henri-Poincare

Astronomy is useful because it raises us above ourselves; it is useful because it is grand. It shows us how small is man’s body, how great his mind, since his intelligence can embrace the whole of this dazzling immensity, where his body is only an obscure point, and enjoy its silent harmony.
—  Henri Poincare

“The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.” Henri Poincaré

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How Einstein’s Relativity Saved The Solar System

“But after Einstein’s special theory of relativity came out in 1905, Henri Poincare showed that the phenomena of length contraction and time dilation contributed a fraction — between 15-25% — of the needed amount towards the solution, dependent on the error. That, plus Minkowski’s formalization of space and time as not separate entities, but as a single structure bound together by their union, spacetime, led Einstein to develop the general theory of relativity.”

While it’s easy to look on Einstein’s general theory of relativity — which turns 100 today — as a revolutionary new way to interpret space and time, as well as their interplay with matter and energy, it actually came about due to a problem with the Solar System. The orbits of all the planets, comets and asteroids were explained very nicely by Newtonian gravity, with the exception of Mercury, which precessed a little too quickly. While there were other possible explanations, only Einstein’s gave the correct prediction, made new, testable predictions that differed from Newton’s, and were verified by experiment.

The scientist does not study
nature because it is useful to do.
He studies it because he takes
pleasure in it; and he takes
pleasure in it because it is
beautiful. If nature were not
beautiful, it would not be worth
noting and life would not be worth
living …
I mean the intimate beauty which
comes from the harmonious order of
its parts and which a pure
intelligence can grasp.
— 

 Henri Poincaré, preeminent 19th-century 

mathematician and scientist