Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

5 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Marie Curie

marie curie quotes international women's day

Marie Curie was denied education in her native Poland because she was a woman. She had to attend a secret underground university to prove her merit. Times changed and Marie emerged as one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century winning two Nobel Prizes in less than 10 years.

It was a period of very limited opportunities for women in all spheres, yet in an academic world that belonged to men Curie made an everlasting mark. Following are five inspiring quotes by Madame Curie that each teach you a valuable lesson in life.

1. To her two daughters – Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.

marie curie quotes international women's day

Irene and Eve grew up to be distinguished figures in their own fields. While Irene became famous for her scientific achievement, Eve worked for UNICEF providing help to mothers in the developing countries.

2. On curiosity – Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. If I see anything vital around me it is precisely this spirit of adventure, which seems indestructible and is akin to curiosity, that guides me.

According to Madame Curie: We only fear that we do not yet understand. Curie was exposed to Radiation in her scientific investigation of elements. Later on, she was exposed to X-ray when she served as a medical doctor during the first World War.

3. On scientific beauty – I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.

All my life the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a little child. So we should not allow it to be believed that all scientific progress can be reduced to mechanisms, machines, gearings; even though such machinery also has its beauty.

4. On usefulness of science – We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it.

Apart from its medical application, Radium was increasingly used in industries such as timekeeping. The radium watch first produced in 1916 became a highly profitable commodity. However, Marie and her husband Pierre benefited little as they refused to patent their discovery of Radium.

5. On her wedding dress – I have no dress except the one I wear every day. If you are going to be kind enough to give me one, please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory.

Marie and her husband Pierre came together through common love of science and research. They shared the Nobel Prize in 1903 in recognition of their extraordinary services to the study of radiation phenomena. For their honeymoon, Marie and Pierre took a bicycle tour around the French countryside in 1895.

marie curie and pierre curie, international women's day

One can know of her dedication to science by the fact that Curie survived on buttered bread and tea to be able to afford her education. Denied access in early years, she received her doctorate of science only at the age of 36. The way of progress is neither swift nor easy, Curie used to say.

Before her untimely death in 1934, Marie Curie founded the Radium Institute in 1932 as a specialized research institute and hospital. Hugely inspired by her drive and intellect, Albert Einstein said: Of all celebrated beings, Madame Curie is the only one whom fame has not corrupted.

5 Important Discoveries By Heinrich Rudolf Hertz

heinrich hertz biography experimental physics

Heinrich Hertz (1857–1894) was a renowned German experimental physicist whose discoveries over a period of 10 years served as the foundation stones of modern communication technology and quantum mechanics.

Hertz was home schooled from age 15, as he was an outstanding student who showed proficiency not only in the sciences but also in foreign languages, such as Arabic and Sanskrit. In 1930, the SI unit of frequency was named Hertz in his honor.

1. Inertia of electricity

Hertz studied under physicist Hermann von Helmholtz at the University of Berlin. In 1878, Helmholtz was involved in a fierce debate with a colleague: Does electric current have mass? He announced a prize to anyone who could answer the question.

At that time, electron was not yet discovered so it was a big ask. Hertz accepted the challenge as it gave him immense pleasure in learning directly from nature through well thought out experiments.

After one year of hard work, Hertz settled the debate by showing in a series of experiments that if electric current had any mass at all, it must be negligibly small. Nearly 20 years later, electron was discovered by J.J. Thomson.

2. Radio waves

Hertz was 7 years old when James Clerk Maxwell wrote the famous equations of electromagnetic theory. No one was able to generate electromagnetic waves until Hertz in 1887. Hertz was 30 years old at the time.

Hertz was demonstrating electrical sparks to his students in 1886. He noticed during the lecture that sparks produced a regular electrical vibration within the electric wires.

Hertz thought that this vibration was caused by accelerating and decelerating electrical charges. If Maxwell was right, this would radiate electromagnetic waves through air.

When Hertz was asked in an interview the use of electromagnetic waves, he replied: Nothing I guess. This is just a home-made experiment that proves Maestro Maxwell right.

3. Electromagnetic spectrum

Hertz calculated the speed of radio waves he created and found it to be the same as the speed of light. This was an experimental triumph as he had proved yet another prediction of Maxwell.

Hertz also showed that the waves radiating from his oscillator could be reflected, refracted, polarized and produced interference patterns like light.

In 1890s, Hertz also worked with ultraviolet and x-ray. He concluded that UV, radio, x-ray and light are part of a large family of waves which is today called the electromagnetic spectrum.

4. Photoelectric effect

In 1887, Hertz observed that an electrically charged metal when put under ultraviolet light lost its charge faster than otherwise. This is called photoelectric effect.

As Hertz was an experimental physicist he did not try explaining the phenomenon. Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein was a young boy in Munich at this time.

In 1905, Einstein wrote the theory of photoelectric effect and won the Nobel Prize for the same in 1921. This work played a key role in the development of quantum mechanics.

5. Contact mechanics

Hertz wrote a paper in 1881 outlining the field of contact mechanics. Contact mechanics is a part of mechanical engineering in which engineers study the touch points of solids.

The principles of contact mechanics are useful in applications such as rail-wheel contact, braking systems and tyres.

Summing up

Heinrich Hertz was only 36 years old when he died of complications in surgery to fix his constant migraines. In just 15 years of his scientific career Hertz made pioneering contributions to various fields of physics.

From Maxwell to Einstein, Hertz is the famous experimenter whose observations either confirmed a previous theory or laid groundwork for a new theory. Hertz is among the few scientists in whose honor an SI unit is named.

7 Facts About Galileo Galilei That You Didn't Know

galileo galilei birthday interesting facts about galileo

Astronomer Galileo Galilei was the most well known scientist of old and one of the most underrated scientists today. He is not as widely recognized as Newton or Einstein despite laying the very foundations of physics in the 16th century.

But one can also learn from Galileo lessons of bravery and honesty. To search for truth in all his life, Galileo challenged and exposed the stubbornness of authorities – academic or religious. Following are 8 interesting facts on Galileo.

Middle finger


At the time of Galileo's death, his family wanted to erect a marble mausoleum in Galileo's honor. The then Pope of Catholic Church vehemently protested against it and Galileo was buried in a small underwhelming room as a result.

After the Pope died, the family reburied Galileo and removed three fingers from Galileo's remains. Today, the middle finger of Galileo's right hand is on display at a Museum in Florence. A prime example of how the tables have turned.

Father of physics


Einstein was highly inspired by Two New Sciences which was written while Galileo was under the house arrest. In this book, Galileo summarized all the experiments on physics he had conducted in the forty years earlier. As a result of this work, Galileo is often called the father of modern physics.

Einstein's hero


Galileo proposed that everything is relative... there is no absolute motion or absolute rest. That the laws of physics are the same in any system that is moving at a constant speed in a straight line, a principle that is central to Einstein's special theory of relativity.

Debunking Aristotle


A biography by Galileo's student Vincenzo Viviani states that Galileo gathered a crowd and climbed the Tower of Pisa to drop balls of the same material, but of different masses to prove Aristotle wrong. Galileo observed that an object twice as heavy did not fall twice as fast, as was Aristotle’s claim.

Apology by Church


In 1939, Pope Pius XII in his first speech, described Galileo as being among the most audacious heroes of research... not afraid of the stumbling blocks and the risks on the way. On 31 October 1992, Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the Church had erred in condemning Galileo 359 years ago.

Galileoscope


In 2009, a small mass-produced low-cost telescope was released with the motive to increase public interest in astronomy and science. It was developed to commemorate the fourth centenary of Galileo's first recorded astronomical observations with the telescope.

The 2-inch Galileoscope helped millions of people view the same things seen by Galileo Galilei with his telescope such as the craters of Earth's Moon, four of Jupiter's moons, and the Pleiades.

What is in a name?


Galileo disliked his given surname and did not use it in public documents as it was not compulsory at the time. He was named after a family ancestor Galileo Bonaiuti, who was an important physician and professor in Florence. Galileo Bonaiuti was buried in the same church where about 200 years later, Galileo Galilei was also buried.

Follow your heart


Since Galileo was named after a physician he was enrolled at the University of Pisa in 1580 to become a doctor. Although Galileo considered priesthood as a young man at his father's urging he obliged.

In 1581, when Galileo was in a lecture hall studying medicine he noticed a swinging chandelier, which air currents shifted about to swing in larger and smaller arcs.
To him, it seemed that the chandelier took the same amount of time to swing back and forth. This could be a fine time keeping instrument Galileo thought.

Up to this point, Galileo had deliberately been kept away from philosophy and mathematics because a doctor earned more than a mathematician. Galileo convinced his father into letting him study natural philosophy instead of medicine after this incident.

10 Engineers Who Won Nobel Prize In Physics

top 10 engineers who won nobel prize in physics

It is not surprising that there are many engineers whose first passion is physics (or mathematics). However, under unavoidable circumstances, they end up doing engineering instead. For example: did you know that Paul Dirac's father wanted him to become an electrical engineer?

After graduating, Dirac was without job. He decided to shift his attention to his first love-physics and the rest is history. Today we know Dirac as one of the founders of quantum mechanics. So, even if you might be clueless in life right now, your passion will find you in the end.

John Bardeen

Bardeen is the only person in history to have won two Nobel Prizes in physics. He received his bachelor and master degrees in electrical engineering in 1928 and 1929 respectively from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At first, John was employed by Gulf Oil corporation where he worked for four years. But he switched career by enrolling at Princeton University in 1933 to obtain a degree in mathematical physics. John went on to win Nobel Prizes in 1956 and 1972.

Henri Becquerel

top 10 engineers who won nobel prize in physics

Henri Becquerel was born into a family which produced four generations of physicists. He specialized in civil engineering at one of the most prestigious institutions in France. Becquerel was appointed as chief engineer at the Department of Bridges and Highways in 1894.

Around the same time he was investigating the properties of chemical elements. In 1896, he stumbled upon a new phenomenon that was named radioactivity by Madame Curie. The 1903 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Becquerel and the Curies.

Wilhelm Röntgen

Röntgen was a student of mechanical engineering at ETH Zurich. He was a contemporary of Becquerel... in fact, their ground-breaking discoveries were apart by only a few months. In 1895, Wilhelm produced very high energy waves called the x-rays, an achievement that earned him the inaugural Nobel Prize in 1901.


Eugene Wigner

Eugene Wigner was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1963 for contributions he made to nuclear physics, including the formulation of the law of conservation of parity.

Wigner enrolled at the Budapest University of Technical Sciences in 1920 but he was unhappy there and decided to drop out. In 1921, as guided by his parents, he joined the Technical University of Berlin where he studied chemical engineering.

Wigner accepted this offer because he was able to attend weekly conferences of the German Physical Society that hosted leading physicists of the time including Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg and Albert Einstein.

Paul Dirac

As mentioned before, Dirac studied electrical engineering at the University of Bristol. He graduated in 1921 but despite having a first class honors in engineering, he was unable to find work as an engineer in the post-war Britain.

top 10 engineers who won nobel prize in physics

Dirac again enrolled for a bachelor degree, this time in mathematics at the University of Bristol. He was allowed to skip a year as well as study free of charge because he was an exceptional student during his engineering years.


In 1923, Dirac once again graduated with a first class honors. Several years later, he became part of the quantum revolution that engulfed Europe. In 1928, Dirac predicted the antimatter which was discovered within few years by Carl Anderson in America.

Dennis Gabor

Dennis Gabor was a Hungarian-British electrical engineer and physicist who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1971 for the invention of Holography, a technique he created in 1948 to create photographic recording of a light field.

Jack Kilby

Kilby was an American electrical engineer who was one of the inventors of the integrated circuit, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 2000. Jack also invented hand-held calculator and thermal printer. He had completed bachelor and master degrees in engineering in 1947 and 1950 respectively.

Simon van der Meer

Dutch scientist Van der Meer was born in a family of teachers. He received an engineer's degree in 1952 from Delft University of Technology, which is the largest public university in the Netherlands. Simon joined CERN in 1956 and remained there until his retirement in 1990.

top 10 engineers who won nobel prize in physics

In 1984, he shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Italian physicist Carlo Rubbia for contributions to various projects at CERN that led to the discovery of the W and Z particles, which play a role in the weak nuclear force.

Shuji Nakamura

Nakamura was a Japanese-American electronics engineer who holds over 100 patents. He won the Nobel Prize in 2014 for the creation of blue laser diodes in the early 1990s that were later on used in the HD-DVD and blue-ray technologies.

Shuji Nakamura obtained his bachelor and master degrees in electronics engineering from the University of Tokushima in 1977 and 1979 respectively. Nakamura was also awarded a D.Eng. degree from the University of Tokushima in 1994.

Ivar Giaever

Ivar Giaever is a Norwegian-American engineer who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in physics with Esaki and Josephson for their discoveries regarding electron tunneling. Giaever had earned a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering from the Norwegian Institute of Technology in 1952.
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5 Discoveries at CERN That Changed The World

discoveries by CERN that changed the world

More than 12,000 scientists from 110 nationalities work at CERN whose discoveries shape the future of technology and advance our understanding of the universe. Founded in 1954, the facilities at CERN include one of the largest and most advanced particle accelerators in the world.

Higgs Boson


The 2012 detection of Higgs Boson was groundbreaking for two reasons. Firstly, the elusive particle was postulated in 1964, almost five decades prior to discovery. Its search required big budget and collaboration of many countries.

Secondly, because the Higgs Boson explains as to how fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks have mass. Due to its pervasive nature, Higgs particle was termed the God Particle by several scientists. However, Peter Higgs himself didn't endorse the name.

World Wide Web


It was physicist Tim Berners-Lee who developed the concept of hypertext at CERN in 1989. Many engineers including Robert Cailliau chipped in and the first website was ready by 1991, as a tool to allow scientists to share information.

The world wide web was made freely available to the world in 1993 so that anyone anywhere could connect to the internet. Not only www, the scientists at CERN have also helped develop technologies like PET scans, which is used to detect cancers.

Antimatter


Antimatter was theoretically described by physicist Paul Dirac in 1928. Creation of antimatter could shed light on why almost everything in the known universe consists of matter.

In 1995, scientists at CERN successfully created a stable antihydrogen for the first time. In 2002 they produced antihydrogen atoms in large quantities, but for an incredibly short lifespan, just several milliseconds.

In 2011, scientists were able to maintain antihydrogen atoms for more than 15 minutes, a historic feat. This will allow them to conduct a more detailed study of the antimatter and to create stable antimolecules soon.

Weak Neutral Current


Weak neutral current, a prediction of electroweak theory, is how subatomic particles interact with one another using the weak force. Here, the word current only implies the exchange of Z particle and has nothing to do with electrical current.

In 1973, weak neutral currents were detected by CERN in a neutrino experiment and confirmed the electroweak unification theory by Salam, Glashow and Weinberg who were recognized by the Nobel Prize in 1979.

New State of Matter


In the 1970s and early 1980s, cosmologists theorized the conditions immediately after the Big Bang. They predicted the existence of a new state of matter, a quark-gluon plasma in which quarks, instead of being bound up into protons and neutrons, are liberated to roam freely.
One of the objectives at CERN is to mimic those early universe conditions. In doing so, detection of quark gluon plasma was confirmed in 2000. The then director general of CERN called it an important step forward in the understanding of the early evolution of the universe.

Summing up


You will be surprised to know that of all the people working at CERN, only 3% are physicists. They employ technicians, engineers, IT specialists, writers, etc. who not only aid the advancement of physics but also help change the world by innovating medical, computing and aerospace technologies.

10 Famous Physicists Who Played Chess

famous nobel prize winning physicists who played chess

Chess is a tactical board game that is enjoyed by professionals and hobbyists all over the world. It is well known that chess playing not only develops concentration but also improves memory. In this post, let us look at ten physicists who enjoyed the game of Chess.

Paul Dirac


Growing up, Dirac played Chess on the Sundays with his father. He learned it quickly and went on to become the president of chess club of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Paul Dirac also played chess with the Nobel Prize winning physicist friend Pyotr Kapitsa.

nobel prize winning physicists who played chess

Roger Penrose


He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2020 for the work done on black hole singularities. His brother is the chess Grandmaster Jonathan Penrose. Their love for chess emerged thanks to their father Lionel Penrose who was a geneticist, mathematician and chess theorist.


Stephen Hawking


Hawking played chess just for fun with his youngest child, Timothy.

famous physicists who played chess
picture credit: pinterest

Albert Einstein


The renowned physicist was friends with German chess player and world champion Emanuel Lasker. In 1933, Oppenheimer played against Einstein in Princeton, USA and lost by resignation. Einstein was a good player but played very little chess.

Richard Feynman


American physicist Richard Feynman was drawn to chess in the high school. He was particularly interested in observing the chess gameplay. In one interview, Feynman said, in regards to physics: The gods are playing a great game of chess and the scientists are merely observers trying to figure out the rules of the game.


Werner Heisenberg


As a young boy, Heisenberg spent his free time in the evenings playing chess against neighborhood friends. His love of the game grew and became intolerable for teachers and professors. Especially Arnold Sommerfeld, Heisenberg's doctoral advisor, forbade him to play chess.

Edward Teller


Hungarian physicist Edward Teller learned to play chess from his father at the age of 6. Like his doctoral advisor Werner Heisenberg, Teller was also an avid chess player. Unfortunately, he could never beat Heisenberg at chess, though he was able to defeat Heisenberg in table tennis.

famous physicists who played chess
picture: ESVA

William Henry Bragg


He won the Nobel Prize in physics along with his son for their work in the analysis of crystal structure using X-rays. He was the secretary of the Adelaide University Chess Association.

Erwin Schrödinger


Erwin Schrödinger shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in physics with Paul Dirac. He once wrote "I do like chess, but it has turned out to be not the appropriate relaxation from the work I am doing."

Max Planck


German physicist Max Planck, who proposed the quantum theory, played chess with the world chess champion and mathematician Emmanuel Lasker.

How Antimatter Was Discovered By Carl Anderson

positron antimatter carl anderson paul dirac

British physicist Paul Dirac showed in 1928 that every particle in the universe should have an antiparticle with the same mass as its twin, but with the opposite electrical charge. Across the pond, an American physicist would detect the first such particle, four years later.

Carl Anderson, inspired by the work of his Caltech classmate, Chung-Yao Chao, set up an experiment to investigate cosmic rays under the supervision of physicist Robert Millikan. In 1932, he won the Nobel Prize in physics at the age of 31, becoming one of the youngest recipients.

Discovering the positron was no easy feat but the mechanism he employed to do so was fairly simple and ingenious enough to overcome the limited budget. He found the mysterious particle almost by accident with the help of his own improved version of the cloud chamber.

A cloud chamber is a sealed box with water vapor. When a charged particle goes through it, the vapour is ionized and leaves behind a trail. Thus, the trajectory of the particle can be seen virtually. Carl used a mixture of water and alcohol to get clearer photographs.

carl anderson cloud chamber positron antimatter paul dirac

Carl included a Lead plate in the middle to slow down the particles and surrounded the chamber with a large electromagnet, which caused the paths of ionizing particles to curve under the influence of magnetic field.

As can be seen in the picture, the radius of curvature of the track above the plate is smaller than that below. Thus, the particle entered from the bottom, hit the Lead plate and came to a halt above it due to loss of energy. This and the direction in which the path curved helped in identifying that the charge was positive.

That it was antielectron and not proton was determined by the observation that the upper track was much longer in length than predicted for proton. A proton would have come to rest in a much shorter distance, since it is heavier. The trajectory observed was that of a particle much much lighter than the proton.

So, that's how the first antimatter was found and Dirac was proven right within a matter of few years. Furthermore, antiproton and antineutron were discovered in 1955 and 1956 respectively. The first antiatom was produced by CERN in 1996.

Why antimatter is important? Because, studies related to antimatter will help in our understanding of the early universe. Also, Positron emission tomography or PET scan is used to detect early signs of cancer. Scientists hope that some day, antimatter may be used for the treatment of cancer. Who knows!?

Steven Weinberg's four tips for aspiring scientists

steven weinberg nobel prize electroweak first three minutes

Steven Weinberg (1933-2021) was an American physicist who worked alongside Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam to unify electromagnetic and weak interactions in 1967. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics for the same work later on.

Weinberg was not only famous as a scientist but also for his outspokenness and elegant writings outside of science. He thus made important contributions to history as well as to politics. Following are his 4 advices for aspiring scientists.


1. You don't have to know everything


Weinberg's first golden lesson is specialization. He wrote for Nature in 2003: When I received my undergraduate degree, the physics still seemed to me a vast, unexplored ocean.

How could I begin any research of my own without knowing everything that had already been done? Weinberg recalled.

A lot of the times students are so overwhelmed or even excited by that vastness that they fail to go forward. Weinberg says: You don't have to know everything because I didn't when I got my PhD.

2. Aim for rough water


When Weinberg was a professor, a student came up to him and said that he would pick general relativity rather than the area Weinberg was working on - particle physics.

Obviously as the teacher Weinberg was disappointed. When asked to explain, the student replied: The principles of general relativity are well known, while the particle physics is an incoherent mess.

Weinberg quipped: That makes it all the more worthwhile because in particle physics creative work can still be done.

So, according to Professor Steven Weinberg, it would be a lot better to aim for the rough water especially while you are able to swim in that vast, unknown ocean. For who knows what might be out there?


3. Forgive yourself for wasting time


This is his most beautiful advice: Forgive yourself for your failures. Forgive yourself for wasting time on the wrong problems. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, but there will always be silver lining in the end.

Weinberg cites an example in history... When scientists were trying to prove existence of the Ether they didn't know that they were working on the wrong problem. It nonetheless helped Albert Einstein in 1905 to realize the right problem to work upon.

Weinberg adds: You will never be sure which are the right problems most of the time that you spend in the laboratory or at your desk. But if you want to be creative, then you will have to get used to wasting your time.


4. History of science


Final tip to aspiring scientists: Study the history of science as it will make your work seem more worthwhile to you. Because, a work in science may not yield immediate results, but to realize that it would be a part of history is a wondeful feeling.

As you will learn its rich history, you will come to see how time and time again - from Galileo through Newton and Darwin to Einstein - science has weakened the hold of religious dogmatism: Weinberg adds.

In one interview, when asked whether he believed in God, Weinberg replied... If by God you mean a personality who is concerned about human beings, who did all this out of love for human beings, who watches us and who intervenes, then I would have to say in the first place how do you know, what makes you think so?

Science is either physics or stamp collecting?

all science is either physics or stamp collecting meaning

What is science? In one simple sentence, science is the study of nature. However, different sciences like: astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, etc. have different approaches to do so. Thus, not all sciences are equal.

The quote 'All science is either physics or stamp collecting' by New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford perfectly reflects that inequality. According to him, physics is the king of sciences because it is fundamental to all other fields of study.


But why exactly did Rutherford think in that manner? Despite himself being the recipient of Nobel Prize in chemistry, what made him consider physics the most noble of sciences?

The answer lies in stamp collecting - a hobby in which people collect and classify stamps as objects of interest or value.

Stamps are available in many varieties - big and small, square and round, stamps with famous human faces, stamps with animals and birds, stamps commemorating anniversaries, etc.

all science is either physics or stamp collecting rutherford
 Rutherford's stamp 

Similarly, some branches of science, such as zoology or botany for example, are mostly concerned with collection and classification of species - animals and plants, respectively.

Although this would be dumbing down those sciences but that is more or less the purpose, isn't it? In other words, those sciences are not fundamental sciences and their scope is limited only to Earth.


Physics, according to Rutherford, is the only science that has an elaborate structure consisting of observation, experiment and mathematics. Physics captures our imagination from mysterious atoms to supermassive galaxies. It truly is the universal embodiment of the scientific method.

By this definition, the science which is closest to physics is astronomy. You observe and measure the effects of, say a black hole on its surroundings, with the help of a telescope and basic knowledge of mathematics. In this way, like engineering, astronomy is an application of physics and mathematics.

Chemistry is a unique science because it has the 2nd most direct impact on day to day life after physics. The objects we use, such as plastic, glass, steel, etc. are all obtained by chemical processes.

Our body is a chemical engine and the food we eat are organic molecules. But just like biology, there is a lot of nomenclature and classification rules in chemistry to deal with. Chemistry is also not universally the same, like on different planets, but the laws of physics governing those chemistries are the same.


Likewise, sciences like computer science and psychology are neither fundamental nor universal. They are narrowed specializations and are heavily dependent on logic, mathematics and observation.

All the sciences, however, must ultimately be experimental because that is how they progress. That is how the hypotheses are tested and verified and accepted. So it is worth pointing out that no amount of belief can make something true. Sciences keep evolving with time as new evidence is uncovered.

Finally, it is equally important to mention that the statement "all science is either physics or stamp collecting" had more truth to it back in Rutherford’s time than today.


As you know, for example: With Darwin's theory of evolution, biological sciences have too become observational rather than just being classification sciences.

So, over time, sciences evolve and become more and more physics-like. They are no longer merely observe and classify but start using mathematical models. Still, Rutherford's point is intact, physics will be the king of sciences.

8 times when Nikola Tesla was wrong about physics

8 times when engineer Nikola Tesla was wrong

Nikola Tesla was a great Serbian-American engineer who played the major role in perfecting and promoting alternate current. He was also a visionary who predicted smartphones, renewable energy and creation of artificial Suns, much before time permitted.

However, it is surprising that Tesla sometimes took anti-science as well as anti-mathematics positions. Several of his views about the world were particularly pseudoscientific. So in this post, let us look at 8 instances when even the Genius Nikola Tesla was wrong.


On electrons

Tesla did not agree with the theory of atoms being composed of smaller subatomic particles. He thought that there was no such thing as an electron creating an electric charge and that it had nothing to do with electricity.

However, not only did the electron get discovered but also its properties and effects were measured by physicist J.J. Thomson at the start of the twentieth century. Without electron, technologies like the television couldn't exist.


On relativity

According to Nikola Tesla, Einstein's 1915 theory of general relativity was wrong. He commented in 1932: "I hold that space cannot be curved, for the simple reason that it can have no properties. It might as well be said that God has properties. He has not."

8 times when engineer Nikola Tesla was wrong

In 1935, Tesla told The New York times: "Einstein's relativity work is a magnificent mathematical garb which fascinates, dazzles and makes people blind to the underlying errors. The theory is like a beggar clothed in purple whom ignorant people take for a king."

In 2004, the gravity probe-b satellite was launched to measure the curvature due to Earth. Its data was analyzed by the Stanford University and it indeed confirmed Einstein's theory to a high degree of accuracy in 2011.

Furthermore, without relativity, the GPS would fail in its navigational functions and Google maps couldn't work to pinpoint precision.


On mathematics

Nikola Tesla said in 1934: "Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality."

That may be true, although mathematics and experiments are both fundamental to scientific progress. There cannot be one without the other, especially in the field of physics.

At the same time in Europe, Dirac was trying to find an equation to unify quantum mechanics and special relativity. He predicted the existence of antimatter in doing so, which was discovered in 1932.

Even 16th century Galileo Galilei had a high regard for mathematics, when he said: Philosophy is written in mathematical language; without it one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.


On atomic energy

Tesla told The New York Times in 1931: "The idea of atomic energy is illusionary. I have preached against it for twenty-five years but there are still some who believe it to be realizable."

Because, as mentioned before, he did not trust the theory of subatomic particles. So according to Tesla, atoms were immutable – meaning that they could not be split or changed in any way.

Two years after Tesla's death in 1943, not only did the humankind split the atom, they also used it to end the World War II. Although it began a nuclear arms race and a call for disarmament – well that is another story in itself.

Today, atomic energy is a source of nuclear power – as predicted by physicist Lise Meitner – which is in turn used to generate heat and electricity. Moreover, scientists are also working on a large-scale fusion project called ITER for future electricity generation.


On EM waves

German physicist Henrich Hertz demonstrated the accuracy of Maxwell's equations when he successfully generated electromagnetic waves in laboratory.

Because Tesla did not have the mathematical advantage, he relied completely on experiments and his own experiments led him to erroneously believe that Hertz and Maxwell were wrong.

In one 1891 lecture, Tesla expressed openly his disagreements with Hertz – which is anyway healthy for the sake of scientific progress.

But over the next few years, several groundbreaking evidences were collected in the favor of Maxwellian electromagnetism.

In 1898, Tesla himself developed a radio based remote-controlled boat and yet till 1919 he did not believe in the existence of EM waves and in the theories developed by Maxwell and Hertz.


On wireless electricity

Tesla was a great visionary but his vision was not always practical. After perfecting alternate current technologies, Tesla wanted to make a new revolutionary change - render wires useless!

At first, Tesla decided to transmit electricity through air but rejected the idea later on. In 1902, Tesla completed the Wardenclyffe Tower to tranfer electricity via ground.

However, engineers pointed out that currents once injected into the ground would spread in all the directions, quickly becoming too diffuse to be usable over long distances.

8 times when engineer Nikola Tesla was wrong

In addition to engineering and financial problems, the dangers of wireless electrical power to nearby wildlife was not taken into account by Tesla. Thus, the Wardenclyffe Tower project had to be abandoned.

During the same time, Italian engineer Guglielmo Marconi - who unlike Tesla, believed in and worked with electromagnetic waves, succeeded in the wireless transmission of information, rather than electricity.


On science

Although Nikola Tesla was a brilliant engineer and inventor, he sometimes delved into pseudoscientific ideas which had no basis in reality and lacked experimental data – a quality he admired.

For example, Tesla once said: A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations.

That thought, although poetically is beautiful, has no scientific weight. Distant stars and planets and their motions have no measurable effects on people. What changes destiny of nations is politics and the king's advisor would have had far greater impact than light of a far away star.

On radioactivity

In 1903, Marie Curie, Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel won the Nobel Prize in physics for discovering evidence for radioactivity.

However, Tesla was not convinced since he did not believe that the atom was divisible and that it had internal forces and subatomic particles.

According to him, the phenomena of radioactivity was not the result of forces within the radioactive substance but by the rays emitted by the Sun.

He told The New York Times in 1931: If radium could be screened effectively against this ray it would cease to be radioactive.

Summing up

Nikola Tesla was a genius inventor and explorer whose work ushered the electrical revolution that transformed daily life. Einstein wrote to Tesla: As an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents... I congratulate you on the great successes of your life's work.

8 times when Nikola Tesla was wrong

But at the same time Nikola Tesla was also human – jealousy, denial and frustration, played a big role in his professional life.

His frustration with advanced mathematics led him to incorrectly conclude that Maxwell's equations and relativity were wrong.

His denial of modern science left him too far behind his contemporaries – Marconi, Braun, Bose – in his ability to contribute to the wireless communication.

Surely, Tesla did achieve what others could only dream of. But the point is, not to put Tesla on pedestal, or build conspiracy theories in his favor, as many fans would want to do. It does not do justice to Tesla's brilliance.

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