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SOME PROBLEMS OF COSMICAL PHYSICS, SOLVED AND UNSOLVED

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Science  26 Jul 1929:
Vol. 70, Issue 1804, pp. 77-84
DOI: 10.1126/science.70.1804.77

Abstract

The Great success of theoretical investigations in recent times naturally leads enterprising spirits to use them not only in interpreting what we know or can verify by observation, but to lead us into regions where experiment is not available as a check. I believe that this does nothing but good in times like ours, when there is no danger of the doctrines even of a master being unduly pressed, if the evidence of observed fact turns against them. At the same time, we must not expect too much of pure intellect unchecked by observation. Theories that do not stand the test of time pass for the most part into complete oblivion, and we are apt to forget how appallingly large a mass of wreekage the total of them represents. The next generation remembers chiefly those that survive, and does not take full advantage of the lesson of how easy it is for an apparently inevitable conslusion to be wrong. Unless the argument carried its own verification by some accurate and previously unforeseen numerical coincidence, it is hard indeed to tell if we are on the right track.