Atomic Nuclear Physics

Mathematical Problems in Theoretical Physics by K. Osterwalder

By K. Osterwalder

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Lastly, he concluded that the age of the Sun cannot be less than 10 million years if the density is constant, and may even be 100 million years if the density increases inward, but that it is definitely not as long as 300 million years, as suggested by Darwin. Kelvin concluded his article with words that would be appropriate even today, though with a twist in the reasoning: As for the future, we may say, with equal certainty, that inhabitants of the Earth cannot continue to enjoy the light and heat essential to their life for many million years longer unless sources now unknown to us are prepared in the great storehouse of creation.

What the internal composition of the atoms may be is as yet an open question. Is it not improbable that they are complex organizations and the seats of enormous energies? [. . ] No cautious chemist would probably venture to assert that the component atomecules, to use a convenient phrase, may not have the energies of rotation, revolution, position, and be otherwise, comparable to those of a planetary system. Nor would he probably be prepared to affirm or deny that the extraordinary conditions which reside in the center of the Sun may not set free a portion of this energy.

How pivotal that session of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was in terms of shifting the weight of popular and scientific opinion to an evolutionary viewpoint is as unclear as what was actually said. Equally uncertain is the damage it did to the clerical cause against Darwinism. But the stakes were high for both sides. In any case, it seems unlikely that the debate was as spectacular as is traditionally suggested, because contemporary accounts by journalists of the day did not mention any particularly notable quotes.

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