Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Science Park "Albert Einstein" Potsdam

Stefan and I, we were in Potsdam the past few days where I was visiting the Albert-Einstein Institute in Golm. While in the area, we also stopped at the "Science Park" in Potsdam. Potsdam may be more famous for the parks of Sanssouci and other palaces of the Prussian kings but this park, on a hill not far off the city center, is definitly worth a visit when you are interested in the history of science.

The park has an interesting past: Named "Telegraphenberg" (Telegraph Hill), it originally was the location of a relais station of an optical telegraph system linking Berlin to the Rhine. The park was designed in the second half of the 19th century, when an Astrophysical Observatory and a Geodetic Institute were installed on the hill.


The park on Telegraph Hill, Potsdam.

It was here that in 1880, Albert Michelson made his first interference experiment to test the direction-dependence of the speed of light. He was a guest scientist at the physics institute of Hermann von Helmholtz in Berlin at the time, and had to move his sensitive experimental setup to quiet Potsdam to escape the noise and vibrations of street traffic in the capital. Of course, Michelson didn't find any signs of the expected ether drift at the time, and thought of his experiment as a failure. Back to the US, he convinced his colleague Morley to collaborate on an improved experimental setup, and the rest is history.


The "Michelson Building" on Telegraph Hill, Potsdam.

The building where Michelson had installed his interferometer in the basement is now called the "Michelson Building", and accommodates the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The most famous monument on Telegraph Hill in Potsdam is the "Einstein Tower," housing a solar telescope. Designed by expressionist architect Erich Mendelson and financed in parts by Carl Bosch (the same Bosch who built the "Villa Bosch" in Heidelberg I visited last year), it is a cute looking phallus symbol whose scientific purpose was to test the redshift of spectral lines of sunlight in the Sun's gravitational field, one of the predictions of Einstein's theory of General Relativity.


The "Einstein Tower" solar observatory on Telegraph Hill, Potsdam.

Also this experiment failed, due to the thermal broadening of spectral lines and the fluctuations of the Sun's surface which, by the Doppler shift, mask the gravitational redshift and form a source of systematic error much higher than originally expected. Evidence for the "Gravitational Displacement of Lines in the Solar Spectrum" eventually came from other observatories, and unambiguous proof of the gravitational redshift finally was provided by the experiments of Rebka and Pound in 1959, using the Mössbauer effect to detect tiny shifts in the gamma ray frequencies of iron nuclei.

Nevertheless, the Einstein Tower is the only observatory on Telegraph Hill still in use for active research: The solar telescope and spectrographs now serve to study magnetic fields in the Sun's photosphere.


The building is quite small. A person in the scene, in this photo Stefan, helps to set a scale.

Directly in front of the Einstein-Tower, I found, to my surprise, a Boltzmann brain popping out of the ground:



Wikipedia informed us later that the bronze brain with the imprint "3 SEC" was put in place by the artist Volker März in 2002. It is titled "The 3 SEC Bronze Brain – Admonition to the Now – Monument to the continuous present” and symbolizes the scientific thesis that “the experience of continuity is based on an illusion" and that "continuity arises through the networking of contents, which in each case are represented in a time window of three seconds."

I wonder what Einstein would have thought of that.

11 comments:

Arun said...

“the experience of continuity is based on an illusion" is also a Buddhist idea.

Bee said...

Did Buddha make a prediction for the time-spacing?

Plato said...

I 'll have to add this place for future itinerary of places to go in Europe, as my wife and I discuss places of interest to visit.

Also to say, My, how far we have come on interferometer use.:)

Best,

Plato said...

Since there exist in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent "now" objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence. Albert Einstein

Moving to a non-euclidean perspective, one might tend to think "fluidity in motion" instead of discrete jumps?:)

Maybe Einstein meant something quite different then the "metric thought" of something computationally measured?

A Q<->Q measure helps to set up one's thinking and places them in contact with a world of relationships and dynamics?:)

Best,

Plato said...

Yes I know.

:)

Tkk said...

"Directly in front of the Einstein-Tower, I found, to my surprise, a Boltzmann brain popping out of the ground"

This is an outrage. It should be called Einstein Brain.

nv said...

hi bee,

since you are keen on continuity of space and especially time, here is what I believe the solution :
Quantum .

you can say (classical) time is discrete. it has to do with collapse of wave function.
best,
nv

nv said...

oh, yeah,

the paper above also redefines quantization, though not using that word explicitly, and gives mechanism for obtaining 3-space out of it and something more fundamental - algebra. But of course, algebra itself is taken then as starting point and not derived.
best,
nv

nv said...

well, bee, since you asked, I posted the above link and posts.
best,
nv

Ben said...

Hey check out my images and some more info on the Einstein Tower here.

Plato said...

Just wondering when the Einstein Tower was built?

The connection to the design of the tower and the comment on pueblo design sparked familiarity with a image of a tower on the edge of the grand canyon and my posting on the Old One. 13.7 blog just recently had a blog posting on the religiosity of Einstein.

Desert View Watchtower was built in 1932 and is one of Mary Colter's best-known works. Situated at the far eastern end of the South Rim, 27 miles (43 km) from Grand Canyon Village, the tower sits on a 7,400 foot (2,256 m) promontory. It offers one of the few views of the bottom of the Canyon and the Colorado River. It is designed to mimic an Anasazi watchtower though it is larger than existing ones.[18]

I was wondering if there was some correlation that inspired Einstein with the Einstein Tower with that architectural design of the native culture?

Best,