This page honors Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944)

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The expanding universe, by Sir Arthur Eddington. Cambridge University Press, ©1933, reissued 1987.

Eddington was an English astrophysicist and cosmologist who became famous for his work in support of Einstein's theory of general relativity and for promoting the expanding universe model.

In astrophysics, the Eddington Number (NEdd) refers to the number of particles in the visible universe. The current estimate is 1080 particles.

He was a gifted author who enjoyed using humor and allusions to explain difficult topics. He wrote several important scientific works, such as The internal constitution of stars.

For example, he came up with a concrete way to visualize the notion of an expanding universe: if the cosmos is a balloon with the galaxies embedded in its skin, the distance between the galaxies expands when the balloon expands. Therefore, the galaxies aren't moving through space but rather they are moving along with space.

He also wrote several books about science for a general audience, including The mathematical theory of relativity and The expanding universe. Here are some samples from The expanding universe:

"I deal with the view now tentatively held that the whole material universe of stars and galaxies of stars is dispersing, the galaxies scattering apart so as to occupy an ever-increasing volume. … The subject is of especial interest, since it lies at the meeting point of astronomy, relativity and wave-mechanics. Any genuine progress will have important reactions on all three."

"When a physicist refers to curvature of space he at once falls under suspicion of talking metaphysics. Yet space is a prominent feature in the physical world; and measurement of space — lengths, distances, volumes — is part of the normal occupation of a physicist. Indeed it is rare to find any quantitative physical observation which does not ultimately reduce to measuring distances."

So what is our universe really like?

The movement is "a general scattering apart, having no particular centre of dispersal."

Since the universe is expanding, "its density is diminishing."

And finally: "The most striking feature is that the galaxies are almost unanimously running away from us."