The wonder of atomic theory

As a biologist I can’t really appreciate the wonder of atomic theory. I can, however, relate to the excitement of the moment when things come together in a really beautiful way. I like the immediacy of this quote – it almost feels like a blog post.

Werner HeisenbergThe last few weeks have been very exciting for me. Perhaps an analogy is the best way of describing my experiment: that of the attempt to attain the summit of atomic theory which is still unknown, an attempt which has required great efforts of me over the last five years. And now the summit is there in front of me; the whole area of internal relations in atomic theory is unexpectedly and clearly spread out before my eyes. What these internal relations show in all their mathematic abstraction, an incredible degree of simplicity, is a gift that we can only accept with humility. Not even Plato could have believed that it would be so beautiful. In fact these relations cannot have been invented: they have existed since the creation of the world. (Werner Heisenberg, quoted in Hideki Yukawa, The Traveler, World Scientific Publishing, 1982, quoted in turn in From Galileo to Gell-Mann, Templeton Press, 2009.)

One thought on “The wonder of atomic theory

  1. John August 7, 2010 / 1:53 am

    Very interesting to observe the excitement of this discovery. Oddly, sadly, given past teaching as Christian, I feel like I should not admire this. Why would that be?

    Is it because Heisenberg was not a Christian? Is it because Heisenberg’s discoveries are part of the whole system of science which has raised doubts about God and the Bible?

    Of course I respect Heisenberg and like this quote, and am enthusiastic for the discoveries of science. What then was it about past teaching that would leave such an ugly hangover??


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