prior knowledge and text structure". The Journal of Educational Research. 82 (4): 197-202. JSTOR27540341.