(Roughly) Daily

Testing…

 

In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.

– Richard Feynman

Paul Dirac is famous for suggesting, “predicting,” in 1929, that there must be a positively-charge electron– or “positron.”  But until 1932, and Carl Anderson’s confirming cloud chamber experiments at Cal Tech, antimatter was just that– a suggestion, a prediction, a theory.  Anderson’s elegant experimental work showed anti-matter for the first time; it confirmed Dirac’s theory.

Similarly, Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and Arthur Eddington’s confirmation…  or Murray Gell-Mann’s theoretical quarks, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator team (Henry Kendall, Jerome Friedman and Richard Taylor) who actually found them…

Why do theorists become famous, while experimentalists don’t?  Ashutosh Jogalekar looks at “Theorists, experimentalists and the bias in popular physics.”

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As we note that it’s all about the story, we might send nourishing birthday wishes to Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins; he was born on this date in 1861.  A chemist by training, Hopkins was fascinated from an early age by physiology.  He succeeded in marrying the two passions– and helping to create the field of Biochemistry (of which he was the first professor at Cambridge).

Hopkins discovered the amino acid tryptophan and the anti-oxydent glutathione.  But he is surely best remembered for his discovery of the “nutrient factors,” now known as “vitamins,” essential in animal diets to maintain health– work for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1929.

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Written by LW

June 20, 2013 at 1:01 am

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