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At the age of sixteen, while in Aarau, Albert [Einstein] asked himself what a light wave would look like to someone keeping pace with it.
Compared with the other incident, this one seems inconsequential. It appears to be no achievement at all but merely an unanswered question. But this question that Albert asked himself at the age of sixteen haunted him for years. It strikingly reveals his ability to go to the heart of a problem. For the question contains the germ of the theory of relativity, and at the time no one in the world could have given a satisfactory answer. Einstein found an answer himself, but it took him ten years.
Banesh Hoffmann, Einstein (1973)
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To-day there is a wide measure of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.
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Could 501 seagulls really airlift a peach that large? The answer: No. To make it work, James would have needed approximately 2,425,907 seagulls.
Boing Boing: Great Moments in Pedantry: James and the Giant Peach needs moar seagulls
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Wingtip vortex with coloured smoke (NASA Langley Research Center).
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Something unknown is doing we don’t know what
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After winning the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, Richard Feynman received a letter from Dr. George Beadle at the University of Chicago offering him an honorary degree.
This was his reply:
Yours is the first honorary degree that I have been offered, and I thank you for considering me for such an honor.
However, I remember the work I did to get a real degree at Princeton and the guys on the same platform receiving honorary degrees without work—and felt an “honorary degree” was a debasement of the idea of a “degree which confirms certain work has been accomplished.” It is like giving an “honorary electricians license.” I swore then that if by chance I was ever offered one I would not accept it.
Now at last (twenty-five years later) you have given me a chance to carry out my vow.
So thank you, but I do not wish to accept the honorary degree you offered.
Richard P. Feynman
From: Don’t You Have Time to Think? (Penguin Books, 2005)
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All the evidence now points to the likelihood that our Universe will keep on expanding forever, at an accelerating rate. The process is exactly like a slower version of the inflation that produced the bubble of space we live in. Eventually — and it doesn’t matter how long it takes since we have eternity to play with — all the stars will die and all the matter of the Universe will either decay into radiation or be swallowed up in black holes. But even black holes do not last forever. Thanks to quantum processes, energy leaks away from black holes in the form of radiation. This happens at an accelerating rate, and eventually they disappear in a puff of gamma rays. So the ultimate fate of our Universe is to become an exponentially expanding region of space filled with a low density of radiation. This is exactly the situation described by the solution to Einstein’s equations found by de Sitter, and known as de Sitter space.
John Gribbin, In Search of the Multiverse