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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: September 20, 2005
Latest Update: September 20, 2005
Jeremy Bernstein, a physicist, and a writer for the New Yorker, does an exciting job of answering the question of "How do I know that Einstein wasn't just a crank?" We ask that question all the time. "How do we know that we should rely on this authority, this text, this interpretation? How do we know what's "true"?
Cranks, Quarks , and the Cosmos, by Jeremy Bernstein. Good reader on science and scientists. A couple of pretty good reviews on Amazon.com. I was particularly interested in your recognizing that people like Einstein, who think outside of the box, are often not accepted in their own scientific community.That is largely due to our expectations that whatever we have been "taught" is the "way it is." This attitude doesn't allow for new knowledge.
Today astrophysicists, who deal with very large measures, like the distance, and size, and energy of stars and planets, are discovering that they must work together with particle physicists, who deal in very small measures, like atoms and electrons. As they discover more and more in their own fields, they discover that those fields are part of the larger picture so that neither can avoid the other. Today, they are considering the possibility that they were wrong about the earth being a sphere - they now think the earth may be two-dimensional, i.e., flat, with gravity slithering off the edge. This is why we rail against the arrogance of knowledge. Knowledge exists because we are curious and creative creatures, and we keep discovering more and more about this world of ours. We don't have definitive answers. What we have is ever more sophisticated questions.