Intellectual Exploration as Geographical Exploration

My own field of physics is passing today through a phase of exuberant freedom, a phase of passionate prodigality. Sometimes as I listen to the conversation of my young colleagues at Princeton, I feel as if I am lost in a rain forest, with insects and birds and flowers growing all around me in intricate profusion, growing too abundantly for my sixty-year-old brain to comprehend. But the young people are at home in the rain forest and walk confidently along trails which to me are almost invisible. They have their own discipline, different from the discipline which I was taught forty years ago, but still as strict in its way as mine. They are not wandering aimlessly. They are explorers, mapping out the ground, finding the ways that will lead them out of the jungle up to the mountain peaks.

There is a curious parallel here between the history of physics and the history of geographical exploration. At the beginning the explorers had their eyes on the mountain peaks. George Everest, the organizer of the geological survey of India, left his name on the highest mountain. The intervening jungles were only obstacles to be overcome. And so it was also in physics. Maxwell's equations of the electromagnetic field, Einstein's theory of general relativity, these were the great mountain peaks which dominated our vision for a hundred years. But God did not only create mountains, he also created jungles. And today we are beginning to understand that the jungles are the richest and most vibrant part of his creation. The modern explorer in South America or in Africa is not looking for mountains. She is looking into the depths of the jungles to observe and understand the creatures who live there in all their intricate variety. We ourselves came out of {7} the jungle a few million years ago, and we are now becoming aware that we need to understand and preserve the jungle if we are to remain alive and healthy on this planet.


Folksonomies: science metaphor physics

/science/physics (0.444124)
/sports/surfing and bodyboarding (0.407635)
/health and fitness (0.405309)

mountain peaks (0.955225 (positive:0.397607)), rain forest (0.789492 (positive:0.024169)), geographical exploration (0.761411 (positive:0.301153)), great mountain peaks (0.687197 (positive:0.430707)), exuberant freedom (0.501793 (positive:0.301153)), intricate profusion (0.488002 (positive:0.295149)), passionate prodigality (0.473919 (positive:0.503939)), young colleagues (0.454989 (neutral:0.000000)), jungles (0.454659 (positive:0.133119)), sixty-year-old brain (0.453619 (neutral:0.000000)), Intellectual Exploration (0.446827 (positive:0.301153)), intricate variety (0.429198 (positive:0.831279)), curious parallel (0.423322 (neutral:0.000000)), George Everest (0.421147 (neutral:0.000000)), young people (0.420655 (positive:0.368746)), geological survey (0.409453 (neutral:0.000000)), general relativity (0.400513 (neutral:0.000000)), highest mountain (0.398169 (neutral:0.000000)), electromagnetic field (0.393147 (neutral:0.000000)), South America (0.390326 (negative:-0.229298)), modern explorer (0.386129 (negative:-0.229298)), jungle (0.312814 (positive:0.535307)), physics (0.290501 (positive:0.301153)), explorers (0.243146 (neutral:0.000000)), phase (0.235988 (positive:0.402546)), discipline (0.233391 (negative:-0.466388)), history (0.200992 (neutral:0.000000))

Einstein:Person (0.667020 (positive:0.831279)), George Everest:Person (0.618086 (neutral:0.000000)), Princeton:City (0.616303 (neutral:0.000000)), South America:Continent (0.546372 (negative:-0.229298)), India:Country (0.531425 (neutral:0.000000)), Maxwell:Person (0.523415 (neutral:0.000000)), Africa:Continent (0.496395 (negative:-0.229298)), hundred years:Quantity (0.496395 (neutral:0.000000)), million years:Quantity (0.496395 (neutral:0.000000)), forty years:Quantity (0.496395 (neutral:0.000000)), sixty-year:Quantity (0.496395 (neutral:0.000000))

Quantum mechanics (0.966138): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
General relativity (0.826752): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Photon (0.762107): dbpedia | freebase
James Clerk Maxwell (0.735148): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Tropical rainforest (0.730909): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Rainforest (0.718007): dbpedia | freebase
Fundamental physics concepts (0.716544): dbpedia
Maxwell's equations (0.711207): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Infinite in All Directions
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dyson , Freeman J. (2004-07-22), Infinite in All Directions, Harper Perennial, Retrieved on 2012-04-25
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: religion