Arthur Eddington, fully Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington

Eddington, fully Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington

British Astrophysicist, Contributed to the Theory of Relativity, The Eddington Limit (luminosity of stars) named in his honor

Author Quotes

At terrestrial temperatures matter has complex properties which are likely to prove most difficult to unravel; but it is reasonable to hope that in the not too distant future we shall be competent to understand so simple a thing as a star.

In the world of physics we watch a shadowgraph performance of the drama of familiar life. The shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper. It is all symbolic, and as a symbol the physicist leaves it. ... The frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows is one of the most significant of recent advances.

Man is slightly nearer to the atom than to the star. … From his central position man can survey the grandest works of Nature with the astronomer, or the minutest works with the physicist. … [K]nowledge of the stars leads through the atom; and important knowledge of the atom has been reached through the stars.

Shuffling is the only thing which Nature cannot undo.

The universe is of the nature of a thought or sensation in a universal Mind... To put the conclusion crudely — the stuff of the world is mind-stuff. As is often the way with crude statements, I shall have to explain that by mind I do not exactly mean mind and by stuff I do not at all mean stuff. Still that is about as near as we can get to the idea in a simple phrase. The mind-stuff of the world is something more general than our individual conscious minds; but we may think of its nature as not altogether foreign to feelings in our consciousness... Having granted this, the mental activity of the part of world constituting ourselves occasions no great surprise; it is known to us by direct self-knowledge, and we do not explain it away as something other than we know it to be — or rather, it knows itself to be.

We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about 'and'.

But it is necessary to insist more strongly than usual that what I am putting before you is a model—the Bohr model atom—because later I shall take you to a profounder level of representation in which the electron instead of being confined to a particular locality is distributed in a sort of probability haze all over the atom.

It cannot be denied that for a society which has to create scarcity to save its members from starvation, to whom abundance spells disaster, and to whom unlimited energy means unlimited power for war and destruction, there is an ominous cloud in the distance though at present it be no bigger than a man's hand.

Motion with respect to the universal ocean of aether eludes us. We say, Let V be the velocity of a body through the aether, and form the various electromagnetic equations in which V is scattered liberally. Then we insert the observed values, and try to eliminate everything which is unknown except V. The solution goes on famously; but just as we have got rid of all the other unknowns, behold! V disappears as well, and we are left with the indisputable but irritating conclusion — 0 = 0 This is a favourite device that mathematical equations resort to, when we propound stupid questions.

So far as physics is concerned, time's arrow is a property of entropy alone.

The whole subject-matter of exact science consists of pointer readings and similar indications.

What we are observing is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our type of question.

Consciousness is not sharply defined, but fades into sub-consciousness; and beyond that we must postulate something indefinite but yet continuous with our mental nature. This I take it be the world-stuff.

It is a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in a theory until it has been confirmed by observation. I hope I shall not shock the experimental physicists too much if I add that it is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they have been confirmed by theory.

Never mind what two tons refers to. What is it? How has it entered in so definite a way into our exprerience? Two tons is the reading of the pointer when the elephant was placed on a weighing machine. Let us pass on. ... And so we see that the poetry fades out of the problem, and by the time the serious application of exact science begins we are left only with pointer readings.

Something unknown is doing we don't know what—that is what our theory amounts to. [Expressing the quantum theory description of an electron has no familiar conception of a real form.]

There is no essential distinction between scientific measures and the measures of the senses. In either case our acquaintance with the external world comes to us through material channels; the observer's body may be regarded as part of his laboratory equipment.

Whatever else there may be in our nature, responsibility toward truth is one of its attributes.

Everybody continues in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, except insofar as it doesn't.

It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory.

Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

Space exists only in relation to our particularizing consciousness.

There is no space without aether, and no aether which does not occupy space.

When an investigator has developed a formula which gives a complete representation of the phenomena within a certain range, he may be prone to satisfaction. Would it not be wiser if he should say 'Foiled again! I can find out no more about Nature along this line.'

For the truth of the conclusions of physical science, observation is the supreme Court of Appeal. It does not follow that every item which we confidently accept as physical knowledge has actually been certified by the Court; our confidence is that it would be certified by the Court if it were submitted. But it does follow that every item of physical knowledge is of a form which might be submitted to the Court. It must be such that we can specify (although it may be impracticable to carry out) an observational procedure which would decide whether it is true or not. Clearly a statement cannot be tested by observation unless it is an assertion about the results of observation. Every item of physical knowledge must therefore be an assertion of what has been or would be the result of carrying out a specified observational procedure.

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Eddington, fully Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
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British Astrophysicist, Contributed to the Theory of Relativity, The Eddington Limit (luminosity of stars) named in his honor