Vital facts pinned down

April 3, 2014

Ray Stoneham worries that a “seismic shift to online discourse” will leave academics, who are not on first-name terms with modern-day referencing, “in their ivory towers calculating the number of angels who could dance on a pin” (“Rewrite the source code”, Letters, March). That task is already well under way.

In 1995, Phil Schewe of the American Institute of Physics, using ideas from superstring physics, came up with the elegant estimate of the number of angels on the point of a pin as 10 to the 25th power. This has since been challenged by Anders Sandberg, of the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, who addresses the crucial problem of when the angels actually break into a dance.

So, lively disputation will continue in the ivory tower.

R. E. Rawles
Honorary research fellow in psychology
University College London

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard