Tag Archives: science

208. A physicist, a chemist and a priest

“A physicist, a chemist and a priest. Sounds like a bad joke,” Einstein says.

“Curious you should make the assumption the joke will be bad,” Bohr replies. “Have your perchance empirically found the Germans to have no sense of humour?”

It is an innocent enough remark, but decades-long friendships have turned before on phrases like these. And the young priest Lemaître, the third party at the table at Hôtel Métropole, senses immediately electricity is in the air.

Einsteins retorts that no, he has not found indubitable evidence of Germany’s lack of humour, but that unquestionable proof against quantum theorem is definitely round the corner.

“Are you one hundred percent sure of that?” Bohr – ever the witty Dane – strikes back, knowing Einsteine’s disdain for Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

The moustached German immediately lambasts Bohr’s ideas with mathematical high-wire work. This is why Lemaître admires Einstein so much. This is why he uses his formulas to unshackle the beginning of the universe.

But Bohr proves a formidable opponent. He sees Einstein’s mathematical prowess and raises it with a dazzling display of theoretical physics so advanced, Lemaître feels like a student again.

This goes on for about half an hour, until Einstein sniffs defeat and brings out his trump card.

“My friend, God does not play dice.”

It’s an argument-stopper and Bohr knows it. In a final act of despair he turns to the third person at the table, the one he’s almost forgotten about.

“You’re a priest, Georges. Does God play dice?”

Lemaître is between a rock and a hard place. Which Nobel Prize winner’s side will he take? And how to do it without committing blasphemy?

Luckily inspiration strikes just in time to please everyone involved.

“Perhaps we should stop telling God what he can or cannot do.”

 

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