“The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts”*…
There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement
– Lord Kelvin, 1900
Kelvin’s (in)famous assertion, among others, have led to the sense that physics at the fin de siècle was believed by scientists at the time to be on the point of completion. But that could not be further from the truth. On the contrary, at that moment almost anything seemed possible. At the end of the 19th century, inspired by radical advances in technology, physicists asserted the reality of invisible worlds — an idea through which they sought to address not only psychic phenomena such as telepathy, but also spiritual questions around the soul and immortality.
* Werner Heisenberg
As we recall that all things are relative, we might send bounteous birthday greetings to Charles Alfred Coulson; he was born on this date in 1910. A mathematician and theoretical chemist, Coulson was a pioneer of the application of the quantum theory of valency to problems of molecular structure, dynamics and reactivity. He was Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford (a position in which he was preceded by E. A. Milne, the mathematician and astrophysicist, and succeeded by Roger Penrose), and was a founder and Director of Oxford’s Mathematical Institute.