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Sabine Hossenfelder on epic fights in science


Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder says the reputation of scientists for objectivity is overrated:


Newton and Leibniz then got into a bitter dispute over who was first [to invent calculus]. Leibniz wrote to the British Royal Society to ask for a committee to investigate the matter. But at that time the society’s president was… Isaac Newton. And Newton simply drafted the report himself. He wrote “we reckon Mr Newton the first inventor” and then presented it to the members of the committee to sign, which they did…

Electric lights came in use around the end of the 19th Century. At first, they all worked with Thomas Edison’s direct current system, DC for short. But his old employee Nicola Tesla had developed a competing system, the alternate current system, or AC for short. Tesla had actually offered it to Edison when he was working for him, but Edison didn’t want it… He paid Brown to build an electric chair with AC generators that they bought from Westinghouse and Tesla, and then had Brown lobby for using it to electrocute people so the general public would associate AC with death.

Together the two men discovered 136 species of dinosaurs (Cope 56 and Marsh 80) but they died financially ruined with their scientific reputation destroyed [over their feuds].

Sabine Hossenfelder, “Epic fights in science” at BackRe(Action) (February 12, 2022)

Much more at the link.

Sorry to disagree, Polistra, but for most electric distribution applications, AC is far superior as Tesla knew, simply because it can be easily and efficiently transformed to higher or lower voltages. Edison could send low voltage DC to nearby locations, but for higher power or longer distances, the voltage needs to be very high, which is then dangerous. Today we can transform DC voltages using high-speed switch-mode power supply circuitry, which did not exist back then. Meanwhile AC transformers are simple, easy to make, and can be very efficient. Power at the generator is a few kV, stepped up to 25kV or higher for transmission, then stepped down to 240 V near your house, and split into two 120V phases at your meter (assuming you live in North America). The high voltage transmission over many miles minimizes resistive losses (as the voltage goes up, the current and I2R losses go down). There are other benefits of AC for switching; e.g. less arcing when you break the circuit. And for a given voltage, I understand that AC is actually a bit safer than DC. For very-long power transmission, where the distance is a significant fraction of the wavelength for 60 Hz power (say above 500 km), the AC losses (radiated power) become large and high voltage (megavolt level) DC transmission becomes more efficient. DC also allows two unsynchronized AC systems (e.g. 50 and 60 Hz) to be connected without forcing them to synchronize or lock phases. So pros and cons today, but Tesla was correct back then. Fasteddious
"Died financially ruined" is an especially common theme among inventors. Chappe, who invented the mechanical semaphore system that formed the basis for later electrical telegraphs, could have simply sat back and enjoyed his well-deserved fame and fortune. Instead, he got into a priority battle with Breguet and ended up committing suicide. Edwin Armstrong, the inventor of superhet and FM, ended up the same way. You got to know when to holdem and when to foldem. Take the royalties, leave the casino, and stop trying to double the bet. polistra
Leibniz was an amazing individual spending most of his life as a diplomat and court official. . Imagine what he might have discovered if he just concentrated on science.
German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist, and diplomat. He is a prominent figure in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathematics. He wrote works on philosophy, theology, ethics, politics, law, history, and philology. Leibniz also made major contributions to physics and technology, and anticipated notions that surfaced much later in probability theory, biology, medicine, geology, psychology, linguistics, and computer science. In addition he contributed to the field of library science: while serving as overseer of the Wolfenbüttel library in Germany, he devised a cataloging system that would have served as a guide for many of Europe's largest libraries. Leibniz's contributions to this vast array of subjects were scattered in various learned journals, in tens of thousands of letters, and in unpublished manuscripts. He wrote in several languages, primarily in Latin, French and German, but also in English, Italian and Dutch.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Wilhelm_Leibniz As far as calculus, Leibniz may have gotten the last laugh as his terminology mainly prevailed.
He introduced several notations used to this day, for instance the integral sign ?, representing an elongated S, from the Latin word summa, and the d used for differentials, from the Latin word differentia.
The Newton/Leibniz feud just shows that true genius can get extremely petty. Leibniz’s work in mathematics owes much to his connections to Jacob Bernoulli. jerry
of related note to the Newton-Leibniz dispute, ‘coincidental scientific discoveries’ are far more prevalent than what should be expected from, let's just say, a non-teleological, i.e. random chance, Atheistic perspective,:
In the Air – Who says big ideas are rare? by Malcolm Gladwell Excerpt: This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common. One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern. Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians “invented” decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland. ,,, For Ogburn and Thomas, the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/12/080512fa_fact_gladwell/?currentPage=all List of multiple discoveries Excerpt: Historians and sociologists have remarked on the occurrence, in science, of "multiple independent discovery". Robert K. Merton defined such "multiples" as instances in which similar discoveries are made by scientists working independently of each other.,,, Multiple independent discovery, however, is not limited to only a few historic instances involving giants of scientific research. Merton believed that it is multiple discoveries, rather than unique ones, that represent the common pattern in science. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_multiple_discoveries
The Edison vs Tesla thing is overrated. Edison was always right about the basic question. DC is simply better for long distance powerlines because AC causes all sorts of reactive losses. AC was temporarily more practical until solid-state inverters made an extra stage of conversion cheap enough. polistra

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