PAUL DIRAC (1902-1984)
While sailing on an ocean liner to Japan in 1929 Paul Dirac found Werner Heisenberg, both in their 20s and unmarried, as companion. Heisenberg gregarious as ever loved dancing. One day Dirac asked why he danced and got the unsurprising answer that it was a pleasure to dance with nice girls. After about five minutes of silence, he asked: ‘Heisenberg, how do you know beforehand that the girls are nice?'”
Dirac was the unlikely hero and he still is widely declared the second greatest scientist of the 20th century. He proposes anti-matter not on the basis of physical observation, but because his own mathematical logic tells him that it must exist. Even this day anti-matter remains elusive.*
His great achievement was to provide Physics with the modern mathematics now used universally to cope with its most fundamental problems. Dirac began work on the new quantum mechanics as soon as it was introduced by Heisenberg in 1925 independently producing a mathematical equivalent for calculating atomic properties – and wrote a series of papers on the subject. This led up to his relativistic theory of the electron (1928) and the theory of holes (1930). This latter theory required the existence of a positive particle having the same mass and charge as the known (negative) electron. This positron also was discovered experimentally at a later date (1932).
At a time quantum theory based on matter and radiation was causing a ripple in the academic world , -there were two versions extant, one that of Schroedinger, de Broglie and the other of Bohr , this Lucasian Professor of Mathematics showed Einstein’s theory of relativity as well as the other two were a different aspect of a more general mathematical concept of the atom (1926-1932).
In 1933 he received Nobel Prize along with Schroedinger for his Relativistic theory of the electron(1928)
Dirac established the relativistic equation for the electron, which now bears his name. The remarkable notion of an antiparticle to each particle – i.e. the positron as antiparticle to the electron – stems from his equation. He was also the first to develop quantum field theory, which underlies all theoretical work on sub-atomic or “elementary” particles today, work that is fundamental to our understanding of the forces of nature.
Excerpt from the Guardian:
“Here’s a puzzle. Bristol boy– has an unhappy childhood, but doesn’t mention it for 50 years; learns to speak French, German and Russian, but becomes famous for his long silences; embarks on the wrong career; gets interested in mathematics and ends up at Cambridge, where he becomes famous for his even longer silences; hears about Einstein and gets into advanced physics; and then goes to Copenhagen to meet Niels Bohr, who grumbles to Ernest Rutherford, “This Dirac, he seems to know a lot of physics, but he never says anything.”
Somehow this silent, solemn, young beanpole earns the enthusiastic friendship and admiration of vibrant and merrymaking geniuses such as Bohr himself, Robert Oppenheimer, Werner Heisenberg, George Gamow, Peter Kapitza and so on, is a proof of super-symmetry at quantum level can well accommodate genius although devoid of reciprocal entertainment or conversation.
in Nov.2010 an international team of 42 scientists trapped 38 antihydrogen atoms – one by one – for a fraction of a second. The goal is to test fundamental theories of physics and to potentially unravel one of the great mysteries of science. Physicists theorize that there was an equal amount of matter and antimatter created at the Big Bang, yet antimatter somehow vanished.
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Posted in essays, tagged Alcibiades, anecdotes, Catherine the Great, Einstein, everyman, greatness, key, life, Mahatma Gandhi, personalities on October 2, 2010 |
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Representational Man-essay ©
It is said no man is a hero to his valet and those whom we look up as extraordinary betray their ordinariness when caught off guard. It is a truism not even a Caesar could escape from. Julius Caesar may have to all and sundry seemed ‘like a Colossus who bestrode the narrow world’ but to Cassius he really was ‘ a man as I myself.’ Caesar is a Representational Man despite of it.
A Representational Man is one who by his life holds key to our own nature. Some made their mark in the history of mankind by fire and sword. The names of Alexander or Napoleon come to mind. Some chose less violent methods to impress upon many or change lives. Their fame as printed in newspapers must have been limited to the finance, entertainment or art section yet no matter. They represent us to the extent their drive, – in ambition no less focused than Alexander, and their fame allowed them to reach a higher level than we. Representational Men hold a key, a symbol to us. It is not without merit the name Waterloo is still in usage: ‘the little corporal’ became too big for his boots so hubris had to cut him to size. In short anyone who has met his Waterloo has Napoleon for a symbol.
A Representational Man is one who by his life has set a standard for others to take measure from. Diogenes stripped his life of all superfluities so he could live in a tub. On the other hand Andrew Carnegie amassed great wealth in order to give it all away. Alcibiades cut the tail off his spaniel just to spite the Athenian folks who made much of the animal. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the dramatist went in the adjoining pub and could calmly drink a glass of wine by the smoldering ruins of his Drury Lane. Despite the great financial loss he chose the occasion to make a joke of it. He observed in his characteristic humor, ‘A man may surely take a glass of wine by his own fireside’.
The representational man holds a mirror to our nature: he has his uses whether alive or dead. He serves as a guide and key to understand mankind.
Granted that man find it easier to analyze his own nature because another representing him did great things. Does that speak much? After all success is not to be reckoned to one because he had a far greater canvas to work with but how he added to the whole with the piece that was no bigger than a postage- stamp size.. Even an unseemly speck of defect could spoil the overall effect of the whole. Besides in judging mankind with a scale that has an inherent flaw will only multiply when used to judge the whole species.
It is in our nature to point out with pride our rich relations than those who are poor. Of course the Greats are also key for us. Alexander of Macedonia found the kingdom he inherited too small for his over-sized ego. So he set out to conquer a large part of the globe. Lives of you and I are no less real on account we stayed on our familiar ground. A woman who runs her hearth is as great as Catherine the Great. Her world may be considerably reduced that only speaks of her circumstances. Even so the Empress of Russia is a representation of Everywoman.
A Representational Man is one who has had control over circumstances far more than you and me. We spend our lives to unravel the skeins of our limited resources; Credit is hard to come by because the times are bad. So what we do? We tighten our belts and hope to go with the flow. When faced with the Gordian knot Alexander cut it as if it were the most natural thing to do. We work within our circumstances not daring to cut the knot of our times. Alexander was a genius in that he opened up possibilities after his own fashion. Vasco da Gama who opened a sea route to the East was another. We are armchair seafarers while he braved the stinging spry of sea and untested dangers to set foot on a fabled land of unlimited opportunities. The Portuguese mariner is a representational man for the reason he made it possible for many to follow him.
A Representational Man is a genius in that he can purposefully give in to many defeats in order to win one victory that he counts as his due.
“The centipede said to the snake, ‘with all my legs I do not move as you with none. How is that?’ ‘One’s natural mechanism,’ replied the snake, ‘is not a thing to be changed. What need have I for legs?’
The snake said to the wind, ‘I wriggle about by moving my spine, as if I had legs. Now you seem to be without form, and yet you come blustering down from the North Seas to bluster away to the South Sea. How do you do that?’
‘’Tis true,’ replied the wind, ‘that I bluster as you say. But anyone who sticks his finger or foot into me excels me; on the other hand I can tear away huge trees and destroy large buildings. This power is only given to me: out of many minor defeats I win the big victory; and to win big victory is given only to the sages’”. (Chuangtse -tr: Lin Yutang)
There is a kind of success that you have the whole world breathing down your neck and when you see their fawning manners you think, ‘O boy, is success this cheap to make their rank breath fall on me?’ Whereas success for some is that they can hear their own thoughts and do as they please and are not called to account at the end of the day. Only that we need to decide well ahead what success means to us.
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Can Science solve the riddle of our cosmos?
There was a time when man believed the earth was flat but when it was shown to be round came another problem. What holds it up? Newton of course came up with some answers and these threw up more questions. Simple gravity showed science to look into electricity and magnetism- weak force and strong force etc.,
It is plain to see on a basic idea Mr.science works without knowing where it is going to land him. Merely by formulating theories that can stand a scientific inquiry do not make our cosmos any more simpler. Understanding cosmos in essentials till 20th century did not account for quantum world of atom. So for more than two millennia we were merely skirting the issue as it were. It is impossible to say Mr. science can go like knight in shining armor in a straight and narrow path, and will fetch a grand unified theory to keep us for ever happy. Mr. science is more like a knight in a labyrinth. He has not even laid sight on minotaur.
Science shall keep on working its way through. And science shall indeed go on widening our panoramic view of the cosmos without knowing one crucial fact. It has widened the level of our understanding by what answers we have but thereby increased the the depth tremendously. There is a certain uncertainty principle at work here. More we uncover the mechanics of cosmos in certain areas its clarity will be diffused in other areas. We have string theory to explain M-theory and another theory to latch on to something else. It is like neighbors in my hometown asking the farmer about his missing cow. Having heard hundred of theories how they would track her and what ingenious tools they are taking along the farmer replied, ‘That is all fine folks. Just bring me back my Daisy home.’ Theories are fine as long as they make a long rope. Only that the cow must be found.
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Posted in humor, tagged Blake, Einstein, epitaphs, grave humor, insults, Newton, Pope, Robert Burns, Sir. Joshua Reynolds on June 29, 2010 |
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‘Let us talk of graves, of worms and epitaphs,’ (Richard II-Shakespeare)
An epitaph according to Irvin S. Cobb(1876-1944) is a ‘belated advertisement for a line of goods that has been permanently discontinued’. I shall cite some epitaphs here.
Then you can be sure your friend would know you better than most.(OK That is what you think.) Late Hotten had his friends.
One summed up the dear departed in three words:
This brings me to mind of a prayer,’Lord,save me from my friends.’
Robert Burns the national poet of Scotland was lucky to see the last of great many.
Of Lord Galloway he wrote thus:
Bright ran thy line,O Galloway,
Thro’ many a far- fam’d sire;
So ran the far-fam’d Roman Way,
So ended in a mire!’
Uncharacteristically William Blake had some thing to observe on Sir Joshua Reynolds the painter.
‘O Reader behold the philosopher’s grave!
He was born quite a fool but he died quite a knave.
JC Squire(1884-1958) had this to comment on Einstein, and he merely dusted Alexander Pope’s celebrated lines on Newton for the occasion.
‘It did not last:the Devil, bowling Ho!
Let Einstein be! restored the status quo.’
(ack:Second Book of Insults-Nancy McPhee/Chancellor Press-1982)
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Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Physicist, Nobel Laureate
Einstein was at a scientific meeting when a noted astronomer said, “To an astronomer, a man is nothing more than an insignificant dot in an infinite universe.”
“I’ve often felt that,” Einstein said,” But then realize that the insignificant dot who is a man is also the astronomer.”
When Einstein walked into a Washington meeting concerning Palestine, to applause unstinting from all present, he confided to his companion, “I think they ought to wait to hear what I say.”
Dr. Frank Aydelotte, the then President of Swarthmore College, once, invited Einstein as the guest of honor at a dinner.
When he was called upon to speak he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry but I’ve nothing to say.” The brief speech didn’t go well with the guests. Noticing this he arose again and added, “In case I do have something to say, I’ll come back.”
Six months later he wired Dr.Aydelotte, “Now I‘ve something to say.” Dr. Aydelotte promptly gave another dinner at which Einstein made his speech.
Prof. B.Hoffman, who was working on some relative theories of his own at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, one day called on Einstein at his residence. He explained the reason for his sudden visit. Einstein was willing to hear him and help him if he could. “Put the equations on the board,” the great man directed, “but please go slowly because I don’t understand things quickly.”(Ack: Jane Rosen- The Guardian)
His first wife Mileva Maric was four years older to him. They were together at Zurich Polytechnic Institute in 1896. At first she was his Muse who collaborated with him and actively helped him out in his research. How he arrived at the general Theory of Relativity step by step, in its original manuscript, is no longer extant. It poses a puzzling question: of this ground breaking Theory how much his first wife would have contributed?
One fact remains: The day after he received the Nobel Prize he was busy sending the proceeds to Maric and it might be the price of his freedom to marry his cousin Elsa. Theory of Relativity has stumped even scholars to explain in simple terms and his personal Relativity is no less puzzling to say the least.
He never saw his Serbian Muse after he fled for the US in 1933.
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After 103 years Einstein’s formula e=mc2 is proven right by using some of the world’s mightiest supercomputers. A consortium led by Laurent Lellouch of France’s Centre for Theoretical Physics was behind this marathon computing.
‘According to the conventional model of particle physics, protons and neutrons comprise smaller particles known as quarks, which in turn are bound by gluons.
The odd thing is this: the mass of gluons is zero and the mass of quarks is only five percent. Where, therefore, is the missing 95 percent?’
According to the study published in the US journal Science on Thursday, the 95 percent comes from the energy- from the movements and interactions of quarks and gluons.
So cluster principle that I have been explaining in my earlier posts must hold the key. How we set chains of events in space and time also must cover energy as in the case of Theoretical Physics. We the people are gluons in real time and our worth, zero. Yet we keep holding while the big events like wars, slump in oil prices, fiscal bailouts, suicide bombs, Jihads, extraordinary renditions,G20 summits, pre-emptive strikes etc catch the headlines all across the globe. Missing mass of our inner lives (we who are shot at and caught in friendly fire or rendered homeless and thrown out of jobs) pack the punch to send all the calculations of politicians, oligarchs and mullahs to smithereens.
The Cluster principle throws light into the Finagle’s corollary to Murphy’s law, ‘Anything that can go wrong, will’.
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