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Thoughts on speculation


Crazy ideas for a crazy world
John Wheeler Scientist
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It's a -- the world is a crazy place, and the way it's organized is surely crazy, but we have to be crazy enough to see what that way is, if we're really going to understand this physical world. It's not just a matter of nice simple formulas, there's some ideas out there that are waiting to be discovered. I have in Maine a little stone that my son and his wife brought back from a visit to Athens. They walked in the Garden of Academe, where Plato and Aristotle walked and talked. And this little stone, I have in my mind's eye, the vision of a machine one could put the stone into which would un-peel the acoustic memory, and someone could hear the conversations between those two men in the Garden of Academe, Plato and Aristotle, the great thinkers of long ago. But I would put Parmenides in as another I would like to hear. It's so hard to recognize that it was another Greek, Democritus, who told us that the world is composed of atoms. And he was two thousand years ahead of his time. Plato and Aristotle may have one or two other surprises for us that need to be unwrapped and looked at and bowed down before.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008