Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent calendar #11: Prescient Einstein

From Bertram Kostant (Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at MIT) via Garrett Lisi @ Physics Forums comes the following anecdote:

"I was a visiting member of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study in 1955. It was a Good Friday in April and Einstein was looking for the Institute bus to take him back home to 112 Mercer Street. Being Good Friday, the driver was on holiday amd I offered to drive him home. We had a wonderful conversation and at one point he asked me what I was working on. I told him Lie groups. He then remarked, wagging his finger, that that will be very important. Actually, I was quite surprised that he knew who Lie was. About a week later Einstein was dead."

13 comments:

Giotis said...

depressing story

Bee said...

If you think that is depressing, wait for the story on Tuesday... but don't worry, we have some more amusing ones to come too.

Giotis said...

And something to cheer up.

The funniest thing I read in a paper and an excellent piece of self-sarcasm:

Since the dawn of time, humankind has wondered, "what is the potential on the Coulomb branch of the conifold gauge theory, and what are the consequences for models of D-brane inflation?" In this paper, we continue this quest.


http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1001/1001.5028v1.pdf (first paragraph page 2)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I guess it’s the way one looks at things which would have this story to be depressing or not. That is what this has me mindful of is that Einstein had a full share of life as it relates to quality. He had reached a level of success achieved by few , yet also in his lifetime suffered many tragedies and forced to make decisions so dreadful which fortunately for most of us will remain at best simply mind experiments.

That is this story serves to remind that right up until the very end he was able to maintain the most valued thing he or anyone can have for which we all benefit with that being his insatiable curiosity instilling a sense of wonder. Thus I find this story in terms of the noblest aspect of the human spirit to be both uplifting and inspirational and therein couldn’t be a more fitting one for the theme.


“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity.”

-Albert Einstein, Statement to William Miller, as quoted in LIFE magazine (2 May 1955)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Giotis,

Ha, yes, that was very to the point :o) Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Yes, questioning and curiosity are essential to science. But they have to be accompanied by the willingness to work hard to answer the questions. Otherwise we'd still be curious what the stars are made of. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Most certainly agreed and thus is why Einstein referred to such as being “holy curiosity”, that is as opposed to belief to which such thing are so often associated, rather as to reflect one’s commitment respective of the utility of holding to such a philosophy. That is in a nutshell for me what binds science to be consistent with being a philosophy, not so much dependant on metrics which so often can be found as subjective, yet rather upon its objective which is to recognize and define as best we can the qualities of the world.

Best,

Phil

Zephir said...

/*..Actually, I was quite surprised that he knew who Lie was..*/
Actually, I would be quite surprised if anyone here knew, what the Lie group is (I mean the geometric meaning of it).

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

Last week I downloaded the Wikipedia blurb on Lie groups, but found it a bit technical for what I was after (a more conceptual discussion of algebraic approaches in physics).

Are there any accurate, but also accessible, dicussions of Lie Groups and discrete Lie symmetries that anyone can point me towards?

RLO

Zephir said...

The En lattice gives solutions to the lattice packing problem and the kissing number problem in n dimensions. Lattice packing is type of sphere packings, where the spheres are centered at the points of a lattice. It is known that this is the maximum density that can be achieved by a lattice packing in 8 dimensions. The physical interpretation of this packing is, it describes the tightest packing of gauge bosons, formed with exchange of energy with another particles, recursively. The dark matter field or Higgs field is supposed to have such a symmetry. The kissing number problem asks what is the maximum number of spheres of a fixed radius that can touch (or "kiss") a central sphere of the same radius. In the E8 lattice packing mentioned any given sphere touches 240 neighboring spheres. It was shown, that this is the maximum possible number in 8-dimensions.

Bee said...

Hi Robert,

There is of course Georgi's book, but probably too technical for your purposes. I am trying to recall if Baez' "Gauge fields, Knots, and Gravity" has something to say about Lie groups & algebras. I'd think it should, but I can't recall, and I don't have the book here. Maybe somebody else knows? Best,

B.

Giotis said...

Yeap he has one chapter devoted to Lie Groups and algebras.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

I am looking for modeling of physical objects using discrete Lie symmetries, and discussions of the relationships among Lie groups, conformal dilation symmetry and self-similarity.

Perhaps a misguided search, or perhaps one that as yet has no path to glory.

Thanks for your suggestions, which I will duly consider.

RLO