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From the archive

50 Years Ago

Structural Characteristics of Materials. Edited by H. M. Finniston — The six chapters, all by different authors, cover widely different aspects of materials science, yet have something in common; they resemble smørgasbord in that they can all with advantage be consumed together. In this they differ from a scientific journal — an expense-account meal as it were — where one paper may be prawn cocktail to the crêpes suzette of another, and the consumer needs to take his time if he is to avoid indigestion or even nausea … [M]ost … of the chapters were written several years ago … [I] know that the problems of keeping n authors to a deadline increase at least as n3; six sets of authors, however, should have been somewhat more amenable than this group appears to have been … During the past ten years, a large number of surveys of particular fields of materials science have been published in smørgasbord volumes: many of the references … in the volume under review are to articles in other collections . . . . Progress in This and Advances in That, the Relation Between or the Mechanism of … It is time for an enterprising publisher to compile a periodic Good Food Guide to Scientific Smørgasbord, perhaps in each of several categories, say Materials Science … and so on. If such a compilation could incorporate a system of grades, as does the Consumers’ Association’s invaluable guide to British restaurants, so much the better. At the current price of dining out, indigestion is hard to bear.

From Nature 18 June 1971

100 Years Ago

The most noticeable circumstance in the lecture which Prof. Einstein delivered on June 13 at King’s College on “The Development and Present Position of the Theory of Relativity” was the beauty and simplicity of his account of the theory. He made no attempt to enliven it by introducing any of the delightful illustrations which, however illuminating and attractive they may be to the popular mind, surround it with a halo of scientific romance. On the other hand, he found no occasion to have recourse to the blackboard, and he entirely omitted anything which required mathematical formulae for its expression … Prof. Einstein’s modesty served only to give force to the impression that we were welcoming … a … genius … Einstein’s revolution is more profound than that of the greatest of his predecessors, for while Copernicus and those who followed him corrected our deductions from phenomena within a generally accepted framework, Einstein has shown us the need of reconstituting our conception of that framework itself.

From Nature 16 June 1921



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