John Bingham, cité par Martin Lussier et Pierre-Mary Toussaint dans Mythes et réalités sur la course à pied.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Sunday, March 16, 2014
"Julian Barbour is known to many who follow science as the author of The End of Time, in which he argues that time is an illusion. He is an unusual physicist, who, since receiving his doctorate in 1968 from the University of Cologne, has never held an academic job. But he has been highly influencial among the small group of people who think seriously about quantum gravity, for it was he who taught us what it means to make a background-independent theory.
As Barbour tells it, on a climbing trip during graduate school, he was seized by a vision that time might be an illusion. This led him to investigate the roots of our understanding of time, contained in the general theory of relativity. He realized that he could not make a conventional academic career worrying about the nature of time. He also realized that if he was going to work on that problem, he would have to concentrate on it fully, without being distracted by the pressures of a normal career in physics. So he bought an old farmhouse in a little village half an hour from Oxford, brought his new wife there, and settled down to think about time. It was ten years or so before he had something to report back to his colleagues. During that period, he and his wife had four children, and he worked part-time as a translator to support them. The translating took him no more than twenty hours a week, leaving him as much time for thinking as most academic scientists have after the responsabilities of teaching and administration are taken into account.
To get a bearing on the meaning ot time in general relativity, Barbour read deeply into the subject, working his way back through the history of physics and philosophy. He finally was able to invent a new kind of theory, in which space and time are nothing but a system of relationships. His papers on this subject slowly began to be noticed, and eventually he became an honored member of the quantum-gravity community. His reinterpretation of Einstein's general theory of relativity as a relational theory is now the way we in the field understand it.
This is not nearly all that Barbour has done, but it's enough to show how the career of a successful seer differs from that of a conventional academic scientist. Such a person does not follow fashion — in fact, probably does not even follow a field well enough to know what the fashion is. People like this are driven by nothing except a conviction, gained early, that everyone else is missing something crucial. Their approach is more scholarly, in that to think clearly they have to read through the whole history of the question that obsesses them. Their work is intensely focused, yet it takes them a long time to get somewhere. In furtherance of an academic career there is no output whatsoever. Julian Barbour, when he was ready, changed science more than most academic scientists have, but at an age when most academic physicists are up for tenure, he had absolutely nothing to show for his work.
Barbour's career resembles that of other seers, like Charles Darwin, who also retreated to the English countryside to find the room to think through an idea that obsessed him. Einstein spent ten years thinking about the ideas that became special relativity, and then spent the next ten inventing general relativity. Time and the freedom to think, then, are all that a seer needs to find that unexamined assumption. The rest they do themselves."
Lee Smolin, "The trouble with physics" (p. 321-322).
Friday, March 14, 2014
[...] I believe that with the ascent of each mountain — each theory, each paradigm — we reach a new truth, but that no mountain peak can ever represent the ultimate theory of nature."
John W. Moffat, "Reinventing gravity" (p. 222).
Monday, September 16, 2013
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), as quoted by John W. Moffat in "Reinventing gravity" (p. 156).
This statement means the same thing as that one from Feynman.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
On veut éradiquer cette saison, standardiser nos vies. Les villes repoussent et pelletent l'hiver... mais l'hiver s'accroche. Il orne les balcons et dissimule les imperfections. Les enfants glissent, les joues rose saumon.
L'hiver est long pour celui qui lui tourne le dos. L'hiver est froid pour celui qui ne le touche pas."
Bernard Voyer, explorateur, "Aniu", chapitre "Neige".
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
"C'est déjà une grande et nécessaire preuve de sagesse ou d'intelligence que de savoir quelles questions on peut raisonnablement poser. Car si la question est en soi absurde et appelle des réponses vaines, elle a pour inconvénient, outre qu'elle humilie celui qui la soulève, parfois aussi d'égarer dans des réponses absurdes celui qui l'entend sans faire preuve de précautions et de produire le ridicule spectacle de deux individus dont l'un trait le bouc (comme disaient les anciens), alors que l'autre tient au-dessous un tamis."
Emmanuel Kant, critique de la raison pure, section "De la division de la logique générale en analytique et dialectique".
Monday, January 21, 2013
"La critique de la raison conduit donc nécessairement, en fin de compte, à la science ; l'usage dogmatique de la raison, sans critique, conduit au contraire à des affirmations sans fondement, auxquelles on peut opposer d'autres affirmations tout aussi spécieuses, par conséquent au scepticisme."
Emmanuel Kant, Critique de la raison pure, Introduction.
Peut-être Kant n'utilise-t'il pas le terme "scepticisme" sous le même sens que nous lui donnons de nos jours...
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Lee Smolin, "The trouble with physics" (p. 304).
May I always remember this!