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 3 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

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

As the pay of BBC on-air talent is revealed, one academic comes clean about his salary

A podium constructed out of wood

There are good reasons why some big names are missing from our roster

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Thorns and butterflies

Conditions that undermine the notion of scholarly vocation – relentless work, ubiquitous bureaucracy – can cause academics acute distress and spur them to quit, says Ruth Barcan