False attributions, both in life and in science | The stone ax | Science | The USA Print

0


Physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) standing next to a blackboard with mathematical calculations written on it in chalk.
Physicist Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) standing next to a blackboard with mathematical calculations written on it in chalk.Hulton Archive (Getty Images)

Anyone who has read the Sherlock Holmes novels knows that the celebrated detective never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” The blame for this concession lies with the film where the famous catchphrase first appeared. The tape is titled the adventures of sherlock Holmes and it was directed by Alfred L. Welker in 1939, when Conan Doyle -author of Sherlock Holmes- had been dead for nine years.

This is an example of a fictional character to whom words that he never said have been attributed, although there are also historical figures who have been endorsed with false statements. Machiavelli is one of them. Anyone who does not know the work of the Florentine will fall into the error of pretending to be an intellectual if he quotes the well-known phrase: “The end justifies the means”, a phrase that, on the other hand, is from the German theologian Hermmann Busenbaum in whose work entitled Medulla theologiae moralis written in Latin in 1645 -more than a century after Machiavelli’s death- he writes: “Cum finis est licitus, etiam media sunt licita”, or what is the same: “When the end is lawful, so are the means”.

Counterfeiting extends to all areas, being in the field of scientists where it abounds most. For the same reason, Einstein does not escape the fixes. The German genius is endorsed with phrases that he never said, such as: “I fear the day when technology surpasses our humanity. The world will have a generation of idiots.” These words that Einstein never said are repeated constantly on social networks. But even more serious is that of Newton, to whom one of the most famous equations in Physics is attributed, that is, the formula of universal gravitation. Let’s remember: F = Gm1m2/r2where G is the gravitational constant.

This formula continues to be endorsed to Newton, which, according to most textbooks, appears in his Mathematical principles of natural philosophy. As with Machiavelli, anyone who has read Newton’s work will realize that among his pages there are no algebraic equations, since the Beginning they are a treatise on geometry in the style of Euclid’s geometry.

This matter is revealed to us by the biologist and novelist Fernando Vallejo in a book that is already a few years old and is entitled Manual of physical imposturology (Taurus), a libel in which the Colombian author, driven by the acidity that characterizes him, is not content with refuting Newton, but calls Bohr and Planck quantum clowns, and accuses Einstein of formulating marijuana.

But let’s continue with Newton, because for Vallejo the gravitational constant G that appears in the formula attributed to Newton is from Henry Cavendish, a French-born physicist and chemist who, in 1798, revealed that Newton’s law of gravity was fulfilled in the same way way for any pair of bodies. When Cavendish proved this with the help of a torsion balance, Newton had been dead for just over seventy years. With these things, Fernando Vallejo knocks down a fundamental treatise for science and, with it, a scientist like Newton who, according to Vallejo, only did “introduce time through movement and force in the old science of space of Euclid”.

For Vallejo, the Beginning they have little or nothing to do with physics. In fact, the title of Newton’s treatise speaks of philosophy, because said treatise is a philosophy wrapped in geometric and mechanical principles. As a grammarian that he is, Fernando Vallejo knows that what are accepted scientific concepts today were previously only simple words (gravity, energy, matter). By the same token, he also knows that when science cannot do much to give a word a scientific dimension, the blame is placed on the word (understanding, variety, etc.) to which he attributes the error.

It is an effective trick to fill the minds of people who do not think for themselves, and who take for granted what they are told, whether it is a quote from a fictional character or the phrase falsely attributed to a real character, that without forget something as serious as a mathematical equation.

For such matters, Fernando Vallejo’s libel is curious, not only because of its corrosive force, but also because it gives us the ability to think about our own limits, putting us on the path of denial, dilemma and doubt, categories that lead to modify hypotheses to give consistency to the scientific method.

the stone ax it is a section where Montero Glez, with prose will, exerts his particular siege on scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.

You can follow MATTER in Facebook, Twitter and Instagramor sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.

Exclusive content for subscribers

read without limits



LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here