Moses talked to God.

How did I talk to Einstein?


Wherever I go, I brag about my Princeton background. Thus, people ask me the following two questions.

  1. Am I the first Korean to get a PhD degree from Princeton?

  2. Did I meet Einstein there?

People ask me the first question when I tell them I came from Korea. They also ask me the second question when I tell them I studied physics there.

  • As for the second question, Einstein was in heaven when I went to Princeton in 1958. The purpose of this webpage is to tell you how I talked to Einstein, particularly about his E = mc2 .

  • Let me answer the first question. In am not the first Korean PhD from Princeton. Syngman Rhee received his degree from Princeton in 1910. These days, he is known as Woodrow Wilson's most accomplished student. The main lecture hall at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School for Public Affairs is called Syngman Rhee Lecture Hall.

    I got my Princeton degree in 1961, seven years after my high school graduation in Korea in 1954. You will agree that I had the best secondary education in the world. My six high-school years (1948-54) included three years of the bloody Korean war (1950-53), and the original campus was totally destroyed.


  • Let us go to my Einstein story. As you all know, Moses talked to God. How did he? He wrote five books about God. His books became the first five books in the Old Testament.

    The best way to talk to Einstein is to write books addressing the issues in which Einstein was interested, and to broadcast its contents though internet.

    1. In 1921, Einstein received his Nobel prize, but not for his E = mc2. What went wrong?

      Many people wrote about this issue, and I do not have to add anything to this subject.

    2. 1963, Eugene Wigner received his prize, but not for his 1939 paper on his little groups dealing with the internal space-time symmetries. Wigner was not 100% happy with his prize, because his 1939 paper was dearest to his heart. Wigner was Princeton's No. 2 man who lived there until 1995.

  • In 1986, I told Professor Wigner he deserved one full Nobel prize for his 1939 paper, after showing the following table which shows his contribution is as important as Einstein's E = mc2. Wigner became very happy, and I published a number of papers with him.

    Contents of Einstein's E = mc2


    Particle Massive/Slow between Massless/Fast
    Einstein Energy
    Momentum
    E = p2/2m E =
    [m2c4 + (cp)2]1/2
    E = cp
    Wigner Helicity
    spin, Gauge
    S3
    S1 S2
    Winner's
    Little Groups
    Helicity
    Gauge Trans.
    This table is from one of my papers published in 1986.



    According to this table, a massive particle at rest has three rotational degrees of freedom. However, a massless particle has only one degree of freedom, namely the rotation around the direction of its momentum. What happens to rotations around the two transverse directions when the particle is Lorentz-boosted?

    From 1986 to 1991, I went to Princeton regularly to tell Professor Wigner to tell him the stories he wanted to hear, and we were able to publish a number of joint papers. Among them was on the unified picture of Wigner's three little groups for internal space-time symmetries, which constitutes the Wigner row in the above table. You may click here for the paper.

    Since Wigner was so helpful to me that I maintain a webpage dedicated to him.

New Age:
Physics with Particle Accelerators

    To Bohr and Einstein, hydrogen atoms moving with relativistic speeds were beyond their scope of physics. Even these days, it is not possible to accelerate those atoms. However, modern particle accelerators can produce many protons with their speeds very close to that of light. Yet, those protons are not hydrogen atoms. How can resolve the Bohr-Einstein issue?



    According to Murray Gell-Mann (1964), the proton is a bound state of three more fundamental particles called "quarks." The quantum mechanics of this bound state is the same as the quantum mechanics of the hydrogen atom. Thus it is possible to study the Bohr-Einstein issue by studying fast-moving protons.

  • According to Richard Feynman (1969), the fast-moving proton appears as a collection of infinite number of partons as illustrated in the above figure. Thus, the Bohr-Einstein issue is translated into the question of whether Gell-Mann's quark model and Feynman's parton model are two limiting cases of the same Lorentz-covariant entity as shown in the above tables.

    This is a conceptually difficult question and not many physicists in my generation comprehend this question, but it is easy to illustrate this issue mathematically:

    We can use this mathematics for a quantum bound state with a Gaussian distribution. We can reach the following Lorentz-covariant picture of the bound state, consistent with Feynman's parton picture of the proton.



    Feynman's portrait at Fermilab

  • It is mathematically posssible to transform a circle into an ellipse. This corresponds to increasing speed of the proton. It is interesting to note that Feyman's observations, namely

    1. time dilation,

    2. wide-spread momentum distribution,

    3. partons as free massless particles.

  • Richard P. Feynman was the most talented American physicist in the 20th Century. He was also a cartoonist, and he is responsible for scientific language called Feynman diagrams.

  • I like him, and I maintain a webpage dedicated to Feynman.


My Korean Background

  • I came to the United States from Korea in 1954 after high-school graduation. I could be less than fully honest if I tell you there were no discriminations against me.

    For instance, my American classmates used to tell me Koreans do not have brains good enough to make nuclear bombs. During the political crisis in Korea (1960-61), my American friends told me the best solution is give Korea to Japan.

    In spite of all these prejudices, I think I did OK in moving up through the social ladders in the United States, thanks to my Korean background, including my unusually strong Christian background built upon the traditional Confucian base.

    In addition, I had an excellent high-school education in Korea. I liked mathematics throughout my high-school years.

    Indeed, these elements enabled me to talk to Einstein (go back to the top of this webapge). This is a rare privilege for the people of my generation. Let me spell out my Korean backgrounds.


Educational Background

  • You have seen the circle, ellipse, and hyperbola in the figures given above to illustrate further contents of Einstein's E = mc2.

        Rotate this figure by 45o.
        You will end up with the figure shown at the beginning of this webpage.

        In this photo of 1954, I am shaking hands with General Maxwell Taylor, the commander of the U.S. forces in Korea. Under him were more than 300,000 combat-ready U.S.troops.
        I am in my high-school uniform.
    1. If you did not hate mathematics so thoroughly during your high school years, you should know the equation

        xy = 1

      is for the hyperbola.

    2. The equation for the circle takes the form

        x2 + y2 = 2 .

      Let us next write another equation:

        e-2bx 2 + e2by2 = 2.

      When b = 0 , this equation is for the circle. As b increases from zero to a positive number, the circle becomes squeezed to the ellipse as shown here.

    3. Exercise: The circle is tangent to the hyperbola at x = 0, when b = 0 The tangential point moves along the hyperbola when b increases. Find the exact location of the tangential point as a function of b.

      I did this exercise during my high-school years (1951-54) in Korea, during the period of the Korean War (1950-53).


Christian Background

  • My Korean background includes a strong Confucian influence. At the beginning of this webpage, I talk about how Moses talked to God. This means that I also have a strong Christian background.

      The Sorae Church I used to attend until May 1946.

      My grandfather was one of Horace Underwood's trusted Korean friends. In 2003, I had a lunch with Underwood's youngest grandson at a Korean restaurant in Urbana, Illinois.


      My car license plate in USA proudly says "Sorae."

    1. I was born and raised in a Korean village called "Sorae" where Koreans built their first Presbyterian church in 1884. The first church building was like a private house. The second building, built in 1909, was like a Buddhist temple. The third church building was built in 1934, and it was a shiny modern building with many glass windows. Click here for those buildings.

    2. Horace Underwood was the first Presbyterian missionary who went to Korea in 1885. He built his villa at a scenic beach called "Kumipo" near Sorae. His family used to come to this Sorae church during the summer months.

    3. My grandfather was one of the major contributors toward the construction cost for this stylish church bundling of 1934. The Underwood family donated window glasses (very costly at that time). My grandfather was one of Underwood's trusted Korean friends.

    4. This church building had two separate doors: one for men and boys and the other for ladies and girls. They had to sit on separate floors inside. When I went to the church with my mother, we had to enter through separate doors. My mother was the organist for this church. The church has an impressive-looking foot-driven organ.

  • My grandmother told me many Bible stories.

    1. It was exciting to hear Moses dividing the ocean. I never figured out how he did, but I figured out how Moses talked to God. He wrote five books about God which became the first five books in the Old Testament. As I said above. I talked to Einstein by stressing that he deserved one full Nobel prize for his E = mc2, and gave my explanations of why.

    2. She told me I have one less rib in my chest, because God pulled out one rib from Adam's chest to make a woman. I used to believe her story until 2005 when I looked at my chest X-ray photo. Alas I have the same number of ribs on both sides. This means that God pulled out two ribs, one from each side. I then looked at my photos with girls and ladies around the world. I noticed I am much happier with two women in the photos. Thus, using the internet technology, I was able to create my own Garden of Eden.

  • Herod Complex. I heard Christmas stories from my grandmother and from many others. The story of King Herod was particularly interesting.

    The society of academic researchers is extremely competitive. Your colleagues cannot afford you to become more famous than they are. They become your enemies once you become more famous. However, you can live happily if you know how King Herod reacted after hearing a new king (other than himself) was born.

    When I started going out with Wigner in 1986, and thus started getting attention from the physics community, many people became very unhappy. Among them were Arthur Wightman and Louis Michel. Wigner thanks them in the English edition of his book entitled "Group Theory and Its Applications to the Quantum Mechanics of Atomic Spectra."

        I must have been close to both Michel and Wightman because I took these photos with my cameras. They became quite upset when I approached Wigner directly without their clearance.
    1. Wightman was a professor of physics at Princeton, and he took over Jones professorship held by Wigner before he formally retired from the university. He had enough reason to regard himself as the person in charge of Wigner. In 1961, he gave a series of lectures on Wigner's 1939 paper. I was in his class and I learned many things from him, and I still like him.

      He became very unhappy with the table given above, and wrote me a letter telling me it was wrong and I should withdraw it from the literature. Since his office was in the same building where Wigner's office was, he must have told Wigner the same story. Yet, Wigner was on my side.

    2. Louis Michel was a very distinguished mathematical physicist, and I also learned about Wigner's 1939 paper from him when he spent one semester at the University of Maryland in 1972. He gave a series of lectures on the Wigner stuff. He also told me the table given above is wrong, and wrote the president of my university to reduce my position. However, my president stood with me.

    3. There were many others who became furious when I was going out with Wigner, including some in my own department. They are not worth munitioning. Michel and Wightman were big enough to behave like King Herod, but those small people were like worms.

      Dirac's bust at the Fine Hall Library of Princeton University.

  • Nicodemus meets Jesus. The story of Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. When I got my degree in 1961, I was forced to believe that origin of physics comes from singularities in the complex plane. I did not like this environment. Click here to see how much I disliked.

    Fortunately, in 1962, I met Paul A. M. Dirac. He gave me enough wisdom to continue my research until today. It was like Nicodemus meeting Jesus. Click here to see how I met Dirac in 1962.


Confucian Base

  • Einstein was an oriental philosopher. Did you know?

  • In addition to this strong Christian background, I do have a strong Confucian base. People usually say Confucianism is anti-scientific. I disagree. Einstein was an oriental philosopher.

    Confucius was a Chinese scholar during the 5th Century BC. He wrote down a set of rules humans obey to maintain the social order. For instance, young people should respect elder citizens. Ministers should be absolutely loyal to their king. Confucianism served as the constitution of the Han Dynasty in China (200BC-200AD) creating the Chinese civilization as known today.

      Zhu Xi (1130-1200 AD) reformulated Confucianism by adding another Chinese philosophy called Taoism. He is called Ju Hee in Korean, and his neo-Confucianism called Joo-Ja-Hak in Korea. Koreans adopted his version of Confucianism with many Taoist elements

      This is the reason why Korea's national flag reflects the core of Taoism calling for the harmony of two opposing elements.
    After many chaotic years after the collapse of the Han Dynasty, Chinese were able to set up another dynasty called Tang (600AD-900AD). During this period, Confucianism went through evolutions.

    Confucius says you should do this and you should not do that, but he does not explain why. During the Tang period, scholars started explaining why you should do this and why you should not do this. They added reasonings to the Confucian rules.

    In so doing, those scholars had to borrow the ideas from Taoism. The origin of Taoism is very simple. After the ice age, many different people came to the banks along the northern river, known as the Yellow River, to to live together. They could not communicate and thus drew pictures. This is how the Chinese characters were developed. In order to express their emotions, they had to sing. This is the reason why Chinese spoken language has tones.

    How about different ideas? Like these days, there were many different ideas. Those ancient Chinese divided those two opposing groups: plus and minus. They thought the world could be perfect whatever-plus and whatever-negative can exist in harmony.

    This is the basis for the philosophy of Taoism. If Confucius tells you do to this, you are allowed to raise an opposing view and figure out the best solution for you and the rest of the world.

    This new version of Confucianism was documented by a Chinese scholar named Zhu Xi (called Ju Hee in Korean) in the 12th Century. This neo-Confucianism became very attractive to Koreans. They call this ideology Juja-Hak, and became the constitution of Korea's last dynasty which lasted longer than 500 years (1392-1910). Thus, Koreans are Taoists as well as Confucians, as they demonstrate strongly in their national flag.

      Einstein very happy with a Taoist physicist named Hideki Yukawa, who received his Nobel prize in 1949. Have you ever seen Einstein's smiling face?

      Einstein's coordinate among the Western philosophers.

  • Let us look Western philosophy. There are many philosophers we can mention from Socrates to Sartre. Among them, the most influential figures were Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. According Kant, there is only one thing: Ding-an-Sich, even though they are different. They are different because observers look at it differently. According to Hegel, it is possible to create one great thing by synthesizing two different things. He mentioned Christian world as a synthesis of Jewish ethics and Greek philosophy.

    Thus, with a Korean background, it is easy to place Taoism between Kant and Hegel. Instead of making making all things into one as Kant did, Taoists can put many different things into two groups. We can then invite Hegelianists to synthesize them into one.

    Albert Einstein started as a Kantianist. He studied Kant intensively during his high School years. This in why he thought things look differently to moving observers. However, he became a Hegelinist when he synthesized the physics of massive particles and that of massless particles, and when he synthesized particle nature and wave nature of the matter.

  • We can illustrate Kantianism, Taoism, and Hegelianism with the following table. It is then easy to see where Einsetinism stands.

  • We all know how Kant developed his philosophy based on his geographical environment. It is then easy to see how ancient Chinese developed their Taoism.

    Those Chinese from different areas wanted to communicate with others by drawing pictures. This is how Chinese characters were developed. They also sang to express their feelings to others. This is the reason why spoken Chinese language has tone.

  • Kant Museum in Kalininggrad (Koenigsberg before 1946) and Hegel Museum in Stuttgart (Germany). Kant and Hegel are born in Kaliningrad and Stuttgart respectively. Understandably those cities are proud of producing those two great philosophers, and maintain museums dedicate to them, namely Kant Museum in Kaliningrad and Hegel Museum in Stuttgart. I went to both places, and I was interested in books written about them displayed at the museums.

        One of the books on Kant written in English at the Kant Museum in Kaliningrad, Russia. This city used to be an East Prussian city of Koenigsberg until 1946. Kant spent his entire life of 80 years in this city.

        Books written on Hegel's philosophy in Japanese (standing) and Korean (flat) at the Hegel Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. This city is better known as the home base for Mercedes-Benz cars. Hegel was born in this city in 1770, but became big enough to become the chairman of the philosophy department at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

        Ronald Reagan was a movie actor before becoming a politician.
    1. I went to both places, and I was interested in books written about them displayed at the museums. There are books written in many different languages. At the Kant Museum, there are many books in Japanese, in addition to those in German and Russian. At Hegel Museum, there are many books written in German. There are also a number of books in Korean.

      Alas, in these museums, I was not able to see books in English. This presumably is the reason why Einstein was not able to talk with English-speaking Americans while in the United States. I assume this is the reason why American physicists could not locate Einstein's coordinate among philosophers.

    2. When I raise the issue of Kant and Hegel with my friends in philosophy, they tell me I do not know anything about their subject, and I should therefore shut up. However, I cannot understand how one can do philosophy without understanding Einstein.

    3. Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. He had an unusual professional background. He was a movie actor. Thus, reporters asked him how he became the president with this non-respectable background. Reagan's reply was very simple. "I do not know how one can become the president without acting background."

      With his acting background, he acted like a king throughout his presidency, and he became very popular among Americans. Washington's airport is called "Ronald Reagan Airport." Washington's largest office building carries his name.

  • Conclusion. I enjoyed being a Korean throughout my life in the United States. From their ancestors, Koreans inherited their great tradition. They work hard. The United Sates rewards hardworking individuals.

Acknowledgments

  • This page is based, in part, on the papers I published since 1973. I wrote many of those papers in collaboration with a number of co-authors, especially, Sibel Baskal, Elena Georgieva, Daesoo Han, Marilyn Noz, Seog Hwan Oh, and Dongchul Son. Michael Ruiz and Paul Hussar were my graduate students. They made key contributions to this program. I would like to thank them.

      I am the youngest person in this faculty photo of 1963. Click here for a full image of this photo.

      John Toll used to become very happy whenever I invited Eugene Wigner to Maryland. This photo was taken at the Chancellor's mansion in 1986.



      Wigner and Biedenharn (1988)

  • John S. Toll was the chairman of the physics department when I came to the University of Maryland in 1962. He was the president of the university when I was in contact with Eugene Wigner at Princeton from 1984 to 1991. He became very happy whenever Wigner visited the University of Maryland.

    When Louis Michel wrote him to tell Toll to fire me from the university, he did not know how much Toll liked me. As I said above, Michel was quite upset because I was going to Wigner's office without his clearance. Michel was behaving like King Herod, but I still like him.

    Earlier in 1962, I was the youngest faculty member at Toll's physics department. He assigned me as a servant to Paul A. M. Dirac when he visited the University of Maryland for one week. This gave me a great opportunity for me to be born again as a physicist who could continue his research for 60 years. Dirac was one of the greatest physicists in the 20th century, and I maintain a webpage dedicated to Dirac.

  • Lawrence C. Biedenharn was the editor of the Journal of Mathematical Physics when I was publishing papers with Wigner. I published two papers with Wigner in his journal. He accepted those papers without sending to referees. He was had enough professional background to understand and appreciate Wigner's mathematical approach to physics. Here is his photo with Wigner taken in 1988. Biedenharn was helpful to me in many other ways.

  • I would also like to thank Arthur Wightman and Louis Michel for teaching me the Wigner stuff. They became like King Herod when I approached Wigner without their clearance. What they did not know was that I was able to tell what Wigner wanted to hear. I still like both of them. They were not my enemies, but I love them.