Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Saint of Insight

Saint of Insight

Imagine that there is a world you can never see, but what happens in that world affects everything in your world. From the wood that makes up your desk, to the sugar that goes in your tea. The very dirt you live on top of has an entire world inside it. Now imagine you live before anyone understood what that world looked like, or what the rules were. No Scanning Tunnelling Electron Microscopes to show you what the world of the Atom really looked like. No Femto-Pulse lasers to show you what happens as chemicals react. Yet you want to know what this world is like. Since you can't see it you need a tool to tell you how it all works. There is only one tool that can tell you how the world of the Atom works, Math. So you take that Math, and you see the perceived properties, and you work it all out. I mean ALL out. You can describe in detail what every single Atom and Molecule in the entire universe looks like, and what they behave like. From that you can make predictions about chemical properties in the real world based on the mathematical fantasy world you have built through nothing but physics. Our Saint of Insight saw a world that everyone knew was there but could make no sense of, and he put that world down on paper in such a way that we leapt forward from the Industrial age to the Chemical age. I speak of course of Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize winner for the feat of intellectual gymnastics that so few people have ever accomplished. It is of interest that Niels almost became a philosopher, and the logic that he learned in those studies served him well in delving into the mystery of Atomic Physics.

Niels Bohr is one of my favorite Saints. The stories told of his unconventional approaches to everything are both entertaining and enlightening. I wish that more people could learn to look at current problems and even solutions to find the right solution at the right time. Niels did this throughout his whole life and for this he is one of the great Saints of Science.

Today our understanding of the interaction of Matter and Energy are because of the work of this Atomic philosopher and his ability to chart the unseen world of the Atom. Thank you sir.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Saint of Light

"Light is a wave, waves must pass through some medium like air or water. Therefore light as a wave must be passing through a medium, whether we can detect it or not. We shall call this medium the Either." If you were a 19th century physicist, you were trained that this was correct. You knew it was because the logic was irrefutable. The experiments confirmed this. The universe was filled with something called the Either. We could not see it, but we could see its effects by how it allowed light to be transmitted.

Then along comes our Saint and in 1905 he said "NO, you are wrong. I will tell you why." He was called an idiot, and a host of other names. His math was compelling to new physicists that didn't know any better, but any experienced scientist had already gone down that road and knew it to be a dead end. If science were like many other fields, then that would have been the end, but science is filled with scientists each striving not only for the truth but to be the one that discovered it. A bunch of young scientists could find no flaw, and in spite of all the senior scientists saying he was nuts, Albert Einstein began to get serious notice.

Finally along comes the day when Einstein had to be put to the test. The place, Sobral in Brazil, the day 29 May 1919. Would the total solar eclipse bend the light around the sun so that the Hyadeas could be seen? It took until November of that year for the analysis to be done and a special meeting of the Royal Society to be called. However the proof was clear. Einstein was not an idiot, far from it. He was right. Space was flexible, time shifting, light was not just a wave, the universe changed. It was not an easy road to be part of the change. Careers were lost, Einstein himself suffered ridicule and shame, with only a few brave scientists willing even to talk to him for fear some of his craziness would rub off on them. He could have given up. He could have just shut up and then gotten a good paying job and supported his family. However that is not the way of Saints of Science. The facts to him were clear, though he listened no one could argue with his math. He had many try though, but he always won, since he explained it all, and they could not. His truth was testable, and when tested, proved he was right.

This is why we honor Albert Einstein as a Saint of Science, not because he was right but because he searched for and found the truth, and when he found it he refused to be swayed by people he knew were wrong. It is men that search for the truth that enlighten us all. Thank you sir.