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Thread: Tony Rothman

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    Default Tony Rothman


    Tony Rothman
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    Quote Originally Posted by Instant Physics
    If you are a potential victim of this book, leafing through its pages while obstructing traffic in the science aisle of your favorite bookstore, there is a good chance you once took a physics course in the vanished days of your youth. Perhaps you now want a refresher or perhaps, feeling guilty at your ignorance of the central role played by science in modern society, you merely wish to become a more cultured individual. In any case, your knowledge of physics is inexcusably weak and, if you have indeed been exposed to the subject before, you probably regard the word "physics" as synonymous with "plague," as in "to be avoided like the."
    Quote Originally Posted by Instant Physics
    Socrates, Plato, Aristotle: To laycreatures, the great trinity of Greek philosophy. Socrates is the wisest of men, Milton tells us. Cicero would rather be wrong with Plato. Faustus would live and die in Aristotle's works.

    Yet try a simple experiment: Unearth a physicist; cleverly find an excuse to praise these illustrious Greeks; observe the results. It is possible your guinea pig will merely mutter, "Philosophy. Humph. Never read much," and walk away. Otherwise, the odds are high that you will see the wan smile of a mild-mannered academic transform into a scowl, then into a murderous frown; the face will redden, the eyes turn heavenward. And then the torrent comes, a veritable diatribe, none of which you can follow or care to, but which in essence translates into one thing: Why are you wasting your time reading Plato and Aristotle, these criminals who set back the course of civilization a thousand years?
    [edited to fix spelling of his name]

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    More quotes:

    Quote Originally Posted by Instant Physics
    You must realize that to the Greeks and their successors, the concept of atom was an abstract hypothesis that might explain certain phenomena. But at the time there could be no experimental evidence to support it. And there would be no evidence for a thousand years.

    If this seems like a strange statement in this age when we take atoms for granted, ask yourself: how do you know atoms exist? Yes, you. Probably you read about them in grade school. But what experiment can you propose to give evidence of their existence? Your Ginsu knife may slice and dice, but it's not going to cut a brick into atoms. To most people there's little difference between atoms and magic.

    To illuminate the difficulties more sharply, pretend you are a scientist in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. The villain Aristotle had rejected atoms and instead embraced Empedocle's notion of four elements - earth, air, fire, and water. All remaining substances on the Earth arose from combinations of these elements. As a follower of Aristotle, it is difficult for you to conceive of anything more fundamental. But the result, for scientists trying to prove this theory, was centuries of blood, sweat and tears. Thanks, Ari.

    Moreover, the Master held that once a new substance is formed, all traces of its ingredients are erased. To take a modern example, we know that limestone (chalk to laycreatures) is composed of calcium, carbon, and oxygen. But as an Aristotelian, you scoff at this. Limestone is an entirely different substance; once it has formed, the calcium, carbon, and oxygen vanish. Along with the fact that everything is ultimately made of earth, air, fire, and water, you are convinced that it is a waste of time to search for more basic units of construction.

    The next great obstacle to an understanding of atoms is that you lack the modern concept of a chemical element - a basic substance that cannot be transformed by any chemical reaction into another substance. Following the Aristotelian quest for perfection, you have attempted to make the perfect metal - gold - in your alchemy laboratory. This seems a perfectly reasonable endeavor. During your years in the laboratory you added zinc to copper, which is yellowish, and thereby transmuted copper into the more yellow brass. Why cannot brass be transmuted into something even more yellow - gold? Without the idea of an element, there is no reason to think this can't be done.

    The chemical situation at the start of the seventeenth century was even worse than this. Chemical ideas were mixed with astrological ideas (the behavior of iron was governed by the red planet Mars; followers of Jean Dixon have evidently stopped thinking in the seventeenth century). And because Aristotle taught that things follow their nature, some chemicals reacted because they felt "sympathy" for each other, and others refused to react because they "abhorred" each other. Indeed, by the seventeenth century, chemistry had become the Yugoslavia of science. How could such a mess be sorted out? The answer lay in atoms, but to prove it took another three hundred years of false starts, missed opportunities, and inspired guesses.
    Quote Originally Posted by Instant Physics
    Torricelli's (Viviani's - whoever's) experiments created a sensation. Why, for God's sake? Remember your Aristotle: nature abhors a vacuum. Torricelli filled his tubes completely before inverting them. So when the liquid settled down, the gap at the top of the tube must contain nothing - a vacuum. The public is astounded. The tabloids go wild.

    NATURE ALLOWS VACUUM.
    ARISTOTLE REFUSES TO ADMIT DEFEAT
    SAYS, "IT AIN'T SO."

    "Everyone knows," claims Greek, "that you can only drink soda because when you try to create a vacuum in your mouth by sucking on a straw, the soda rushes in."
    Philosophers Weigh Results

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    Quote Originally Posted by dee
    LOADS of Te, LOADS of Ni.
    Do others of you share this opinion?

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    More spiffy quotes:

    Quote Originally Posted by Instant Physics
    Energy. Kids have a lot of it, the President wants to tax it, you may lack it in the morning, acupuncturists reverse the flow of it, there was a crisis of it in the 1970s, TV transcendalists harness the psychic form of it. Energy. But what does energy mean? Well, judging from all the ways people use the term, it means absolutely nothing. Good, now we can dispense with the rest of the book. No. Rather, let us put you on the path to True Enlightenment. The true, precise, unique, and unalterable definition of energy is

    the ability to do work.

    Work. Something to be avoided at all costs. Something you may pretend to do and they pretend to pay you for. Or maybe something that was once rewarded. No. The true, precise, unique, and unalterable definition of work is

    a force applied over a given distance,

    or

    Work = Fd.

    Well, that was enlightening, wasn't it? Actually it was, you just don't realize it yet. Everyone knows that if you push a large mass (perhaps yourself) over a distance, you feel it, and the larger the mass or the farther you push, the sooner you say, "To hell with this," and get a beer. [The equation above] is the physicist's way of quantifying such frustration.
    Quote Originally Posted by Instant Physics
    Potential energy is often termed the energy of position. A Wall Street stockbroker hurling himself from a window has a large potential energy that can flatten a pedestrian - or be harnessed to power a lightbulb.
    Quote Originally Posted by Instant Physics
    Cocktail Party Conversation
    A physicist, wearing a "Tetractys of the Decad" T-shirt, is surrounded by admirers. You, wearing an "Alchemists Anonymous" T-shirt, approach.

    You: Do you really believe mathematics describes the real world?
    Physicist: Better than poetry.
    You: Then why do science profs always say things like "assume the cow is spherical"?
    Physicist: Well, one must... um... simplify!
    You: A spherical cow? Isn't math describing something that doesn't exist?
    Physicist: Hmm, by the tetractys, this cannot be denied.
    You: On the other hand, I've heard that most equations describing real systems can't be solved exactly.
    Physicist: Well, yes, we usually approximate.
    You: So, how can mathematics be such a great description of the real world? On the one hand you can describe things that don't exist; on the other hand you can't describe things that do exist. Sounds a lot like poetry to me.
    Physicist: But we can make our approximations as close as we want.
    You: Didn't Einstein say, "As far as the law of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality"?
    Physicist: Did he say that? Excuse me - it's time for some nectar and ambrosia.
    (Physicist disappears into the crowd.)

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    . . .

    Is it wrong for me to find him incredibly sexy? God, mustaches are such a gay porn cliche but you gotta love 'em. WOOF!

    Get away from him Dr. laura, he's mine!

    Do you have any videos of the guy? I doubt he acts as sexy as he looks, but we'll see.

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