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The Rediscovery of the Observer

The impact of the developments in physics over the last century can be thought of under four headings:

  1. The rediscovery of time through relativity theory.God,   Humanity and the Cosmos,   ed. Christopher Southgate (Edinburgh: T&T Clark and Harrisburg, Pa.:   Trinity Press International, 1999), pp100-107

  2. The rediscovery of the observer through quantum theory.

  3. Big Bang cosmology, leading to a possible rediscovery of purpose.God,   Humanity and the Cosmos,   ed. Christopher Southgate (Edinburgh: T&T Clark and Harrisburg, Pa.:   Trinity Press International, 1999), pp119-130

  4. The rediscovery of complexity through chaos theory.God,   Humanity and the Cosmos,   ed. Christopher Southgate (Edinburgh: T&T Clark and Harrisburg, Pa.:   Trinity Press International, 1999), pp130-135

Towards the end of the 19th Century Lord Kelvin had warned of two clouds on the horizon of Newtonian Physics:

  1. The failure of the Michelson-Morley Experiment to detect the motion of the Earth through the aether (the medium through which it was assumed that light must be propagated).

  2. The failure of classical physics to account for the colour of hot objects - the spectrum of black-body radiation.

Einstein’s explanation of 1) led to the rediscovery of timeGod,   Humanity and the Cosmos,   ed. Christopher Southgate (Edinburgh: T&T Clark and Harrisburg, Pa.:   Trinity Press International, 1999), pp100-107and its importance.
The explanation for 2) has led to even more radical changes in our understanding of the world, which must now be understood in terms of quantum theory.

In these topics we shall see how problems interpreting black-body radiation led to ‘the ultraviolet catastrophe’ and the first proposal in quantum theory, how Einstein helped the development of early quantum theory through his work on the photo-electric effect.

See collapsing atoms to learn about radioactivity and the structure of the atom, and wave-particle duality to investigate the paradoxical behaviour of light and subatomic particles.

Finally, see the quantum revolution to learn how these discoveries were brought together in an overall theory.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

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