SERTARUL CU GANDURI

14/10/2017

Când spunem că „i-am venit cuiva de hac” nici nu știm că practicăm mistica musulmană…

Filed under: Uncategorized — afractalus @ 20:45

Cabal in Kabul

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Din lunga dominație otomană, româna a păstrat cuvinte și expresii atât de intime încât par țesute în tivul limbii de la început: halal (halal să-ți fie), aferim, murdar, dușman, cerdac, hac (a veni cuiva de hac) etc.

A veni de hac. Hac sună un pic a ac, cu un h- eufonic, precum harap de la arab, dar nu are de fapt nimic de-a face cu asta.

Am avut revelația lui hac în Pakistan, acum ceva decenii, când filmam un documentar despre cântărețul mistic Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, cel de aici, cu Haq, Ali, Ali (Ali este Adevărul = Haq):

Haq (hac) este unul din acei termeni numiți universalia islamica, proveniți din arabă și prezenți în toate limbile popoarelor musulmane. Înseamnă:  adevăr. În cântecul lui de mai sus, cripto-șiitul Nusrat cântă, făcând vocalizele acelea impresionante, despre cum Ali, leul sacrificiului, profetul șiiților ucis de musulmanii…

Vezi articol original 94 de cuvinte mai mult

Anunțuri

12/08/2017

„The Black Page – decriptarea unei bijuterii sonore de Frank Zappa…

Filed under: Uncategorized — afractalus @ 20:20

Sursă: „The Black Page – decriptarea unei bijuterii sonore de Frank Zappa…

28/02/2017

The Salesman (Forushande) – un film iranian la Oscar: cronica unui iranofil

Filed under: Uncategorized — afractalus @ 23:06

Cabal in Kabul

405289_554

De: Asghar Farhadi
Cu:  Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Karimi

Regizorul iranian Asghar Farhadi a primit deja Oscarul pentru cel mai bun film străin in 2012, cu filmul A Separation. Prezentul film, The Salesman a obținut premiul pentru scenariu la Cannes anul trecut.

The Salesman e la Oscaruri în competiție pentru cel mai bun film străin cu Toni Erdmann, produs în România de Ada Solomon, despre care am scris mai devreme.

Incă de la Marivaux și Corneille, a scrie o piesă de teatru despre actori care joacă teatru pe scenă, în interiorul piesei, a fost un dispozitiv narativ foarte eficace, atât în literatură cât și, mai târziu, în cinema: e vorba de procedeul numit mise en abyme (scris și: mise en abîme). Jean Anouilh l-a folosit pe larg în teatrul său, Gide în roman, în Les Faux Monnayeurs, Louis Malle în filmul Vanya on 42nd Street, unde actorii repetă…

Vezi articol original 560 de cuvinte mai mult

27/02/2017

Octavian Paler – Leonardo sau foamea de cauze (V). Joc şi frustrare 1.


Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi

   Se pare că Leonardo nu era deloc insensibil la glorie. Şi, de fapt, cine e ? Oamenii nu se deosebesc, poate, după nevoia lor de glorie, ci după mijloacele prin care vor s-o obţină. Pentru a stârni admiraţia, florentinul nu s-a dat înapoi în tinereţe să apeleze şi la muşchii săi care-l ajutau să strâmbe între degete potcoave de cal sau să spargă o lamă de otel, înfăşurată în batistă, ca şi cum ar fi fost de sticlă.

Când cânta, se acompania cu instrumente născocite de el, după care îşi uimea prietenii cu numere de prestidigitaţie sau le arăta cum se poate rupe un băţ ale cărui capete stau sprijinite pe câte un pahar. Mai târziu, la Milano, va fi la un moment dat foarte aproape de a deveni curtean. Şi dacă alegoriile în care-l elogia pe Ludovic Maurul nu sunt penibile ca ale linguşitorilor de profesie, aceasta se datoreşte numai talentului său care nu-i îngăduia să facă prost nici lucrurile de circumstanţă. Înţelept discutabil, acest misterios senior al curiozităţii care detestă băutura şi bucuriile fireşti ale dragostei, care urmează toată viaţa un regim alimentar auster, aproape vegetarian, are însă un viciu ce-l distinge de toţi: ingeniozitatea sa neînfrânată.

Ea l-a costat distrugerea frescel Bătălia de la Anghiari în care a folosit o reţetă dezastruoasă găsită în scrierile lui Pliniu. Tot ea putea să-l coste compromiterea Cinei cea de taină unde a folosit o tehnică personală bazată pe tempera, care să-i permită pauze lungi de meditaţie, dar care, ulterior, a favorizat apariţia mucegaiului.  

Annunciation (Annunciazione)

Annunciation (Annunciazione)

   Mereu nehotărât şi şovăielnic, Leonardo nu ezită într-o singură privinţă: să-şi risipească geniul. Prudent în toate, el e imprudent numai cu darurile sale care-l devoră şi-l aruncă în toate direcţiile. Uneori concepe, dincolo de limitele posibilului, proiecte himerice, oraşe pentru construirea cărora ar fi fost nevoie de orgoliul unui Alexandru cel Mare sau mausolee pe care doar faraonii ar fi avut curajul să le vrea ridicate.

Alteori, când nu se aventurează în utopie, vrea prea multe. Michelangelo îşi bătea joc de el pentru ca n-a fost în stare să termine în şaisprezece ani statuia ecvestră a lui Francesco Sforza, dar ne-ar uimi o listă a preocupărilor lui Leonardo din aceşti ani în care demonul său inventiv nu ocoleşte nimic: de la nervul care face sprâncenele să se încrunte, la legile refracţiei şi ale perspectivei; de la lămpi cu apă şi diverse unelte, la dispozitive cu aer cald pentru învârtirea frigărilor; de la mişcarea astrelor la proiectul unui lupanar.

Fetus

Fetus

   Se interesează de fabricarea oglinzilor arzătoare, de fortificaţii şi studiază din nou tehnica de turnare a bronzului deşi ea nu mai avea taine de la Andrea Pisano. Înaintea lui Bacon, înţelege valoarea experienţei. Înaintea lui Versaliu, creează o adevărată tehnică a anatomiei. Înaintea lui Copernic, ştie că pământul e o stea. Devine precursor în toate, în vreme ce în urma lui sporesc ruinele proiectelor neisprăvite.

Lomazzo ne asigură că leonardo avea groaza să inceapă să picteze. În schimb, e inredibil câte lucruri a fost în stare să faca pictorul Giocondei pentru serbarile protectorilor săi. Decoruri pentru jocurile de la curte, costume de carnaval, edificii efemere de pânză vopsită, împodobită cu jerbe de iederă, cu panglici de aur şi crengi împletite frunză cu frunză. Invitaţii ducelui de Milano au privit cu gura căscată o emisferă uriaşă cu partea dinlăuntru aurită, presărată cu stele şi cu cele şase planete aşezate pe piedestaluri, învârtindu-se, iar invitaţii regelui Franţei au discutat multă vreme despre leul mecanic care deschidea gura când regele îl lovea cu o nuia şi îşi arăta pieptul azuriu decorat cu un crin de aur.

Fireste, destui artişti au fost împinşi în servitute nu numai de împrejurări, ci şi de propriul lor talent, dispus să accepte orice, mai puţin tăcerea; pe poteca îngustă dintre nevoia de a se exprima şi nevoia de lauri, ei s-au trezit irosindu-se în artificii, în glorii şi favoruri de conjunctură care răsplătesc cu o mână şi sugrumă cu alta. Leonardo n-a fost din acest punct de vedere nici precursor, nici singur. Dar ce să înţelegem din faptul că pe patul de moarte el ar fi recunoscut, spune Vasari, că n-a lucrat în artă “aşa cum s-ar fi cuvenit” ? Se va fi gândit oare că tot ce a câştigat în onoruri efemere l-a frustrat în eternitate ? Că toate compromisurile spre care l-au împins circumstanţele le-a plătit cu o operă împuţinată ? Sau, pur si simplu, şi-a amintit că în copilărie nu s-a jucat destul şi mai târziu a trebuit să-şi ia revanşa ? Oricum, povestea unui Leonardo da Vinci care s-a uzat în atâtea miraje de o zi ne face să tresărim în faţa tabloului niciodată terminat al Giocondei.

Leda c. 1530

Leda c. 1530

   Dar în taina acestei enorme risipe se ascunde, poate, şi altceva decât un avertisment. Jocul somptuos cu efemerul era, poate, şi o compensaţie. Toată această uriaşă cheltuială de har investit în serbări care s-au pierdut în neant odată cu protagoniştii săi constituia, poate, dincolo de servitute, şi o încercare de a amâna uneori confruntarea aspră, necruţătoare, cu rigorile creaţiei adevărate. Îmi închipui că jocul era pentru Leonardo o mântuire provizorie. Un armistiţiu pe care şi-l acorda. O trădare secretă a geniului său ca să şi-l poată suporta.

Era mica frivolitate a unui spirit înfricoşat de prea multe întrebari. Aceste jocuri îl ajutau să uite spaima pe care avea s-o resimtă când va relua penelul. Dacă n-am crede asta, ar trebui să consimţim că iluzia eternităţii rămâne privilegiul celor care au pierdut toate şansele de a profita de gloria imediată a circumstanţelor.

Publicat în Revista “Flacăra” nr.1358 – 18.06.1981

07/09/2014

„Stephen Hawking. A Life in Science” – Fragmente 3


Din cartea: „Stephen Hawking. A Life in Science” – Michael White and John Gribbin. John Henry Press.2002.

Since his undergraduate days Hawking has been a keen follower of the philosopher Karl Popper. The main thrust of Popper’s philosophy of science is that the traditional approach to the subject, “the scientific method” as originally espoused by the likes of Newton and Galileo, is in fact inadequate.

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Popper stands this process on its head and suggests the following approach. Take a problem. Propose a solution or a theory to explain what is happening. Work out what testable propositions you can deduce from your theory. Carry out tests or experiments on these deductions in order not to prove them but to refute them. The refutations, combined with the original theory, will yield a better one.

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In Popper’s system, the scientist tries to disprove the theory in an attempt to find a better one.

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The science writer Dennis Overbye once asked him how his mind worked. In reply, Hawking said: Sometimes I make a conjecture and then try to prove it. Many times, in trying to prove it, I find a counter-example, then I have to change my conjecture. Sometimes it is something that other people have made attempts on. I find that many papers are obscure and I simply don’t understand them. So, I have to try to translate them into my own way of thinking. Many times I have an idea and start working on a paper and then I will realize halfway through that there’s a lot more to it. I work very much on intuition, thinking that, well, a certain idea ought to be right. Then I try to prove it. Sometimes I find I’m wrong. Sometimes I find that the original idea was wrong, but that leads to new ideas. I find it a great help to discuss my ideas with other people. Even if they don’t contribute anything, just having to explain it to someone else helps me sort it out for myself.

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– Page 133: The first pulsars were discovered by a research student, Jocelyn Bell, while testing a new radio telescope. The astonishing thing about these radio sources is that they flick on and off several times

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– Page 134: This is so much like an artificial signal, a kind of cosmic metronome, that, only half-jokingly, the first pulsars discovered were labeled “LGM 1” and “LGM 2”—the initials “LGM” stood for “Little Green Man.”

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– Page 137: We now know that the Universe is indeed filled with a weak hiss of microwave background radiation, with wavelengths of around 1 millimeter, corresponding to a temperature of 2.73 K.

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– Page 138: Before 1965, cosmology was a quiet backwater of science, almost a little ghetto where a few mathematicians could play with their models without annoying anybody else. Today, a quarter of a century later, the study of the Big Bang is at the center of mainstream physics,

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Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

– Page 141: Hawking had begun puzzling over the singularity at the beginning of time in the early 1960s but had soon been deflected, as we have seen, by the diagnosis of his illness, temporarily giving up his work. But by 1965 things were looking up. He had decided that he wasn’t going to die quite so quickly as the doctors had predicted, after all; he had met and married Jane; and he was back at work with a vengeance. He was one of the few people, at that time, to take seriously the more extreme predictions of the general theory of relativity.

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– Page 142: One of the few other people who did take the notion of black holes seriously was a young mathematician, Roger Penrose, working at Birkbeck College in London. It was Penrose who showed that every black hole must contain a singularity and that there is no way for material particles to slide past each other in the middle of the hole. Not just matter, but space-time itself simply disappears at the  singularity.

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– Page 142: Penrose proposed a “cosmic censorship” hypothesis, suggesting that all singularities must be hidden in this way and that “nature abhors a naked singularity.” In other words, observers outside the horizon of the black hole are always protected from any consequences of the breakdown of the laws of physics at the singularity.

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– Page 143: After all, when space shrinks to zero volume, there is literally no room left for particles to slip past one another. In other words, the expansion of the Universe away from the singularity in the beginning really is the exact opposite of the collapse of matter (and space-time) into a singularity inside a black hole. The cosmic censor has slipped up, and there is at least one naked singularity in the Universe that we are exposed to, even if it is separated from us by 15 billion years of time.

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– Page 144: While Hawking and Penrose were working all this out, the discovery of the background radiation was announced; pulsars were discovered; and Wagoner, Fowler, and Hoyle were explaining how helium had been made in the Big Bang. By the time the Hawking-Penrose theorems were published, John Wheeler had given astronomers the term “black hole,” and newspaper stories were being written about the phenomenon. What had started out as an esoteric (but erudite) piece of mathematical research had evolved by the end of the 1960s into a major contribution to one of the hottest topics in science at the time.

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– Page 144: The 1960s ended with Hawking being forced to make a concession to his physical condition. After a great deal of persuasion from Jane and a number of close friends, he decided to abandon his crutches and take to a wheelchair. To those who had watched his gradual physical decline, this was seen as a major step and viewed with sadness. Hawking, however, refused to let it get him down. Although the acceptance of a wheelchair was a physical acknowledgment of his affliction, at the same time he gave it not the slightest emotional or mental endorsement.

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– Page 153: Meanwhile Hawking was finding the mathematics of the work increasingly difficult to deal with. The equations for interpreting the physics of black holes are amazingly complex,

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– Page 154: Hawking is not unique in having this talent. In 1983 he dazzled students at a Caltech (California Institute of Technology) seminar when he dictated a forty-term version of an important equation from memory. As his assistant finished writing the last term, his colleague, Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann, who happened to be sitting in on the talk, stood up and declared that Hawking had omitted a term. Gell-Mann was also working from memory.

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– Page 159: Working on the equations in his head was difficult enough, but after months of intense work Hawking kept coming up with completely nonsensical results. According to the equations, black holes appeared to be emitting radiation. He, and everyone else at the time, believed this to be impossible. He was still convinced that he was really on to something but took the conscious decision not to discuss the problem with anyone until he had settled the matter one way or another.

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– Page 159: Finally, in January 1974 he took the plunge and confided in Dennis Sciama, who was organizing a conference at the time. To Hawking’s surprise, Sciama was very excited by the idea and, with Hawking’s permission, set about spreading the word.

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– Page 160: Going against all current ideas about black holes, by the power of mathematical reasoning, Hawking had been forced to the unarguable conclusion that not only did tiny black holes emit radiation, but under certain conditions they could actually explode. By late January one of his colleagues and friends from postgraduate days, Martin Rees, was convinced that Hawking had made a great discovery.

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– Page 160: He had a hunch, now supported by a number of his respected colleagues and peers, that he was on to something very big. At last he was wheeled to the front of the lecture theater, and his illustrations were projected on to the back wall while he delivered his talk in the almost unintelligible tones to which his colleagues had become accustomed. His final line was delivered. A stunned hush fell over the entire room. You could hear a pin drop as the audience of scientists tried to absorb the astonishing news. Then the backlash began.

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– Page 161: A month after the meeting outside Oxford, Hawking published in Nature his own paper describing the newly discovered phenomena. Within weeks, physicists all over the world were discussing his work, and it became the hot topic of conversation in every physics laboratory from Sydney to South Carolina. Some physicists went so far as to say that the new findings constituted the most significant development in theoretical physics for years. Dennis Sciama described Hawking’s paper as “one of the most beautiful in the history of physics.” The radiation that he had discovered could be emitted by certain black holes was from then on known as Hawking Radiation.

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– Page 164: Hawking’s achievements had been noticed by the scientific establishment. In March 1974, within weeks of the announcement of Hawking Radiation, he received one of the greatest honors in any scientist’s career. At the tender age of thirty-two, he was invited to become a fellow of the Royal Society, one of the youngest scientists in the society’s long history to be given such an honor.

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– Page 169: Hawking, whose career has been founded on the study of black holes, made a bet with Kip Thorne of Caltech, that Cygnus X-1 does not contain a black hole. The form of the bet was that, if it were ever proved that the source is a black hole, Hawking would give Thorne a year’s subscription to Penthouse; but if it were ever proved that Cygnus X-1 is not a black hole, Thorne would give Hawking a four-year subscription to the satirical magazine Private Eye. In June 1990 Hawking decided that the evidence was now overwhelming, and paid up—although, being Hawking, he did so in a typically mischievous fashion, enlisting the aid of a colleague to break into Thorne’s office at Caltech. They extracted the document recording the bet and officially “signed” his admission of defeat with a thumbprint before returning the paper to the files for Thorne to discover later. Over the following months, Thorne duly received the promised issues of Penthouse.

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– Page 171: This basic truth about black holes was established in 1967, by the Canadian-born researcher Werner Israel. When he first developed the equations, Israel himself thought that because black holes had to be spherical, what the equations were telling him was that only a perfectly spherical object could collapse to form a black hole. But Roger Penrose and John Wheeler found that an object collapsing to form a black hole would radiate away energy in the form of gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space-time itself. The more irregular the shape of the object, the more rapidly it would radiate energy, and the effect of this radiation would be to smooth out the irregularities.

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– Page 171: So it was established by the early 1970s that a black hole could rotate, but it could not pulsate (Hawking played a small part in this work, too). The size and shape of a black hole depend only on its mass and the speed at which it rotates; the horizon, all that we can see from the outside Universe, carries no identifying features that can tell us what the hole was made of. Physicists call this lack of identifying features the “no hair” theorem. A black hole has no “hair” in the sense that it has no identifying features, and because all we can ever know about it is its mass and its rate of rotation, this makes the mathematical study of black holes much simpler than scientists had feared it would be.

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– Page 174: So Hawking’s dramatic realization, coming with such force that evening in November 1970, was to lead to the idea that the law which says that the area of a black hole can only stay the same or increase is equivalent to the law which says that the entropy of a closed system can only stay the same or increase. But even Hawking didn’t make that connection at first.

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– Page 175: But when a student at Princeton University, Jacob Bekenstein, suggested that the size of the horizon around the singularity might literally be a measure of the entropy of a black hole, he started an avalanche of  investigation which led Hawking to the discovery that black holes are not necessarily black after all—they explode.

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– Page 175: Hawking was annoyed by Bekenstein’s suggestion. Even a research student ought to have realized that there is a direct connection between entropy and temperature, so that if the area of a black hole were indeed a measure of entropy it would also be a measure of temperature. And if a black hole had a temperature, then heat would flow out of it, into the cold (–270°C) of the Universe. It would radiate energy, contradicting the most basic fact known about black holes,

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– Page 178: A black hole weighing about a billion tons, for example (the mass of a mountain here on Earth), would have a radius roughly the same as that of a proton. Less massive miniholes would be correspondingly smaller. And if you are dealing with objects as small as that, physicists knew, you have to use the quantum description of reality in order to understand what is going on.

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– Page 183: A hole smaller than a proton will not eat up much material from its surroundings, even if it happens to be inside a planet. To a hole that small, even solid matter is mostly empty space!

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– Page 186: In the second half of the 1970s he moved on to investigate the origin of the Universe itself, going back to the beginning of time.

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– Page 186: The 1970s were the years when he established himself as a world-class physicist, and they marked the beginning of two decades of startling success in the disparate worlds of arcane research and popular writing.

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– Page 189: …another physicist who was to play a significant role in collaborations and become one of Hawking’s lifelong friends—Don Page. Page, who was born in Alaska and graduated from a small college in Missouri, was working on his Ph.D. at the time of Hawking’s visit. The two of them immediately hit it off, and before Hawking’s year at Caltech was over they had written a black hole paper together.

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– Page 199: But she had a growing feeling that she was being ignored as a human being, as an intelligent woman who was academically successful in her own right. She was beginning to feel like nothing more than a sidekick to the great Stephen Hawking. As she has put it: Cambridge is a jolly difficult place to live if your only identity is as the mother of small children. The pressure is on you to make your own way academically.

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– Page 201: Jane was raised as a Christian and has very strong religious views. To one interviewer she has said: Without my faith in God, I wouldn’t have been able to live in this situation. I wouldn’t have been able to marry Stephen in the first place, because I wouldn’t have had the optimism to carry me through, and I wouldn’t be able to carry on with it.16 Hawking, for his part, is not an atheist; he simply finds the idea of faith something he cannot absorb into his view of the Universe. His outlook is not unlike that of Einstein, and he has been quoted as saying: We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us or even notice our existence.17

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– Page 202: Equally, of course, there are a number of practicing scientists who have very strong Christian convictions, and some have claimed that Hawking is simply not qualified to make statements about religion because he knows nothing about it.

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– Page 203: His work deals with the origins and early life of the Universe. Could a subject be any more religious? He once stated: It is difficult to discuss the beginning of the Universe without mentioning the concept of God. My work on the origin of the Universe is on the borderline between science and religion, but I try to stay on the scientific side of the border. It is quite possible that God acts in ways that cannot be described by scientific laws. But in that case one would just have to go by personal belief.19

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– Page 203: When asked if there is any conflict between religion and science, Hawking tends to fall back on the same argument about personal belief and sees no real conflict. “If one took that attitude,” he replied, when asked whether he believed that science and religion were competing philosophies, “then Newton would not have discovered the law of gravity.”20 And what, in the light of Stephen’s and Jane’s dilemma, do we make of the famous last paragraph of A Brief History of Time?

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– Page 203: When asked if there is any conflict between religion and science, Hawking tends to fall back on the same argument about personal belief and sees no real conflict. “If one took that attitude,” he replied, when asked whether he believed that science and religion were competing philosophies, “then Newton would not have discovered the law of gravity.”20 And what, in the light of Stephen’s and Jane’s dilemma, do we make of the famous last paragraph of A Brief History of Time? However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the Universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.21

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– Page 211: By March 1977, however, the university had decided to offer him a specially created chair of gravitational physics, which would be his for as long as he remained in Cambridge; the same year he was awarded the status of professorial fellow at Caius, a separate professorship bestowed by the college authorities.  

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

 

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– Page 217: The size of these uncertainties is determined by Planck’s constant, which gives us basic “quanta” known as the Planck length and the Planck time. Both are very small. The Planck length, for example, is 10–35 of a meter, far smaller than the nucleus of an atom. According to the quantum rules, not only is it impossible in principle ever to measure any length more accurately than this (we should be so lucky!), but also there is no meaning to the concept of a length shorter than the Planck length.

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– Page 217: So if an evaporating black hole were to shrink to the point where it was just one Planck length in diameter, it could not shrink any more. If it lost more energy, it could only disappear entirely. The quantum of time is, similarly, the smallest interval of time that has any meaning. This Planck time is a mere 10–43 of a second, and there is no such thing as a shorter interval of time.

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– Page 219: What Hawking has tried to do is to develop a sum over histories describing the entire evolution of the Universe. Now this is, of course, impossible. Just one history of this kind would involve working out the trajectory of every single particle through spacetime from the beginning of the Universe to the end, and there would be a huge number of such histories involved in the “integration.”

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– Page 226: In 1978 Hawking was awarded one the most prestigious prizes in physics, the Albert Einstein Award given by the Lewis and Rose Strauss Memorial Fund, which announced the winner at a gala event in Washington. The citation claimed that Hawking’s work could lead to a unified field theory, “much sought after by scientists,”1 as one Cambridge newspaper put it. The Albert Einstein Award is considered to be the prestigious equivalent of a Nobel Prize and was undoubtedly the most important award Hawking had received up until that time.

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– Page 226: However, there are two reasons why Hawking is unlikely ever to receive a Nobel Prize. First, a cursory glance at the list of winners since the first prizes in 1901 shows very few astronomers. The reason for this, according to one story, is that the chemist Alfred Nobel, who created the awards, decreed that astronomers should be ineligible. Rumor has it that their exclusion was because his wife had an affair with an astronomer, and he subsequently felt only hatred for the whole profession. Despite this, Martin Ryle and Antony Hewish shared the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics for their work in radio astrophysics and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar won it in 1983 for his theoretical studies on the origin and evolution of stars. These were awarded a good seventy years after the founder’s death, so perhaps the academy now views astronomers with greater sympathy.

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-Page 227: One of the academy’s rules states that a candidate may be considered for a prize only if her discovery can be supported by verifiable experimental or observational evidence. Hawking’s work is, of course, unproved. Although the mathematics of his theories is considered beautiful and elegant, science is still unable even to prove the existence of black holes, let alone verify Hawking Radiation or any of his other theoretical proposals.

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-Page 228: Hawking is well aware of his place in the history of science. He is fascinated by the fact that he was born on the three-hundredth anniversary of Galileo’s death on January 8, 1642. That year Isaac Newton was born in Woolsthorpe, a little village in Lincolnshire, and it was Isaac Newton who was appointed Lucasian professor at Cambridge in 1669, three hundred and ten years before Hawking.

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-Page 229: The appointment as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University was one of the highlights of Hawking’s career. To be professor at one of the oldest and most respected universities in the world is a huge achievement in itself, but to have accomplished such a feat by the age of thirty-seven is remarkable. Newton was Hawking’s junior by ten years when he gained the chair, but in the seventeenth century there were far fewer academics and very little competition for such positions. Newton did also happen to be the youngest ever to be appointed Lucasian Professor at Cambridge.

30/08/2014

„Stephen Hawking. A Life in Science” – Fragmente 2


Din cartea: „Stephen Hawking a Life in Science” – Michael White and John Gribbin. John Henry Press.2002.

Electrons and atoms are not like tiny snooker balls bouncing around in accordance with Newton’s laws.

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…in a small city in Hertfordshire a seventeen-year-old schoolboy named Stephen Hawking was getting ready for the Oxford entrance examination in a large, cluttered bedroom in his parents’ rambling Edwardian house.

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Stephen and his father settled on the first alternative, and he was entered for the examination toward the end of his final year at St. Albans School. The intention from the start was that he was going for a scholarship, the highest award offered by the university.

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Stephen insisted that he wanted to read mathematics and physics, a course then known as natural science. His father was unconvinced; he believed there were no jobs in mathematics apart from teaching. Stephen knew what he wanted to do and won the argument; medicine had little appeal for him. As he says himself: My father would have liked me to do medicine. However, I felt that biology was too descriptive, and not sufficiently fundamental. Maybe I would have felt differently if I had been aware of molecular biology, but that was not generally known about at the time.1

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The entrance examination was pretty tough. It was spread over two days and consisted of five papers in all, each of which was two and a half hours long. These included two physics and two mathematics papers, followed by a paper that tested candidates on their general knowledge and awareness of current affairs and world issues. A typical question would have been something like “Discuss the possible short-term global consequences of Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba.”

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Little did he know that he had scored around ninety-five percent in both his physics papers, with only slightly lower percentages in the others. A few days after the second interview the all-important letter fell on to the Hawkings’ doormat. University College was offering him a scholarship. He was invited to enroll at Oxford University the following October, the only condition being that he obtain two A Level passes in the summer.

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In the late fifties and early sixties, Oxford, as a microcosm of British society, was on the brink of great change. When Hawking arrived at the High on his first October Thursday as an undergraduate, the university had in many respects changed little since his father’s time or, indeed, for the past few hundred years. University discipline had relaxed somewhat since the end of the war. Before then, students had been forbidden to enter the city’s pubs and could, if caught, be expelled from them by the university police, known as the Bulldogs. Women were not allowed in male students’ rooms without written permission from the dean, who would specify strict time limitations and conditions in a letter sent to the head porter, who would then rigorously uphold the dean’s instructions. All this changed when servicemen returning from the war entered the university either as freshmen or to restart courses interrupted by the fighting.

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Most Oxford colleges are built in the form of a number of quads, each with a lawn at the center and paths around and across the grass. From the quads, staircases lead off into the buildings, and the students’ rooms are on a number of levels up to the top of each staircase.

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The intake at Oxford was still largely male and from the country’s private schools, and the majority of those were from the top ten, including  Eton, Harrow, Rugby, and Westminster.

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A simple point of reference illustrates the changes about to hit Oxford soon after Hawking went up, encapsulated by one of his contemporaries. “When we arrived in Oxford,” he said, “anybody who was anybody rowed and never wore jeans. When we left, anybody who was anybody never rowed and did wear jeans.”

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Despite its many charms, Hawking’s first year at Oxford was, by all accounts, a pretty miserable time for him. Very few of his school contemporaries and none of his close friends from St. Albans had gone up the same year.

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The prevailing attitude at Oxford at that time was very anti-work. You were supposed either to be brilliant without effort or to accept your limitations and get a fourth-class degree. To work hard to get a better class of degree was regarded as the mark of a gray man, the worst epithet in the Oxford vocabulary.2

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They were all or nothing, the focal point of the whole three years of study. Hawking once calculated that during the entire three years of his course at Oxford he had done something like 1,000 hours’ work, an average of one hour per day—hardly a foundation for the arduous finals. One friend remembers with amusement, “Towards the end he was working as much as three hours a day!”

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He had applied to Cambridge to begin Ph.D. studies in cosmology under the most distinguished British astronomer of the day, Fred Hoyle. The catch was that to be accepted for Cambridge he had to achieve a first-class honors degree, the highest possible qualification at Oxford.

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The chief examiner asked him to tell the board of his plans for the future. “If you award me a first,” he said, “I will go to Cambridge. If I receive a second, I shall stay in Oxford, so I expect you will give me a first.” They did.

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It has been said that Cambridge is the only true university town in England. Oxford is a much larger city and has, lying beyond the ring road, heavy industrial areas nestling next to one of Europe’s largest housing estates. Cambridge is altogether quainter and more thoroughly dominated by academia. Although evidence suggests that the University of Cambridge was established by defec-tors from Oxford, both seats of learning were created at around the same time in the twelfth century, using as their model the University of Paris. Like Oxford, Cambridge University is a collection of colleges under the umbrella of a central university authority. Like Oxford, it attracts the very best scholars from around the world and has a global reputation, paralleled only by its great rival and historical twin a mere eighty miles away. And, like Oxford, it is steeped in tradition, drama, and history.

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Stephen Hawking, B.A. (Hon.), arrived in Cambridge in October 1962, exchanging the scorched, barren landscape of the Middle East for autumnal wind and drizzle across the darkening fields of East Anglia.

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In the days leading up to his move to Cambridge, with the world outside looking set to tear itself apart, Stephen Hawking was gradually becoming aware of an inner personal crisis. Toward the end of his time at Oxford he had begun to find some difficulty in tying his shoelaces, he kept bumping into things, and a number of times he felt his legs give way from under him. Without a drink passing his lips he would, on occasion, find his speech slurring as though he were intoxicated. Not wanting to admit to himself that something was wrong, he said nothing and tried to get on with his life.

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He had originally chosen to go to Cambridge University because at the time Oxford could not offer cosmological research and, most important, he wanted to study under Fred Hoyle, who had a worldwide reputation as the most eminent scientist in the field.

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When Stephen returned to St. Albans for the Christmas vacation at the end of 1962, the whole of southern England was covered in a thick blanket of snow. In his own mind he must have known that something was wrong. The strange clumsiness he had been experiencing had occurred more frequently but had gone unobserved by anyone in Cambridge. Sciama remembered noticing early in the term that Hawking had a very slight speech impediment but had put it down to nothing more than that.

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He returned to Cambridge and awaited the results of the tests. A short time later he was diagnosed as having a rare and incurable disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, known in the United States as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the Yankee baseball player who died from the illness. In Britain it is usually called motor neuron disease.

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One of the amazing ironies of the situation was that Stephen Hawking just happened to be studying theoretical physics, one of the very few jobs for which his mind was the only real tool he needed. If he had been an experimental physicist, his career would have been over.

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In the twice-daily ritual, well established at the Cavendish and carried over to Silver Street, everyone would meet at 11 a.m. for coffee and 4 p.m. for tea to exchange their latest thoughts and ideas.

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During his first two years at Cambridge, the effects of the ALS disease rapidly worsened. He was beginning to experience enormous difficulty in walking and was compelled to use a stick in order to move just a few feet.

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Over the course of the talks at King’s, Roger Penrose had introduced his colleagues to the idea of a space-time singularity at the center of a black hole, and naturally the group from Cambridge was tremendously excited by this.

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Hawking peered through the window, watching the darkened fields stream past and the juxtaposition of his friends reflected in the glass. His colleagues were arguing over one of the finer mathematical points in Penrose’s discussion. Suddenly, an idea struck him, and he looked away from the window. Turning to Sciama sitting across from him, he said, “I wonder what would happen if you applied Roger’s singularity theory to the entire Universe.” In the event it was that single idea that saved Hawking’s Ph.D. and set him on the road to science superstardom.

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Applying singularity theory to the Universe was by no means an easy problem, and within months Sciama was beginning to realize that his young Ph.D. student was doing something truly exceptional. For Hawking this was the first time he had really applied himself to anything. As he says: I . . . started working hard for the first time in my life. To my surprise, I found I liked it. Maybe it is not really fair to call it work. Someone once said, “Scientists and prostitutes get paid for doing what they enjoy.”11

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The final chapter of Hawking’s thesis was a brilliant piece of work and made all the difference to the awarding of the Ph.D. Doctors and Doctorates 73 work was judged by an internal examiner, Dennis Sciama, and an expert external referee. As well as being passed or failed, a Ph.D. can be deferred, which means that the student has to resubmit the thesis at a later date, usually after another year. Thanks to his final chapter, Hawking was saved this humiliation and the examiners awarded him the degree. From then on the twenty-three-year-old physicist could call himself Dr. Stephen Hawking.

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Obviously, since it could emit no light, such an object would be black, which is why the American relativist John Wheeler dubbed them “black holes” in 1969. But although it was well known that the general theory made this prediction, at the time Hawking was completing his undergraduate studies and moving on to research no one took the notion of black holes seriously. The reason is that there are very many known stars that have more than three times the mass of our Sun.

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But quantum theory said that there is a way to make a star denser than a white dwarf. If the star were squeezed even more by gravity, the electrons could be forced to combine with protons to make more neutrons. The result would be a star made entirely of neutrons, and these could be packed together as closely as the protons and neutrons in an atomic nucleus. This would be a neutron star.

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The density of the matter in a neutron star, in grams per cubic centimeter, would be 1014—that is, 1 followed by 14 zeros, or one hundred thousand billion. Even an object this dense would not be a black hole, though, for light could still escape from its surface into the Universe at large.

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The quantum equations said, in fact, that there was no way that even neutrons could hold up the weight of a dead star of 3 solar masses or more and that, if any such object were left over from the explosive death throes of a massive star, it would collapse inward completely, shrinking to a mathematical point called a singularity. Long before the collapsing star could reach this state of zero volume and infinite density, it would have wrapped space-time around itself, cutting off the collapsar from the outside Universe.

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if it were possible to squeeze our own Sun down into a sphere with a radius of about 3 kilometers, it would become a black hole. So would the Earth, if it were squeezed down to about a centimeter. In each case, once the object had been squeezed down to the critical size, gravity would take over, closing space-time around the object while it continued to shrink away into the infinite density singularity inside the black hole.

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The mid-sixties turned out to be one of the most important times in Stephen Hawking’s life. Having become engaged to Jane, he realized that he would need to find a job very quickly if they were to be married. After obtaining a doctorate, the next stage in the career of any academic is usually to secure a fellowship, accompanied by a grant, in order to continue research.

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Fellowship is considered a great honor and a means by which academics may continue with their research and be paid for it. In return, a college gains prestige if one of its fellows turns out to be highly successful.

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The couple was married in July 1965 in the chapel of Hawking’s postgraduate college, Trinity Hall. It was not a typical “academic” wedding, but neither was it, by any means, a society occasion. Both sets of parents were ordinary, middle-class people.

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Of course they both knew, as did all the others on that day, that Stephen might die within a short time. In fact, according to the medical predictions he was already living on borrowed time.

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At the DAMTP and in Cambridge academic circles, Hawking was beginning to cultivate a “difficult genius” image, and his reputation as successor to Einstein, although embryonic, was already beginning to follow him around. People who knew him in those days remember him as a friendly and cheerful character, but already his natural brashness, coupled with his physical disabilities, was beginning to create communication difficulties with many of those around him.

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Both Jane and Stephen knew that they should not waste any time in starting a family once they were married, and their first child, a boy they named Robert, was born in 1967.

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Hawking was working harder than he had ever worked before, and it was paying dividends. In 1966 he won the Adams Prize for an essay entitled “Singularities and the Geometry of Spacetime.”

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He spent most of this time in collaboration with Roger Penrose, who was by then professor of applied mathematics at Birkbeck College in London. One of the major difficulties the two of them faced was that they had to devise new mathematical techniques in order to carry out the calculations necessary to verify their theories—to make them empirically sound and not just ideas. Einstein had experienced a similar problem fifty years earlier with the mathematics of general relativity. He, like Hawking, was not a particularly brilliant mathematician. Fortunately for Hawking, however, Penrose was. In fact, he was fundamentally a mathematician rather than a physicist, but at the deep level at which the two subjects become almost indistin-guishable.

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Hawking’s way of working is largely intuitive—he just knows if an idea is correct or not. He has an amazing feel for the subject, a bit like a musician playing by ear. Penrose thinks and works in a different way, more like a concert pianist following a musical score. The two approaches meshed perfectly and soon began to produce some very interesting results on the nature of the early Universe.

29/05/2013

CHATEAU MARGAUX 1966

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CHATEAU MARGAUX 1966

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