14.0176 on Fermat &al.

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Aug 16 2000 - 06:43:10 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 176.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 07:38:27 +0100
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Possibilities - O. Doctorow

    Dear Colleagues:

    I have obtained so much from Humanist that I would like to give back some of
    what I have learned over the last few months in my fields if I can.
    Unfortunately in a way, my fields are mathematics/statistics and physics.

    I have been researching in a few fascinating (for me) directions. I will
    only mention the first direction here and may continue if anybody is
    interested. 1. The Fermat-Newton Mystery. Here it is important for
    mathematics and physics as well as humanities to know more about Fermat,
    Newton, and their relationship. Pierre De Fermat of 1600s France was an
    amateur mathematician and physicist and professional lawyer/civil servant
    who, in my opinion, was the greatest genius of all time in mathematics and
    physics. He discovered parts of the calculus and optics before Newton (the
    "inventor" of calculus), analytic geometry before Descartes (the "inventor"
    of analytic geometry), co-founded probability theory, founded modern number
    theory which is related to crytology, etc., etc. He was approximately
    350-400 years ahead of his time and in my opinion anticipated parts of the
    modern special theory of relativity which was not invented until the early
    1900s (by Einstein). He was fascinated with light (optics) and correctly
    figured out that light slows down in water (Descartes concluded the
    opposite). I will be delivering a paper at the December 2000 Orbis
    Scientiae Global Foundation meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the
    dependence of light speed on energy, which will also relate to the recent
    superluminal (above light speed) experimental results which have been in the
    press since they were first demonstrated by Professor Nimtz at U. of
    Cologne/Koln in 1997 (later confirmed experimentally, although theorists
    differ as to whether objects or only pulses/groups are exceeding light

    Science fiction writers can have a field day speculating on whether Fermat
    was merely smarter than Einstein (apparently he was - Einstein was only a
    few years ahead of his time or "one step" ahead of the mathematicians and
    physicists whose equations he used, including the Italians Ricci and Levi
    Civita and the the Englishman/Scotsman Fitzgerald and Lorentz from somewhere
    else) or whether he was a time traveller. By the way, Leonardo Da Vinci was
    about 400 years ahead of his time in my rough calculations, so Fermat
    definitely had a rival. There is certainly enough material for a time
    travel cinema. Fermat and Newton were both extremely secretive - so much
    so for Fermat that he enraged Descartes (and also upstaged him, and
    Descartes was forced to apologize) who spent the rest of his life trying to
    ruin Fermat's reputation and position. Newton was too secretive to publish
    until Leibniz upstaged him. Both Newton and Fermat rose "meteorically" in
    government/politics, Newton to Lord Chancellor. Both were obsessed with
    optics. Both founded branches and branches of mathematics and physics.
    Only problem: Newton lived after Fermat except for a slight and
    insignificant overlap. An even "wilder" scenario: were both Newton and
    Fermat promoted meteorically because their governments were rewarding them
    and recognizing their discoveries secretly? If so, what became of the
    French government's knowledge after the French Revolution? Who "knew too
    much" in Great Britain? Suggested hint for cinema: Sir Arthur Stanley
    Eddington, Einstein's right-hand man whose experiments verified general
    relativity's predictions and who was the first person to write a book on
    general relativity (the book extended Einstein's theory far beyond what
    Einstein thought at the time). Second hint: Eddington and Paul Dirac of
    Cambridge were quite similar. Paul Dirac and Stephen Weinberg later won the
    Nobel Prize in physics and were the two greatest quantum theorists of the
    last 30-40 years. Guess who Paul Dirac's student was (and also partly
    Albert Einstein's)? Professor B. N. Kursunoglu, President of the Global
    Foundation. Anyone care to attend the December lecture?

    Cheers and God bless,


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