Saturday, June 18, 2005

Life at Low Reynolds Number

This talk by E.M. Purcell is a classic, and you may enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Something there caught my peripheral vision:

"I come back for a moment to Osborne Reynolds. That was a very great man. He was a professor of engineering, actually. He was the one who not only invented Reynolds number, but he was also the one who showed what turbulence amounts to and that there is an instability in flow, and all that. He is also the one who solved the problem for how you lubricate a bearing, which is a very subtle problem that I recommend to anyone who hasn't looked into it. But I discovered just recently in reading in his collected works that toward the end of his life, in 1903, he published a very long paper on the details of the sub mechanical universe , and he had a complete theory which involved small particles of diameter 10^{-18} cm. It gets very nutty from there on. It's a mechanical model, the particles interact with one another and fill all space. But I thought that, incongruous as it may have seemed to put this kind of stuff in between our studies of the sub mechanical universe today,"

It reminded me of this, about physicist, Wolfgang Pauli :

"There was another, rather bizarre side to Pauli that is only now beginning to come into view with the publication of more than a thousand letters showing his attempts to explore the unconscious and find a common language for the description of mind and matter. Jung, in his 1935 essay "Dream Symbols of the Process of Individuation," wrote: "My material consists of more than 1000 dreams and visual impressions of a scientifically educated younger man. For the purpose of the present investigation I have studied the first 400 of these dreams." The anonymous dreamer, as we know now, was Wolfgang Pauli."
"....Pauli sought to investigate the human psyche as deeply as he explored the physical world. But he did not feel ready to publish his psychic investigations."

Nuttiness and scientific creativity may be joined at the hip.