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* A variant of this trope: in ancient times doctors would recommend people suffering from depression and the like drink mineral water from springs. While it worked, they had no idea why. It turns out to be because water from springs tends to contain a lot of lithium, which has an anti-depressant effect an is still used for that purpose.

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* A variant of this trope: in ancient times doctors would recommend people suffering from depression and the like drink mineral water from springs. While it worked, they had no idea why. It turns out to be because water from springs tends to contain a lot of lithium, which has an anti-depressant effect an and is still used for that purpose.


Such technology falls into the hands of some organization, usually the military or a commercial business. The original creator is dead ([[ImportedAlienPhlebotinum or is an alien]] or from [[LostTechnology a long-dead civilization]] or otherwise can't be reached), but said technology is really convenient. The organization's analysts went over the thing, and while most of it makes sense, there are these elements, either program or device, [[LowCultureHighTech that they cannot comprehend at all.]] Removing them causes the entire thing to simply not function (or triggers a [[StuffBlowingUp more]] [[BerserkButton active]] [[CrushKillDestroy response]]). The organization may be able to reverse-engineer copies, or lesser versions, but they don't understand how it actually works.

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Such technology falls into the hands of some organization, usually the military or a commercial business. The original creator is dead ([[ImportedAlienPhlebotinum or is an alien]] or from [[LostTechnology a long-dead civilization]] or otherwise can't be reached), but said technology is really convenient. The organization's analysts went over the thing, and while most of it makes sense, there are these elements, either program or device, [[LowCultureHighTech that they cannot comprehend at all.]] Removing them causes the entire thing to simply not function (or triggers a [[StuffBlowingUp more]] [[BerserkButton active]] [[CrushKillDestroy [[MurderousMalfunctioningMachine more active response]]). The organization may be able to reverse-engineer copies, or lesser versions, but they don't understand how it actually works.


Not to be confused with [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_%28transportation%29 "Black box"]] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_recorder flight recorders]], [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_theater the kind of theatre]], [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Box_(band) the Italian house music group]] or [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EA_Black_Box the former video game developer]] who used to make the ''VideoGame/{{Skate}}'' series and various ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeed'' games, or a black-colored CensorBox.

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Not to be confused with [[http://en.[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_%28transportation%29 "Black box"]] [[http://en.[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_recorder flight recorders]], [[http://en.[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_theater the kind of theatre]], [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Box_(band) the Italian house music group]] or [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EA_Black_Box [[Creator/BlackBox the former video game developer]] who used to make the ''VideoGame/{{Skate}}'' series and various ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeed'' games, or a black-colored CensorBox.

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* Orks painting cars red automatically makes the cars able to go faster. And no, there's absolutely no explanation for why this is the case.


This is surprisingly common in RealLife, particularly in programming, where the programmer is the only one who really understands how what they've built works (and sometimes, not even ''them''[[note]]Even a "simple" (no graphics, purely command-line and input file driven and with the only output being more text files) scientific application that does anything actually useful can easily exceed ten thousand lines of code in a high-level language and is probably the result of the work of multiple people, none of whom knows ''every'' detail of the parts they didn't write. And even if a single dedicated programmer wrote the whole thing personally, it's virtually certain that at least some of it uses infrastructure in the form of library routines or system calls that were not written by the same programmer.[[/note]]). Especially in high-level languages, where the programmer can for example tell the computer to replace all occurrences of "cake" with "apple" in a text, and doesn't have to worry about how the system does it--s/he gets a changed text back and that's that. This also happens in pharmacology, where it might be discovered that a drug has a positive effect on people with a certain illness but when it's first used doctors and scientists don't understand why.

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This is surprisingly common in RealLife, particularly in programming, where the programmer is the only one who really understands how what they've built works (and sometimes, not even ''them''[[note]]Even a "simple" (no graphics, purely command-line and input file driven and with the only output being more text files) scientific application that does anything actually useful can easily exceed ten thousand lines of code in a high-level language and is probably the result of the work of multiple people, none of whom knows ''every'' detail of the parts they didn't write. And even if a single dedicated programmer wrote the whole thing personally, it's virtually certain that at least some of it uses infrastructure in the form of library routines or system calls that were not written by the same programmer.[[/note]]). Especially in high-level languages, where the programmer can for example tell the computer to replace all occurrences of "cake" with "apple" in a text, and doesn't have to worry about how the system does it--s/he gets it - they get a changed text back and that's that. This also happens in pharmacology, where it might be discovered that a drug has a positive effect on people with a certain illness but when it's first used doctors and scientists don't understand why.


....yes, of course, the technology has a bizarre effect that nobody could have predicted--you really need to keep track of those inputs and outputs! Usually it's in the form of acquiring [[InstantAIJustAddWater sentience]] or a bizarre weapon, or only being able to be used by people of the show's [[CompetenceZone target demographic]]. (It's common in HumongousMecha series.)

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.......yes, of course, the technology has a bizarre effect that nobody could have predicted--you predicted you really need to keep track of those inputs and outputs! Usually it's in the form of acquiring [[InstantAIJustAddWater sentience]] or a bizarre weapon, or only being able to be used by people of the show's [[CompetenceZone target demographic]]. (It's common in HumongousMecha series.)



Not to be confused with [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_%28transportation%29 'Black box']] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_recorder flight recorders,]] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_theater the kind of theater,]] [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Box_(band) the Italian house music group]] or [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EA_Black_Box the former video game developer]] who used to make the ''VideoGame/{{Skate}}'' series and various ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeed'' games, or a black-colored CensorBox.

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Not to be confused with [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_%28transportation%29 'Black box']] "Black box"]] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_recorder flight recorders,]] recorders]], [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_theater the kind of theater,]] theatre]], [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Box_(band) the Italian house music group]] or [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EA_Black_Box the former video game developer]] who used to make the ''VideoGame/{{Skate}}'' series and various ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeed'' games, or a black-colored CensorBox.



!!Examples

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!!Examples
!!Examples:



[[folder:Comics]]

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[[folder:Comics]][[folder:Comic Books]]



--> '''Eggman''': I HATE that Rotor! I hack and I hack, and I hack, and do I find anything? Do I get past his firewalls? NO! Not only is his defense system too good...
--> '''The Firewall''': [[{{Emoticon}} XP]]
--> '''Eggman''': It's downright RUDE!

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--> '''Eggman''': -->'''Eggman''': I HATE that Rotor! I hack and I hack, and I hack, and do I find anything? Do I get past his firewalls? NO! Not only is his defense system too good...
-->
good...\\
'''The Firewall''': [[{{Emoticon}} XP]]
-->
XP]]\\
'''Eggman''': It's downright RUDE!



[[folder:Film]]

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[[folder:Film]][[folder:Comic Strips]]
* The [[http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2006-12-08/ legacy server]] in ''{{ComicStrip/Dilbert}}'', which Dilbert was put in charge of. It's worth noting that Dilbert's immediate response upon seeing it was...
-->'''Dilbert''': Frack.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film Live-Action]]



[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Caprica}}'' has one in foe form of New Cap City. In effect, it is a virtual reality MMORPG located on their version of the Dark Net. It is an enormous city that doesn't seem to end, and nearly everything is trying to kill you. Most people use it like GTA, while teenagers use it to engage in orgies and drug use without harm, although a few are devoted to unlocking its mysteries. The one rule to play is that you only get one life, and are immediately and permanently locked out if you die. Its origins, and the reasons for its existence, are a complete mystery to everyone. Even the creator of the V-World technology has no idea who built it or why. The hardcore gamers all insist that there must be some reason or point to it, and are obsessed with the idea of "beating" the game, even though it doesn't seem to work that way. Eventually the point is rendered moot when the protagonist reshapes the whole world into a forest fantasy kingdom full of dragons. Really.

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[[folder:Live Action [[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/BabylonFive'' has a variety of Black Boxes, mostly leftover [[{{Precursors}} First One]] technology:
** Nobody knows who built the first jumpgates or what principle they operate on, and every spacefaring race in the universe simply produces replicas thereof without understanding how they work.
** Shadow devices that allow for remote control of ships. Like Sheridan says, the younger races don't understand them and can't build them, but are sure willing to use them.
** The machine that transfers life force from one person to another, first featured in the first season episode ''Quality of Mercy'' and turning up again in a few later episodes.
** In the TV film ''Thirdspace'', they find a large [[BigDumbObject object]] adrift in Hyperspace, covered in Vorlon writing. Naturally, they stick a power cell onto it, [[SealedEvilInACan which turns out not to have been their brightest idea ever.]]
** Usually, however, it's {{Averted}}: the races known for being professional technological scavengers (Humans, Centauri, Narn and Vree) normally open the black box and try and find out how it works, before putting it into production, the jumpgate technology being the only exception.
* In the re-imagined ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}'', it's eventually revealed [[spoiler:after the destruction of the Resurrection Hub]] that the "Significant Seven" Cylons don't understand how the resurrection process they use actually works, and so [[spoiler:they can't reconstruct it after it's gone. Only the Final Five have the knowledge necessary to recreate the technology, since they designed it in the first place.]]
**
''Series/{{Caprica}}'' has one in foe form of New Cap City. In effect, it is a virtual reality MMORPG located on their version of the Dark Net. It is an enormous city that doesn't seem to end, and nearly everything is trying to kill you. Most people use it like GTA, while teenagers use it to engage in orgies and drug use without harm, although a few are devoted to unlocking its mysteries. The one rule to play is that you only get one life, and are immediately and permanently locked out if you die. Its origins, and the reasons for its existence, are a complete mystery to everyone. Even the creator of the V-World technology has no idea who built it or why. The hardcore gamers all insist that there must be some reason or point to it, and are obsessed with the idea of "beating" the game, even though it doesn't seem to work that way. Eventually the point is rendered moot when the protagonist reshapes the whole world into a forest fantasy kingdom full of dragons. Really.Really.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'': In [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E11TurnLeft "Turn Left"]], the TARDIS serves this role. [[spoiler:The episode is set in a {{crapsack|World}} ForWantOfANail timeline where the Doctor died for real because he never met Donna Noble. Later on, after the world has gone to hell and TheStarsAreGoingOut, a universe-hopping Rose Tyler and UNIT use the recovered TARDIS to power a makeshift time machine to send Donna back to change the past and SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong. Rose admits to Donna that they don't have any idea how the TARDIS actually works, but she gets Donna to where in the past she needs to be.]]
* Finch and his partner invoke this trope in ''Series/PersonOfInterest'' when questioned by the [=CIA=] on how the Machine provides intel (it takes in raw electronic surveillance data and spits out a person's social security number to lead the user to a threat). Finch feels the Machine is [[NoManShouldHaveThisPower too powerful for any person to have access]], and so encrypts it so heavily even he will never be able to access it again.



*** While never utilized in the show, that idea is one of the first uses Humanity finds for all the extra Staff Weapons in the Fan-Fic series 'Fanfic/{{XSGCOM}}', among other things...

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*** While never utilized in the show, that idea is one of the first uses Humanity finds for all the extra Staff Weapons in the Fan-Fic fanfic series 'Fanfic/{{XSGCOM}}', among other things...



* ''Series/BabylonFive'' has a variety of Black Boxes, mostly leftover [[{{Precursors}} First One]] technology:
** Nobody knows who built the first jumpgates or what principle they operate on, and every spacefaring race in the universe simply produces replicas thereof without understanding how they work.
** Shadow devices that allow for remote control of ships. Like Sheridan says, the younger races don't understand them and can't build them, but are sure willing to use them.
** The machine that transfers life force from one person to another, first featured in the first season episode ''Quality of Mercy'' and turning up again in a few later episodes.
** In the TV film ''Thirdspace'', they find a large [[BigDumbObject object]] adrift in Hyperspace, covered in Vorlon writing. Naturally, they stick a power cell onto it, [[SealedEvilInACan which turns out not to have been their brightest idea ever.]]
** Usually, however, it's {{Averted}}: the races known for being professional technological scavengers (Humans, Centauri, Narn and Vree) normally open the black box and try and find out how it works, before putting it into production, the jumpgate technology being the only exception.
* In the re-imagined ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}'', it's eventually revealed [[spoiler:after the destruction of the Resurrection Hub]] that the "Significant Seven" Cylons don't understand how the resurrection process they use actually works, and so [[spoiler:they can't reconstruct it after it's gone. Only the Final Five have the knowledge necessary to recreate the technology, since they designed it in the first place.]]



* Finch and his partner invoke this trope in ''Series/PersonOfInterest'' when questioned by the [=CIA=] on how the Machine provides intel (it takes in raw electronic surveillance data and spits out a person's social security number to lead the user to a threat). Finch feels the Machine is [[NoManShouldHaveThisPower too powerful for any person to have access]], and so encrypts it so heavily even he will never be able to access it again.



[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* The [[http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2006-12-08/ legacy server]] in ''{{ComicStrip/Dilbert}}'', which Dilbert was put in charge of. It's worth noting that Dilbert's immediate response upon seeing it was
-->'''Dilbert''': Frack.
[[/folder]]



* The train in ''WesternAnimation/InfinityTrain'' is an EldritchLocation running on incomprehensibly advanced technology, but Tulip and [[spoiler:Amelia as the fake Conductor]] are able to control it to some extent by analyzing its observable mechanisms (particularly the orbs every objects and creature seem to be tied to). Tulip even compares it to programming a game.



* The train in ''WesternAnimation/InfinityTrain'' is an EldritchLocation running on incomprehensibly advanced technology, but Tulip and [[spoiler:Amelia as the fake Conductor]] are able to control it to some extent by analyzing its observable mechanisms (particularly the orbs every objects and creature seem to be tied to). Tulip even compares it to programming a game.


** The engineers also have to look in junkyards for intact components from the old program in order to try to figure out how they work. Basically, the plans might show a particular gauge being used, but the engineers have to know ''why'' it's there, since their job isn't to replicate the components, it's to design new ones using the old plans a jumping off point.


** [[VideoGame/MassEffect3 The third game]] kicks this UpToEleven with [[spoiler:the Crucible]], [[spoiler:a [[FlingALightIntoTheFuture light flung into the future]] so many times that barely anyone who tried to build it understood what it was or what it did. Not even the Protheans were sure how it even ''operated,'' and they nearly finished the damn thing before the Reapers completed their invasion. It's hammered home numerous times through the game that it could do damn near anything because while there are easily understandable blueprints for it, there's no data on how to use it or what it does. At one point Commander Shepard likens the situation to a child playing with his father's gun. It turns out to be little more than a giant power source used to brute-force hack the Citadel and Relay network to either destroy or control all Reapers. It can alternatively forcibly convert all organic and machine life into cyborgs if certain conditions are met, but this was apparently not an intentional part of the design]].

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** [[VideoGame/MassEffect3 The third game]] kicks this UpToEleven with [[spoiler:the Crucible]], [[spoiler:a Crucible, a [[FlingALightIntoTheFuture light flung into the future]] so many times that barely anyone who tried to build it understood what it was or what it did. Not even the Protheans were sure how it even ''operated,'' and they nearly finished the damn thing before the Reapers completed their invasion. It's hammered home numerous times through the game that it could do damn near anything because while there are easily understandable blueprints for it, there's no data on how to use it or what it does. At one point Commander Shepard likens the situation to a child playing with his father's gun. It turns out to be little more than a giant power source used to brute-force hack the Citadel and Relay network to either destroy or control all Reapers. It can alternatively forcibly convert all organic and machine life into cyborgs if certain conditions are met, but this was apparently not an intentional part of the design]].



** The titular robot was the last and greatest creation of Dr. Light, who then had X put through 30 years of ethical testing to ensure that he wouldn't misuse his "limitless" power. When Dr. Cain discovered X and studied the robot, he admitted that some of X's systems were "black boxes" he couldn't understand, but did his best to reproduce X's design. The result was the invention of the Reploids, a generation of robots more advanced than anything previous, but the fact that they were all imperfect copies of Light's design led to the Maverick uprisings.

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** The titular robot was the last and greatest creation of Dr. Light, who then had X put through 30 years of ethical testing to ensure that he wouldn't misuse his "limitless" power. When Dr. Cain discovered X and studied the robot, he admitted that some of X's systems were "black boxes" he couldn't understand, but did his best to reproduce X's design. The result was the invention of the Reploids, a generation of robots more advanced than anything previous, but the fact that they were all imperfect copies of Light's design led to the Maverick uprisings.



** The Space Pirates have a habit of developing their own tech using the framework of what they steal from other races, and naturally they were eager to try to reverse-engineer their archnemesis' equipment, even if their scientists admit they're baffled how Samus' power suit functions. They were able to reproduce the various beam weapons used by Samus' suit, though each Space Pirate using the derived weapons was limited to a single type of beam, while Samus can switch freely between them. The bigger hurtle came when the Space Pirates turned to Samus' Morph Ball ability - their Science Team was able to successfully compress a Space Pirate into a small sphere, but having them come out of it intact [[BodyHorror proved problematic.]]

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** The Space Pirates have a habit of developing their own tech using the framework of what they steal from other races, and naturally they were eager to try to reverse-engineer their archnemesis' equipment, even if their scientists admit they're baffled how Samus' power suit functions. They were able to reproduce the various beam weapons used by Samus' suit, though each Space Pirate using the derived weapons was limited to a single type of beam, while Samus can switch freely between them. The bigger hurtle hurdle came when the Space Pirates turned to Samus' Morph Ball ability - their Science Team was able to successfully compress a Space Pirate into a small sphere, but having them come out of it intact [[BodyHorror proved problematic.]]



* ''VideoGame/{{Stellaris}}'' generally averts this, and you can scan battle wreckage of even {{Precursor}} shipes to reverse-engineer their components, but should you take the "Enigmatic Engineering" Ascension Perk, your technological designs become sufficiently esoteric that your rivals can't study them in that way. Which is a good way to keep the unique technology derived from defeating one of the [[BonusBoss Leviathan]] enemies limited to your forces.
* In the ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' ExpandedUniverse, there's a character named Rinnosuke who has the power to immediately identify the function of any device he sees. This does not mean that he knows how to use it. He was once horrified to recover a "World Controlling Device" capable of causing great destruction, [[JediTruth little realizing]] that he was dealing with a Nintendo Game Boy.

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* ''VideoGame/{{Stellaris}}'' generally averts this, and you can scan battle wreckage of even {{Precursor}} shipes to reverse-engineer their components, but should until you have end-game science buildings it's going to take a looong time to complete those research projects. Or you can play this trope straight by taking the "Enigmatic Engineering" Ascension Perk, which makes your technological designs become sufficiently esoteric that your rivals can't study them in that way. Which is - a good way to keep the unique technology derived from defeating one of the [[BonusBoss Leviathan]] enemies limited to your forces.
* In the ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' ExpandedUniverse, there's a character named Rinnosuke who has the power to immediately identify the function of any device he sees. This does not mean that he knows what it's called or how to use it. He was once horrified to recover a "World Controlling Device" capable of causing great destruction, [[JediTruth little realizing]] that he was dealing with a Nintendo Game Boy.UsefulNotes/GameBoy.

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* The train in ''WesternAnimation/InfinityTrain'' is an EldritchLocation running on incomprehensibly advanced technology, but Tulip and [[spoiler:Amelia as the fake Conductor]] are able to control it to some extent by analyzing its observable mechanisms (particularly the orbs every objects and creature seem to be tied to). Tulip even compares it to programming a game.


* ''Film/AvengersAgeOfUltron'' has the Staff, which HYDRA uses to conduct experiments in giving folk superpowers and developing artificial intelligence... somehow. The implication is they were just throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck, since they only come out the other end with a lot of non-functioning robots and only two traumatised teens with superpowers. Later on, it's implied the Staff, which is alive in some form, is what brings Ultron to full sentience.

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* ''Film/AvengersAgeOfUltron'' has the Staff, which HYDRA uses to conduct experiments in giving folk superpowers and developing artificial intelligence... somehow. The implication is they were just throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck, since they only come out the other end with a lot of non-functioning robots and only two traumatised teens with superpowers. Later on, it's implied the Staff, which is alive in some form, is what brings Ultron to full sentience. [[spoiler: Like the Tesseract example, the Staff is an Infinity Stone and represents/is/controls an aspect of the Universe itself.]]


*** Some of these are somewhat trivial, while others are more interesting. How many planets are in the Solar System depends on one's definition of planet - it isn't the result of lack of knowledge but rather of definition, and if we mean a -real- planet, not a minor one, the answer is pretty clear at 8 - while it is possible we will find a far flung planet in the solar system, it would be pretty remote (there certainly isn't a planet anywhere nearby, and the vulcanoids are not hiding a planet), and this is simply mistaking science for something else (nothing is ever proven in science, after all). The length of any coastline depends on your level of precision. And while we don't know exactly -why- ice is slippery in the sense of not knowing what causes it, we are pretty sure we know the cause of the low friction - a thin layer of water on the surface. On the other hand, we really don't know why we sleep, how gravity works, how many species there are (though like the planets one, this is more of a lack of total knowledge than a lack of theory, which is a very different thing), why bicycles stay upright (sort of... we do know some of this, at least the obvious bits, but there are clearly more factors at work)... it's a bit awkward that the article mixes two things (knowledge questions vs theory questions), as there are lots of knowledge questions unknown to science.

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*** Some of these are somewhat trivial, while others are more interesting. How many planets are in the Solar System depends on one's definition of planet - it isn't the result of lack of knowledge but rather of definition, and if we mean a -real- planet, not a minor one, the answer is pretty clear at 8 9 - while it is possible we will find a far flung planet in the solar system, it would be pretty remote (there certainly isn't a planet anywhere nearby, and the vulcanoids are not hiding a planet), and this is simply mistaking science for something else (nothing is ever proven in science, after all). The length of any coastline depends on your level of precision. And while we don't know exactly -why- ice is slippery in the sense of not knowing what causes it, we are pretty sure we know the cause of the low friction - a thin layer of water on the surface. On the other hand, we really don't know why we sleep, how gravity works, how many species there are (though like the planets one, this is more of a lack of total knowledge than a lack of theory, which is a very different thing), why bicycles stay upright (sort of... we do know some of this, at least the obvious bits, but there are clearly more factors at work)...upright... it's a bit awkward that the article mixes two things (knowledge questions vs theory questions), as there are lots of knowledge questions unknown to science.


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** Also, the risk of creating another Lore (Data's dangerously flawed older brother) highlights the risks of building anything less than a flawless brain on the first attempt.

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** Also, the risk of creating another Lore (Data's [[FlawedPrototype dangerously flawed older brother) brother]]) highlights the risks of building anything less than a flawless brain on the first attempt.


*** The FMP manga Arbalest won't work for anyone other than Sousuke because if anyone else tries to pilot it the AI just constantly asks for Sousuke, and no matter how many times the reset or reprogram the thing it still will only work for Sousuke.

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*** The FMP manga Arbalest won't work for anyone other than Sousuke because if anyone else tries to pilot it the AI just constantly asks for Sousuke, and no matter how many times the they reset or reprogram the thing it still will only work for Sousuke.

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* A variant of this trope: in ancient times doctors would recommend people suffering from depression and the like drink mineral water from springs. While it worked, they had no idea why. It turns out to be because water from springs tends to contain a lot of lithium, which has an anti-depressant effect an is still used for that purpose.

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