Davide Gerosa

University of Birmingham

On the shoulders of giants

Here I collect some quotations on General Relativity, and science in general, which are particularly dear to me. There’s only a few now, but I’ll put more.

Max Born (1955)

The foundation of General Relativity appeared to me then, and it still does, the greatest feat of human thinking about nature, the most amazing combination of philosophical penetration, physical intuition, and mathematical skill. […]. It appealed to me like a great work of art.

Max Born, Bern’s Colloquium, 1955. Available in: Max Born, Physics in My Generation, Springer-Verlag New York (1968)

Thomas Gold (1963)

Here we have a case that allowed one to suggest that the relativists with their sophisticated works were not only magnificent cultural ornaments but might actually be useful in science! Everyone is pleased: the relativists who feel they are being appreciated, who are suddenly experts in a field they hardly knew existed; the astrophysicists for having enlarged their domain by the annexation of another subject: general relativity. It is all very pleasing, so let us hope it is right!

Thomas Gold, after-dinner speech at the 1st Symposium of Relativistic Astrophysics (Dallas TX, 1963). Available in Israel W, Dark stars: the evolution of an idea, Three Hundred Years of Gravitation, pp 199–276 (1987)

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1987)

In my entire scientific life, extending over forty-five years, the most shattering experience has been the realization that an exact solution of Einstein’s equations of general relativity, discovered by the New Zealand mathematician, Roy Kerr, provides the absolutely exact representation of untold numbers of massive black holes that populate the universe. This shuddering before the beautiful, this incredible fact that a discovery motivated by a search after the beautiful in mathematics should find its exact replica in Nature, persuades me to say that beauty is that to which the human mind responds at its deepest and most profound.

S. Chandrasekhar, Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivations in Science, Chicago University Press (1987)

Isaac Newton

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Available in: David Brewster, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1855)

Donald Lynden-Bell (1968)

Our other excuse for leaving out high order correlations is that only a fool tries the harder problem when he does not understand the simplest special case.

Lynden-Bell, D. & Wood, R., Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 138, p.495 (1968)

Dire Straits

He got the action, he got the motion.

Dire Straits, Walk of Life (1985). They understood Hamiltonian mechanics pretty well.