new sources of changes in species consistent with Darwin’s theory. Testing assumptions about evolution from sea to land,
Kingsolver explained that the presence of
hip bones in whales shows the reverse: an
evolution of a land mammal into the sea.
If controversy arises as challenges to
Darwin resurface in the 21st century,
Eugene Merzbacher might consider that
healthy. Picking up the last revolution of
the day, Merzbacher, the Kenan Professor
Emeritus of physics and astronomy, began
by pointing out that, after Newton, many
scientists said to themselves: “It’s over. All
that remains is to apply what we know
already.” As a man who studied at the
Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton
when Einstein and Bohr were at work
there, Merzbacher is a firsthand witness to
the ethos in which science makes its shifts.
Merzbacher demonstrated that the same
collision of common sense and theory that
upset the world in the time of Copernicus
affected the world in 1905, when Einstein
presented his theory of relativity and the
quantum theory of light, by repeating several
of Einstein’s famous thought experiments in
which the common-sense answer is wrong.
For example, Einstein posited his theory of
acceleration against the common-sense perception of motion on a train. As the train
Here’s some of what’s coming up in the GAA’s
Carolina College for Lifelong Learning:
Dialogue on Europe: Current Issues
Join history Professor David Griffiths,
who has taught at UNC since 1968, to
discuss current issues in Europe from the
Urals to the Midlands. What is most concerning about European integration and
union, given the conflicting national
priorities and lack of political cohesion?
The Inner Islands
Explore the geography and biodiversity
of the inner islands of North Carolina.
Associate Professor Bland Simpson ’ 70 will
talk about forces of nature and the history
of the islands’ inhabitants and industries.
Ann Simpson will present historical photographs and her own photography.
accelerates, perceived velocity, what the passenger feels, is different from actual changes
in velocity. A mathematical description of
acceleration must embrace this contradiction.
Einstein’s genius, Merzbacher repeated,
was his ability to develop his theory of relativity and his quantum theory of light
without explaining away dualities. By age
26, Einstein embraced light as wave and
particle, and he moved forward picking the
attribute needed to confront each problem
in turn. Bohr and Heisenberg took the shift
further, so much that, Merzbacher remembered, Einstein complained that their work
would lead to the demise of objective reality, replacing it with laws, mathematics and
abstraction. Bohr, in turn, complained
about Heisenberg’s work, remarking at a
talk Merzbacher attended in the early
1960s that what was wrong with a lot of
what he was hearing in physics was that it
was “not crazy enough.”
What did Bohr mean? Merzbacher gave
the room a wry smile, looking out at a
crowd as committed to a universe
explained by theories of relativity and
quantum physics as their ancestors were to
a geocentric universe, and said: “There are
some scientists who think that it is time for
the next scientific revolution.” ■
— Susan Simone
Saving General Zhou and Other Revolutionary
Adventures: A British Businessman in China
Former Asian studies chair and history
Professor Emeritus Lawrence Kessler will
explore the career of Norman Watts, the
manager of a British shipping line who
lived in Shanghai from 1929 to 1950 and
fought with Chinese guerrillas against the
Japanese. When Communist forces captured Shanghai in 1949, Watts was the
first foreigner to meet them.
Campus Architecture: Evolution and Preservation
Paul Hardin Kapp, campus historic
preservation manager since 2002, will
explore how the campus reflects the
hopes of the founders and builders of
UNC and how it evolved from a vernacular building tradition to the sophisticated
modernist and post-modernist styles.
For more information and additional program
offerings, see page 64 and visit
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