Re: There's no 3-legged animal

From: George Hammond (
Date: Sat Aug 18 2001 - 01:30:59 EDT

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    george murphy wrote:
    > 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".
    > Shalom,
    > George

      The expression may have not originated with Pauli. I have heard
    Feynman use the phrase a number of times. It may appear in his
    famous "Warsaw letter" to Gweneth.
      He was attending a conference in Warsaw on some erudite subject,
    I can't remember exactly what. After a couple of days of listening to
    the usual speculative nonsense (the conference was about some new
    controversial science) he wrote home that he "was getting nothing out
    of it" and said most of the speakers were cranks, and then went on
    to define 6 major types of "crank theories", which are now well known
    as part of the Feynman legacy.
      As I recall one of them was a theory "so dumb it wasn't even wrong".
    It may have been number 6 on the list. The letter appears in one of his
    books or biographies, I can't remember exactly where.

    Sincerely, George

    > George L. Murphy
    > "The Science-Theology Interface"

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