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Albert Einstein - Person of the Century 331

Posted by Hemos
from the sounds-good-to-me dept.
fat_mike writes "Seems that Time Magazine has picked Albert Einstein as Person of the Century. You can check out the scoop here at Drudge Report. " I think I could agree with this, but it's really almost impossible to qualify something like this, although it does give me pleasure to have the icon *really* match the story.
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Albert Einsten - Person of the Century

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  • Although we were not able to prove relativity or show it's true capabilities in this century, I think Einstein deserves the credit.
  • by Charvak (97898)
    i prefer gandhi after all einstein himself was fan of gandhi
  • by tadd (51292)
    Hrmm?? Pretty tough one to pick isn't it? I cannot even think of a person of the year, let alone the century, milleneum, or whatever. One would at least need to categorize the choice. How could one compare, for example, Einstein with, say, Crick and Watson (sp?).
  • by hogwaller (421)
    Gandhi affected waaaay more people on a personal,
    emotional and spiritual level than Einstein did.
    I think if Einstien were alive, he'd laugh at Time
    Rag-o-zine.
    But what do you expect from an organization that
    REALLY thinks Jeff Bezos is the "Man of the Year".
    I stopped reading Time long ago, anyway. It's
    McNews.
  • In all sense of fairness, we all dont' directly know him except for his theories and what history books tell us. And who is person of the century is not very subjective. Saying who contributed most to physics might be more appropriate. IMHO, I would think Mark Twain, Erickson (psychologist of Social Psych), Piaget, Pavlov and others were more important. But then again, that's my subjective view for man of the century.

    ---
  • by pb (1020)
    Excellent choice on the part of Time Magazine for Person of the Century. Although it probably isn't very politically correct. Soon, the Weekly World News will run the story: "Time Magazine Says Some People Better Than Others!" Also, shouldn't this be in the News section instead of Science? ;)
    ---
    pb Reply or e-mail rather than vaguely moderate [152.7.41.11].
  • by brainy (121004)
    Heh, it is pretty cool that the icon matches the story. And Einstein is pretty deserving of the honor...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    AL Gore. If he hadn't invented the Internet and electricity, none of this would be possible.
  • The person of the century: Couldn't tie his shoelaces Couldn't find his own house, even if he were right in front of it, (he'd knock on a neighbor's door and ask which house was his) Was considered retarded through most of his childhood I on the other hand: Can tie my shoelaces Can find my house so long as I'm on the right street and block Was considered "gifted" through most of my childhood. Strange how things turn out isn't it?
  • My take on this - if it is true - is that it is a reflection of the .com/geek mainia that is flooding the mainstream. Time is a political rag. If they stuck to their guns they would have chosen FDR or Ghandi. Einstien would be a rational choice for Slashdot but I have to wonder about Time magazine. Of course, I wonder about just everything that the mainstream media does these days....
  • by jonnythan (79727) on Saturday December 25, 1999 @08:58PM (#1444726) Homepage
    Einstein was indeed a brilliant man...but he was also very...wrong. A lot. Einstein would not have been the scientist of the century...that one would have to go to Neils Bohr. This man, one of the creators of quantum theory, understood the universe in a way that Einstein never could. Einstein was very entrenched in classical physics..he was absolutely sure that the universe was, in essence, a great "clock." A clock whose gears could be seen by science, and understood in the most basic sense, ultimately.

    Bohr, on the other hand, was open enough to realize the value of quantum mechanics. He saw the outcomes of quantum theory as nature's way of telling us that we have no business imposing our own macroscopic concepts on nature itself. Ideas such as color, particle, and wave have essentially no meaning in terms of electrons, quarks, and photons. Do a search on "Copenhagen interpretation" or "Einstein Bohr debates" to find out how Einstein was so shortsighted in his quick disregard of "quantum strangeness" and "weird forces at a distance" thought experiment...see the quantum physics story posted earlier for details...it's about two photons being emitted in opposite directions having a superposition of two states until one is measured...then the other becomes definite...also see "Schrodinger's cat" for an interesting thought experiment">. Anyway, Bohr was a greater thinker than Einstein, without a doubt..at this level where philosophy and science intertwine.

    I would have to agree underservedly about their selection as Einstein for man of the century. Bohr was a scientist and philosopher. Einstein was a cultural icon. In his personality, his naive political beliefs, and ultimate quotability have made him an ultimately unique figure, recognized worldwide. His disregard for any cultural norms made him loved. He was also a man of paradox....showing a tremendous understanding of everything, so much more than the average genius...but also displaying a magnificent naivite in every aspect of his being. Einstein represents the goals, ideals, and accomplishments of this century more than any man - culture, science, politics....
    I'll shut up now, and I'm sorry if most of this was mentioned in the article...it was /.'ed

    Did i miss anything? :)
  • I dont know how many read the druge report on here, I do. I like drudge alot but he has said 3 differnt people in the past 2 weeks.
  • einstein was a brilliant man, i think he is definetly worthy of an honor like this... but i also agree many others are too. i think maybe they should have done a group of most important people of the century (10 or so people) to touch on every aspect of life...
  • by mTor (18585) on Saturday December 25, 1999 @08:59PM (#1444729)
    Does it really matter who "Time" chooses? Who decides at Time who the person of the century is? It's an editor/owner type of deal. Why should I listen to some guy in a suit telling me that the man of the century is Einstein or whatever?

    I recommend you all stop waisting your time thinking what a single most important person of the century is. Just think about "people" who have influenced particular fields or parts of the every day life.

    There is no single "Man of the century" that will be the man of the century for everyone.


    PS: Why not have a person of the century? Women are people as well.. maybe TIME hasn't figured that one yet.
  • He may have delt with relativity, and black holes and theories, but did he understand, have a theory or take on the SLASHDOT effect? I think not!

    SpamMan

  • If anyone's the man of the century, it's Gates.

    Look at how he showed us the fundamental problems with proprietary software through his programs and... what? Windows was actually seriously supposed to be an OS? Whoa... that changes my whole perspective. I thought it was a joke...

    (Sorry, I'm drunk.)

  • Also... Who gives TIME to decide for everyone? What happens if NY Times decides that Roosevelt is the man of the century?

    Ridiculous!
  • All this most important person crap is making me sick. Some say that the ability to reflect and think about oneself defines intelligence, but this proves otherwise. It is impossible to compare people's influence if they are from different points in time since all achievements are based on others. And anyway, I'm not really sure if I can agree on Einstein as influential since the average moron of the nineties doesn't even know what e=mc^2 stand for, let alone understands relativity. "Well... I'm no Alfred Einstein" -Joe Namath
  • by seaportcasino (121045) on Saturday December 25, 1999 @09:02PM (#1444735) Homepage
    I think Einstein was a fantastic choice because he was not "spiritual" as Gandhi was. This century marked a decay in the spiritual, a decline in Christianity; People finally are looking beyond Christ for answers. Science has overtaken religion finally this century. It is mainstream. People are more likely to have a cell phone or a pda than a cross in this day and age. Now I'm not saying this is an entirely good thing. That probably won't be known for quite some time. Maybe in the next hundred years? But I do know that Einstein would have been my choice as well. It's about time we start appreciating true genius!
  • A search for "Einstein" results in 190,720 pages found. "Roosevelt" scores 2nd with 175,130 hits. "Gandhi" is found on 62,695 web pages.

    This might not be the best way to judge people and their influence on the society (There are only 436 pages about "John Postel", but every Slahsdotter will agree that his work influenced the life of everybody on Earth in the past decade)

    But looking for some name on Altavista is a good way to judge people's popularity among the web users (how does this relate to popularity among the general public, I don't know).

    Einstein's science may have directly affected everybody's life, but he had become an icon for the whole sceintific field. Have you seen the science icon on Slashdot?

    He deserves being the person of the century.
  • Although we were not able to prove relativity ...

    Actually, your wrong. Even though relativity (special and general) started out as what Einstien called "Gedankenexperiment" or a thought experiment, It has actually been proven beyond a doubt since then using very sensitive atomic clocks and high speed planes. Plus lots of other ways, it's just that I can't remember any other examples at moment.

    I think that they even have to take relativity into account with GPS systems etc, but then again IANAS :)

  • Perhaps catagorizing it would have been nice too.

    ---
  • Actually, I'd disagree with that. The E=MC2 formula ultimately led to the development of atomic weapons and nuclear energy. Those developments have impacted just about everyone on the planet. Gandhi's influence on the world was very minor by comparison.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's strange. On the Time webpoll, the top listed people are Elvis Presley, Yitzhak Rabin, Adolf Hitler, and Billy Graham, with Einstein coming in 5th. Gandhi was 9th, and FDR didn't make the top 20, while Drudge's report lists them as the runners-up. IMHO, Presley, Graham, and Rabin can be ignored as ballot-stuffed votes. But as much as I hate to say it, wasn't Hitler really much more influential on world history?
  • Einstein was very entrenched in classical physics.

    What about Einstein's work on the photoelectric effect? The photoelectric effect was not explainable by classical physics.

  • Einstien is probably the best choice from the aspect of "this is someone we're proud of."

    Who has had real impacts on the 20th century? Well... Hitler and Stalin come to mind. Both individuals certainly changed the course of history in a way that, possibly, no one else could. Hitler's aftermath, especially, is still being felt today. The reunifcation of Germany and the events in Bosnia after communism's collapse are both events that have hitler's fingerprints on them. Of course, few would want to commemorate sharing a century with him...

    You might argue that Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., and others of a more humane bent had a major impact on the 20th century. Certainly, their impact on their homelands was great... and their philosophies have inspired many beyond the borders of the lands where they primarily did their work. But, quantifying their direct impact on any arbitrary world citizen's daily life is hard. There are still the opressed, there are still those killed in the name of supressing freedom.

    Einstien is a safer choice. His work has weaved its way into our lives on a daily basis. His papers basically jump-started the field of quantum mechanics, which gave rise to modern electronics, which gave rise to Slashdot (how could you get more noble? ;). Aside from the passion of the moment, computers and the Internet, Einstien's work also made possible the earlier communications revolutions, such as TV.

    And... of course, his little E=MC^2 equation was put to rather dramatic use in Hiroshima, and held the world hostage to the fear of complete and utter destruction for the better part of half a century.

    I guess, in all, that sort of duality is symbolic of the 20th century. We've seen advances in medicine that can cure as a matter of course what was incurable at the start of the century. We can save the unsaveable, give relief to those in great pain. And, we've also seen the infliction of pain en-mass, from the mustard gas of WWI, to the ovens of Auschwitz. We saw the Earth rise over the barren wastes of the moon, a tiny, fragile world... conspicuosly lacking the lines demarking the arbitrary borders that people have fought and died over. We've also seen that we can destroy the Earth (at least for ourselves) either quickly through nuclear explosion and fallout, or slowly through CO2, DDT, CFC, and...

    Einstien, as part of all this, can be credited with the best and damned with the worst. Well, perhaps damning is too strong a word. Certainly, though, it's a warning that even the work of what seemingly was a kind, gentle man can wreak havoc when let loose in this world.
  • I'd say Time made a reasonable choice here. Some people have suggested people like Gandhi, but most of these people didn't impact the course of history for the last century the way Einstein did. Atomic energy and the atomic bomb have so utterly shaped the course of history for the last several decades that there isn't really any comparison. Further, the ramifications and danger of this technology reach out to everyone in the world, even if they are totally ignorant of it. Nuclear war is the end all and be all as far as importance goes.

    As for credit, Einstein wasn't working alone on these things, there were a lot of brilliant minds involved. Einstein is a good figurehead to hang it all on.

  • Sadly, Adolf Hitler is without much question, IMO, the true man of the century. WWII has altered our lives in profound ways. Beyond the deaths of millions and the rewriting of European borders. He also has affected how America deals with threats, ie Hussien, Vietnam, Korea, all directly affected by wartime interaction with axis powers. I think Albert Einstein is the Scientific personality of the century, but not the "man of the century"....
    -- Moondog
  • OK, look at it this way:
    Which human, of the billions on the planet, changed the course of history in his time, and left an indelible mark in perpetuity?
    You could pick mass butchers like Hitler or Stalin, who qualify due to the sheer volume of their atrocities.
    Or you could go with the person who is identified with literally changing the way everyone thinks.

    The guy earlier is right about Bohr. And Rutherford. And Pauli. And Oppenheimer. And Rabi. And a whole lot of other physicists in the first half of this century.
    Sorta sorry I missed it. But I got to study with a lot of guys who worked with the above. Hard to forget this legacy. Screw the politicians, movie stars, sports figures, and other 'leaders'.

  • You're right, it's late and i didn't quite say exactly what was meant. Einstein wasnt entrenched in classical physics at all. What he steadfastly believed was the same thing classical physicists: that the universe could be completely understood through the scientific process, eventually. Einstein believed that there were no mysterious probabilisitic elements to the universe. He saw quantum physics as a manifestation of our current limitations - limitations which will be overcome shortly enough. He stated that we simply didn't know enough to explain it, not that electrons were these weird probability waves.

    He refused to believe that the universe was not totally mechanistic....this has implications on randomness, chaos, and determinism, but /. isn't a place for modern philosophy.
  • I think Time wimped out. As much as I admire Einstein, I would argue that Hitler and Stalin had a larger influence on the modern world. We still haven't finished cleaning up all of the problems created by World War II and it's aftermath.
  • Why do we need such polls as these? Are we that much of a shallow society in need of self-gratification? To what purpose are we throwing these people up on polls and declaring them the best this and the greatest that of the millenium, century, week, or hour. One would think we position others in polls such as these because of our own lack of self-confidence.

    How about "best religion of the millenium!" or "Worlds worst hunting accident of the century!" or "America's Funniest beheadings!"

    I once listened to a man tell me that "America is a sick society." He was wrong, America is a society with a lot of sick people.

  • (There are only 436 pages about "John Postel", but every Slahsdotter will agree that his work influenced the life of everybody on Earth in the past decade)

    There are 21,183 hits on Altavista for "Jon Postel".

  • And btw, you can email me and I can point you to some sources if you'd like to read some more on the political and philosophical leanings and implications of Einstein.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Where would Hitler be without SATAN.

    I vote for our LORD SATAN. Without the Dark Prince nothing would be possible,
  • This is my favourite quote, showing he has a firm grasp on both physics and relationships...

    "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it feels like an hour. Talk with a pretty girl for an hour, and it feels like a minute. That's relativity." - Albert Einstein

    --


    _______________

  • You are enormously incorrect. You are simply buying the popular stereotype of an intelligent scientist. Einstein was in fact very practical. He was very social. He was even offered presidency of Israel. Of course, if you knew anything about him instead of rambling on and perpetuating the stereotype, you would know that already.

    Perhaps you got him confused with Paul Erdos.

  • I agree with you completely. I look up to Einstein, but I think people like Hitler had a larger effect this century.

    That's especially hard for me to say, being Jewish and knowing very closely the extent of his atrocities. But the fact is, he had more influence than Einstein.

    Yuck.

  • >PS: Why not have a person of the century? Women are people as well.. maybe TIME hasn't figured that one yet.

    Umm...as far as I know, the title *is* 'person of the century'.
    The chosen just happens to be male.

    --Kevin

    =-=-=-=-=-=
    "HELLO SMALL CHILD! WHO IS BACK! I HAVE THE RENEGADE MASTER WITH ME!"
  • by LinuxMacWin (79859) on Saturday December 25, 1999 @09:52PM (#1444759)
    A leader of his people, unsupported by any outward authority, a victorious fighter who always scorned the use of force; a man of wisdom and humility who has confronted the brutality of Europe with the dignity of the simple human being and has at all times risen superior ..... Generations to come, will scarce believe that such a man as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth"

    - Albert Einstein on Gandhi
  • That's because ol' Matt wants to make sure he's right. He should just say it will be somebody mentioned in the Encyclopedia Britannica and leave it at that.
  • Sorry for the misspelling. Well, he wrote about 200 RFC-s and I suppose that there are at least 100 RFC archives on the web, so his name will be found on about 20000 pages.

    It makes sense :-)

  • Einstein, explaining the wireless telegraph.

    "A normal telegraph is like a large cat with it's tail in New York and it's mouth in LA. When you pull the tail in New York, the cat squaks in LA. A wireless telegraph is the same thing, but without the cat." - Albert Einstein

  • If Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard didn't make the top 20, I think you can simply forget your theory that there was ballot stuffing involved.
  • "It's of no concern to me with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but I know that World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein
  • Does it really matter who "Time" chooses?

    Yes it does matter. Because it brings the person into the spotlight. The general public will use it as topics of conversation, "Hey, you saw who Time chose? What did he/she do anyways?".. children might question their parents about the face on the cover.

    I mean, look at slashdot itself. At least 4 stories that relate to Time's person of the century have been posted:
    This one, A quiet adult [slashdot.org], Katz's net person of the year [slashdot.org], the one on Linus [slashdot.org].

    And every time someone says, "Does it really matter what Time thinks?", it gets moderated to 'insightful'.

    Oh well.


  • apparently Dr. Naked-chicks-free-sex-britney spears-hard-core-titties is much more influential, he gets a -lot- of hits!
  • In 1919, an expedition by the Royal Society of London confirmed Einstein's prediction of the degree of deflection of light passing by the Sun during a solar eclipse.
  • It has actually been proven beyond a doubt

    Nothing in science can be proven definately true. That's one of the first things science students have to understand. There can always be one experiment that can prove you wrong...
    that's the whole basis for the idea of experiments being designed to prove yourself wrong, rather than right.
    Tomorrow someone might discover something that shows that Einstein was wrong, just as Aristotle has been proven wrong on so many accounts, despite what everyone thought was right.
  • by uh (127786)
    The idea of the man of the century is idiotic. You really can't pick a man of the century. There are just too many great men within any given century to just pick 1.



  • T'is being the LAST OFFICIAL Christmas of the 1xxx years, if I am allowed to ask only ONE question, my question will be -

    What man have accomplished (good and bad) in the two thousand years since Jesus Christ was introduced into this world?

    It sure beats "Who is the man of the century" type of useless survey.


  • by uh (127786)
    All hail the new dogma of science! God is dead! People are serfs (myself included). Does it really matter what doctrine we follow or belive in? None of us really understand. None of us really decide for ourselves. If humanity can ever empower itself to decide for itself and not as a collective, that will be something revolutionary.
  • Are we writing off next year? Maybe the "man" of the century is holding out on us...waiting until the last moment to put his bid in. :)

    For the record....the 21st century and the 3rd millennium dont start until January 1st, 2001...not January 1st, 2000.

    Jim

  • I'm sorry, even if Jon Postel invented and ran the internet completely on a daily basis, that doesn't mean he has influenced every person on this planet. I could find you billions of people whose lives have not been touched by the internet at all - much less by port numbers and addresses.

    Perhaps that statement is an exaggeration in itself, but you get the idea.

    :)

  • Um, you haven't watched fox lately have you...? Some of those ideas were already on TV. I think the next special is "Who wants to marry a milionare?". Do you really need to even ask if we are a shallow society? The answer is quite obvious. They say the Roman empire fell when its population stooped to entertainment in perverse activities. One can only wonder when the American Empire will come crashing down.
  • We'll remember them only as long as you Americans dont try and credit the Wright Brothers with inventing powered flight.
  • In 1919, an expedition by the Royal Society of London confirmed Einstein's prediction of the degree of deflection of light passing by the Sun during a solar eclipse.

    Not 100% sure, but didn't thier results have more errors than the "deflections" they were looking for? Kind of like cooking the data.

    It's been done since then with more modern equipment, and produced better (more accurate) results.

  • While it is obviously flawed to try and work out who was the most significant out of Einstein, Ghandi, JFK and any number of great people, there is one person who bears special consideration. I think, in the very long march of history, perhaps many thousands of years from now, people will remember this as the Turing century. Quantum physics and relativity will be historic relics, while politicians and spiritual leaders will have assumed mythical status. One concrete, profound change will remain wedded inseperably to the future of humanity: the conception of the general purpose programmable computer, or Turing Machine. Why? Because it is the computer that is the first real extension of the human mind. In a similar way that an axe or hammer is an extension of an arm, the general purpose computer is the direct extension of what makes us inherently different to other known species: intelligence. I will not try and predict the future of computing or speculate any further on the future of humanity (many others have done this already in this context), but will ask you this: Would you even be reading this message if it wasn't for Turing?


    Note -- please see this web site [turing.org.uk] for more information on Turing's life and achievments.
  • Whoops my bad :) Yeah, I forgot that bit... Question everything, right?

    Tomorrow someone might discover something that shows that Einstein was wrong...

    Wouldn't that be the ultimate holy war? For Science/Physics at least :)

  • Perhaps you fail to realize what beliefs Einstein actually held concerning religion.
    I will give you one of my favorite quotes of his:

    "Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind."

    Micah
  • So you say Einstein is Person of the Centrury, and you post a link to the Drudge report for further information? This is about equivalent to saying "Einstein is not Person of the Century". The Drudge Report is at best, accurate half of the time. Why don't you just wait until it's officially declared, instead of reporting rumors? Is this from the same crowd that said RedHat was going to buy Be, or what?

    I think Slashdot would do well to check the sources of its information, lest it become a gossip page.

    -lx
  • I prefer The Onion's [theonion.com] choice for Man of the millennium: Death [theonion.com]
  • You are right in that GPS wouldn't work without relativity. We are deeper down in the gravity well than the satellites, and the frequency shift caused by the signal falling down to us must be taken into account (it's not the same as the Doppler effect, also taken into account in GPS).

    In 1957, a german student named Rudolf Mössbauer invented a very precise method for measuring this effect, using gamma rays emitted by radioactive nuclei. This method was much more precise than all other confirmations of Einstein's general relativity theory at the time, and Mössbauer was awarded the 1961 Nobel prize for his invention.

    But I don't think relativity has been proved beyond a doubt. We never reach the final truth in Science, but we are always moving closer to it.
  • I wonder if Time had chosen Einstein if he hadn't emigrated to the US when he fled from Nazi-Germany. Some people have even claimed Einstein for America, although he retained his Swiss citizenship until his death in 1955.

    Einstein himself had ambivalent feelings towards Americans. After his first visit to the US he noted, among other things, that Americans are somewhat shallow compared to Europeans.

    Still, I think that even from a global perspective Einstein was probably the best choice.
  • Take any semiconductors course and 99% of all the material you study is based on Einstein's equations. Are semiconductors important? You might argue that a biologist should be man of the century but the fact is, you're not a biologist. It's semiconductors which feed you, semiconductors which clothe you, semiconductors which allow biologists do get research grants. Well that just about qualifies Einstein for man of the century doesn't it.
  • by pen (7191) on Sunday December 26, 1999 @01:53AM (#1444822)
    Oh my god... your statements have just made me realize a (supposedly) horrible fact... do you see it now? You can fill in what happens next, but I'll do it for you anyway:
    • Time Magazine racist by appointing Albert Einstein instead of Martin Luther King, Jr.!
    • Time Magazine feminist by appointing man of the year but not woman of the year!
    • Time Magazine pro-fascist by appointing Albert Einstein for man of the year, who was born in Germany!
    • Time Magazine anti-God and pro-Satan by not appointing religious official as man of the year!
    Beware! Time Magazine is stealing your childrens' minds, and making them do the dark lord's work! Do not let them be stolen from right under your nose! Take the time to talk to your children about Time magazine.

    --

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Sunday December 26, 1999 @01:56AM (#1444825) Journal
    Ghandi did a lot of good. But the effectiveness of his nonviolent tactics are greatly overrated.

    For instance: He used them in South Africa for years before trying them in India. You'll note that South Africa's Apartheit system didn't fall until long after Ghandi's death.

    A major power block in Britain, on the other hand, was looking to unload India from the British Empire. It was very expensive to keep it under control, and they could use the money at home. Ghandi gave them the excuse they needed to cut India loose.

    Ghandi's prescription for how Jews should handle their oppression in Nazi Germany amounted to going peacefully to the ovens, the better to make the Nazis look bad.

    Similarly, Martin Luther King's Ghandi-inspired non-violent protests set the stage for the extension of full civil rights to Blacks in the US. But for years Black protesters (along with non-black civil rights marchers) were beaten, jailed and killed, while the rights were still denied.

    The extension of civil rights for real came right after the riots of '68 - when the Blacks (having obtained the moral high ground via years of ineffective non-violent protests) finally made it clear that there would be no more mister nice guy.

    And it seems to me that the continued lionization of Ghandi and King, and their non-violent protests, combined with the near purging of such people as Malcom X or Charlie Thomas from the historical record, is very convenient for those who would like to detour any future opposition political movements into a decade of ineffective posturing.

  • Gates's fundamental contribution was the concept that the computer and its software should be cheap and popular, that every person should have these. Without him, computers and software would be like airplanes are today: widely used for mass transportation, but only rich people can own one.

    Another of Gates's ideas was that his programmers should earn enough to buy his software. This had huge indirect effects in reducing the "social class" dogmata of old money versus new money, and of equalizing yuppie society by raising up peons into conspicuous consumers.

    Ok, fine. That's not what you wrote. But it was sure close. :-)
  • I think you've got a point there. Someone (I forget who) wrote that the real battle of the twentieth century wasn't communism, but racist nationalism. Sadly, it's not gone yet.
  • by RayChuang (10181) on Sunday December 26, 1999 @03:48AM (#1444844)
    I think some people here on Slashdot have expressed their surprise at TIME's selection of Albert Einstein as Person of the Century.

    What is interesting is that TIME had three final candidates (probably a week ago): Albert Einstein, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Mahatma Gandhi. Roosevelt was perhaps the most influential US President of this century, a leader that created our modern welfare system during the Great Depression and led our country through most of World War II. Mahatma Gandhi was the leader that preached non-violent civil disobedience and was instrumental in getting independence for India.

    TIME probably did not choose FDR or Gandhi because their influence were mostly domestic--their influence during their primes were confined to the United States and India.

    But Einstein's contributions to modern science are incalculable: the Special and General theories of relativity paved the way for most of the scientific research of this century. The fields of atomic energy, particle physics and electronics owe a huge debt to Einstein's work on relativity.

    But yet, Einstein was a big dichotomy of sorts. He was a major pacifist, but yet was one of the signees on the letter that led to the creation of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. One wonders what kind of regrets he had late in his life for being a signee on that letter.

    TIME chose Einstein because he best represents the modern scientific age that is the 20th Century, but also because Einstein often wondered with open regret the effects of modern science.
  • The winner for the Person of the Millenium: Johan Gutenberg.

    Gutenberg--by creating the low-cost hot-metal movable-type printing press--caused an explosion of knowledge that literally overturned Europe and eventually the world.

    Before Gutenberg's time, information was either handed down orally or hand written in an extremely laborious manner. Gutenberg's invention allowed not just a few copies, but thousands of copies of books to be created in a very short period of time. It allowed the dissemination of religious, philosophical and scientific knowledge on a scale previously unheard of.

    Through the printing press, scientific knowledge thought lost from ancient Greek and Roman scientists were rediscovered, along with new scientific knowledge from the Arabs. We also rediscovered the ancient philosophers and their ideals.

    It also set into place the revolution that was to change religion in Europe: Martin Luther's famous Ninety-Five Theses would have stayed a curiosity but for the fact that his comments spread like wildfire thanks to the printing press.

    It's only with the development of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 that we have an invention that rivals the influence Gutenberg's printing press has on the world.
  • The planet is Mercury. Relativistic physics is needed to correctly calculate it's orbit.

  • The fact that he worked so hard to try and disprove Quantum Theory is his great contribution to Quantum Physics. The only way that it was able to become what it is to day was for people of caliber of Eistein and Schrodinger to try and disprove it mathematically. Ultimatly, the only way they could attack it was philisophically, sisinctly in Einstein's quote (I think this is exact) "God does not play with dice", refering to the assignment of probablities; and Schrodinger with his famous "Cat" Thought Experiment.

    ttyl
    Farrell
  • Similarly, Martin Luther King's Ghandi-inspired non-violent protests set the stage for the extension of full civil rights

    King was important for building popular support for civil rights in the US. Before King was marching there was another revolutionary that was making a huge impact as well, using the courts and the constitution. To my way of thinking he had at least as big an impact.

    Thurgood Marshall led an inspiring life.




  • Watson and crick stole their data from a female collegue, who was then completely forgotten

    If there was a villan in the story it is Wilkens, who showed Rosalind Franklin's data to Watson and Crick without telling Ms. Franklin. Wilkens was a dirtbag who treated Ms. Franklin quite poorly when she was in his lab. Rosalind Franklin was actually quite pleased that Watson and Crick used her data to determine the structure of DNA.

    It is too bad that Franklin died before Watson Crick and Wilkens won the Nobel for the determination of DNA structure. She surely would have shared in the award, however Nobel Prizes are not given posthumously.

  • Adolf Hitler is without much question, IMO, the true man of the century

    No, but he might qualify as the monster of the century. Although the competition is stiff.
  • by SurfsUp (11523) on Sunday December 26, 1999 @05:38AM (#1444869)
    J.S. Bach.

    A man who wrote an entire enclyopedia worth of music without writing a single bad note. A man from from whom much of western music directly descends from, including the music you listen to. A man who affects more of us in our daily lives than we can possibly imagine. A man who had more than 20 children from the same wife. A man whose music is as relevant today as it was 350 years ago. A man who could see truths so deep that we still have no way of analyzing them today.
  • by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {ofni.hsifcitsalp}> on Sunday December 26, 1999 @05:57AM (#1444874)
    Kurt Gödel [st-andrews.ac.uk].

    Thanks to him, our concept of formal logical systems will never be the same:

    Let us consider any formal theory T that contains a full-fledged concept of natural numbers... Let us build for T Gödel's formula G sub T asserting "I am not provable in T". Gödel proved that, indeed, G sub T cannot be proved in T, i.e Gödel proved that G sub T is a true formula... Therefore, if we choose an arbitrary formal theory T, then Kurt Gödel - by using his "informal, creative thinking" - proves immediately some assertion G sub T about properties of natural numbers, which cannot be proved in T. Hence, none of [the] formal theories can express 100% of the "informal, human" concept of natural numbers. If you fix some particular formal theory, my "creative mind" will unmistakably find out a true assertion G sub T overcoming all what can be proved in T.
    The analysis of Gödel's proof ... forces us to revise this picture. One can prove that G sub T is a true formula (i.e. that G sub T cannot be proved in T) only by postulating consistency of T. Indeed, if G sub T is proved to be true, then also consistency of T is proved (G sub T asserts its own unprovability, and the unprovability of at least one formula means consistency of T). Hence, if we do not know, whether T is consistent or not, we can say nothing about the truth or falsity of G sub T. What could think the enthusiasts of the above picture about the consistency problem?
    [From Around Gödel's Theorem [www.ltn.lv]]

    "Mathematics is the part of science you could continue to do if you woke up tomorrow and discovered the universe was gone."

    Z. the M. [Cursing the fact that /. doesn't support markup for superscripts and subscripts... ;-)]

    Zontar The Mindless,

  • After his first visit to the US he noted, among other things, that Americans are somewhat shallow compared to Europeans.

    Right there he blows away any chance of being man of anything. Intelligent people do not engage in stereotyping.

  • We'll remember them only as long as you Americans dont try and credit the Wright Brothers with inventing powered flight.

    And I'll remember Australia if they remember that the Wright brothers were famous for inventing CONTROLLED powered flight.
  • To me one of the things that recommends people like Gandhi is the lack of inevitability. Einstein is constrained by the physical reality he works with. His vision must fit the facts of Michelson-Morley and Lorentz-Fitzgerald, as well as the orbital measurements of Mercury. If Einstein doesn't develop Relativity, surely others will do so. Otto Hahn was splitting the atom long before Einstein signed his letter to FDR.

    Gandhi's way is NOT inevetable. Quite a few former outposts of the British Empire have fallen into despotism and anarchy. Gandhi fought hard and not entirely succesfully against religous war and persecution. His work led to the establishment of the world's large democracy where there was previously no such institution. By shear force of his great spirit he led millions to non-violence, some thing rare indeed in the war filled 20th century.

  • by Tom Christiansen (54829) <tchrist@perl.com> on Sunday December 26, 1999 @06:40AM (#1444886) Homepage
    A man who wrote an entire enclyopedia worth of music without writing a single bad note. A man from from whom much of western music directly descends from, including the music you listen to. A man who affects more of us in our daily lives than we can possibly imagine. A man who had more than 20 children from the same wife. A man whose music is as relevant today as it was 350 years ago. A man who could see truths so deep that we still have no way of analyzing them today.
    Thank you. That was stirring. I doubt he will count for sheer icon appeal the way Einstein does, but thank you for drawing attention to a man whose long lifetime of humble service to his music has left every last one of us immeasurably enriched for his selfless devotion to his labors. Bach wrote not just for his day, but consciously created works for all humanity in the ages to come. Think about whom he truly wrote the Bm Mass or Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of the Fugue) for: for all of us, for his legacy.

    The sheer quantity of music produced by JS Bach is incredible. Just look at the BWVs compared with, say, the Köchels for a sense of the volume. Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin all had copies of the WTC. Chopin especially praised it as a daily font of inspiration. Many would have picked Mozart. I don't think so. Mozart is trendy and overhyped. Yes, he did very pretty stuff. Sometimes he did great works. But truly, Mozart is accorded more glory in our superstar-filled age than he would to me appear to legimately merit.

    Sometimes I hear in Mozart the echoes of a greater work that came before him. On glory and reflected glory, do but compare the Kyries between the Bach Bm Mass and the Mozart Requiem. Do you hear the resonances? Now, study the harmonic work, the counterpoint. What doubt is there as to who was the master? I recommend the Joshua Rifkin recording of the Bm.

    Go listen to the Bach suites for unaccompanied cello, or the sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin. Listen to the haunting pain in the Sarabande in the 2nd cello suite. Listen to the joy and light in the 6th one. Listen to the phantom instruments that aren't there in the fugues for solo violin, and 'ware the divine terror of regarding a musical intelligence that could piece together so awe-inspiring a contrapuntal work on what is fundamentally a single-threaded instrument. Now find string works by Mozart. Oh, they're nice enough, but majesty?

    For the keyboard, listen to Bach's St Anne fugue for organ, or the many shorter works, like the Dm (Dorian) prelude and fugue. Or just play through the 48. Now, what do we have from Mozart and the kyeboard? Plenty of stately classical music, of course. But greatness? Hm. Yes, I suppose so. The Dm piano concerto is fine enough, I'll grant you that. And some of the piano sonatas are, again, pretty. But still you feel yourself more often in the presence of a child prodigy than of a measured master. What keyboard work of Mozart comes close to the opera magna for organ from Bach? Perhaps it exists, but I don't know it. I wish I did.

    At this time of the year, the Bach Christmas works are especially noticeable. The quiet chorales and glorious choruses fill us rapture and inspiration. Who here this season has not heard the simple but compelling melodies of Jesu bleibet meine Freude ("Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring") or Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott ("A Mighty Fortress is Our God")? Don't get lost on mechanics and subtleties of counterpunctual intricacies. Melody--plain, simple, and warming melody--is at the very heart of Bach, the foundation for everything else. In his vocal works, melody is right there waiting for you to hum along to.

    Please don't mistake me. I love Mozart. I really do. I doubt a week goes by without playing something of his. I love Beethoven, too. And Chopin. And Schubert. And Liszt and Mendelssohn and Schumann. And fifty other delightful composers who never get the time of day, much to our impoverishment.

    But no day finishes without Bach in my life, somewhere. Sometimes he is in my fingers. Sometimes on the CD player. Sometimes he finds his way into my whistle, or shower singing. Sometimes I sit in meetings and let my fingers trace through inventions and fugues on the conference table. And best of all, on those long flights across the ocean, I sometimes close my eyes and quietly let the the Bm Mass or St Matt's unfold in silent sonority and sublime splendor in my mind's eye. After all, who really needs piped-in airplane music when you can at will summon up Bach?

    If you are not yet accquanted with it, do yourself a favor: go out today and get the Canadian Brass's recording of the Art of the Fugue. It is a warm and comforting work, perfect for sitting by the fireplace on a cold and wintry night with family and friends. You will be happy you did this.

  • In a lot of ways Einstein is a good choice because of the symbolism. A man of peace and intellect forced to flee the tyranny, wars, racism and genocides that are Europe's main contribution to history in the 20th century.

    A man who gave the world great intellectual accomplishments only to be remembered as the enabler of nuclear terror - he becomes the harbringer of the duality of technology as a force for both good and evil.

    A quiet, retiring person who has fame shoved on him, at the end of the century he becomes one of the first of a wave of celebrities created by the media for their own purposes.

  • Didn't say when he had to be born or when all of his work had to be completed.

    ---
  • According to Sherwin Gooch, an EE from the University of Illinois (where Bardeen worked with Sherwin's father), J. Bardeen, H. W. Brattain, and W. Shockley had to hide their work on the transistor from Bell Labs management. They had the experimental aparatus set up on a roller cart which they could wheel in and out of a closet. The aparatus was kept in the closet during normal working hours because their requests for resources to work on the project had not been approved.

    Once the transistor was invented, the integrated circuit became inevitable, and once the IC was invented, the information society became inevitable. Some might argue that the transistor could not have been devised without Quantum Mechanics and that therefore men like Heisenberg (who was roundly castigated by Einstein for promoting such an "absurd" theory) should have been considered. But then relativity and quantum mechanics were inevitable given the results of insightful empericists once given Hamilton's mathematical physics discoveries in the 1800s, such as the quaternion and the relativity of changes in state of the observer vs changes in the state of the observed (embodied in the Hamiltonion equation).

    A triumvirate like Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley isn't a single "person", but I would argue that their innovation, in spite of the "support" of Bell Labs, was not inevitable and that it has had as great an impact on the world as Guttenberg's press did when it lead to decentralization of literacy at the dawn of the Enlightenment, Protestant Reformation, Age of Exploration and finally the state craft of the late 1700s that renewed republican forms of governance.

  • by / (33804)
    A man who had more than 20 children from the same wife.

    From where I sit, that speaks much more to his wife's ability not to die in childbirth than to anything on his part. Maybe she deserves some credit for her achievement. ;)

    The rest of your post is spot on, though.
  • You're forgetting that "Einstein" is still a popular surname. If you search altavista for +eins tein -albert [altavista.com], you'll come up with 134,250 pages found. Albeit, plenty of people refer to Einstein by just his surname, but plenty of those 134k pages have nothing to do with our dear Albert.

    Now if I could just figure out why /. munged "+einstein" by inserting a space in the middle.
  • Tom,

    Johann Sebestian Bach's legacy is more than just great music--he literally helped create greatness in many forms of music.

    Because he came from a family of musicians, J.S. Bach could write just about everything from minute-long "inventions" all the way to major works like the Mass in B Minor, perhaps the greatest piece of religious music ever written.

    Another legacy of J.S. Bach is the fact he mastered the use of so many types of musical instruments and musician arrangements, from the harpsicord, clavicord, the first pianos, to pipe organs, to string quartets, full orchestras, and even full-blown orchestras with a large choir. It is that amazing adaptability that we realized in the our century when Wendy Carlos used the early Moog synthesizers to create one of the MOST revolutionary recordings of all time, SWITCHED-ON BACH. When SWITCH-ON BACH came out in 1968, people were totally floored at how electronic synthesizers--then thought of as toys for "experimental" music--made the music of J.S. Bach so fresh and contemporary sounding. At one point, SWITCHED-ON BACH was selling faster than rock albums!

    Even today, modern musicians are finding that modern musical instruments still can't diminish the amazing achievements of J.S. Bach. In short, Johann Sebestian Bach is truly the greatest composer of the last millennium.
  • George Bernard Shaw wrote to The Times of London about an overzealous editor with a wooden ear: ``There is a pedant on your staff who spends far too much of his time searching for split infinitives. Every good literary craftsman uses a split infinitive if he thinks the sense demands it. I call for this man's instant dismissal; it matters not whether he decides to quickly go or to go quickly or quickly to go. Go he must, and at once.''

    Let me state up front, categorically, that there exists no rule banning split infinitives in English. If you believe me, skip the rest. If you don't believe me, then perhaps you should check with Oxford [noaa.gov]. :-)

    What you're seeing here is widely consider to be unreasonably fallout from the nutty English grammarians of the 18th century who tried to reanalyse English using Latin grammar. Why? They thought that Latin was the most nearly perfect language they do. Innumerable bogus rules have been injected into the heads of the weak-mined. Such rules include the rule to never split infinitives, as well as the one that prepositions are not words to end sentences with. These bogosities have no place in English.

    Look at this sentence: ``He learned to quickly read.'' If you make it ``He learned quickly to read,'' you've altered the meaning, and if you make it ``He learned to read quickly,'' you've introduced an infelicitous ambuiguity. Did he learn quickly, or read quickly?

    Consider, please, the following:

    "Why can't you really understand me?", asked Jane.

    "Because", replied Dick, "I don't want to really understand you."

    The confused folks who decry interposing an adverb between the particle to and the following verb will have an impossibly difficult time finding a better home for really in the previous sentence. Not one of these means the same thing as the forbidden phrase means, and at least one isn't even grammatical:
    • Really, I don't want to understand you.
    • I really don't want to understand you.
    • I don't really want to understand you.
    • I don't want really to understand you.
    • *I don't want to understand really you.
    • I don't want to understand you, really.
    • I don't want to understand you.
    In the sentence above, the verb in the infinitive is, in fact, only understand, without its to component. Why do I say this? Because copious examples of verbs in the infinitive without that to are readily demonstrable.
    • I helped her to break the ice.

    • I helped her break the ice.
    • I saw her break the ice.
    • I made her break the ice.
    • I let her break the ice.
    See? With many verbs, you don't even have to have a to in the infinitive. In his book The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker writes:
    "Of course, forcing modern speakers of English to not--whoops, not to split an infinitive because it isn't done in Latin makes about as much sense as forcing modern residents of England to wear laurels and togas. Julius Caesar could not have have split an infinitive if he had wanted to. In Latin the infinitive is a single word like
    facere or dicere, a syntatic atom. English is a different kind of language. It is an "isolating" language, building sentences around many simple words instead of a few complicated ones. The infinitive is composed of two words--a complementizer, to, and a verb, like go. Words, by definition, are rearrangeable units, and there is no conceivable reason why an adverb should not come between them:
    Space--the final frontier.... These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
    Here's a longer quote from Fowler (1965):

    The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; and (5) those who know and distinguish.

    1. Those who neither know nor care are the vast majority, and are a happy folk, to be envied by most of the minority classes. 'To really understand' comes readier to their lips and pens than 'really to understand'; they see no reason why they should not say it (small blame to them, seeing that reasons are not their critics' strong point), and they do say it, to the discomfort of some among us, but not to their own.

    2. To the second class, those who do not know but do care, who would as soon be caught putting their knives in their mouths as splitting an infinitive but have only hazy notions of what constitutes that deplorable breach of etiquette, this article is chiefly addressed. These people betray by their practice that their aversion to the split infinitive springs not from instinctive good taste, but from tame acceptance of the misinterpreted opinion of others; for they will subject their sentences to the queerest distortions, all to escape imaginary split infinitives. 'To really understand' is a s.i.; 'to really be understood' is a s.i.; 'to be really understood' is not one; the havoc that is played with much well-intentioned writing by failure to grasp that distinction is incredible. Those upon whom the fear of infinitive-splitting sits heavy should remember that to give conclusive evidence, by distortions, of misconceiving the nature of the s.i. is far more damaging to their literary pretensions than an actual lapse could be; for it exhibits them as deaf to the normal rhythm of English sentences. No sensitive ear can fail to be shocked if the following examples are read aloud, by the strangeness of the indicated adverbs. Why on earth, the reader wonders, is that word out of its place? He will find, on looking through again, that each has been turned out of a similar position, viz between the word be and a passive participle. Reflection will assure him that the cause of dislocation is always the same -- all these writers have sacrificed the run of their sentences to the delusion that 'to be really understood' is a split infinitive. It is not; and the straitest non-splitter of us all can with a clear conscience restore each of the adverbs to its rightful place: He was proposed at the last moment as a candidate likely generally to be accepted. / When the record of this campaign comes dispassionately to be written, and in just perspective, it will be found that ... / New principles will have boldly to be adopted if the Scottish case is to be met. / This is a very serious matter, which dearly ought further to be inquired into. / The Headmaster of a public school possesses very great powers, which ought most carefully and considerately to be exercised. / The time to get this revaluation put through is when the amount paid by the State to the localities is very largely to be increased.

    3. The above writers are bogy-haunted creatures who for fear of splitting an infinitive abstain from doing something quite different, i.e. dividing be from its complement by an adverb; see further under POSITION OF ADVERBS. Those who presumably do know what split infinitives are, and condemn them, are not so easily identified, since they include all who neither commit the sin nor flounder about in saving themselves from it -- all who combine a reasonable dexterity with acceptance of conventional rules But when the dexterity is lacking disaster follows. It does not add to a writer's readableness if readers are pulled up now and again to wonder -- Why this distortion? Ah, to be sure, a non-split die-hard! That is the mental dialogue occasioned by each of the adverbs in the examples below. It is of no avail merely to fling oneself desperately out of temptation; one must so do it that no traces of the struggle remain. Sentences must if necessary be thoroughly remodelled instead of having a word lifted from its original place and dumped elsewhere: What alternative can be found which the Pope has not condemned, and which will make it possible to organise legally public worship ? / It will, when better understood, tend firmly to establish relations between Capital and Labour. / Both Germany and England have done ill in not combining to forbid flatly hostilities. / Every effort must be made to increase adequately professional knowledge and attainments. / We have had to shorten somewhat Lord D--'s letter. / The kind of sincerity which enables an author to move powerfully the heart would ... / Safeguards should be provided to prevent effectually cosmopolitan financiers from manipulating these reserves.

    4. Just as those who know and condemn the s.i. include many who are not recognisable, since only the clumsier performers give positive proof of resistance to temptation, so too those who know and approve are not distinguishable with certainty. When a man splits an infinitive, he may be doing it unconsciously as a member of our class 1, or he may be deliberately rejecting the trammels of convention and announcing that he means to do as he will with his own infinitives. But, as the following examples are from newspapers of high repute, and high newspaper tradition is strong against splitting, it is perhaps fair to assume that each specimen is a manifesto of independence: It will be found possible to considerably improve the present wages of the miners without jeopardizing the interests of capital. / Always providing that the Imperialists do not feel strong enough to decisively assert their power in the revolted provinces. / But even so, he seems to still be allowed to speak at Unionist demonstrations. / It is the intention of the Minister of Transport to substantially increase all present rates by means of a general percentage. / The men in many of the largest districts are declared to strongly favour a strike if the minimum wage is not conceded.

      It should be noticed that in these the separating adverb could have been placed outside the infinitive with little or in most cases no damage to the sentence-rhythm (considerably after miners, decisively after power, still with clear gain after be, substantially after rates, and strongly at some loss after strike), so that protest seems a safe diagnosis.

    5. The attitude of those who know and distinguish is something like this: We admit that separation of to from its infinitive is not in itself desirable, and we shall not gratuitously say either 'to mortally wound' or 'to mortally be wounded', but we are not foolish enough to confuse the latter with 'to be mortally wounded', which is blameless English nor 'to just have heard' with 'to have just heard', which is also blameless. We maintain, however, that a real s.i., though not desirable in itself, is preferable to either of two things, to real ambiguity, and to patent artificiality. For the first, we will rather write 'Our object is to further cement trade relations' than, by correcting into 'Our object is further to cement ...', leave it doubtful whether an additional object or additional cementing is the point. And for the second, we take it that such reminders of a tyrannous convention as 'in not combining to forbid flatly hostilities' are far more abnormal than the abnormality they evade. We will split infinitives sooner than be ambiguous or artificial; more than that, we will freely admit that sufficient recasting will get rid of any s.i. without involving either of those faults, and yet reserve to ourselves the right of deciding in each case whether recasting is worth while. Let us take an example: 'In these circumstances, the Commission, judging from the evidence taken in London, has been feeling its way to modifications intended to better equip successful candidates for careers in India and at the same time to meet reasonable Indian demands.' To better equip ? We refuse 'better to equip' as a shouted reminder of the tyranny; we refuse 'to equip better' as ambiguous (bett er an adjective?); we regard 'to equip successful candidates better' as lacking compactness, as possibly tolerable from an anti-splitter, but not good enough for us. What then of recasting? 'intended to make successful candidates fitter for' is the best we can do if the exact sense is to be kept, it takes some thought to arrive at the correction; was the game worth the candle?

    After this inconclusive discussion, in which, however, the author's opinion has perhaps been allowed to appear with indecent plainness, readers may like to settle the following question for themselves. 'The greatest difficulty about assessing the economic achievements of the Soviet Union is that its spokesmen try absurdly to exaggerate them; in consequence the visitor may tend badly to underrate them.' Has dread of the s.i. led the writer to attach his adverbs to the wrong verbs, and would he not have done better to boldly split both infinitives, since he cannot put the adverbs after them without spoiling his rhythm? Or are we to give him the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that he really meant absurdly to qualify try and badly to qualify tend?

    It is perhaps hardly fair that this article should have quoted no split infinitives except such as, being reasonably supposed (as in 4) to be deliberate, are likely to be favourable specimens. Let it therefore conclude with one borrowed from a reviewer, to whose description of it no exception need be taken: 'A book ... of which the purpose is thus -- with a deafening split infinitive -- stated by its author: "Its main idea is to historically, even while events are maturing, and divinely -- from the Divine point of view -- impeach the European system of Church and States".'

    This all shows that you should boldy split infinitives as the sense demands. Or, if you prefer ``ought to'' over ``should'', that you ought to boldly split infinitives. :-)

  • You can read more about Paul Hoffman's writings on Paul Erdös [paulerdos.com] through the given link.
  • would argue that their innovation, in spite of the "support" of Bell Labs, was not inevitable

    I think this account is rather at odds with the accepted history.

    Bell Labs 1946 in fact had a department doing development work on the solid state physics of semi-conductors because of the known deficiencies with existing switches - especially switching speeds. The expected need for improvements to support the anticipated growth in the field of telecommunications was a powerful incentive. One of the official targets of this group was in fact the solid state amplifier - the equivalent to Lee DeForest's vacuum triode.

    Solid state diodes and rectifiers had been use for a long time at this point, so the utility of semiconductors was well known when this effort started. In particular p-n junctions had been used in radio detectors for many years. Russell Ohl, working at Bell Labs had over the previous years worked out much of the solid state theory of p-n junctions.

    The war effort to perfect RADAR had a major impact in developing knowledge of the performance of solid state materials in electronics applications. In fact some workers in the field felt that studies of the performance of crystal detectors, particularly purity effects, used in RADAR made the step to the transitor quite straitforward. There is a history of this point here [ieee.org].

    The theory of the transistor effect had been worked out as early as 1925 by J.E. Lillenfield - although several attempts to build the device he predicted had failed.

    The main contribution of Shockley Bardeen and Brattain was in fact to work out what materials were needed to make Lillenfield's theory work. Certainly not trivial, but I think quite inevetable.

    There is another, less frequently cited theory that Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain were using materials recovered from an 'incident' at Roswell New Mexico, but I think I will leave this to the cold fusion and hydion crowd to discuss.

  • Non-violent tactics appeal to the morality of the "oppressors," while violent tactics work on the survival instinct. (i.e. "If we don't leave their country, they will kill us all...")

    Non-violence has proven effective at winning for the oppressed rights which are granted to their opporessors. "All we want are the same rights you yourself enjoy" is a very persuasive argument. And in a system which has a moral foundation (like most Western governments, at least in theory), this appeal has great power.

    But where entire nations are enslaved, like the Soviet Union, appeals to the popular morality are pointless, because they are fundamentally immoral systems, where no one has any rights to speak of, and the rule of law does not exist.

    The Chinese communist party has successfully throttled multiple non-violent movements (The Democracy Wall, Tian'Anmen, Falun Gong possibly) by the application of severe and unrelenting force. I doubt that anything short of a real revolt will change anything there.

    The Soviets on the other hand collapsed not because of non-violent protest, but because their system was unable to compete with the West. But if the casualties were small compared to WWII, it was a war nonetheless, and nonviolence would have merely created the very opening the Soviets needed to run the tanks over Europe.

    I have high respect for Ghandi, and will never be 1/100th the man he was, but we should all be glad that Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Britain in 1940, and not Ghandi.

    -cwk.

  • Hitler was TIME's Man of the Year, after all... for 1936, IIRC...

    Zontar The Mindless,

  • Having heard both the Mass in B Minor and the St. Matthew Passion, I do agreee that both have the merits. Both works are considered among the greatest musical works ever written, right up there with Beethoven's symphonies.

    What is so impressive about Bach's music is that it lends itself to be adapted for almost any musical instrument out there. For example, the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor still maintains its majesty whether you hear it in the pipe organ original, the orchestral version done for the movie FANTASIA in 1940, or the few versions done for modern electronic synthesizers in recent years. Now THAT'S proof that Bach had musical genius.
  • Some anonymous coward dun said:

    Even Einstein knew better than to kill to live. Murder is murder.

    I really hate to be the bearer of bad news to you, but unless you happen to be a member of that class of bacteria whom contain chlorophyll, your life is ultimately going to depend on the death of others. Period.

    Yes, this even applies if you're a strict vegan; you end up killing a plant in some fashion (by breaking off its naughty bits and eating them [flowers and fruits; flowers are plant gonads, and fruits are exactly equivalent to an animal's uterus or the yolk-sac in an egg], by ripping its lungs and stomach out [leaves], by ripping out its mouth [roots, which absorb nutrients--which are largely from the death of other creatures--more below], or by eating the entire unborn plant [seeds, which are equivalent to eggs and/or fetuses]). Furthermore, the vast majority of plants do require organic nutrients--most of which are from:

    Dead animals/plants which have decayed (read: used in part as food by bacteria and other lifeforms)

    The excrement of animals and/or plants (with some plants, nitrogen is necessary; for others it's a waste product--this is why you grow corn and beans together, because it balances out in the end) which used other animals/plants in part or in whole as food.

    In other words--unless you intend to stop eating at all, and stop breathing for that matter (oxygen is a toxic waste product for several kinds of bacteria, carbon dioxide is a toxic waste product for many forms of life here too) then your life--like it or not--will directly or indirectly cause the death or be the result of the death of some other life on the planet. Period. Yes, it's cruel in a way, but nobody said Mother Nature had to be nice all the time (there are times when she can be a real mother :). If you've a problem with this, I suggest one take it up with God/Goddess/the singularity at the beginning of the universe/the laws of physics which allowed DNA and proteins to form into life/[insert your favourite Moving Force of Life here].

    Now...what one CAN do, mind, is make certain that the loss of life needed to sustain one's self and life on the planet causes the least amount of suffering to anyone else [for large values of "anyone" including non-human forms of life], one can try to "do good" by the life one must take to live, and one may decide not to indulge in wasteful taking of life (murder is wasteful, IMHO; then again, so is trophy hunting--if you're going to kill an animal on purpose, please, use as much of it as you can--it's only respectful). Give respect to the life you take to live, and maybe give a little bit of thanks for it (yes, I admit that I do think of the corn and pig and chicken eggs and green-beans that gave their lives so I might have food).

    You can't really eliminate all killing to live, because it's kinda built into the system at this point. Death, like it or not, is an intrinsic part of life; you will eventually die (nobody likes to think of this, I know)...but your body will feed plants and bacteria and earthworms and suchlike, who'll get eaten by chickens or other birds or cows, who will in turn maybe be eaten by your grandkids (so in a weird sort of way, your own death has contributed to the survival of your grandkids because they can eat). It's all part of the cycle, and it's pretty much how things work. I think honestly the best we can do is give respect that life IS taken so we may live, and give respect to that which did give its life, and only take as much as needed and try not to be wasteful and take life besides that which we need to take to live on--which I think is entirely possible and doable, and makes sure that things don't get TOO out of whack. It doesn't help to pretend life doesn't depend on death, though.

    (Yes, I know this sounds terribly morbid, but it's a subject I've been giving rather deep thought to for quite a number of years. It's something I actually hold as a sort of moral code--yes, you DO take life to live, even plants. Do good by that which gave its life so you may live, and treat humans and your fellow creatures with respect, and don't take life wastefully, and things should work out. You might even call it a bit pragmatic. I just don't see why people are so terrified of death, though, and why people seem to see taking plants' lives as different from animal lives (maybe because humans are animals too--I've just not seen anyone yelling "FRUITS AND SEEDS ARE ABORTIONS!" the same way people yell "Meat is murder!"...hell, I feel better about eating cows than about trophy hunting or fur-trapping [which I see as terribly wasteful--nobody really NEEDS fur to make clothes out of unless they're in a survival situation or in the high Arctic/Antarctic, and nobody needs to kill a deer just so one can mount its head over the fireplace]--at least most slaughterhouses use the whole darn cow down to the hooves. Admittedly, I DO go for organic beef when possible [because the moos aren't pumped fulla chemicals, and organic farming techniques tend to be kinder to the moos than factory farming], but I'm not going to delude myself in thinking eating a veggieburger or a portabella-mushroom sandwich is any less a taking of life than eating the remains of a former resident of Laura's Lean Beef Angus Farm is. In a way it kinda bugs me when people do that, because in a way they're being dishonest--if they'd just say "I don't think eating animals is respectful to the animal or good for the environment, so I've gone vegan and you should too" I'd probably not cringe so much. :)

  • Godel proved that you have to pick one: either a mathematical system is inconsistent or incomplete. That is, either you can prove false things to be true (obviously a bad thing) or there are statements that can't be proved to be true even if they are true (which is the world we're stuck with).

    What was particularly important about Godel's proof was that it was about arithmetic itself. Since all of our mathematical systems incorporate arithmetic in some fashion, all of our mathematical systems suffer from this problem.

    Godel essentially proved that there are infinitely many unsolvable mathematical problems. Tie this in with Turing's proof that there are infinitely more uncomputable problems than computable ones, and it doesn't look too good for the home team.
  • and who knows if Einstein was actually wrong about God not playing dice? I think it was Max Born who later came up with a completely mechanistic (ie. not probabilistic) version of quantum mechanics, completely compatible with the Bohr-Schrodinger version, albeit requiring so-called non-local hidden variables.

    What is truly remarkable about Einstein is the huge range of his early work in physics, and the extent to which he came up with things nobody had thought of before. Bose-Einstein condensation, just achieved now at the end of the century, was mainly Einstein's work, though he generously gave Bose credit. The "bosons" of particle physics derive from Bose-Einstein statistics. Einstein's formulas show up in light absorption and emission, not just the photo-electric effect: check out the theory of the laser for instance. There's an Einstein formula for the specific heat of solids that explains high-temperature behavior very well, and still describes simply and well the low-temperature behavior of "optical phonons" in solids. The many refinements to get the rest of the picture correct are really just generalizations of what Einstein did first.

    What we know him for is his work in relativity, but his impact on physics was far, far greater. A truly remarkable man.
  • Does it really matter who "Time" chooses? Who decides at Time who the person of the century is? It's an editor/owner type of deal. Why should I listen to some guy in a suit telling me that the man of the century is Einstein or whatever?

    No, it doesn't matter, but don't get your panties all twisted up about it. It's not THE person of the century, it's TIME's person of the century. Parlor game. Discussion sparker (note surrounding). To some extent, a marketing gimmick, but one that's lasted 75 odd years. Big hairy deal.

    I recommend you all stop waisting your time thinking what a single most important person of the century is. Just think about "people" who have influenced particular fields or parts of the every day life.

    Just for you, because you're being a snot:
    10 webpages on who else mattered [pathfinder.com].

    PS: Why not have a person of the century? Women are people as well.. maybe TIME hasn't figured that one yet.

    They've been pressured to change it for some time now, and they decided that 1999/2000 was the perfect moment. THis year, for the first time, Jeff Bezos was the PERSON of the year, and Albert Einstein (for those of us paying attention via the home game) the PERSON of the century.

    If you're going to start tossing grenades around, better make sure you know where the pins are.
    ----
  • The question is, how do you define the Person of the Millennium.
    In my mind, there is one person who has had more influence, albeit subtle influence, than any other person of this millennium.
    He didn't do anything that changed the way people thought about music or science or religion. What he did was nothing less than changing the course of history. Literally.
    In October of 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull which established our present day calendar. In the years since this papal bull, nearly the entire world has adopted the Gregorian calendar.
    Now, I understand that this isn't anything Earth-shattering or profound, but think about it. Everytime you are looking at a calendar or planning a date, that specific date is what it is because of Pope Gregory. How often do we ask, "What's today? The thirteenth or the fourteenth?" Without the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, the numerical calendar date would be some 14 or so days off. It may not make a life changing difference, but imagine everything happening 14 days later. Your birthday, your anniversary, even the Millennium (which, btw, is December 31st, 2000, contrary to popular belief, but I digress)
    In conclusion, Pope Gregory XIII may not have changed WHAT has happened this millennium, but he has changed WHEN it happened ;)

    ThE iLlUsTrIoUs IdIoTt

    Thanx to http://www.magnet.ch/s erendipity/hermetic/cal_stud/cal_art.htm [magnet.ch] for specific information.

    "Tired of evil empires? The Source is with you." DoLinux.org [dolinux.org]
  • For the sake of all those who want to actually read about these concepts at a level thats understandable to someone with any schooling, see my favorite books page [linuxsupportline.com] and pick up Schrodinger's Kittens or Why quantum physics is strange, but not as strange as you think.

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.

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