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

It is believed that the great mass of the stars … are arranged in the form of a lens- or bun-shaped system… considerably flattened towards one plane … the Sun occupies a fairly central position. … towards the galactic poles the density continues practically uniform up to a distance of about 100 parsecs; after that the falling off becomes noticeable, so that at 300 parsecs it is only a fraction (perhaps a fifth) of the density near the Sun. [One parsec equals 3.26 light years.] The extension in the galactic plane is at least three times greater. These figures are subject to large uncertainties.

Oh leave the Wise our measures to collate. One thing at least is certain, light has weight. One thing is certain and the rest debate. Light rays, when near the Sun, do not go straight.

The electron, as it leaves the atom, crystallizes out of Schrödinger's mist like a genie emerging from his bottle.

There is only one law of Nature—the second law of thermodynamics—which recognises a distinction between past and future more profound than the difference of plus and minus. It stands aloof from all the rest. ... It opens up a new province of knowledge, namely, the study of organization; and it is in connection with organization that a direction of time-flow and a distinction between doing and undoing appears for the first time.

When I hear to-day protests against the Bolshevism of modern science and regrets for the old-established order, I am inclined to think that Rutherford, not Einstein, is the real villain of the piece. When we compare the universe as it is now supposed to be with the universe as we had ordinarily preconceived it, the most arresting change is not the rearrangement of space and time by Einstein but the dissolution of all that we regard as most solid into tiny specks floating in void. That gives an abrupt jar to those who think that things are more or less what they seem. The revelation by modern physics of the void within the atom is more disturbing than the revelation by astronomy of the immense void of interstellar space. [When thinking about the new relativity and quantum theories] I have felt a homesickness for the paths of physical science where there are more or less discernible handrails to keep us from the worst morasses of foolishness.

From the beginning I have been doubtful whether it was desirable for a scientist to venture so far into extra-scientific territory. The primary justification for such an expedition is that it may afford a better view of his own scientific domain.

It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character. But no one can deny that mind is the first and most direct thing in our experience, and all else is remote inference — inference either intuitive or deliberate.

On one occasion when [William] Smart found him engrossed with his fundamental theory, he asked Eddington how many people he thought would understand what he was writing—after a pause came the reply, 'Perhaps seven.'

The helium which we handle must have been put together at some time and some place. We do not argue with the critic who urges that the stars are not hot enough for this process; we tell him to go and find a hotter place.

There once was a brainy baboon, who always breathed down a bassoon, for he said, It appears that in billions of years I shall certainly hit on a tune.

Who will observe the observers?

Human life is proverbially uncertain; few things are more certain than the solvency of a life-insurance company.

It is even possible that laws which have not their origin in the mind may be irrational, and we can never succeed in formulating them.

Our model of Nature should not be like a building—a handsome structure for the populace to admire, until in the course of time someone takes away a corner stone and the edifice comes toppling down. It should be like an engine with movable parts. We need not fix the position of any one lever; that is to be adjusted from time to time as the latest observations indicate. The aim of the theorist is to know the train of wheels which the lever sets in motion—that binding of the parts which is the soul of the engine

The idealistic tinge in my conception of the physical world arose out of mathematical researches on the relativity theory. In so far as I had any earlier philosophical views, they were of an entirely different complexion.

There was a time when we wanted to be told what an electron is. The question was never answered. No familiar conceptions can be woven around the electron; it belongs to the waiting list.

I am afraid the knockabout comedy of modern atomic physics is not very tender towards our aesthetic ideals. The stately drama of stellar evolution turns out to be more like the hair-breadth escapades in the films. The music of the spheres has a painful suggestion of -- jazz.

It is impossible to trap modern physics into predicting anything with perfect determinism because it deals with probabilities from the outset.

Our ultimate analysis of space leads us not to a 'here' and a 'there', but to an extension such as that which relates 'here' and 'there'. To put the conclusion rather crudely—space is not a lot of points close together; it is a lot of distances interlocked.

The law that entropy always increases, holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

To a request to explain what an electron is really supposed to be we can only answer, 'It is part of the A B C of physics.'

I believe there are 15 747 724 136 275 002 577 605 653 961 181 555 468 044 717 914 527 116 709 366 231 425 076 185 631 031 296 protons in the universe and the same number of electrons.

It is in the external world that the four dimensions are united -- not the relations of the external world to the individual which constitute his direct acquaintance with space and time.

Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me... I should like to find a genuine loophole.

The man in the street is always making this demand for concrete explanation of the things referred to in science; but of necessity he must be disappointed. It is like our experience in learning to read. That which is written in a book is symbolic of a story in real life.

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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