Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A friend recalls physicist John Wheeler ...

A.J. Meyer fondly remembers John Wheeler, who coined the term "black hole", who died recently at age 96. He offers the following anecdote:
About twenty years ago, I sent out numerous drafts of a paper I had been working on for commentary.

One of the conundrums that I dealt with in the paper, was the failure of black hole thermodynamics to correspond to the Third Law.

One of the kindest replies came from Professor John Wheeler in a telephone conversation. Wheeler said that my solution to the conundrum was good, and said, in effect, "In all my thirty or so years of black hole research, it has never occurred to me to incorporate the area of the inner event horizon as a measure of negative entropy. How did you think of it?" Recalling how Irwin Schrödinger answered when he was asked how he came up with his famous wave equation, I replied in all sincerity "To quote Schrödinger, 'it came from God'.''

As far as I know, Wheeler, was always an honest seeker of truth and one of the most humble of physicists, who as a group are not known for their humility. He will be missed.
Here's a part of Meyer's work on the Third Law solution.