Humans crave certainty. Puzzles, mysteries and riddles are okay—so long as they have a solution. But when we encounter an enigma that defies explanation, we often sweep it under the rug or concoct a solution based on logic so twisted it would be the envy of a Cirque du Soleil contortionist. And this is especially true when we stumble upon befuddling paradoxes in our sacred texts, such as the story of Adam and Eve.
The conundrum presented by the third chapter of Genesis—Was Eve’s decision to partake of the forbidden fruit a sin? a transgression? a necessary evil? or something else?—has been the subject of countless books, essays, and debates since ancient times.
This is a story about a planet called Vulcan. No, not the place where S’chn T’gai Spock—better known as “Mr. Spock”—was raised by his Vulcan father and human mother. This is about a planet in our Solar System by that very same name. It differs, however, from all the rest in one important respect: no one has ever been able to find it.
To understand the mystery of Vulcan and how it was eventually solved, we must first turn our attention to a different—and quite real—planetary body: Uranus. While Uranus was discovered towards the end of the 18thcentury, during the early 1800s astronomers were beginning to wonder whether it might actually be a star. Those doubts had arisen because the planet was not adhering to Newton’s theory of gravity.