Monday, February 16, 2015 - 10:35am

Happy Presidents Day. Scientific American has a great post about a little-known work by Edgar Allen Poe that presented a kind of preview of modern physics and cosmology:

According to Robinson, Eureka has always been “an object of ridicule,” too odd even for devotees of Poe, the emperor of odd. But Robinson contends that Eureka is actually “full of intuitive insight”–and anticipates ideas remarkably similar to those of modern physics and cosmology.

Eureka, she elaborates, “describes the origins of the universe in a single particle, from which ‘radiated’ the atoms of which all matter is made. Minute dissimilarities of size and distribution among these atoms meant that the effects of gravity caused them to accumulate as matter, forming the physical universe. This by itself would be a startling anticipation of modern cosmology, if Poe had not also drawn striking conclusions from it, for example that space and ‘duration’ are one thing, that there might be stars that emit no light, that there is a repulsive force that in some degree counteracts the force of gravity, that there could be any number of universes with different laws simultaneous with ours, that our universe might collapse to its original state and another universe erupt from the particle it would have become, that our present universe may be one in a series. All this is perfectly sound as observation, hypothesis, or speculation by the lights of science in the twenty-first century.”

The past often seems like a universe away. So many courageously perceptive writers, leaders and thinkers. By all means, let's continue pondering whether evolution is real.

Image: Poe, daguerreotype.

Teaser image: detail of painting by anuja paturkar, 2014, via wikimedia commons.