Jack Schwartz on String Theory

Though I forget the exact occasion, I do recall once working with Jack when he to spend some time untangling a rat’s nest of wires.

After straigtening them out, he conjectured that there must be a theorem in this, but that it would be very hard to prove:

A Conjecture by Jack Schwartz:

If you put some strings, ropes, or wires on a table, then no matter how carefully you set them down, they will soon became entangled, as though an unseen agent had been at work.

I would have then remarked on Thomas Edison, if I had then known what I learned a few years later while browsing through the supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary:

Usage of the term “bug” to describe inexplicable defects has been a part of engineering jargon for many decades and predates computers and computer software; it may have originally been used in hardware engineering to describe mechanical malfunctions. For instance, Thomas Edison wrote the following words in a letter to an associate in 1878:“

It has been just so in all of my inventions. The first step is an intuition, and comes with a burst, then difficulties arise — this thing gives out and [it is] then that ‘Bugs’ — as such little faults and difficulties are called — show themselves and months of intense watching, study and labor are requisite before commercial success or failure is certainly reached.

The conjecture remains to be proved. It is a knotty problem.


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