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

To the pure geometer the radius of curvature is an incidental characteristic - like the grin of the Cheshire cat. To the physicist it is an indispensable characteristic. It would be going too far to say that to the physicist the cat is merely incidental to the grin. Physics is concerned with interrelatedness such as the interrelatedness of cats and grins. In this case the cat without a grin and the grin without a cat are equally set aside as purely mathematical phantasies.

A society of learned fishes would probably agree that phenomena were best described from the point of view of a fish at rest in the ocean.

I think that science would never have achieved much progress if it had always imagined unknown obstacles hidden round every corner. At least we may peer gingerly round the corner, and perhaps we shall find there is nothing very formidable after all.

It is one thing for the human mind to extract from the phenomena of nature the laws which it has itself put into them; it may be a far harder thing to extract laws over which it has no control. 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.

Physics has in the main contented itself with studying the abridged edition of the book of nature.

The mathematics is not there till we put it there.

Unless the structure of the nucleus has a surprise in store for us, the conclusion seems plain—there is nothing in the whole system if laws of physics that cannot be deduced unambiguously from epistemological considerations. An intelligence, unacquainted with our universe, but acquainted with the system of thought by which the human mind interprets to itself the contents of its sensory experience, and should be able to attain all the knowledge of physics that we have attained by experiment.

A star is drawing on some vast reservoir of energy by means unknown to us. This reservoir can scarcely be other than the subatomic energy which, it is known exists abundantly in all matter; we sometimes dream that man will one day learn how to release it and use it for his service. The store is well nigh inexhaustible, if only it could be tapped. There is sufficient in the Sun to maintain its output of heat for 15 billion years.

I think there should be a law of Nature to prevent a star from behaving in this absurd way!

It is sound judgment to hope that in the not too distant future we shall be competent to understand so simple a thing as a star.

Probably the simplest hypothesis... is that there may be a slow process of annihilation of matter.

The mind-stuff is not spread in space and time. But we must presume that in some other way or aspect it can be differentiated into parts. Only here and there does it arise to the level of consciousness, but from such islands proceeds all knowledge. The latter includes our knowledge of the physical world.

Untaught by long experience we stretch a hand to grasp the shadow, instead of accepting its shadowy nature.

All authorities seem to be agreed that at, or nearly at, the root of everything in the physical world lies the mystic formula qp-pq=ih/2pi. We do not yet understand that; probably if we could understand it we should not think it so fundamental.

If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters, they might write all the books in the British Museum.

It would be unreasonable to limit our thought of nature to what can be comprised in sense-pictures.

Proof is an idol before whom the pure mathematician tortures himself.

The physical world is entirely abstract and without actuality apart from its linkage to consciousness.

We are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong.

All the familiar terms of physics -- length, duration of time, motion, force, mass, energy, and so on -- refer primarily to this relative knowledge of the world; and it remains to be seen whether any knowledge of them can be retained in a description of the world which is not relative to a particular observer.

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.

It would probably be wiser to nail up over the door of the new quantum theory a notice, 'Structural alterations in progress--No admittance except on business', and particularly to warn the doorkeeper to keep out prying philosophers.

Religious creeds are a great obstacle to any full sympathy between the outlook of the scientist and the outlook which religion is so often supposed to require ... The spirit of seeking which animates us refuses to regard any kind of creed as its goal. It would be a shock to come across a university where it was the practice of the students to recite adherence to Newton's laws of motion, to Maxwell's equations and to the electromagnetic theory of light. We should not deplore it the less if our own pet theory happened to be included, or if the list were brought up to date every few years. We should say that the students cannot possibly realise the intention of scientific training if they are taught to look on these results as things to be recited and subscribed to. Science may fall short of its ideal, and although the peril scarcely takes this extreme form, it is not always easy, particularly in popular science, to maintain our stand against creed and dogma.

The portions of the external universe of which we have additional knowledge by direct awareness amount to a very small fraction of the whole; of the rest we know only the structure and not what it is a structure of. Science is concerned with the rational correlation of experience rather than a discovery of fragments of absolute truth about an external world.

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.

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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