Only a vanishingly small fraction of us can ever hope to learn & teach so much before we subside back into the quantum foam. / Well done, Professor: and may infinities of angels, dancing on the singular pinpoints of Many Worlds, sing thee to thy rest. (Emphases added :) ~
John A. Wheeler, a visionary physicist and teacher who helped invent the theory of nuclear fission, gave black holes their name and argued about the nature of reality with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, died Sunday morning at his home in Hightstown, N.J. He was 96.
…As a professor at Princeton and then at the University of Texas in Austin, Dr. Wheeler set the agenda for generations of theoretical physicists, using metaphor as effectively as calculus to capture the imaginations of his students and colleagues and to pose questions that would send them, minds blazing, to the barricades to confront nature.
Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said of Dr. Wheeler, Ã¢â‚¬Å“For me, he was the last Titan, the only physics superhero still standing.Ã¢â‚¬Â
… Ã¢â‚¬Å“He rejuvenated general relativity; he made it an experimental subject and took it away from the mathematicians,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Freeman Dyson, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study across town in Princeton.
Among Dr. WheelerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s students was Richard Feynman of the California Institute of Technology, who parlayed a crazy-sounding suggestion by Dr. Wheeler into work that led to a Nobel Prize. Another was Hugh Everett, whose Ph.D. thesis under Dr. Wheeler on quantum mechanics envisioned parallel alternate universes endlessly branching and splitting apart Ã¢â‚¬â€ a notion that Dr. Wheeler called Ã¢â‚¬Å“Many WorldsÃ¢â‚¬Â and which has become a favorite of many cosmologists as well as science fiction writers.
Recalling his student days, Dr. Feynman once said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Some people think WheelerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gotten crazy in his later years, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always been crazy.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Yes and Feynman (who, assuredly, should Know :) would agree: we should All be so crazy :}. More after the
leap jump :}.
…[In 1941] Dr. Wheeler was swept up in the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb. To his lasting regret, the bomb was not ready in time to change the course of the war in Europe and possibly save his brother Joe, who died in combat in Italy in 1944.
Dr. Wheeler continued to do government work after the war, interrupting his research to help develop the hydrogen bomb, promote the building of fallout shelters and support the Vietnam War and missile defense, even as his views ran counter to those of his more liberal colleagues.
…Dr. Wheeler and others were finally brought around [to the idea that Einstein’s equations predicted singularities at which space would be infinitely curved and matter infinitely dense] when David Finkelstein, now an emeritus professor at Georgia Tech, developed mathematical techniques that could treat both the inside and the outside of the collapsing star.
At a conference in New York in 1967, Dr. Wheeler, seizing on a suggestion shouted from the audience, hit on the name Ã¢â‚¬Å“black holeÃ¢â‚¬Â to dramatize this dire possibility for a star and for physics.
The black hole Ã¢â‚¬Å“teaches us that space can be crumpled like a piece of paper into an infinitesimal dot, that time can be extinguished like a blown-out flame, and that the laws of physics that we regard as Ã¢â‚¬Ëœsacred,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ as immutable, are anything but,Ã¢â‚¬Â he wrote in his 1999 autobiography, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Geons, Black Holes & Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics.Ã¢â‚¬Â…
…In the summers, Dr. Wheeler would retire with his extended family to a compound on High Island, Me., to indulge his taste for fireworks by shooting beer cans out of an old cannon.
…Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are no longer satisfied with insights only into particles, or fields of force, or geometry, or even space and time,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dr. Wheeler wrote in 1981. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Today we demand of physics some understanding of existence itself.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Read the whole thing. Our demand of Transcendency from Science [Deus ex Physica??] may never be fully met ~ yet those who stand upon the shoulders of giants such as Wheeler seem ever & ever more closely to be approaching, asymptotically, an Answer. (Iow even as a Nonlinear system proves Greater than the sum of its mechanistic parts, this whole Grand Unification business might turn out to be even More than it was originally cracked up to be. ;)