Friday, July 23, 2010

Some thoughts that came to mind

I know I haven't had time to write up on my last few days at CERN, despite the interviews I've conducted and discussions with two eminent theoretical physicists (one of whom was a colleague of Richard Feynman, John Ellis). But I will try to get to it soon once I am done with my sojourn to the the library at the American Center of Physics, College Park.

As I am now reading through the files on the profiles of the eminent physicists documented by Thomas Kuhn and Co for their History of QM project, and looking at where they've published and also the contents of their publication, I am reminded by what Michelangelo Mangano said when he spoke of physics being an elite profession in the early part of the twentieth century, and how much more famous a large percentage of the physicists were compared to today, I am also reminded of how much easier it is to publish in famous journals such as Science, Nature and also the Philosophical Magazine (which is a journal dedicated to the natural sciences, mainly physical sciences).

Also, there were many physicists back then who were inspired by the philosophical turn taken by physics, and it does seem that every physicist is a phenomenologist to a certain degree, even those who may not have done too much lab work, such as de Broglie and Heisenberg. In fact, some of these people, such as the famous Louis de Broglie, came by physics via the humanities, history to be exact. And he was later influenced by Poincare's work on the philosophy of science (a book which I also possess, Science and Hypothesis. And it wasn't hard to switch from history to physics, for instance. Is it much harder now because of the depth and glut of information that one has to assimilate? Are people less versatile now? Born himself admitted to having difficulties understanding the mathematics going on in theoretical physics in his latter years, and this coming from a man who won the Nobel Prize in theoretical physics for his approximation method that's a derivation of his matrix method to framing QM.

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