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Professor John Archibald Wheeler - The Black hole is the source of enlightenment

Identifier

014366

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

John Archibald Wheeler (July 9, 1911 – April 13, 2008) was an American theoretical physicist. He was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr in explaining the basic principles behind nuclear fission. Together with Gregory Breit, Wheeler developed the concept of Breit–Wheeler process. He is also known for popularizing the term "black hole", for coining the terms "neutron moderator", "quantum foam", "wormhole", and "it from bit", whic is of particular interest as we shall see.

Wheeler earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University under the supervision of Karl Herzfeld, and studied under Breit and Bohr on a National Research Council fellowship.

The Black Hole is a source of enlightenment

In 1939 he teamed up with Bohr to write a series of papers using the liquid drop model to explain the mechanism of fission. During World War II, he worked with the Manhattan Project's Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago, where he helped design nuclear reactors, and then at the Hanford Site in Richland, Washington, where he helped DuPont build them. He returned to Princeton after the war ended, but returned to government service to help design and build the hydrogen bomb in the early 1950s.

For most of his career, Wheeler was a professor at Princeton University, which he joined in 1938, remaining until his retirement in 1976. At Princeton he supervised 46 PhDs, more than any other professor in the Princeton physics department. He was influential in mentoring a generation of physicists of the 'Golden Age of General Relativity', who made notable contributions to quantum mechanics and gravitation.

A description of the experience

John Archibald Wheeler's article "Information, Physics, Quantum; The Search for Links", a paper delivered at the Santa Fe Institute and published in "Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information".

This report reviews what quantum physics and information theory have to tell us about the age-old question, "How come existence?" No escape is evident from four conclusions:

  1. The world cannot be considered a giant machine, ruled by any pre-established continuum physical law.
  2. There is no such thing at the microscopic level as space or time or spacetime continuum.
  3. The familiar probability function or functional, and wave equation or functional wave equation, of standard quantum theory provides mere continuum idealizations and by reason of this circumstance conceal the information -theoretic sources from which they derive.
  4. No element in the description of physics shows itself as closer to primordial than the elementary quantum phenomenon, that is, the elementary device-intermediated act of posting a yes-no physical question and eliciting an answer or, in brief, the elementary act of observer-participancy.

Otherwise stated, every physical quantity, every it, derives its ultimate significance from bits, binary yes-or-no indications, a conclusion which we epitomize in the phrase, it from bit."

The source of the experience

Scientist other

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References