Arthur Eddington

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pages: 492 words: 149,259

Big Bang by Simon Singh


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, carbon-based life, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, Copley Medal, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Defenestration of Prague, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Hans Lippershey, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, horn antenna, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of the telescope, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, music of the spheres, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Paul Erdős, retrograde motion, scientific mainstream, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, unbiased observer, V2 rocket, Wilhelm Olbers, William of Occam

There they would spend the night studying the stars, returning home early in the morning. Fred’s early fascination with astronomy was reinforced at the age of twelve when he read Arthur Eddington’s Stars and Atoms. Eventually Hoyle was persuaded to give the British education system a chance. He settled down at Bingley Grammar School and then embarked on a traditional academic path. In 1933 he won a scholarship to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics. He excelled and won the Mayhew Prize, which is given to the best student in applied mathematics. After graduation he earned a place as a Ph.D. student at Cambridge, working alongside such greats as Rudolf Peierls, Paul Dirac, Max Born and his hero, Arthur Eddington. After earning his doctorate in 1939 he was elected a fellow of St John’s College, and his research began to focus on the evolution of stars.

He continued to write papers while stuck in the trenches, including one on Einstein’s general theory of relativity which later led to an understanding of black holes. On 24 February 1916, Einstein presented the paper to the Prussian Academy. Just four months later, Schwarzschild was dead. He had contracted a fatal disease on the Eastern front. While Schwarzschild volunteered to fight, his counterpart at the Cambridge Observatory, Arthur Eddington, refused to enlist on principle. Raised as a devout Quaker, Eddington made his position clear: ‘My objection to war is based on religious grounds…Even if the abstention of conscientious objectors were to make the difference between victory and defeat, we cannot truly benefit the nation by wilful disobedience to the divine will.’ Eddington’s colleagues pressed for him to be exempted from military service on the grounds that he was of more value to the country as a scientist, but the Home Office rejected the petition.

Nevertheless, Einstein once made a tongue-in-cheek comment when asked by a student how he would have reacted if God’s universe had turned out to behave differently from the way the general theory of relativity had predicted. In a wonderful demonstration of mock hubris, Einstein answered: ‘Then I would feel sorry for the Good Lord. The theory is correct anyway.’ Figure 28 Albert Einstein, who developed the theoretical framework of general relativity, and Sir Arthur Eddington, who proved it by observing the 1919 eclipse. This photograph was taken in 1930, when Einstein visited Cambridge to collect an honorary degree. Einstein’s Universe Newton’s theory of gravity is still widely used today to calculate everything from the flight of a tennis ball to the forces on a suspension bridge, from the swinging of a pendulum to the trajectory of a missile. Newton’s formula remains highly accurate when applied to phenomena that take place within the realm of low terrestrial gravity, where the forces are comparatively weak.


pages: 412 words: 122,952

Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, Copley Medal, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, horn antenna, invention of the telescope, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Occam's razor, Pluto: dwarf planet, Solar eclipse in 1919, William of Occam

His genial composure was only broken when he had to sneeze, a feat once described as “remarkable.” By the 1910s the island-universe theory, dormant for many years, was slowly reemerging among a select group of scientists in both the United States and Europe. These astronomers were specifying that the spirals' sizes and the brightness of their novae only made sense if they were milky ways at great distance. The highly respected English astrophysicist Arthur Eddington was captivated by the vast breadth of this idea; it engaged his theoretical fantasies. “If the spiral nebulae are within the stellar system [the Milky Way], we have no notion what their nature may be. That hypothesis leads to a full stop,” he noted. “If, however, it is assumed that these nebulae are external to the stellar system, that they are in fact systems co-equal with our own, we have at least an hypothesis which can be followed up… [It] opens up to our imagination a truly magnificent vista of system beyond system … in which the great stellar system of hundreds of millions of stars (our galaxy)…would be an insignificant unit.”

Page by page he was stepping toward his grand finale. The full-scale assault took place with paper number twelve, titled “Remarks on the Arrangement of the Sidereal Universe.” This particular article was not fully ready for submission to the Astrophysical Journal until April, in the waning days of World War I, but Shapley couldn't wait that long to spread the news. On January 8, 1918, he wrote the noted Arthur Eddington in England that “now, with startling suddenness and definiteness, [the cluster studies] seem to have elucidated the whole sidereal structure”—in other words, the architecture of the Milky Way. Not only were the globular clusters uniformly scattered around the center of the galaxy, with the Sun shoved off to the hinterlands, but the Milky Way was far larger than anyone had formerly presumed.

“With the plan of the sidereal system here outlined,” reported Shapley, “it appears unlikely that the spiral nebulae can be considered separate galaxies of stars.” There was still the problem of the exceptionally bright novae seen earlier in the spiral nebulae. How do you explain that? asked Shapley. And then there were van Maanen's rotations to take into account. Not everyone was swayed by Shapley's worries; the most ardent believers in external galaxies still held fast to their convictions—not only Curtis but also such major players as Arthur Eddington, W. W. Campbell, and V. M. Slipher. It was the undecideds who were most affected by Shapley's arguments and so remained huddled on the fence. What resulted were two completely different views of the universe, which were difficult to reconcile. The writer MacPherson poetically put it this way: “We may compare our galactic system to a continent surrounded on all sides by the ocean of space, and the globular clusters to small islands lying at varying distances from its shores; while the spiral nebulae would appear to be either smaller islands, or else independent ‘continents’ shining dimly out of Immensity.”


pages: 349 words: 27,507

E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis


Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Berlin Wall, British Empire, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, John von Neumann, Mercator projection, pre–internet, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Stephen Hawking, Thorstein Veblen, V2 rocket

With men he was bluff and friendly, but with women he was bluff and pretty much a thug. He was cruel to her at lectures, trying to get all the male students to laugh at this one female in their midst. It didn’t stop her from going—she could hold her own with his best students in tutorials— but even forty years later, retired from her professorship at Harvard, she remembered the rows of braying young men, nervously trying to do what their teacher expected of them. But Arthur Eddington, a quiet Quaker, was also at the university, and he was happy to take her on as a tutorial student. Although his reserve never lifted—tea with students was generally in the presence of his elderly unmarried sister—the twenty-year-old Payne picked up Eddington’s barely stated awe at the potential power of pure thought. He liked to show how creatures who lived on a planet entirely shrouded in cloud would be able to deduce the main features of the unseen universe above The Fires of the Sun them.

If conditions allowed international travel, he’d finally be able to prove what he could do. In November 1918 World War I ended. There were no obstacles to a German national traveling now! It’s not recorded what Freundlich felt as the great expedition set out, but we know exactly where he was when the results came through. He read it in the newspaper, back in Berlin. He hadn’t been invited along. In fact, it was a cool Englishman we’ve already met who led the team. Arthur Eddington wore small metalrimmed glasses, was medium height and barely medium weight, and spoke in sentences that tapered off whenever he had to pause for thought, which was fairly often. This of course meant in the good English manner that under his meek exterior there beat a soul of wild determination. By the time Chandra encountered him in the 1930s his personality had hardened, but at this time, in the period of World War I, he had the energy of a young man.

Eddington knew what was in store in the prison camps, but being a pacifist isn’t the same as being a coward, as the actions of many Quakers years later in the American civil rights movement showed. Eddington signed the letter, since that was only fair to his friends, but then he also added a postscript, explaining to the Home Office that if he wasn’t deferred on grounds of scientific usefulness, he’d still ask to be deferred as a conscientious objector. The Home Office was not impressed, and began proceedings to send him to one of the prisons. What Else Einstein Did Arthur Eddington aip emilio segrè visual archives This is the point at which the Astronomer Royal, Frank Dyson, called attention to the remarkable eclipse opportunity. If Dyson could get Eddington to arrange the expedition, could Eddington still be deferred, despite that postscript? Dyson’s work was relevant to navigation, and so he was close to the admiralty. The admiralty had a word with the Home Office.


pages: 282 words: 89,436

Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics by Paul Halpern


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, John von Neumann, lone genius, New Journalism, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics

It was forced to cede some of its territory, limit the size of its army, and pay extensive reparations—leading to much resentment and economic depression that would contribute to the rise of the Nazis. During the war, Einstein had little chance to test his hypothesis about the gravitational bending of starlight by the Sun. Finlay-Freundlich’s inability to complete his expedition was a great disappointment to him. Einstein quietly began to correspond with a British astronomer, Arthur Eddington, who was keenly interested in verifying Einstein’s theory. According to several widely reported stories, Eddington was known at the time as one of the few people who truly understood general relativity.14 A Quaker and a pacifist, Eddington, like Einstein, was opposed to the war and in favor of international scientific cooperation. Naturally, during the bloody conflict, open cooperation between British and German scientists was close to impossible.

In return, Schuschnigg promised to 144 Spooky Connections and Zombie Cats ensure that his foreign policy was appropriate for a “German state” and to let some Nazi-leaning politicians into his government. These seemingly innocuous clauses provided a Trojan horse for Hitler to include his supporters in the Austrian leadership and begin to exert pressure from within for subjugation. Schrödinger started his Graz professorship in October of that year. Once again he tried to ignore politics, focusing on his research. He had become intrigued by recent proposals by Arthur Eddington for uniting quantum physics with general relativity and explaining uncertainty through cosmological arguments. Thus in the midst of Austria’s turmoil, his gaze was fixed on his equations. The Quantum and the Cosmos Eddington’s role in the late 1910s and early 1920s as a leading defender, interpreter, and tester of general relativity had won him much respect in the physics community. However, starting in the mid- to late 1920s, his research had become increasingly focused on explaining the properties of nature through mathematical relationships that connected the very large and very small.

Frank, Philipp, Einstein: His Life and Times (New York: 1949). Freund, Peter, A Passion for Discovery (Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 2007). 237 Further Reading Gefter, Amanda, Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn: A Father, a Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing, and the Beginning of Everything (New York: Bantam, 2014). Goenner, Hubert, “Unified Field Theories: From Eddington and Einstein up to Now,” in Proceedings of the Sir Arthur Eddington Centenary Symposium, edited by V. de Sabbata and T. M. Karade, 1:176–196 (Singapore: World Scientific, 1984). Greene, Brian, Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (New York: Vintage, 2005). Gribbin, John, Erwin Schrödinger and the Quantum Revolution (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2013). ———, In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality (New York: Bantam, 1984). ———, Schrödinger’s Kittens and the Search for Reality: Solving the Quantum Mysteries (New York: Little, Brown, 1995).


pages: 339 words: 112,979

Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, correlation coefficient, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, Douglas Engelbart, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Jaron Lanier, Mahatma Gandhi, music of the spheres, Necker cube, p-value, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steven Pinker, Zipf's Law

from 'Remembering Richard Feynman', The Skeptical Inquirer (1988) Newton's dissection of the rainbow into light of different wavelengths led on to Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism and thence to Einstein's theory of special relativity. If you think the rainbow has poetic mystery, you should try relativity. Einstein himself openly made aesthetic judgements in science, and perhaps went too far. 'The most beautiful thing we can experience,' he said, 'is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.' Sir Arthur Eddington, whose own scientific writings were noted for poetic flair, used the solar eclipse of 1919 to test General Relativity and returned from Principe Island to announce, in Banesh Hoffmann's phrase, that Germany was host to the greatest scientist of the age. I read those words with a catch in the throat, but Einstein himself took the triumph in his stride. Any other result and he would have been 'sorry for the dear Lord.

There may be some who feel that the truth should always out, however painful, but I think a good case could be made that the sum total of human happiness would not be enhanced by a sudden outburst of revelations about everybody's true paternity. Then there are the medical and insurance issues. The whole life insurance business depends upon the inability to forecast exactly when somebody will die. As Sir Arthur Eddington said: 'Human life is proverbially uncertain; few things are more certain than the solvency of a life-insurance company.' We all pay our premiums. Those of us who die later than expected subsidize (the heirs of) those who die earlier than expected. Insurance companies already make statistical guesses which partially subvert the system by enabling them to charge high-risk clients larger premiums.

Moving to the far end of our spectrum of putative miracles, are there any speculations or allegations that we can utterly, and for all time, rule out? Physicists agree that if an inventor applies for a patent for a perpetual motion machine you can safely turn down his patent without even looking at his design. This is because any perpetual motion machine would violate the laws of thermodynamics. Sir Arthur Eddington wrote: If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations—then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation—well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.


pages: 310 words: 89,838

Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science by Ian Sample


Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Donald Trump, Ernest Rutherford, John Conway, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking

The construction work alone had taken six years. Later that year, before LEP switched on, the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, gave a speech at the Royal Society in London, the most prestigious scientific organization in the country. She spoke wistfully of Arthur Eddington, whose stories Peter Higgs had read as a schoolboy. Eddington had chosen the Royal Society as the venue in which to describe his 1919 expedition to the west coast of Africa to prove Einstein right by watching starlight bend around the sun. “When Arthur Eddington presented his results to this society in 1919 . . . it made headlines,” Thatcher said. “Many people could not get into the meeting, so anxious were the crowds to find out whether the intellectual paradox of curved space had really been demonstrated. Should we be doing more to explain why we are looking for the Higgs boson at CERN?”

The man leading the assembly was about to retire when Higgs arrived, but he had been the new headmaster when Dirac was in his last year as a pupil at the school. Higgs was fascinated by Dirac, and it was he, more than any of the other founding fathers of quantum mechanics, who ignited Higgs’s passion for physics. His English teacher urged him to read about science outside the classroom, especially the popular books by the Cambridge physicist Arthur Eddington, the cosmologist James Jeans, and Albert Einstein. One of Eddington’s tales had unfolded on May 29, 1919, ten years to the day before Higgs was born.19 Eddington had cooked up a brilliant plan. He realized that nature provided a way of testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which said massive objects created gravity by curving space around them. Eddington promptly set sail for the tiny island of Principe off the west coast of Africa and arrived in time to witness a total eclipse of the sun.


pages: 81 words: 28,120

Illustrated Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe by Stephen Hawking


anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, cosmological constant, dark matter

Our sunhas probably got enough fuel for another five thousand million years or so, butmore massive stars can use up their fuel in as little as one hundred millionyears, much less than the age of the universe. When the star runs out of fuel,it will start to cool off and so to contract. What might happen to it then wasonly first understood at the end of the 1920s. In 1928 an Indian graduate student named Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar setsail for England to study at Cambridge with the British astronomer Sir ArthurEddington. Eddington was an expert on general relativity. There is a story thata journalist told Eddington in the early 1920s that he had heard there wereonly three people in the world who understood general relativity. Eddingtonreplied, “I am trying to think who the third person is.”During his voyage from India, Chandrasekhar worked out how big a star couldbe and still separate itself against its own gravity after it had used up all itsfuel.


pages: 1,396 words: 245,647

The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo


Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, Ernest Rutherford, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, Henri Poincaré, invention of radio, invisible hand, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, strikebreaker, University of East Anglia

On 20 January 1920, Punch featured an anti-Semitic poem that exemplified popular puzzlement with the theory that had originated behind the lines of the UK’s bitter enemy: Euclid is gone, dethroned, By dominies disowned, And modern physicists, Judaeo-Teuton, Finding strange kinks in space, Swerves in light’s arrowy race, Make havoc of the theories of Newton. The pages of the newspapers and magazines were replete with advertisements for scores of half-baked accounts of Einstein’s work churned out only months after the theory came to public attention.28 At that time, there were no science journalists, so Dirac and his friend Wiltshire had to rely on popular articles written by scientists, notably Arthur Eddington, the Quaker astronomer and mathematician at the University of Cambridge and the only person in Britain to have mastered the theory. He had even got his hands dirty in one of the eclipse expeditions that produced crucial support for the theory. In a stream of entertaining articles and books, Eddington deployed witty, down-to-earth analogies that made even the most complex abstract ideas accessible and arresting.

Pausing only to eat his packed lunch, he looked every inch the city gent inspecting the local countryside: to the north, there was the winding valley of the river Great Ouse and to the east, the geometrical network of fenland drains and Tudor-style buildings with their Dutch gables.15 He would return in time for dinner at St John’s and then walk back to his digs through the foggy backstreets of Cambridge, most of them unlit. On Monday morning, he was ready for another six days’ uninterrupted study. Dirac’s reserve did not prevent him from meeting many of the country’s most famous scientists soon after he arrived. Among them was the man who had introduced him to the technicalities of relativity theory, Arthur Eddington. He was a young-looking forty-year-old, always neatly dressed in his three-piece suit, the knot of his dark tie poised just below the top button of his starched shirt. For someone so eminent, he was surprisingly lacking in confidence – he often sat with his arms crossed defensively, weighing his words carefully. His unique strength as a scientist lay in his hybrid skills as a mathematician and astronomer, giving him the ideal qualifications to play a leading role in tests of the general theory of relativity.

Dirac was learning the branches of mathematics known as group theory and differential geometry. 57 Interview with Oppenheimer, AHQP, 20 November 1963, p. 1. 58 Letter to Dirac from his mother, 9 October 1931, Dirac Papers, 2/2/4 (FSU). 59 Letter to Dirac from his mother, dated 28/31 September 1931, Dirac Papers, 2/2/4 (FSU). 60 Letter to Dirac from his mother, 22 December 1931, Dirac Papers, 2/2/4 (FSU). 61 Brown (1997: Chapter 6). 62 Cathcart (2004: 210–12); Chadwick (1984: 42–5). 63 Brown (1997: 106). Sixteen I hope it will not shock experimental physicists too much if I say that we do not accept their observations unless they are confirmed by theory. SIR ARTHUR EDDINGTON, 11 September 19331 The character of Paul Dirac first appeared on stage in a special version of Faust, the Hamlet of German literature. Goethe’s drama is the literary antithesis of Agatha Christie’s penny-plain narratives that Dirac wolfed down in the evenings. He had no taste for epic plays, but he will have been absorbed in this Faust, a forty-minute musical parody of the twenty-one-hour play, written as a physicists’ entertainment.2 The authors, the cast and the audience were the physicists at Bohr’s spring meeting in April 1932, and Dirac was there.


pages: 449 words: 123,459

The Infinity Puzzle by Frank Close


Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Arthur Eddington, dark matter, El Camino Real,, Ernest Rutherford, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh

Experiments have determined its value to be 0.00728, which seems unremarkable until you notice that 1 divided by this number is almost exactly an integer: 137. Almost immediately following that discovery, this number took on a sense of mystery, which has fascinated physicists ever since. In 137, apparently, science had found nature’s PIN code. In Cambridge, England, in the 1930s, astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington, seduced by this numerology, inspired a Pythagorean cult.23 There have been spoofs connecting 137 to the biblical book of Revelation;24 one of the fathers of Quantum Electrodynamics—Julian Schwinger—had 137 as the vanity license plate on his sports car;25 and eighty years on, many of us continue to receive unsolicited papers from people who believe that they have found the true path to enlightenment with an explanation of this number.

In QED, alpha is expressed in terms of the speed of light, c, the magnitude of Planck’s quantum h, and e, the magnitude of the electric charge. It thereby connects the dynamics of electrically charged particles in a profound way with the great theories of the twentieth century—Special Relativity (viac) and Quantum Theory (viah). The tantalizing feature is that the particular combination of these quantities, alpha, is simply a number. 23. Arthur Eddington had built a set of sixteen equations, involving fundamental constants, with which he hoped to construct a theory of the universe. He then claimed that alpha followed from (16 × 16 – 16)/2 + 16, which equals 136. When the data settled on its value nearer to 137, Eddington announced that he had forgotten to include alpha itself in his formula, so added 1 to 136. Today we know that “one divided by alpha” is not exactly 137 and that its magnitude has no mystical significance.


pages: 434 words: 135,226

The Music of the Primes by Marcus Du Sautoy


Ada Lovelace, Andrew Wiles, Arthur Eddington, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, computer age, Dava Sobel, Dmitri Mendeleev, Eratosthenes, Erdős number, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, German hyperinflation, global village, Henri Poincaré, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, music of the spheres, New Journalism, Paul Erdős, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine, William of Occam, Wolfskehl Prize, Y2K

He had in mind the so-called great circles, such as lines of longitude, along which the shortest path between two points on the surface of the Earth is measured. In this two-dimensional geometry there are no parallel lines of longitude since they all meet at the poles. No one had contemplated the idea that three-dimensional space might also bend. We realise now that Gauss was working on too small a scale to observe any significant bending of space to counter the view of a Euclidean world. Arthur Eddington’s confirmation of the bending of light from stars during the solar eclipse of 1919 supported Gauss’s hunch. Gauss never went public with his ideas, perhaps because his new geometries seemed to be at variance with the task of mathematics, which was to represent physical reality. The friends he did mention his idea to, Gauss pledged to secrecy. The idea of these new geometries was eventually floated publicly in the 1830s by the Russian Nikolai Ivanovic Lobachevsky and the Hungarian János Bolyai.

Also at Trinity, working alongside Hardy and Littlewood, were the two most eminent philosophers active in England: Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Both were wrestling with the same foundational problems of mathematics that had so concerned Hilbert. And Cambridge was buzzing with new breakthroughs in physics made by the likes of J. J. Thomson, who was awarded a Nobel prize for his discovery of the electron, and Arthur Eddington, who had confirmed Gauss and Einstein’s belief that space was indeed curved and non-Euclidean. The great collaboration between Hardy and Littlewood was fuelled by the timely arrival from Göttingen of a book by Landau about prime numbers. The publication in 1909 of his two-volume work Handbuch der Lehre von der Verteilung der Primzahlen (‘Handbook of the Theory of the Distribution of Prime Numbers’) proselytised the wonders of the connections between primes and the Riemann zeta function.


pages: 185 words: 55,639

The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything by John Gribbin


Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Schrödinger's Cat, Schrödingers cat, Stephen Hawking

And, from the outset, this approach had not only involved higher dimensions (more than the familiar four), but a neat trick for tucking them away out of sight. The Many Dimensions of Reality Early in 1919, Theodor Kaluza, a junior scholar at the University of Königsberg in Germany, 3 was sitting at his desk in his study, working on the implications of the new General Theory of Relativity, which Einstein had first presented four years before and which was about to be confirmed, in spectacular fashion, by Arthur Eddington's observations of light bending during total eclipse of the Sun. As usual, Kaluza's son, Theodor junior, aged nine, was sitting quietly on the floor of the study, playing his own games. Suddenly, Kaluza senior stopped work. He sat still for several seconds, staring at the papers, covered with equations, that he had been working on. Then he whistled softly, slapped both hands down hard on the table, and stood up.


pages: 186 words: 64,267

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Brownian motion, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré, Magellanic Cloud, Stephen Hawking

Our sun has probably got enough fuel for another five thousand million years or so, but more massive stars can use up their fuel in as little as one hundred million years, much less than the age of the universe. When a star runs out of fuel, it starts to cool off and so to contract. What might happen to it then was first understood only at the end of the 1920s. In 1928 an Indian graduate student, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, set sail for England to study at Cambridge with the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington, an expert on general relativity. (According to some accounts, a journalist told Eddington in the early 1920s that he had heard there were only three people in the world who understood general relativity. Eddington paused, then replied, “I am trying to think who the third person is.”) During his voyage from India, Chandrasekhar worked out how big a star could be and still support itself against its own gravity after it had used up all its fuel.


pages: 233 words: 62,563

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Cepheid variable, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Georg Cantor, John Conway, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, retrograde motion, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking

The same thing happens with mass. As you get into greatly curved regions of space, bodies’ masses effectively increase, a phenomenon known as mass inflation. This analogy explains the orbits of the planets; Earth is simply rolling around in the dimple that the sun makes in the rubber sheet. Light doesn’t go in a straight line, but in a curved path around stars—an effect that the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington went on an expedition in 1919 to observe. Eddington measured the position of a star during a solar eclipse and spotted the curvature that Einstein had predicted (Figure 51). Einstein’s equations also predicted something much more sinister: the black hole, a star so dense that nothing can escape its grasp, not even light. Figure 51: Gravity bends light around the sun. A black hole begins, like all stars, as a big ball of hot gas—mostly hydrogen.


What Kind of Creatures Are We? (Columbia Themes in Philosophy) by Noam Chomsky


Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, conceptual framework,, failed state, Henri Poincaré, Jacques de Vaucanson, means of production, phenotype, Ronald Reagan, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Turing test, wage slave

We know nothing of the “intrinsic character” of such mentally constructed entities, so there is “no ground for the view that percepts cannot be physical events.” For science to be informative, it cannot be restricted to structural knowledge of such logical properties. Rather, “the world of physics [that we construct] must be, in some sense, continuous with the world of our perceptions, since it is the latter which supplies the evidence for the laws of physics.” The percepts that are required for this task—perhaps just meter-readings, Arthur Eddington had argued shortly before—“are not known to have any intrinsic character which physical events cannot have, since we do not know of any intrinsic character which could be incompatible with the logical properties that physics assigns to physical events.” Accordingly, “what are called ‘mental’ events… are part of the material of the physical world.” Physics itself seeks only to discover “the causal skeleton of the world, [while studying] percepts only in their cognitive aspect; their other aspects lie outside its purview”—though we recognize their existence, at the highest grade of certainty in fact.36 The basic conundrum recalls a classical dialogue between the intellect and the senses, in which the intellect says that color, sweetness, and the like are only convention while in reality there are only atoms and the void, and the senses reply: “Wretched mind, from us you are taking the evidence by which you would overthrow us?


pages: 253 words: 80,074

The Man Who Invented the Computer by Jane Smiley


Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, British Empire,, computer age, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, IBM and the Holocaust, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, RAND corporation, Turing machine, V2 rocket, Vannevar Bush, Von Neumann architecture

In 1931, Turing won his own scholarship to Cambridge, but to King’s College rather than Trinity. If, at the University of Florida and Iowa State, and even at the University of Wisconsin, Atanasoff was always more or less at the periphery of both the mathematics and physics establishments, at King’s College Turing was at the exact heart, especially of mathematics. He took courses from astrophysicist Arthur Eddington and mathematicians G. H. Hardy and Max Born. He met John von Neumann there—many mathematicians fleeing conditions in Germany and the East passed through Cambridge on their way to settling elsewhere. And it was Max Newman, who was lecturing on topology—the study of relationships between geometric spaces as they are transformed by such operations as stretching, but not such operations as cutting—who introduced him to the Hilbert problem that would make his career.


pages: 242 words: 68,019

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, From Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo


Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Claude Shannon: information theory, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Douglas Hofstadter, frictionless, frictionless market, George Akerlof, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, income per capita, invention of the telegraph, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, p-value, phenotype, price mechanism, Richard Florida, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, transaction costs, working-age population

It played in Pandora, and I thumbed up the song that night. 2 The Body of the Meaningless Suppose that we were asked to arrange the following into categories—distance, mass, electric force, entropy, beauty, melody. I think there are the strongest grounds for placing entropy alongside beauty and melody, and not with the first three. Entropy is only found when the parts are viewed in association, and it is by viewing or hearing the parts in association that beauty and melody are discerned. —ARTHUR EDDINGTON To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. —THOMAS A. EDISON A few months ago an article on the front page of a Chilean newspaper’s business section caught my eye. The article talked about a Chilean who had bought the world’s most expensive car. The car, a Bugatti Veyron, had a sticker price of more than $2.5 million, and its purchase represented one of the most flamboyant acts of conspicuous consumption I have ever seen.


pages: 257 words: 66,480

Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System by Ray Jayawardhana


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, cosmic abundance, dark matter, Edmond Halley, invention of the telescope, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919

Einstein’s equations predicted by just how much the light’s path would bend. The stunning confrmation came four years later. A total solar eclipse was to take place on May 29, 1919. Conveniently, it would occur in front of a rich cluster of stars known as the Hyades, offering an excellent opportunity to measure any defection of starlight by the Sun’s gravity. Less conveniently, the total eclipse could only be seen from the tropics. So the English astrophysicist Arthur Eddington mounted an expedition to the island of Principe, off the west coast of Africa, while another group set sail for Brazil. The idea was to compare photographs of the Hyades stars during the totality with those taken a few months earlier at night and measure any shifts in the stars’ positions relative to each other. Most of Eddington’s photographs during the eclipse turned out to be useless, because wispy clouds obscured the stars.


pages: 208 words: 70,860

Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics by Jim Al-Khalili


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, butterfly effect, clockwork universe, complexity theory, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Olbers’ paradox, Schrödinger's Cat, Schrödingers cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, Wilhelm Olbers

It then turns out that it is more scientifically meaningful and useful to say that time flows in the direction of increasing entropy, as we have now removed ourselves and the subjectivity of our brains from the process by defining the direction of time in terms of a physical process. This definition applies not just to individual systems, but to the entire Universe. So you can see that if someone were to come up with a situation where entropy in an isolated system was dropping, then you could say that time itself must have switched directions—and that is too weird even to contemplate (in this chapter anyway!). Here is what the English astronomer Arthur Eddington had to say about the importance of the Second Law: The law that entropy always increases—the Second Law of Thermodynamics—holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature … If your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation. We sometimes see examples where it appears as though entropy is decreasing.


The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life by Steven E. Landsburg


Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, diversified portfolio, first-price auction, German hyperinflation, Golden Gate Park, invisible hand, means of production, price discrimination, profit maximization, Ralph Nader, random walk, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, second-price sealed-bid, statistical model, the scientific method, Unsafe at Any Speed

The Economics of Scientific Method In 1915, Albert Einstein announced his general theory of relativity and some of its remarkable implications. The theory "predicted" an aberration in the orbit of Mercury that had been long observed but never explained. It also predicted something new and unexpected, concerning the way light is bent by the sun's gravitational field. In 1919, an expedition led by Sir Arthur Eddington confirmed the light-bending prediction and made Einstein an international celebrity. Both the explanation of Mercury's orbit and the successful prediction of light bending were spectacular confirmations of Einstein's theory. But only the light bending—because it was unexpected—made headlines. Imagine for the moment that Eddington had undertaken his expedition in 1900 instead of 1919. The facts of light bending would have been as well established—and as mysterious—as the orbit of Mercury, long in advance of Einstein's work.


pages: 634 words: 185,116

From eternity to here: the quest for the ultimate theory of time by Sean M. Carroll


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation,, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Henri Poincaré, John von Neumann, lone genius, New Journalism,, Richard Stallman, Schrödinger's Cat, Slavoj Žižek, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, the scientific method, wikimedia commons

NATURE’S MOST RELIABLE LAW The principle underlying irreversible processes is summed up in the Second Law of Thermodynamics: The entropy of an isolated system either remains constant or increases with time. (The First Law states that energy is conserved.24) The Second Law is arguably the most dependable law in all of physics. If you were asked to predict what currently accepted principles of physics would still be considered inviolate a thousand years from now, the Second Law would be a good bet. Sir Arthur Eddington, a leading astrophysicist of the early twentieth century, put it emphatically: If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations [the laws of electricity and magnetism]—then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation—well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.25 C.

,” the answer is “By fluctuating into a state that consists of a pumpkin pie floating by itself in an otherwise homogeneous box of gas.” Adding anything else to the picture, either in space or in time—an oven, a baker, a previously existing pumpkin patch—only makes the scenario less likely, because the entropy would have to dip lower to make that happen. By far the easiest way to get a pumpkin pie in this context is for it to gradually fluctuate all by itself out of the surrounding chaos.186 Sir Arthur Eddington, in a lecture from 1931, considered a perfectly reasonable anthropic criterion: A universe containing mathematical physicists [under these assumptions] will at any assigned date be in the state of maximum disorganization which is not inconsistent with the existence of such creatures.187 Eddington presumes that what you really need to make a good universe is a mathematical physicist. Sadly, if the universe is an eternally fluctuating collection of molecules, the most frequently occurring mathematical physicists will be all by themselves, surrounded by randomness.


pages: 695 words: 219,110

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene


airport security, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, dematerialisation, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, invisible hand, Stephen Hawking, urban renewal

From our rapid march through the history of physics, it might seem as if this has already been achieved, as if ordinary experience is addressed by pre–twentieth-century advances in physics. To some extent, this is true. But even when it comes to the everyday, we are far from a full understanding. And among the features of common experience that have resisted complete explanation is one that taps into one of the deepest unresolved mysteries in modern physics—the mystery that the great British physicist Sir Arthur Eddington called the arrow of time.4 We take for granted that there is a direction to the way things unfold in time. Eggs break, but they don’t unbreak; candles melt, but they don’t unmelt; memories are of the past, never of the future; people age, but they don’t unage. These asymmetries govern our lives; the distinction between forward and backward in time is a prevailing element of experiential reality.

Lord Kelvin was quoted by the physicist Albert Michelson during his 1894 address at the dedication of the University of Chicago’s Ryerson Laboratory (see D. Kleppner, Physics Today, November 1998). 2. Lord Kelvin, “Nineteenth Century Clouds over the Dynamical Theory of Heat and Light,” Phil. Mag. Ii—6th series, 1 (1901). 3. A. Einstein, N. Rosen, and B. Podolsky, Phys. Rev. 47, 777 (1935). 4. Sir Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1928). 5. As described more fully in note 2 of Chapter 6, this is an overstatement because there are examples, involving relatively esoteric particles (such as K-mesons and B-mesons), which show that the so-called weak nuclear force does not treat past and future fully symmetrically. However, in my view and that of many others who have thought about it, since these particles play essentially no role in determining the properties of everyday material objects, they are unlikely to be important in explaining the puzzle of time’s arrow (although, I hasten to add, no one knows this for sure).


pages: 286 words: 90,530

Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think by Alan Grafen; Mark Ridley


Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, bioinformatics, cognitive bias, computer age, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, Haight Ashbury, interchangeable parts, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, loose coupling, Necker cube, phenotype, profit maximization, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Although no one can announce final victory, Sisyphus—along with Charles Darwin, and Douglas Adams, and Richard Dawkins—might well applaud such efforts. ENDNOTES 1 I thank Latha Menon for bringing this quotation to my attention. 2 William Paley, Natural Theology (1803). WRITING Richard Dawkins and the golden pen Matt Ridley BEFORE The Selfish Gene, scientists wrote books for each other, or for laymen, but rarely for both. The great interpreters of science, such as Peter Medawar, J. B. S. Haldane, or Arthur Eddington might write with fluency, wit, and verve, but they were still more inclined to explain established ideas than to explore new mysteries. Gracefully and graciously they gave you the answer rather than the argument. More than anybody before him, Richard Dawkins thought that if he was to persuade his fellow scientists of a new truth that seemed to him ‘stranger than fiction’ he might as well try to enlighten the rest of us while he was at it.


pages: 367 words: 99,711

Sundiver by David Brin


Arthur Eddington, clean water, dark matter

Daedalus flew safely through the middle air and was duly honoured on his landing. Icarus soared upwards to the sun till the wax melted which bound his wings and his flight ended in fiasco.. .. The classical authorities tell us, of course, that he was only ‘doing a stunt’; but I prefer to think of him as the man who brought to light a serious constructional defect in the flying-machines of his day. From Stars and Atoms, by Sir Arthur Eddington (Oxford University Press, 1927, p. 41) 23. AN EXCITED STATE Pierre LaRoque sat with his back to the utility dome. He hugged his knees and stared vacantly at the deck. He wondered, miserably, if Millie would give him a shot to last him until the Sunship got out of the chromosphere. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be in keeping with his new role as a prophet. He shuddered. During his entire career he had never realized how much it meant to have only to comment, and not to have to shape events.


pages: 292 words: 88,319

The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless by John D. Barrow


Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, cosmological principle, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, mutually assured destruction, Olbers’ paradox, prisoner's dilemma, Ray Kurzweil, short selling, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1782) tells of a professor of the Grand Academy of Lagado who aims to generate a catalogue of all scientific knowledge by having his students continuously generate random strings of letters by means of a mechanical printing device. The first mechanical typewriter was patented in 1714. The monkeys turn up in 1909 in a version of the scenario written by the French mathematician Emile Borel in his book on probability, Élements de la théorie des probabilités (Paris, 1909), where he suggests that the randomly typing monkeys would eventually produce every book in France’s Bibliothèque Nationale. Arthur Eddington takes up the analogy in his book The Nature of the Physical World (Cambridge University Press, 1928), where he changes the library (p. 72): ‘If I let my fingers wander idly over the keys of a typewriter it might happen that my screed made an intelligible sentence. If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters they might write all the books in the British Museum.’ Eventually this oft-repeated example homed in on the works of Shakespeare as the candidate for random re-creation.


pages: 314 words: 91,652

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn, Ian Hacking


Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, cuban missile crisis, experimental subject, The Design of Experiments, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

A second point to notice is that the generation preceding Kuhn, the one that wrote so extensively on the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, had grown up in a world of radical revolution in physics. Einstein’s special (1905) and then general (1916) theory of relativity were more shattering events than we can well conceive. Relativity had, at the beginning, far more repercussions in the humanities and arts than genuine testable consequences in physics. Yes, there was the famous expedition of Sir Arthur Eddington to test an astronomical prediction of the theory, but it was only later that relativity became integral to many branches of physics. Then there was the quantum revolution, also a two-stage affair, with Max Planck’s introduction of quanta around 1900 and then the full quantum theory of 1926–27, complete with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Combined, relativity and quantum physics overthrew not only old science but basic metaphysics.


pages: 439 words: 104,154

The Clockwork Universe: Saac Newto, Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern WorldI by Edward Dolnick


Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, complexity theory, Edmond Halley, lone genius, music of the spheres, Saturday Night Live, Simon Singh, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

An Italian writer produced Newtonianism for Ladies, and an English author using the pen name Tom Telescope wrote a hit children’s book. But in physics a mystique of impenetrability only adds to a theory’s allure. In 1919, when the New York Times ran a story on Einstein and relativity, a subheadline declared, “A Book for 12 Wise Men.” A smaller headline added, “No More in All the World Could Comprehend It.” A few years later a journalist asked the astronomer Arthur Eddington if it was true that only three people in the world understood general relativity. Eddington thought a moment and then replied, “I’m trying to think who the third person is.” Two features, beyond the difficulty of its mathematical arguments, made the Principia so hard to grasp. The first reflected Newton’s hybrid status as part medieval genius, part modern scientist. Through the whole vast book Newton relies on concepts from calculus—infinitesimals, limits, straight lines homing in ever closer to curves—that he had invented two decades before.


pages: 326 words: 97,089

Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars by Lee Billings


Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Colonization of Mars, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Edmond Halley, full employment, hydraulic fracturing, index card, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, music of the spheres, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, planetary scale, profit motive, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Silicon Valley, Solar eclipse in 1919, technological singularity, the scientific method, transcontinental railway

He wanted to create a telescope that would surpass all others, one with a magnifying lens nearly a million and a half kilometers in diameter. Drake had found a way to transform the Sun itself into the ultimate telescope. A consequence of the Sun’s immense mass is that it acts as a star-size “gravitational lens,” bending and amplifying light that grazes its surface. This effect, first measured during a solar eclipse in 1919 by the astronomer Arthur Eddington, was one of the key pieces of evidence that validated Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Simple math and physics, judiciously applied, show that our star bends light into a narrow beam aligned with the center of the Sun and the center of any far-distant light source. As first calculated by the Stanford radio astronomer Von Eshleman in 1979, the beam comes into focus at a point beginning some 82 billion kilometers (51 billion miles) away from the Sun, nearly fourteen times farther out than the orbit of Pluto, and extends outward into infinity.


pages: 287 words: 87,204

Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution by John Gribbin


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, British Empire, Brownian motion, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, John von Neumann, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, the scientific method, trade route, upwardly mobile

The Grand Old Man status was confirmed by a new honour, when Schrödinger was inaugurated into the new Pontifical Academy of Sciences, as a founder member, at a ceremony in the Vatican on 1 January 1937. The other physicists honoured alongside Schrödinger included Bohr, Debye, Millikan, Planck, and Rutherford—not exactly the “Young Turks” of physics at the time. Schrödinger’s research in Graz was also the kind of thing that Grand Old Men with established reputations, tenured posts, and guaranteed pensions indulge in. He became fascinated by the cosmological ideas of Arthur Eddington (1882–1944), a British Grand Old Man whose illustrious career had included explaining the general theory of relativity to the English-speaking world and testing Einstein’s theory by making observations of the stars during a solar eclipse in 1919. He was a great popularizer of science, and intrigued by the puzzle of how to reconcile the general theory with quantum mechanics. But by the 1930s he was in his scientific dotage.


pages: 289 words: 85,315

Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh


Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Arthur Eddington, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Fellow of the Royal Society, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, John Conway, John von Neumann, kremlinology, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, RAND corporation, Simon Singh, Wolfskehl Prize

Wiles was not prepared to give up: finding a proof of the Last Theorem had turned from being a childhood fascination in to a fully fledged obsession. Having learnt all there was to learn about the mathematics of the nineteenth century, Wiles decided to arm himself with techniques of the twentieth century. 4 Into Abstraction Proof is an idol before which the mathematician tortures himself. Sir Arthur Eddington Following the work of Ernst Kummer, hopes of finding a proof for the Last Theorem seemed fainter than ever. Furthermore mathematics was beginning to move into different areas of study and there was a risk that the new generation of mathematicians would ignore what seemed an impossible dead-end problem. By the beginning of the twentieth century the problem still held a special place in the hearts of number theorists, but they treated Fermat’s Last Theorem in the same way that chemists treated alchemy.


pages: 1,152 words: 266,246

Why the West Rules--For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Doomsday Clock,, Flynn Effect, Francisco Pizarro, global village, hiring and firing, invention of agriculture, James Watt: steam engine, knowledge economy, market bubble, Menlo Park, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, Peter Thiel, phenotype, pink-collar, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Sinatra Doctrine, South China Sea, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, upwardly mobile, wage slave, washing machines reduced drudgery

Relativity implies that gravity bends light, meaning—if the theory is right—that every time the sun passes between Earth and another star, the sun’s gravity will bend the light coming from that star, making the star appear to shift position slightly. That provides an easy test of the theory—except for the fact that the sun is so bright that we cannot see stars near it. But in 1919 the British astronomer Arthur Eddington came up with a clever solution, very much in the spirit of Einstein’s aphorism: by looking at the stars near the sun during a solar eclipse, Eddington realized, he could measure whether they had shifted by the amount Einstein predicted. Eddington set off to the South Pacific, made his observations, and pronounced Einstein correct. Acrimonious arguments ensued, because the difference between results that supported Einstein and results that disproved him was tiny, and Eddington was pushing the instruments available in 1919 to their very limits; yet despite the theory of relativity’s complexity,* astronomers could agree on what they needed to measure and how to measure it.

TAKING THE MEASURE OF THE PAST 135 “From the remotest past”: Spencer 1857, p. 465. 137 “the vanity”: Max Weber, cited in Gerth and Mills 1946, p. 66, note. 139 “exist[ing] in a”: Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (1882), chapter 10. 139 agreement among indices: Carneiro 2003, pp. 167–68. 140 “sympathy and even admiration”: Sahlins 2005, pp. 22–23. 141 “Evolutionary theories”: Shanks and Tilley 1987, p. 164. 141 “We no longer”: Ortner 1984, p. 126. 143 “The ships”: Lord Robert Jocelyn, cited from Waley 1958, p. 109. 143 “as if the subjects”: Armine Mountain, cited from Fay 1997, p. 222. 145 “in science”: people regularly attribute these or similar words to Einstein, but no one has been able to trace them back to a source. The strongest claim I have seen is on the One Degree website (, suggesting that the phrase actually comes from a Reader’s Digest summary of the general theory of relativity. Perhaps it was the most important thing Einstein never said (but should have). 145 “I’m just wondering”: Arthur Eddington, quoted in Isaacson 2007, p. 262. 146 Norway and Sierra Leone scores: United Nations Development Programme 2009, Table H, pp. 171, 174 (available at 148 E x T → C: L. White 1949, p. 368. 149 “Every Communist”: taken from Mao Zedong’s essay “On Protracted War,” written in May 1937, quoted in Short 1999, p. 368. 151 “because no”: Naroll 1956, p. 691. 157 “conjectures and refutations”: Popper 1963, p. 43. 157 “There could be”: Albert Einstein, quoted in ibid., p. 42. 163 “There are three”: attributed to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain (Twain 1924, p. 246). 170 “Are these” etc.: Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol in Prose (1843), stave 4. 4.


pages: 476 words: 118,381

Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil Degrasse Tyson, Avis Lang


Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, asset allocation, Berlin Wall, carbon-based life, centralized clearinghouse, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Gordon Gekko, informal economy, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Karl Jansky, Kuiper Belt, Louis Blériot, mutually assured destruction, Pluto: dwarf planet, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, space pen, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, trade route, V2 rocket

In weighing their achievements perhaps there is something to be said for Icarus. The classic authorities tell us, of course, that he was only “doing a stunt”; but I prefer to think of him as the man who certainly brought to light a serious constructional defect in the flying-machines of his day [and] we may at least hope to learn from his journey some hints to build a better machine. —SIR ARTHUR EDDINGTON, Stars & Atoms (1927) For millennia, the idea of being able to fly occupied human dreams and fantasies. Waddling around on Earth’s surface as majestic birds flew overhead, perhaps we developed a form of wing envy. One might even call it wing worship. You needn’t look far for evidence. For most of the history of broadcast television in America, when a station signed off for the night, it didn’t show somebody walking erect and bidding farewell; instead it would play the “Star Spangled Banner” and show things that fly, such as birds soaring or Air Force jets whooshing by.


pages: 404 words: 131,034

Cosmos by Carl Sagan


Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, dematerialisation, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, music of the spheres, pattern recognition, planetary scale, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, spice trade, Tunguska event

.* Nevertheless, most of the mass of an atom is in its nucleus; the electrons are by comparison just clouds of moving fluff. Atoms are mainly empty space. Matter is composed chiefly of nothing. I am made of atoms. My elbow, which is resting on the table before me, is made of atoms. The table is made of atoms. But if atoms are so small and empty and the nuclei smaller still, why does the table hold me up? Why, as Arthur Eddington liked to ask, do the nuclei that comprise my elbow not slide effortlessly through the nuclei that comprise the table? Why don’t I wind up on the floor? Or fall straight through the Earth? The answer is the electron cloud. The outside of an atom in my elbow has a negative electrical charge. So does every atom in the table. But negative charges repel each other. My elbow does not slither through the table because atoms have electrons around their nuclei and because electrical forces are strong.


pages: 396 words: 117,149

The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos


3D printing, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, Black Swan, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, constrained optimization, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, data is the new oil, Douglas Hofstadter, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, future of work, global village, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information retrieval, job automation, John Snow's cholera map, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, NP-complete, P = NP, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, planetary scale, pre–internet, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight

This is just the scientific method applied to machine learning: it’s not enough for a new theory to explain past evidence because it’s easy to concoct a theory that does that; the theory must also make new predictions, and you only accept it after they’ve been experimentally verified. (And even then only provisionally, because future evidence could still falsify it.) Einstein’s general relativity was only widely accepted once Arthur Eddington empirically confirmed its prediction that the sun bends the light of distant stars. But you don’t need to wait around for new data to arrive to decide whether you can trust your learner. Rather, you take the data you have and randomly divide it into a training set, which you give to the learner, and a test set, which you hide from it and use to verify its accuracy. Accuracy on held-out data is the gold standard in machine learning.


pages: 410 words: 114,005

Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn From Their Mistakes--But Some Do by Matthew Syed


Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, Atul Gawande, Black Swan, British Empire, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, corporate governance, credit crunch, deliberate practice, epigenetics, fear of failure, fundamental attribution error, Henri Poincaré, hindsight bias, iterative process, James Dyson, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Joseph Schumpeter, Lean Startup, meta-analysis, minimum viable product, quantitative easing, randomized controlled trial, Silicon Valley, six sigma, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, Toyota Production System, Yom Kippur War

This was a failure for Aristotle and a painful blow to his followers, many of whom were outraged by the experiment. But it was a profound victory for science. For if Aristotle was wrong, scientists were handed the impetus to figure out why and come up with new theories that, in turn, could be subjected to future falsification. This is, at least in part, how science progresses.* The same idea can be seen in relation to Einstein’s theory of relativity. In 1919 a British scientist named Arthur Eddington traveled to Africa to test one of relativity’s most novel claims: that light is attracted to heavy bodies. During an eclipse he took photographs of a distant star to see if he could detect the influence of gravity on the light rays coming toward Earth. Eddington’s experiment corroborated the theory.4 But the key point is that it might not have. Relativity was vulnerable to experimental falsification.


pages: 654 words: 204,260

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Brownian motion, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, clean water, Copley Medal, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Attenborough, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

Among the more lasting errors in his report was the assertion that Einstein had found a publisher daring enough to publish a book that only twelve men “in all the world could comprehend.” There was no such book, no such publisher, no such circle of learned men, but the notion stuck anyway. Soon the number of people who could grasp relativity had been reduced even further in the popular imagination—and the scientific establishment, it must be said, did little to disturb the myth. When a journalist asked the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington if it was true that he was one of only three people in the world who could understand Einstein's relativity theories, Eddington considered deeply for a moment and replied: “I am trying to think who the third person is.” In fact, the problem with relativity wasn't that it involved a lot of differential equations, Lorentz transformations, and other complicated mathematics (though it did—even Einstein needed help with some of it), but that it was just so thoroughly nonintuitive.


pages: 661 words: 169,298

Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, delayed gratification, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of writing, John Harrison: Longitude, Karl Jansky, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, music of the spheres, planetary scale, retrograde motion, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

New York: Harper, 1956, 1966. —————. The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper, 1959. Cheng, David C., and Gerard K. O’Neill. Elementary Particle Physics. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979. Graduate-level textbook. Child, J.M. The Geometrical Lectures of Isaac Barrow. Chicago: Open Court, 1916. Choquet-Bruhat, Y., and T.M. Karade. On Relativity Theory. Singapore: World Scientific, 1984. Proceedings of an Arthur Eddington centenary symposium. Christianson, Gale E. In the Presence of the Creator: Isaac Newton and His Times. New York: Free Press, 1984. Cicero. De Fato, trans. H. Rackham. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982. Timeless critique of philosophical issues in cosmology. —————. The Nature of the Gods, trans. H.C.P. McGregory. London: Penguin, 1984. Translation of De Natura Deorum.


pages: 1,079 words: 321,718

Surfaces and Essences by Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander


affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, Chance favours the prepared mind, cognitive dissonance, computer age, computer vision, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Flynn Effect, Georg Cantor, Gerolamo Cardano, Golden Gate Park, haute couture, haute cuisine, Henri Poincaré, l'esprit de l'escalier, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl

However, for reasons too technical to go into here, this effect would be observable only during a total solar eclipse, and so, already in 1907, he urged that this effect be sought by astronomical observers. The German astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich carefully examined many hundreds of photos of solar eclipses to find evidence of the minuscule effect, but found none. In fact it turned out to be necessary to wait twelve years longer, until 1919, for the confirmation of this prediction during a total eclipse observed by an English team led by the physicist Arthur Eddington from two islands in the south Atlantic Ocean. The global effect of Eddington’s team’s confirmation was phenomenal. Not only did Einstein’s prediction hit the bull’s-eye, but the world, just emerging from under the dark pall cast by the “Great War”, was thrilled that an English team had confirmed a fantastic prediction made by an “enemy” scientist (even if Einstein had renounced his German citizenship and become Swiss in order to distance himself from German militarism); indeed, many people saw Eddington’s confirmation of Einstein’s prediction as a moment of great glory for humanity as a whole.