ANALYSIS ir Arthur Schuster (1851–1934) is a familiar Schuster is clear where to seek evidence for his Christopher g fi ure to students of the history of astrophysics speculations – if it were to exist. Future astronomers Taylor was Sin Victorian and Edwardian Britain. He was a might detect a “mutual repulsion between star surprised to find great polymath of turn-of-the-century physical sci- groups” for example, and he sees astrophysics as the ence: the author of the article “Spectroscopy” in the place where answers could be found, if in fact any a speculative 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Schuster scientists were to consider them seriously. “Whether discussion of 1910), a pioneer of radiative transfer theory in stellar such thoughts are ridiculed as the inspirations of antimatter and atmospheres (Schuster 1905) and Rutherford’s pre- madness, or allowed to be the serious possibilities decessor in the Manchester chair of physics. Despite of a future science, they add renewed interest to the the origin of the that familiarity, he can still surprise – his 1898 letter careful examination of the incipient worlds which universe in 1898. to Nature I found both surprising and entertaining. our telescopes have revealed to us. Astronomy, the In the letter, entitled “Potential matter – a holiday oldest and yet most juvenile of sciences, may still dream”, Schuster speculates on the nature of gravity, have some surprises in store. May anti-matter be a t fi topic for a physicist’s holiday: “We can leave commended to its care!” our spectroscopes and magnets at home, but we cannot y fl from the mysterious force which causes Neutralization not annihilation the rain-drops to fall from the clouds.” He takes as It is interesting that Schuster contemplated mutual his starting point an idea of Lord Kelvin, cited by neutralization of matter and his anti-matter, rather James Clerk Maxwell, the idea that “two sources or than the outright annihilation which might seem the two sinks of incompressible liquid will attract each more natural consequence of the sources-and-sinks other with the orthodox distance law”. notion. And subsequent physics has He goes on to envisage gravitation ‘‘May there not be, in given no credence to a gravitational (equating it to inertia) in terms of such fact, potential matter repulsion between the two. I also won- an invisible u fl id, o fl wing into the as well as potential der whether his mind returned to this world through atoms. “The concep- energy?’’ letter in 1932 on hearing the news of tion of atoms as sources of u fl id does Anderson’s discovery of the positron in not, however, necessarily involve such a perpetual veric fi ation of Dirac’s relativistic quantum mechanics increase of substance, for an equal number of sinks of a few years earlier. may keep withdrawing the increment. These sinks As to his hydrodynamic inspiration, while it may would form another set of atoms, possibly equal to be difc fi ult to simulate free-o fl ating sources and our own in all respects but one; they would mutually sinks in a real laboratory set-up, it is perhaps other- gravitate towards each other, but be repelled from wise with the pulsating spheres of C A Bjerknes. the matter which we deal with on this earth.” Bjerknes in 1875 proved the classical hydrodynamic result that two spheres pulsating radially in phase Symmetrical beauty should attract each other, when immersed in an Schuster goes on to describe such a hypothetical ideal, incompressible u fl id, with a central force vary - form of matter, using the analogy of “positive and ing as the inverse square of their separation (Gillispie negative electricity, north and south magnetism”. He 1970). It only takes a moment’s thought to see that speculates that whole worlds or even star systems this is, in fact, essentially Kelvin’s sources-and-sinks could consist of such matter, repelled from normal result in oscillatory disguise. This work is also matter and clumping together, just as normal matter referred to in passing in Horace Lamb’s great text does. And Schuster goes on to speculate that the Hydrodynamics, with which Schuster was no doubt two types of matter could coexist in bodies of small familiar (Lamb 1932). I have long been entertained AUTHOR Christopher Taylor, Hanwell, Oxon, mass. He is attracted to the concept of “anti-matter” by the possibility of using these as the basis for a UK. (as he calls it) in part by the “symmetrical beauty” of “hydrodynamic orrery” in which inverse-square the idea. And, in his freewheeling holiday dream- central forces could be seen, directly, at work produc- RefeR eN ce S ing, he takes the ideas further, to contemplate the ing Keplerian orbits. The problem – apart from provi- Gillispie C C 1970 ed. Dictionary of Scientific Biography II 166 origin of the universe. “May there not be, in fact, sions for radial pulsation of the spheres and their Lamb H 1932 Hydrodynamics 6th edn potential matter as well as potential energy? And neutral buoyancy in the immersing liquid, both of (Cambridge University Press) section if that is the case, can we imagine a vast expanse, which are mere matters of mechanical detail – is, of 99, footnote p134 Schuster A 1898 Nature 58 367 without motion or mass, filled with this primordial course, u fl id friction: perhaps someone with research Schuster A 1905 Astrophys. J. 21 1 mixture, which we cannot call a substance because funding and an appetite for scientic fi diversions (reprinted in AAS centenary volume in it possesses none of the attributes which character- would like to try this with superu fl id liquid helium? 1999 Astrophys. J. 525 1) ize matter, ready to be called into life by the creative So much better, surely, than a mere virtual-reality Schuster A 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th edn XXV 619 spark? Was this the beginning of the world?” numerical simulation on a computer screen? ● 2.12 A&G • April 2018 • Vol. 59 • aandg.org Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/astrogeo/article-abstract/59/2/2.12/4935771 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018
Astronomy & Geophysics – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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