2009 is officially “The Year of Astronomy,” commemorating Galilei’s first observation of the Moon through his telescope in November of 1609. Born in Pisa, Galileo Galilei worked in Florence, where the fourth centennial of his discovery is being celebrated with a stunning and sophisticated exhibition which took four years to prepare.
“But then an asteroid 6 miles across – that’s bigger than Mt. Everest! – slammed into the Gulf of Mexico just off the Yucatan Peninsula. The explosion was huge, setting fire to vast amounts of land, and creating a tsunami that must have scoured the Mexican and Texas coasts clean. It launched so much rock into the sky that they went on ballistic arcs, going up out of the atmosphere and then back down, setting fire to forests around the world.”
“The next generation of physicists and cosmologists will have the fun and excitement of discovering the right mathematical formulation of a “multiverse.” Finding observational (astronomical?) ways to confirm that we live in such a diverse world is another challenge. Only the old fogies who thought that physics was almost finished are disappointed. The only thing that I would find discouraging would be that we run out of questions.”
So why did Eddington savage his young colleague nine years later? Jealousy? Racism? A threat to his own work? The answer seems to have been a little of all these and more, but not one clearly more than the rest.