Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday April 14, 2008

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 2:00 AM

Classical Quantum

From this morning's
New York Times:

Physicist John A. Wheeler with diagrams of classical and quantum ways to get from point A to point B

"John A. Wheeler, a visionary physicist… died Sunday morning [April 13, 2008]….

… Dr. Wheeler set the agenda for generations of theoretical physicists, using metaphor as effectively as calculus to capture the imaginations of his students and colleagues and to pose questions that would send them, minds blazing, to the barricades to confront nature….

'He rejuvenated general relativity; he made it an experimental subject and took it away from the mathematicians,' said Freeman Dyson, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study….

… he [Wheeler] sailed to Copenhagen to work with Bohr, the godfather of the quantum revolution, which had shaken modern science with paradoxical statements about the nature of reality.

'You can talk about people like Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Confucius, but the thing that convinced me that such people existed were the conversations with Bohr,' Dr. Wheeler said….

… Dr. Wheeler was swept up in the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb. To his lasting regret, the bomb was not ready in time to change the course of the war in Europe….

Dr. Wheeler continued to do government work after the war, interrupting his research to help develop the hydrogen bomb, promote the building of fallout shelters and support the Vietnam War….

… Dr. Wheeler wondered if this quantum uncertainty somehow applied to the universe and its whole history, whether it was the key to understanding why anything exists at all.

'We are no longer satisfied with insights only into particles, or fields of force, or geometry, or even space and time,' Dr. Wheeler wrote in 1981. 'Today we demand of physics some understanding of existence itself.'

At a 90th birthday celebration in 2003, Dr. Dyson said that Dr. Wheeler was part prosaic calculator, a 'master craftsman,' who decoded nuclear fission, and part poet. 'The poetic Wheeler is a prophet,' he said, 'standing like Moses on the top of Mount Pisgah, looking out over the promised land that his people will one day inherit.'"

Dennis Overbye, The New York Times,
    Monday, April 14, 2008

As prophets go, I prefer
 the poet Wallace Stevens:

"point A / In a perspective
that begins again / At B"

— Wallace Stevens,
"The Rock"

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