Posts Tagged einstein

Einstein to Newton: “We have to talk.”

Posted by on Wednesday, 9 September, 2015
Einstein/Newton: A Meeting of Peers

A Meeting of Peers


 Did Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton have a secret meeting?  I was asked this question (sort of) on Quora.

Since Newton lived in the 1600s it was more of a “what if”.

Even Einstein’s far ranging intellect couldn’t have dragged him back to Newton’s time but what ifs never seem to bother anyone on Quora where the questions range from “What if we could go faster than the speed of light?” to “What if atheists believed in God?”

How would a meeting between and Einstein and Newton have gone?

If the discussion was limited to a single sitting, Newton, the father of modern scientific thinking, wouldn’t have been able to catch up to all the things that his wonderful brain had set in motion. Newton was maybe the greatest scientific and mathematical genius of the millennia but Einstein’s work pushed the envelope, even for the early 1900s. The formal stuff required field equations.

Field equations were the bane of Einstein’s existence. Newton wouldn’t have known anything about field equations or about David Hilbert, the great mathematician who’s work was required by Einstein. Hilbert basically beat Einstein to the finish line with his own paper on General Relativity but graciously stepped aside to allow Einstein to get the credit he deserved for his original ideas.

Another thing.

Much of Einstein’s work was motivated by the work of the great physicist, James Clerk Maxwell . Maxwell’s name wouldn’t have meant anything to Newton either.

Nor would Newton have heard of Michael Faraday who got Maxwell started on electromagnetism.

 That’s a lot of advanced math and physics for anyone – even Isaac Newton.

Okay, for argument’s sake, let’s say that Isaac Newton would have gone along with meeting this Jewish guy for a discussion about “natural philosophy”. He would have been intrigued, right? The “thought experiments” would have had to have kept him awake that night.

If he could accept premises for which he had no basis.

 My feeling? It is unlikely that Newton could have accepted Einstein’s conclusions without years of additional thought and study.

Let me add something.

Isaac Newton is such a deservedly beloved figure that several people on Quora felt compelled to defend him against any implications that he might have avoided a “Jew philosopher”.

There’s nothing that suggests that he had any problem with Jews. His private papers suggest he may have been fascinated by Judaism (though may have never met a Jewish person).

Great minds are a lot less prone to interpersonal stupidity than the rest of us, and yet, anti semitism was so pervasive in his time  that, even if Newton personally had no problem with a Jewish philosopher meeting him in his chambers, his peers might have been scandalized.

Newton’s views on Jews (whatever they may have been) shouldn’t distract us from his incredible contributions. Let’s not overreact to the mere mention of pervasive anti-semitism among his peers. I’m not trying to make anybody uncomfortable nor am I trying to sanitize history.

It is was what it was. I suggest you get over it.

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Illustration? That’s mine based on some available images.

Hey Einstein! What About Dark Energy?

Posted by on Thursday, 20 September, 2012

Al Einstein


Einstein’s General Theory Of Relativity has a flaw. Shouhong Wang, and Tian Ma found it,

Here’s the story.

Wang – Dr. Shouhong Wang of Indiana University’s Science’s Department of Mathematics –  and  Ma –   Dr. Tian Ma of Sichuan University – were at the candy store discussing the Yankees when Dr. Wang said, “Hey, Tian? How come energy and momentum don’t add up in that general relativity thing? Aren’t they supposed to?”

Dr. Ma said “Course they should.”

“Well they don’t.”

“You aren’t doing it right, knucklehead,” said Ma

“Here’s the slide rule, genius, “ said Wang. “You do it.”

“Geez. I see what you mean! Maybe he should have included dark matter and dark energy.”

“Holy Moly!” Wang said, “The difference between the new field equations and Einstein’s equations is the addition of a second-order covariant derivative of a scalar potential field; Gravity theory is fundamentally changed and is now described by the metric of the curved spacetime.”

“Huh?” said Ma.

This is an almost true story of the way that Wan and Ma discovered a crucially important (to about 14 physicists) thing – that Einstein’s general theory of relativity which has dominated modern science since 1915, needs modification to account for dark matter and dark energy which (as they point out) hadn’t been discovered when Einstein shocked the world with his incomprehensible explanation of energy, matter, time, and light and so on that he called the general theory of relativity.

Dr. Ma and Dr. Wang are on to something. Dark energy and dark matter constitute much too much of the universe to be ignored in the basic equations of physics and their second order adjustments appear mathematically sound. If the work is validated empirically (always somethin’, right?) they can be mighty proud.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 9 . Still needs to be proved but a fearless effort.

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Thank you Creative Commons for the photo from Madame Tussaud’s museum, Amsterdam.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Einstein’s Musical Career and The Clever Octopus

Posted by on Sunday, 27 December, 2009


Physics: Notes.

Albert Einstein.

I realize he didn’t exactly invent the Universe. But SUCH a scientist! They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

Just walking around in his own mind (“thought experiments”) he could see the way things MUST work. What others thought were the rules, were only a special case. He took a few inches off of the height of Isaac Newton, his only real rival for the Great-God-Of-Science prize, showing that Newton’s achievements, amazing as they were, were only a door to the true mysteries of the universe.

Einstein guided us through that door.

I have to recyle my “Newton Spinning In His Grave” drawing here (below).

Still Spinning

Still Spinning

Einstein came to realize that light has special properties. For some crazy reason, when you measure its speed, it is always the same. No matter how fast or slow you are going.

So he thought about it.

And the ramifications.

When he worked it all out, he saw that the sizes and masses of things follow unexpected rules, depending on how fast you’re going (Special Relativity). He looked at time differently too. And he found an explanation for how gravity works (General Relativity). And he described atoms. And photons (the photoelectric effect) and helped kick off Quantum Mechanics, a bastard child which he had some second thoughts about later in life.

I’ll stop. You can read the Wikipedia article. But what’s funny about this funny guy is that he liked things or he didn’t like them based on some inner aesthetic. If it was beautiful it had to be right.


So that’s interesting, isn’t it? Our greatest modern scientist was an aesthete. He played the violin. And the piano.

He loved Mozart; he loved Bach.

Indifferent to Brahms.

He began playing the violin as a little child. Real serious.

Once, he was supposed to give a physics lecture to his students (Geneva University). Instead he decided to play his violin for them. He figured they would like it better than a physics lecture.

And understand it a LOT better.

No doubt.

So would he have become a musician if he hadn’t become the greatest physicist of modern times?


He already had a job in the patent office. Maybe he LOOKED like a dreamer with his long flowing hair, but Einstein wasn’t THAT dumb!

After all. He was Einstein.

BehavioralEcology: Tool Use By Octopuses

What has eight legs and.. eight hammers?

Used to be that we had a franchise on intelligence. We were the smart guys. Apes and monkeys chattered mindlessly in trees. Elephants munched at the bottom of them. And octopuses were too dumb to grow a proper set of arms and legs.

Used to be.

We used tools. We had language. We wore clothes. We did karaoke.

The creatures we ate didn’t do any of those things.

But observation by observation, study by study, our distinctions over other species have shrunk.

We still out gun our nearest biological competitors when it comes to dumping carbon into the atmosphere, but we now know that chimpanzees can sign and understand extensive human language as can various apes, dolphins, and parrots. Even walruses.

And the use of tools is definitely out there. We’ve seen it in chimps and other primates as well as birds and even elephants (which have very large brains, as you might expect, with very large “thinking surfaces” as you might not expect).

Now a paper in Current Biology describes the use of tools by Octopuses.

Octopuses are Cephalopods which means non hat wearing ink squirters. If you follow their comings and goings, you know already that their dopey looks are deceptive. They have good memories and are good learners. They routinely solve their way out of mazes and Dr. Maury Schlaffer (University of Teheran) claims he has observed them scavenging old electronic components on the ocean floor and reassembling them into devices such as OPhones and OPods for their own uses.

We would LIKE to believe Schlaffer’s work but, unfortunately, the evidence is kinda weak and we have to give it a ScienceAintSoBadRating of less than 2. The Current Biology paper, however is good. It’s got the “pusses” dragging around shells which they use for protection (“tents”).

That’s thinking ahead.

If I ever DO become a vegetarian, it’ll be because of a scientific study – one like this.

Unconservation of UnEnergy

Posted by on Monday, 9 November, 2009



Lying Sack Of Pseudoscience

Isaac Newton’s law of conservation of energy was lovable.

So simple.

So perfect.

Energy can neither be created or destroyed.

Till Einstein muddied it up some.  “It’s not ENERGY, you doofus! It’s mass-energy. ”

Ok, ok.

But, for those of us who aren’t traveling at light speed,  Newton’s idea worked pretty good for over 400 years.

Till Magniworks .

Its zero point magnetic power generator creates LOTS more energy than it consumes and the World Wide Web is BOILING with testimonials to its effectiveness.

Feel free to Google it. You’ll see what I mean.

The company hasn’t had time to complete and publish its peer reviewed studies in the traditional scientific journals but I can wait.

In advance, ScienceAintSoBadRating = 0 (sorry Magniworks. No offense.  But poop on you for trying to deceive the gullible amongst us.)

And, thanks Danny, for mentioning it.



Because I have received several comments/emails suggesting that I need to be stronger and clearer to counteract the very powerful impression made by Magniworks, allow me to be VERY precise here.


There’s no evidence at all that the product can do what it claims and the many “testimonials” sound – shall we say? – suspicious.  You can’t violate the fundamental laws of physics.

Even if you’re Australian.