Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thrilling and baffling than anything dreamt up by poets

John Gribbin Astrophysicist and science writer
I cannot improve upon the comment of the American physicist Richard Feynman: "The most important information … is the atomic hypothesis … that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another."
Brian Davies Professor of mathematics at King's College London
Without doubt, the most important single scientific discovery ever made was the connection between electricity and magnetism. This was discov­ered by the 19th-century British physicist and chemist Michael Faraday, at the Royal Institution in London; and it was systematised by the 19th-century Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, at King's College London.
This discovery led directly to the electric motor and dynamo — the basis of all electrical power — and also to telephones, radio, television, and computers, upon all of which advanced civilisation now depends.
Dr Robert Maynard Senior medical officer at the UK Department of Health
The principle of refutation put forward by the philosopher Karl Popper, in his books The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Conjectures and Refutations, is my choice. Popper argued that scientific knowledge advanced most reliably by the development and refutation of hypotheses — much more reliably than by the accretion of evidence in support of theories.
He said you cannot prove that all swans are white by counting white swans, but you can prove that not all swans are white by counting one black swan. Popper's approach is now accepted, in principle, by many scientists. And yet much research is still based upon induction — upon the collection of facts to support our ideas. Erecting hypotheses that can be falsified, and designing experiments capable of doing so, is the hallmark of the true scientist. In fact, it distinguishes the scientist from the non-scientist.
Matt Ridley Founding chair of the International Centre for Life
Science is not a catalogue of facts, but a search for new mysteries. Science increases the store of wonder and mystery in the world; it does not erode it. The myth that science gets rid of mysteries, started by the Romantic poets, was well nailed by Albert Einstein —whose thought experiments about relativity are far more otherworldly, elusive, thrilling, and baffling than anything dreamt up by poets.
Isaac Newton showed us the mysteries of deep space, Charles Darwin showed us the mysteries of deep time, and Francis Crick and James D Watson showed us the mysteries of deep encoding. To get rid of those insights would be to reduce the world's stock of awe.
Thursday April 7, 2005 Guardian by rjon on Wed 24 Jan 2007 06:22 PM PST Permanent Link

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