Search FQXi

If you are aware of an interesting new academic paper (that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal or has appeared on the arXiv), a conference talk (at an official professional scientific meeting), an external blog post (by a professional scientist) or a news item (in the mainstream news media), which you think might make an interesting topic for an FQXi blog post, then please contact us at with a link to the original source and a sentence about why you think that the work is worthy of discussion. Please note that we receive many such suggestions and while we endeavour to respond to them, we may not be able to reply to all suggestions.

Please also note that we do not accept unsolicited posts and we cannot review, or open new threads for, unsolicited articles or papers. Requests to review or post such materials will not be answered. If you have your own novel physics theory or model, which you would like to post for further discussion among then FQXi community, then please add them directly to the "Alternative Models of Reality" thread, or to the "Alternative Models of Cosmology" thread. Thank you.

Forum Home
Terms of Use

Order posts by:
 chronological order
 most recent first

Posts by the blogger are highlighted in orange; posts by FQXi Members are highlighted in blue.

By using the FQXi Forum, you acknowledge reading and agree to abide by the Terms of Use

 RSS feed | RSS help

Joe Fisher: on 2/23/16 at 15:32pm UTC, wrote Only an infinite amount of visible surface am. There is no finite invisible...

Akinbo Ojo: on 2/17/16 at 11:20am UTC, wrote Dr Finkelstein was a colossus in the field. And Tom, I see where some of...

Thomas Ray: on 2/16/16 at 22:06pm UTC, wrote Oh, no. I missed the news of Dr. Finkelstein's passing. He will be...

Bob Coecke: on 2/16/16 at 21:28pm UTC, wrote We all just enjoyed the detection of gravitational waves due to two...


Lorraine Ford: "The idea of a smooth mathematical evolution of “the wave function”, and..." in Consciousness and the...

Georgina Woodward: "Broken machine: What do[es] I see next? The I that was, E.I, has not been..." in The Room in the Elephant:...

Georgina Woodward: "Correction We can choose whether to say that replacement happens when the..." in Consciousness and the...

Lorraine Ford: "Hi Stefan, I hope that a good leader, and a good political party, is..." in The Present State of...

Lorraine Ford: "We live in an age of computing. But physics, mathematics and philosophy,..." in The Present State of...

Georgina Woodward: "I've copied the comment to the thread where it belongs. This orphan can be..." in The Room in the Elephant:...

Georgina Woodward: "Thank you John. What did you think about the questioning whether altitude..." in The Nature of Time

John Cox: "Sorry, Georgina, I have had a busy summer and am racing the change of..." in The Nature of Time

click titles to read articles

Good Vibrations
Microbead 'motor' exploits natural fluctuations for power.

Reconstructing Physics
New photon experiment gives new meta-framework, 'constructor theory,' a boost.

The Quantum Engineer: Q&A with Alexia Auffèves
Experiments seek to use quantum observations as fuel to power mini motors.

The Quantum Clock-Maker Investigating COVID-19, Causality, and the Trouble with AI
Sally Shrapnel, a quantum physicist and medical practitioner, on her experiments into cause-and-effect that could help us understand time’s arrow—and build better healthcare algorithms.

Connect the Quantum Dots for a New Kind of Fuel
'Artificial atoms' allow physicists to manipulate individual electrons—and could help to reduce energy wastage in electronic devices.

September 28, 2021

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: David Ritz Finkelstein (1929 - 2016) [refresh]
Bookmark and Share
Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Blogger Bob Coecke wrote on Feb. 16, 2016 @ 21:28 GMT
We all just enjoyed the detection of gravitational waves due to two colliding black holes.  David Ritz Finkelstein, who passed away in January, was the first, in 1958, who identified Schwarzschild's solution of the GR equations as corresponding to a region in space from which nothing escapes.  This compelled Penrose and Wheeler to believe that those things actually do exist.  He is of course also known for the related Eddington-Finkelstein coordinates.

Personally I first met David Finkelstein, not in a Black hole, but in Prague, in 1994 at a quantum structures conference.  David's main concern had always been the fundamental structures of nature, for quantum theory, for GR, and even more so, for the two together.  He indeed very early on accepted von Neumann's concern that something is fundamentally wrong with Hilbert space.  This was the start of a quest in a world of exotic structures, and his travels have inspired many scientists, and continue to do so. Among many others, this includes quaternionic quantum theory and quantum sets.  David was a proper maverick scientist, and this statement is intended in entirely positive terms. Not only his outstanding intellect, but also his integrity and generosity where exceptional.

But he was a lot more than that.  The second time I met him was in 1997 in Atlanta Georgia, where he lived and was hosting a meeting again on quantum structures.  In the weekend he took some friends and me out to the movies, to watch Seven Years in Tibet.  A bit cheeky that was, since he was to meet the Dalai Lama two days after.  Indeed, David was for a while the Dalai Lama's physics teacher. 

The last time I met David Finkelstein, in 2014 in Cambridge, was at a meeting dedicated to Eddington.  During the conference dinner I had geared up for producing a wall of electronic noise and guitar distortion, with Ian Durham featuring on harmonica.  Not surprisingly, we successfully emptied the senior common room where the conference dinner had taken place, with one notable exception.  David Finkelstein, then 84 years young, was still there and clearly enjoying it.  He later explained that he always has had an interest, not surprisingly, in experimental music and other weird stuff.  More generally, David had a great interest in art, history, and many other things, and their interwovenness with science.  Why not have a look at David Finkelstein's analysis of Albrecht Durer's engraving MELENCOLIA I, that can be found on the arXiv.

A truly original thinker, and equally so, a truly original human has passed away. 

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Feb. 16, 2016 @ 22:06 GMT
Oh, no. I missed the news of Dr. Finkelstein's passing. He will be greatly missed.

I recall a kind, handwritten, rejection note many years ago when he was editor in chief for IJTP -- "Plausible physical ideas. Not accompanied by a mathematical theory which would incorporate them."

The lesson stuck with me. He was a mensch.

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Akinbo Ojo replied on Feb. 17, 2016 @ 11:20 GMT
Dr Finkelstein was a colossus in the field.

And Tom, I see where some of the inputs that have shaped your mathematical outlook came from. A nice statement, "Plausible physical ideas. Not accompanied by a mathematical theory which would incorporate them".

The struggle between Plausible physical idea and mathematical elegance continues to some extent, even though the latter has the upper hand. Side by side with that statement is that of late J.A. Wheeler, another colossus, "To my mind there must be, at the bottom of it all, not an equation, but an utterly simple idea..."

I hope the intellectual discussion continues between them in the hereafter. May his soul rest in peace.


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Please enter your e-mail address:
Note: Joining the FQXi mailing list does not give you a login account or constitute membership in the organization.