A case for seeing certainties as questions
Since the term “atom” was coined by Greek philosophers two thousand years ago, the scientific community operated on the certitude that this particle was the smallest, base unit of matter. Its name even stemmed from the Greek word for “indivisible.”
As technologies developed and thought expanded, researchers in the field around the turn of the 19th century began to question this base theory. By 1906 and at age 50, the English physicist J.J. Thomson won the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work proving the existence of subatomic particles. These particles, uniform in size and 1000 times smaller than the smallest atom, were negatively charged and dubbed “electrons.”
Following this monumental shift in the way we perceived the world, researchers and scientists continued to question and examine the fundamental bases of our material surroundings. By the time J.J.’s son George, a former student of his, was 45, he’d pursued a hypothesis put forth by de Broglie that J.J.’s subatomic particle… was not a particle at all.
In 1937, George Thomson received his own Nobel Prize for expanding upon and even rejecting elements of his father’s prize-winning research. George’s discovery of the wave-particle duality of the electron is the modern basis of quantum physics, a branch of the field completely inexplicable by the classical physics that had limited his father.
When a son looks at his father’s convictions, he can choose to see certainties or see questions. With each generation that grows into its own, precedent is held up to the light and examined. Assumptions are scrutinized, the student becomes the teacher, and the world can be rendered richer for it.
What are ‘certain’ of today?
What will we ‘prove’ tomorrow?
Published: May 12th, 2016