Saturday, 16 February 2013
Bertie Boffin, James Clerk Maxwell and Toby
As well as meeting Horatio, I went to visit another very special Edinbugh dog last week.
This one is called Toby, and he sits at the foot of the eminent Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell - you can find the statue on George Street in Edinburgh's New Town.
You're not familiar with James Clerk Maxwell?
You certainly should be. What a good thing it is that Blogville has a resident Boffin. Let me explain.
About 150 years ago, James Clerk Maxwell developed the set of equations which unite electricity, magnetism and light into a single theoretical framework. Many scientists - not all of whom are Scottish Nationalists - consider his contributions to physics to be surpassed only by Newton and Einstein.
And what's more, he used his dog Toby as a sounding board for his ideas. (Maxwell was known for his 'social awkwardness' so perhaps no-one else would listen).
I have been imagining how those conversations went:
JCM: Toby, I have been thinking. Surely the force fields associated with electricity, magnetism and light are one and the same?
JCM: Toby, I do believe that the relationship can be accurately expressed by the following set of equations. Are these not rather elegant?
Toby: Woof woof.
JCM: Toby, it strikes me that light must travel through space at a constant speed in the form of electromagnetic waves. Do you understand my point?
JCM: Toby, in my down time from formulating classical electromagnetism I have, along with my colleague Boltzmann, been ruminating on the kinetic theory of gases, a productive line of enquiry too, wouldn't you say?