Physics Department Seminar University of Alaska Fairbanks

J O U R N A L    C L U B


The Astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle: Often Wrong, but Rarely Boring

Mark Conde
Physics Dept./GI, UAF



Fred Hoyle was one of the 20th century's most innovative scientists. He turned his mind to a vast array of problems, albeit with most having some (possibly tenuous) link to astrophysics and cosmology. Educated at Cambridge, his ideas typically started from a firm basis in mathematics and physics - to which he would add a potent accelerant of assumptions, guesswork, and arm-waving, to produce speculations that spanned the gamut from brilliant to barking mad. Long before the current covid-19 crisis, Hoyle predicted that pandemic outbreaks would be most likely to occur during solar minima, when the solar wind would be least effective at shielding Earth from alien pathogens of interstellar origin. It was this (now discredited) suggestion that piqued my interest, given that covid-19 did indeed appear during solar minimum. However, it is just one of a huge number of Hoyle's interconnected and truly big ideas that, taken together, described a sweeping alternative view of the cosmos and humanity's place in it.


Friday, 4 December 2020

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