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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index E > Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington Quotes > Universe

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Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
(28 Dec 1882 - 22 Nov 1944)

known for his work on the motion, distribution, evolution and structure of stars. He also interpreted Einstein's general theory of relativity. He was one of the first to suggest (1917) conversion of matter into radiation powered the stars.


Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington Quotes on Universe (10 quotes)

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All change is relative. The universe is expanding relatively to our common material standards; our material standards are shrinking relatively to the size of the universe. The theory of the “expanding universe” might also be called the theory of the “shrinking atom”. …
:Let us then take the whole universe as our standard of constancy, and adopt the view of a cosmic being whose body is composed of intergalactic spaces and swells as they swell. Or rather we must now say it keeps the same size, for he will not admit that it is he who has changed. Watching us for a few thousand million years, he sees us shrinking; atoms, animals, planets, even the galaxies, all shrink alike; only the intergalactic spaces remain the same. The earth spirals round the sun in an ever-decreasing orbit. It would be absurd to treat its changing revolution as a constant unit of time. The cosmic being will naturally relate his units of length and time so that the velocity of light remains constant. Our years will then decrease in geometrical progression in the cosmic scale of time. On that scale man’s life is becoming briefer; his threescore years and ten are an ever-decreasing allowance. Owing to the property of geometrical progressions an infinite number of our years will add up to a finite cosmic time; so that what we should call the end of eternity is an ordinary finite date in the cosmic calendar. But on that date the universe has expanded to infinity in our reckoning, and we have shrunk to nothing in the reckoning of the cosmic being.
We walk the stage of life, performers of a drama for the benefit of the cosmic spectator. As the scenes proceed he notices that the actors are growing smaller and the action quicker. When the last act opens the curtain rises on midget actors rushing through their parts at frantic speed. Smaller and smaller. Faster and faster. One last microscopic blurr of intense agitation. And then nothing.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In The Expanding Universe (1933) , 90-92.
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I believe there are
15,747,724,136,275,002,577,605,653,961,181,555,468,044,717,
914,527,116,709,366,231,025,076,185,631,031,296
protons in the universe, and the same number of electrons.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
From Tarner Lecture (1938), 'The Physical Universe', in The Philosophy of Physical Science (1939, 2012), 170. Note: the number is 136 x 2256.
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I will give you a “celestial multiplication table.” We start with a star as the unit most familiar to us, a globe comparable to the sun. Then—
A hundred thousand million Stars make one Galaxy;
A hundred thousand million Galaxies make one Universe.
The figures may not be very trustworthy, but I think they give a correct impression.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In The Expanding Universe (1933), 4.
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Let us suppose that an ichthyologist is exploring the life of the ocean. He casts a net into the water and brings up a fishy assortment. Surveying his catch, he proceeds in the usual manner of a scientist to systematise what it reveals. He arrives at two generalisations:
(1) No sea-creature is less than two inches long.
(2) All sea-creatures have gills.
These are both true of his catch, and he assumes tentatively that they will remain true however often he repeats it.
In applying this analogy, the catch stands for the body of knowledge which constitutes physical science, and the net for the sensory and intellectual equipment which we use in obtaining it. The casting of the net corresponds to observation; for knowledge which has not been or could not be obtained by observation is not admitted into physical science.
An onlooker may object that the first generalisation is wrong. “There are plenty of sea-creatures under two inches long, only your net is not adapted to catch them.” The icthyologist dismisses this objection contemptuously. “Anything uncatchable by my net is ipso facto outside the scope of icthyological knowledge. In short, what my net can't catch isn't fish.” Or—to translate the analogy—“If you are not simply guessing, you are claiming a knowledge of the physical universe discovered in some other way than by the methods of physical science, and admittedly unverifiable by such methods. You are a metaphysician. Bah!”
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In 'Selective Subjectivism', The Philosophy of Physical Science (1938, 2012), 16.
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The law that entropy always increases—the Second Law of Thermodynamics—holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations—then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation—well these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 74.
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The universe is of the nature of a thought or sensation in a universal Mind… To put the conclusion crudely—the stuff of the world is mind-stuff. As is often the way with crude statements, I shall have to explain that by “mind” I do not exactly mean mind and by “stuff” I do not at all mean stuff. Still that is about as near as we can get to the idea in a simple phrase. The mind-stuff of the world is something more general than our individual conscious minds; but we may think of its nature as not altogether foreign to feelings in our consciousness… Having granted this, the mental activity of the part of world constituting ourselves occasions no great surprise; it is known to us by direct self-knowledge, and we do not explain it away as something other than we know it to be—or rather, it knows itself to be.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
From Gifford Lecture, Edinburgh, (1927), 'Reality', collected in The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 276.
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Unless the structure of the nucleus has a surprise in store for us, the conclusion seems plain—there is nothing in the whole system if laws of physics that cannot be deduced unambiguously from epistemological considerations. An intelligence, unacquainted with our universe, but acquainted with the system of thought by which the human mind interprets to itself the contents of its sensory experience, and should be able to attain all the knowledge of physics that we have attained by experiment.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In Clive William Kilmister, Eddington's Search for a Fundamental Theory (1994), 202.
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We can see that, the constant in the law of gravitation being fixed, there may be some upper limit to the amount of matter possible; as more and more matter is added in the distant parts, space curves round and ultimately closes; the process of adding more matter must stop, because there is no more space, and we can only return to the region already dealt with. But there seems nothing to prevent a defect of matter, leaving space unclosed. Some mechanism seems to be needed, whereby either gravitation creates matter, or all the matter in the universe conspires to define a law of gravitation.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 163.
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We have found that where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from nature that which the mind has put into nature.
We have found a strange foot-print on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the foot-print. And Lo! it is our own.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Concluding sentences in Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1921), 200-201
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When I hear to-day protests against the Bolshevism of modern science and regrets for the old-established order, I am inclined to think that Rutherford, not Einstein, is the real villain of the piece. When we compare the universe as it is now supposed to be with the universe as we had ordinarily preconceived it, the most arresting change is not the rearrangement of space and time by Einstein but the dissolution of all that we regard as most solid into tiny specks floating in void. That gives an abrupt jar to those who think that things are more or less what they seem. The revelation by modern physics of the void within the atom is more disturbing than the revelation by astronomy of the immense void of interstellar space.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), 1.
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See also:
  • 28 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Eddington's birth.
  • The Eddington Enigma, by David Evans, David S. Evans. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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