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Isaac Newton by James Gleick
Albert Einstein, Astronomia nova, complexity theory, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Isaac Newton, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
PUBLISHED WORKS OF NEWTON There is no such thing as The Collected Works of Isaac Newton. The Newton Project, at Imperial College, London, has long-term plans for the theological, alchemical, and Mint writings. Meanwhile two monuments of scholarship are the collected correspondence and the collected mathematical papers: Turnbull, Herbert W.; Scott, John F.; Hall, A. Rupert; and Tilling, Laura, eds. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton (cited as Corres). Seven volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959–77. Whiteside, D. T., ed. The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton (cited as Math). Eight volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967–80. Optical papers are in progress: Shapiro, Alan E., ed. The Optical Papers of Isaac Newton: The Optical Lectures 1670–1672. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
Centaurus 7-1 (1960): 6–52. ———. “Isaac Newton: The Rise of a Scientist,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 20-2: 125–39. Lyons, Henry. The Royal Society 1660–1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1944. Mahoney, Michael S. “The Beginnings of Algebraic Thought in the Seventeenth Century.” In S. Gaukroger, ed., Descartes: Philosophy, Mathematics and Physics. Sussex: Harvester, 1980. Mancosu, Paolo. Philosophy of Mathematics and Mathematical Practice in the Seventeenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Mandelbrote, Scott. Footprints of the Lion: Isaac Newton at Work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Library, 2001. Manuel, Frank. Isaac Newton, Historian. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963. ———. A Portrait of Isaac Newton. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.
The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton’s Thought. Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Newton: Texts, Backgrounds, Commentaries. Edited by I. Bernard Cohen and Richard S. Westfall. New York: Norton, 1995. The Preliminary Manuscripts for Isaac Newton’s 1687 Principia, 1684–85. Introduction by D. T. Whiteside. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. The Unpublished First Version of Isaac Newton’s Cambridge Lectures on Optics, 1670–1672. Introduction by D. T. Whiteside. Cambridge: University Library, 1973. Unpublished Scientific Papers of Isaac Newton. Edited by A. Rupert Hall and Marie Boas Hall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962. OTHER PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES The authoritative scientific biography is Richard S. Westfall’s Never at Rest (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).
Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, complexity theory, double helix, Edmond Halley, Isaac Newton, lone genius, music of the spheres, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, Simon Singh, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. ———. “Newton and the Scientific Revolution.” In Stayer, ed., Newton’s Dream. ———. Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1973. ———. “Short-Writing and the State of Newton’s Conscience, 1662 (1).” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 18, no. 1 (June 1963), pp. 10–16. White, Michael. Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. Reading, MA: Perseus, 1997. Whitehead, Alfred North. Science and the Modern World. New York: Free Press, 1925. Whiteside, D. T. “Isaac Newton: Birth of a Mathematician.” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 19, no. 1 (June 1964), pp. 53–62. ——— ed. The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton. Vol. 1, 1664–1666. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1967.
The Newton biographer Frank Manuel suggests that she was probably around thirty when she married for the second time, three years after Isaac’s birth. See Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 24. 45 “When one . . . compares”: Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 12. 45 Frederick the Great declared: Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers, p. 414. 46 “I invariably took”: Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 43. 46 His favorite wedding gift: Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945), p. 582. 46 slept in his clothes: Gale Christianson, Isaac Newton, p. 65. 46 seventeen portraits: Peter Ackroyd, Newton, p. 98. 46 so much time working with mercury: Milo Keynes, “The Personality of Isaac Newton,” p. 27. 46 “It’s so rare,” the Duchess: Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic, p. 12. 47 “a Machine for walking on water”: The drawing comes from a 1637 text by Daniel Schwenter, a German mathematician and inventor, titled Deliciae physico-mathematicae.
HOOKE 288 “a nice man to deal with”: Henry Richard Fox Bourne, The Life of John Locke, vol. 2 (New York: Harper Brothers, 1876), p. 514. 289 “There is one thing more”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 446. 289 “Mr Hook seems to expect”: Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 154. 289 “He has done nothing”: Ibid., p. 155. 289 “Philosophy [i.e., science] is such”: Ibid., p. 155. 290 He never replied to Hooke’s letter: Westfall, Never at Rest, pp. 387–88. 290 Newton had designed a telescope: Ibid., p. 233. 291 “poore & solitary endeavours”: Ibid., p. 237. 291 “the oddest, if not the most considerable”: Ibid., p. 237. 292 “Now is not this very fine”: Ibid., p. 448. 292 Hooke stalked out of the room: Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, p. 159. 292 Even twenty years after: Ibid., p. 137. 292 In the course of the move: Christianson, Isaac Newton, p. 106. CHAPTER 49. THE SYSTEM OF THE WORLD 293 “I must now again beg you”: Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 450. 294 If the universe had been governed by a different law: Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers, p. 150.
The system of the world by Neal Stephenson
bank run, British Empire, cellular automata, Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society, high net worth, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, large denomination, place-making, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade
“Where does he get his phosphorus?” “He has it delivered,” she said, as if this were an answer. “Where may Mr. MacDougall be found, I wonder?” “The Theater Royal, in Covent Garden, is getting ready to stage a new production entitled The Sack of Persepolis,” Catherine said, tentatively. “Say no more, Miss Barton.” Sir Isaac Newton’s House, St. Martin’s Street, London LATER THAT DAY “I’VE A SORT OF RIDDLE for you, to do with guineas,” was how Daniel ended the twenty-year silence between himself and Sir Isaac Newton. He had been fretting, ever since Enoch Root had turned up in his doorway in Massachusetts, over how to begin this conversation: what ponderous greeting would best suit the gravity of the occasion, how much time to spend reminiscing about student days in Cambridge, and whether to say anything about their last encounter, which had gone as badly as any social encounter, short of homicide, could go.
For it seems to me that if such Herculean efforts are to be made to practice a scheme, they were better directed to schemes that should enable our sea-captains to discover the Longitude anywhere.” Sir Isaac Newton’s answer comprised many many words, but contained no more than the following information: that one could do it by telling the time with an excellent sea-going chronometer, which no one knew how to make yet; or by watching the satellites of Jupiter through an excellent sea-going telescope, which no one knew how to make yet; or by looking at the position of the moon and comparing it against calculations derived from his, i.e., Sir Isaac Newton’s, lunar theory, which was not quite finished yet but would be coming out any minute now in a book. In the timeless and universal manner of authors conversing in public places, he did not fail to mention its title: Volume III of Principia Mathematica, entitled The System of the World, available shortly where books are sold.
Certainly you are not accusing yourself of complicity!” “Even if I did, my lord, ’twould never stand; for the record now shows that the true butt at which Jack the Coiner aimed his shaft was not the Jewels but the Mint—to be specific, the Pyx. And how would I benefit from some compromise of the Pyx?” “How could anyone conceivably benefit from it?” Bolingbroke wanted to know. “It is of no account,” Isaac Newton broke in, “as the Pyx was never compromised!” “Sir Isaac Newton! We’ve not heard from you yet. For the benefit of those here who have never seen the Pyx, would you be so good as to explain its workings?” “It would be my pleasure, my lord,” said Newton, stepping forward, eluding the hand of the Marquis of Ravenscar who had groped forward, out of some instinct, trying to yank him back from the abyss. “It is closed by three locks—all three must be removed for the lid to be opened.
The Eureka Factor by John Kounios
Albert Einstein, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, deliberate practice, en.wikipedia.org, Flynn Effect, Google Hangouts, impulse control, invention of the telephone, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Necker cube, pattern recognition, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, theory of mind, Wall-E, William of Occam
This shows that the insight-related components of resting-state EEG tend toward stability. Maddening Creativity 1 Historical information relevant to the story of Sir Isaac Newton and the apple can be found in Steve Connor, “The Core of Truth Behind Sir Isaac Newton’s Apple,” The Independent, January 18, 2010. The quote from Humphrey Newton, Isaac Newton’s secretary and copyist, can be found on page 406 of S. Westphall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1980). The quote from James Gleick came from an episode of the BBC Television series Horizon entitled “Isaac Newton: The Last Magician.” The quote by Milo Keynes about Sir Isaac Newton’s personality is from M. Keynes, “The Personality of Isaac Newton,” Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science 49 (1995): 1–56. Despite his enormous contributions to science and mathematics, Newton’s main interests lay elsewhere.
These expressions all refer to what is commonly called a eureka or an aha moment and what psychologists call “insight” and consider to be a form of creativity. It’s the sudden experience of comprehending something that you didn’t understand before, thinking about a familiar thing in a novel way, or combining familiar things to form something new. Insights are quantum leaps of thought, creative breakthroughs that power our lives and our history. Insight conveyed a theory of gravity to Sir Isaac Newton, the melody of a Beatles ballad to Sir Paul McCartney, and an understanding of the cause of human suffering to the Buddha. Nearly everyone has had aha moments of sudden clarity. They can and do change our lives. Much has been written purporting to explain how insight works and how you can make it work better. Almost all of it is based on opinions and informal observations rather than on scientifically established facts.
A recent study in John’s lab supports this idea—EEG patterns predict insightful solving, even when the EEGs are recorded several days before participants tackle a set of problems. But there is another source of evidence for the idea that insightfulness is a relatively stable characteristic. It seems that insightfulness is a blood relative of madness, and madness is firmly rooted in one’s biology. MADDENING CREATIVITY * * * It would be difficult to find an informed person who would disagree with the notion that Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) was one of the greatest geniuses ever to walk among mere mortals. His contributions to physics (optics and classical mechanics) and mathematics (calculus) are monumental and seminal, securing him a permanent place in the pantheon of great achievements. Sir Isaac also had the distinction of experiencing the second most celebrated aha moment in scientific history (after Archimedes, a genius of comparable stature).
The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton
agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
Newton himself was simplified by Willem’s Gravesande, first in English (1720) and then in Latin (1723); and made even simpler by John Pemberton in his A View of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy (1728). Second, Newtonian Christianity had to be defended against its critics, with works such as James Jurin’s Geometry No Friend to Infidelity (1734). Then, Newtonianism had to be made popularly accessible. Whiston’s New Theory (1696) was the first detailed popular account of the arguments of the Principia, but it was rapidly followed by works such as Nehemiah Grew’s Cosmologia sacra (1701), Edward Wells’s The Young Gentleman’s Astronomy (1718), John Harris’s Astronomical Dialogues between a Gentleman and a Lady (1729), Voltaire’s The Elements of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy (1738) and Francesco Algarotti’s Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explain’d for the Use of the Ladies (1739; the book went through thirty editions in six languages).
Newman, William Royall and Lawrence M Principe. Alchemy Tried in the Fire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. ———. ‘Alchemy versus Chemistry: The Etymological Origins of a Historiographic Mistake’. Early Science and Medicine 3 (1998): 32–65. Newton, Isaac. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton. Ed. HW Turnbull. 7 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959–77. ———. Isaac Newton’s Papers & Letters on Natural Philosophy and Related Documents. Ed. IB Cohen. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958. ———. ‘A Letter of Mr Isaac Newton, Professor of the Mathematicks in the University of Cambridge; Containing His New Theory about Light and Colors: Sent by the Author to the Publisher From Cambridge, Febr. 6. 1671/72; in Order to be Communicated to the R. Society’. Philosophical Transactions 6 (1672): 3075–87. ———.The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.Trans.A Motte. 2 vols.
In The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought. Trans. T Rosenmeyer. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953: 227–45. Snobelen, Stephen D. ‘ “God of Gods, and Lord of Lords”: The Theology of Isaac Newton’s General Scholium to the Principia’. Osiris 16 (2001): 169–208. ———. ‘Isaac Newton, Heretic: The Strategies of a Nicodemite’. British Journal for the History of Science 32 (1999): 381–419. ———. ‘The Myth of the Clockwork Universe’. In The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought. Ed. CL Firestone and N Jacobs. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012: 49–184. ———. ‘William Whiston, Isaac Newton and the Crisis of Publicity’. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 35 (2004): 573–603. Snow, Charles Percy. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959.
Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson
Danny Hillis, dark matter, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, retrograde motion, short selling, the scientific method, trade route, urban planning
A month later, when Isaac was out of the room, Daniel opened up the note-book and turned to the page headed Since Whitsunday 1662. It was still blank. He checked it again two months later. Nothing. At the time he assumed that Isaac had simply forgotten about it. Or perhaps he had stopped sinning! Years later, Daniel understood that neither guess was true. Isaac Newton had stopped believing himself capable of sin. This was a harsh judgment to pass on anyone—and the proverb went Judge not lest ye be judged. But its converse was that when you were treating with a man like Isaac Newton, the rashest and cruelest judge who ever lived, you must be sure and swift in your own judgments. Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony OCTOBER 12, 1713 Others apart sat on a Hill retir’d, In thoughts more elevate, and reason’d high Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will and Fate —MILTON, Paradise Lost LIKE A GOOD CARTESIAN who measures everything against a fixed point, Daniel Waterhouse thinks about whether or not to go back to England while keeping one eye, through a half-closed door, on his son: Godfrey William, the fixed stake that Daniel has driven into the ground after many decades’ wanderings.
I do believe I swim, like squid, in clouds of my own make, To you, offensive. To us both, opaque. What’s constituted so, only a pen Can penetrate. I have one here; let’s go. BOOK ONE Quicksilver Those who assume hypotheses as first principles of their speculations . . . may indeed form an ingenious romance, but a romance it will still be. —Roger Cotes, preface to Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, second edition, 1713 Boston Common OCTOBER 12, 1713, 10:33:52 A.M. ENOCH ROUNDS THE CORNER JUST as the executioner raises the noose above the woman’s head. The crowd on the Common stop praying and sobbing for just as long as Jack Ketch stands there, elbows locked, for all the world like a carpenter heaving a ridge-beam into place. The rope clutches a disk of blue New England sky.
But people here seem to do things—hangings included—with a blunt, blank efficiency that’s admirable and disappointing at the same time. Like jumping fish, they go about difficult matters with bloodless ease. As if they were all born knowing things that other people must absorb, along with faery-tales and superstitions, from their families and villages. Maybe it is because most of them came over on ships. As they are cutting the limp witch down, a gust tumbles over the Common from the North. On Sir Isaac Newton’s temperature scale, where freezing is zero and the heat of the human body is twelve, it is probably four or five. If Herr Fahrenheit were here with one of his new quicksilver-filled, sealed-tube thermometers, he would probably observe something in the fifties. But this sort of wind, coming as it does from the North in the autumn, is more chilling than any mere instrument can tell. It reminds everyone here that if they don’t want to be dead in a few months’ time, they have firewood to stack and chinks to caulk.
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, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, kremlinology, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, RAND corporation, Simon Singh, Wolfskehl Prize
T. 47 Mozans, H.J. 119 musical harmony, principles of 14–17 My Philosophical Development (Russell) 154 natural numbers 91 negative numbers 90–94 network formula 85–8 New York, subway graffiti 257 New York Times 254, 272–3, 282 Newton, Isaac 18, 47, 80, 81 Nixon, Richard Milhous 46–7 Noether, Emmy 110–11 nothingness, concept of 59 number line 92, 94–5, 185–6 numbers definition of 150, 152 relationships between 11 numerals, Indo-Arab 59–60 Oberwolfach symposium (1984) 215–19, 221 Olbers, Heinrich 115 order and chaos 17 overestimated prime conjecture 179 Paganini, Nicolò 63 parallelism, philosophy of 254, 257 parasites, life-cycles 106–7 particle physics 22–3 Pascal, Blaise 40, 43–4, 45–6 Penrose, Roger 198 Penrose tilings 198–9 People 274, 290–91 perfect numbers 11–13 philosopher, word coined by Pythagoras 10 pi (π) 17–18, 50–53, 166 Picturegoers, The (Lodge) 177–8 Pillow Problems (Dodgson) 138 Pinch, Richard 285 Plato 109 Poges, Arthur 37, 74 Poincaré, Jules Henri 199 points (dice game) 43 polynomials 237 Portraits from Memory (Russell) 160 prime numbers 70–71 almost primes 308 and Fermat’s Last Theorem 99–100 Germain primes 116 infinity of 100–101, 102–3 irregular primes 126–7, 177 practical applications 103–7 333,333,331 not prime 178 twin primes 308 Principia Mathematica (Russell and Whitehead) 156–7 probability 43–7 counter-intuitive 44–5 Problèmes plaisants et delectables (Bachet) 61 puzzles, compendiums of 138 Pythagoras abhors irrational numbers 50, 54–5 at Croton 9–10, 27–8 death 28 and mathematical proof 26 and musical harmony 14–17 and perfect numbers 12–13 and study of numbers 7 travels 7–8 Pythagoras’ equation 28 ‘cubed’ version 30–32 and Fermat’s Last Theorem 32, 65–6 whole number solutions 28–30 Pythagoras’ theorem 6–7, 19–20, 26, 333–4 Pythagorean Brotherhood 9–11, 13, 27–8, 49, 50, 108 Pythagorean triples 28–30, 65, 338 quadratic equations 236–7 quantum physics 162 quartic equations 237 quintic equations 237–8, 239–40, 245, 248–9 Ramanujan, Srinivasa 3 Raspail, François 242–3 rational numbers 11 rearrangement of equations 216 recipes, mathematical 8, 237 reductio ad absurdum 49–50, 53–4 reflectional symmetry 196 Reidemeister, Kurt 142 religion, and probability 46 Reynolds 323 Ribenboim, Paulo 144 Ribet, Ken 220, 229, 267, 270–71, 272, 276, 288–9, 304 Fermat Information Service 282 and significance of Taniyama–Shimura conjecture 221–3 Riemann hypothesis 73 river ratio 17–18 Rivest, Ronald 104 Rosetta stone 212 Rossi, Hugo 46–7 rotational symmetry 195–6 Rubin, Professor Karl 268–9, 300 Russell, Bertrand, 22, 44, 147, 153, 160 Russell’s paradox 152, 154–7 St Augustine (of Hippo) 12 Sam Loyd and his Puzzles: An Autobiographical Review 138 Samos, Greece 8–9 Sarnak, Peter 285–6, 291 Schlichting, Dr F. 144–6 scientific proof 21–2 scientific theories 22–3 scrambling and unscrambling messages 103–5, 168, 170–75 Segre 314 Selmer groups 287 Shamir, Adi 104 Shimura, Goro 193, 191–5, 202, 203, 206 relationship with Taniyama 205, 207, 209 and Taniyama–Shimura conjecture 209–10, 272, 274 Shimura-Taniyama conjecture see Taniyama–Shimura conjecture Silverman, Bob 284 Sir Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge 4–5, 266 Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explain’d for the Use of Ladies (Algarotti) 112 6, perfection of 11–12 Skewes, S. 179–80 Skewes’s number 180 sociable numbers 63–4 Socrates 109 Somerville, Mary 113 square, symmetries of 195–6 square-cube sandwiches 64, 184 square root of one 93 square root of two 53–4, 91–2, 312–4 strings and particles 23 vibrating 15–17, 16 Suzuki, Misako 207, 208 symmetry 195–202 Taniyama, Yutaka 190, 191–5, 202, 203 death 205, 207–8 influence of 209 and Taniyama–Shimura conjecture 202, 204–5 Taniyama–Shimura conjecture 205, 209–15 and Fermat’s Last Theorem 216–19, 221–3 Wiles and 215, 223, 225–31, 232, 258–61, 263–5, 274, 304 Taniyama-Weil conjecture see Taniyama–Shimura conjecture Tartaglia, Niccolò 40–41 Taylor, Richard 285, 292, 293, 296, 297, 299–300 Thales 26 Theano 9–10, 107–8 theorems 21, 71–2 Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour, The (von Neumann) 167 13 Lectures on Fermat’s Last Theorem (Ribenboim) 144 Thomson, J.
I have tried to illustrate this book with as many portraits as possible to give the reader a better sense of the characters involved in the story of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Various libraries and archives have gone out of their way to help me, and in particular I would like to thank Susan Oakes of the London Mathematical Society, Sandra Cumming of the Royal Society and Ian Stewart of Warwick University. I am also grateful to Jacquelyn Savani of Princeton University, Duncan McAngus, Jeremy Gray, Paul Balister and the Isaac Newton Institute for their help in finding research material. Thanks also go to Patrick Walsh, Christopher Potter, Bernadette Alves, Sanjida O’Connell and my parents for their comments and support throughout the last year. Finally, many of the interviews quoted in this book were obtained while I was working on a television documentary on the subject of Fermat’s Last Theorem. I would like to thank the BBC for allowing me to use this material, and in particular I owe a debt of gratitude to John Lynch, who worked with me on the documentary, and who helped to inspire my interest in the subject.
The price he had to pay for his secrecy was that he had not previously discussed or tested any of his ideas with the mathematics community and therefore there was a significant chance that he had made some fundamental error. Ideally Wiles had wanted to spend more time going over his work to allow him to check fully his final manuscript. Then the unique opportunity arose to announce his discovery at the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge and he abandoned caution. The sole aim of the institute’s existence is to bring together the world’s greatest intellects for a few weeks in order to hold seminars on a cutting-edge research topic of their choice. Situated on the outskirts of the university, away from students and other distractions, the building is especially designed to encourage the academics to concentrate on collaboration and brainstorming.
A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy by Joel Mokyr
Andrei Shleifer, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Copley Medal, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, Deng Xiaoping, Edmond Halley, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, framing effect, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, hindsight bias, income inequality, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, land tenure, law of one price, Menlo Park, moveable type in China, new economy, phenotype, price stability, principal–agent problem, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, the market place, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, ultimatum game, World Values Survey, Wunderkammern
… the Animal Body is a pure machine and all its actions from which Life and Health do flow are the necessary consequences of its Oeconomy. … This Oeconomy depends on attractive power first discovered by the incomparable Sir Isaac Newton” (Keill, 1708, pp. v–vi, 8). 6 Boerhaave serves as another classic example of the kind of epigone that is instrumental in disseminating the ideas of the true cultural entrepreneurs, in his case Descartes and Newton. Famous and celebrated in his own days, his original contributions were few and middling, yet he helped spread the main cultural beliefs of the Enlightenment, not only in his own country but throughout Europe. 7 In his History of Astronomy, Smith wrote that “Such is the system of Sir Isaac Newton, a system whose parts are all more strictly connected together, than those of any other philosophical hypothesis …His principles, it must be acknowledged, have a degree of firmness and solidity that we should in vain look for in any other system.
—David Hume, 1742 Contents Acknowledgments ix Preface xiii Part I: Evolution, Culture, and Economic History Chapter 1: Culture and Economics 3 Chapter 2: Nature and Technology 16 Chapter 3: Cultural Evolution and Economics 22 Chapter 4: Choice-based Cultural Evolution 34 Chapter 5: Biases in Cultural Evolution 43 Part II: Cultural Entrepreneurs and Economic Change, 1500–1700 Chapter 6: Cultural Entrepreneurs and Choice-based Cultural Evolution 59 Chapter 7: Francis Bacon, Cultural Entrepreneur 70 Chapter 8: Isaac Newton, Cultural Entrepreneur 99 Part III: Innovation, Competition, and Pluralism in Europe, 1500–1700 Chapter 9: Cultural Choice in Action: Human Capital and Religion 119 Chapter 10: Cultural Change and the Growth of Useful Knowledge, 1500–1700 142 Chapter 11: Fragmentation, Competition, and Cultural Change 165 Chapter 12: Competition and the Republic of Letters 179 Part IV: Prelude to the Enlightenment Chapter 13: Puritanism and British Exceptionalism 227 Chapter 14: A Culture of Progress 247 Chapter 15: The Enlightenment and Economic Change 267 Part V: Cultural Change in the East and West Chapter 16: China and Europe 287 Chapter 17: China and the Enlightenment 321 Epilogue: Useful Knowledge and Economic Growth 339 References 343 Index 381 Acknowledgments This book had its origins in the Joseph Schumpeter lectures I delivered in Graz in November 2010 and I am deeply grateful to my hosts at the Schumpeter Society for their hospitality and penetrating comments at an early stage.
The success that cultural entrepreneurs in early modern Europe had in persuading others to change from the “default option” of their cultural beliefs to new and sometimes radical ideas indicates that such persuasion was indeed effective: others were willing to listen to and evaluate intellectual innovations. The deep significance of the institutions that governed the market for ideas resides here. In chapters 7 and 8, I will take a closer look at two of the cultural entrepreneurs whose influence I consider as supremely important for the rise of the Industrial Enlightenment and eventually the emergence of useful knowledge as the main engine of modern economic growth—Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. It should be made clear, however, that between 1500 and 1700, the European intellectual scene included other remarkable individuals, who dramatically changed the cultural menu of European society. Besides the obvious religious entrepreneurs such as Luther and Calvin, I could have easily picked Descartes or Spinoza as intellectuals whose work left an indelible print on the evolution of culture in Europe both on their contemporaries and future intellectuals.
To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science by Steven Weinberg
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, Commentariolus, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, fudge factor, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, music of the spheres, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, retrograde motion, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
., General Introduction to Volume 20, The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1968), pp. xi–xii. 2. Ibid., Volume 2, footnote, pp. 206–7; and Volume 3, pp. 6–7. 3. See, for example, Richard S. Westfall, Never at Rest—A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1980), Chapter 14. 4. Peter Galison, How Experiments End (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill., 1987). 5. Quoted in Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 143. 6. Quoted in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. Charles Coulston Gillespie (Scribner, New York, 1970), Volume 6, p. 485. 7. Quoted in James Gleick, Isaac Newton (Pantheon, New York, 2003), p. 120. 8. Quotations from I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman, trans., Isaac Newton—The Principia, 3rd ed. (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1999).
Bowen and P. Garnsey (Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2003). Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, ed. H. G. Alexander (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1956). Martin Luther, Table Talk, trans. W. Hazlitt (H. G. Bohn, London, 1857). Moses ben Maimon, Guide to the Perplexed, trans. M. Friedländer, 2nd ed. (Routledge, London, 1919). Isaac Newton, The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton, ed. D. Thomas Whiteside (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1968). , Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, trans. Florian Cajori, rev. trans. Andrew Motte (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1962). , Opticks, or a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections, and Colours of Light (Dover, New York, 1952, based on 4th ed., London, 1730)
Today we understand that the precession of the equinoxes is caused by a wobble of the Earth’s axis (like the wobble of the axis of a spinning top) around a direction perpendicular to the plane of its orbit, with the angle between this direction and the Earth’s axis remaining nearly fixed at 23.5°. The equinoxes are the dates when the line separating the Earth and the Sun is perpendicular to the Earth’s axis, so a wobble of the Earth’s axis causes the equinoxes to precess. We will see in Chapter 14 that this wobble was first explained by Isaac Newton, as an effect of the gravitational attraction of the Sun and Moon for the equatorial bulge of the Earth. It actually takes 25,727 years for the Earth’s axis to wobble by a full 360°. It is remarkable how accurately the work of Hipparchus predicted this great span of time. (By the way, it is the precession of the equinoxes that explains why ancient navigators had to judge the direction of north from the position in the sky of constellations near the north celestial pole, rather from the position of the North Star, Polaris.
Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio
Albert Einstein, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Brownian motion, cellular automata, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Georg Cantor, Gerolamo Cardano, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, music of the spheres, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, The Design of Experiments, the scientific method, traveling salesman
Borovik, A. 2006. Mathematics under the Microscope. http://www.maths.manchester.ac.uk/%7Eavb/micromathematics/downloads. Brewster, D. 1831. The Life of Sir Isaac Newton (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street). Bukowski, J. 2008. The College Mathematics Journal, 39(1), 2. Burger, E. B., and Starbird, M. 2005. Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas (New York: W. W. Norton). Burkert, W. 1972. Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press). Cajori, F. 1926. The American Mathematical Monthly, 33(8), 397. ———. 1928. In The History of Science Society. Sir Isaac Newton 1727–1927: A Bicentenary Evaluation of His Work (Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Company). Cardano, G. 1545. Artis Magnae, sive de regulis algebraices.
He could not have known that a man who was only eight years old the year Descartes died would take his ideas of mathematics as the heart of science one huge step forward. This unsurpassed genius had more opportunities to experience the “pleasure of discovery” than probably any other individual in the history of the human race. Figure 26 And There Was Light The great eighteenth-century English poet Alexander Pope (1688–1744) was thirty-nine years old when Isaac Newton (1642–1727) died (figure 27 shows Newton’s tomb inside Westminster Abbey). In a well-known couplet, Pope attempted to encapsulate Newton’s achievements: Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! And all was light. Almost a hundred years after Newton’s death, Lord Byron (1788–1824) added in his epic poem Don Juan the lines: And this is the sole mortal who could grapple, Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple.
That work bridged the gap between the heavens and the Earth, fused the fields of astronomy and physics, and put the entire cosmos under one mathematical umbrella. How was that masterpiece—Principia—born? I Began to Think of Gravity Extending to the Orb of the Moon William Stukeley (1687–1765), an antiquary and physician who was Newton’s friend (in spite of the more than four decades in age separating them), eventually became the great scientist’s first biographer. In his Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life we find an account of one of the most celebrated legends in the history of science: On 15 April 1726 I paid a visit to Sir Isaac at his lodgings in Orbels buildings in Kensington, dined with him and spent the whole day with him, alone…After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank thea, under the shade of some apple trees, only he and myself. Amidst other discourse, he told me he was just in the same situation, as when formerly [in 1666, when Newton returned home from Cambridge because of the plague], the notion of gravitation came into his mind.
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, Gary Taubes, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Karl Jansky, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, planetary scale, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, 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
Time: 1665–1666 Noteworthy Events: Isaac Newton, age twenty-three, home from college, realizes that gravitational force obeying an inverse-square law would account alike for falling bodies on earth and the motion of the moon in its orbit. Time: 1666 Noteworthy Events: Newton observes spectrum produced by sunlight when shown through a prism. Time: 1672 Noteworthy Events: Opposition of Mars widely observed, by Richer at Cayenne and Cassini in Paris among others, leading to estimates of the distance from the earth to the sun of some eighty-one to eighty-seven million miles—90 percent of the correct value. Time: 1675 Noteworthy Events: Olaus Römer determines, from studying the satellites of Jupiter, that light has a finite velocity. Time: 1684 Noteworthy Events: Edmond Halley visits Isaac Newton at Trinity College, resurrects line of research that leads Newton to write the Principia.
In it, a Miltonic angel advises Adam: Sollicit not thy thoughts with matters hid, Leave them to God above, him serve and feare; Of other Creatures, as him pleases best, Wherever plac’t, let him dispose: joy thou In what he gives to thee, this Paradise And thy fair Eve: Heav’n is for thee too high To know what passes there; be lowlie wise: Think onely what concernes thee and thy being; Dream not of other Worlds.34 But that paradise had indeed been lost. Humankind was awakening from a dream of immobility to find itself in a waking fall, its planet plummeting through boundless space. The weight of authority that brought Galileo to his knees succeeded only in halting the growth of science in the Mediterranean. Thereafter, the great advances came in the north countries. The physics of the Copernican universe was to be elucidated by Isaac Newton, born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, on Christmas Day, 1642, the year of Galileo’s death. * Ruled not by a feudal aristocracy but by a thriving merchant class, Venice was relatively liberal, innovative, and inquisitive, an excellent place for a freethinker like Galileo. The difference was evident in the way the anatomy classes were conducted: The proscription against dissection, generally obeyed in Pisa, was circumvented at Padua by means of a laboratory table that could be lowered to an underground river, where corpses brought to the university by boat in the dark of night were raised into the hall for dissection in the advanced anatomy class.
The thoroughness and assurance with which he accomplished this task were such that his theory came to be regarded, for more than two centuries thereafter, as something close to the received word of God. Even today, when Newtonian dynamics is viewed as but a part of the broader canvas painted by Einstein’s relativity, most of us continue to think in Newtonian terms, and Newton’s laws still work well enough to guide spacecraft to the moon and planets. (“I think Isaac Newton is doing most of the driving now,” said astronaut Bill Anders, when asked by his son who was “driving” the Apollo 8 spacecraft carrying him to the moon.) Yet the man whose explication of the cosmos lives on in a billion minds was himself one of the strangest and most remotely inaccessible individuals who ever lived. When John Maynard Keynes purchased a trunk full of Newton’s papers at auction, he was startled to find that it was full of notes on alchemy, biblical prophecy, and the reconstruction from Hebraic texts of the floor plan of the temple of Jerusalem, which Newton took to be “an emblem of the system of the world.”
Longitude by Dava Sobel
Seafaring men such as Captain William Bligh of the Bounty and the great circumnavigator Captain James Cook, who made three long voyages of exploration and experimentation before his violent death in Hawaii, took the more promising methods to sea to test their accuracy and practicability. Renowned astronomers approached the longitude challenge by appealing to the clockwork universe: Galileo Galilei, Jean Dominique Cassini, Christiaan Huygens, Sir Isaac Newton, and Edmond Halley, of comet fame, all entreated the moon and stars for help. Palatial observatories were founded at Paris, London, and Berlin for the express purpose of determining longitude by the heavens. Meanwhile, lesser minds devised schemes that depended on the yelps of wounded dogs, or the cannon blasts of signal ships strategically anchored—somehow—on the open ocean. In the course of their struggle to find longitude, scientists struck upon other discoveries that changed their view of the universe.
Commissioner Hooke directed the actual building work, which got under way in July of 1675 and consumed the better part of one year. Flamsteed took up residence the following May (in a building still called Flamsteed House today) and collected enough instruments to get to work in earnest by October. He toiled at his task for more than four decades. The excellent star catalog he compiled was published posthumously in 1725. By then, Sir Isaac Newton had begun to subdue the confusion over the moon’s motion with his theory of gravitation. This progress bolstered the dream that the heavens would one day reveal longitude. Meanwhile, far from the hilltop haunts of astronomers, craftsmen and clockmakers pursued an alternate path to a longitude solution. According to one hopeful dream of ideal navigation, the ship’s captain learned his longitude in the comfort of his cabin, by comparing his pocket watch to a constant clock that told him the correct time at home port. 4.
Admiral Shovell’s disastrous multishipwreck on the Scilly Isles after the turn of the eighteenth century intensified the pressure to solve the longitude problem. Two infamous entrants into the fray in the aftermath of this accident were William Whiston and Humphrey Ditton, mathematicians and friends, who often engaged each other in wide-ranging discussions. Whiston had already succeeded his mentor, Isaac Newton, as Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge—and then lost the post on account of his unorthodox religious views, such as his natural explanation for Noah’s flood. Ditton served as master of the mathematics school at Christ’s Hospital, London. In a long afternoon of pleasant conversation, this pair hit on a scheme for solving the longitude problem. As they later reconstructed the train of their thought in print, Mr.
Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability With Solutions by Frederick Mosteller
Isaac Newlon Helps Samuel Pepys Pepys wrote Newton to ask which of three events is more likely: that a person get (a) at least I six when 6 dice are rolled, (b) at least 2 sixes when 12 dice are rolled, or (c) at least 3 sixes when 18 dice are rolled What is the answer? Solution for Isaac Newton Helps Samuel Pepys Yes, Samuel Pepys wrote Isaac Newton a long, complicated letter about a wager he planned to make. To decide which option was the favorable one, Pepys needed the answer to the above question. You may wish to read the correspondence in American Statistician, Vol. 14, No.4, Oct., 1960, 33 pp. 27-30, "Samuel Pepys, Isaac Newton, and Probability," discussion by Emil D. ScheIl in "Questions and Answers," edited by Ernest Rubin; and further comment in the issue of Feb., 1961, Vol. 15, No. I, p. 29. As far as I know this is Newton's only venture into probability.
Trials until first success Coin in square Chuck-a-luck . Curing the compulsive gambler Perfect bridge hand . Craps An experiment in personal taste for money Silent cooperation Quo vadis? . The prisoner's dilemma 14. Collecting coupons, including Euler's approximation for harmonic sums 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. Twin knights . An even split at coin tossing, including Stirling's approximation Isaac Newton helps Samuel Pepys The three-cornered duel Should you sample with or without replacement? . The ballot box Ties in matching pennies The unfair subway Lengths of random chords The hurried duelers. Catching the cautious counterfeiter Catching the greedy counterfeiter, including the Poisson distribution. Problem page Solution page I I I I 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 6 6 IS 17 18 18 19 20 21 22 24 26 27 27 28 29 29 29 30 31 32 33 33 35 6 6 6 7 7 7 7 8 36 37 38 39 39 40 41 42 4 4 5 5 43 vii Problem Solution page page 29. 30. 31. 32. 33.
The 8 knights in the tournament are evenly matched, and they include the twin knights Balin and Balan.* What is the chance that the twins meet in a match during the tournament? (b) Replace 8 by 2B in the above problem. Now what is the chance that they meet? 18. An Even Split at Coin Tossing When 100 coins are tossed, what is the probability that exactly 50 are heads? -According to Arthurian legend, they were so evenly matched that on another occasion they slew each other. 5 19. Isaac Newton Helps Samuel Pepys Pepys wrote Newton to ask which of three events is more likely: that a person get (a) at least 1 six when 6 dice are rolled, (b) at least 2 sixes when 12 dice are rolled, or (c) at least 3 sixes when 18 dice are rolled. What is the answer? 20. The Three-Cornered Duel A, B, and C are to fight a three-cornered pistol duel. All know that A's chance of hitting his target is 0.3, C's is 0.5, and B never misses.
Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics by David Berlinski
Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Douglas Hofstadter, Eratosthenes, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine, William of Occam
For a very long time, the Elements was known to every educated man and woman, so much so that when, seven centuries after Euclid’s death, a philosopher addressing a gathering of Roman intellectuals asked slyly “how to construct an equilateral triangle given a straight line,” the company at once caught the reference to the very first proposition of the Elements, and with the satisfaction of men congratulating one another for being well read, broke into Greek in order to comment on the masterpiece that had formed their character. Warm throaty chuckles all around. When, in the seventeenth century, Isaac Newton completed his majestic Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, and so created the first and the greatest of physical theories, he chose to express his thoughts in the language of Euclidean geometry, covering up as many traces of his own mathematical inventions as he could, so great was Euclid’s authority still. The Pythagoreans had been intoxicated by the natural numbers; Euclid was a geometer, a man proposing to impose order on the sensuous but shifting shapes of experience.
Action, Descartes believed, requires contact, as when one object hits another, and the constraint of contact rules out action at a distance. If this is so, the universe must be filled either with material objects or with structures capable of placing material objects in contact with one another. Such are the Cartesian vortices. In Descartes’ view, it is the various vortices, whose effects resemble on a grand scale the spiral sweep of bathwater swirling an errant bar of soap drainward, that brings about the required contact. Isaac Newton demolished Cartesian physics with all the immense power of his genius. He did nothing to assuage the Cartesian scruple about action at a distance, and having with a snort of derision dismissed the Cartesian vortices, he replaced them with the force of universal gravitation, which acts at a distance and throughout the whole of space. In 1649, Descartes was fifty-three; he was at the height of his powers.
The supreme example of a continuous process in nature is represented by the motion of the planets in the night sky as without pause they sweep around the sun in elliptical orbits; but human consciousness is also continuous, the division of experience into separate aspects always coordinated by some underlying form of unity, one that we can barely identify and that we can describe only by calling it continuous. Many mathematicians had a hand in the development of the calculus—Gilles Personne de Roberval, Pierre de Fermat, Isaac Barrow, Bonaventura Cavalieri, John Wallis—and every one has acquired a contemporary scholar willing to insist that his boy had seen it all along; but it is Gottfried Leibniz and Isaac Newton who are the most closely associated with the pause between heartbeats when everything changed. It is the second half of the seventeenth century. Shall we say roughly 1680 or so? Time has long since promoted both Newton and Leibniz into the pantheon of the great explorers. Like two immense polar bears, they remain forever frozen on the tundra of time. “He stands before us,” Einstein remarked in commemorating Newton, “strong, certain and alone.”
The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, British Empire, Copley Medal, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Etonian, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Harrison: Longitude, music of the spheres, placebo effect, polynesian navigation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, trade route, unbiased observer, University of East Anglia, éminence grise
Entretiens sur la Nature, les Sciences, les Métamorhphoses de la Terre et du Ciel, l’Humanité, l’Ame, et la Vie eternelle. That certainly covered it. ♣ What Coleridge actually wrote was this. ‘My opinion is this-that deep Thinking is only attainable by a man of deep Feeling, and that all Truth is a species of Revelation. The more I understand of Sir Isaac Newton’s works, the more boldly I dare utter to my own mind…that I believe the Souls of 500 Sir Isaac Newtons would go to the making up of a Shakespeare or a Milton…Mind in his system is always passive-a lazy Looker-on on an external World. If the mind be not passive, if indeed it be made in God’s Image, and that too in the sublimest sense-the image of the Creator-there is ground for suspicion, that any system built on the passiveness of the mind must be false, as a system’ (23 March 1801, Letters, Vol. 2, p.709).
These were Captain James Cook’s first round-the-world expedition aboard the Endeavour, begun in 1768, and Charles Darwin’s voyage to the Galapagos islands aboard the Beagle, begun in 1831. This is the time I have called the Age of Wonder, and with any luck we have not yet quite outgrown it. The idea of the exploratory voyage, often lonely and perilous, is in one form or another a central and defining metaphor of Romantic science. That is how William Wordsworth brilliantly transformed the great Enlightenment image of Sir Isaac Newton into a Romantic one. While a university student in the 1780s Wordsworth had often contemplated the full-size marble statue of Newton, with his severely close-cropped hair, that still dominates the stone-flagged entrance hall to the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. As Wordsworth originally put it, he could see, a few yards from his bedroom window, over the brick wall of St John’s College, The Antechapel, where the Statue stood Of Newton, with his Prism and silent Face.
Davy agreed to the momentous step of giving up full-time lecturing at the Royal Institution (a thing he had secretly wanted to do for some time), while Jane assured him that her fortune would allow them to travel, while he continued his chemical researches independently. This was a tantalising prospect for both of them. Davy had one further scientific seduction to offer. He confided to Jane that the Prince Regent was about to confer a knighthood upon him, for services to chemistry, in the forthcoming Birthday Honours. It would be the first scientific knighthood of the Regency, indeed the first since Sir Isaac Newton. She need no longer feel ashamed of him at the dinner tables of Mayfair. At the third time of asking, Davy’s proposal of marriage to Jane Apreece was at last accepted. He reacted with genuine rapture. T have passed a night sleepless from excess of happiness. It seems to me as if I began to live only a few hours ago…The great future object of my life will be your happiness…My happiness will be entirely in your will.’20 Congratulations were now in order, and Sir Joseph Banks was pleased and rather amused that one of his young scientific protégés had made such a fine-and wealthy-match: ‘She has fallen in love with Science and marries him in order to obtain a footing in the Academic Groves…It will give to Science a new kind of eclat; we want nothing so much as the countenance of the ladies to increase our popularity.’21 Banks evidently teased the bridegroom in a worldly way.
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, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, the scientific method, trade route, upwardly mobile
Chapter Two Physics before Schrödinger The physics that Schrödinger learned as an undergraduate rested, like a tripod, on three legs: the understanding of mechanics developed by Isaac Newton; the understanding of electromagnetism developed by James Clerk Maxwell; and the understanding of thermodynamics to which Ludwig Boltzmann was a major contributor. He was taught nothing about the new ideas of Albert Einstein, whose special theory of relativity was only published in 1905, and very little about Max Planck’s investigation of electromagnetic radiation, published in 1900, which came to be seen as the birth of quantum theory. For our purposes, physics before Schrödinger means physics before 1900. And it begins with Isaac Newton. Newton and the world of particles Isaac Newton (1642–1727) is widely regarded as the founder of modern science. This is true in the sense that he spelled out the mathematical laws which describe the motion of objects, and realized that the same laws which govern the behaviour of objects here on Earth—in particular, the law of gravity—govern the behaviour of the Universe at large.
(trans.), Collected Papers on Wave Mechanics (London and Glasgow: Blackie, 1928) van der Waerden, B. L. (ed.), Sources of Quantum Mechanics (New York: Dover, 1968) Weber, Robert, Pioneers of Science, 2nd edn (Bristol: Adam Hilger/Institute of Physics, 1988) Westfall, Richard, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980); a shorter version of this book was published by Cambridge University Press in 1993 under the title The Life of Isaac Newton Wheeler, John, and Wojciech Zurek (eds), Quantum Theory and Measurement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983) Woolf, Harry (ed.), Some Strangeness in the Proportion (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1980) Zeilinger, Anton, Dance of the Photons (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2010) Index action at a distance Aharonov, Yakir Aigentler, Henriette von Alpbach American Philosophical Society Anderson, Carl Annalen der Physik Annales de physique anti-particles Arosa Arzberger, Hans Arzberger, Rhoda (née Bauer, aunt) Aspect, Alain atoms: Bohr model; Boltzmann’s work; concept; Copenhagen Interpretation; decoherence; Einstein’s work; entanglement experiments; “green pamphlet”; Mach’s view; Maxwell’s work; nuclear model; Planck’s work; Poincaré’s work; quantum chemistry; quantum computing; quantum physics; quantum spin of electron; quantum teleportation experiments; Rutherford’s work; Schrödinger’s work; structure Austria: Anschluss (1938); army; First World War and aftermath; International Atomic Energy Agency representation; Nazism; religion; Schrödinger’s flight from; Schrödinger’s return to; Second World War aftermath Austria-Hungary Austrian Empire Austrian Physical Society Baird, John Logie Ballot, Christoph Buys Bamberger, Emily (Minnie, née Bauer, aunt) Bamberger, Helga (cousin) Bamberger, Max Bär, Richard Bauer, Alexander (grandfather) Bauer, Alexander (great-grandfather) Bauer, Emily (Minnie, aunt), see Bamberger Bauer, Emily (Minnie, née Russell, grandmother) Bauer, Friedrich (Fritz) Bauer, Georgie, see Schrödinger Bauer, Johanna (Hansi), see Bohm Bauer, Josepha (née Wittmann-Denglass, great-grandmother) Bauer, Rhoda (aunt), see Arzberger BBC Becquerel, Henri Bell, John Bell’s inequality Bennett, Charles Berlin: Academy of Sciences; Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry; Schrödinger’s departure; Schrödinger’s professorship; Schrödinger’s work; University of Bernstein, Jeremy Bertel, Annemarie (Anny), see Schrödinger Besso, Michele birds, vision Bitbol, Michel Blackett, Patrick Blair, Linda Bloch, Felix Bohm, David Bohm, Franz Bohm, Johanna (Hansi, née Bauer): escape from Austria to London; escape from Germany to London; marriage; memories of Schrödinger; pregnancy; relationship with Schrödinger; in Vienna Bohr, Niels: on collapse of wave function; on complementarity; Copenhagen Institute; Copenhagen Interpretation; Einstein’s views of his work; Festival; honours; influence; “Light and Life” lecture; model of the atom; Nobel Prize; quantization rules; relationship with Schrödinger; Schrödinger’s views of his work; work with Heisenberg Boltzmann, Ludwig: background; career; depression; education; on entropy; influence on Schrödinger; on international nature of physics; marriage; relationship with Mach; research; statistical approach; Stefan–Boltzmann Law of black body radiation; suicide; work on atoms; work on thermodynamics Born, Max: background and education; in Cambridge; career; on chance and probability; on Copenhagen school; on Dirac’s work; Edinburgh professorship; in Göttingen; Heisenberg’s studies; in Italy; matrix mechanics; Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance; Nobel controversy; Nobel Prize; on quantum mechanics; quantum revolution; relationship with Schrödinger; retirement; sacked under Nazis; Schrödinger’s response to his work; statistics; on von Neumann’s work; work on wave function Bose, Satyendra Nath Bose–Einstein statistics bosons Bragg, Lawrence Bragg, William Braunizer, Andreas (grandson) Braunizer, Arnulf Braunizer, Ruth (née March, daughter): in Belgium; birth; birth of son; care of Arthur; in Dublin; in Graz; half-sisters; in Innsbruck; marriage; in Oxford; pregnancy; relationship with Anny; relationship with father; relationship with mother Brecht, Bertolt Breslau Bristol University Brown, Robert Browne, Monsignor Paddy Brownian motion Bunsen, Robert Cahill & Company California: Institute of Technology; University of Cambridge: Born in; Cavendish Laboratory; Heisenberg’s lectures; Maxwell at; Newton at; Philosophical Society; Schrödinger’s visits; Tarner Lectures Cambridge University Press (CUP) “Can Quantum Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?”
Our special thanks go to the following people who and places that helped us, over the years, in our search for Schrödinger: Michel Bitbol; Dominic Byrne; John Cramer; Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies; Einstein Archive, Princeton; Johns Hopkins University Archive; Sir William McCrea; Oxford University Archive; Rudolf Peierls; Terry Rudolph; Schrödinger Archive, Alpbach; Schrödinger Archive, Vienna; Christine Sutton; University of Berlin Archive; University of Wisconsin Archive; Vienna University Archive. Introduction It’s Not Rocket Science Rocket science is the purest expression of the laws of physics spelled out by Isaac Newton more than three hundred years ago, often referred to as “classical” science. Newton explained that any object stays still or moves in a straight line at constant speed unless it is affected by an outside force, such as gravity. He taught us that if you push something it pushes back—action and reaction are equal and opposite, as when a rifle kicks back against your shoulder while the bullet flies off in the opposite direction.
Albert Einstein, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, barriers to entry, collective bargaining, computer age, Copley Medal, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, delayed gratification, Fellow of the Royal Society, Flynn Effect, fudge factor, full employment, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, iterative process, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge economy, moral hazard, Network effects, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, rent-seeking, Ronald Coase, Simon Kuznets, spinning jenny, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, éminence grise
For all his extraordinary range of achievements (not only was he Christopher Wren’s surveyor and colleague during the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666, an early advocate of evolutionary theory, the first to see that organic matter was made up of the building blocks that he named “cells,” and probably England’s most gifted mathematician,16 able to turn his hand to everything from describing the catenary curve of the ideal arch to the best way to trim sails), he is frequently remembered today, as he was known during his lifetime, as the world’s best second fiddle. The shadow cast by Wren, by Boyle, and even by Isaac Newton, with whom Hooke engaged in a long-running and ultimately futile dispute over the authorship of the law of gravitational attraction, is unaccountable without considering the class difference between them. James Aubrey, the seventeenth-century memoirist, paid Hooke something of a backhanded compliment when he called him “the best Mechanick this day in the world.”17 When the informal assembly at Oxford whose meetings were generally led by the clergyman John Wilkins was chartered, two years after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, as the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, each Fellow was explicitly to be a “Gentleman, free, and unconfin’d.”18 Hooke’s need to make a living disqualified him from fellowship, though his talent made him indispensable.
He was armed with a letter of introduction from Huygens to Robert Boyle, who was in need of a collaborator to replace Hooke, whose own researches were by then being financed by his employers at Gresham College and the Royal Society. The two evidently hit it off, and Papin joined Boyle as his secretary, though a better term would have been “experimental assistant.” While Papin was no Hooke (this is scarcely an insult: by 1675, Hooke had explained the twinkling of stars, described the earth’s elliptical orbit, rebuilt the fire-destroyed Royal College of Physicians, disputed with Sir Isaac Newton over the discovery of the diffraction of light, and invented the anemometer, and he still had twenty productive years in front of him), he did excel at both experimental design and mechanical gadgetry. Most famously, in 1681 he invented a steam digester, or “machine for softening bones” as he described it, which was essentially a pressure cooker designed to clean bones rapidly for medical study.
Dissenters, including Baptists, Presbyterians, and others, were, as a class, excluded from universities after 1660, and either apprenticed, or learned their science from dissenting academies. Bad luck for the universities, good luck for the nation. Only decades after a tidal wave of scientific knowledge started washing over Britain—the first English translation of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences was published in the 1660s, nearly seventy years before an English edition of the Principia of Isaac Newton (Latin edition, 1687)—some of the nation’s most ambitious and practical young were excluded from Oxford and Cambridge. At the same time that he chartered the world’s first scientific society, Charles II had created an entire generation of dissenting intellectuals uncontrolled by his kingdom’s ever more technophobic universities. Some attended so-called dissenting academies, which mimicked an Oxbridge classical education with notably less arrogance about the teaching of science and modern languages.
Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, cleantech, complexity theory, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, digital Maoism, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Ernest Rutherford, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, greed is good, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invention of air conditioning, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, Mason jar, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, online collectivism, packet switching, PageRank, patent troll, pattern recognition, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Oldenburg, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Great Good Place, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, urban planning
When you start a new query in DEVONthink and look down at the initial results, at first glance they can sometimes seem jumbled and disconnected, but then you read through them in more detail, and inevitably something tantalizing catches your eye. “Jumbled” and “disconnected” is of course also how we describe the strange explorations of our dreams, and the comparison is an apt one. DEVONthink takes the strange but generative combinations of the dream state and turns them into software. If you visit the “serendipity” entry in Wikipedia, you are one click away from entries on LSD, Teflon, Parkinson’s disease, Sri Lanka, Isaac Newton, Viagra, and about two hundred other topics of comparable diversity. That eclecticism is particularly acute at Wikipedia, of course, but it derives from the fundamentally “tangled” nature of Tim Berners-Lee’s original hypertext architecture. No medium in history has ever offered such unlikely trails of connection and chance in such an intuitive and accessible form. Yet in recent years, a puzzling meme has emerged on op-ed pages with a strange insistence: the rise of the Web, its proponents argue, has led to a decline in serendipitous discovery.
VERNIER SCALE (1631) The Vernier scale, invented by French mathematician Pierre Vernier, can be used in conjunction with a larger scale to precisely measure extremely small units of space. It became widely employed in navigation systems. OCEAN TIDES (1632) Following in the steps of the ancients, Galileo Galilei ventured an explanation of ocean tides in relation to the sun. Johannes Kepler correctly theorized that it was the earth’s relation to the moon that created the phenomenon, and Isaac Newton furnished the scientific community with a fully developed explanation in 1687. SLIDE RULE (1632) William Oughtred is commonly credited with inventing the earliest version of the slide rule, two parallel logarithmic scales that one could slide in relation to each other to conduct advanced calculations easily and quickly. Oughtred improved upon the design of a more basic model developed by Edmund Gunter as well as earliest conceptions by Galileo Galilei and John Napier.
ANALYTIC GEOMETRY (1637) French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes invented the system now known as analytic geometry as a way to express geometric shapes and properties with a coordinate system. By translating geometric structures, both two and three dimensional, into numerical representations, mathematicians could study and investigate them algebraically. Analytic geometry would later form one of the foundations of Isaac Newton’s development of calculus. BAROMETER (1643) The barometer, a device designed to measure air pressure, grew out of Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli’s efforts to aid his mentor, Galileo, in an attempt to help miners pump water out of wells. While working with mercury, a heavier liquid than water, Torricelli discovered that variations in the height of mercury trapped in a tube from day to day were due to changes in the air’s atmosphere.
Time Travel: A History by James Gleick
Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, augmented reality, butterfly effect, crowdsourcing, Doomsday Book, index card, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Marshall McLuhan, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, self-driving car, Stephen Hawking, telepresence, wikimedia commons
ALSO BY JAMES GLEICK Chaos: Making a New Science Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Information Frontier Isaac Newton The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood Copyright © 2016 by James Gleick All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Pantheon Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, Toronto. Pantheon Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. Grateful acknowledgment is made to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company for permission to reprint excerpts from “Burnt Norton” and “The Dry Salvages” from Four Quartets by T.
The beginning of time.—What is time? A measured portion of eternity. But everyone knows what time is. It was true then and it’s true now. Also no one knows what time is. Augustine stated this pseudoparadox in the fourth century and people have been quoting him, wittingly and unwittingly, ever since: What then is time? If no one asks me, I know. If I wish to explain it to one that asks, I know not.*2 Isaac Newton said at the outset of the Principia that everyone knew what time was, but he proceeded to alter what everyone knew. Sean Carroll, a modern physicist, says (tongue in cheek), “Everybody knows what time is. It’s what you find out by looking at a clock.” He also says, “Time is the label we stick on different moments in the life of the world.” Physicists like this bumper-sticker game. John Archibald Wheeler is supposed to have said, “Time is nature’s way to keep everything from happening all at once,” but Woody Allen said that, too, and Wheeler admitted having found it scrawled in a Texas men’s room.*3 Richard Feynman said, “Time is what happens when nothing else happens,” which he knew was a wisecrack.
Some people liked progress more than did Mr. Dark Satanic Mills, but either way, before futurism could be born, people had to believe in progress. Technological change had not always seemed like a one-way street. Now it did. The children of the Industrial Revolution witnessed vast transformations within their lifetimes. To the past there was no return. Surrounded by advancing machinery, Blake blamed, more than anyone else, Isaac Newton—the blinkered rationalist imposing his new order*5—but Newton himself had not believed in progress. He studied a great deal of history, mostly biblical, and if anything he supposed that his own era represented a fall from grace, a tattered remnant of past glories. When he invented vast swaths of new mathematics, he thought he was rediscovering secrets known to the ancients and later forgotten.
Science...For Her! by Megan Amram
Albert Einstein, blood diamonds, butterfly effect, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, double helix, Google Glasses, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, Mark Zuckerberg, pez dispenser, Schrödinger's Cat, Steve Jobs, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, Wall-E, wikimedia commons
First law of both physics and carbs is “EAT NO CARBS.” FIG. 3.4 Sir Isaac Newton (9 body, 4 face) invented Three Laws of Physics. But, hey, laws, shmaws. Physics should be done by following the heart. Here are some of the most eligible bachelors of physicsdom! (Dead people count as bachelors.) FIG. 3.5 FIG. 3.4 FIG. 3.5 BACHELORS of SCIENCE * * * GALILEO GALILEI (primitive astrophysics) Galileo was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, but he also spoke the universal languages of love and Italian. He is best remembered for the Galileo, a sex move where the man enters the woman as both are falling at an equal gravitational rate from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (This chapter’s bonus sex move!) * * * ISAAC NEWTON (classical mechanics/gravitation) Sir Isaac Newton, an all-around science genius, was alive from 1643 to 1726, which means that his lifetime spanned the year 1690, the ultimate 69.
Oh, speaking of steps and footing, I almost forgot: I’m also wearing Prada footsuits (shoes)! Please just put your faith in me, babes. As a self-professed strong, successful, educated, bloated (ugh!) woman, I am the perfect person to attack an institution of gender inequality in the sciences. And everyone loves when a woman gets on a soapbox! You can see up her skirt! Thank you very much for getting through my introduction. In the immortal words of Isaac Newton: “Please enjoy the rest of Megan Amram’s book. I’m Isaac Newton.” Now set your biological clocks to study time, because here we go! MEGAN AMRAM Writer / Alleged “Astronaut Killer” Letters to the Editor * * * Biology Introduction Reproduction How to Build a Biological Clock out of a Potato How Long Should You Wait? To Babe or Not to Babe? Rebuttal Cell-Fasteem! Genes Human Life Cycle This Spring’s Most Glamorous Ways to Die Single-Celled Orgasms . . .
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, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Mercator projection, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Stephen Hawking, Thorstein Veblen, V2 rocket
The ﬂuently written article “Newton and the Eötvös Experiment” by Curtis Wilson, in his collected works Astronomy from Kepler to Newton: Historical Studies, (London: Variorum Reprints, 1989), is especially good on the subtleties Newton still had to work through. Chapter ﬁve of Westfall’s Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) further examines Newton’s actual accomplishments during the plague years in Lincolnshire; see also The “Annus Mirabilis” of Sir Isaac Newton, 1666-1966, ed. Robert Palter (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1970). 86 They would learn what was on offer . . . : What I like about Veblen is that he concentrates on a particular so- notes ciointellectual cusp—the intersection of religion with science—which is liable to be especially laden with meaning.
There are accounts of Knut Haukelid and a team of fellow young Norwegians, forced to attack their own countrymen to avert a greater Nazi evil; Cecilia Payne, an Englishwoman who ﬁnds her career destroyed after daring to glimpse the sun’s fate in the year A.D. 6 billion; and a nineteen-year-old Brahmin, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who discovers something even more fearful, out in the beating heat of the Arabian Sea in midsummer. Through all their stories—as well as highlights from those of Isaac Newton, Werner Heisenberg, and other researchers—the meaning of each part of the equation becomes clear. P A R T Birth 1 Bern Patent Ofﬁce, 1905 1 E=mc From THE COLLECTED PAPERS OF ALBERT EINSTEIN, VOLUME I: 13 April 1901 Professor Wilhelm Ostwald University of Leipzig Leipzig, Germany Esteemed Herr Professor! Please forgive a father who is so bold as to turn to you, esteemed Herr Professor, in the interest of his son.
m Is for mass 4 E=mc For a long time the concept of “mass” had been like the concept of energy before Faraday and the other nineteenth-century scientists did their work. There were a lot of different material substances around—ice and rock and rusted metal—but it was not clear how they related to each other, if they did at all. What helped researchers believe that there had to be some grand links was that in the 1600s, Isaac Newton had shown that all the planets and moons and comets we see could be described as being cranked along inside an immense, God-created machine. The only problem was that this majestic vision seemed far away from the nittygritty of dusty, solid substances down here on earth. To ﬁnd out if Newton’s vision really did apply on Earth—to ﬁnd out, that is, if the separate types of substance around us really were interconnected in detail—it would take a person with a great sense of ﬁnicky precision; someone willing to spend time measuring even tiny shifts in weight or size.
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, dematerialisation, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, germ theory of disease, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, music of the spheres, pattern recognition, planetary scale, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, spice trade, Tunguska event
And today those explorers, human and robot, employ as unerring guides on their voyages through the vastness of space the three laws of planetary motion that Kepler uncovered during a lifetime of personal travail and ecstatic discovery. The lifelong quest of Johannes Kepler, to understand the motions of the planets, to seek a harmony in the heavens, culminated thirty-six years after his death, in the work of Isaac Newton. Newton was born on Christmas Day, 1642, so tiny that, as his mother told him years later, he would have fit into a quart mug. Sickly, feeling abandoned by his parents, quarrelsome, unsociable, a virgin to the day he died, Isaac Newton was perhaps the greatest scientific genius who ever lived. Even as a young man, Newton was impatient with insubstantial questions, such as whether light was “a substance or an accident,” or how gravitation could act over an intervening vacuum. He early decided that the conventional Christian belief in the Trinity was a misreading of Scripture.
www.ballantinebooks.com Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 80-5286 eISBN: 978-0-307-80098-5 This edition published by arrangement with Random House, Inc. v3.1 Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material: American Folklore Society: Excerpt from “Chukchee Tales” by Waldemar Borgoras from Journal of American Folklore, volume 41 (1928). Reprinted by permission of the American Folklore Society. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.: Quote by Isaac Newton (Optics), quote by Joseph Fourier (Analytic Theory of Heat), and A Question Put to Pythagoras by Anaximenes (c. 600 B.C.). Reprinted with permission from Great Books of the Western World. Copyright 1952 by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Harvard University Press: Quote by Democritus of Abdera taken from Loeb Classical Library. Reprinted by permission of Harvard University Press. Indiana University Press: Excerpts from Ovid, Metamorphoses, translated by Rolfe Humphries, copyright 1955 by Indiana University Press.
Even this may be an accurate prophecy: If the planet ever is terraformed, it will be done by human beings whose permanent residence and planetary affiliation is Mars. The Martians will be us. *In 1938, a radio version, produced by Orson Welles, transposed the Martian invasion from England to the eastern United States, and frightened millions in war-jittery America into believing that the Martians were in fact attacking. †Isaac Newton had written “If the Theory of making Telescopes could at length be fully brought into practice, yet there would be certain Bounds beyond which Telescopes could not perform. For the Air through which we look upon the Stars, is in perpetual tremor.… The only remedy is the most serene and quiet Air, such as may perhaps be found on the tops of the highest mountains above the grosser Clouds.” *There was a brief flurry when the uppercase letter B, a putative Martian graffito, seemed to be visible on a small boulder in Chryse.
The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession by Peter L. Bernstein
Albert Einstein, Atahualpa, Bretton Woods, British Empire, California gold rush, central bank independence, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Glaeser, falling living standards, financial innovation, floating exchange rates, Francisco Pizarro, German hyperinflation, Hernando de Soto, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, large denomination, liquidity trap, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, price stability, profit motive, random walk, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, seigniorage, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, trade route
It would still be resonating in 1821, when Britain officially established the gold standard; it was at the root of William Jennings Bryan's famous cry of defiance about crucifying labor on a cross of gold; it would come back to haunt Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s; and it would continue to stir controversy over expansionary versus contractionary economic policies throughout the rest of the twentieth century. Nor can we expect these kinds of disputes to vanish in the twenty-first century. At this point, an unexpected character appears on center stage: the most distinguished scientist of his age, and surely among the most influential scientists who ever lived, Sir Isaac Newton. In March 1696, just a few months into the turbulence of the Great Recoinage, Newton took on the post of Warden of the Mint at the invitation of his good friend Charles Montagu, Chancellor of the Exchequer. What could possibly have been the Chancellor's motivation in choosing Newton for such a task? Newton had spent most of his life as a total nerd, uncommunicative, introverted, unapproachable, and far removed from the chaotic realities of politics and finance.
Renewed fighting with France cut off the imports of gold for a while and made any further changes in the coinage unnecessary until the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713. At that point, the flood of gold imports gathered renewed strength. Over £4 million came in over the next three years. When the East India Company exported three million ounces of silver in 1717, the authorities once again turned hopefully to the wisdoms of Sir Isaac Newton. Newton's "Representation to the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Revenue" has become a famous document in the history of money. The reading of it is a tedious business, and the essence of the content is no more than simple arithmetic reciting the values of various weights of gold and silver in different countries. A great scientist's mind was hardly necessary for this particular task.
From the moment when Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558 to the foundation of the Bank of England in 1694, a period of 136 years, the Mint had issued no more than £15 million in gold coinage, of which half was in guineas that appeared after 1663. During the 45 years from 1695 to 1740, the Mint produced £17 million gold coins. The story on silver is precisely the opposite: L20 million in the earlier period versus rl million in the latter.52 Isaac Newton is the anti-hero of this chapter of our story. Quite aside from his scientific achievements, he deserves heroic status as the first civil servant in history bold enough to employ the laws of supply and demand to make an economic forecast that would determine public policy. He is the anti-hero, nevertheless, because he inaugurated a tradition that will haunt future chapters of this history: economic forecasts by policymakers that turn out to be wrong!
Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America by Shawn Lawrence Otto
affirmative action, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Berlin Wall, Brownian motion, carbon footprint, Cepheid variable, clean water, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, cosmological constant, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Dean Kamen, desegregation, double helix, energy security, Exxon Valdez, fudge factor, ghettoisation, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, informal economy, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, shareholder value, sharing economy, smart grid, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, University of East Anglia, War on Poverty, white flight, Winter of Discontent, working poor
Science, Technology and Society in Seventeenth-Century England. New York: Howard Fertig, 1970. 19. Cohen, I. B. Puritanism and the Rise of Modern Science: The Merton Thesis. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990. 20. White, M. Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1997. 21. Anonymous. The World Will End in 2060, According to Newton. London Evening Standard, June 19, 2007. www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23401099-the-world-will-end-in-2060-according-to-newton.do. 22. White. Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. 23. Ibid. 24. Newton, I. Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 3rd edition. Ed. I. B. Cohen and A. Koyré. London: Cambridge University Press, 1972. 25. Ferris. The Science of Liberty. 26. Bedini, S. A. Jefferson and Science. Charlottesville, VA: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2002. 27.
Gallup News Service, July 20, 1999. www.gallup.com/poll/3712/landing-man-moon-publics-view.aspx. Newport, F. Third of Americans Say Evidence Has Supported Darwin’s Evolution Theory. Gallup. com, November 19, 2004. www.gallup.com/poll/14107/Third-Americans-Say-Evidence-Has-Supported-Darwins-Evolution-Theory.aspx. Newton, I. Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 3rd edition. Ed. I. B. Cohen and A. Koyré. London: Cambridge University Press, 1972. Newton, I. Sir Isaac Newton: Theological Manuscripts. Ed. H. McLachlan. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1950. Nicolay, J. G., & Hay, J. Abraham Lincoln: A History. Volume 2. New York: Cosimo Classics, 1917. Nietzsche, F. Thus Spake Zarathustra. London: Macmillan, 1896. Nisbet, M. Interview by S. Otto, April 22, 2010. Nissimov, R.
This state of affairs lasted for eleven years until the English civil wars, from 1642 to 1646, in 1648, and from 1650 to 1651, which pitted Royalists (authoritarians) against the largely Puritan Parliamentarians (antiauthoritarians) and eventually led to both Laud’s and Charles’s beheadings. After the civil wars ended and the Church of England was restored, many Puritans broke away. At first these “nonconformists” were again persecuted, but by the 1660s, they were tolerated. Because of their emphasis on individual liberty, their adherents included some of the greatest minds of the age, including Isaac Newton. Newton provides an example of how the idea of “science” had not yet fully emerged as something separate from religion in early Enlightenment thinking. In fact, during the seventeenth century, the word “scientist” was not commonly used to describe experimenters at all; they were called “natural philosophers”16 in an extension of the Puritan idea of the study of the Book of Nature. Science had also not fully emerged as a separate concept, but was sometimes thought of as a method or style of study rather than a discretely defined set of disciplines.
Albert Einstein, Andy Kessler, automated trading system, bank run, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, British Empire, buttonwood tree, Claude Shannon: information theory, Corn Laws, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, fiat currency, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Grace Hopper, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telephone, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Metcalfe's law, packet switching, price mechanism, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit motive, railway mania, RAND corporation, Silicon Valley, Small Order Execution System, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, tulip mania, Turing machine, Turing test, William Shockley: the traitorous eight
. *** Simple arithmetic and patterns for looms are one thing, but if mathematicians wanted to do anything more, they did it by hand. The Holy Grail for scientists at the time was to solve differential equations. Astronomers who studied the skies needed differential equations to predict orbits. The invention of the steam engine would have gone a lot faster if James Watt had been able to solve differentials in Isaac Newton’s law of cooling. Newton stated that if an object, hot or cold, is in an area of constant temperature, then its rate of temperature change is proportional to the difference between the object’s temperature and the ambient temperature. Newton figured this out empirically with a thermometer. Watt ran experiments to figure out how fast steam would cool. In 1822, a flamboyant professor in England, Charles Babbage announced that he would build a Difference Engine.
All bubbles end, and usually for no good reason except an economically unsustainable business is, well, unsustainable. As soon as 70 HOW WE GOT HERE the stock starts dropping, if only because it has exhausted its buyers, the whole thing unwinds. People who had borrowed money sold the stock to pay off the loans, which sent the stock price lower, the upside in exact reverse. Gravity works. In fact, Sir Isaac Newton himself dropped 20,000 pounds faster than an apple falls from a tree. The South Sea bubble is a great story, especially in relation to the Internet Bubble of 1999-2000, when shares of Priceline.com, which sold discount tickets on airlines such as Delta Airlines, were worth more than the airline companies themselves. But it is the ramifications of the burst Bubble that is more telling. Banks which lent money went bankrupt.
There were gold reserves backing the banknotes, sort of, and not enough if people really wanted the gold. More gold meant the money supply could increase as more of this fiduciary money was created. It wasn’t a bad system, money supply had to come from somewhere. Using gold as a store of wealth was already a sleight of hand, money only fractionally backed by gold was a sleight of a sleight. So what. But then someone messed it all up. *** Sir Isaac Newton had leveraged his planetary dreaming into a real job, as Master of the Mint. In 1717, the Newt decided that the Guinea would represent 129.4 grains of gold. Put another way, an ounce of gold was worth 4 pounds, 4 shillings and 11½ pence. You can tell Sir Isaac was a scientist, if he was an engineer he would have rounded it down to 4 pounds per ounce and called it a day. He also set the price of silver at the same time and overvalued it relative to gold.
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, bank run, bioinformatics, Brownian motion, butterfly effect, citation needed, Claude Shannon: information theory, clockwork universe, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, discovery of DNA, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Honoré de Balzac, index card, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microbiome, Milgram experiment, Network effects, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Simon Singh, Socratic dialogue, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, talking drums, the High Line, The Wisdom of Crowds, transcontinental railway, Turing machine, Turing test, women in the workforce
The Britannica, first produced in Edinburgh in 1768 in one hundred weekly installments, sixpence apiece, wears the same halo of authority. It seemed finished—in every edition. It has no equivalent in any other language. Even so, the experts responsible for the third edition (“in Eighteen Volumes, Greatly Improved”), a full century after Isaac Newton’s Principia, could not bring themselves to endorse his, or any, theory of gravity, or gravitation. “There have been great disputes,” the Britannica stated. Many eminent philosophers, and among the rest Sir Isaac Newton himself, have considered it as the first of all second causes; an incorporeal or spiritual substance, which never can be perceived any other way than by its effects; an universal property of matter, &c. Others have attempted to explain the phenomena of gravitation by the action of a very subtile etherial fluid; and to this explanation Sir Isaac, in the latter part of his life, seems not to have been averse.
Wilson, Thomas wire fences, 6.1, 6.2 Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki) Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 3.1, 6.1, 6.2, 8.1 World Brain (Wells) World Congress of Universal Documentation World War II, prl.1, prl.2, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 Wright, Sylvia writing abstract thinking and alphabet-based, 2.1, 2.2 criticism of communicative capacity of, 2.1, 2.2 cryptography and, 5.1, 5.2 cuneiform, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7 in development of mathematics, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5 extension of time and space in historical development of, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5 levels of representation in memory and, 2.1, 2.2 modes and uses of information arising from, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4 origins of logic in, 2.1, 2.2 second age of orality and, 2.1, 2.2 self-awareness in, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 as technology thinking and, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5 Wyman, Bill, 14.1, 14.2 Wynter, Andrew, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4 X System, prl.1, prl.2, 7.1 Yahoo! Yaunde language YouTube ALSO BY JAMES GLEICK Chaos: Making a New Science Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Information Frontier Isaac Newton A NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR James Gleick was born in New York City in 1954. His previous books include Chaos and Genius, both Pulitzer Prize finalists and National Book Award nominees. His last book, Isaac Newton, was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist. They have been translated into more than twenty languages. His Web site is at www.around.com. ILLUSTRATION CREDITS 4.1 Photograph courtesy of the Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 6.1 The New York Times Archive/Redux 7.1 Copyright Robert Lord 7.2 Reprinted with permission from Journal Franklin Institute, vol. 262, E.
.”♦ It had taken on other meanings, though. A few engineers, especially in the telephone labs, began speaking of information. They used the word in a way suggesting something technical: quantity of information, or measure of information. Shannon adopted this usage. For the purposes of science, information had to mean something special. Three centuries earlier, the new discipline of physics could not proceed until Isaac Newton appropriated words that were ancient and vague—force, mass, motion, and even time—and gave them new meanings. Newton made these terms into quantities, suitable for use in mathematical formulas. Until then, motion (for example) had been just as soft and inclusive a term as information. For Aristotelians, motion covered a far-flung family of phenomena: a peach ripening, a stone falling, a child growing, a body decaying.
Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris Impey
3D printing, Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, California gold rush, carbon-based life, Colonization of Mars, cosmic abundance, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, discovery of DNA, Doomsday Clock, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Haight Ashbury, Hyperloop, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, life extension, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, Oculus Rift, operation paperclip, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, phenotype, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, supervolcano, technological singularity, telepresence, telerobotics, the medium is the message, the scientific method, theory of mind, V2 rocket, wikimedia commons, X Prize, Yogi Berra
The Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution emerged from this chaos and propelled Europe to great prosperity. Ultimately, neglect of science and technology caused the Chinese to lose their edge. By the late fourteenth century, Europe had caught up. For warfare, Europeans developed and perfected the smooth-bore cannon. Rockets were relegated to firework displays.6 Wan Hu’s dreams of traveling to the stars were forgotten. They were given a firm theoretical basis in the work of Isaac Newton, the author of a theory of gravity and laws of motion that would be the basis for space travel centuries later. Newton’s 1687 masterwork, Principia, unified the terrestrial and celestial realms. Drop an apple and it falls in one second 3,600 times farther than the Moon curves in its orbit, both caused by the action of the Earth’s gravity. He described a “thought experiment” where a cannon points sideways at the top of a mountain high enough to be above the atmosphere.
With no friction or air resistance, the only force operating is gravity.7 Fired at modest speed, the cannonball will land at the base of the mountain. As the initial speed is increased, the ball travels farther and farther before landing. Newton calculated the speed where the ball falls toward the Earth’s surface at the same rate as the Earth’s surface is “falling away” from it (Figure 5). Figure 5. In the thought experiment of Isaac Newton, a cannonball is launched horizontally from a mountain tall enough to be above the Earth’s atmosphere. As the velocity increases, the surface curves at the same rate the cannonball falls, creating a circular orbit. This is the concept of an orbit. Any projectile shot from Newton’s hypothetical cannon at 7.9 kilometers per second or 17,650 mph would remain a captive of the Earth’s gravity but would never hit the ground.
Professor Goddard . . . does not know the relation of action and reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. . . . Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”17 Forty-nine years after ripping Goddard, and a day after the launch of Apollo 11, the paper issued a brief correction: “Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.”18 The apology was too late for Goddard, who died of throat cancer in 1945. Wernher von Braun Warfare and space exploration merged again in the 1940s. Goddard had financed his research with small grants from the Smithsonian Institution and the Guggenheim Foundation; no government agency showed interest and the military was particularly dismissive.
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, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking
Galileo remained a faithful Catholic, but his belief in the independence of science had not been crushed. Four years before his death in 1642, while he was still under house arrest, the manuscript of his second major book was smuggled to a publisher in Holland. It was this work, referred to as Two New Sciences, even more than his support for Copernicus, that was to be the genesis of modern physics. ISAAC NEWTON Isaac Newton was not a pleasant man. His relations with other academics were notorious, with most of his later life spent embroiled in heated disputes. Following publication of Principia Mathematica—surely the most influential book ever written in physics—Newton had risen rapidly into public prominence. He was appointed president of the Royal Society and became the first scientist ever to be knighted.
v3.1 CONTENTS Cover Other Books by This Author Title Page Copyright FOREWORD Chapter One Our Picture of the Universe Chapter Two Space and Time Chapter Three The Expanding Universe Chapter Four The Uncertainty Principle Chapter Five Elementary Particles and the Forces of Nature Chapter Six Black Holes Chapter Seven Black Holes Ain’t So Black Chapter Eight The Origin and Fate of the Universe Chapter Nine The Arrow of Time Chapter Ten Wormholes and Time Travel Chapter Eleven The Unification of Physics Chapter Twelve Conclusion ALBERT EINSTEIN GALILEO GALILEI ISAAC NEWTON GLOSSARY ACKNOWLEDGMENTS About the Author FOREWORD I didn’t write a foreword to the original edition of A Brief History of Time. That was done by Carl Sagan. Instead, I wrote a short piece titled “Acknowledgments” in which I was advised to thank everyone. Some of the foundations that had given me support weren’t too pleased to have been mentioned, however, because it led to a great increase in applications.
As far as Kepler was concerned, elliptical orbits were merely an ad hoc hypothesis, and a rather repugnant one at that, because ellipses were clearly less perfect than circles. Having discovered almost by accident that elliptical orbits fit the observations well, he could not reconcile them with his idea that the planets were made to orbit the sun by magnetic forces. An explanation was provided only much later, in 1687, when Sir Isaac Newton published his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, probably the most important single work ever published in the physical sciences. In it Newton not only put forward a theory of how bodies move in space and time, but he also developed the complicated mathematics needed to analyze those motions. In addition, Newton postulated a law of universal gravitation according to which each body in the universe was attracted toward every other body by a force that was stronger the more massive the bodies and the closer they were to each other.
Albert Einstein, Chance favours the prepared mind, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, Danny Hillis, discovery of DNA, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kevin Kelly, planetary scale, side project, South Sea Bubble, stem cell, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
The History began with a stirring argument for why electricity was so interesting in the first place: Hitherto philosophy has been chiefly conversant about the more sensible properties of bodies; electricity, together with chemistry, and the doctrine of light and colours, seems to be giving us an inlet into their internal structure, on which all their sensible properties depend. By pursuing this new light, therefore, the bounds of natural science may possibly be extended, beyond what we can now form an idea of. New worlds may open to our view, and the glory of the great Sir Isaac Newton himself, and all his contemporaries, be eclipsed, by a new set of philosophers, in quite a new field of speculation. Could that great man revisit the earth, and view the experiments of the present race of electricians, he would be no less amazed than Roger Bacon, or Sir Francis, would have been at his. Priestley condensed all of his own discoveries into the closing two hundred pages of the book, leaving the first five hundred to an exhaustive narrative of scientific progress, relating each innovation in careful detail.
Those sections may not sound all that scholarly to the modern ear, but they were crucial to the underlying objectives of the book. Priestley aimed to popularize not simply by helping ordinary readers understand the new science of electricity, but also by encouraging them to become scientists themselves. While he wanted to celebrate the electricians’ discoveries, he deliberately avoided establishing an aura of otherworldly genius around them: Were it possible to trace the succession of ideas in the mind of Sir Isaac Newton, during the time he made his greatest discoveries, I make no doubt but our amazement at the extent of his genius would a little subside. . . . [T]he interests of science have suffered by the excessive admiration and wonder with which several first rate philosophers are considered; and . . . an opinion of the greater equality of mankind in point of genius would be of real service in the present age.
On page 160 of the original printing, in a chapter devoted to Franklin’s probing of the connection between lightning and electricity, Priestley launched into the story of a curious experiment that Franklin had devised in Philadelphia fifteen years before: To demonstrate, in the completest manner possible, the sameness of the electric fluid with the matter of lightning, Dr. Franklin, astonishing as it must have appeared, contrived actually to bring lightning from the heavens, by means of an electrical kite, which he raised when a storm of thunder was perceived to be coming on. . . . [S]o capital a discovery as this (the greatest, perhaps, that has been made in the whole compass of philosophy, since the time of Sir Isaac Newton) cannot but give pleasure to all my readers. . . . The classic image of Franklin with his electrified kite, ingrained in the minds of countless American schoolchildren over the past two centuries, dates back to this paragraph from Priestley’s History. Franklin himself had only published a brief third-person account of his experiment in the Pennsylvania Gazette, without specifying that he himself had performed it.
Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension by Samuel Arbesman
3D printing, algorithmic trading, Anton Chekhov, Apple II, Benoit Mandelbrot, citation needed, combinatorial explosion, Danny Hillis, David Brooks, discovery of the americas, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flash crash, friendly AI, game design, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, HyperCard, Inbox Zero, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Kevin Kelly, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, mandelbrot fractal, Minecraft, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, Parkinson's law, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, software studies, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, superintelligent machines, Therac-25, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K
“Divers Instances of Peculiarities of Nature”: Nathanael Fairfax, “Divers Instances of Peculiarities of Nature, Both in Men and Brutes; Communicated by the Same,” Philosophical Transactions 1666–67, 2 (1666): 549–51. back in Woolsthorpe: Newton also spent some time at Cambridge during these plague years, where he did work as well. Information on Newton’s life and work can be found in these sources: George Smith, “Isaac Newton,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2008 edition, ed. Edward N. Zalta, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/newton/; V. Frederick Rickey, “Isaac Newton: Man, Myth, and Mathematics,” The College Mathematics Journal 18, no. 5 (1987): 362–89. “great tragedy of Science”: Tania Lombrozo, “Must Science Murder Its Darlings?” NPR 13.7: Cosmos and Culture, January 27, 2014, http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/01/26/266784786/must-science-murder-its-darlings.
One example was the philosopher, scientist, and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz, who lived during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. According to the scholar Daniel Boorstin, “Before he was twenty-six, Leibniz had devised a program of legal reform for the Holy Roman Empire, had designed a calculating machine, and had developed a plan to divert Louis XIV from his attacks on the Rhineland by inducing him to build a Suez Canal.” In the words of Frederick the Great, Leibniz was “a whole academy in himself.” Similarly, Isaac Newton stitched together a whole host of phenomena—from how objects fall to the orbit of Mars—through his theory of gravitation. Around the same time, Gresham College, one of the oldest colleges in England, and devoted to providing public lectures on various topics, had a small faculty in areas such as astronomy, geometry, and music. But in reality, Gresham titles were relatively meaningless; some professors chose their titles based on the quality of the rooms they could get rather than their area of expertise.
He did not speculate about why thunder might have this effect on a woman, noting only, “And thus it hath been with this Gentlewoman from a Girl.” One gets the sense that while Fairfax wanted to eventually learn something from these observations and facts he recorded, the act of making the observations was itself enough, at least as a first step toward understanding. Around this same time, a young physicist named Isaac Newton was thinking about how objects move and how light works. While Newton was studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, a plague began to sweep through the country. As a precaution, the university closed. So Newton spent the next couple of years primarily at home, back in Woolsthorpe in the countryside. During this time, he made fundamental advances in calculus, optics, and understanding the motions of the planets.
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, en.wikipedia.org, failed state, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, means of production, phenotype, Ronald Reagan, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Turing test, wage slave
Pierre-Jean-George Cabanis, On the Relations Between the Physical and Moral Aspects of Man, vol. 1 (1802; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981). 7. Quoted in V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee, Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind (New York: Morrow, 1998), 227. 8. Isaac Newton, Principia, General Scholium (1713). 9. E. J. Dijksterhuis, The Mechanization of the World Picture: Pythagoras to Newton, trans. C. Dikshoorn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961; repr., Prince ton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), 479–80. 10. Ibid., 488; Isaac Newton to Richard Bentley, 1693, in Newton: Philosophical Writings, ed. Andrew Janiak (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 102–3. 11. For more detailed analysis, see McMullin, Newton on Matter and Activity, chap. 3. 12. Thomas Nagel, “Searle: Why We Are Not Computers,” in Other Minds: Critical Essays, 1969–1994 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 106. 13.
All are instances of the “political guardianship” that the genuine libertarian tradition seeks to dismantle and reconstruct from below, while also changing industry “from a feudalistic to a democratic social order” based on workers’ control, respecting the dignity of the producer as a genuine person, not a tool in the hands of others, in accordance with a libertarian tradition that has deep roots—and, like Marx’s old mole, is always burrowing close to the surface, always ready to peek through, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways, seeking to bring about what seems to me at least to be a reasonable approximation to the common good. 4 | THE MYSTERIES OF NATURE: HOW DEEPLY HIDDEN? THE TITLE FOR this chapter is drawn from Hume’s observations about the man he called “the greatest and rarest genius that ever arose for the ornament and instruction of the species,” Isaac Newton. In Hume’s judgment, Newton’s greatest achievement was that while he “seemed to draw the veil from some of the mysteries of nature, he shewed at the same time the imperfections of the mechanical philosophy; and thereby restored [Nature’s] ultimate secrets to that obscurity, in which they ever did and ever will remain.” On different grounds, others reached similar conclusions. Locke, for example, had observed that motion has effects “which we can in no way conceive motion able to produce”—as Newton had in fact demonstrated shortly before.
“In fact, there is the same reason to conclude, that the powers of sensation and thought are the necessary result of a particular organization, as that sound is the necessary result of a particular concussion of the air.” And in a later discussion, “In my opinion there is just the same reason to conclude that the brain thinks, as that it is white, and soft.”51 Priestley criticizes Locke for being hesitant in putting forth his speculation about thinking matter, since the conclusion follows so directly from “the universally accepted rules of philosophizing such as are laid down by Sir Isaac Newton.” He urges that we abandon the methodological dualism that deters us from applying to thought and sensation the rules that we follow “in our inquiries into the causes of particular appearances in nature” and expresses his hope “that when this is plainly pointed out the inconsistency of our conduct cannot fail to strike us and be the means of inducing” philosophers to apply the same maxim to investigation of mental aspects of the world that they do in other domains—a hope that has yet to be realized, I think.52 Priestley clearly “wished the disappearance of solid matter to signal an end to matter-spirit dualism,” Thackray writes.
Piracy : The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates by Adrian Johns
banking crisis, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, business intelligence, Corn Laws, demand response, distributed generation, Douglas Engelbart, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, full employment, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Marshall McLuhan, Mont Pelerin Society, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pirate software, Republic of Letters, Richard Stallman, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, software patent, South Sea Bubble, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, traveling salesman, Whole Earth Catalog
Very quickly it became so valuable that it was preserved in the face of even the blatant contraventions alleged by Hooke (who denounced Oldenburg as a spy, selling English secrets to the philosopher of Louis XIV, Christiaan Huygens). And the resolutions, too, of some of the most important of those disputes hung on the management of the archives that had been created by the Society’s reading practices. The greatest exponent of such management was to be Isaac Newton. isaac newton and the rejection of perusal Newton was, of course, the dominant figure to emerge in English natural philosophy in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. His emergence took shape through repeated episodes of engagement with the perusalregistrationcirculation sequence. The first of these spanned the period from his initial introduction to the Royal Society in early 1672 to his declaration six years later that he was withdrawing and ceasing all philosophical correspondence.
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, natural philosophy (loosely, the predecessor to science) was still distinct from the world of mechanical arts. It was a university enterprise, devoted to explaining routine natural processes by means of an Aristotelian causal analysis. It was qualitative (the mathematical sciences occupied a lower disciplinary level), discursive, and disputational. Between the discovery of the New World in the late fifteenth century and the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia in 1687, every aspect of this enterprise came under challenge, and most were overthrown. The claims of astronomers, mathematical practitioners, physicians, and natural magicians cast doubt not only on existing knowledge but also on the processes, personnel, and institutions that should be granted intellectual authority. And outside the walls of the universities, itinerant practitioners laid claim to knowledge of nature that yielded not just talk, but power.
By the end of the 1730s, when the first rounds of this battle were culminating, they had made another new term into a household word. That word, nowhere used in the original law of 1710, was copyright. Piracy flourished so scandalously in a city that saw the origins not only of capitalism, but also of the modern natural sciences and mechanical arts. The London of Atkyns and Henry Hills was also the London of Robert Boyle, Christopher Wren, and Isaac Newton. The question of how this could possibly be – of how experimental science could be created in the same place, and sometimes in the same bookshops and printing houses, that saw piracy boom – is the subject of the next chapter. For now, however, it is important to insist that the origin of the concept in struggles of the book trade was never forgotten. That much was made very evident in a spoof of Dante’s trip to Hell written by the scabrous Grub Street wit Ned Ward in 1700.
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, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, urban renewal
Thus, while it is technically an overstatement, I will assume throughout that the error made in asserting that the laws treat past and future on equal footing is minimal—at least as far as explaining the puzzle of time’s arrow is concerned. 6. Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way (New York: Anchor, 1989). Chapter 2 1. Isaac Newton, Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principle of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, trans. A. Motte and Florian Cajori (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1934), vol. 1, p. 10. 2. Ibid., p. 6. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid., p. 12. 5. Albert Einstein, in Foreword to Max Jammer, Concepts of Space: The Histories of Theories of Space in Physics (New York: Dover, 1993). 6. A. Rupert Hall, Isaac Newton, Adventurer in Thought (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 27. 7. Ibid. 8. H. G. Alexander, ed., The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1956). 9.
And since the angle associated with causally related events is always greater than 45 degrees, the time slices of an observer, who necessarily travels at less than light speed, cannot first encounter the effect and then later encounter the cause. To all observers, cause will precede effect. 12. The notion that causes precede their effects (see the preceding note) would, among other things, be challenged if influences could travel faster than the speed of light. 13. Isaac Newton, Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, trans. A. Motte and Florian Cajori (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962), vol. 1, p. 634. 14. Because the gravitational pull of the earth differs from one location to another, a spatially extended, freely falling observer can still detect a residual gravitational influence. Namely, if the observer, while falling, releases two baseballs—one from his outstretched right arm and the other from his left—each will fall along a path toward the earth’s center.
Feynman, Richard. QED. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985. Fölsing, Albrecht. Albert Einstein. New York: Viking, 1997. Gell-Mann, Murray. The Quark and the Jaguar. New York: W. H. Freeman, 1994. Gleick, James. Isaac Newton. New York: Pantheon, 2003. Gott, J. Richard. Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. Guth, Alan. The Inflationary Universe. Reading, Mass.: Perseus, 1997. Greene, Brian. The Elegant Universe. New York: Vintage, 2000. Gribbin, John. Schrödinger’s Kittens and the Search for Reality. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995. Hall, A. Rupert. Isaac Newton. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Halliwell, J. J., J. Pérez-Mercader, and W. H. Zurek. Physical Origins of Time Asymmetry. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Hawking, Stephen.
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, Isaac Newton, Karl Jansky, Kuiper Belt, Louis Blériot, Mars Rover, 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
Two thousand years ago, long before we understood how and why the planets moved the way they do in the night sky, the Alexandrian mathematician and astronomer Claudius Ptolemy could not restrain his reverence as he contemplated them. In the Almagest he writes: “When I trace, at my pleasure, the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch Earth with my feet. I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia.” People no longer wax poetic about the orbital paths of planets. Isaac Newton solved that mystery in the seventeenth century with his universal law of gravitation. That Newton’s law is now taught in high school physics classes stands as a simple reminder that on the ever-advancing frontier of discovery, on Earth and in the heavens, the wonders of nature and of human creativity know no bounds, forcing us periodically to reassess what to call the most wondrous. • • • CHAPTER NINE HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NASA* Dear NASA, Happy birthday!
• • • CHAPTER FOURTEEN GOING BALLISTIC* In nearly all sports that use balls, the balls go ballistic at one time or another. Whether you’re playing baseball, cricket, football, golf, jai alai, soccer, tennis, or water polo, a ball gets thrown, smacked, or kicked and then briefly becomes airborne before returning to Earth. Air resistance affects the trajectories of all these balls, but regardless of what set them in motion or where they might land, their basic path is described by a simple equation found in Isaac Newton’s Principia, his seminal 1687 book on motion and gravity. Some years later, Newton interpreted his discoveries for the Latin-literate lay reader in The System of the World, which includes a description of what would happen if you hurled stones horizontally at higher and higher speeds. Newton first notes the obvious: the stones would hit the ground farther and farther away from the release point, eventually landing beyond the horizon.
They successfully installed two new instruments, repaired two others, replaced gyroscopes and batteries, added new thermal insulation to protect the most celebrated telescope since the era of Galileo. It was the crowning achievement of what can happen when the manned space program is in synchrony with the robotic program. Space Tweet #21 Space Shuttle Atlantis – final trip before retirement today. On board, a chunk from Isaac Newton’s apple tree. Cool May 14, 2010 2:22 AM By the way, Hubble is beloved not only because it has taken such great pictures, but because it’s been around a long time. No other space telescopes were designed to be serviced. You put them up; the coolant runs out after three years; the gyros go out after five; they drop in the Pacific after six. That’s not enough time for the public to warm up to these instruments, to learn what they do and why.
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, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Occam's razor, Pluto: dwarf planet, Solar eclipse in 1919, William of Occam
An in-town telescope was never built (fortunately), largely due to Davidson's intervention. As both an amateur astronomer and a geodeist, a profession that took him to towering mountain sites, he had long been convinced that astronomy would best be served by taking its instruments to the highest elevations possible, where a telescope's resolution would improve immensely in the clear, more rarefied atmosphere. Isaac Newton first pointed this out in the eighteenth century. “For the Air through which we look upon the Stars, is in a perpetual Tremor,” he wrote in his Opticks. “… The only remedy is a most serene and quiet Air, such as may perhaps be found on the tops of the highest Mountains above the grosser Clouds.” And preferably in a region with a dry season, free of rain. Over time Lick came to accept Davidson's compelling idea and in the fall of 1873 authorized the funds to construct a state-of-the-art observatory in the arid Sierra Nevada Mountain Range at an elevation of 10,000 feet.
“Beautiful and accurate,” reported fellow Lick astronomer Edward E. Barnard in a notice to the Royal Astronomical Society. “… [Keeler] has a real artistic ability such as very few observers possess.” Keeler's real forte, however, was in using a spectroscope, which was a relatively recent addition to astronomy's instrumental arsenal. The scientific basis for it was established in the seventeenth century. A young Isaac Newton, sitting in a darkened room in 1666, let a small stream of sunlight enter through a hole in his window shutter. He then passed it through a triangular prism of glass. Beholding a rainbow of colors on the wall behind him, an enchanting phenomenon observed with pieces of glass since antiquity, Newton clearly demonstrated that white light was a mixture of many hues: On one end was a band of red, followed by orange, yellow, green, and blue, until it reached a deep violet on the other end.
The noted Greek philosopher preferred a motionless Earth poised in the center of a celestial sphere of set dimensions, a concept of such influence that it endured for centuries. Over that time scholars only occasionally reflected on the possibility of a universe significantly bigger. In the sixteenth century, for example, Thomas Digges in England imagined the stars scattered throughout a boundless space, while in Italy Giordano Bruno presciently declared that “the center of the universe is everywhere, and the circumference is nowhere.” Even Isaac Newton had a good scientific reason to prefer a cosmos without end. If the universe had a border, gravity would gradually draw all its matter inward, and ultimately the universe would collapse. To keep the cosmos stable—immutable and immovable—required that the stars be spread infinitely outward in all directions. “If the Matter was evenly disposed throughout an infinite Space,” wrote Newton to a friend, “it could never convene into one Mass.”
Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden, Jim Al-Khalili
agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, bioinformatics, complexity theory, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Ernest Rutherford, Gödel, Escher, Bach, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, New Journalism, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, theory of mind, traveling salesman, uranium enrichment, Zeno's paradox
Two hydrogen nuclei have to be able to get very close in order to fuse; but the closer they get, the stronger the repulsive force between them becomes, as each carries a positive electric charge and “like” charges repel. In fact, for them to get close enough to fuse, the particles have to be able to get through the subatomic equivalent of a brick wall: an apparently impenetrable energy barrier. Classical physics*1—built upon Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, mechanics and gravity, which describe very well the everyday world of balls, springs, steam engines (and even planets)—would predict that this shouldn’t happen; particles should not be able to pass through walls and therefore the sun shouldn’t shine. But particles that obey the rules of quantum mechanics, such as atomic nuclei, have a neat trick up their sleeve: they can easily pass through such barriers via a process called “quantum tunneling.”
One could argue over who was responsible for this extraordinarily productive shift in human thought; medieval Arab and Persian scholars, such as Alhazen and Avicenna, certainly played a role, and the trend was then taken up in the emerging scholarly institutions of Europe such as the universities of Paris and Oxford. But this way of describing the world probably bore its first great fruit in the University of Padua in Italy, where Galileo enshrined simple laws of motion in mathematical formulae. In the year he died, 1642, Isaac Newton was born in Lincolnshire, England, and went on to provide an extraordinarily successful mathematical description of how the motion of inanimate objects could be changed by forces, a system which is to this day referred to as Newtonian mechanics. Newton’s forces were initially rather mysterious notions, but over the following centuries they became increasingly identified with the concept of energy.
He was impressed by the mechanical clocks, toys and automata dolls that provided amusement for the courts of Europe at the time, and was inspired by their mechanisms to make the revolutionary claim that the bodies of plants and animals, including humans, were merely elaborate machines composed of conventional materials and driven by mechanical devices such as pumps, cogs, pistons and cams that were in turn subject to those same forces that governed the motion of inanimate matter. Descartes exempted the human mind from his mechanistic view, leaving it with an immortal soul; but his philosophy did at least attempt to provide a scientific framework that accounted for life in terms of the physical laws that were being discovered to govern inanimate objects. The mechanistic biological approach was continued by a near-contemporary of Sir Isaac Newton’s: the physician William Harvey, who discovered that the heart was nothing more than a mechanical pump. A century later, the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier demonstrated that a respiring guinea pig consumes oxygen and generates carbon dioxide, just like the fire that provided the motive force of the new technology of steam engines. He accordingly concluded that “respiration is thus a very slow combustion phenomenon, very similar to that of coal.”
Darwin Among the Machines by George Dyson
Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, British Empire, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer age, Danny Hillis, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, IFF: identification friend or foe, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, phenotype, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, spectrum auction, strong AI, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Turing machine, Von Neumann architecture
The development of a calculus of continuous functions he shared, controversially, with Isaac Newton, while in combinatorial analysis—the study of relations among discrete sets—Leibniz had the field to himself. Leibniz continued reasoning about reasoning where Hobbes left off. He attempted to formalize a consistent system of logic, language, and mathematics by means of an alphabet of unambiguous symbols manipulated according to definite rules. A fascination with formal systems and an insight into mechanical computation were combined in the person of Leibniz from the start. Encouraged by his initial steps toward symbolic logic—and by a working model of a calculating machine—Leibniz declared in 1675 to Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society and Leibniz’s go-between with Isaac Newton, that “the time will come, and come soon, in which we shall have a knowledge of God and mind that is not less certain than that of figures and numbers, and in which the invention of machines will be no more difficult than the construction of problems in geometry.”5 Leibniz thus helped set in motion the two great movements that led to the age of digital computers in which we live.
In 1991, to commemorate the bicentenary of Babbage’s birth, a team led by Doron Swade at the Science Museum in London assembled some four thousand components reconstructed according to Babbage’s 1847 drawings of Difference Engine No. 2. The three-ton device “flawlessly performed its first major calculation,” and “affirmed that Babbage’s failures were ones of practical accomplishment, not of design.”22 Babbage associated with the famous and powerful of his day (“I . . . regularly attended his famous evening parties,” recalled Charles Darwin)23 and held Isaac Newton’s Lucasian chair at Cambridge University from 1828 to 1839. His most celebrated collaboration was with the mathematically gifted Lady Augusta Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron and protégée not only of Babbage but, to a lesser extent, of logician Augustus de Morgan, who was at the same time encouraging work on the Laws of Thought by George Boole. Lovelace’s extensive notes, appended to her translation of Luigi Menabrea’s description of the analytical engine (compiled after Babbage’s visit to Italy in 1841 as a guest of the future prime minister) convey the potential she saw in Babbage’s machine.
—JOHN VON NEUMANN1 As the human intellect grew sharper in exercising the split-second timing associated with throwing stones at advancing enemies or fleeing prey, so the development of computers was nurtured by problems in ballistics—the science of throwing things at distant targets through the air or, more recently, through space. The close relationship between mathematics and ballistics goes back to Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and Isaac Newton, whose legendary apple remains the most famous example of an insight into ballistics advancing science as a whole. It was Robert Boyle, in The Usefulnesse of Mechanical Disciplines to Natural Philosophy, who introduced the term balisticks into the English language in 1671. Boyle classified ballistics as one of the “fatal arts.” The precise use of gunpowder was regarded as a humanitarian advance over indiscriminate mayhem, greeted with the zeal for “smart” weapons that continues to this day.
QI: The Second Book of General Ignorance by Lloyd, John, Mitchinson, John
Ada Lovelace, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, clean water, double helix, Etonian, ghettoisation, Isaac Newton, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Mikhail Gorbachev, Murano, Venice glass, out of africa, the built environment, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, traveling salesman
Sovereigns are no longer legal tender but are kept as gold bullion, which is a tradable commodity. The average world market price of gold in 2009 was about £20,500 per kilogram. Who invented the catflap? It wasn’t Sir Isaac Newton. It’s an appealing idea that the father of gravitation, the leading theoretical scientist of his day and arguably the most famous celebrity in Europe at the start of the eighteenth century, invented something as mundane as the cat flap. Sadly, the evidence doesn’t stack up. To this day, students at Cambridge are told that, while an undergraduate at Trinity College, Isaac Newton cut two holes in the door of his lodgings – a large one for his pet cat and a smaller one for its kittens. The story plays on a classic stereotype, the genius with no common sense – because there’s no need for the smaller door.
The trick was to remove small amounts of metal from legal coinage, melt down the scraps and recast new coins. There were three ways of doing this: ‘clipping’ (filing tiny fragments from the coin’s edges); ‘drilling’ (taking the coin and punching small holes in it, which were then hammered shut); and ‘sweating’ (shaking a bag of coins for long enough to create a dust of gold and copper). Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) became obsessed with the underworld of counterfeiting gangs after he was made Warden of the Royal Mint in 1696. His secret career as an alchemist had made him something on an expert at assessing the purity of metals. By his reckoning, one in five coins in circulation in England were false. He took on the criminal networks, collecting evidence by frequenting taverns and brothels in disguise.
Whatever afflicted him, it didn’t prevent Newton from producing Principia Mathematica (1687), the most influential scientific book of all time, or from building a successful second career as a civil servant and administrator. He lived until he was eighty-four and died a very wealthy man, leaving assets worth £31,821 (equivalent to £49 million in today’s money). STEPHEN There are people in history who were said to be agelastic, including Isaac Newton, who was supposed to have laughed only once in his life. CLIVE ANDERSON When an apple fell on his head. STEPHEN No, when someone asked him what was the point of studying Euclid, and he burst out laughing. JIMMY CARR Yeah, that is a good one, though. What did Molotov invent? Molotov didn’t invent his ‘cocktails’. They were named after him as an insult. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skriabin (1890–1986) took the pen name ‘Molotov’ (molot means ‘hammer’ in Russian) as a young Bolshevik party organiser and underground journalist in pre-Revolutionary Russia.
Albert Einstein, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, Mars Rover, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, polynesian navigation, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, V2 rocket
Through my youthful eyes, the biggest appeal of Voyager was indeed this idea of exploring the truly unknown—throwing a bottle, of sorts, into the cosmic ocean and seeing where the eddies and currents of nature would take it. In my telescope, on a clear cold night, I could make out the reddish-brown belts and bands of Jupiter, as well as its famous Great Red Spot. It was a good-sized instrument for a young amateur astronomer, a so-called Newtonian telescope (designed by Isaac Newton, and using mirrors instead of lenses) made by a company called Meade Instruments, with a main mirror about eight inches in diameter and a tube about four feet long. With that tube held by a metal mounting post and three wide metal legs, it was a heavy, bulky, cumbersome thing to schlep outside and in from the garage and to set up every time I wanted to use it (especially in the snow), but it was so worth the effort.
There are reports of some very astute ancient astronomers, and perhaps even Galileo Galilei, the inventor of the first astronomical telescope in 1610, having seen a starlike object where Uranus should have been at the time. But no one recognized it as a planetes asteres, a wandering star. At least, not until March of 1781. That’s when the German-born English musician and astronomer William Herschel (1738–1822) single-handedly doubled the size of the solar system. Herschel is one of those almost mythic characters from the early history of Western astronomy. Like Isaac Newton in the century before him, Herschel was a prominent polymath—a person with many different kinds of technical and academic skills. He focused much of his energy on, and made his living by, composing and performing music (twenty-four symphonies, fourteen concertos, and many other pieces) and also dabbled in astronomy, optics, and other areas of science. This dabbling eventually led him to design large mirrors and telescopes (based on Newton’s design) and to begin making systematic observations of the night sky.
Science, perhaps especially astronomical science, generally begins with highly motivated individuals making careful observations, or working out interactive theories, essentially on their own or with just a few select others. Notable examples from the history of Western astronomy include pioneers like the sixteenth-century Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus; Danish observer Tycho Brahe and German astronomer Johannes Kepler working together in the late sixteenth century; the late-seventeenth-century English physicist Isaac Newton; and of course the first loner at the telescope, Galileo Galilei, in the early 1600s. But the history of individual, or “small,” science pushed forward mostly by key individuals goes much farther back in time and crosses many cultures, including notable Greek, Arab, Persian, Chinese, Indian, and other thinkers. The idea of collaborative science was generally more rare, although there were some important and profound early advances in math, physics, and astronomy made by larger groups working together, such as the astronomer and mathematician Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and his thirteenth-century research team studying planetary motion at the Maragheh Observatory in Iran.
The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution by Henry Schlesinger
Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, British Empire, Copley Medal, Fellow of the Royal Society, index card, invention of the telegraph, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Livingstone, I presume, Menlo Park, popular electronics, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RFID, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, transcontinental railway, Upton Sinclair, Vannevar Bush, Yogi Berra
Ben Jonson—a friend of Bacon’s—wrote a popular comic play called The Magnetick Lady or Humours Reconcil’d, featuring Lady Lodestone as the lead character. Sir Isaac Newton, an intensely private and often paranoid man, paradoxically became something of a pop culture icon of the day with his likeness adorning an endless stream of portraits and commemorative medals. A kind of cottage industry began to flourish with itinerant men of science offering demonstrations for small towns and villages. Charlatans and natural philosophers of dubious merit soon took to presenting demonstrations in parlors and lecture halls, many of them making up theories as they went along. To feed the curiosity of a public eager for the latest news of scientific discovery, publications also multiplied, ranging from the serious science of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions to popular titles such as Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explained for the Ladies.
Gilbert used logic to be sure, but he applied it systematically to his workshop experiments through inductive reasoning. Building his conclusions through experiment after experiment, he amassed a huge body of data in order to reach those proofs. In the words of the historian of science Park Benjamin, “…he, first of all men, systematically replaced the great doctrine of words by the great doctrine of works.” De Magnete marked the beginning of modern science, opening the door for Galileo and Isaac Newton. In particular, Newton took to experimentation with sometimes frightening gusto—at one point staring at the sun with one eye to study the afterimages, nearly blinding himself in the process. In another series of experiments, he inserted various instruments around his eye, including a bodkin (an ivory toothpick) as well as his finger to change the shape of his eyeball. “I push a bodkin betwixt my eye and the bone as near to the backside of my eye with the end of it there appear several white dark and coloured circles,” he wrote of one experiment.
In Russia, Georg Wilhelm Richman, a German scientist employed by the Tsar, turned himself into toast while attempting to duplicate the kite experiment and entered history books as the first electrical fatality during an experiment. The Tsar immediately banned all electrical experiments. In France, Franklin was hailed as a scientific hero. The upstart American colonist was not the first to speculate that lightning was electrical. Isaac Newton, among others, held that view, but it was Franklin who proved it. Acclaim, in both the colonies and Europe followed. Harvard presented Franklin with an honorary degree, and Yale, along with the College of William and Mary, soon followed. The Royal Society, which had once laughed at his theories, presented him with the Copley Medal and membership. “The Tatler [an early colonial magazine intended to “…pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation” to lead its readers toward better Christian lives] tells us of a girl who was observed to grow suddenly proud, and none could guess the reason till it came to be known that she had got on a pair of new silk garters,” Franklin wrote.
New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind by Noam Chomsky
A perennial problem in philosophy has been to account for how the mental can affect the physical, how something which is by deﬁnition insubstantial can cause changes in spatially located entities: in other words, how the mind can viii Foreword move the body. Chomsky has cut the Gordian knot by emphasizing a more fundamental difﬁculty: the mind–body problem cannot even be formulated. This is not, as generally supposed, because we have too limited an understanding of the mind, but because we don’t have criteria for what constitutes a body. In a typically radical attempt at clariﬁcation he points out that, as Isaac Newton’s insights led to the demise of contact mechanics, the Cartesian notion of body was refuted and nothing since has replaced it. In the absence of a coherent notion of “body”, the traditional mind–body problem has no conceptual status, so no special problems of causality arise. More generally, there is no special metaphysical problem associated with attempts to deal naturalistically with “mental” phenomena (such as knowledge of language), any more than there are metaphysical problems for chemists in deﬁning the “chemical”.
There are many further ramiﬁcations, including recent “evolutionary epistemology.” (For some discussion, see Chomsky 1966: Chapter 4; 1968/72; 1975: Chapter 1.) The enterprise of epistemic naturalism is uncontentious, apart from the term, which is misleading in a peculiarly modern way. The epistemic naturalism of the seventeenth and eighteenth century was science, an attempt to construct an empirical theory of mind; Hume, for one, compared his enterprise with Isaac Newton’s. Epistemic naturalism, in Naturalism and dualism 81 contrast, is presented as a “philosophical position,” something apparently different. We plainly cannot read back into earlier periods a distinction between science and philosophy that developed later. We would not use the term “visual naturalism” to refer to the empirical study of the growth and functioning of the visual system (also a topic of earlier rational psychology), implying that there was some coherent alternative for the same realm of problems.
To account for them, he postulated a new principle; in his framework, a second substance, whose essence is thought. The “uniﬁcation problem” arose as a question about the interaction of body and mind. This metaphysical dualism was naturalistic in essence, using empirical evidence for factual theses about the world – wrong ones, but then, that is the rule. The Cartesian theory collapsed soon after, when Isaac Newton showed that terrestrial and planetary motion lie beyond the bounds of the mechanical philosophy – beyond what was understood to be body, or matter. What remained was a picture of the world that was “antimaterialist,” and that “relied heavily on spiritual forces,” as Margaret Jacob puts it (M. Jacob 1988: 97). Newton’s invocation of gravity was sharply condemned by leading scientists. E.J. Dijksterhuis points out that “the leaders of the true mechanistic philosophy regarded the theory of gravitation (to use the words of Boyle and Huygens) as a relapse into medieval conceptions that had been thought exploded, and as a kind of treason against the good cause of natural science” (Dijksterhuis 1986: 479).
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, Isaac Newton, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Olbers’ paradox, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, Wilhelm Olbers
On the other hand, if such instances are truly of zero duration, then it doesn’t matter how many of them sit together side by side, they will never add up to a nonzero interval of time: we can add zero to itself as many times as we like and the answer is still zero. So Zeno’s argument that a finite duration of time is just made up of a sequence of such consecutive instants is wrong. It would take advances in mathematics as well as physics for this paradox to be finally laid to rest. More specifically, it was an understanding of calculus, the field of mathematics developed by Isaac Newton and others in the seventeenth century, which describes how to add up tiny quantities in order to describe the notion of change correctly, that would lay Zeno’s naïve ideas to rest. Well, almost. In 1977, two physicists at the University of Texas published a surprising research paper that suggested Zeno’s Arrow Paradox might have been laid to rest too prematurely. Their names were Baidyanaith Misra and George Sudarshan, and the title of their paper was “The Zeno’s Paradox in Quantum Theory.”
This would all change in the first decades of the twentieth century, when one man gave science a new view on the nature of space and time. OUR EXPANDING UNIVERSE In 1915 Einstein published his greatest work. It wasn’t his famous equation, E = mc2; nor was it his work on light, which won him the Nobel Prize. It is called his General Theory of Relativity, and in it he describes how the force of gravity affects space and time. We learn at school a description of gravity that Isaac Newton gave us: that it is an invisible force acting to pull all objects together. Of course, this is quite right, and we live our lives under the influence of our planet’s gravity holding us to its surface. Newton’s law of gravity also explains how the Moon orbits the Earth and how its gravitational pull affects the ocean tides; and it explains how the Earth orbits the Sun, thus confirming Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the solar system.
But even our most powerful scientific theories often fall short when we try to push them too far in trying to answer such deep metaphysical questions as: “Does time really flow, or is that just an illusion?” and: “Is there an absolute rate to the flow of time, or even an unambiguous direction to this flow?” Clearly, statements such as “time points from the past to the future” or “time goes by at a rate of one second every second” are somewhat unhelpful. Until Isaac Newton completed his work on the laws of motion more than three centuries ago in his Principia mathematica, time was considered to be the domain of philosophy rather than science. Newton described how objects move and behave under the influence of forces, and since all movement and change require the notion of time to make sense, time had to be included as an integral part of his mathematical description of nature.
The confusion by Neal Stephenson
correlation does not imply causation, dark matter, Fellow of the Royal Society, Filipino sailors, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, out of africa, Socratic dialogue, South China Sea, spice trade, urban planning, web of trust
Some of these, I gad, have to do with money, revenue, banks, stocks, and other subjects that fascinate you. But I must confess I have fallen quite out of touch with such matters. Isaac Newton was elected to Parliament a year ago, in the wake of our Revolution. He had made a name for himself in Cambridge opposing the former King’s efforts to salt the University with Jesuits. He spent much of the last year in London, to the dismay of those of us who would prefer to see him turn out more work in the vein of Principia Mathematica. He and your friend Fatio have become the closest of companions, and share lodgings here. POST-SCRIPT—FEB. 1690 After I wrote the above, but before I could post this, King William and Queen Mary prorogued and dissolved Parliament. There have been new elections and the Tories have won. Isaac Newton is no longer M.P. He divides his time between Cambridge, where he toils on Alchemy, and London, where he and Fatio are reading Treatise on Light by our friend and erstwhile dinner-companion Huygens.
“Like a silken cord turned in on itself and knotted into a snare. I commend you for it, but I will not put my foot in it. And I will thank you to keep Daniel out of it as well.” Fatio had turned red. “The only thing I wish to snare is a clearer understanding of what has passed between you and Isaac.” “You want to know if you have a rival.” Fatio said nothing. “The answer is: you do not.” “That is well.” “You do not have a rival, Fatio. But Isaac Newton does.” Ireland 1690–1691 THE KING’S OWN BLACK TORRENT Guards had been founded by a man King William did not like very much (John Churchill), and as a sort of punishment for that, the regiment had now been exiled in Ireland for almost two years. Bob Shaftoe had learned many things about this island during that time: For example, that it was commonly divided into four pieces, which were variously styled Kingdoms or Duchies or Presidencies or Counties depending on whom you were talking to and what peculiar notions they held concerning the true nature and meaning of Irish history.
Gresham’s College 10/20 JUNE 1692 Even Solomon had wanted Gold to adorn the Temple, unless he had been supply’d by Miracles. —DANIEL DEFOE, A Plan of the English Commerce “MY DELIGHT AT seeing Monsieur Fatio again is joined by wonder at the company he keeps!” Feeble as it was, this was the best that Eliza could muster when Fatio walked into the library accompanied by a man with long silver hair—a man who could not be anyone but Isaac Newton. Even by the standards of savants, this had been a socially awkward morning. Eliza had been in London for a fortnight. The first few days had gone to buying clothes, finding lodgings, sleeping, and vomiting; for obviously she was pregnant. Then she had sent notes out to a few London acquaintances. Most had responded within a day. Fatio’s message had not arrived until this morning—it had been shot under her door as she knelt over a chamber-pot.
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anesthesia awareness, anthropic principle, butterfly effect, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological principle, discovery of DNA, false memory syndrome, Gary Taubes, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, laissez-faire capitalism, life extension, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
For example, it seems completely natural to presume that gravitation and the law of gravity existed before Isaac Newton. It would sound nutty to think that until the seventeenth century there was no gravity." "Of course." "So, before the beginning of the Earth, before people, etc., the law of gravity existed. Sitting there, having no mass of its own, no energy, and not existing in anyone's mind." "Right." "Then what has a thing to do to be nonexistent? It has just passed every test of nonexistence there is. You cannot think of a single attribute of nonexistence that the law of gravity didn't have, or a single scientific attribute of existence it did have. I predict that if you think about it long enough, you will go round and round until you realize that the law of gravity did not exist before Isaac Newton. So the law of gravity exists nowhere except in people's heads.
In 1965, observing the accelerating rate at which individuals were entering the sciences, the junior minister of science and education of Great Britain concluded, "For more than 200 years scientists everywhere were a significant minority of the population. In Britain today they outnumber the clergy and the officers of the armed forces. If the rate of progress which has been maintained ever since the time of Sir Isaac Newton were to continue for another 200 years, every man, woman and child on Earth would be a scientist, and so would every horse, cow, dog, and mule" (in Hardison 1988, p. 14). Transportation speed has also shown geometric progression, with most of the change being made in the last 1 percent of human history. French historian Fernand Braudel tells us, for example, that "Napoleon moved no faster than Julius Caesar" (1981, p. 429).
He began with metaphysical first principles and ended with an entire social structure. Moreover, because many political theorists consider Hobbes the most influential thinker of the modern age, the connection Hobbes made between politics and science is not dead yet. Science and culture are interactive, not separate and independent, despite attempts by scientists to keep them separate. One of the founders of modern science, Isaac Newton, in the third edition (1726) of his great work, the Principia, claimed, "Hitherto I have not been able to discover the cause of properties of gravity from phenomena, and I feign no hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy" ( 1962, vol. 2, p. 547). Yet Olson has demonstrated just how often Newton did feign hypotheses, "such as the conjecture that light is globular and resembles tennis balls, which is clearly presented in the first optics paper" (1991, p. 98).
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, Isaac Newton, John Conway, place-making, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking
—FRIEDRICH ENGELS, ANTI-DUHRING Zero and infinity had destroyed the Arisotelian philosophy; the void and the infinite cosmos had eliminated the nutshell universe and the idea of nature’s abhorrence of the vacuum. The ancient wisdom was discarded, and scientists began to divine the laws that governed the workings of nature. However, there was a problem with the scientific revolution: zero. Deep within the scientific world’s powerful new tool—calculus—was a paradox. The inventors of calculus, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, created the most powerful mathematical method ever by dividing by zero and adding an infinite number of zeros together. Both acts were as illogical as adding 1 + 1 to get 3. Calculus, at its core, defied the logic of mathematics. Accepting it was a leap of faith. Scientists took that leap, for calculus is the language of nature. To understand that language completely, science had to conquer the infinite zeros.
Calculus, on the other hand, gave scientists a way to express the laws that govern the motion of the celestial bodies—and laws that would eventually tell scientists how those moons and stars had formed. Calculus was the very language of nature, yet its very fabric was infused with zeros and infinities that threatened to destroy the new tool. The first discoverer of calculus nearly died before he ever took a breath. Born prematurely on Christmas Day in 1642, Isaac Newton squirmed into the world, so small that he was able to fit into a quart pot. His father, a farmer, had died two months earlier. Despite a traumatic childhood* and a mother who wanted him to become a farmer, Newton enrolled in Cambridge in the 1660s—and flourished. Within a few years he developed a systematic method of solving the tangent problem; he could figure out the tangent to any smooth curve at any point.
As you raise the temperature of a gas, the average molecule moves faster and smashes harder into the walls of its container. The gas pushes harder on the walls: the pressure goes up. Statistical mechanics—the theory of wiggles—explained some of the basic properties of matter, and it even seemed to explain the nature of light itself. The nature of light was a problem that had consumed scientists for centuries. Isaac Newton believed that light was composed of little particles that flowed from every bright object. Over time, though, scientists came to believe that light was not in fact a particle, but a wave. In 1801 a British scientist discovered that light interferes with itself, apparently putting the matter to rest once and for all. Interference happens with all sorts of waves. When you drop a stone into a pond, you create circular ripples in the water—waves.
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, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Mahatma Gandhi, music of the spheres, Necker cube, p-value, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steven Pinker, Zipf's Law
Wordsworth had better regard for science, and for Newton ('Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone'). He also, in his preface to the Lyrical Ballads (1802), anticipated a time when 'The remotest discoveries of the chemist, the botanist, or mineralogist, will be as proper objects of the poet's art as any upon which it can be employed'. His collaborator Coleridge said elsewhere that 'the souls of 500 Sir Isaac Newtons would go to the making up of a Shakespeare or a Milton'. This can be interpreted as the naked hostility of a leading Romantic against science in general, but the case of Coleridge is more complicated. He read a great deal of science and fancied himself as a scientific thinker, not least on the subject of light and colour, where he claimed to have anticipated Goethe. Some of Coleridge's scientific speculations have turned out to be plagiarisms, and he perhaps showed poor judgement over whom to plagiarize.
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. The theory is correct.' Isaac Newton made a private rainbow in a dark room. A small hole in a shutter admitted a sunbeam. In its path he placed his famous prism, which refracted (bent) the sunbeam through an angle, once as it penetrated the glass, then again as it passed through the farther facet into the air again. When the light fell on the far wall of Newton's room, the colours of the spectrum were clearly displayed. Newton was not the first to make an artificial rainbow with a prism, but he was the first to use it to demonstrate that white light is a mixture of different colours.
How much more sincere that sounds than Keats's better-known expression of a superficially similar emotion: 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'—that is all Ye know on earth and all ye need to know. 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' (1820) Keats and Lamb should have raised their glass to poetry, and to mathematics, and to the poetry of mathematics. Wordsworth would have needed no encouragement. He (and Coleridge) had been inspired by the Scottish poet James Thomson, and might have recalled Thomson's 'To the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton' (1727): ... Even Light itself, which every thing displays, Shone undiscovered, till his brighter mind Untwisted all the shining robe of day; And, from the whitening undistinguished blaze, Collecting every ray into his kind, To the charmed eye educed the gorgeous train Of parent colours. First the flaming red Sprung vivid forth the tawny orange next; And next delicious yellow; by whose side Fell the kind beams of all-refreshing green.
Ye Olde Britain: Best Historical Experiences by Lonely Planet Publications
Henry VII’s magnificent Late Perpendicular-style Lady Chapel was consecrated in 1519 after 16 years of construction. Apart from the royal graves, keep an eye out for the many famous commoners interred here, especially in Poets’ Corner, where you’ll find the resting places of Chaucer, Dickens, Hardy, Tennyson, Dr Johnson and Kipling as well as memorials to the other greats (Shakespeare, Austen, Brontë etc). Elsewhere you’ll find the graves of Handel and Sir Isaac Newton. Verger-led tours are held several times a day (except Sundays) and are limited to 25 people per tour; call ahead to secure your place. Of course, admission to the Abbey is free if you wish to attend a service. On weekdays, Matins is at 7.30am, Holy Communion at 8am and 12.30pm, and Choral Evensong at 5pm. There are services throughout the day on Sundays. You can sit and soak in the atmosphere, even if you’re not religious.
It’s a wonderful introduction to one of Cambridge’s most venerable colleges, and a reminder of who really rules the roost. As you enter the Great Court, scholastic humour gives way to wonderment, for it is the largest of its kind in the world. To the right of the entrance is a small tree, planted in the 1950s and reputed to be a descendant of the apple tree made famous by Trinity alumnus Sir Isaac Newton. Other alumni include Tennyson, Francis Bacon, Lord Byron, HRH Prince Charles and at least nine prime ministers, British and international, and a jaw-dropping 32 Nobel Prize winners. The square is also the scene of the run made famous by the film Chariots of Fire – 350m in 43 seconds (the time it takes the clock to strike 12). Although many students attempt it, Harold Abrahams (the hero of the film) never actually did, and the run wasn’t even filmed here.
23andMe, 3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Anne Wojcicki, Atul Gawande, augmented reality, bioinformatics, call centre, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, computer vision, conceptual framework, connected car, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, dark matter, data acquisition, disintermediation, don't be evil, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Firefox, global village, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, license plate recognition, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Network effects, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, phenotype, placebo effect, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, Snapchat, social graph, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Turing test, Uber for X, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, X Prize
And books haven’t gone away—they’re right on our little devices! FIGURE 3.2: Parallels in the marked uptake of the printing press and smartphones, with very different x-axis time intervals. Fostering Autonomy When we’re sharing ideas via print or electrons, there’s a lot more chance you can do things yourself. Take Isaac Newton, one of if not the most influential scientists of all time. Amazingly enough he was self-taught in mathematics via books that he either bought or borrowed. Newton himself was responsible for, as Bernard Cohen wrote in The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton, “the transformation of a youth who knew no more mathematics than simple arithmetic and who could not read a treatise on astrology for want of trigonometry into the profound creator of higher mathematics.”31 As Eisenstein affirmed, the impact of books to alter the master-apprentice traditional relationship was quite clear, as people could “instruct themselves primarily from books with a minimum of outside help” and “cut the bonds of subordination which kept pupils and apprentices under the tutelage of a given master.”32 The do-it-yourself (DIY) capabilities took varied forms, from learning to be musicians, self-help in medicine, to autodidact printers like Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin.
Social Networks Social networking was alive and well in the fifteenth century, thanks to the rising popularity of books. The communal gathering places consisted of reading rooms, coffeehouses, and bookshops.20 The coffeehouses weren’t just for drinking coffee, but were used to discuss the latest books, pamphlets, and new-sheets. By the seventeenth century, many of the coffeehouses were specialized for particular topics such as science, literature, or politics. A coffeehouse argument accounted for Isaac Newton’s canonical book Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, which laid the foundation for classical mechanics, the laws of motion and gravity, and much more.21 We’ll come back to Newton shortly. Later in the 1700s, the preeminent economist Adam Smith actually wrote The Wealth of Nations in a coffeehouse, after having repeatedly circulated drafts for input among the regulars there. Beyond this physical confluence and interaction based on printed materials, Eisenstein pointed out: “That identical images, maps and diagrams could be viewed simultaneously by scattered readers constituted a kind of communications revolution in itself.”22 In parallel, we have seen a social media revolution the likes of which no one could have anticipated.
Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 129. 28. M. B. Hall, The Scientific Renaissance 1450–1630 (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1962), 130. 29. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 268. 30. N. Schmidle, “A Very Rare Book,” New Yorker, December 16, 2013, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/12/16/131216fa_fact_schmidle. 31. I. Cohen, “Review of The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton,” Scientific American 1 (1968): 139–144. 32. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 245. 33. Ibid., 179. 34. Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, 74. 35. Ericsson, “On The Pulse of the Networked Society,” Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2014, http://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/2014/ericsson-mobility-report-june-2014.pdf. 36. A. Toor, “Cellphones Ignite a ‘Reading Revolution’ in Poor Countries,” The Verge, April 23, 2014, http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/23/5643058/mobile-phone-reading-illiteracy-developing-countries-unesco. 37.
Alex's Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos
Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Black Swan, Black-Scholes formula, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, family office, forensic accounting, game design, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, SETI@home, Steve Jobs, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, traveling salesman
Before this point scientists were only aware of the scatter-gun randomness of pi’s decimal expansion. Yet here was one of the most elegant and uncomplicated equations in maths. Pi, the poster boy of disorder, it turned out, had some kind of order in his DNA. Leibniz had devised the formula using ‘the calculus’, a powerful type of mathematics he had discovered, in which a new understanding of infinitesimal amounts was used to calculate areas, curves and gradients. Isaac Newton had also come up with calculus, independently, and the men spent a good deal of time bickering about who had got there first. (For years, Newton was considered to have won the argument, based on the dates of his unpublished manuscripts, but it now appears that a version of calculus was actually first invented in the fourteenth century by the Indian mathematician Madhava.) The formula that Leibniz found for pi is what is known as an infinite series, a sum that goes on and on for ever, and it provides a way to calculate pi.
Perhaps the most eminent figure ever to have declared that he had squared the circle was Thomas Hobbes, the seventeenth-century English thinker whose book Leviathan founded political philosophy. Having become a keen amateur geometer in later life, Hobbes published his solution when he was 67. Even though circle-squaring was still an open question at the time, his proof was received with bemusement by the scientific community. John Wallis, professor at Oxford and the finest British mathematician before Isaac Newton, exposed Hobbes’s errors in a pamphlet, thus setting in motion one of the most entertaining – and pointless – feuds in the history of British intellectual life. Hobbes replied to Wallis’s comments with an addendum to his book entitled Six Lessons to the Professors of Mathematics. Wallis countered with Due Correction for Mr Hobbes in School Discipline for not saying his Lessons right. Hobbes followed this with Marks of the Absurd Geometry, Rural Language, Scottish Church Politics and Barbarisms of John Wallis.
For example, we have already seen that the series is convergent, and converges on 2. We have also seen that there are many infinite series that converge on pi. On the other hand, the series 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 +… is divergent, heading off towards infinity. The Greeks may have been wary of infinity, but by the seventeenth century mathematicians were happy to take it on. An understanding of infinite series was required for Isaac Newton to invent calculus, which was one of the most significant developments in mathematics. When I studied maths one of my favourite exercises was being presented with an infinite series and being asked to work out whether it converged or diverged. I always found it incredible that the difference between convergence and divergence was so brutal – the difference between a finite number and infinity is infinity – and yet the elements that decided which path the series took often seemed so insignificant.
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein
Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, buttonwood tree, capital asset pricing model, cognitive dissonance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversified portfolio, double entry bookkeeping, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, endowment effect, experimental economics, fear of failure, Fellow of the Royal Society, Fermat's Last Theorem, financial deregulation, financial innovation, full employment, index fund, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, linear programming, loss aversion, Louis Bachelier, mental accounting, moral hazard, Nash equilibrium, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, random walk, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, spectrum auction, statistical model, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transaction costs, tulip mania, Vanguard fund
Two years before the publication of Graunt's Observations, Charles II had been recalled from exile in Holland. With the Restoration in full sway, the English were finally rid of the intellectual repression that the Puritans had imposed on the nation. The death of absolutism and Republicanism led to a new sense of freedom and progress throughout the country. Great wealth was beginning to arrive from the colonies across the Atlantic and from Africa and Asia as well. Isaac Newton, now 28 years old, was leading people to think in new ways about the planet on which they lived. Charles II himself was a free soul, a Merry Monarch who offered no apologies for enjoying the good things of life. It was time to stand up and look around. John Graunt did, and began counting. Although Graunt's book offers interesting bits for students of sociology, medicine, political science, and history, its greatest novelty is in its use of sampling.
In 1690 a local scientist and clergyman named Caspar Naumann went through the Breslaw records with a view to "disproving certain current superstitions with regard to the effect of the phases of the moon and the so-called `climacteric' years on health." Naumann sent the results of his study to Leibniz, who in turn sent them on to the Royal Society in London. 16 Naumann's data soon attracted the attention of Halley. Halley was then only 35 years old but already one of England's most distinguished astronomers. Indeed, he was responsible for persuading Isaac Newton in 1684 to publish his Principia, the work in which Newton first set forth the laws of gravity. Halley paid all the costs of publication out of his own modest resources, corrected the page proofs, and put his own work aside until the job was done. The historian James Newman conjectures that the Principia might never have appeared without Halley's efforts. Widely recognized as a child genius in astronomy, Halley carried his 24-inch telescope with him when he arrived as an undergraduate at Queen's College, Oxford.
He took eight years to finish the task! In his introduction he confesses to the long delay and to frequent prodding by the publishers, but he offers as an excuse of "my absence on travels" and the fact that "I was too young and inexperienced to know how to complete it."' Perhaps he deserves the benefit of the doubt: he spent those eight years seeking out the opinions of the leading mathematicians of his time, including Isaac Newton. In addition to conducting an active correspondence for the exchange of ideas, he traveled to London and Paris to consult with outstanding scholars in person. And he made a number of contributions to mathematics on his own, including an analysis of the use of conjecture and probability theory in applications of the law. To complicate matters further, Daniel Bernoulli had a brother five years older than he, also named Nicolaus; by convention, this Nicolaus is known as Nicolaus III, his grandfather being numberless, his uncle being Nicolaus I, and his elder first cousin being Nicolaus II.
Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science by Jim Al-Khalili
agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Book of Ingenious Devices, colonial rule, Commentariolus, Dmitri Mendeleev, Eratosthenes, Henri Poincaré, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Joseph Schumpeter, retrograde motion, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, trade route, William of Occam
6 That Jābir is regarded in the West as having been ‘just an alchemist’ probably has more to do with the prejudices of the early European translators of his work than with his own scientific leanings. Some of his most influential books were translated into Latin in the twelfth century, at a time when alchemy was still considered a respectable pursuit in Europe (it would continue to be so, well into the Renaissance). Even Isaac Newton was a devoted alchemist later in life and is sometimes referred to as the last of the magicians rather than the first scientist of the age of reason – and he lived nine hundred years after Jābir. One distinction that was made between the two disciplines is that while chemistry was regarded as the science of matter, alchemy involved the philosophy of matter. But where was this line in the sand between science and philosophy, especially as alchemy also involved scientific notions of experimentation, observation and theory?
While this is true for some of these later Islamic scholars,9 it is not quite so clear in the case of Jābir. In any case, I do not see that such a stance is necessary in order to legitimize the achievements of Jābir in chemistry. After all, was Aristotle a fool for believing in the four elements theory of matter? Was Plato any less of a genius for his adherence to the intromission theory of vision (that claimed we see objects by emitting light from our eyes)? Indeed, was Isaac Newton less worthy of the mantle of the greatest scientist who ever lived for his own obsession with alchemy? Hindsight is wonderful, but we should not project back our modern scientific ideas and values onto a very different time. Referring to Jābir ibn Hayyān as an alchemist rather than a chemist (according to our modern definitions of the two words) is rather like referring to the great Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy as an astrologer.
Despite appearances, this was a period of competitive patronage of the sciences among dynastic rulers across the Islamic world, with enticements offered from many of the courts around the Middle East and Central Asia to attract the very best scholars. It was during the second half of the tenth century that we see the three most outstanding thinkers in the history of Islam arriving on the scene. The first of these was a man after my own heart: a physicist; in fact, the greatest physicist since Archimedes and the like of whom would not be seen until Isaac Newton seven hundred years later. And acknowledging someone as being the greatest physicist in a span of nearly two thousand years is not done lightly.1 The Arab polymath Abū Ali al-Hassan ibn al-Haytham was born in Basra in southern Iraq in c. 965. He is often said to be Egyptian, because he spent his later, most productive years there. In fact, I would no more think of him as Egyptian than I would think of Einstein as an American rather than a German.
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, discovery of penicillin, 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, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Paul Erdős, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, 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
Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter (Fourth Estate, 2000) An account of the life of Galileo, which includes letters sent to him by his daughter, who lived in a convent from the age of thirteen. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (Abacus, 1995) The book based on the famous television series, which must have been the inspiration for numerous careers in astronomy. Chapter 2 James Gleick, Isaac Newton (Fourth Estate, 2003) An accessible and concise account of the life of Isaac Newton. Hans Reichenbach, From Copernicus to Einstein (Dover, 1980) A short history of the ideas that contributed to relativity theory. David Bodanis, E = mc2 (Walker, 2001) The biography of an equation, inspired by Cameron Diaz, who once asked if somebody could explain the meaning of Einstein’s famous formula. Clifford Will, Was Einstein Right? (Basic Books, 1999) An examination of the various tests that have been applied to Einstein’s theories, including the measurement of Mercury’s anomalous orbit and Eddington’s eclipse expedition.
Day and night I rack my brain in an effort to penetrate more deeply into the things that I gradually discovered in the past two years and that represent an unprecedented advance in the fundamental problems of physics.’ In speaking of ‘truly great things’ and ‘fundamental problems’, Einstein was referring to the fact that the general theory of relativity seemed to be leading him towards an entirely new theory of gravity. If Einstein was right, then physicists would be forced to question the work of Isaac Newton, one of the icons of physics. Newton was born in tragic circumstances on Christmas Day 1642, his father having died just three months earlier. While Isaac was still an infant, his mother married a sixty-three-year-old rector, Barnabas Smith, who refused to accept Isaac into his home. It fell to Isaac’s grandparents to bring him up, and as each year passed he developed a growing hatred towards the mother and stepfather who had abandoned him.
Sooner or later, two of the balls will roll towards each other’s hollows, forming an even deeper hollow, which would in turn attract the other balls, until they all crashed together into a single, very deep well. This was a preposterous result. As discussed in Chapter 1, the scientific establishment at the start of the twentieth century was confident that the universe was static and eternal, not contracting and temporary. Not surprisingly, Einstein disliked the notion of a collapsing universe: ‘To admit such a possibility seems senseless.’ Although Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity was different, it also gave rise to a collapsing universe, and Newton had also been troubled by this implication of his theory. One of his solutions was to envisage an infinite, symmetric universe, in which every object would therefore be pulled equally in all directions, and there would be no overall movement and no collapse. Unfortunately, he soon realised that this carefully balanced universe would be unstable.
3D printing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, attribution theory, augmented reality, barriers to entry, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, deliberate practice, Elon Musk, Fellow of the Royal Society, Filter Bubble, Google X / Alphabet X, hive mind, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, Khan Academy, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, popular electronics, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs
Twitter—and many other successful companies—used the Rails platform to launch and validate a business idea in days. Rails translated what Twitter’s programmers wanted to tell all those computer transistors to do—with relatively little effort. And that allowed them to build a company fast. In the world of high tech—like in racing—a tiny time advantage can mean the difference between winning and getting passed. ISAAC NEWTON ATTRIBUTED HIS success as a scientist to “standing on the shoulders of giants”—building off of the work of great thinkers before him. Platforms are tools and environments that let us do just that. It’s clear how using platforms applies in computer programming, but what if we wanted to apply platform thinking to something outside of tech startups? Say—education? II. In spring 2010, Dr. Tony Wagner, a Harvard researcher, took a trip to Scandinavia to observe what was going on at schools in Finland, a country roughly the size and population of the US state of Minnesota.
You’ll remember the anecdote I shared in this book’s introduction about being too short to reach between the Olympic rings at the playground jungle gym. I had to jump to grab the first ring and then swing like a pendulum in order to reach the next ring. To get to the third ring, I had to use the momentum from the previous swing to keep going. If I held on to the previous ring too long, I’d stop and wouldn’t be able to get enough speed to reach the next ring. This is Isaac Newton’s first law of motion at work: objects in motion tend to stay in motion, unless acted on by external forces. Once you start swinging, it’s easier to keep swinging than to slow down. The problem with some rapid success, it turns out, is that lucky breaks like Bear Vasquez’s YouTube success or an entrepreneur cashing out on an Internet wave are like having someone lift you up so you can grab one of the Olympic rings.
If you’re really hungry, the books in this list will keep you going for a while: “A Reading List for the Self-Taught Computer Scientist,” Reddit, http://www.reddit.com/r/books/comments/ch0wt/a_reading_list_for_the_selftaught_computer/ (accessed February 16, 2014). 85 He called it Ruby on Rails: For more information on Ruby on Rails, see http://rubyonrails.org/. 85 a couple of guys at a podcasting startup: For a thorough and dramatic history of Twitter, see Nick Bilton, Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal (Portfolio, 2013). 86 “standing on the shoulders of giants”: The common contemporary quotation comes from a line in one of Sir Isaac Newton’s letters to Robert Hooke: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants,” Newton, letter to Hooke, February 5, 1676, http://www.isaacnewton.org.uk/essays/Giants. The phrase appears to have originated with Bernard of Chartres in the 12th century: Robert K. Merton, On the Shoulders of Giants (Free Press, 1965). 86 managed to be the best with less effort: Robert Compton directed Dr.
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Barry Marshall: ulcers, bioinformatics, borderless world, Brownian motion, clean water, discovery of DNA, double helix, epigenetics, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, Mars Rover, Mikhail Gorbachev, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, stem cell, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Turing machine
This would be the ultimate proof by synthesis. 8 Synthesis of the M. mycoides Genome If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must leave the door to the unknown ajar. —Richard Feynman, 19881 Many believe that the most important innovations of human creativity are the result of some kind of visionary gift, a gift associated with such extraordinary and singular geniuses as Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein. I don’t doubt the incredible impact of individuals who can make great intellectual leaps, who can see further than anyone before them, and who discern patterns where others see only noise. However, there is also a less dramatic kind of creativity that drives science, a humble variety that is no less important: problem-solving.2 Vaulting a single hurdle to achieve one very particular goal can sometimes result in a technology that can prove to have an extraordinary range of other uses.
We are moving toward a borderless world in which electrons and electromagnetic waves will carry digitized information here, there, and everywhere. Borne upon those waves of information, life will move at the speed of light. 12 Life at the Speed of Light The changing of Bodies into Light, and Light into Bodies, is very conformable to the Course of Nature, which seems delighted with Transmutations. —Sir Isaac Newton, Opticks (1718)1 When life is finally able to travel at the speed of light, the universe will shrink, and our own powers will expand. Simple calculations indicate that we could send electromagnetic sequence information to a digital-biological converter on Mars in as little as 4.3 minutes, at the closest approach of the Red Planet, to provide a settlement of colonists with vaccines, antibiotics, or personalized drugs.
“A controlled clinical trial of a therapeutic bacteriophage preparation in chronic otitis due to antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa: A preliminary report of efficacy.” Clinical Otolaryngology 34, no. 4 (August 2009): pp. 349–57. 35. L. J. Marinelli, et al. “Propionibacterium acnes bacteriophages display limited genetic diversity and broad killing activity against bacterial skin isolates.” mBio 3, no. 5 (2012): e00279-12. Chapter 12 1. Isaac Newton. Opticks, 2nd edition (1718). Book 3, Query 30, 349. 2. Brett J. Gladman, Joseph A. Burns, Martin Duncan, Pascal Lee, and Harold F. Levison. “The exchange of impact ejecta between terrestrial planets.” Science 271, no. 5254 (March 8, 1996): p. 1387(6). 3. David S. McKay, et al. “Search for past life on Mars: Possible relic biogenic activity in Martian meteorite ALH84001.” Science 273, no. 5277 (1996): pp. 924–30. 4.
Albert Einstein, Black-Scholes formula, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, collateralized debt obligation, correlation coefficient, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discovery of penicillin, discrete time, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial innovation, fixed income, floating exchange rates, full employment, Henri Poincaré, implied volatility, index fund, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, margin call, market clearing, martingale, means of production, moral hazard, naked short selling, price stability, principal–agent problem, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, RAND corporation, random walk, risk tolerance, risk/return, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, stochastic process, The Chicago School, the scientific method, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, Works Progress Administration, yield curve
However, once word arrived in London that one of the South Seas Trading Company’s initiative in the New World, the Mississippi Scheme, had failed to materialize, rampant profit taking induced a mass sell-off that burst the speculative bubble and caused millions of pounds of losses for all but the earliest purchasers of the stock. After making a handsome profit from early The Times 99 purchases of the stock and rolling the profit over into later purchases and losing everything, Sir Isaac Newton was quoted as having quipped that he could not calculate the madness of people: “I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men.”3 The bursting of the South Sea Trading Company bubble and the loss of huge potential profits by legislators as their warrants became worthless induced those legislators bribed with these warrants to put in place waves of regulation that restricted options trading.
With the faint praise of his highly placed supervisor, Bachelier did not earn the highest thesis grade of très honorable and thus did not carry the weight he might have wished for as he tried to find an academic appointment. The reason for Poincaré’s faint support may have been the subject matter. Bachelier chose to devote his mathematical physics skills to an understanding of the stock market and the options prices listed on the Paris Stock Exchange. Ever since Isaac Newton’s damning of financial markets, serious scientists and mathematicians viewed the stock market as folly at best and gambling at worst. Nonetheless, Bachelier’s life experiences endowed him with a fascination for the financial market and he would not be persuaded to study elsewhere over mere issues of academic snobbery. His doctoral dissertation, entitled “Théorie de la speculation,” was successfully defended on March 19, 1900 and was accepted to be published in one of France’s top journals, the Annales Scientifiques de l’École Normale Supérieure.
He was the former President of the American Sociological Association and, in 1994, was awarded a National Medal of Science by President Bill Clinton, the first sociologist to be granted this award. He also coined such terms as “self-fulfilling prophecy,” “role model” and “focus groups,” which are still used today. And in his epic but undertitled essay, “A Note on Science and Democracy,” he quoted Isaac Newton as having said “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” He may have anticipated the work of his son and of a finance discipline grappling with uncertainty through the last book of his life, The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity. Robert King Merton, the first-generation son of Jewish immigrants, married Suzanne Carhart in 1934. While his parents arrived in the USA only a few years before he was born, Suzanne’s ancestors were some of the first families to arrive in North America from England in the 1600s.
A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
Berlin Wall, British Empire, Colonization of Mars, Copley Medal, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Eratosthenes, European colonialism, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, laissez-faire capitalism, Lao Tzu, multiplanetary species, out of africa, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transatlantic slave trade
Halley later recalled that Wren offered to "give Mr Hook or me 2 months time to bring him a convincing demonstration thereof, and besides the honour, he of us that did it, should have from him a present of a book of 40 shillings." Neither Halley nor Hooke took up Wren's challenge, however, and this prize went unclaimed. A few months later Halley went to Cambridge, where he visited another scientific colleague, Isaac Newton. Recalling his heated coffeehouse discussion with Wren and Hooke, Halley asked Newton the same question: Would an inverse-square law of gravity give rise to elliptical orbits? Like Hooke, Newton claimed to have proved this already, though he could not find the proof when Halley asked to see it. After Halley's departure, however, Newton devoted himself to the problem. In November he sent Halley a paper which showed that an inverse-square law of gravity did indeed imply elliptical planetary orbits.
During the eighteenth century, Enlightenment thought in France had flowered under thinkers, such as the philosopher and satirist Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, who extended the new scientific rationalism into the social and political spheres. After offending a nobleman with a witticism in 1726, Voltaire had been imprisoned in the Bastille prison in Paris and was only released on condition that he went to England. While there he immersed himself in the scientific rationalism of Isaac Newton and the empiricism espoused by the philosopher John Locke. Just as Newton had rebuilt physics from first principles, Locke set out to do the same for political philosophy. Men were born equal, he believed, were intrinsically good and were entitled to the pursuit of happiness. No man should interfere with another's life, health, liberty, or possessions. Inspired by these radical ideas, Voltaire returned to France and detailed his views in a book, Lettres philosophiques, which compared the French system of government unfavorably with a somewhat idealized description of the English system.
Brill, 1955. Forrest, Denys. Tea for the British: The Social and Economic History of a Famous Trade. London: Chatto 8c Windus, 1973. Froissart, Sir John de. Chronicles of England, France, Spain and the Adjoining Countries. Translated by Thomas Johnes. New York: Colonial Press, 1901. Gaiter, Mary K., and W. A. Speck. Colonial America. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave, 2002. Gleick, James. Isaac Newton. London: Fourth Estate, 2003. Gribbin, John. Science: A History, 1543-2001. London: Allen Lane, 2001. Harms, Robert. The Diligent: A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade. Reading, Mass.: Perseus Press, 2002. Hartman, Louis E, and A. L. Oppenheim. "On Beer and Brewing Techniques in Ancient Mesopotamia." Supplement to Journal of the American Oriental Society 10 (December 1950).
Bitcoin: The Future of Money? by Dominic Frisby
3D printing, altcoin, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, capital controls, Chelsea Manning, cloud computing, computer age, cryptocurrency, disintermediation, ethereum blockchain, fiat currency, friendly fire, game design, Isaac Newton, Julian Assange, litecoin, M-Pesa, mobile money, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Occupy movement, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, price stability, quantitative easing, railway mania, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, smart contracts, Snapchat, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Ted Nelson, too big to fail, transaction costs, Turing complete, War on Poverty, web application, WikiLeaks
There are a few small technical differences, but the similarities between Szabo’s bit gold and Bitcoin are uncanny. But Satoshi was the one who actually coded his idea and put it into practice. Back, Finney, Dai and Szabo were all Cypherpunks. Bitcoin has implemented all of their ideas, and the ideas of many more besides.34 Without these developments, Bitcoin almost certainly could not have happened. It was ‘standing on the shoulders of Cypherpunks’, to misquote Isaac Newton – who, incidentally, also laid down a new system of money: the gold standard on which Britain would thrive in the 18th and 19th centuries. Bitcoin’s first year It was two days before anyone even acknowledged Satoshi’s creation. ‘Announcing the first release of Bitcoin’, he said. ‘A new electronic cash system.’35 Nobody seemed to care. Eventually a reply came from Hal Finney. ‘Congratulations to Satoshi on this first alpha release,’ he said.
There are not many people like this. From mathematics to computer programming to economics and monetary history to politics to PR and psychology to cryptography to business acumen and vision to plain old written English – in all of these fields he excelled. To cap it all, he’s probably good-looking too. It’s too early in history to be drawing this sort of comparison, I know, but there are many parallels between Satoshi and Isaac Newton. Newton was a brilliant scientist and mathematician, of course. But he was also Master of the Royal Mint. He redesigned England’s monetary system, putting us onto the gold standard on which Britain’s colossal progress during the next 200 years was built. As I continued my hunt for Satoshi, I started asking myself questions not just about who he could be…but also about why he did what he did?
They have to find investment and get more and more people to start using the coins. This is a long process. There are many who will disagree with this interpretation. And, with investment, it is dangerous to have rigid opinions – I reserve the right to change my mind as events unfold. You could still make a mint There seems to be a 100-year cycle in money. 1716 saw the first Great Recoinage, in the years after Isaac Newton had taken over at the Bank of England. A hundred years later, after excess spending on the Napoleonic Wars, there was another Great Recoinage in 1816. 1913-4 saw another fundamental change to the monetary system with the founding of the Federal Reserve Bank in the US and in Europe the move away from the gold standard. And here we are in 2014-15, a hundred years later, with this new threat to the monetary order that is Bitcoin and the other crypto-currencies that have followed.
The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date by Samuel Arbesman
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Wiles, bioinformatics, British Empire, Chelsea Manning, Clayton Christensen, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, David Brooks, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Galaxy Zoo, guest worker program, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, index fund, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, life extension, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, Nicholas Carr, p-value, Paul Erdős, Pluto: dwarf planet, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, social graph, social web, text mining, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation
For example, rather than looking at the properties of the articles appearing in plant biology journals, we can instead look at the properties of the plant species that have been discovered. One simple example of eurekometrics—and one that I was involved in—is examining how discoveries become more difficult over time. . . . IF you look back in history you can get the impression that scientific discoveries used to be easy. Galileo rolled objects down slopes; Robert Hooke played with a spring to learn about elasticity; Isaac Newton poked around his own eye with a darning needle to understand color perception. It took creativity and knowledge (and perhaps a lack of squeamishness or regard for one’s own well-being) to ask the right questions, but the experiments themselves could be very simple. Today, if you want to make a discovery in physics, it helps to be part of a ten-thousand-member team that runs a multibillion-dollar atom smasher.
But look a little closer, specifically at the first few words of the article’s title. Need help? Think about determining the area under a curve. And now think about your math classes from high school and college. What Tai “discovered,” even being so bold as to term it Tai’s Model, is integral calculus. Tai was not the first person to discover calculus, no doubt to her great disappointment. Rather, it was first developed in the latter half of the seventeenth century by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, more than three hundred years before Tai’s diabetes-related calculations. Specifically, Tai rediscovered something known as the trapezoidal rule for calculating the area below a curve, which seems to have been known to Newton. And yet Tai’s article passed through the editors and has received well over one hundred citations in the scientific literature. A number of letters written in response to Tai in a later issue of Diabetes Care pointed out that this technique is well-known and available in many introductory calculus textbooks.
Nonetheless, the Gray Lady argued in an editorial that thinking that any sort of rocket could ever work in the vacuum of space is essentially foolishness and a blatant disregard for a high school understanding of physics. The editors even went into reasonable detail in order to debunk Goddard. Luckily, the Times was willing to print a correction. The only hitch: They printed it the day after Apollo 11’s launch in 1969. Three days before humans first walked on the moon, they recanted their editorial with this bit of understatement: Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error. Why do we believe in wrong, outdated facts? There are lots of reasons. Kathryn Schulz, in her book Being Wrong, explores reason after reason why we make errors. Sometimes it has to do with our desire to believe a certain type of truth. Other times it has to do with being contrary (Schulz notes one surefire way of adhering to a certain viewpoint: Have a close relative take the opposite position).
8 Day Trips From London by Dee Maldon
Cambridge University is made up of 32 self-governing colleges, each with their own finances and academic strengths. The first college was Peterhouse, founded in 1284, with the most recent college, Robinson, created in the 1970s. In the Middle Ages, students were expected to pray for their college’s founder. As a result, most of the early colleges have chapels. The university has been home to many academics through the years including Erasmus, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and today’s well-known scientist Stephen Hawking. Cambridge University colleges provide the historical backbone of the city, and there have been ‘town and gown’ struggles in the city’s past as townspeople objected to university privileges. Many of the university colleges are clustered along the River Cam, therefore a river punt, or flat-bottomed boat, offers a relaxing and informative journey.
Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson
Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Atahualpa, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, BRICs, British Empire, clean water, collective bargaining, colonial rule, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, corporate governance, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, European colonialism, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, Hans Lippershey, haute couture, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, invention of movable type, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, land reform, land tenure, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, market bubble, Martin Wolf, means of production, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, rent-seeking, reserve currency, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Great Moderation, the market place, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, wage slave, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce, World Values Survey
The many paintings and engravings of the campaign make it clear that the differences between the two armies were sartorial more than technological or tactical. But the timing of the siege was significant. For the late seventeenth century was a time of accelerating change in Europe in two crucial fields: natural philosophy (as science was then known) and political theory. The years after 1683 saw profound changes in the way the Western mind conceived of both nature and government. In 1687 Isaac Newton published his Principia. Three years later, his friend John Locke published his Second Treatise of Government. If one thing came to differentiate the West from the East it was the widely differing degrees to which such new and profound knowledge was systematically pursued and applied. The long Ottoman retreat after 1683 was not economically determined. Istanbul was not a poorer city than its near neighbours in Central Europe, nor was the Ottoman Empire slower than many parts of Europe to embrace global commerce and, later, industrialization.14 The explanation for the decline of imperial China proposed in the previous chapter does not apply here; there was no shortage of economic competition and autonomous corporate entities like guilds in the Ottoman lands.15 There was also ample competition between Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals.
But Hooke’s microscope took science to a new frontier by revealing what had hitherto been invisible to the human eye. Micrographia was a manifesto for the new empiricism, a world away from Faustus’ sorcery. However, the new science was about more than just accurate observation. Beginning with Galileo, it was about systematic experimentation and the identification of mathematical relationships. The possibilities of mathematics were in turn expanded when Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz introduced, respectively, infinitesimal and differential calculus. Finally, the Scientific Revolution was also a revolution in philosophy as René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza overthrew traditional theories about both perception and reason. Without exaggeration, this cascade of intellectual innovation may be said to have given birth to modern anatomy, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, geometry, mathematics, mechanics and physics.
.* 1530 Paracelsus pioneers the application of chemistry to physiology and pathology 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium states the heliocentric theory of the solar system Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica supplants Galen’s anatomical textbook 1546 Agricola’s De natura fossilium classifies minerals and introduces the term ‘fossil’ 1572 Tycho Brahe records the first European observation of a supernova 1589 Galileo’s tests of falling bodies (published in De motu) revolutionize the experimental method 1600 William Gilbert’s De magnete, magnetisque corporibus describes the magnetic properties of the earth and electricity 1604 Galileo discovers that a free-falling body increases its distance as the square of the time 1608 Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Jansen independently invent the telescope 1609 1609 Galileo conducts the first telescopic observations of the night sky 1610 Galileo discovers four of Jupiter’s moons and infers that the earth is not at the centre of the universe 1614 John Napier’s Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio introduces logarithms 1628 William Harvey writes Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus, accurately describing the circulation of blood 1637 René Descartes’ ‘La Géométrie’, an appendix to his Discours de la méthode, founds analytic geometry 1638 Galileo’s Discorsi e dimonstrazioni matematiche founds modern mechanics 1640 Pierre de Fermat founds number theory 1654 Fermat and Blaise Pascal found probability theory 1661 Robert Boyle’s Skeptical Chymist defines elements and chemical analysis 1662 Boyle states Boyle’s Law that the volume occupied by a fixed mass of gas in a container is inversely proportional to the pressure it exerts 1669 Isaac Newton’s De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas presents the first systematic account of the calculus, independently developed by Gottfried Leibniz 1676 Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovers micro-organisms 1687 Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica states the law of universal gravitation and the laws of motion 1735 Carolus Linnaeus’ Systema naturae introduces systematic classification of genera and species of organisms 1738 Daniel Bernoulli’s Hydrodynamica states Bernoulli’s Principle and founds the mathematical study of fluid flow and the kinetic theory of gases 1746 Jean-Etienne Guettard prepares the first true geological maps 1755 Joseph Black identifies carbon dioxide 1775 Antoine Lavoisier accurately describes combustion 1785 James Hutton’s ‘Concerning the System of the Earth’ states the uniformitarian view of the earth’s development 1789 Lavoisier’s Traité élémentaire de chimie states the law of conservation of matter By the mid-1600s this kind of scientific knowledge was spreading as rapidly as had the doctrine of the Protestant Reformers a century before.
agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, blue-collar work, British Empire, Brownian motion, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, DARPA: Urban Challenge, delayed gratification, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hydrogen economy, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, industrial robot, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, megacity, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Review, X Prize
We have a great advantage that Verne and Leonardo da Vinci did not have: a solid understanding of the laws of nature. Predictions will always be flawed, but one way to make them as authoritative as possible is to grasp the four fundamental forces in nature that drive the entire universe. Each time one of them was understood and described, it changed human history. The first force to be explained was the force of gravity. Isaac Newton gave us a mechanics that could explain that objects moved via forces, rather than mystical spirits and metaphysics. This helped to pave the way for the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of steam power, especially the locomotive. The second force to be understood was the electromagnetic force, which lights up our cities and powers our appliances. When Thomas Edison, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and others helped to explain electricity and magnetism, this unleashed the electronic revolution that has created a bounty of scientific wonders.
In addition to creating entirely new hybrid animals by exploiting the modularity of the genome, there is also the possibility of applying genetics to humans, using biotechnology to bring back historical figures. Lanza believes that as long as an intact cell can be extracted from a long-dead person, it will be possible to bring this person back to life. In Westminster Abbey, we have the carefully preserved bodies of long-dead kings and queens, as well as poets, religious figures, politicians, and even scientists like Isaac Newton. One day, Lanza confided to me, it may be possible to find intact DNA within their bodies and bring them back to life. In the movie The Boys from Brazil, the plot revolves around bringing back Hitler. One should not believe, however, that one will be able to bring back the genius or notoriety of any of these historic figures. As one biologist noted, if you bring back Hitler, maybe all you get is a second-rate artist (which is what Hitler was before he led the Nazi movement).
And to reach Mars would require about $1,000,000 per pound (roughly your weight in diamonds). All this, however, was covered up by the excitement and drama of competing with the Russians. Spectacular space stunts by brave astronauts hid the true cost of space travel from view, since nations were willing to pay dearly if their national honor was at stake. But even superpowers cannot sustain such costs over many decades. Sadly, it has been over 300 years since Sir Isaac Newton first wrote down the laws of motion, and we are still dogged by a simple calculation. To hurl an object into near-earth orbit, you have to send it 18,000 miles per hour. And to send it into deep space, beyond the gravity field of the earth, you have to propel it 25,000 miles per hour. (And to reach this magic number of 25,000 miles per hour, we have to use Newton’s third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
3D printing, additive manufacturing, Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, borderless world, carbon footprint, centre right, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, Community Supported Agriculture, corporate governance, decarbonisation, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, energy transition, global supply chain, hydrogen economy, income inequality, informal economy, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, knowledge economy, manufacturing employment, marginal employment, Martin Wolf, Masdar, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, open borders, peak oil, Ponzi scheme, post-oil, purchasing power parity, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, supply-chain management, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, urban planning, urban renewal, Yom Kippur War, Zipcar
As long as Newton’s long shadow casts itself over economic theory, it is unlikely that economics, as a discipline, will be able to accommodate the growing schisms that threaten all of its most basic assumptions. Economic historian E. Ray Canterbery notes that taking on the likes of Adam Smith becomes increasingly daunting because he rides on the coattails of the great Sir Isaac Newton. He writes, “From time to time, a cluster of economists consider conventional economics ripe for revolution, but any economic revolutionaries will have to go to the barricades against the genius of Isaac Newton as well as against Adam Smith and his long line of followers.”6 Now however, for the first time, the many cracks in the theoretical foundations of the discipline are threatening to tumble the edifice of classical economic theory. THE WEALTH OF NATIONS The fault line that runs through all of classical economic theory is the fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of wealth.
In their attempts to understand the new forces let loose by coal-powered steam technology and factory production, the founding fathers of the new discipline—Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, and the like—looked to the new field of physics for a set of guiding principles and metaphors to fashion their own theories of the workings of the marketplace. NEWTON’S LAWS AND SELF-REGULATING MARKETS Sir Isaac Newton’s mathematical method for discussing mechanical motion was all the rage at the time. It was being purloined by virtually every serious thinker to explain away the meaning of existence and the ways of the world. Newton declared that “all the phenomena of nature may depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled toward each other, and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from each other.”
+T he+Essays+of+Adam+Smith&hl=en&ei=j6WcTZ-1LsLJ0QHp853mAg&sa=X&oi=b ook_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=%22the%20 greatest%20discovery%22&f=false. 3.Whitehead, A. N. (1952). Science and the Modern World. New York: New American Library, p. 50. 4.Miller, G. T. (1971). Energetics, Kinetics, and Life: An Ecological Approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, p. 46. 5.Soddy, F. (1911). Matter and Energy New York: H. Holt and Co., pp. 10–11. 6.Canterbery, E. R. (2003). Isaac Newton and the Economics Paradigm: Newton, Natural Law and Adam Smith. In The Making of Economics. River Edge, NJ: World Scientific Pub, p. 75. 7.Laslett, P. (1967). Second Treatise. In John Locke: Two Treatises of Government Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 312. 8.Schrödinger, E. (1947). What Is Life? New York: Macmillan, pp. 72–75. 9.Miller, G. T. (1971). Energetics, Kinetics and Life: An Ecological Approach.
The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
Albert Einstein, British Empire, cuban missile crisis, epigenetics, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, phenotype, pre–internet, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, the scientific method, Works Progress Administration
If this were a criminal investigation, the detectives assigned to the case would start from the assumption that there was one prime suspect, one likely perpetrator, because the crimes (all the aforementioned diseases) are so closely related. They would only embrace the possibility that there were multiple perpetrators when the single-suspect hypothesis was proved insufficient to explain all the evidence. Scientists know this essential concept as Occam’s Razor. When Isaac Newton said, “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances,” he was saying the same thing that Albert Einstein, three centuries later, said (or was paraphrased as saying): “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” We should begin with the simplest possible hypothesis, and only if that can’t explain what we observe should we consider more complicated explanations—in this case, multiple causes.
Burkitt and Trowell went along with their peers and adopted a less parsimonious way of viewing the emergence of these Western diseases. But is this perspective justified? Can a host of chronic diseases that cluster together both in individuals and in populations and associate closely with Western diets and lifestyles best be explained by the presence of a single dietary trigger—i.e., sugar—or by multiple triggers? When Isaac Newton paraphrased the concept of Occam’s Razor, he did so by saying, “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” This was rule number one of Newton’s “rules of reasoning in natural philosophy” in his Principia. So is it necessary to posit multiple aspects of diet and lifestyle—multiple causes—to explain the presence of these chronic diseases that associate with Western and urban lives, or will one suffice?
A conservative estimate: The CDC estimates the direct and indirect costs for heart disease and stroke at $315 billion each year, cancer at $157 billion, diabetes at $245 billion, and obesity (in 2008) at $147 billion (CDC 2016a). The Rand Corporation has estimated the total monetary cost of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, at between $157 and $215 billion (Hurd et al. 2013). Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes: See, for instance, Guthrie 2007. “We are to admit”: See https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton. “Everything should be”: See https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein. “multifactorial, complex disorders” or “multidimensional diseases”: See, for instance, NIDDK 2011: 117–38. At least a tenth of all cases of lung cancer: ALA 2014: 5. “all wars combined”: West 1978: ix. Heavy smokers had twenty to thirty times: See, for instance, Doll and Hill 1964. This confusion still exists: See, for instance, Reynolds 2014; Seidenberg 2015.
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Atul Gawande, Brownian motion, butterfly effect, correlation coefficient, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Donald Trump, feminist movement, forensic accounting, Gerolamo Cardano, Henri Poincaré, index fund, Isaac Newton, law of one price, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, V2 rocket, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!
In the following chapters I shall consider the central ideas of randomness within their historical context and describe their relevance with the aim of offering a new perspective on our everyday surroundings and hence a better understanding of the connection between this fundamental aspect of nature and our own experience. CHAPTER 2 The Laws of Truths and Half-Truths LOOKING TO THE SKY on a clear, moonless night, the human eye can detect thousands of twinkling sources of light. Nestled among those haphazardly scattered stars are patterns. A lion here, a dipper there. The ability to detect patterns can be both a strength and a weakness. Isaac Newton pondered the patterns of falling objects and created a law of universal gravitation. Others have noted a spike in their athletic performance when they are wearing dirty socks and thenceforth have refused to wear clean ones. Among all the patterns of nature, how do we distinguish the meaningful ones? Drawing that distinction is an inherently practical enterprise. And so it might not astonish you to learn that, unlike geometry, which arose as a set of axioms, proofs, and theorems created by a culture of ponderous philosophers, the theory of randomness sprang from minds focused on spells and gambling, figures we might sooner imagine with dice or a potion in hand than a book or a scroll.
IN 1680 a great comet sailed through our neighborhood of the solar system, close enough that the tiny fraction of sunlight it reflected was sufficient to make it prominent in the night sky of our own planet. It was in that part of earth’s orbit called November that the comet was first spotted, and for months afterward it remained an object of intense scrutiny, its path recorded in great detail. In 1687, Isaac Newton would use these data as an example of his inverse square law of gravity at work. And on one clear night in that parcel of land called Basel, Switzerland, another man destined for greatness was also paying attention. He was a young theologian who, gazing at the bright, hazy light of the comet, realized that it was mathematics, not the church, with which he wanted to occupy his life.8 With that realization sprouted not just Jakob Bernoulli’s own career change but also what would become the greatest family tree in the history of mathematics: in the century and a half between Jakob’s birth and 1800 the Bernoulli family produced a great many offspring, about half of whom were gifted, including eight noted mathematicians, and three (Jakob, his younger brother Johann, and Johann’s son Daniel) who are today counted as among the greatest mathematicians of all times.
The imprecision of measurement became a major issue in the mid-eighteenth century, when one of the primary occupations of those working in celestial physics and mathematics was the problem of reconciling Newton’s laws with the observed motions of the moon and planets. One way to produce a single number from a set of discordant measurements is to take the average, or mean. It seems to have been young Isaac Newton who, in his optical investigations, first employed it for that purpose.2 But as in many things, Newton was an anomaly. Most scientists in Newton’s day, and in the following century, didn’t take the mean. Instead, they chose the single “golden number” from among their measurements—the number they deemed mainly by hunch to be the most reliable result they had. That’s because they regarded variation in measurement not as the inevitable by-product of the measuring process but as evidence of failure—with, at times, even moral consequences.
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, Isaac Newton, mutually assured destruction, Olbers’ paradox, prisoner's dilemma, Ray Kurzweil, short selling, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine
Space could go on forever and contain either an infinite amount of matter, dispersed throughout its volume without end, or it could contain only a finite amount. In fact, there are further options. It is possible for the matter to be infinite in extent, but only finite in total mass if matter thins out gradually, leaving space empty beyond a particular distance from the centre (see Figure 7.8). Fig 7.8 The Aristotelian, Stoic, and Epicurean models of the universe. Fig 7.9 Isaac Newton’s seventeenth-century picture of the universe.17 Indeed, at the beginning of his work on gravity in the seventeenth century, Newton viewed the Universe as a finite system of stars and planets surrounded by an infinite empty space (Figure 7.9). Others, like Descartes, had argued that where there was no matter there could be no space, but Newton believed that the Divine spirit supported the existence of space in places where there was no matter.
chapter nine Worlds Without End ‘And since space is divisible in infinitum, and Matter is not necessarily in all places, it may be also allow’d that God is able to create Particles of Matter of several Sizes and Figures, and in several Proportions of Space, and perhaps of different Densities and Forces, and thereby to vary the Laws of Nature, and make Worlds of several sorts in several parts of the Universe.’ Isaac Newton 1 OTHER WORLDS IN HISTORY ‘“But do you really mean, sir”, said Peter, “that there could be other worlds – all over the place, just around the corner – like that?” “Nothing is more probable”, said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, “I wonder what they do teach them at these schools.” ’ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe2 Human beings have never been satisfied with one world.
For, in Newtonian physics, there is no limit to the speed at which signals can travel: there is no limit to how fast switches can respond, signals can move. A little dose of reality is needed at this point. Einstein taught us that there is a fundamental limit to the speed at which information can be transferred in Nature. There is a cosmic speed limit: the speed at which light moves in a perfect vacuum. This simple idea has many unexpected consequences and it underpins all that we know about the physical world. In the world according to Isaac Newton, we can observe light to travel at many different speeds, just like anything else. Stand by the road side and shine a torch down the street. The light will move at a particular speed relative to you on the street. But what happens if a car drives past with its headlights on (see Figure 10.5)? If you were Newton, you would think that relative to you the light from the car would move at the speed at which it radiates from the light bulb (the same as the speed with which it shines from the torch) plus the speed at which the car is moving.
Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson
airport security, augmented reality, barriers to entry, British Empire, cable laying ship, call centre, cellular automata, edge city, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Hacker Ethic, impulse control, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Just-in-time delivery, Kevin Kelly, music of the spheres, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, oil shock, packet switching, pirate software, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, social web, Socratic dialogue, South China Sea, special economic zone, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, X Prize
This is not to say that electronic distribution via CC is just a fad, any more than online bookstores are a fad. They will keep on going in parallel, and all of this will get sorted out in time. Metaphysics in the Royal Society 1715–2010 (2012) This philosophy is a gift of God to this old world, to serve as the only plank, as it were, which pious and prudent people may use to escape the shipwreck of atheism which now threatens us. —LEIBNIZ, IN A 1669 LETTER TO THOMASIUS Isaac Newton was slow to join to the Royal Society—in the Charter Book that lives in the Society’s vault, his signature does not appear until the ninth page—but by the second decade of the Eighteenth Century he had become its President. His unquestioned status as the greatest mind of his generation, combined with his political connections as Master of the Mint and his ruthlessness toward those he perceived as rivals, had given him an unusual degree of power.
She had married into the Hanoverian dynasty and had moved with it to London, where her father-in-law had been crowned King George I. The 69-year-old Leibniz, who had become unfashionable and, because of the dispute over the calculus, something of a political problem, had been left behind in Germany. He wrote a short letter to Caroline, warning her that religion was declining in England; that John Locke did not believe in the immortality of the soul; and that Sir Isaac Newton held to some strange views about the relationship between God and the physical universe. Anyone who has blithely forwarded a private email to a corporate mailing list, with incalculable consequences, will recognize what happened next: Caroline made Leibniz’s letter known, and one Samuel Clarke stepped forward to rebut Leibniz’s charges. The result was a series of letters (five each by Leibniz and Clarke) over the course of a year, at which point Leibniz died.
Last year, with the publication of the first of the three-volume “Baroque Cycle,” “Quicksilver,” Stephenson revealed that he’d turned the dial on his time machine in the other direction. “Quicksilver,” written by hand with a fountain pen in an alcove lined with a huge map of early 18th-century London, immersed the author and his legions of devoted readers in one of the most intellectually exciting and politically momentous periods of history. It was the age of such scientific geniuses as Isaac Newton, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and the undersung polymath Robert Hooke, and also the time when our modern economic systems began to take form. Unusual subjects for fiction, perhaps, but Stephenson makes the “Baroque Cycle” a weirdly effective mix of high-octane tutorial and ripping yarn. To balance such cerebral characters as Newton and Daniel Waterhouse (Puritan ancestor of the Waterhouses, crack mathematicians and programmers, in “Cryptonomicon”), he introduces Jack Shaftoe, aka the King of the Vagabonds and his sometime-paramour turned countess and financial whiz, Eliza.
Capitalism: Money, Morals and Markets by John Plender
Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Black Swan, bonus culture, Bretton Woods, business climate, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, computer age, Corn Laws, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, diversification, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, fiat currency, financial innovation, financial intermediation, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, inflation targeting, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, labour market flexibility, London Interbank Offered Rate, London Whale, Long Term Capital Management, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, means of production, Menlo Park, moral hazard, moveable type in China, Nick Leeson, Northern Rock, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, paradox of thrift, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price stability, principal–agent problem, profit motive, quantitative easing, railway mania, regulatory arbitrage, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, Steve Jobs, technology bubble, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, the map is not the territory, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, time value of money, too big to fail, tulip mania, Upton Sinclair, We are the 99%, Wolfgang Streeck
Note the typical bubble phenomenon that people stopped buying for long-term economic reasons and merely bought to sell on at a short-term profit. This feedback phenomenon, which has been better understood by novelists and poets than many Chicago economists, was also at work in the South Sea Bubble, as we saw in my initial quotation from Alexander Pope. Pope, incidentally, was himself one of those irresistibly charmed by the South Sea Bubble. So, too, was the greatest genius of the day, Isaac Newton. As Master of the Royal Mint and the man who put England onto the gold standard when he was not busy discovering the physical laws of the universe, he was hardly a novice in finance. Having made an initial 100 per cent profit of £7,000 on his shares in the South Sea Company, he was unlucky enough to go back into the market close to the top and lost £20,000, equivalent to £2.5 million in today’s money.
Among the blindest were the alchemists – most famously personified in the German legend of Faust – who searched fruitlessly for the Philosophers’ Stone in the attempt to turn base metal into gold. The dottiness of their enterprise consisted, to my mind, not only in the physical challenge but the nonsensical economics. Since a successful alchemist would have been no more able to keep his formula secret than the first claimant in a gold rush, the prospect of infinite supply would have turned gold into a commodity about as valuable as sand. Yet even Sir Isaac Newton, father of modern physical science, devoted much of his career to alchemical research. Few were more immoderate in their blindness than sixteenth-century European adventurers, whom John Maynard Keynes regarded as the originators of capitalism. We owe the Europeans’ discovery of the Americas to gold, for gold was the probable motive that drove Christopher Columbus westward: his diary of a voyage that lasted less than a hundred days mentions gold sixty-five times.
Thanks to David Hume and Adam Smith, we now know that this equation of gold imports with an increase in national wealth was wrong. These great Scottish intellectuals argued that the source of a nation’s wealth was not the amount of gold that its citizens hoarded, but the production of goods and services. Note, though, that for nearly two centuries from 1717, gold provided stable monetary underpinning for the economy after the introduction of the gold standard. This was at the suggestion of Sir Isaac Newton, who persuaded the parliament to fix the price of gold at £3.17s. 10½p an ounce. John Maynard Keynes argued that the success of the gold standard in the nineteenth century was accidental. The supply of gold did not increase in line with economic growth, which was a potential curb on the money supply and thus on economic activity. Yet this restraint was offset by better financial technology. So Keynes favoured an officially managed currency because it was too much ‘to expect a succession of accidents to keep the metal steady’.
Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, cognitive dissonance, Dava Sobel, Defenestration of Prague, Edmond Halley, germ theory of disease, Hans Lippershey, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Murano, Venice glass, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Peace of Westphalia, retrograde motion
Bubonic plague strikes Florence. 1631 Michelangelo Galilei (brother) dies of plague in Germany. 1632 Galileo publishes Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican. 1633 Galileo stands trial for heresy by the Holy Office of the Inquisition; Dialogue is prohibited. 1634 Suor Maria Celeste Galilei dies in Arcetri on April 2. 1636 Letter to Grand Duchess Cristina is published in Holland, in Latin and Italian. 1637 Galileo discovers lunar libration, loses his eyesight. 1638 Louis Elzevir publishes Galileo’s Two New Sciences in Leiden, Holland. 1641 Vincenzio Galilei draws his father’s design for a pendulum clock. 1642 Galileo dies in Arcetri, January 8. Isaac Newton is born in England, December 25. 1643 Galileo’s student Evangelista Torricelli (1608-47) invents mercury barometer. 1644 Pope Urban VIII dies. 1648 Thirty Years’ War ends. 1649 Vincenzio Galilei (son) dies in Florence, May 15. 1654 Grand Duke Ferdinando II improves on Galileo’s thermometer by closing the glass tube to keep air out. 1655-56 Christiaan Huygens (1629-95) improves telescope, discovers largest of Saturn’s moons, sees Saturn’s “companions” as a ring, patents pendulum clock. 1659 Suor Arcangela dies at San Matteo, June 14. 1665 Jean-Dominique Cassini (1625-1712) discovers and times the rotation of Jupiter and Mars. 1669 Sestilia Bocchineri Galilei dies. 1670 Grand Duke Ferdinando II dies, succeeded by his only surviving son, Cosimo III. 1676 Ole Roemer (1644-1710) uses eclipses of Jupiter’s moons to determine the speed of light; Cassini discovers gap in Saturn’s rings. 1687 Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation are published in his Principia. 1705 Edmond Halley (1656-1742) studies comets, realizes they orbit the Sun, predicts return of a comet later named in his honor. 1714 Daniel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) develops mercury thermometer with accurate scale for scientific purposes. 1718 Halley observes that even the fixed stars move with almost imperceptible “proper motion” over long periods of time. 1728 English astronomer James Bradley (1693-1762) provides first evidence for the Earth’s motion through space based on the aberration of starlight. 1755 Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) discerns the true shape of the Milky Way, identifies the Andromeda nebula as a separate galaxy. 1758 “Halley’s comet” returns. 1761 Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (1711-65) realizes Venus has an atmosphere. 1771 Comet hunter Charles Messier (1730-1817) identifies a list of noncometary objects, many of which later prove to be distant galaxies. 1781 William Herschel (1738-1822) discovers the planet Uranus. 1810 Napoleon Bonaparte, having conquered the Papal States, transfers the Roman archives, including those of the Holy Office with all records of Galileo’s trial, to Paris. 1822 Holy Office permits publication of books that teach Earth’s motion. 1835 Galileo’s Dialogue is dropped from Index of Prohibited Books. 1838 Stellar parallax, and with it the distance to the stars, is detected independently by astronomers working in South Africa, Russia, and Germany; Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846) publishes the first account of this phenomenon, for the star 61 Cygni. 1843 Galileo’s trial documents are returned to Italy. 1846 Neptune and its largest moon are discovered by predictions and observations of astronomers working in several countries. 1851 Jean-Bernard-Leon Foucault (1819-68) in Paris demonstrates the rotation of the Earth by means of a two-hundred-foot pendulum. 1861 Kingdom of Italy proclaimed, uniting most states and duchies. 1862 French chemist Louis Pasteur (1822-95) publishes germ theory of disease. 1877 Asaph Hall (1829-1907) discovers the moons of Mars. 1890-1910 Complete works, Le Opere di Galileo Galilei, are edited and published in Florence by Antonio Favaro. 1892 University of Pisa awards Galileo an honorary degree—250 years after his death. 1893 Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII cites Saint Augustine, taking the same position Galileo did in his Letter to Grand Duchess Cristina, to show that the Bible did not aim to teach science. 1894 Pasteur’s student Alexandre Yersin (1863-1943) discovers bubonic plague bacillus and prepares serum to combat it. 1905 Albert Einstein (1879-1955) publishes his special theory of relativity, establishing the speed of light as an absolute limit. 1908 George Ellery Hale (1868-1938) discerns the magnetic nature of sunspots. 1917 Willem de Sitter (1872-1934) intuits the expansion of the universe from Einstein’s equations. 1929 American astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) finds evidence for expanding universe. 1930 Roberto Cardinal Bellarmino is canonized as Saint Robert Bellarmine by Pope Pius XI. 1935 Pope Pius XI inaugurates Vatican Observatory and Astrophysical Laboratory at Castel Gandolfo. 1950 Humani generis of Pope Pius XII discusses the treatment of unproven scientific theories that may relate to Scripture; reaches same conclusion as Galileo’s Letter to Grand Duchess Cristina. 1959 Unmanned Russian Luna 3 spacecraft radios first views of the Moon’s far side from lunar orbit. 1966 Index of Prohibited Books is abolished following the Second Vatican Council. 1969 American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon. 1971 Apollo 15 commander David R.
* Modern astronomers define a nova as the sudden dramatic brightening of an otherwise unseen star. What Galileo saw in 1604 would today be termed a “supernova”—the fireball explosion of a dying star. * Given the longevity of the council, its membership naturally changed considerably over the years, while ultimate approval of its decisions passed from Paul III to Julius III to Pius IV. * His successor, Sir Isaac Newton, born the year Galileo died (1642), dignified the idea of action at a distance in 1687 when he published his law of universal gravitation. In fact, the Moon’s gravity would create tides in the Earth’s oceans even if the Earth itself did not rotate or revolve. * No clear, close-up view of any comet could be obtained until 1986, when several spacecraft observed Halley’s comet during its recent return.
* Even today, the Madonna is kept hidden during ordinary times. Visitors to the Impruneta church, which was rebuilt following bomb hits during World War II, must content themselves with simply being near the icon, as it reposes inside a marble shrine, behind a blue gilt-embroidered curtain. * Galileo’s last book, Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Concerning Two New Sciences indeed ignited later physicists: Sir Isaac Newton transformed Galileo’s ideas into laws of motion and universal gravitation. * The English translations of these Latin phrases, respectively, are “from the book of the living” and “No one is accepted [as] prophet in his own country.” * Later, Galileo thanked him by dedicating Two New Sciences “To the very illustrious nobleman, my Lord the Count de Noailles, Councilor to his Most Christian Majesty; Knight of the Holy Ghost; Field Marshal of the Armies,” et cetera, et cetera
Brit-Myth: Who Do the British Think They Are? by Chris Rojek
British Empire, business climate, colonial rule, deindustrialization, demand response, full employment, Gordon Gekko, Isaac Newton, Khartoum Gordon, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, post-industrial society, Red Clydeside, Stephen Hawking, the market place, urban planning, Winter of Discontent
British heroes may be thought of as representing, in exceptional or extraordinary quality, the character traits and values that define the nation as a whole. 89 BRITONS TODAY The bbc poll defined a ‘Briton’, somewhat generously, as anyone born in the British Isles, including Ireland, who had placed a significant part in the life of the British Isles. Over one million votes were cast. The results are intriguing. Top Ten Great Britons 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Winston Churchill – 456,498 votes (28.1 per cent) Isambard Kingdom Brunel – 398,526 votes (24.6 per cent) Diana, Princess of Wales – 225,584 votes (13.9 per cent) Charles Darwin – 112,496 votes (6.9 per cent) William Shakespeare – 109,919 votes (6.8 per cent) Isaac Newton – 84,628 votes (5.2 per cent) Queen Elizabeth 1 – 71,928 votes (4.4 per cent) John Lennon – 68,445 votes (4.2 per cent) Horatio Nelson – 49,171 votes (3 per cent) Oliver Cromwell – 45,083 votes (2.8 per cent) The nation’s ‘greatest Briton’, attracting over 28 per cent of the votes cast, was Winston Churchill. His dominance illustrates an important principle of national identity: national identity is most concentrated when nations face peril.
Contrary to the tabloid, middle-brow view that there is a creeping tendency for British culture to be overwhelmed by film stars, sporting 97 BRITONS TODAY legends and pop idols, only 22 of the top 100 are living; and of those only twelve are from the fields of pop music, film and sport. For every Boy George, David Beckham, Bono or Cliff Richard, there is a Stephen Hawking, Tony Benn or J. K. Rowling. Three out of the top ten are engineers and natural scientists (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton). Indeed, the poll suggests that the British value their scientists above their artists. The British are frequently dismissed as a philistine people, narrowly inured to respect practical knowledge, pragmatism and money-making activities, rather than abstract theory, philosophy and pure research. Yet the bbc poll shows that they value intellectuals, with the caveat that their intellectual labour addresses real world issues.
Frommer's Memorable Walks in London by Richard Jones
When Leicester House was demolished in 1792, this area became rather dilapidated. There was a short-lived renaissance in 1851, when geographer James Wyld erected a model of the Earth in a dome-shaped building that filled the entire square. In 1874, a Member of Parliament, Albert Grant, purchased this land and commissioned James Knowles to design a public garden surrounding a memorial to Shakespeare and the busts of four famous residents: physicist Sir Isaac Newton, artists William Hogarth and Joshua Reynolds, and surgeon John Hunter. The London plane trees that now tower over the square were planted at this time. In 1975, Leicester Square was permanently closed to traffic, and in 1990, the Westminster County Council had the square renovated. At the center of Leicester Square is: 2. Leicester Square Gardens. This bucolic green is surrounded by an iron fence with a garden gate at each of the park’s four corners.
At the end of the path, you’ll come to Reynolds Gate, named for Sir Joshua Reynolds, the celebrated 18th-century portrait painter and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts. Reynolds lived and painted at 47 Leicester Fields. Walk counterclockwise around the square. Be sure to look down at the handprints of various film stars embedded in the pavement. Among the imprints are those of Ralph Fiennes, Sir Ian McKellen, Sylvester Stallone, and Billy Crystal. The next gate is Newton Gate, commemorating Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), who propounded the laws of motion and universal gravitation. Continue counterclockwise past the Half-Price Ticket Booth, where you can buy discounted same-day theater tickets. The booth is open at noon for tickets to matinees, and from 2:30 to 6:30pm for tickets to evening performances. Payment must be made in cash (traveler’s checks and credit cards aren’t accepted), and there’s a small service charge.
The Planets by Dava Sobel
Over the next several decades, precise measuring devices mounted on improved telescopes helped astronomers pare Mercury close to its acknowledged current size of three thousand fifty miles across, or less than one three-hundredth the actual diameter of the Sun. By the end of the seventeenth century, mystic and magnetic attractions among the Sun and planets had been replaced with the force of gravity, introduced by Sir Isaac Newton in 1687 in his book Principia Mathematica. Newton’s calculus and the universal law of gravitation seemed to give astronomers control over the very heavens. The position of any celestial body could now be computed correctly for any hour of any day, and if observed motions differed from predicted motions, then the heavens might be coerced to yield up a new planet to account for the discrepancy.
Together, Jupiter and Saturn implied that Galileo would face ideological crises (such as his later clash with the Inquisition, perhaps) and live in seclusion and solitude (as he did under house arrest his last eight years). The ebullient increase and fertility of Jupiter is tempered, in Galileo’s nativity, by the sobering nearness of Saturn. Jupiter assumed its astrological mantle of benevolence and largesse in Babylonian times, around 1000 B.C.—long before Sir Isaac Newton (a Capricorn) grasped the planet’s true physical enormousness by watching it pull on Galileo’s moons. The ancients had no way to assess the sizes of the planets or the distances between them, so their association of Jupiter with grandeur poses a mystery for astronomy and astrology to share. As befits the planet of expansion, Jupiter more than doubles the mass of the other eight planets combined.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Albert Einstein, Clayton Christensen, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, deliberate practice, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jeff Bezos, Lao Tzu, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, microcredit, minimum viable product, North Sea oil, Peter Thiel, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Thaler, Rosa Parks, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs
He gave his phone away and went to a motel with no Internet access. After eight weeks of almost solitary confinement, he was able to get the project done. To me, it is a little sad that this executive was driven to such measures. Yet while his methods may have been extreme, I can’t argue with his intention. He knew that making his highest point of contribution on a task required that he create the space for unencumbered thought. Think of Sir Isaac Newton. He spent two years working on what became Principia Mathematica, his famous writings on universal gravitation and the three laws of motion. This period of almost solitary confinement proved critical in what became a true breakthrough that shaped scientific thinking for the next three hundred years. Richard S. Westfall has written: “In the age of his celebrity, Newton was asked how he had discovered the law of universal gravitation.
., www.success.com/articles/1003-jim-collins-on-creating-enduring-greatness, accessed September 22, 2013. 9. David Sedaris, “Laugh, Kookaburra,” The New Yorker, August 24, 2009, www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/24/090824fa_fact_sedaris. 5. ESCAPE 1. Frank O’Brien, “Do-Not-Call Mondays.” 2. Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft, Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2012), 132. 3. Richard S. Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 105. 4. Jeff Weiner, “The Importance of Scheduling Nothing,” LinkedIn, April 3, 2013, https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130403215758-22330283-the-importance-of-scheduling-nothing. 5. I am indebted here to an excellent first-person account of Bill Gates’s Think Week by Robert A. Guth, “In Secret Hideaway, Bill Gates Ponders Microsoft’s Future,” Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2005, http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111196625830690477,00.html. 6.
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, Columbine, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, gravity well, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, lone genius, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pets.com, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Schrödinger's Cat, Slavoj Žižek, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, the scientific method, wikimedia commons
You might be tempted to wonder: Couldn’t we (hypothetically) construct a time coordinate all throughout the universe, just by building an infinite number of clocks, synchronizing them to the same time, and scattering them throughout space? Then, wherever we went in spacetime, there would be a clock sitting at each point telling us what time it was, once and for all. The real world, as we will see, doesn’t let us construct an absolute universal time coordinate. For a long time people thought it did, under no less an authority than that of Sir Isaac Newton. In Newton’s view of the universe, there was one particular right way to slice up the universe into slices of “space at a particular moment of time.” And we could indeed, at least in a thought-experiment kind of way, send clocks all throughout the universe to set up a time coordinate that would uniquely specify when a certain event was taking place. But in 1905, along comes Einstein with his special theory of relativity.11 The central conceptual breakthrough of special relativity is that our two aspects of time, “time labels different moments” and “time is what clocks measure,” are not equivalent, or even interchangeable.
If, instead of sending out robot probes equipped with clocks from a spaceship, we had sent out robots on wheels equipped with odometers from a base located on the ground, nobody would be surprised that different robots returned with different odometer readings. The lesson is that clocks are kind of like odometers, keeping track of some measure of distance traveled (through time or through space) along a particular path. If clocks are kind of like odometers, then time is kind of like space. Remember that even before special relativity, if we believed in absolute space and time à la Isaac Newton, there was nothing stopping us from combining them into one entity called “spacetime.” It was still necessary to give four numbers (three to locate a position in space, and one time) to specify an event in the universe. But in a Newtonian world, space and time had completely separate identities. Given two distinct events, such as “leaving the house Monday morning” and “arriving at work later that same morning,” we could separately (and uniquely, without fear of ambiguity) talk about the distance between them and the time elapsed between them.
(If you thought of them as 4x4 arrays of numbers, you would be pretty close to right.) The left-hand side of the equation characterizes the curvature of spacetime. The right-hand side characterizes all the various forms of stuff that make spacetime curve—energy, momentum, pressure, and so on. In one fell swoop, Einstein’s equation reveals how any particular collection of particles and fields in the universe creates a certain kind of curvature in spacetime. According to Isaac Newton, the source of gravity was mass; heavier objects gave rise to stronger gravitational fields. In Einstein’s universe, things are more complicated. Mass gets replaced by energy, but there are also other properties that go into curving spacetime. Vacuum energy, for example, has not only energy, but also tension—a kind of negative pressure. A stretched string or rubber band has tension, pulling back rather than pushing out.
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, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers
Hooke, who was well known for taking credit for ideas that weren't necessarily his own, claimed that he had solved the problem already but declined now to share it on the interesting and inventive grounds that it would rob others of the satisfaction of discovering the answer for themselves. He would instead “conceal it for some time, that others might know how to value it.” If he thought any more on the matter, he left no evidence of it. Halley, however, became consumed with finding the answer, to the point that the following year he traveled to Cambridge and boldly called upon the university's Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Isaac Newton, in the hope that he could help. Newton was a decidedly odd figure—brilliant beyond measure, but solitary, joyless, prickly to the point of paranoia, famously distracted (upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would reportedly sometimes sit for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of thoughts to his head), and capable of the most riveting strangeness. He built his own laboratory, the first at Cambridge, but then engaged in the most bizarre experiments.
The good news is that the individual components of your brain cells are constantly renewed so that, as with the liver cells, no part of them is actually likely to be more than about a month old. Indeed, it has been suggested that there isn't a single bit of any of us—not so much as a stray molecule—that was part of us nine years ago. It may not feel like it, but at the cellular level we are all youngsters. The first person to describe a cell was Robert Hooke, whom we last encountered squabbling with Isaac Newton over credit for the invention of the inverse square law. Hooke achieved many things in his sixty-eight years—he was both an accomplished theoretician and a dab hand at making ingenious and useful instruments—but nothing he did brought him greater admiration than his popular book Microphagia: or Some Physiological Descriptions of Miniature Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses, produced in 1665. It revealed to an enchanted public a universe of the very small that was far more diverse, crowded, and finely structured than anyone had ever come close to imagining.
But by this time their days as a species were already numbered. The world was about to get its first real master race, Homo sapiens. Things would never be the same again. 30 GOOD-BYE IN THE EARLY 1680s, at just about the time that Edmond Halley and his friends Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke were settling down in a London coffeehouse and embarking on the casual wager that would result eventually in Isaac Newton's Principia, Henry Cavendish's weighing of the Earth, and many of the other inspired and commendable undertakings that have occupied us for much of the past four hundred pages, a rather less desirable milestone was being passed on the island of Mauritius, far out in the Indian Ocean some eight hundred miles off the east coast of Madagascar. There, some forgotten sailor or sailor's pet was harrying to death the last of the dodos, the famously flightless bird whose dim but trusting nature and lack of leggy zip made it a rather irresistible target for bored young tars on shore leave.
Collider by Paul Halpern
Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, gravity well, horn antenna, index card, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, statistical model, Stephen Hawking
Physicists have found that inverse-square laws are perfect for creating stable systems. Like a well-designed electronic dog collar it allows some wandering away from the house but discourages fleeing the whole property. While scientists like Boyle, Dalton, and Mendeleyev focused on discovering the ingredients that make up our world, others tried to map out and understand the invisible forces that govern how things interact and transform. Born on Christmas Day in 1642, Sir Isaac Newton possessed an extraordinary gift for finding patterns in nature and discerning the basic rules underlying its dynamics. Newton’s laws of mechanics transformed physical science from a cluttered notebook of sundry observations to a methodical masterwork of unprecedented predictive power. They describe how forces—pushes and pulls—affect the journeys through space of all things in creation. If you describe the positions and velocities of a set of objects and delineate all of the forces acting on them, Newton’s laws state unequivocally what would happen to them next.
Clinton, Letter to the House Committee on Appropriations, June 16, 1993. 4 Lyn Evans, “First Beam in the LHC—Accelerating Science,” CERN press release, September 10, 2008, press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2008/PR08.08E.html (accessed March 2, 2009). 5 Peter Higgs, in “In Search of the God Particle,” Independent, April 8, 2008, www.independent.co.uk/news/science/in-search-of-the-god-particle-805757.html (accessed April 18, 2008). 6 Lyn Evans in “Meet Evans the Atom, Who Will End the World on Wednesday,” Daily Mail, September 7, 2008, www.mailonsunday.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1053091/Meet-Evans-Atom-end-world-Wednesday.html (accessed March 4, 2009). 7 J. P. Blaizot et al., “Study of Potentially Dangerous Events during Heavy-Ion Collisions at the LHC: Report of the LHC Safety Study Group,” CERN Report 2003-001, February 28, 2003, p. 10. 1. The Secrets of Creation 1 Isaac Newton, Opticks, 4th ed. (London: William Innys, 1730), p. 400. 2. The Quest for a Theory of Everything 1 L. M. Brown et al., “Spontaneous Breaking of Symmetry,” in Lillian Hoddeson et al., eds., The Rise of the Standard Model: Particle Physics in the 1960s and 1970s (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 508. 3. Striking Gold: Rutherford’s Scattering Experiments 1 Mark Oliphant, “The Two Ernests, Part I,” Physics Today (September 1966): 36. 2 David Wilson, Rutherford, Simple Genius (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), p. 62. 3 J.
The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, false memory syndrome, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Isaac Newton, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, the scientific method
The moment you remember that in the southern hemisphere December is midsummer and June is midwinter, you realize that the seasons can’t be caused by changes in how close the Earth is to the sun. There has to be another explanation. We can’t get very far with that explanation until we have looked at what makes heavenly bodies orbit other heavenly bodies in the first place. So that’s what we’ll do next. Into orbit Why do the planets stay in orbit around the sun? Why does anything stay in orbit around anything else? This was first understood in the seventeenth century by Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. Newton showed that all orbits were controlled by gravity – the same force of gravity that pulls falling apples towards the ground, but on a larger scale. (Alas, the story that Newton got the idea when an apple bounced off his head is probably not really true.) Newton imagined a cannon on top of a very high mountain, with its barrel pointing horizontally out to sea (the mountain is on the coast).
But it isn’t really running away because it isn’t really in a particular place at all, ever. It’s an illusion – but a fascinating illusion, and understanding it leads on to all sorts of interesting things, some of which we’ll come to in the next chapter. What light is made of First, we need to understand about something called the spectrum. It was discovered in the time of King Charles II – that’s about 350 years ago – by Isaac Newton, who may well have been the greatest scientist ever (he discovered lots of other things besides the spectrum, as we saw in the chapter on night and day). Newton discovered that white light is really a mixture of all the different colours. To a scientist, that’s what white means. How did Newton find this out? He set up an experiment. First he blacked out his room so that no light could get in, and then he opened a narrow chink in the curtain, so that a pencil-thin beam of white sunlight came in.
Amazon Mechanical Turk, Black Swan, brain emulation, Brownian motion, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, cosmological constant, crowdsourcing, dark matter, David Brooks, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deliberate practice, Drosophila, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, eurozone crisis, experimental economics, Flynn Effect, Freestyle chess, full employment, future of work, game design, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, Isaac Newton, Khan Academy, labor-force participation, Loebner Prize, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, Narrative Science, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, reshoring, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, upwardly mobile, Yogi Berra
When it comes to Google, the right magic keys can get you to many new places, and those keys consist in the relatively manageable art of knowing the right search words. Google is the successful embodiment, through technology, of the earlier dream of the memory palace. For many centuries the idea of an algorithmic path toward greater knowledge was an obsession in Western thought and religion; it infused the Kabbalah, many of the medieval scholastics, and scientists such as Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler. It fell out of favor as it was increasingly regarded as ridiculous, but guess what? These visions made perfect sense but just didn’t yet have the right technologies to make them work. For a long time the memory tradition in Western thought appeared to be a dead end and indeed few people today use memory theatres or other memory tricks; the technology never seemed practical for most of us.
One day soon, intelligent machines will become formidable researchers in their own right. The overall picture is a daunting one for the ability of the individual human mind to comprehend the science of how our world works. Specialization As science progresses, each new marginal discovery is more the result of specialization and less the result of general breakthroughs, compared to earlier times. There probably won’t be another Isaac Newton, Adam Smith, or Euclid, because the most fundamental contributions in those fields have already been made. New fundamental contributions are hardly over, but they will come in dribs and drabs and they are more likely to come from research teams than from lone geniuses in major, unexpected bursts. There is nothing wrong with that, and in fact it reflects some positive features of science, namely that communications are rapid and intense, that there are many very talented people working on the major open problems, and that a lot of basic progress is already behind us.
Albert Einstein, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, business climate, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, experimental economics, financial independence, Financial Instability Hypothesis, full employment, Hernando de Soto, housing crisis, Hyman Minsky, inflation targeting, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, laissez-faire capitalism, liquidity trap, means of production, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, open economy, paradox of thrift, price stability, pushing on a string, rent control, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, rolodex, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, school choice, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, unorthodox policies
Now they would be liberated from sixteen-hour-a-day jobs, subsistence wages, and a forty-year life span. Adam Smith Faces a Major Obstacle After taking twelve long years to write his big book, Smith was convinced he had discovered the right kind of economics to create "universal opulence." He called his model the "system of natural liberty." Today economists call it the "classical model." Smith's model was inspired by Sir Isaac Newton, whose model of natural science Smith greatly admired as universal and harmonious. Smith's biggest hurdle would be convincing others to accept his system, especially legislators. His purpose in writing The Wealth of Nations was not simply to educate, but to persuade. Very little progress had been achieved over the centuries in England and Europe because of the entrenched system known as mercantilism.
Some Keynesians, such as Charles Hession and John Kenneth Galbraith, emphatically insist that the correct title is The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, without the comma. True, no commas were used on the cover of the original, but in the preface, Keynes added a comma after "employment." Keynes identified with the great scientists of the past. Adam Smith and Roger Babson compared their analytical systems to those of Sir Isaac Newton, and Keynes emulated Albert Einstein. Keynes's book title refers to Einstein's general theory of relativity. His book, he said, created a "general" theory of economic behavior while he relegated the classical model to a "special" case and treated classical economists as "Euclidean geometers in a non-Euclidean world" (Skidelsky 1992, 487). Like Marx, Keynes had high hopes that his magnum opus would be read by students and the general public and convinced Macmillan to price the 400-page treatise at only five shillings.
Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Cass Sunstein, cognitive bias, David Brooks, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, Flynn Effect, framing effect, Google Earth, impulse control, informal economy, Isaac Newton, loss aversion, Marshall McLuhan, Naomi Klein, neurotypical, new economy, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, phenotype, placebo effect, Richard Thaler, Silicon Valley, the medium is the message, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind
It turns out she has developed a system for remembering people by their clothes and that she applied her system very conscientiously and consistently; without the system she would be lost. People such as myself, who have normal face-recognition abilities, usually have no such system. The result was that this woman—some might call her “handicapped”—had a much better sense of the crowd than I did. Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, Vincent van Gogh, Thomas Jefferson, Bertrand Russell, Jonathan Swift, Alan Turing, Paul Dirac, Glenn Gould, Steven Spielberg, and Bill Gates, among many others, are all on the rather lengthy list of famous figures who have been identified as possibly autistic or Asperger’s. I do not think we can “diagnose” individuals from such a distance, so we should be cautious in making any very particular claims.
If you’re wondering, a typical list of historical figures claimed to be on the autism spectrum includes Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll, Herman Melville, George Orwell, Jonathan Swift, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Bela Bartók, Bob Dylan, Glenn Gould, Vincent van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Mozart, Gregor Mendel, Charles Darwin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Henry Cavendish, Samuel Johnson, Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, Paul Dirac, Emily Dickinson, Michelangelo, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Isaac Newton, and Willard Van Orman Quine, among others. When it comes to any individual life, I have my worries about making any firm judgments. First, for some of these lives I know a bit about, such as Mozart’s, I just don’t see the evidence for autism. Mozart for instance may well have been neurodiverse in the broad sense of the word (arguably an ordinary mind could not have composed his extraordinary music) but that’s not the same as placing him on the autism spectrum.
Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Claude Shannon: information theory, conceptual framework, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, Grace Hopper, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, knapsack problem, New Journalism, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, thinkpad, Turing machine, Turing test, V2 rocket
The calculus of variations paper was not Boole’s first scientific publication; his private study of Newton’s Principia in the Mechanics Institute reading room had greatly impressed the Lincoln locals. Enough, in fact, that he was asked to give an address (on February 5, 1835, only a few months past his nineteenth birthday) on Newton during the presentation ceremony of a bust of Newton to the Institute, and that address was soon after published as a pamphlet, On the Genius and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, now quite rare. 3. An amazing example of what Gregory’s Journal would publish that almost certainly would not have been accepted in a more established publication was the first paper ever written by William Thomson (1824–1907), later Lord Kelvin. In 1837 the Anglican cleric and mathematician Philip Kelland (1808–1879) published the book Theory of Heat, in which he took sharp exception to central results in Fourier’s 1822 theory of the possibility of expanding periodic functions in terms of sinusoids (a routine mathematical tool today: see my Dr.
Poets may decry this, but it isn’t poetry that makes your e-mail possible; it’s Shannon’s “boring” (Gleick’s word) mathematical information theory. 6. When used this way, the XOR is often called a controlled-NOT (CNOT) gate, and we’ll see it and a more sophisticated version (a controlled-controlled-NOT) in Chapter 10. 8 Sequential-State Digital Circuits Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it. —From Isaac Newton’s Principia (1687), showing that the idea of a physical system changing state long predates the invention of digital circuitry 8.1 TWO SEQUENTIAL-STATE PROBLEMS What is a sequential-state problem? This is a question that is most directly answered by giving some specific examples. One can, I should admit, formulate a theoretical, mathematical definition, but examples are both more illuminating and, even more importantly, I think, more fun.
Thinking in Numbers by Daniel Tammet
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Anton Chekhov, computer age, dematerialisation, Edmond Halley, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, index card, Isaac Newton, Paul Erdős, Searching for Interstellar Communications
He dressed his muscles plainly, in a peasant’s smock, with a belt that cinched the small of his back. His ego-enhancing arguments were just as sturdy. Always resistant to the thinking of his day, he denounced historians as hero worshippers. In War and Peace, over one thousand pages long, he launched his most sustained attack. His primary weapon was drawn from mathematics. Calculus was by no means a novel idea in Tolstoy’s time. Its ‘inventors’, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, in the late-seventeenth century, were refining theories that had been in development since the time of the ancient Greeks. As geometers study shape, the student of calculus examines change: the mathematics of how an object transforms from one state into another, as when describing the motion of a ball or bullet through space, is rendered pictorial in its graphs’ curves.
To understand our world we require analogy – the quintessentially human ability to make connections (‘reflections’ he called them, or ‘correspondences’) between disparate things. The mathematician takes ideas that are valid in one area and ‘transplants’ them into another hoping that they will take, and not be rejected by the recipient domain. The creator of ‘noncommutative geometry’, Connes himself has applied geometrical ideas to quantum mechanics. Metaphors, he argued, are the essence of mathematical thought. Sir Michael Atiyah, a former director of the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, used his four minutes to speak about mathematical ideas ‘like visions, pictures before the eyes.’ As if painting a picture or dreaming up a scene in a novel, the mathematician creates and explores these visions using intuition and imagination. Atiyah’s voice, soft and earnest, made attentive listeners of everyone in the room. Not a single cough or whisper intervened.
Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull, Kathleen M. Eisenhardt
Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, asset allocation, Atul Gawande, barriers to entry, Basel III, Berlin Wall, carbon footprint, Checklist Manifesto, complexity theory, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversification, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, Exxon Valdez, facts on the ground, Fall of the Berlin Wall, haute cuisine, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, late fees, Lean Startup, Louis Pasteur, Lyft, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Nate Silver, Network effects, obamacare, Paul Graham, performance metric, price anchoring, RAND corporation, risk/return, Saturday Night Live, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Startup school, statistical model, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, transportation-network company, two-sided market, Wall-E, web application, Y Combinator, Zipcar
When India and Pakistan faced widespread famine in the early 1960s, they adopted the practices pioneered by the Rockefeller team, and doubled their wheat production in five years, saving hundreds of millions of people from starvation. As if spurring on three scientific revolutions were not enough, Weaver also pioneered the study of complexity. In his 1948 article, Weaver described science as progressing through successive eras, defined by the three types of problems—simple, uncertain, and complex—that they solved. Simple problems address a few variables that can be reduced to a deterministic formula. Isaac Newton’s laws of motion (force = mass x acceleration, for example) were powerful tools to solve simple problems, such as how a satellite orbits the Earth or what happens when two billiard balls collide. Simple problems occupied scientists for most of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, and their solutions yielded life-changing inventions ranging from the telephone to the diesel engine. By the late nineteenth century, scientists shifted their attention to problems of uncertainty, such as the motion of gas particles in a jar, which consisted of large numbers of objects.
Medieval princes routinely reduced the silver or gold content of their coins, and passed the diluted currency on to their subjects, thereby fueling price inflation. Under pressure from merchants who refused to accept debased currency, some princes transferred their right of coinage to autonomous city councils, a forerunner of the modern central bank, some of which relied on simple rules to regulate currency. The rules used to manage monetary policy grew more sophisticated over time. As England’s master of the mint in 1717, Sir Isaac Newton decreed the “golden rule” that paper currency must be convertible to an equivalent amount of gold. Eight decades later, England abandoned Newton’s golden rule and proceeded to print pounds to fund the Napoleonic wars. The financial chaos that followed inspired English bankers to develop new rules to stabilize England’s economy: (1) limit the amount of paper money, (2) never reduce circulating cash but “vibrate within limits,” (3) expand cash as trade expands, and (4) allow temporary increases in emergencies.
Airbnb, airport security, Al Roth, Andrei Shleifer, attribution theory, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Brownian motion, centralized clearinghouse, clean water, conceptual framework, constrained optimization, continuous double auction, deferred acceptance, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, experimental subject, first-price auction, framing effect, frictionless, fundamental attribution error, George Akerlof, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, helicopter parent, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, late fees, linear programming, Lyft, market clearing, market design, market friction, medical residency, multi-sided market, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Occupy movement, Peter Thiel, pets.com, pez dispenser, pre–internet, price mechanism, price stability, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, proxy bid, RAND corporation, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, school choice, school vouchers, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, second-price sealed-bid, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, technoutopianism, telemarketer, The Market for Lemons, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, two-sided market, uranium enrichment, Vickrey auction, winner-take-all economy
Based on Vieweg’s now-public sales records, Hermann and Dorothea went on to be a best seller, earning tens of thousands of talers for Vieweg and nary a penny more for poor Goethe. You can have the best-designed mechanism, but it doesn’t do you the least bit of good if the process is corrupted. It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss Vickrey’s innovations based on their conspicuous absence from today’s auction markets. It’s like saying that Isaac Newton’s contributions to physics were pointless because he never anticipated the theory of relativity. First, just as Newton’s physics prove to be good enough for a range of circumstances, there are enormously important markets where variants on Vickrey’s original design exist today. Most notable among these is Google’s system for selling off search ads, AdWords, which instructs prospective advertisers to bid “the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for each click on your ad (though the final amount you’re charged per click—your actual CPC—could end up being less).”
A bridge that stands in theory may, in practice, sink into the riverbed or ripple with wave-like undulations when the wind blows just so. (If you want to see a dramatic example, go to YouTube and watch the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.) Every bridge presents its own unique design challenges—the soil, the way the river flows, the weather, the wear and tear of cars and trucks speeding to and fro. You start with Isaac Newton and Leonhard Euler, but had better take into account the complexities of each situation even if it doesn’t allow you to derive a simple “final answer.” That makes bridge engineering a messier process, involving extended computer simulations, site visits to scope out the river-bank, analysis of soil samples, and stress testing scale models in a wind tunnel. All of this testing and modeling might help you predict whether cars will start flying off the roadway when a storm blows in.
Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Benoit Mandelbrot, big-box store, Black Swan, Checklist Manifesto, Clayton Christensen, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Exxon Valdez, Gordon Gekko, housing crisis, Isaac Newton, Long Term Capital Management, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, NetJets, pattern recognition, pre–internet, random walk, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, winner-take-all economy, young professional
He spoke with tender admiration about her kindness, recalling how she had taken terminally ill AIDS patients into her home and given them her own bedroom, seeking to ease their pain in their final days. He told Mohnish’s children that choosing the right person to marry would be the most important decision of their lives. For three hours, we relished the most wonderfully wide-ranging conversation. For example, Harina and Mohnish asked Warren about Sir Isaac Newton, since he had once remarked that Newton was the historical figure with whom he’d most like to have lunch. He explained to us that Newton was “probably the smartest human in history” but joked that he’d thought this through some more and would actually prefer to have lunch with Sophia Loren. He said Charlie Munger would most like to share a meal with Ben Franklin, since “Newton was smarter, but Franklin was wiser.”
But for much of our history, we operated in a dramatically different environment. Today there are substantial parts of our mental apparatus that evolved to help us survive in the wilderness that was home to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. These primitive survival routines embedded in our brains are easily capable of bypassing the neocortex. We might like to perceive ourselves as potential Isaac Newtons, but it’s perilous to forget that we also have this other aspect of our nature. Indeed, Newton himself would have been better off if he’d recognized this, given that he was an infamously dumb investor who lost his life savings in the South Sea Bubble. As Newton wryly observed: “I can calculate the movement of stars, but not the madness of men.” The problem is not just that our brains are highly irrational.
Adventures in Human Being (Wellcome) by Gavin Francis
In the thirteenth century the English philosopher Roger Bacon hedged his bets: the soul reaches out from the lens in a projection which ‘ennobles’ our environment, but that environment projects itself back into the eyes. By the seventeenth century, classical perspectives on vision were giving way. Astronomers, whose very business was the elucidation and understanding of light, were peering into the eye in order to better comprehend the stars. The astronomer-mystic Johannes Kepler was the first to write about how an image of the world was projected upside down and back to front onto the retina. When Isaac Newton was working out the motion of the planets around the sun he embarked on dramatic experiments to test the reliability of his own vision. Inserting a long blunt needle (a ‘bodkin’) into his own eye socket between the bone and the eyeball, he described how wiggling it around distorted his vision. Understanding didn’t progress a great deal from Newton until the twentieth century, when quantum theory and the relativity theories of Einstein began again transforming our understanding of how light works.
He cut kidneys in half and saw no membrane. He still thought that kidneys filter blood in some way; he just admitted he didn’t know how they did it. No one would come closer to the true mechanism until microscopes became commonplace a hundred and fifty years later, following advances in lens and prism technology. In the 1660s, lenses were achieving transformations in the understanding of both inner and outer space: near Cambridge, Isaac Newton, in quarantine from the plague, used his time to demonstrate how sunlight can be broken into colours by a prism, and formulated his laws of gravity. In London, Robert Hooke published his Micrographia, which showed the astonishing intricacy of tiny, everyday structures, such as body lice, pieces of cork, and flies’ eyes (he coined the word ‘cell’ as the basic unit of life, because under the microscope they resembled a series of monks’ cells).
accounting loophole / creative accounting, bank run, banking crisis, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, capital controls, central bank independence, collateralized debt obligation, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Brooks, diversification, financial deregulation, financial innovation, helicopter parent, Home mortgage interest deduction, housing crisis, Howard Zinn, Hyman Minsky, Isaac Newton, Joseph Schumpeter, Long Term Capital Management, market bubble, Martin Wolf, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, millennium bug, moral hazard, mortgage tax deduction, Naomi Klein, new economy, Northern Rock, Own Your Own Home, price stability, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail
-Marcus Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History Contents PREFACE Xi 1. PREEMPTIVE KEYNESIANISM 1 2. CASTLES IN THE AIR 23 3. HOW TO BUILD FINANCIAL WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION 45 4. HURRICANE SEASON 69 5. MADLY IN ALL DIRECTIONS 99 6. TOMORROW CAPITALISM? 129 MY DEBTS 157 NOTES 159 REFERENCES 167 INDEX 179 Preface I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people. -Isaac Newton, after losing a fortune in the South Sea Bubble in 1720 In the fall of 1991, a high-pressure system from northern Canada collided with a powerful low-pressure system over the coast of New England. The large temperature contrast in such a small area gave rise to a cyclone. The cyclone, in turn, absorbed a nearby dying hurricane, which created an enormously powerful storm. The winds at times attained 75 miles per hour, and 35-foot waves shook unfortunate seafarers.
The best outcome to be hoped for is that they will prevent market players from making exactly the same mistake they made last time-that is, the mistake everybody is focusing on avoiding anyway. And on top of that, you also get a whole new battery of regulations that may well make the next crisis considerably worse. We do not know where the next crisis will come from. From history we learn that we do not learn from history. Even Isaac Newton, one of the greatest geniuses of all time, lost a fortune in the South Sea Bubble. Not even those whose job it is to make forecasts know what will happen next. One of those who did that best, Economic Cycle Research Institute founder Geoffrey Moore, told his students that someone who can predict a recession at the exact time when it starts is a very successful forecaster. Companies and investors hardly need more bureaucrats looking over their shoulders trying to guess what they are doing right or wrong.
Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher
Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Build a better mousetrap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, epigenetics, Frank Gehry, fundamental attribution error, Isaac Newton, knowledge worker, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, McMansion, music of the spheres, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Walter Mischel
When it comes to understanding achievement, she believes that our cultural bias toward the idea of innate talent and ability causes us to undervalue this tenacious trait. Grit clearly involves motivation and perseverance in the pursuit of a goal despite setbacks, but its less obvious component is closely bound up with attention: maintaining consistent interest in a project or idea over time. Given a hard problem to figure out—the nature of gravity, perhaps—most people might think about it for a while, then get tired and forget about it. A genius such as Isaac Newton, however, has enough “mental energy” to pay rapt attention to the same thing for a long time without wavering: “I keep the subject constantly before me and wait until the first dawnings open little by little before me into the full light.” His modern successor, Richard Feynman, had a similarly protean absorption in his subject. Upon presenting their presumably new, hard-won theories, his colleagues often found that the legendary physicist had done the math many years before and not even bothered to publish the results.
Motivation and Emotion, October 2003; Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, “The Initiation and Regulation of Intrinsically Motivated Learning and Achievement,” in Ann Boggiano and Thane Pittman (eds.), Achievement and Motivation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. p.178. Why some very focused individuals have lots of the stick-to-itiveness: A. L. Duckworth et al., “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92, 2007. p.179. A genius such as Isaac Newton, however, has enough “mental energy”: David Lykken, “Mental Energy.” Intelligence 33, 2005. p.182. In a less dramatic illustration of a hidden motivation’s power: Gráinne M. Fitzsimons and John A. Bargh, “Thinking of You: Nonconscious Pursuit of Interpersonal Goals Associated with Relationship Partners.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84, January 2003. p.182. In an ingenious experimental illustration: Tanya Chartrand et al., “Consequences of Nonconscious Goal Activation.”
Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
Albert Einstein, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, Barry Marshall: ulcers, call centre, Cass Sunstein, colonial rule, Edward Glaeser, food miles, Gary Taubes, income inequality, Internet Archive, Isaac Newton, medical residency, microbiome, prediction markets, randomized controlled trial, Richard Thaler, Scramble for Africa, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Tony Hsieh, transatlantic slave trade, éminence grise
Such problems are intractable, hopelessly complex, brimming with entrenched and misaligned incentives. Sure, there are some truly brilliant people out there and they probably should think big. For the rest of us, thinking big means you’ll spend a lot of time tilting at windmills. While thinking small won’t win you many points with the typical big thinker, there are at least a few noteworthy advocates of our approach. Sir Isaac Newton, for instance. “To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one age,” he wrote. “Tis much better to do a little with certainty and leave the rest for others that come after than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of any thing.” Maybe the two of us are biased. Maybe we believe in the power of thinking small only because we are so bad at thinking big.
Warren, Sharyn Leis, Rosa Surace, and Ori Ashman, “Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis Using Fecal Bacteriotherapy,” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 37, no. 1 (July 2003). CHAPTER 5: THINK LIKE A CHILD 88 “SOPHISTICATION” AND THE SOPHISTS (FOOTNOTE): Drawn from the “Sophisticated” entry on worldwidewords.org, by the excellent British etymologist Michael Quinion. 89 “TO EXPLAIN ALL NATURE IS TOO DIFFICULT A TASK . . .”: See Isaac Newton and J. E. McGuire, “Newton’s ‘Principles of Philosophy’: An Intended Preface for the 1704 ‘Opticks’ and a Related Draft Fragment,” The British Journal for the History of Science 5, no. 2 (December 1970); hat tip to Freakonomics Radio producer Katherine Wells, who scripted this for Stephen J. Dubner, “The Truth Is Out There . . . Isn’t It?,” Freakonomics Radio, November 23, 2011. 90 DRUNK WALKING: See Steven D.
But What if We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, British Empire, citizen journalism, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, Gerolamo Cardano, ghettoisation, Howard Zinn, Isaac Newton, non-fiction novel, obamacare, pre–internet, Ralph Nader, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, the medium is the message, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, Y2K
In fact, that’s the one arena where I would think that most of our contemporary evidence is circumstantial, and that the way we think about gravity will be very different.” These are the words of Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist at Columbia University who writes books with titles like Icarus at the Edge of Time. He’s the kind of physicist famous enough to guest star on a CBS sitcom, assuming that sitcom is The Big Bang Theory. “For two hundred years, Isaac Newton had gravity down. There was almost no change in our thinking until 1907. And then from 1907 to 1915, Einstein radically changes our understanding of gravity: No longer is gravity just a force, but a warping of space and time. And now we realize quantum mechanics must have an impact on how we describe gravity within very short distances. So there’s all this work that really starts to pick up in the 1980s, with all these new ideas about how gravity would work in the microscopic realm.
Jimi Hendrix imagined such a scenario, but only because he was an electric philosopher (as opposed to a pocket calculator). “In physics, when we say we know something, it’s very simple,” Tyson reiterates. “Can we predict the outcome? If we can predict the outcome, we’re good to go, and we’re on to the next problem. There are philosophers who care about the understanding of why that was the outcome. Isaac Newton [essentially] said, ‘I have an equation that says why the moon is in orbit. I have no fucking idea how the Earth talks to the moon. It’s empty space—there’s no hand reaching out.’ He was uncomfortable about this idea of action at a distance. And he was criticized for having such ideas, because it was preposterous that one physical object could talk to another physical object. Now, you can certainly have that conversation [about why it happens].
3D printing, Black Swan, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Clayton Christensen, crowdsourcing, deliberate practice, fear of failure, Filter Bubble, future of work, Google Glasses, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Lean Startup, low skilled workers, Mark Zuckerberg, move fast and break things, Paul Erdős, Paul Graham, recommendation engine, rising living standards, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Y Combinator
“Manufacturing looks for efficiencies and accuracy. Creating constantly looks for improvements and ways to generate emotional energy. “With manufacturing, most of the thinking is done prior to the work. With creating, the thinking is done during the work.” Meandering messily towards Aha! The path to a creative breakthrough is messy. It’s tempting to think of the moment that an apple fell on Sir Isaac Newton’s head and suppose that as it bounced to the ground he muttered, “well, gee!” and wrote down the theory of gravity. Our love of causal sequences presses us to believe that Newton’s law of gravity truly came like a bolt out of the blue – somehow the causal result of “apple-strikes-head, therefore…” But as with Darwin’s theory of evolution and Edison’s invention of the lightbulb, the epiphanic moment is usually a long time coming.
The Infinity Puzzle by Frank Close
Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Arthur Eddington, dark matter, El Camino Real, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh
In this naive analogy, the nucleus plays the role of the sun, and electrons are like the remote planets. Whereas the force of gravity controls the motion of the latter, it is the electrical attraction of opposite charges— positively charged nucleus and negatively charged electrons—that holds atoms together. Analogies can be dangerous if stretched too far, and the case of the planetary electrons is a cautionary example: Atoms built like that could not survive for a moment if they obeyed Isaac Newton’s laws of mechanics. The same force of gravity that governs the motion of the planets is degrading their orbits over the eons. The solar system is vast and gravity relatively feeble; as a result, the erosion of the orbits is so gradual even the most sensitive measurements cannot detect it.10 Atoms, by contrast, are very tiny, and the electrical forces are much more powerful than gravity. The resulting changes in the orbits of the electrons would occur faster—much faster.
Feynman, by contrast, was driven by physical intuition, and would not be satisﬁed until he had worked out things in his own unique way. Quantum mechanics was a perfect example of this. He was, in effect, redesigning quantum mechanics from the bottom up, led by intuition as much as by formal mathematics. feynman’s action The challenge of classical mechanics, such as determining the motion of planets, is that if you know where some objects are now, where will they be at some future moment? In the seventeen century Isaac Newton stated 38 the infinity puzzle the laws of motion: If no forces act, bodies move at a constant velocity, whereas a force gives them acceleration. This inspired the concept of energy, such as the energy associated with motion—“kinetic energy”—and latent or “potential” energy, where the situation of a body gives it the potential to gain kinetic energy, the sum of the potential and kinetic energies being constant.
In 1940 he entered Hanley High School and the present of a chemistry set two years later sparked his interest in science, or at least in verifying whether the information about explosives, in the school textbooks, was correct. A physics teacher, who had noticed his remarkable natural talent, enrolled him for the entrance scholarship exam at Trinity College, Cambridge. The choice of Trinity appears to have been entirely because the teacher admired Isaac Newton, the college’s most distinguished alumnus. Shaw arrived there in 1949 and moved into room K9, overlooking Jesus Lane. There is nothing particularly special about this room other than the coincidence that its previous occupant was Freeman Dyson. Trinity has always hosted a galaxy of stars, and that year was no exception. Shaw’s contemporaries included Michael Atiyah, the distinguished mathematician; John Polkinghorne, future professor at Cambridge and winner of the Templeton Prize for his work on science and religion; and Roger Phillips, who was later head of theory at Britain’s Rutherford Laboratory, and my boss for the ﬁrst twenty years of my own research career.
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
Al Roth, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Brownian motion, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, experimental economics, fear of failure, Henri Poincaré, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Rogoff, linear programming, lone genius, market design, medical residency, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, prisoner's dilemma, RAND corporation, Ronald Coase, second-price auction, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, spectrum auction, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, upwardly mobile
It was the great Hungarian-born polymath John von Neumann who first recognized that social behavior could be analyzed as games. Von Neumann’s 1928 article on parlor games was the first successful attempt to derive logical and mathematical rules about rivalries.15 Just as Blake saw the universe in a grain of sand, great scientists have often looked for clues to vast and complex problems in the small, familiar phenomena of daily life. Isaac Newton reached insights about the heavens by juggling wooden balls. Einstein contemplated a boat paddling upriver. Von Neumann pondered the game of poker. A seemingly trivial and playful pursuit like poker, von Neumann argued, might hold the key to more serious human affairs for two reasons. Both poker and economic competition require a certain type of reasoning, namely the rational calculation of advantage and disadvantage based on some internally consistent system of values (“more is better than less”).
He had carved out a brilliant career at the apex of the mathematics profession, traveled, lectured, taught, met the most famous mathematicians of his day, and become famous himself. His genius also won him love. He had married a beautiful young physics student who adored him, and fathered a child. It was a brilliant strategy, this genius, this life. A seemingly perfect adaptation. Many great scientists and philosophers, among them René Descartes, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Immanuel Kant, Thorstein Veblen, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein, have had similarly strange and solitary personalities.20 An emotionally detached, inward-looking temperament can be especially conducive to scientific creativity, psychiatrists and biographers have long observed, just as fiery fluctuations in mood may sometimes be linked to artistic expression. In The Dynamics of Creation, Anthony Storr, the British psychiatrist, contends that an individual who “fears love almost as much as he fears hatred” may turn to creative activity not only out of an impulse to experience aesthetic pleasure, or the delight of exercising an active mind, but also to defend himself against anxiety stimulated by conflicting demands for detachment and human contact.21 In the same vein, Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher and writer, called genius “the brilliant invention of someone who is looking for a way out.”
The symptoms can be “slightly, moderately, severely, or absolutely disabling,” according to Irving Gottesman, a leading contemporary researcher.38 Though Nash succumbed at age thirty, the illness can appear at any time from adolescence to advanced middle age.39 The first episode can last a few weeks or months or several years.40 The life history of someone with the disease can include only one or two episodes.41 Isaac Newton, always an eccentric and solitary soul, apparently suffered a psychotic breakdown with paranoid delusions at age fifty-one.42 The episode, which may have been precipitated by an unhappy attachment to a younger man and the failure of his alchemy experiments, marked the end of Newton’s academic career. But, after a year or so, Newton recovered and went on to hold a series of high public positions and to receive many honors.
The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism by Joyce Appleby
1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, Bartolomé de las Casas, Bernie Madoff, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, Columbian Exchange, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Doha Development Round, double entry bookkeeping, epigenetics, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, Firefox, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francisco Pizarro, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, Gordon Gekko, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, Hernando de Soto, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, informal economy, interchangeable parts, interest rate swap, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, land reform, Livingstone, I presume, Long Term Capital Management, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Wolf, moral hazard, Ponzi scheme, profit maximization, profit motive, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, refrigerator car, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, strikebreaker, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, union organizing, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration, Yogi Berra, Yom Kippur War
Soon those watching the novel phenomenon of economic development put into circulation descriptions of how people behaved in their market transactions. They started to depict men and women as having an inherent disposition toward the producing, selling, and buying that drove the market’s expansion. These observations, scattered in pamphlets, how-to books, broadsides, and learned tomes, many of them written by such luminaries as John Locke, Isaac Newton, and Daniel Defoe, converged on the universal appeal of making money. The initiatives of ordinary people, such as floating a meadow to gain a head start on spring planting or carrying locally made cheese to a distant market, mattered most. This no longer appeared as peculiar conduct; being responsive in their commercial dealings was treated as a newly discovered human capacity. Even as sober a witness of the human scene as Locke indulged in a futuristic fantasy when he wrote that if everyone worked, the world’s work could be done routinely in half a day.2 Every piece of advice about exchange rates, wages, rents, and account balances called on new notions about how men and women reacted to choice.
Silver coins couldn’t be more or less valuable than silver bullion because the ruler didn’t have the power to enhance the value of a natural thing. In creating government, people had acted to protect their life, liberty, and property, and they chose government as a convenient means to do that. Locke gave the English a naturalistic theory of political obligations wrapped around an inaccurate description of the money mechanism. More than three hundred pamphleteers, including Isaac Newton and Daniel Defoe, entered the ensuing debate over the proposed recoinage. The issue was whether or not the clipped coins should be reminted with the official silver content or lowered to match the devaluation by chisel. Sharply divided, the antagonists carried the conceptualization of money to a new level of sophistication. Locke’s opponents—for the most part merchants and entrepreneurs—started with the facts on the ground, as it were.
There was never any thought of importing slaves into Great Britain, but the high cost of workers’ wages proved to be a powerful incentive to find alternative sources of energy. This gave a push to inventors who began a technological saga that has only accelerated with time. Drawing on seventeenth-century scientific experiments in hydraulics and hydrostatics, these pioneer engineers designed mechanical slaves, machines that could harness energy. Isaac Newton’s brilliant calculations of how gravity kept the planets in place prompted a new respect for human reason. As Alexander Pope wrote: Nature and nature’s Laws lay hid in Night; GOD said, Let Newton be! And all was Light.” Thomas Newcomen, Richard Arkwright, and James Watt demonstrated that lesser mortals could take the Promethean fire from Newton and build engines that could work a lot harder than human beings and their animals.
The Intelligent Investor (Collins Business Essentials) by Benjamin Graham, Jason Zweig
accounting loophole / creative accounting, air freight, Andrei Shleifer, asset allocation, buy low sell high, capital asset pricing model, corporate governance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversified portfolio, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, hiring and firing, index fund, Isaac Newton, Long Term Capital Management, market bubble, merger arbitrage, new economy, passive investing, price stability, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, sharing economy, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, the market place, transaction costs, tulip mania, VA Linux, Vanguard fund, Y2K, Yogi Berra
But the bond market kept right on becoming more and more abnormal—and LTCM had borrowed so much money that its collapse nearly capsized the global financial system. 3 And back in the spring of 1720, Sir Isaac Newton owned shares in the South Sea Company, the hottest stock in England. Sensing that the market was getting out of hand, the great physicist muttered that he “could calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of the people.” Newton dumped his South Sea shares, pocketing a 100% profit totaling £7,000. But just months later, swept up in the wild enthusiasm of the market, Newton jumped back in at a much higher price—and lost £20,000 (or more than $3 million in today’s money). For the rest of his life, he forbade anyone to speak the words “South Sea” in his presence. 4 Sir Isaac Newton was one of the most intelligent people who ever lived, as most of us would define intelligence.
For the rest of his life, he forbade anyone to speak the words “South Sea” in his presence. 4 Sir Isaac Newton was one of the most intelligent people who ever lived, as most of us would define intelligence. But, in Graham’s terms, Newton was far from an intelligent investor. By letting the roar of the crowd override his own judgment, the world’s greatest scientist acted like a fool. In short, if you’ve failed at investing so far, it’s not because you’re stupid. It’s because, like Sir Isaac Newton, you haven’t developed the emotional discipline that successful investing requires. In Chapter 8, Graham describes how to enhance your intelligence by harnessing your emotions and refusing to stoop to the market’s level of irrationality. There you can master his lesson that being an intelligent investor is more a matter of “character” than “brain.” A Chronicle of Calamity Now let’s take a moment to look at some of the major financial developments of the past few years: The worst market crash since the Great Depression, with U.S. stocks losing 50.2% of their value—or $7.4 trillion—between March 2000 and October 2002.
Much of this damage could have been (and was!) avoided by investors who learned and lived by Graham’s principles. As Graham puts it, “while enthusiasm may be necessary for great accomplishments elsewhere, on Wall Street it almost invariably leads to disaster.” By letting themselves get carried away—on Internet stocks, on big “growth” stocks, on stocks as a whole—many people made the same stupid mistakes as Sir Isaac Newton. They let other investors’ judgments determine their own. They ignored Graham’s warning that “the really dreadful losses” always occur after “the buyer forgot to ask ‘How much?’” Most painfully of all, by losing their self-control just when they needed it the most, these people proved Graham’s assertion that “the investor’s chief problem—and even his worst enemy—is likely to be himself.” The Sure Thing That Wasn’T Many of those people got especially carried away on technology and Internet stocks, believing the high-tech hype that this industry would keep outgrowing every other for years to come, if not forever: In mid-1999, after earning a 117.3% return in just the first five months of the year, Monument Internet Fund portfolio manager Alexander Cheung predicted that his fund would gain 50% a year over the next three to five years and an annual average of 35% “over the next 20 years.”5 After his Amerindo Technology Fund rose an incredible 248.9% in 1999, portfolio manager Alberto Vilar ridiculed anyone who dared to doubt that the Internet was a perpetual moneymaking machine: “If you’re out of this sector, you’re going to underperform.
Extraterrestrial Civilizations by Isaac Asimov
Albert Einstein, Cepheid variable, Columbine, Edward Charles Pickering, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, invention of radio, invention of the telescope, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Actually, there is much that can be deduced from starlight even if the star itself is but a point of light. Starlight is a mixture of light of all wavelengths. The light can be spread out in order of wavelength from the short waves of violet light to the long waves of red light, and the result is a “spectrum.” The instrument by which the spectrum is produced is the “spectroscope.” The spectrum was first demonstrated in the case of sunlight by Isaac Newton in 1665. In 1814, the German physicist Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787–1826) showed that the Solar spectrum was crossed by numerous dark lines, which, it was eventually realized, represented missing wavelengths. They were wavelengths of light that were absorbed by atoms in the Sun’s atmosphere before they could reach the Earth. In 1859, the German physicist Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (1824–1887) showed that the dark lines in the spectrum were “fingerprints” of the various elements, since the atoms of each element emitted or absorbed particular wavelengths that the atoms of no other element emitted or absorbed.
It is so close to Earth that it can’t help but give us a false confidence; it lures us on to underestimate the distances involved in space exploration. The Moon, after all, is so close to Earth that it takes only 3 days to reach it, as compared with the 7 weeks it took Columbus to cross the Atlantic Ocean. In reaching the Moon, we have made only the most microscopic dent in the true vastness of space. Indeed, we have not really left Earth, since the Moon is as much a slave to Earth’s gravitational influence as an apple on a tree—something Isaac Newton perceived three centuries ago. To be sure, there are small bodies that occasionally come to within a few million kilometers of the Earth, 10 to 50 times the distance of the Moon—an occasional asteroid or comet. The nearest sizable body other than the Moon, however, is the planet Venus. Even when Venus is at its closest to Earth, it is 40 million kilometers (25 million miles) away in a straight line, and is 105 times the distance of the Moon.
Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer by Duncan J. Watts
affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Black Swan, butterfly effect, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, collapse of Lehman Brothers, complexity theory, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, discovery of DNA, East Village, easy for humans, difficult for computers, edge city, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, framing effect, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, happiness index / gross national happiness, high batting average, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, interest rate swap, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, lake wobegon effect, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, medical malpractice, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, oil shock, packet switching, pattern recognition, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, prediction markets, pre–internet, RAND corporation, random walk, RFID, school choice, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, supply-chain management, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, too big to fail, Toyota Production System, ultimatum game, urban planning, Vincenzo Peruggia: Mona Lisa, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, X Prize
So when English and French ships began to skirmish in the English Channel in 1337, the Ideal Chronicler might have noted that a war of some kind seemed likely, but it could not have recorded the observation “The Hundred Years War began today.” Not only was the extent of the conflict between the two countries unknown at the time, but the term “Hundred Years War” was only invented long after it ended as shorthand to describe what was in actuality a series of intermittent conflicts from 1337 to 1453. Likewise, when Isaac Newton published his masterpiece, Principia, the Ideal Chronicler might have been able to say it was a major contribution to celestial mechanics, and even predicted that it would revolutionize science. But to claim that Newton was laying the foundation for what became modern science, or was playing a key role in the Enlightenment, would be beyond the IC. These are narrative sentences that could only be uttered after the future events had taken place.10 This may sound like a trivial argument over semantics.
And on this point it is worth asking what, if anything, social science might be able to offer. CHAPTER 10 The Proper Study of Mankind Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, The proper study of mankind is Man. —Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man” When Alexander Pope published his “Essay on Man” in 1732 our understanding of the world was very different from what it is today. Written just decades after Isaac Newton’s masterpiece, Principia, had laid out the mathematical principles of planetary motion, Pope’s essay arrived when intellectuals were still wrapping their heads around a concept that must have been staggering at the time—that the laws governing the motion of everyday objects here on Earth were exactly the same laws as those governing the heavenly spheres. In fact, they were still grappling with the idea that physical “laws” of any kind could be written down in terms of mathematical equations, and that these equations could then be used to predict with uncanny precision the future behavior of everything ranging from tomorrow’s high tide to the return of distant comets.
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan
Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, germ theory of disease, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, linked data, nuclear winter, planetary scale, profit motive, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, telepresence
Are not these facts, available even for skeptics to confirm, a surer insight into God's Universe than all the speculations of the theologians? But what if these facts contradict the beliefs of those who hold their religion incapable of making mistakes? The princes of the Church threatened the aged astronomer with torture if he persisted in teaching the abominable doctrine that the Earth moved. He was sentenced to a kind of house arrest for the remainder of his life. A generation or two later, by the time Isaac Newton demonstrated that simple and elegant physics could quantitatively explain—and predict—all the observed lunar and planetary motions (provided you assumed the Sun at the center of the Solar System), the geocentrist conceit eroded further. In 1725, in an attempt to discover stellar parallax, the painstaking English amateur astronomer James Bradley stumbled on the aberration of light. The term "aberration," I suppose, conveys something of the unexpectedness of the discovery.
Most of the great deprovincializing debates were entered into with no thought for their practical implications. Passionate and curious humans wished to understand their actual circumstances, how unique or pedestrian they and their world are, their ultimate origins and destinies, how the Universe works. Surprisingly, some of these debates have yielded the most profound practical benefits. The very method of mathematical reasoning that Isaac Newton 36 introduced to explain the motion of the planets around the Sun has led to most of the technology Of our modern world. The Industrial Revolution, for all its shortcomings, is still the global model of how an agricultural nation can emerge from poverty. These debates have bread-and-butter consequences. It might have been otherwise. It might have been that the balance lay elsewhere, that humans by and large did not want to yaw about a disquieting Universe, that we were unwilling to hermit challenges to the prevailing wisdom.
Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases by Paul A. Offit
“People ask me what it means to be Jeryl Lynn, the namesake of the vaccine. I tell them that it just made me very proud of my father. If being sick at the right time with the right virus helped—great.” One reporter later wrote, “Jeryl recovered from mumps virus, but mumps virus never recovered from infecting Jeryl.” CHAPTER 3 Eight Doors “If I have seen farther than others, it was because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” SIR ISAAC NEWTON What possessed Maurice Hilleman to take his daughter’s mumps virus and inject it into hen’s eggs and minced chick embryos? Why did he cut off the chicks’ heads before using them? And most importantly, why in the 1960s did he resort to a process so seemingly crude, arcane, and convoluted? Eight critical experiments performed during the previous century determined Hilleman’s choices. FROM EDWARD JENNER, HILLEMAN LEARNED THE POWER OF VACCINES.
An impressive three-story brownstone building, the institute, founded in 1892, was named for Caspar Wistar, the nation’s leading anatomist in the eighteenth century and the man for whom the plant wisteria was named. Wistar wrote the first textbook on anatomy in the early 1800s and developed a series of anatomical teaching aids that included wax-preserved human limbs and organs. The institute’s museum of anatomy contained a cyclops; Siamese twins; two Indian mummies; seven wax-injected human hearts; the death masks of Oliver Cromwell, Sir Isaac Newton, and Voltaire; and the largest number of human and animal skeletons in the world. A massive whale skeleton hung from the ceiling. Although the Wistar Institute had been founded to advance studies of anatomy, by the early 1960s Hilary Koprowski had made it one of the world’s leading institutions for the study of cancer and viruses. The Wistar Museum, circa 1940s. An X-ray of a living person injected with a dye to visualize arteries (foreground), was donated by the Eastman Kodak Company in 1939.
Wait: The Art and Science of Delay by Frank Partnoy
algorithmic trading, Atul Gawande, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, blood diamonds, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, corporate governance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Flash crash, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, Google Earth, Hernando de Soto, High speed trading, impulse control, income inequality, Isaac Newton, Long Term Capital Management, Menlo Park, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nick Leeson, paper trading, Paul Graham, payday loans, Ralph Nader, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, six sigma, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, statistical model, Steve Jobs, The Market for Lemons, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, upwardly mobile, Walter Mischel
Unlike most glues, his adhesive was reusable—it kept sticking, because the little spheres remained intact. Silver suggested some possible uses: maybe a sticky spray, or an adhesive bulletin board where notices could be easily posted and removed. Fry was fascinated, but he didn’t think those applications made sense, and at that moment he couldn’t come up with any others.8 We like eureka stories. Popular lore is filled with this kind of thing. One warm evening, Isaac Newton is sitting under an apple tree in his garden when an apple falls and bonks him on the head; he instantly discovers gravity.9 Thomas Edison is staying up all night at Menlo Park, frantically experimenting, when suddenly he creates a new lightbulb that glows continuously for thirteen-and-a-half hours.10 Tim Berners-Lee is helping some scientists share data when out of the blue an idea hits him and he invents the World Wide Web.11 But these stories are rarely accurate.
Lemelson-MIT, “Inventor of the Week Archive: Art Fry and Spencer Silver: Post-it® Notes,” http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/frysilver.html. 2. 3M, A Century of Innovation: The 3M Story (3M, 2003), p. 68. 3. Ibid., p. 19. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid., p. 38. 6. “Podcast: Art Fry’s Invention Has a Way of Sticking Around,” Smithsonian Lemelson Center, May 20, 2008, http://invention.smithsonian.org/video/vid-popup.aspx?clip=1&id=518. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid. 9. The story originates from a passage in a biography of Newton, Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, written by one of his contemporaries, William Stukeley, and published more than two decades after Newton’s death. The relevant passages from the book are available online at The Royal Society, “Newton’s Apple,” http://royalsociety.org/library/moments/newton-apple/. 10. Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park, “Young Edison,” http://www.menloparkmuseum.org/thomas-edison-and-menlo-park (excerpted from Westfield Architects and Preservation Consultants, Preservation Master Plan, Edison Memorial Tower, Museum, and Site (2007). 11.
3D printing, AI winter, Amazon Web Services, artificial general intelligence, Automated Insights, Bernie Madoff, Bill Joy: nanobots, brain emulation, cellular automata, cloud computing, cognitive bias, computer vision, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, don't be evil, Extropian, finite state, Flash crash, friendly AI, friendly fire, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Loebner Prize, lone genius, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Nicholas Carr, optical character recognition, PageRank, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, prisoner's dilemma, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, Skype, smart grid, speech recognition, statistical model, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero day
The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question. —Samuel Butler, nineteenth-century English poet and author More than any other time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. —Woody Allen I. J. Good didn’t invent the intelligence explosion any more than Sir Isaac Newton invented gravity. All he did was observe that an event he considered both inevitable and a net positive for mankind was certain to yield the kind of “ultraintelligence” we humans need to solve problems that are too difficult for us. Then, after he’d lived three more decades, Good changed his mind. We’ll make superintelligent machines in our image, he said, and they will destroy us. Why? For the same reason we’d never agree to a ban on AI research, and the same reason we’d likely give the Busy Child its freedom.
But now, when you next find yourself in a room full of people deeply invested in AGI research, for a lively time assert, “AGI will never be achieved! It’s just too hard.” Goertzel, for example, responded to this by looking at me as if I’d started preaching intelligent design. A sometime mathematics professor, like Vinge, Goertzel draws lessons for AI’s future from the history of calculus. “If you look at how mathematicians did calculus before Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz, they would take a hundred pages to calculate the derivative of a cubic polynomial. They did it with triangles, similar triangles and weird diagrams and so on. It was oppressive. But now that we have a more refined theory of calculus any idiot in high school can take the derivative of a cubic polynomial. It’s easy.” As calculus did centuries ago, AI research will incrementally proceed until ongoing practice leads to the discovery of new theoretical rules, ones that allow AI researchers to condense and abstract a lot of their work, at which point progress toward AGI will become easier and faster.
The Physics of Wall Street: A Brief History of Predicting the Unpredictable by James Owen Weatherall
Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Asian financial crisis, bank run, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, Black-Scholes formula, Bonfire of the Vanities, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, butterfly effect, capital asset pricing model, Carmen Reinhart, Claude Shannon: information theory, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, dark matter, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Emanuel Derman, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial innovation, George Akerlof, Gerolamo Cardano, Henri Poincaré, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, iterative process, John Nash: game theory, Kenneth Rogoff, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, mandelbrot fractal, martingale, new economy, Paul Lévy, prediction markets, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, random walk, Renaissance Technologies, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Sharpe ratio, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, statistical arbitrage, statistical model, stochastic process, The Chicago School, The Myth of the Rational Market, tulip mania, V2 rocket, volatility smile
A few wrote articles speculating about the cause of what came to be called the quant crisis. Even as Goldman’s triage saved the day, however, explanations were difficult to come by. The fund managers went about their business, nervously hoping that the week from hell had been some strange fluke, a squall that had passed. Many recalled a quote from a much earlier physicist. After losing his hat in a market collapse in seventeenth-century England, Isaac Newton despaired: “I can calculate the movements of stars, but not the madness of men.” The quant funds limped their way to the end of the year, hit again in November and December by ghosts of the August disaster. Some, but not all, managed to recover their losses by the end of the year. On average, hedge funds returned about 10% in 2007 — less than many other, apparently less sophisticated investments.
The names used in the text are from real Mesopotamian tablets. “But when markets opened . . .”: This history of the 2007 quant crisis, including numbers cited below, comes from Patterson (2010), from news articles from August/September 2007 (Patterson and Raghavan 2007; Lahart 2007; Nocera 2007; Ahrens 2007), as well as from academic work on the topic (Gorton 2010; Khandani and Lo 2011). “Isaac Newton despaired . . .”: While it is known that Newton suffered some losses in the South Seas bubble, this quote is sometimes disputed. The attribution seems to originate with Spence (1820, p. 368). “On average . . .”: These numbers come from Sourd (2008). The Medallion returns are from Willoughby (2008). It is worth pointing out that Renaissance’s other principal fund, the Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund, which uses strategies similar to those of the other quant funds and which is designed to have a much higher capitalization than the Medallion Fund, did suffer losses of about 1% in 2007 (Strasburg and Burton 2008)
The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery by George Johnson
Atul Gawande, Cepheid variable, Columbine, dark matter, discovery of DNA, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, Gary Taubes, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, mouse model, Murray Gell-Mann, phenotype, profit motive, stem cell
The walls and carpets exuded the nicotine smell absorbed from generations of Red Sox fans. I wondered how many of them were going from the stadium with its third-hand smoke to the urologist for a prostate test. I had picked the location because it was near Dana-Farber, where I had an appointment to interview Franziska Michor, who had recently been chosen as one of “the best and brightest” by Esquire magazine. She was described as “the Isaac Newton of biology.” Michor had a PhD from Harvard in evolutionary biology and her thesis was titled “Evolutionary Dynamics of Cancer.” After all the talks about translational science, what I expected to learn about now was the most theoretical of research, vital to understanding the phenomenon of cancer but many stories removed from the clinic. Random variation and natural selection are the driving forces of cancer as they are of life, and Michor was studying the process with mathematical models.
Urologists offer free tickets: The examples are from Gary Schwitzer, “Cheerleading, Shibboleths and Uncertainty,” a presentation on April 23, 2012, Science Writing in the Age of Denial, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. The urinal example was provided to Schwitzer by Ivan Oransky, the executive editor of Reuters Health. 46. one of “the best and brightest”: Tom Junod, “Franziska Michor Is the Isaac Newton of Biology,” Esquire, November 20, 2007. [http://www.esquire.com/features/michor1207] 47. uncovered some of the early clues: See, for example, J. C. Fisher, “Multiple-Mutation Theory of Carcinogenesis,” Nature 181 (March 1, 1958): 651–52 [http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v181/n4609/abs/181651b0.html]; P. Armitage and R. Doll, “The Age Distribution of Cancer and a Multi-stage Theory of Carcinogenesis,” British Journal of Cancer 8 (1954): 1–12 [http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v91/n12/full/6602297a.html]; and C.
Utopias: A Brief History From Ancient Writings to Virtual Communities by Howard P. Segal
1960s counterculture, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, complexity theory, David Brooks, death of newspapers, dematerialisation, deskilling, energy security, European colonialism, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, future of journalism, garden city movement, germ theory of disease, Golden Gate Park, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John von Neumann, knowledge economy, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Nicholas Carr, Nikolai Kondratiev, out of africa, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, union organizing, urban planning, War on Poverty, Whole Earth Catalog
Each of them envisions a ﬁxed, unchanging society; each seeks surcease from toil not simply to enjoy leisure but, more importantly, to contemplate and worship God. Release from ceaseless labor, provided by science and technology, is for them a means and not an end. The Prophets of Progress: Condorcet, Saint-Simon, and Comte The empiricism of Bacon (that is, his belief in the signiﬁcance of experience in the acquisition of knowledge)—along with the The European Utopias and Utopians and Their Critics 55 scientiﬁc discoveries of Isaac Newton, the rationalism of Rene Descartes, and the circulation of many other intellectual currents— fostered a belief in “natural law,” a conﬁdence in human reason, and a faith in progress. Together these fed into the Enlightenment. Two works by Condorcet, a leading Enlightenment philosopher, broke radically with the notion of utopia as a means of contemplating and worshipping God and with many other characteristics of previous utopias.
There have since been improved versions, including a larger-size Kindle that now allows easier access to selected newspapers that were difﬁcult to read in the earlier Kindle. Meanwhile, rivals to the Kindle have inevitably come about, above all the Apple iPad, released in 2010. This tablet computer offers not only books and periodicals but also games, movies, music, and the Internet. Its origins can be traced back to Apple’s ﬁrst tablet computer, the Newton Message Pad of 1993 (discontinued in 1998), named, of course, after Isaac Newton. Like Apple’s extremely popular iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad uses a multi-touch ﬁnger-sensitive touchscreen—a vast improvement over the pressure-triggered stylus used in previous tablet computers. Studies of human interaction with these devices indicate that touchscreens have become integral components of our daily lives much sooner than other “technological behaviors” because they The Resurgence of Utopianism 219 are “so natural, intimate, and intuitive.”
Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Clayton Christensen, data acquisition, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, fear of failure, Google Earth, haute couture, impulse control, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Lao Tzu, life extension, Maui Hawaii, pattern recognition, Ray Kurzweil, risk tolerance, rolodex, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Walter Mischel, X Prize
And I was watching the whole time. Laird never panicked, never even said ‘Oh, shit!’ He just jumped out of the wave, dropped to the bottom, and rode off. Nothing to it.” Of course, there was something to it and it was the exact same kind of something that saved Hamilton’s ass on the Millennium Wave—a moment of sudden, creative insight. Often these moments are important enough to make history. Isaac Newton sees an apple fall and BAMMO: the theory of gravity arrives fully formed in his brain; Archimedes climbs into the bathtub and SHAZAM: the solution to the mathematical puzzle of volume pops into his head. But, seriously, Newton was lazing around an orchard and Archimedes was having a hot soak. Hamilton, meanwhile, had his creative insight while riding down the gullet of Godzilla. It was an impossible tucked inside of an impossible—which makes one wonder how it could have happened at all.
The general reaction is “Sure, that’s amazing, but just imagine what Schaar’s going to be able to do when he’s twenty.” Alex Honnold is the answer to that question. He’s climbing’s version of Tom Schaar, only all grown up. He was born into a world where both his baseline for reality and his spectrum for possibility were a quantum leap forward from the previous generation and he took full advantage. Isaac Newton wasn’t wrong. We all see farther by standing on the shoulders of giants. In other words, asking what the future would hold if flow became central to culture is another way of asking how good the view is from Honnold’s shoulders. Again, it’s hard to say for certain, but it’s worth pointing out that in 2012 Honnold repeated his Half Dome solo. This time twice as fast: finishing the route in one hour twenty-two minutes. 12 Flow to Abundance STRATOS The balloon was a marvel, ghostly silver, as thin as a dry-cleaning bag.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn, Ian Hacking
Crisis and the Emergence of Scientific Theories 1. A. R. Hall, The Scientific Revolution, 1500–1800 (London, 1954), p. 16. 2. Marshall Clagett, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages (Madison, Wis., 1959), Parts II–III. A. Koyré displays a number of medieval elements in Galileo’s thought in his Etudes Galiléennes (Paris, 1939), particularly Vol. I. 3. For Newton, see T. S. Kuhn, “Newton’s Optical Papers,” in Isaac Newton’s Papers and Letters in Natural Philosophy, ed. I. B. Cohen (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), pp. 27–45. For the prelude to the wave theory, see E. T. Whittaker, A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity, I (2d ed.; London, 1951), 94–109; and W. Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (rev. ed.; London, 1847), II, 396–466. 4. For thermodynamics, see Silvanus P. Thompson, Life of William Thomson Baron Kelvin of Largs (London, 1910), I, 266–81.
For Proust, see Meldrum, “Berthollet’s Doctrine of Variable Proportions,” Manchester Memoirs, LIV (1910), 8. The detailed history of the gradual changes in measurements of chemical composition and of atomic weights has yet to be written, but Partington, op. cit., provides many useful leads to it. XI. The Invisibility of Revolutions 1. L. K. Nash, “The Origins of Dalton’s Chemical Atomic Theory,” Isis, XLVII (1956), 101–16. 2. For Newton’s remark, see Florian Cajori (ed.), Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World (Berkeley, Calif., 1946), p. 21. The passage should be compared with Galileo’s own discussion in his Dialogues concerning Two New Sciences, trans. H. Crew and A. de Salvio (Evanston, Ill., 1946), pp. 154–76. 3. T. S. Kuhn, “Robert Boyle and Structural Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century,” Isis, XLIII (1952), 26–29. 4.
Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking by Richard E. Nisbett
affirmative action, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, big-box store, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, cognitive dissonance, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, endowment effect, experimental subject, feminist movement, fundamental attribution error, glass ceiling, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, loss aversion, low skilled workers, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, quantitative easing, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Socratic dialogue, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, William of Occam, Zipcar
Stich and his colleagues have shown that intuitions about the nature of the world, what one can call knowledge, and what one regards as moral can be so diverse across cultures and from individual to individual that it often makes no sense to appeal to a chimera called “our intuitions.”1 15. KISS and Tell We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible. —Claudius Ptolemy It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer. —William of Occam To the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes. —Isaac Newton Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities. —Bertrand Russell What counts as knowledge, and what qualifies as an explanation, are two of the main questions discussed in this book. They are also central concerns for philosophers of science. In the answers they give to these questions, philosophers of science perform both the function of describing what it is that scientists are doing and critiquing what they do.
The arational aspects of science may have contributed to the rejection of the concept of objective truth by some people who describe themselves as deconstructionists or postmodernists. What defense is possible against such nihilism? What can be said to people who assert that “reality” is mere socially constructed fiction? Paradigm Shifts Five years after Lord Kelvin’s pronouncement about the boring future of physics, Einstein published his paper on special relativity. Relativity theory literally replaced Isaac Newton’s mechanics—the laws describing motion and force that had stood unchallenged for two centuries. Einstein’s theory was not a mere new development in physics. It heralded a new physics. Fifty years after Einstein’s paper was published, the philosopher and sociologist of science Thomas Kuhn shook the scientific community by announcing in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that science doesn’t always consist of an earnest slog through theory followed by collection of data followed by adjustment of theory.
Paper Promises by Philip Coggan
accounting loophole / creative accounting, balance sheet recession, bank run, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, Bretton Woods, British Empire, call centre, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, carried interest, Celtic Tiger, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, currency manipulation / currency intervention, currency peg, debt deflation, delayed gratification, diversified portfolio, eurozone crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, falling living standards, fear of failure, financial innovation, financial repression, fixed income, floating exchange rates, full employment, German hyperinflation, global reserve currency, hiring and firing, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, inflation targeting, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, Kenneth Rogoff, labour market flexibility, Long Term Capital Management, manufacturing employment, market bubble, market clearing, Martin Wolf, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Nick Leeson, Northern Rock, oil shale / tar sands, paradox of thrift, peak oil, pension reform, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, price stability, principal–agent problem, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, QWERTY keyboard, railway mania, regulatory arbitrage, reserve currency, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, short selling, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, special drawing rights, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, time value of money, too big to fail, trade route, tulip mania, value at risk, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce
Not all countries were on the standard; some mixed gold and silver together. The system developed in a higgledy-piggledy fashion with different countries adopting the metal at different times; it was not set up by some eighteenth-century equivalent of the United Nations. Indeed, you could argue that, like the British Empire, the gold standard was a result of a ‘fit of absent-mindedness’. In Britain, the system came about thanks to a decision by Sir Isaac Newton who, as master of the Royal Mint, was in charge of the nation’s currency. Both gold and silver were in circulation at the time and a conversion rate had to be set between the two. In 1717, the great physicist set the conversion rate at a level that seemed to undervalue silver. Gresham’s Law duly kicked in. Britons were unwilling to exchange their silver for gold at an unfavourable rate; they withheld their silver coins from circulation.
The Ponzi stage described by Minsky is often known as a ‘greater fool’ process. Buyers do not believe prices are justified but think they will find a gullible buyer willing to pay even more. They buy apartments sight unseen and purchase Internet stocks with no dividends or even revenues. Investors who take part in such bubbles will usually feel much more sophisticated than the naïve fools who fall for pyramid schemes, but they are making a similar mistake. Even Isaac Newton lost money in the South Sea bubble of the early eighteenth century, declaring afterwards, ‘I can calculate the motions of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.’ In the long run, the value of an asset must be linked to the income that can be generated from it (rent in the case of property, dividends in the case of shares). It is quite possible for individual assets to shoot up in price since residential areas can become more fashionable and companies can have very successful products.
Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines by Thomas H. Davenport, Julia Kirby
AI winter, Andy Kessler, artificial general intelligence, asset allocation, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, business intelligence, business process, call centre, carbon-based life, Clayton Christensen, clockwork universe, conceptual framework, dark matter, David Brooks, deliberate practice, deskilling, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, estate planning, follow your passion, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Freestyle chess, game design, general-purpose programming language, Google Glasses, Hans Lippershey, haute cuisine, income inequality, index fund, industrial robot, information retrieval, intermodal, Internet of things, inventory management, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, loss aversion, Mark Zuckerberg, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, performance metric, Peter Thiel, precariat, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Skype, speech recognition, spinning jenny, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Works Progress Administration, Zipcar
As described by the consulting firm McKinsey, “These techniques give computers the ability to draw conclusions from patterns they discern within massive data sets (anything from all legal cases of the past 20 years to data concerning the way in which molecular compounds react with one another).”7 For humans, advancing learning down a narrow path of specialization isn’t usually an exercise in gaining a broad enough perspective thanks to the accumulation of “big data” to spot patterns others have not seen. That much data in a narrow field simply doesn’t exist in most cases. The approach is more akin to Isaac Newton’s method of standing on the shoulders of giants, squinting in one direction, and trying to see just that little bit farther than others. You want to choose an area in which there isn’t a lot of data and in which there won’t be a lot for a while. Stepping narrowly means pushing ever deeper into a subject, with all the force of past achievement helping you, and learning the next thing about it through the kind of focused consideration and experimentation machines can’t manage.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention (New York: HarperCollins, 1996). 7. McKinsey Global Institute, “Disruptive Technologies: Advances That Will Transform Life, Business, and the Global Economy,” May 2013, file:///C:/Users/jkirby/Downloads/MGI_Disruptive_technologies_Full_report_May2013%20(2).pdf. 8. Syd Field, Four Screenplays: Studies in the American Screenplay (New York: Delta, 1994). 9. Edward Dolnick, The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World (New York: Harper Perennial, 2012). 10. Greg Farrell and Andrew Martin, “How Goldman Banker Became NFL’s Go-To Stadium-Finance Guy,” BloombergBusiness, January 29, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-29/how-goldman-banker-became-nfl-s-go-to-stadium-finance-guy. Chapter 8: Stepping Forward 1. Thomas H. Davenport and D.
Albert Einstein, card file, Cepheid variable, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Ernest Rutherford, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, index card, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Solar eclipse in 1919, V2 rocket
Edward would soon arrive; her mother was booking passage with him on the Prussian out of Glasgow. Miss Farrar dutifully introduced Mrs. Fleming to the plates of stellar spectra, and taught her how to measure the hordes of tiny lines. Mrs. Fleming could have taught Miss Farrar a thing or two about marriage and childbirth, but on the subject of the spectrum she had everything to learn. • • • THE YOUNG ISAAC NEWTON coined the word spectrum in 1666, to describe the rainbow colors that arose like ghostly apparitions when daylight passed through cut glass or crystal. Although his contemporaries thought glass corrupted the purity of light by imparting color to it, Newton held that colors belonged to light itself. A prism merely revealed white light’s component hues by refracting them at different angles, so that each could be seen individually.
It meant that certain types of variables telegraphed their true magnitudes in the duration of their light cycles. Those stars heralded the coming of distance markers in the farther reaches of space. As soon as astronomers learned the key to the stellar code—the degree of brightness linked to each period—they could determine the stellar magnitudes by watching a clock, then leap the interstellar distances on the wings of Isaac Newton’s inverse square law: a variable only one-quarter as bright as another of the same period must lie twice as far away. Ejnar Hertzsprung in Denmark seized on Miss Leavitt’s period-luminosity relation. He, too, had been drawing graphs, plotting one stellar characteristic against another to test their interdependence. Like many but not all of his contemporaries, Hertzsprung saw the Draper spectral classification as a temperature gradient: The blue-white O stars were the hottest, the red M the coolest.
Switched On: My Journey From Asperger's to Emotional Awakening by John Elder Robison
With a billion neurons per cubic inch, a fist-sized chunk of brain has far more latent computing power than any device ever built by man. Maybe we’ve just got the gift of harnessing it in a particular way. “Do you think my ability to visualize musical waves is like the calendar-calculating ability some other autistic people have?” I asked Alvaro. “I don’t know,” he answered. “We don’t know how that works either, so it’s impossible to tell if they are the same or related.” Consider Isaac Newton, widely acclaimed as the inventor of calculus. Several recent articles suggest that he was autistic, as they point to signs of autism in accounts of his behaviour. We can’t ever know that for sure, but I had a flash of insight into how he perhaps “invented” calculus. Maybe he saw waves in his head, like I do. But he lived in a time when there were no oscilloscopes or electronic aids to visualization.
As Howard Gardner first wrote decades ago in Multiple Intelligences, there are a variety of distinct intellectual capacities and orientations that contribute to our understanding of ourselves and our place in society. Sometimes, a touch of disability is what makes us great. Consider a few historical figures who were touched by autism, serious eccentricity, or some other disability in addition to their well-recognized gifts: Leonardo da Vinci Michelangelo Ludwig van Beethoven Isaac Newton Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Albert Einstein Today, we might add to the list folks like Bill Gates and Dan Aykroyd.* Where would we be if we’d made those people “normal” in childhood? As Temple Grandin says, “We’d be living in caves and using our social skills to tell each other jokes by firelight.” My vote is for a renaissance in which psychology, psychiatry, neurology, and radiology (with the latest brain imaging techniques) come together to achieve unprecedented success in treating formerly untreatable neurological differences and disorders.
Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Donald Trump, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, uranium enrichment, Yogi Berra
In the early fourteenth century, the Parisian philosopher Jean Buridan drew on the concept of mass when he described how throwing an object gave it an impetus that depended on how much matter it contained and the speed at which it was lobbed.3 The sixteenth-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler took things further, arguing that planets stayed true to their orbits and didn’t hurtle around space like scattered snooker balls thanks to the inertia arising from their enormous masses. Despite the valuable work of early philosophers and astronomers, the term “mass” was not used systematically until 1687, when Isaac Newton laid the foundations of classical mechanics in a great but wholly impenetrable work, the Principia.4 Newton said mass was a quantity of matter that arose from an object’s volume and density. An object’s mass governed its inertia, or how much it resisted being pushed around, and also how strongly it felt the force of gravity. With these definitions in place, Newton derived the basic laws of motion.
Throughout the war, scientists made headway with an experimental technique called nuclear fission. Fission reactions release energy by splitting atoms of uranium and other materials. The Allied and Axis powers both knew that with the right expertise it was possible to create a chain reaction and release an enormous amount of energy from countless atoms in one devastating blast. Paul Dirac spent the war years at Cambridge as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, the job that Isaac Newton had held more than 250 years earlier and that Stephen Hawking would assume 40 years later. Dirac worked briefly on confidential techniques to make weapons-grade uranium, which fed into the Manhattan Project, the U.S. atomic bomb effort led by Robert Oppenheimer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Dirac mostly avoided military research, though, instead grappling with the challenges of being an academic at Cambridge.
The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization by Richard Baldwin
3D printing, additive manufacturing, Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, air freight, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, bilateral investment treaty, Branko Milanovic, buy low sell high, call centre, Columbian Exchange, Commodity Super-Cycle, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, domestication of the camel, Edward Glaeser, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial intermediation, George Gilder, global supply chain, global value chain, Henri Poincaré, imperial preference, industrial robot, invention of agriculture, invention of the telegraph, investor state dispute settlement, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Dyson, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Lao Tzu, low skilled workers, market fragmentation, New Economic Geography, out of africa, paper trading, Pax Mongolica, profit motive, rent-seeking, reshoring, Richard Florida, rising living standards, Second Machine Age, Simon Kuznets, Skype, Snapchat, Stephen Hawking, telepresence, telerobotics, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, trade route, Washington Consensus
Endogenous Growth Takeoffs and Economic Geography The static NEG reasoning discussed hereto is a useful indicator as to the direction things may move, but globalization’s headline events involved growth rates—not just one-off shifts. Fortunately, connecting location and growth is quite simple. The big breakthrough Paul Romer made when he launched the endogenous growth theory in the 1980s was conceptual and mathematical. The mathematical part is of no interest here and the conceptual part is so simple it is hard to believe no one had thought of it before Romer. In fact, it is related to Isaac Newton’s well-known phrase, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”2 Or in today’s more prosaic phraseology, knowledge creation generates “spillovers” that make future innovation easier. Think of each innovation as creating two types of knowledge. The first bit is quite specific and directly remunerated—call it a “patent.” The second bit is more diffuse in the sense that it advances the general state of knowledge and thus makes it easier to innovate, but no one can patent this knowledge—it is a public good.
The next step is to get distance into the story line so that we can think about the growth implication of falling trade costs (in the first unbundling) and falling communications cost (in the second unbundling). Romer’s framework had no distance lever for globalization to pull, but more recent work has bolted on a few such levers. Growth in a Global Economy Distance matters for innovation and growth; Isaac Newton’s innovators can’t get up onto the shoulders of giants if the giants are too far away. Putting this sort of consideration into the framework was done when Gene Grossman and Elhanan Helpman took endogenous growth theory to an international setting in their 1991 book Innovation and Growth in the Global Economy.4 Again, the key insight is simplicity itself. They allowed the growth-promoting knowledge spillovers to cross borders, but only imperfectly.
Locke: A Very Short Introduction by John Dunn
The extent of this impact was, no doubt, largely a consequence simply of the range of experience which Shaftesbury’s service opened up to Locke, the quite new practical vision of the social and political world with which it presented him. But it is clear, too, that it was a deeply personal impact. In the course of his life Locke had many close friends and very many more friends who, if less close, were also men and women of great power or wealth or very high intelligence: political grandees like Pembroke and Somers, scientists like Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton, theologians like Limborch. However much he liked and respected Locke as a man, Shaftesbury was, of course, very much master as well as friend. But lop-sided though their friendship plainly was, it did not lack emotional energy; and over those 16 years it is clear that his great patron made Locke into a very different man. 3. Locke’s great patron, first Earl of Shaftesbury, leading minister, and later bitter opponent, of Charles II.
The London Compendium by Ed Glinert
1960s counterculture, anti-communist, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, British Empire, Corn Laws, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Exxon Valdez, hiring and firing, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, John Snow's cholera map, Khartoum Gordon, Mahatma Gandhi, Nick Leeson, price stability, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, the market place, trade route, union organizing, V2 rocket
west side: Cornhill to Norton Folgate South Sea Company, corner with Threadneedle Street One of the most spectacular financial crashes in London history befell the South Sea Company, formed in 1711 to trade with Spanish America and provide the region with slaves, after a bill was passed in 1720 allowing people who were owed portions of the national debt by the government to exchange their claims for shares in company stock. The directors of the South Sea Company took on around three-fifths of the national debt – £9 million – resulting in considerable speculation in company stock, with shares rising in value from £100 to £1,000 and speculators trying to win finance for impossible projects. When the bubble burst in September 1720 many investors were ruined. Isaac Newton, the leading English scientist of the era, had sold £7,000-worth of stock the previous April at 100 per cent profit but had then unwisely re-entered the market and lost £20,000, which led him to comment: ‘I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.’ Some of those found guilty were thrown in the Tower. The Postmaster-General, James Craggs the Elder, who was blamed for the fiasco, killed himself shortly before his trial
New Connaught Rooms (former Freemasons Tavern), Nos. 61–65, south side Banqueting rooms with a long and varied history, the New Connaught Rooms stand on the site of the seventeenth-century Conway House, the residency of the Lord Chancellor, whose best-known incumbent of the period, Heneage Finch, hid the Great Seal of England under his pillow to prevent its theft. In 1774 Conway House was replaced by the Freemasons Tavern which soon became a popular venue for public meetings. Thomas Taylor, a vehement opponent of Isaac Newton’s scientific theories, gave a lecture here on the subject of perpetual light, using supposedly ‘everlasting’ lamps filled with phosphorus, but succeeding in little more than setting light to the room. On 28 October 1863 the Football Association was founded here by eleven clubs – Barnes, Blackheath, Black-heath Proprietary School, Crystal Palace, Crusaders, Forest (Leytonstone), Kensington School, No Names Kilburn, Perceval House (Blackheath), Surbiton and War Office.
Named after Henry Jermyn, the seventeenth-century Earl of St Albans – the poet Andrew Marvell claimed he looked like a butcher with ‘drayman’s shoulders’ – who was granted a sixty-year Crown lease on 45 acres of land in St James’s Fields in 1660, the street was laid out in the 1680s, a relief at No. 73 showing Charles II, who was then on the throne, handing the deeds to Jermyn. Past residents of what is now an almost entirely commercial street include the scientist Isaac Newton, who lived at No. 87 from 1696 to 1710, and the poet Thomas Gray. At No.40 is the exclusive nightclub Tramps. The Mall A grand boulevard central to state ceremonies and usually filled with tourists on their way to Buckingham Palace, it was cut through St James’s Park in 1660 by Charles II as a pitch for the game of paille-maille, with two long avenues of trees in the French style. By the eighteenth century it had become a haunt of prostitutes and robbers, but was cleaned up between 1904 and 1907.
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, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, gravity well, Henri Poincaré, invention of radio, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, strikebreaker, University of East Anglia
Yet this was a momentous piece of journalism, and it helped to propel Einstein from relative obscurity in Berlin to international celebrity; soon, his moustachioed face and frizzled mane of black hair were familiar to newspaper readers all over the world. The unsigned article reported the apparent verification of a theory by Einstein that ‘would completely revolutionize the accepted fundamental physics’ and thereby overturn the ideas of Isaac Newton that had held sway for over two centuries.26 The observations were made by two teams of British astronomers who had found that the deflection by the Sun of distant starlight during the recent solar eclipse was consistent with Einstein’s theory but not Newton’s. When he was an old man, Dirac remembered this as a time of special excitement: ‘Suddenly Einstein was on everyone’s lips […] [E] veryone was sick and tired of the war.
In the summer of 1969, Dirac prepared to leave his post and say his goodbyes to the few friends left in Cambridge, including Charlie Broad, the philosopher who gave him his first proper introduction to the theory of relativity. Broad, aged eighty-one, still lived in Trinity College, where he died two years later. On Tuesday 30 September, Dirac spent his final day in Cambridge as its Lucasian Professor, the most distinguished holder of the Chair since Sir Isaac Newton. Dirac’s retirement passed without ceremony, probably because the university authorities assumed that Dirac would feel uncomfortable if he was the cynosure of a leaving party. This was an error, though an understandable one: Dirac would have liked his contribution to the university to be marked officially as his sense of propriety was, contrary to the impression he gave, stronger than his aversion to ceremony.51 Manci was disgusted.
.), It Must Be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science, London: Granta, pp. 253–7. Weiner, C. (1977) History of Twentieth Century Physics, New York: Academic Press. Weisskopf, V. (1990) The Joy of Insight, New York: Basic Books. Wells, H. G. (2005) The Time Machine, London: Penguin. Wells, J. C. (1982) Accents of English 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Werskey, G. (1978) The Visible College, London: Allen Lane. Westfall, R. S. (1993) The Life of Isaac Newton, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wheeler, J. A. (1985) ‘Physics in Copenhagen in 1934 and 1935’, in A. P. French and P. G. Kennedy (eds), Niels Bohr: A Centenary Volume, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, pp. 221–6. – (1998) Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam, New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Wicker, W. K. (1990) ‘Of Time and Place: The Presidential Odyssey of Dr Henry King Stanford’, Doctor of Education thesis, University of Georgia.
agricultural Revolution, British Empire, Climatic Research Unit, colonial rule, currency manipulation / currency intervention, Defenestration of Prague, Edmond Halley, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, failed state, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, friendly fire, Google Earth, Isaac Newton, Joseph Schumpeter, Khyber Pass, Mercator projection, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Thiel, Republic of Letters, South China Sea, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, unemployed young men, University of East Anglia, World Values Survey
Nehemiah Wallington, a London craftsman who heard (and recorded) this exhortation, rejoiced that ‘by God's mercy I practice it already’, and between 1637 and 1654 he filled eight volumes with his nightly ‘introspections’ on the public and private events that, he believed, reflected ‘God's little mercies’ towards him and those who shared his faith. In 1660 Samuel Pepys began his celebrated Diary as a spiritual journal and balance sheet, while at Whitsunday 1662, Isaac Newton (then a 19-year-old student at Cambridge) compiled a list of the 49 sins he could remember committing to that date – most of them involved disrespecting the Sabbath in some way, and beating people. (Interestingly, both Pepys and Newton compiled his record in shorthand, no doubt ‘to conceal thoughts that he wished to set down for his own edification alone’.)22 A generation later, the Reverend Gervase Disney saw no need for concealment, noting in his diary in longhand the ‘mercies’ and misfortunes of each day.
The last (and most popular) work written by Francis Bacon, Sylva sylvarum, contained a chapter on telepathy, wart-charming and witchcraft; William Harvey carried out ‘experiments’ to see whether or not those who claimed to be witches had supernumerary nipples or ‘familiars’ who performed supernatural tricks; while Robert Boyle sponsored a treatise to prove the existence of witchcraft (like Bacon, the last book he wrote examined the supernatural). Even Isaac Newton, knighted by the queen of England for his services to science, bought many books on magic, conducted alchemical experiments, and calculated from the Book of Daniel that the world ‘will end A.C. [AD] 2060. It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner.’67 The appearance of two comets in 1664–5 spawned well over 100 publications, most of them filled with dire predictions of war, plague, famine, drought, gales, floods, the death of princes, the downfall of governments, and perhaps the end of the world.
It was only because ‘we that live in America know but little of the great motions of Europe, much less in Africa and Asia, until a long time afterwards’ that news of yet more catastrophic consequences had not reached Boston.71 Exactly half a century before, Descartes had expressed the hope that someone would publish in a single book all ‘the observations of comets, with a table of the paths of each one’. He predicted that ‘such a work would be of greater public utility than it might seem at first sight’, but (he continued with a sigh) ‘I have no hope that anyone will do it’ because ‘I think it is a skill beyond the reach of the human mind’. Isaac Newton took up this challenge in the 1680s, carefully copying into his notebooks the descriptions of comets that he found in Aristotle, medieval chronicles and more modern accounts, as well as the observations made by his contemporaries – not only Edmond Halley (who travelled to several European observatories to check their records) and John Flamsteed (the astronomer royal) but also the Jesuit Valentin Stansel from Brazil, the Harvard astronomer Thomas Brattle and his former schoolmate Arthur Storer, now a planter slave-owner in Calvert County, Maryland, who transmitted outstanding observations of the 1682 comet.
carbon footprint, clean water, collective bargaining, dark matter, Deng Xiaoping, Exxon Valdez, Filipino sailors, Google Earth, illegal immigration, indoor plumbing, intermodal, Isaac Newton, means of production, microbiome, Panamax, post-Panamax, profit motive, Skype, statistical model, Thorstein Veblen, traveling salesman
Except that it’s mostly fictional. Aristotle did indeed flee to Chalcis, but the actual cause of his death was an undiagnosed gastrointestinal ailment, brought on, probably, by a funky oyster. In Aristotle’s suicidal confusion, it seems, Bolland and his seventeenth-century oceanographic colleagues saw their own. Just twelve years after Bolland repeated the apocryphal story of Aristotle’s suicide, Isaac Newton finally determined the lunar and solar “Cause of Tydes.” The currents, however, would prove to be an even more maddeningly intractable riddle. “The secrets of the currents in the seas,” Melville observes in Moby-Dick, which unlike most novels includes citations to actual scientific papers, “have never yet been divulged, even to the most erudite research.” By the time Melville died, in 1891, most of the major surface currents had been charted, or at least sketched, but they had yet to be explained.
Prophetically, she added this: “Even with all our modern instruments for probing and sampling the deep ocean, no one now can say that we shall ever resolve the last, the ultimate mysteries of the sea.” Which brings us to mesoscale eddies. In 1960, aboard a one-hundred-foot ketch called the Aries, a British oceanographer named John Swallow sailed northeast out of Bermuda into the Sargasso Sea in search of a vast, deep, and altogether hypothetical northerly current that he was confident he would find. He was confident because a scientist at Woods Hole, Henry Stommel, the Isaac Newton of physical oceanographers, had deduced its existence. Most oceanographers sailed out, collected data, and then interpreted it. Stommel made his most important discoveries on land, with pencil and paper. In 1947, scribbling on a place mat at a roadside diner, he’d mathematically explained the physics of the Gulf Stream. And in the midfifties, once again with pencil and paper, for sound mathematical reasons, he’d hypothesized that beneath the northerly Gulf Stream there must be another fast-moving western boundary current—the Gulf Stream’s shadowy twin, its abyssal, invisible doppelgänger—flowing in the opposite direction, south, toward the equator.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing by Burton G. Malkiel
accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, asset allocation, asset-backed security, backtesting, Bernie Madoff, BRICs, capital asset pricing model, compound rate of return, correlation coefficient, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversification, diversified portfolio, Elliott wave, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental subject, feminist movement, financial innovation, fixed income, framing effect, hindsight bias, Home mortgage interest deduction, index fund, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, margin call, market bubble, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Own Your Own Home, passive investing, pets.com, Ponzi scheme, price stability, profit maximization, publish or perish, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Vanguard fund, zero-coupon bond
The chart below shows the spectacular rise and fall of the stock of the South Sea Company. Government officials tried in vain to restore confidence, and a complete collapse of the public credit was barely averted. Similarly, the price of Mississippi Company shares fell to a pittance as the public realized that an excess of paper currency creates no real wealth, only inflation. Big losers in the South Sea Bubble included Isaac Newton, who exclaimed, “I can calculate the motions of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” So much for castles in the air. To protect the public from further abuses, Parliament passed the Bubble Act, which forbade the issuing of stock certificates by companies. For more than a century, until the act was repealed in 1825, there were relatively few share certificates in the British market.
Although land was scarce in Japan, its manufacturers, such as its auto makers, were finding abundant land for new plants at attractive prices in foreign lands. And rental income had been rising far more slowly than land values, indicating a falling rate of return on real estate. Finally, the low interest rates that had been underpinning the market had already begun to rise in 1989. Much to the distress of those speculators who had concluded that the fundamental laws of financial gravity were not applicable to Japan, Isaac Newton arrived there in 1990. Interestingly, it was the government itself that dropped the apple. The Bank of Japan (Japan’s Federal Reserve) saw the ugly specter of a general inflation stirring amid the borrowing frenzy and the liquidity boom underwriting the rise in land and stock prices. And so the central bank restricted credit and engineered a rise in interest rates. The hope was that further rises in property prices would be choked off and the stock market might be eased downward.
The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio by William J. Bernstein
asset allocation, Bretton Woods, British Empire, buy low sell high, carried interest, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dava Sobel, diversification, diversified portfolio, Edmond Halley, equity premium, estate planning, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial independence, financial innovation, fixed income, German hyperinflation, high net worth, hindsight bias, Hyman Minsky, index fund, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, market bubble, mental accounting, mortgage debt, new economy, pattern recognition, quantitative easing, railway mania, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, South Sea Bubble, transaction costs, Vanguard fund, yield curve
This, then, is the essence of a bubble: a brief period of rising prices and suspended disbelief, which, in turn, supplies large numbers of investors willing to invest in dubious enterprises at absurdly low discount rates and high prices. Bubbles streak across the investment heavens, leaving behind financial destruction and disillusionment, respecting neither intelligence nor social class. Probably the most famous dupe of the South Sea episode was none other than Sir Isaac Newton, who famously remarked, “I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” The Duke’s Failed Romance The first technological marvel that can be properly said to have transformed modern life was the development of large-scale canal transport. In 1758, the Duke of Bridgewater, heartbroken by an unsuccessful romance, concocted the radical notion of building a canal to bring coal from his mines to a group of textile mills 30 miles away.
Since risk and return are just different sides of the same coin, it cannot be any other way. PILLAR THREE The Psychology of Investing The Analyst’s Couch The biggest obstacle to your investment success is staring out at you from your mirror. Human nature overflows with behavioral traits that will rob you faster than an unlucky nighttime turn in Central Park. We discovered in Chapter 5 that raw brainpower alone is not sufficient for investment success, as demonstrated by Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most notable victims of the South Sea Bubble. We have no historical record of William Shakespeare’s investment returns, but I’m willing to bet that, given his keen eye for human foibles, his returns were far better than Sir Isaac’s. In Chapter 7, we identify the biggest culprits. I guarantee you’ll recognize most of these as the face in the looking glass. In Chapter 8, we’ll devise strategies for dealing with them. 7 Misbehavior The investor’s chief problem—and even his worst enemy—is likely to be himself.
The Quants by Scott Patterson
Albert Einstein, asset allocation, automated trading system, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, Black-Scholes formula, Bonfire of the Vanities, Brownian motion, buttonwood tree, buy low sell high, capital asset pricing model, centralized clearinghouse, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, diversification, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, Emanuel Derman, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, fixed income, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Haight Ashbury, index fund, invention of the telegraph, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Nash: game theory, law of one price, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, merger arbitrage, NetJets, new economy, offshore financial centre, Paul Lévy, Ponzi scheme, quantitative hedge fund, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, race to the bottom, random walk, Renaissance Technologies, risk-adjusted returns, Rod Stewart played at Stephen Schwarzman birthday party, Ronald Reagan, Sergey Aleynikov, short selling, South Sea Bubble, speech recognition, statistical arbitrage, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, The Predators' Ball, too big to fail, transaction costs, value at risk, volatility smile, yield curve, éminence grise
It was a charity event, after all. Nearly $2 million in proceeds would go to support a math program for New York City’s public schools—a fitting beneficiary, as the players were Wall Street’s glorified mathletes. Muller, Asness, Griffin, and Weinstein were all quants. Math was the very air they breathed. Even the custom-made poker chips at the event were stamped with the names of mathematical river gods such as Isaac Newton. The potent combination of their mathematical brilliance, feverishly competitive natures, and out-on-the-edge gambling instincts led to an almost fanatical obsession with poker—the odds, the looping mental games, the bluffing (if I bet this much, he’ll think that I think that he thinks …). Asness didn’t take the game as seriously as Muller, Weinstein, and Chris did. He’d picked it up in the past few years after an internal tournament at AQR (which he happened to win).
Amazingly, not one of the quants, despite their chart-topping IQs, their walls of degrees, their impressive Ph.D.’s, their billions of wealth earned by anticipating every bob and weave the market threw their way, their decades studying every statistical quirk of the market under the sun, saw the train wreck coming. How could they have missed it? What went wrong? A hint to the answer was captured centuries ago by a man whose name emblazoned the poker chips the quants wagered with that night: Isaac Newton. After losing £20,000 on a vast Ponzi scheme known as the South Sea Bubble in 1720, Newton observed: “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.” Just past 5:00 A.M. on a spring Saturday in 1961, the sun was about to dawn on a small, ratty casino in Reno, Nevada. But inside there was perpetual darkness punctuated by the glow of neon lights. A blackjack player sat at an otherwise empty table, down $100 and exhausted.
The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski
business climate, Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Khartoum Gordon, Menlo Park, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen
Thus, as pencil makers were using up the last and the best of their previously mined stocks of imperfect Cumberland lead, the artist was finding it difficult to get a top-quality pencil. Yet in spite of the material’s near-extinction, a large lump of unprocessed Cumberland graphite was on display in the Crystal Palace, and Hunt’s Hand-Book did not hesitate to make a natural philosophical connection between the dark plumbago and the sparkling object in a neighboring display: The diamond, as Sir Isaac Newton conjectured from its high refracting power, is a combustible body. The researches of Lavoisier, and others, have shown that this gem is nothing more than pure carbon, and under the influence of the voltaic battery diamonds have recently been converted into coke. The plumbago, which is in the adjoining bay, and the coke but a short distance from it, differ only in physical condition; in chemical constitution they are similar to the diamond.
History of Strength of Materials: With a Brief Account of the History of Theory of Elasticity and Theory of Structures. 1953 edition. New York, 1983. Todhunter, I., and K. Pearson. A History of the Theory of Elasticity and of the Strength of Materials from Galilei to Lord Kelvin. 1886 edition. New York, 1960. Townes, Jane. “Please, Some Respect for the Pencil,” Specialty Advertising Business, March 1983: 61–63. Turnbull, H. W., editor. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton. Vol. 1: 1661–1675. Cambridge, 1959. Turner, Gerard L’E. “Scientific Toys,” The British Journal for the History of Science, 20 (1987): 377–98. Turner, Roland, and Steven L. Goulden, editors. Great Engineers and Pioneers in Technology. Vol 1: From Antiquity through the Industrial Revolution. New York, 1981. Ullman, David G., Larry A. Stauffer, and Thomas G. Dietterich. “Toward Expert CAD,” Computers in Mechanical Engineering, November-December 1987: 56–70.
Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, cellular automata, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, Danny Hillis, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, fudge factor, George Gilder, Gödel, Escher, Bach, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, information retrieval, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, Law of Accelerating Returns, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, the medium is the message, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Whole Earth Review, Y2K
—Peter Atkins The further backward you look, the further forward you can see. —Winston Churchill We’ll come back to the knee of the curve, but let’s delve further into the exponential nature of time. In the nineteenth century, a set of unifying principles called the laws of thermodynamics6 was postulated. As the name implies, they deal with the dynamic nature of heat and were the first major refinement of the laws of classical mechanics perfected by Isaac Newton a century earlier. Whereas Newton had described a world of clockwork perfection in which particles and objects of all sizes followed highly disciplined, predictable patterns, the laws of thermodynamics describe a world of chaos. Indeed, that is what heat is. Heat is the chaotic—unpredictable—movement of the particles that make up the world. A corollary of the second law of thermodynamics is that in a closed system (interacting entities and forces not subject to outside influence; for example, the Universe), disorder (called “entropy”) increases.
Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1986. Weiss, Sholom M. and Casimir A. Kulikowski. A Practical Guide to Designing Expert Systems. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld, 1984. Weizenbaum, Joseph. Computer Power and Human Reason. San Francisco: W H. Freeman, 1976. Werner, Gerhard. “Cognition as Self-Organizing Process.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10,2:183. Westfall, Richard. Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980. White, K. D. Greek and Roman Technology. London: Thames and Hudson, 1984. Whitehead, Alfred N. and Bertrand Russell. Principia Mathematica. 3 vols. Second ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1925-1927. Wick, David. The Infamous Boundary: Seven Decades of Heresy in Quantum Physics. Boston: Birkhauser, 1995. Wiener, Norbert. Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine.
Capitalism 4.0: The Birth of a New Economy in the Aftermath of Crisis by Anatole Kaletsky
bank run, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, bonus culture, Bretton Woods, BRICs, Carmen Reinhart, cognitive dissonance, collapse of Lehman Brothers, Corn Laws, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, currency manipulation / currency intervention, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deglobalization, Deng Xiaoping, Edward Glaeser, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, experimental economics, F. W. de Klerk, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, floating exchange rates, full employment, George Akerlof, global rebalancing, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, laissez-faire capitalism, Long Term Capital Management, mandelbrot fractal, market design, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, oil shock, paradox of thrift, peak oil, pets.com, Ponzi scheme, post-industrial society, price stability, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative easing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, rent-seeking, reserve currency, rising living standards, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, short selling, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, special drawing rights, statistical model, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, Washington Consensus
CHAPTER EIGHT The Ring of Finance Technically, this is 1929. The only question is whether the Depression of 1930 will follow. —George Soros, October 1987, twenty years before the subprime crisis The collapse of the global marketplace would be a traumatic event with unimaginable consequences. Yet I find it easier to imagine than the continuation of the present regime.1 —George Soros, February 1995, twelve years before the subprime crisis SIR ISAAC NEWTON was not just the world’s greatest mathematician and scientist. He was also Master of the Royal Mint in London from 1699 to 1727, a period that took in the South Sea Bubble, perhaps the most notorious of all the booms and busts that have punctuated financial history. With his incomparable intellect and his access to what today might be called insider information, he invested in the South Sea Company and cashed out his shares with a 100 percent profit in April 1720, judging that their price had advanced too far.
In short, conventional wisdom may have confused the trend with the cycle or, to put it more figuratively, the voice with the megaphone. It seems presumptuous to suggest that some of the most successful and thoughtful financiers of their generation may have misunderstood the nature of an extreme financial cycle. But history shows that such things often happen. If this turns out to be true, Soros and El-Erian would be in excellent company, with Isaac Newton no less. Part II began with the investors’ adage that “this time is different” are the four most expensive words in the English language and noted that all financial booms are created by a belief that the world has changed in a way never seen before. This is a good reason to be suspicious of extravagant claims made at times of financial euphoria. Often forgotten, however, is that a similar scepticism needs to be exercised in financial slumps.
bioinformatics, British Empire, Claude Shannon: information theory, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, double helix, Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society, full text search, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, linear programming, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nate Silver, p-value, placebo effect, prediction markets, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, speech recognition, statistical model, stochastic process, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, uranium enrichment, Yom Kippur War
In 1731 he wrote a pamphlet—a kind of blog—declaring that God gives people “the greatest happiness of which they are capable.” During his 40s, Bayes’ interests in mathematics and theology began to tightly intertwine. An Irish-Anglican bishop—George Berkeley, for whom the University of California’s flagship campus is named—published an inflammatory pamphlet attacking Dissenting mathematicians, calculus, abstract mathematics, the revered Isaac Newton, and all other “free-thinkers” and “infidel mathematicians” who believed that reason could illuminate any subject. Berkeley’s pamphlet was the most spectacular event in British mathematics during the 1700s. Leaping into the pamphlet wars again, Bayes published a piece defending and explaining Newton’s calculus. This was his only mathematical publication during his lifetime. Shortly thereafter, in 1742, five men, including a close friend of Newton’s, nominated Bayes for membership in the Royal Society.
And he compared three hypotheses about the orbits of 100 comets to confirm what he already knew: that the comets most probably originate within the sun’s sphere of influence. After the fall of Napoleon, France’s new king, Louis XVIII, bestowed the hereditary title of marquis on Laplace, the son of a village innkeeper. And on March 5, 1827, at the age of 78, Laplace died, almost exactly 100 years after his idol, Isaac Newton. Eulogies hailed Laplace as the Newton of France. He had brought modern science to students, governments, and the reading public and had developed probability into a formidable method for handling unknown and complex causes of natural phenomena. And in one small, relatively insignificant portion of his lifework he became the first to express and use what is now called Bayes’ rule. With it, he updated old knowledge with new, explained phenomena that previous centuries had ascribed to chance or to God’s will, and opened the way for future scientific exploration.
The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel by Nicholas Ostler
barriers to entry, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, Internet Archive, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, open economy, Republic of Letters, Scramble for Africa, statistical model, trade route, upwardly mobile
It was not always this way round. In the High Middle Ages, when even little birds were said to sing “in their own Latin,” Latin was rather the cliché for a universal language, while lingua franca was a striking new turn of phrase. Human life has been moving noticeably faster for some centuries now, opening up possibilities that we know to be unprecedented. We have a sense, absent in the eras of Caesar, Christ, or Isaac Newton, that something really is new under the sun, that inventions are taken up and change ways of life, that innovations accumulate and move life as it is lived all over our planet into quite different pathways. To quote just one example—striking because its elemental significance is already almost forgotten— consider the technology of horsepower. This had provided a sustained and sustainable basis for long-distance overland transport since the dawn of recorded history, in a variety of human civilizations, over at least 150 generations: one thing that the worlds of Sennacherib, Ashoka, and Alexander had in common with those of the Duke of Wellington, Simón Bolívar, and Robert E.
His protests were in vain, of course.32 This decline of Latin, like the retreat of Sanskrit before the advance of courtly Persian in India, is a classic example of the loss of a lingua-franca through the diminishing influence of the elite that had spoken it. But in this case the motive was social and intellectual, rather than the long-term effect of an alien invasion. No one ever abolished Latin in early modern Europe; even in 1687 Sir Isaac Newton still thought it advisable to have his Principia published in it. But he was the last major British scientist or philos opher to do so. In a time of great politi cal and intellectual change, Latin had remained firmly associated with tradition and the past. Although its use fell away at different speeds in different places, and in different subjects (German mathematicians such as Gauss, for example, were still using Latin until the mid-nineteenth century), it nowhere survived to develop, or even transmit, the radical new ideas that transformed all the natural and life sciences in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.
Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology by Kentaro Toyama
Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, blood diamonds, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, computer vision, conceptual framework, delayed gratification, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fundamental attribution error, germ theory of disease, global village, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Khan Academy, Kibera, knowledge worker, libertarian paternalism, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, microcredit, mobile money, Nicholas Carr, North Sea oil, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, randomized controlled trial, rent-seeking, RFID, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, school vouchers, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, technoutopianism, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Upton Sinclair, Walter Mischel, War on Poverty, winner-take-all economy, World Values Survey, Y2K
My parents were nerds at heart, possibly reflecting the stereotypical Japanese fascination with science and technology. On birthdays, they gave me Lego blocks and Erector sets. I have fond memories of playing with a clever Japanese toy called Denshi Burokku. It consisted of analog electronics embedded in plastic cubes that you could arrange and rearrange to build lie detectors and radios.16 By the seventh grade, I was programming an Apple II personal computer. My bookshelves were filled with biographies of Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, and the Wright brothers as well as titles such as How Things Work and Tell Me Why. One book that left a deep impression on me described Russian efforts to build a fusion reactor. When I was growing up in the 1970s, a series of energy crises caused long lines at gas stations and an adult obsession with turning off lights. These developments seemed connected to world events that caused furrows in President Jimmy Carter’s brow every time he appeared on TV.
Indian religions stressed karmic forces and spiritual advancement. Before the Enlightenment, major civilizations came and went on all the continents except Antarctica. None of them, though, built anything like the rich intellectual edifice on which the modern world was constructed.61 History has its twists and turns, but you can draw a straight line from the ideas of the Enlightenment to the contemporary world. Isaac Newton and others paved a highway for science and technology with their explorations into the laws of motion and electromagnetism. Baruch Spinoza and Jean-Jacques Rousseau laid the philosophical cornerstones of modern democracy. John Locke’s arguments for property rights and Adam Smith’s analysis of markets undergird contemporary capitalism. And thanks to those foundations, some portion of the world gained more prosperity, justice, dignity, freedom, happiness, and peace than any civilization that came before.
accounting loophole / creative accounting, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, Atahualpa, balance sheet recession, bank run, banking crisis, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, British Empire, California gold rush, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, centre right, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, credit crunch, currency manipulation / currency intervention, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Etonian, eurozone crisis, fiat currency, financial innovation, floating exchange rates, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, German hyperinflation, hiring and firing, income inequality, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, labour market flexibility, market bubble, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, new economy, oil shock, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, price mechanism, quantitative easing, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, War on Poverty, Yom Kippur War
The already phenomenally rich Duke of Marlborough, the greatest general of the age, had, on the urging of his canny wife Sarah, sold his £27,000 holding for £100,000.33 The Duchess of Portland shrewdly instructed her broker to buy as much as he could with the money she gave him and to ‘sell it out again next week’.34 Many were ruined, however. The Duke of Chandos lost a paper fortune of £700,000, while, more grievously still, Sir Justus Beck, a director of the Bank of England, went bankrupt owing £347,000; Sir Isaac Newton, the great scientist, lost £20,000 by selling too early and then buying back into the shares at their peak.35 There were political casualties, as many of the leading political figures such as Aislabie, the Chancellor, and Craggs, the Secretary of State, had been suspected of taking shares in the company and then using their parliamentary position to talk up the share price. Walpole emerged at the head of the government.
It did not apply to those who had lent their money after February 1797. Yet of course the resumption would mean that, in future, interest payments could be convertible to gold. The committee recommended a resumption on the basis of the ‘ancient and permanent standard of value’. This would later be known as the ‘gold standard’. That an ounce of gold was worth £3 17s 10½d became another totem of British high finance.2 This in fact had been the value which Sir Isaac Newton, the great physicist, had established more than a century before in 1717, when he was Master of the Mint. Peel’s diligence as Chairman of the committee would shame many modern parliamentarians. The committee began taking evidence on 11 February 1819 and continued until 1 May. After sifting through all the matter with ‘the same attention, as he said, that he would give to the proof of a proposition in mathematics’, Peel, writing to an old Oxford tutor, was convinced that the ‘system of paper money had resulted in a depreciation of the currency, an increase in the price of bullion, and an unfavourable rate of exchange in the foreign markets’.
Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, Basel III, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, bitcoin, Black Swan, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, Bretton Woods, call centre, capital asset pricing model, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, cognitive dissonance, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, cross-subsidies, dematerialisation, diversification, diversified portfolio, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Elon Musk, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, Flash crash, forward guidance, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, George Akerlof, German hyperinflation, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Growth in a Time of Debt, income inequality, index fund, inflation targeting, interest rate derivative, interest rate swap, invention of the wheel, Irish property bubble, Isaac Newton, London Whale, Long Term Capital Management, loose coupling, low cost carrier, M-Pesa, market design, millennium bug, mittelstand, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, Nick Leeson, Northern Rock, obamacare, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, oil shock, passive investing, peer-to-peer lending, performance metric, Peter Thiel, Piper Alpha, Ponzi scheme, price mechanism, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, railway mania, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, regulatory arbitrage, Renaissance Technologies, rent control, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, The Great Moderation, The Market for Lemons, the market place, The Myth of the Rational Market, the payments system, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tobin tax, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, Upton Sinclair, Vanguard fund, Washington Consensus, We are the 99%, Yom Kippur War
Barclays’ Diamond would be engulfed by a scandal invoking false disclosure of his bank’s cost of funds – the LIBOR scandal – and the Bank of England enforced his resignation. Politicians and public began to suspect that the recurrent crises of the finance sector were not simply the result of unexpected and unpredictable events, but symptomatic of deep-seated problems with the culture of the financial services industry. They were right. From crisis to crisis I can predict the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of crowds. Isaac Newton18 Speculative booms and busts have recurred throughout financial history. In the 1630s Dutch merchants pushed the price of tulips to levels at which a prize bulb was as valuable as a house. A century later, the cream of English society participated in the South Sea Bubble. In the 1840s railway mania seized the public imagination. The 1920s saw boom and bust in stock and land values and ended in the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression.
In the new economy bubble some early-stage investors made money, but most stayed on in the hope of making still more. Even highly intelligent people overestimate their ability to time the correction of market mispricing. Legendary investors such as Julian Robertson and George Soros misjudged the new economy bubble and damaged their reputations. Warren Buffett stayed resolutely on the sidelines, and was derided for his failure to ‘get it’. Isaac Newton famously lost money in the South Sea Bubble, an early Ponzi scheme. As the new economy bubble expanded, I asked myself often, ‘Do people in financial conglomerates selling products really believe these things, or are they cynical in their deception?’ I came to realise that the truth lay somewhere in between: neither naïveté nor fraud provided sufficient explanation. It was convenient to repeat the received opinions of organisations and colleagues.
8-hour work day, Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, call centre, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, game design, hive mind, index card, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Mahatma Gandhi, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, popular electronics, Ralph Waldo Emerson, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rosa Parks, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, telemarketer, The Wisdom of Crowds, traveling salesman, Walter Mischel, web application, white flight
That was a story about me. I was my own first client. * Answer key: exercise: extroverts; commit adultery: extroverts; function well without sleep: introverts; learn from our mistakes: introverts; place big bets: extroverts; delay gratification: introverts; be a good leader: in some cases introverts, in other cases extroverts, depending on the type of leadership called for; ask “what if”: introverts. * Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, W. B. Yeats, Frédéric Chopin, Marcel Proust, J. M. Barrie, George Orwell, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Charles Schulz, Steven Spielberg, Larry Page, J. K. Rowling. * This is an informal quiz, not a scientifically validated personality test. The questions were formulated based on characteristics of introversion often accepted by contemporary researchers. Part One THE EXTROVERT IDEAL 1 THE RISE OF THE “MIGHTY LIKEABLE FELLOW” How Extroversion Became the Cultural Ideal Strangers’ eyes, keen and critical.
(But note some good news for introverts: slow speech can be perceived as honest and benevolent, according to other studies.) 17. the voluble are considered smarter: Delroy L. Paulhus and Kathy L. Morgan, “Perceptions of Intelligence in Leaderless Groups: The Dynamic Effects of Shyness and Acquaintance,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72, no. 3 (1997): 581–91. 18. one informal study: Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2008), 3–4. 19. the theory of gravity: Gale E. Christianson, Isaac Newton (Oxford University Press, Lives and Legacies Series, 2005). 20. the theory of relativity: Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 4, 12, 18, 2, 31, etc. 21. W. B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming”: Michael Fitzgerald, The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts (London: Jessica Kingsley, 2005), 69. See also Ira Progoff, Jung’s Psychology and Its Social Meaning (London: Routledge, 1999), 111–12. 22.
They Gave Me a Seafire by Commander R 'Mike' Crosley Dsc Rn
We could then stay in the air for about three and a half hours and, except for bombs or rockets, take part in all the strikes and all operations on a par with the Corsairs and Hellcats in the other carriers. Chapter 22 The Final Onslaught During the next few days at Manus we collected eight new pilots. Only two of these new pilots could be trained up and made use of in time for the forthcoming operations. They were S/Lts Jimmy Sheeran and ‘Isaac’ Newton. They had already been acclimatised at Puttalam in Ceylon. On 25 June we steamed out of Manus yet again and, taking on a few replacement Seafires and Fireflies from Ponam, we set course for the south. We were making our second rendezvous with Admiral Vian who was coming up from Sydney in Formidable. We planned to give Formidable and Victorious (Indefatigable was delayed in Sydney) a shake-up which they would long remember.
At this moment, Mike Banyard and his Number 2 — Newton — suddenly reported only seven gallons left. As this was only enough for seven minutes aviation, I asked the Yanks for a quick pancake. They replied: “Limey chickens, join Eagle 1 (Essex) traffic now. You will be number one to land. Over.” “Eagle 1, Limey Seafire Leader. We have only two. Over.” “Limey chicken leader, we’ll take any number you have in mind. Come straight in. Out.” So Mike (‘Iron Swede’) Banyard and ‘Isaac’ Newton landed aboard Essex. (His story of life aboard an American carrier is at Appendix 12.) I turned out early next morning 11 August and consulted the oracle in the Ops room. Two hours later at 0530, it became clear that we should have to supply two Seafires all day as ‘strapped-in’ deck standby. We longed for some definite sign of peace or war. Indecision was beginning to get on our nerves. We went to bed early every night ready for an 0330 turn-out the next morning — just in case we might be needed.
Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance by Ian Goldin, Chris Kutarna
2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Bonfire of the Vanities, clean water, collective bargaining, Colonization of Mars, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Dava Sobel, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, Doha Development Round, double helix, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, experimental economics, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, full employment, Galaxy Zoo, global supply chain, Hyperloop, immigration reform, income inequality, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, information retrieval, intermodal, Internet of things, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, labour market flexibility, low cost carrier, low skilled workers, Lyft, Malacca Straits, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral hazard, Network effects, New Urbanism, non-tariff barriers, Occupy movement, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, open economy, Panamax, personalized medicine, Peter Thiel, post-Panamax, profit motive, rent-seeking, reshoring, Robert Gordon, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart grid, Snapchat, special economic zone, spice trade, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stuxnet, TaskRabbit, too big to fail, trade liberalization, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, uranium enrichment, We are the 99%, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, working poor, working-age population, zero day
In 1610, this question prompted Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) to point a recent Dutch invention (the telescope) skywards and gather fresh evidence from the phases of Venus and the moons of Jupiter. How best to describe a planet’s orbit? As an ellipse, Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) discovered. He derived three laws of planetary motion that made new almanacs accurate to within two-tenths of a degree.* And why, if the Earth really were spinning through space, could no one feel it? Inertia, answered Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727)—and the answer became the first of his Three Laws of Motion. The impact of Copernicus’s work extended far beyond the time horizon of the Renaissance and far beyond astronomy. He laid a fresh foundation atop which all modern physics was built. When genius became general We label this rare class of achievement “genius,” and during the Renaissance, it became startlingly common.
The ripple that threatens to capsize chip-makers is the probabilistic nature of very small particles, like the electrons they send streaming through transistors. In classical physics something is either there or it isn’t. But in the subatomic realm of electrons, quarks and gluons, nature isn’t like that at all. An electron doesn’t occupy a single place. Rather, it occupies all possible places simultaneously—until we look at it, at which moment it does settle in a single place. Where we find it in that moment isn’t set by Isaac Newton’s laws of cause and effect, but rather by laws of probability. Most of the time it’s where Newton would expect, but sometimes it’s not. This weird indeterminacy is completely contrary to our experience and intuition. “God does not play dice,” Albert Einstein, a skeptic of quantum mechanics, famously declared (to which Niels Bohr, a believer, replied, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”).
The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought by Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, Peter Schwartz
affirmative action, Berlin Wall, British Empire, business process, cuban missile crisis, haute cuisine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, laissez-faire capitalism, means of production, medical malpractice, profit motive, Ralph Nader, Ronald Reagan, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transcontinental railway, urban renewal, War on Poverty
The lunar landing was not the greatest achievement of science, but its greatest visible result. The greatest achievements of science are invisible: they take place in a man’s mind; they occur in the form of a connection integrating a broad range of phenomena. The astronaut of an earlier mission who remarked that his spacecraft was driven by Sir Isaac Newton understood this issue. (And if I may be permitted to amend that remark, I would say that Sir Isaac Newton was the copilot of the flight; the pilot was Aristotle.) In this sense, the lunar landing was a first step, a beginning, in regard to the moon, but it was a last step, an end product, in regard to the earth—the end product of a long, intellectual-scientific development. This does not diminish in any way the intellectual stature, power, or achievement of the technologists and the astronauts; it merely indicates that they were the worthy recipients of an illustrious heritage, who made full use of it by the exercise of their own individual ability.
Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her by Rowland White, Richard Truly
It was an awkward-looking cluster of space plane, fuel tank and strap-on booster rockets that looked unlike any other rocket ever built. There were good reasons for this, the physics of which had been understood for hundreds of years. In July 1687, sixty copies of a freshly printed new book were dispatched from London to Cambridge by horse and cart. The volume’s title was Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, and its author, Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientific minds of all time. A fellow of Trinity College, Newton was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and Principia was his masterpiece, establishing laws of motion and gravity that have both underpinned classical physics and provided the foundation for all rocketry and spaceflight ever since. His three-volume Principia was deliberately not presented as a work of popular science.
NASA, 1999. Dyson, George. Project Orion. Allen Lane, 2002. Ellis, Warren, and Colleen Doran, with Dave Stewart. Orbiter. DC Comics, 2003. Evans, Ben. Space Shuttle Columbia. Springer-Praxis, 2005. Gainor, Chris. Arrows to the Moon. Apogee Books, 2001. Gatland, Kenneth. The Illustrated Book of Space Technology. Salamander, 1981. Gertner, Jon. The Idea Factory. Penguin Books, 2012. Gleick, James. Isaac Newton. Fourth Estate, 2003. Godwin, Robert, ed. Space Shuttle STS Flights 1–5: The NASA Mission Reports. Apogee Books, 2001. Gordon, Yefim, and Bill Gunston. Soviet X-Planes. Midland, 2000. Graham, Richard H. SR-71 Revealed. MBI, 1996. Gray, Mike. Angle of Attack. Norton, 1992. Grey, Jerry. Enterprise. William Morrow, 1979. Gunston, Bill. Faster Than Sound. Patrick Stephens Limited, 1992. ———.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
23andMe, agricultural Revolution, algorithmic trading, Anne Wojcicki, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, call centre, Chris Urmson, cognitive dissonance, Columbian Exchange, computer age, Deng Xiaoping, don't be evil, European colonialism, experimental subject, falling living standards, Flash crash, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, glass ceiling, global village, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, Kevin Kelly, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Minecraft, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, mutually assured destruction, new economy, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, placebo effect, Ray Kurzweil, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, too big to fail, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, ultimatum game, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!
In 1900 global life expectancy was no higher than forty because many people died young from malnutrition, infectious diseases and violence. Yet those who escaped famine, plague and war could live well into their seventies and eighties, which is the natural life span of Homo sapiens. Contrary to common notions, seventy-year-olds weren’t considered rare freaks of nature in previous centuries. Galileo Galilei died at seventy-seven, Isaac Newton at eighty-four, and Michelangelo lived to the ripe age of eighty-eight, without any help from antibiotics, vaccinations or organ transplants. Indeed, even chimpanzees in the jungle sometimes live into their sixties.29 In truth, so far modern medicine hasn’t extended our natural life span by a single year. Its great achievement has been to save us from premature death, and allow us to enjoy the full measure of our years.
When the white-coated staff in Nestlé’s Research and Development department want to increase dairy production, they study genetics – and the genes don’t ask for anything in return. But just as the hunters and farmers had their myths, so do the people in the R&D department. Their most famous myth shamelessly plagiarises the legend of the Tree of Knowledge and the Garden of Eden, but transports the action to the garden at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. According to this myth, Isaac Newton was sitting there under an apple tree when a ripe apple dropped on his head. Newton began wondering why the apple fell straight downwards, rather than sideways or upwards. His enquiry led him to discover gravity and the laws of Newtonian mechanics. Newton’s story turns the Tree of Knowledge myth on its head. In the Garden of Eden the serpent initiates the drama, tempting humans to sin, thereby bringing the wrath of God down upon them.
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender, Rick Tetzeli
Albert Einstein, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Byte Shop, computer age, corporate governance, El Camino Real, Isaac Newton, Jony Ive, market design, McMansion, Menlo Park, Paul Terrell, popular electronics, QWERTY keyboard, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Tim Cook: Apple, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog
Indeed, adopting the name Apple foreshadows the expansiveness and originality Steve would bring to the creation of these new machines. It’s suggestive of so much: the Garden of Eden, and the humanity—both good and bad—resulting from Eve’s bite of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge; Johnny Appleseed, the great sower of plentitude from American myth; the Beatles and their own record label, a connection that would lead to litigation years later; Isaac Newton, the plummeting apple, and the spark of an idea; American as apple pie; the legend of William Tell, who saved his own life and that of his son by using his crossbow to pierce an apple perched on the son’s head; wholesomeness, fecundity, and, of course, the natural world. Apple is not a word for geeks, unlike Asus, Compaq, Control Data, Data General, DEC, IBM, Sperry Rand, Texas Instruments, or Wipro, to mention some less felicitously named computer companies.
As Clow suggests, settling on Apple was a great, intuitive decision. Steve was innately comfortable trusting his gut; it’s a characteristic of the best entrepreneurs, a necessity for anyone who wants to make a living developing things no one has ever quite imagined before. Of course, Steve’s gut could also betray him, as it did when he fell in love with Apple’s first corporate logo. It was a pen-and-ink drawing, detailed in the way of an etching, of Isaac Newton sitting beneath an apple tree. It was the kind of overworked, precious image that a young calligraphy student might find enchanting, but far too esoteric for a company with big mainstream ambitions. This graphic rendition was drawn by Ronald Wayne, a former Atari engineer whom Steve had recruited to join the team. Wayne would have acted as the wise, elder tiebreaker if Steve and Woz ever came to loggerheads.
The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution by Charles R. Morris
air freight, British Empire, business process, California gold rush, clean water, colonial exploitation, computer age, Dava Sobel, en.wikipedia.org, glass ceiling, hiring and firing, if you build it, they will come, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, lone genius, manufacturing employment, new economy, New Urbanism, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, purchasing power parity, QWERTY keyboard, refrigerator car, Robert Gordon, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman
But the clock had to be extremely accurate, off by less than three seconds a day. If the Greenwich time readings drifted by even very modest amounts, they would add up to disablingly large variations over the weeks or months of a typical sea voyage. Just as challenging, the clock would need to be utterly impervious to the extremities of a sailing-era sea voyage: the sharp temperature changes, the storm batterings, the salt everywhere. In 1721, no less an authority than Isaac Newton declared that it would be all but impossible for a solution to the longitude problem to come from the “Watchmakers.” The “Astronomical” solution, which Newton preferred, was at least as difficult. Sailors long ago learned to fix latitudes because the apparent path of the sun was so readily observed and easily measured. The so-called fixed stars also had a regular apparent path around the earth, but it was far too slow to be useful.
The ne plus ultra of regal overreaching was Charles Babbage’s calculating engines. Charles Babbage If there were a hall of fame of intelligent people, Charles Babbage (1791–1871) would surely have his own plaque. Born into a well-to-do family, he spent most of his career in academia and for a dozen years held the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post graced by luminaries from Isaac Newton through Stephen Hawking.24 In Babbage’s day, all calculation-intensive sciences like astronomy were dependent on thick volumes of standard tables—logarithms, sines, and other functions—each incorporating decades of laborious construction. As a newly minted mathematician, Babbage realized that even the best tables were riddled with errors. By comparing entries in different editions, it was clear that the primary problem lay in transcription and typesetting, not the original calculations.
Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, asset allocation, asset-backed security, bank run, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black-Scholes formula, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, card file, Cass Sunstein, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discovery of the americas, diversification, diversified portfolio, Edward Glaeser, endowment effect, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, floating exchange rates, George Akerlof, Henri Poincaré, Hyman Minsky, implied volatility, impulse control, index arbitrage, index card, index fund, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, libertarian paternalism, linear programming, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, market design, New Journalism, Nikolai Kondratiev, Paul Lévy, pension reform, performance metric, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, pushing on a string, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk/return, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, side project, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, The Chicago School, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Predators' Ball, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, transaction costs, tulip mania, value at risk, Vanguard fund, volatility smile, Yogi Berra
The precipitating event was the panic of 1907, a stock market crash and series of bank failures that drove the U.S. financial system to near collapse. These events convinced Babson that the information about individual companies he had been trafficking in was less important than “fundamental data” about the economy as a whole. He developed a forecasting tool he called the “Babsonchart,” a one-line composite of economic data through which he drew a smooth trend line.20 He got the idea from one of his MIT professors, who was inspired by Isaac Newton’s law of action and reaction.21 For every period spent above the trend line, the economy—and with it the stock market—would later fall below the trend for a period such that the area below the trend line would equal that above. This happens to be the definition of a trend line, which can only be drawn with certainty after the fact. Babson was merely stating a truism, but he nonetheless convinced himself, and many others, that with ever-better data his crack team of statisticians could make an ever-better approximation of the trend ahead of time.
After a mistaken bear market call in 1926, Hamilton had gone back to riding the bull in 1927 and 1928. Babson also turned bearish in 1926, announcing that the economy had been growing too fast for too long and that an “equal and opposite reaction” was due, although he allowed that it might take two or three years. For the next three years the market continued to rise, but Babson wouldn’t back down. He became an object of mockery. “We could say that his worship of Isaac Newton was an eccentricity,” recalled John Burr Williams, a young investment banker in Boston at the time, “and nothing was proved by his claim that action and reaction were always equal.”33 In September 1929, Babson issued his most dire warning yet. “Sooner or later a crash is coming, and it may be terrific,” he declared at the annual National Business Conference he hosted. “Wise are those investors who now get out of debt and reef their sails.”
The Lights in the Tunnel by Martin Ford
Albert Einstein, Bill Joy: nanobots, Black-Scholes formula, call centre, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, credit crunch, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, factory automation, full employment, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, inventory management, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, knowledge worker, low skilled workers, moral hazard, pattern recognition, prediction markets, Productivity paradox, Ray Kurzweil, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Thomas L Friedman, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, War on Poverty
Moore’s observation initially related to the nuts and bolts of how chips are fabricated, but over time it has evolved into a broader rule of thumb that gives us a useful framework for thinking about how our ability to manipulate and process information increases over time. This rule of thumb has become known as Moore’s Law,* and it can be expressed as follows: As technology progresses, the computational capability of a computer will roughlydouble everytwo years. Moore’s Law is, of course, not a “law” at all— certainly not in the sense that physical rules like the ones postulated by Isaac Newton are laws. It is, however, an accurate observation and projection, and nearly everyone in the technology field accepts it. Moore’s Law is an overall estimate. Different facets of technology, in fact, progress at different rates. Still, we can probably agree that Some versions of Moore’s Law use 18 months rather than 2 years as the doubling standard. I have chosen the more conservative number.
Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons by Peter Barnes
Albert Einstein, car-free, clean water, collective bargaining, corporate governance, corporate personhood, corporate social responsibility, dark matter, diversified portfolio, en.wikipedia.org, hypertext link, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, jitney, new economy, patent troll, profit maximization, Ronald Coase, telemarketer, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, War on Poverty, Yogi Berra
The symphonies of Mozart, like the songs of Lennon and McCartney, are works of genius. But they also arise from the culture in which that genius lives. The instrumentation, the notation system, and the prevalent musical forms are the dough from which composers bake their cakes. So too with ideas. All thinkers and writers draw on stories and discoveries that have been developed by countless men and women before them. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, each generation sees a little farther because it stands on the shoulders of its predecessors. In this way, all new work draws from the commons and then enriches it. To keep art and science flourishing, we have to make sure the cultural commons is cared for. S | 117 | 118 | A SOLUTION In addition, unlike most natural commons, the cultural commons is inexhaustible. Shakespeare’s plays can be “used” again and again without diminishing them.
Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking
Many physicists now believe that they are on the verge of explaining the way all the particles and forces of nature work within one set of equations—a ‘theory of everything’ involving a phenomenon known as supersymmetry, or SUSY. The story of the search for SUSY begins with the realization, early in the twentieth century, that subatomic particles such as electrons do not obey the laws of physics which apply, as Isaac Newton discovered three centuries ago, to the world of objects such as billiard balls, apples, and the Moon. Instead, they obey the laws of the world of quantum physics, where particles blur into waves, nothing is certain, and probability rules. Chapter One Quantum Physics for Beginners Before 1900, physicists thought of the material world as being composed of little, hard objects—atoms and molecules which interacted with one another to produce the variety of materials, living and non-living, that we see around us.
1960s counterculture, Berlin Wall, book scanning, cuban missile crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Hacker Ethic, Isaac Newton, Marshall McLuhan, mutually assured destruction, Plutocrats, plutocrats, pre–internet, Richard Stallman, search inside the book, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, slashdot, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog
The first example, and thus one of the very earliest if not the earliest uses of the term in print in English, is drawn from Philip Luckombe’s 1771 edition of The History and Art of Printing and reads, “They . . . would suffer by this act of piracy, since it was likely to prove a very bad edition.” Luckombe is describing the then common practice of “literary piracy,” in which unscrupulous printers took advantage of the functional limits of copyright enforcement and produced unauthorized editions of popular books for sale at a considerable discount, relative to the authorized edition. A later example, drawn from Sir David Brewster’s 1855 biography, Memoirs of Newton, refers to Isaac Newton’s efforts to protect his invention of the reflecting telescope from “foreign piracy.” In each of these examples, the mechanism by which the “pirates” profit is the production and distribution of substitute goods, whether goods subject to copyright, like books, or goods subject to patent, like telescopes and other mechanical inventions. The use of piracy to describe these activities transpired despite the ready availability of the near synonym that Litman points toward in the above-cited passage: counterfeiting.
The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible by Lance Fortnow
Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, complexity theory, Erdős number, four colour theorem, Gerolamo Cardano, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, linear programming, new economy, NP-complete, Occam's razor, P = NP, Paul Erdős, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, smart grid, Stephen Hawking, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, William of Occam
And as I observed that in the words “I think, therefore I am”, there is nothing at all which gives me assurance of their truth beyond this, that I see very clearly that in order to think it is necessary to exist, I concluded that I might take, as a general rule, the principle, that all the things which we very clearly and distinctly conceive are true, only observing, however, that there is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly conceive. Descartes, Discourse, Part IV A contemporary of Descartes, Johannes Kepler, examined planetary motion and derived a set of rules that described the path and speed of planets in their orbits. Kepler had no simple description of why planets followed these rules. Isaac Newton applied the principle of Occam’s razor to the physical world. Newton’s famous laws of motion gave very simple rules on how objects react. 1. If no force is applied to an object, an object at rest remains at rest and one in motion remains at a constant velocity. 2. A force applied to an object creates a fixed acceleration in proportion to the size of the force. 3. Every force applied by one object to another has an equal and opposite force from the second object to the first.
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton
Somewhere inside this white-coated man, there must have remained vestigial urges to dominate, shout, master, blow up and attack, but how carefully such instincts had been contained, by what cautious laboratory rules his urges had been governed, how quiet modern omnipotence could be. 7. The satellite and its launch vehicle were practical achievements no doubt, but they were also, and perhaps primarily, the products of revolutionary changes in belief systems. Isaac Newton (whose namesake street was home to Kourou’s only travel agency) was the first to postulate the theories on which the launch itself would be based, when he speculated that if a cannonball could be fired at a tremendous speed from a great height, the top of an implausibly tall mountain, for instance, it would orbit right around the earth, for gravity would pull it downwards at the same rate at which the planet spun away from it.
For example, the length of a degree of longitude as calculated from that short arc carried south from Madras in 1802 was soon revised when the Great Arc produced a more refined value. That in turn meant that the earliest triangles based on the Madras measurement had also to be revised. As the Arc got longer, other assumptions about the curvature of the earth were reassessed, and these in turn meant more recalculation. Lambton had at first accepted Sir Isaac Newton’s figure of 1/230 for the compression of the earth’s spheroid at the poles. However this ‘constant’ proved anything but. It was revised down to 1/304 in 1812 and by Lambton himself to 1/310 when in 1818 his Great Arc had embraced nearly ten degrees of latitude. Everest in turn would come up with his own constants; and every new constant meant recalculating all previous work. Further complications arose from attempts to refine standards of length.
Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Black-Scholes formula, British Empire, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, Cepheid variable, crony capitalism, diversified portfolio, Douglas Hofstadter, Emanuel Derman, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, law of one price, Mikhail Gorbachev, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, riskless arbitrage, savings glut, Schrödinger's Cat, Sharpe ratio, stochastic volatility, the scientific method, washing machines reduced drudgery, yield curve
Feynman’s insight into the parallel evolution of quantum mechanical paths, Dirac’s grasp of the essence of electrons, Newton’s understanding of mass and its motion—all are instances of the external world joining with the internal. Intuition is a merging of the understander with the understood. In the words of the Upanishads, Tat tvam asi, Thou art that. Perfection via Intuition “Pleasure is the transition of a man from a less to a greater perfection,” wrote Spinoza. No one achieved greater advances in our levels of perfection than Isaac Newton, born in 1642, only ten years later than Spinoza. John Maynard Keynes wrote a speech about Newton for the tercentenary of his birth, celebrated belatedly by the Royal Society in 1946, after World War II. By then Keynes had died, and his brother Geoffrey delivered the speech. It was based on Keynes’s reading of a box of Newton’s notes, many of them cryptic and mystical, concerning his attempts to understand not just the physical but the entire world.
The Naked Eye: How the Revolution of Laser Surgery Has Unshackled the Human Eye by Gerard Sutton, Michael Lawless
And yet, in that context, the history of vision correction by surgical means has barely begun. Dr Tsutomu Sato carried out the first form of vision correction surgery in the 1930s. It was then a radical experimental procedure, which it remained for many decades, as visionaries like Ridley, Fyodorov and Barraquer worked tirelessly to unlock the secrets to successfully improving the vision of their patients through surgical intervention. Isaac Newton, the English physicist, mathematician and astronomer famously said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” And so it is with us. In our own humble way we have followed in the footsteps of our ‘giants’, Sato, Ridley, Fyodorov and Barraquer. If they were alive today we believe they would be delighted to see the amazing developments brought about by the surgery they pioneered and would be very proud of the results we are able to achieve for our patients.
The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky
If you tried and failed, then cut your losses, or get out completely. “It was discovered in the 1960s and fully formulated in the early ‘70s. It reached its zenith in practice in the early 1980s with Jack Welch, who 134 THE ART OF PROFITABILITY was its most aggressive, most persistent, most unsparing, and most thoughtful practitioner. “Bruce Henderson is the under-recognized innovator in the discipline—the Isaac Newton of strategy. But he wandered off into biology and Darwinism instead of completing what he started. That’s why he was eclipsed by Michael Porter. Porter filled in the rest of the picture and gave managers methods they could use. “But the whole intellectual underpinning of the thought system was Relative Market Share. Like gravity, it explained, it worked, you could measure it. You could make predictions based on it.