Quantum gravity physics based on facts, giving checkable predictions

Monday, October 10, 2005

Heaviside the Man

I recently clicked on the link http://www.neurodiversity.com/bio_heaviside.html which is on my internet site. The collection of quotations there was updated by Kathleen Seidel on 19 September. For months it had shown Heaviside the mathematician in a nice glowing light.

It still quotes me praising Heaviside (which is why I had the link there, being humble), but it now also quotes an attack on Heaviside in a new book by Paul J. Nahin, Oliver Heaviside : The Life, Work, and Times of an Electrical Genius of the Victorian Age. The quotation is:

'He was a man who often was incapable of conducting himself properly in the most elementary social interactions. His only continuing contacts with women were limited to his mother, nieces, and housekeepers. He was a man who knew the power of money and desired it, but refused to work for it, preferring to live off the sweat of his family and long-suffering friends, whom he often insulted even as they paid his bills.'

If this is the sort of personal diatribe that happens, an attack on personal failures, then you don't want to become famous. My memory is going at 33, but I think when I saw Ivor Catt in February to video him talking about Heaviside for a DVD, he waited until I had used up all the DV tapes before discussing Heaviside. I did not like what I heard! I've always felt empathy a bit with Heaviside in the sense that I had a hearing difficulty at an early age.

Some of the anecdotes were more crazy than sad. One time, Heaviside broke a gas pipe and was worried about escaping gas. Knowing no chemistry, he decided that the safest way to prevent being suffocated by gas was to burn it off, and the resulting explosion burned and blackened his face for weeks. Heaviside never made money out of his fame, and Catt told me that the friends who gave Heaviside money were people who were grateful for his equations, like the famous Oliver Lodge. Lodge often visited Heaviside, and it was he who struggled to get Heaviside made an FRS.

Bad craziness

My 'proof' of the strong nuclear force strength using Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and F=ma, which appears in the Electronics World April 2003 article, looks an insult to any mathematician. First, I confuse uncertainties in energy and time for differential elements of these two things, and then I confuse the differential element of distance for the true distance in the inverse square law. It is a first approximation towards reality. Big ideas don't get born as intelligent adults, they start off as something far more vulnerable ...


At 1:04 AM, Blogger nige said...

Here, folks, is the opening quotation from the earlier version of Kathleen Seidel's page on Heaviside (updated on 5 July 2005, 2:03 pm), which I found in my laptop IE history:

"Logic can be patient, for it is eternal.

"The prevalent idea of mathematical works is that you must understand the reason why first, before you proceed to practise. That is fudge and fiddlesticks. I know mathematical processes that I have used with success for a very long time, of which neither I nor anyone else understands the scholastic logic. I have grown into them, and so understand them that way.

"Why should I refuse a good dinner simply because I don't understand the digestive processes involved?

"Oliver Heaviside"

Now, this quotation has been chopped off on http://www.neurodiversity.com/bio_heaviside.html before the joke about the good dinner, and the negative quote has been added just below.

I feel it is an example of the 'Matthew effect', the famous geniuses like Einstein get more and more praise and are defended. If Heaviside had been as famous as Einstein but had still been as arrogant, then you would have a reason for saying he was really horrible. The suppression of Heaviside gives him some sort of excuse for being a pain in the neck to everyone.

Reading Dr Chris Oakley's internet site, I see he has a defence of Tony Blair, describing him as having qualities similar to Attlee, Churchill and Thatcher. Reading that actually shocked me so much that I've now changed my opinion on Thatcher. I used to think her a mean woman, but at least she reacted to public demands, she went to war to save the Falkland Islands because the public demanded something be done. She did not act as dictator. OK, she was unpopular because of the poll tax, coal miner dispute, and for standing by Reagan on nuclear deterrence and Star Wars, but none of this is like Blair.

Thatcher's PR machine, led by Bernard Ingram, was old-fashioned and gentlemanly. Blair's approach is to use the Prevention of Terrorism Act against anyone who shouts nonsense at his conference. I won't write more on the Iraq war, except that I don't agree with it. The Soviet Union was defeated peacefully. We didn't start a thermonuclear war to end communist dictatorship, but we did all we could to depress them into reform and encourage its system to collapse peacefully. I think the same methods could have, with imagination and powerful resolution, have sorted out the Iraq war. A cousin in a tank regiment has been out to Iraq, and it caused his family a lot of worry watching news of attacks on TV, although he came through OK.

Exactly who is to blame is hard to tell, whether Bush senior should have done more in the original war after Iraq invaded Kuwait? Saddam had 5000 Kurds nerve gassed in 1988. The Kurds were a bit of a pain in the neck to him, but that doesn't excuse him of evil. What worries me is that far more civilians have been killed in the war. If the had assassinated Saddam, that would have been fine. Instead he is in luxury in prison, while Iraq is in an unstable situation. If US and UK pull out troops, another dictator could possibly sieze power and Bush-Blair would be back to square one, going down in history as a kind of unfunny version of Laurel and Hardy.

They should pull out and promise to bump off any dictator there in the future. I suppose this idea is a pipe dream, because it just can't be done. Saddam had a mobile hideout disguised as an ice cream van or such like. Democracy is hard to establish...


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