Saturday, August 1, 2009

Time for a Cold One: Jaki, Planck and Einstein and you!

It is August the first, and it's hot in the northern hemisphere... we mark the "Dog Days" as with the ancient Egyptians we give a nod to the heliacal rising of Sirius. [See e.g. SLJ's Science and Creation 71]

No, just as no astronomer will be shunned for using non-Copernican terms like "sunrise" and "sunset"... one imagines a smallminded character stomping out of a theatre when that song begins in "The Fiddler on the Roof"! No, it is not a heresy, even for astronomers, to celebrate the dog days, and perhaps you are feeling thirsty - if you are, then this posting is for you, to be read along with your favourite lager, ale, or stout.

Besides - it's Saturday, our "half-holiday" when we get to enjoy the writings of our masters even while we study them. Isn't it time for a nice cold beer? You may be surprised to know that Father Jaki appreciated beer, as do I. In an essay in A Late Awakening Father quoted the exceedingly famous Chesterton dictum which ought to be on every beer mug and wine glass of our Society:
...we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them.
[GKC Orthodoxy CW1:268]
I do not think SLJ quoted the parallel commentary where GKC examines, with a most Jaki-esque style, what we might call The Purpose Of It All:
It is quite a mistake to suppose that, when a man desires an alcoholic drink, he necessarily desires alcohol. Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer's day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented. The fact that beer has a very slight stimulating quality will be quite among the smallest reasons that induce him to ask for it. In short, he will not be in the least desiring alcohol; he will be desiring beer.
[GKC ILN Apr 20 1907 CW27:444]
No doubt you are wondering how Planck and Einstein figure into the equation.

Well, Plank, Einstein, Jaki, and Chesterton walk into a pub, and... oh, oops, sorry. Wrong notebook. (Wow, wouldn't that be a great joke? Once we have our Society journal, we'll have a contest for the best conclusion to that joke, or any close approximation. Gotta get Plank's constant in there somehow. But let's leave it for today.)

Actually , Father Jaki doesn't mention Chesterton in today's selection, but he does mention beer together with Planck and Einstein, and before you die of thirst, perhaps I ought to give it to you:
Of course, it was not the word "quantum" that Planck had to defend, a word that long before 1900 had become part of everyday German. Soldiers called quantum their daily ration of food. Schiller spoke of people who insisted on having their daily "quantum of stuff," that is, "quantum of beer." This did not invalidate the fact that there was something like half a loaf and an amount of beer that did not fill a mug. What Planck had to defend was the idea that the quantum of energy did not allow such a parceling. Years later Einstein facetiously expressed the energy quantum with a reference to a guzzler who insisted on having beer only by the pint. Numbers, or data of observation that lead Planck to the right formula, eventually imposed on him the view that there was something indivisible in the radiation coming out of black bodies or cavities.
[SLJ "Numbers Decide or Planck's Constant and Some Constants of Philosophy" in Numbers Decide and Other Essays 14]

1 comment:

Old Fashioned Liberal said...

One day, Planck, Einstein, Jaki, and Chesterton walk into a pub. Jaki had decided several days before to indulge in one of the soft sciences, sociology, and observe how the different beliefs of people affect their drinking habits. This is what he found:

Chesterton would always order two drinks, a wine and a beer, the brands of which would change from day to day. He would drink the wine first, then the beer, then engage in drinking-songs and political debates. Jaki asked why Chesterton drank wine first, than beer. Chesterton responded that it was a symbolic act: the wine (being used at mass) sanctified the convivial acts of beer-drinking and pub-enjoying. Jaki asked why the beer must always also be drunk, and why singing and debating must always follow. Chesterton responded that he drank the beer and sang and debated because he was in a pub, with other men, without his wife. Fr. Jaki thanked the LORD for his celibacy and decided than and there that he had made an important discovery: whenever he would drink alcohol at a meal with another man, he would also sing and debate afterwards, for he would have no wife to stop him.

Einstien would ask the bartender for a glass and a bottle without specifying what sort of glass and what sort of bottle. Then, he would fill his glass exactly three-fourths full. Then, he would ask Chesterton and Jaki to run around the room while he drank his drink. Jaki obeyed, Chesterton tried. Then Einstien explained that the amount of beverage was relative to the size of the glass. Einstien also explained that because he enjoyed drinking and desired it to last as long as possible, he had the people he was drinking with move faster so that more time would pass for Einstien while Einstein was drinking than would pass for those who were running. This inspired Jaki to conduct another study, which does not enter into this tale, on how to determine whether you are responding to your scientific beliefs in a sane or insane manner.

Planck would order the same drink in the same glass, drink it from a straw, and walk out of the bar without talking to Jaki. Jaki noticed that Planck did not breathe once in the course of drinking through the straw, rather, he sucked up the entire concoction in one large, breath.

Jaki was puzzled about this. Was Planck an insane subject, and thus not fit for his study?

"On the contrary," responded Einstein "Planck, like us, tries to do what he does in accordance with what he is and what he believes. Planck always drinks in one unwavering, uninterrupted stream."

"But what does this have to do with what he is and what he believes?" Jaki and Chesterton both asked.

"It's easy." said Einstein, "Planck's Constant in all things, even drinking."