Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

A Brief History of Physics ..

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Einstein’s last blackboard notes in his office shortly before his death in 1955.
Seeking the Unified Field Theory consumed his last years.

A friend sent this amusing little story of why we do not have a “Unified Theory of everything” in physics (which is one of its goals) and why we likely never will. I’ve actually seen it before, but have been unable to find the original author to attribute it to.

Unified Field Theory

In the beginning there was Aristotle,
And objects at rest tended to remain at rest,
And objects in motion tended to come to rest,
And soon everything was at rest,
And God saw that it was boring.

Then God created Newton,
And objects at rest tended to remain at rest,
But objects in motion tended to remain in motion,
And energy was conserved and momentum was conserved and matter was conserved,
And God saw that it was conservative.

Then God created Einstein,
And everything was relative,
And fast things became short,
and straight things became curved,
And the universe was filled with inertial frames,
And God saw that it was relatively general,
but some of it was especially relative.

Then God created Bohr,
And there was the Principle,
And the Principle was Quantum,
And all things were quantified,
But some things were still relative,
And God saw that it was confusing.

Then God was going to create Ferguson,
And Ferguson would have unified,
And he would have fielded a theory,
And all would have been one,
But it was the seventh day,
And God rested,
And objects at rest tend to remain at rest.

— Tim Joseph (Originally appeared in The New York Times, 6 April 1978, page A21.)


  1. #1 Another Kevin
    June 28, 2008

    “Unified Field Theory”, by Tim Joseph

    Originally appeared in The New York Times, 6 April 1978, page A21.

  2. #2 "GrrlScientist"
    June 28, 2008

    thank you!

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    June 29, 2008

    This reminds me of Alexander Pope’s epigram:
    “Nature and nature’s laws lay hidden in the night, and God said ‘let Newton be’ and all was light.”

  4. #4 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 29, 2008

    “It did not last; the Devil howling ‘Ho!
    Let Einstein Be!’ restored the status quo.” [John Collings Squire]

    “God Rolled his dice, to Einstein’s great dismay:
    ‘Let Feynman Be!’ and all was clear as day.” [Jagdish Mehra]

  5. #5 DWT
    May 28, 2009

    The poem appeared in Analog magazine in December, 1975. Don’t know if it was published anywhere else, earlier.

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