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In many ways, the 16th century scientist was much more open to new ideas than the 20th century scientist. There is a huge leap from the (western) medieval mind, which could explain everything in a religious context, to the Renaissance mind, which puts every aspect of the world back in question.

Modern physicists are much closer to the former, because there is an ever increasing body of knowledge that must be preserved sine qua non. One simply cannot invent a theory that contradicts past successes. For example, both relativity and quantum mechanics must reduce to classical Newtonian physics on the scale of a laboratory or an engineering work.

Newton didn't have to follow the accepted rules of past developments except for one: Euclidean geometry. This does not mean he could not have grasped Einstein's ideas, on the contrary he was probably a better geometer than Einstein. He simply had no reason to develop in that direction, as the experiments that Einstein cared about were not accessible. Moreover, the fact that at least 1/3rd of all of Newton's work was on alchemy suggests to me that he would have been quite at ease with the quantum view of the world.

$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 12:04:30 AM EST
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