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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Celebrating the Eclipse That Let Einstein Shine | Science - The New York Times

Siobhan Roberts, Science Journalist, Biographer says, Before 1919, cosmology was as subjective as art criticism. A solar eclipse, and a patent clerk’s equations, changed everything.

Cake pops demonstrating how a solar eclipse works, baked by Katherine Leney, a physicist at CERN.
Photo: Video by Katharine Leney

A century ago, on May 29, 1919, the universe was momentarily perturbed, and Albert Einstein became famous.

On Wednesday at the Institute for Advanced Study, Einstein’s intellectual home from 1932 until his death in 1955, scholars celebrated the centenary with an afternoon symposium titled “The Universe Speaks in Numbers.” The premise: that nature reveals itself through patterns, which can be described with numbers and probed through problems posed by mathematicians and physicists alike. The event’s name was borrowed from the title of a new book by Graham Farmelo, who gave the introductory talk.

“This is actually a good story,” said Helmut Hofer, a mathematician at the Institute, sitting in his office. Behind him, on the wall, hung an axiom that his wife and found and framed:

“Mathematics is such a drama queen. It can’t seriously have that many problems.”

Having the right mathematicians in the company of the right physicists can be quite helpful in solving problems, said Dr. Hofer...

Katharine Leney, a physicist at CERN, in Switzerland, and the purveyor of @PhysicsCakes on Twitter, created a rotating solar eclipse diorama, featuring cake pops of the sun, Earth and moon.

On Wednesday, two actors, Ben Livingstone, playing Einstein, and Colin Uttley, as Arthur Eddington, the astrophysicist who led the Príncipe expedition, gave a special performance at the Royal Astronomical Society in London...

Back on the Princeton campus on Wednesday, scholars at the Institute for Advanced Study, the scholars paused their own investigations to contemplate the numerical nature of the universe.

“We are just a bunch of human beings muddling along in a world that’s very hard to understand,” said mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck, the recent winner of the Abel Prize. She was speaking with Freeman Dyson, the mathematical physicist, and Natalie Wolchover, a writer for Quanta.

Recommended Reading

The Universe Speaks in Numbers:
How Modern Math Reveals Nature's Deepest Secrets

No Shadow of a Doubt:
The 1919 Eclipse That Confirmed Einstein's Theory of Relativity
Source: The New York Times