Re: There's no 3-legged animal

From: george murphy (
Date: Fri Aug 17 2001 - 23:46:05 EDT

  • Next message: Keith B Miller: "Re: Evolution of proteins in sequence space"

    George Hammond wrote:

    > george murphy wrote:
    > >
    > > John W Burgeson wrote:
    > >
    > > > "In the words of Pauli, "It's not even wrong." "
    > > >
    > > > I loved that quotation when I first read it. Do you have a citation
    > > > source by any chance? I think he was criticizing a grad student's physics
    > > > thesis, but perhaps it was more than that. It has been many years --
    > > > thanks for bring it back to memory.
    > >
    > > It's part of the stock of "Pauliana" but I can't think of a precise
    > > reference offhand. I don't think it was a student's thesis, but it was some
    > > young theorist's theorizing." (About another such he's supposed to have
    > > said, "So young, and already so unknown!")
    > >
    > > Shalom,
    > >
    > > George
    > [Hammond]
    > Werner Heisenberg towards the end of his career got a very strange
    > Idea about Particle Physics theories and developed some master
    > equation which he claimed explained it all. He had spent a large
    > part of his life collaborating with Pauli (when they both worked for
    > Bohr), but Pauli finally told him he would have nothing to do with
    > the theory, and even refused to introduce him at a large conference
    > because he considered the work so incompetent. I think that's when he
    > made the remark about Heisenberg's "world equation" or whatever it was.
    > I could be wrong about this... maybe it was Erwin Schrodinger, but
    > I'm pretty sure it was Heisenberg he said it about.

            I continue to confess to my ignorance of an exact reference for the "It's
    not even wrong quote" but it certainly wasn't about Heisenberg. Pauli never
    judged his work "incompetent" but had become somewhat disllusioned about the
    potential of the approach he & Heisenberg had been pursuing & later thought that
    at least the media reports of Heisenberg's claims for his his nonlinear Urmaterie
    equation [essentially a generalization of the Dirac equation] were overstated:
    Apparently Heisenberg was reported to have said that his equation was the key to
    an understanding of particle physics usw & that only the details remained to be
    worked out. Pauli's comment in a letter to George Gamow was to draw a blank
    rectangle with the caption, "This is to show that I can paint like Titian. Only
    details are missing." [Or words to that effect. This is in one of Gamow's books
    - perhaps My World Line - but it's late & I'm not looking it up.]
            En passant, this response of Pauli's has often come to mind when I've
    heard hand-waving claims about chemical evolution to the effect that "only the
    details are missing".



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Aug 17 2001 - 23:45:45 EDT