In 1927 a young German physicist published a paper that would turn the scientific world on its head. Until that time, classical physics had assumed that when a particle’s position and velocity were known, its future trajectory could be calculated. Werner Heisenberg demonstrated that this condition was actually impossible:
…we cannot know with precision both a particle’s location and its velocity, and the more precisely we know the one, the less we can know the other. Five years later he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for having laid the foundations of quantum physics.
This discovery has all the hallmarks of a modern scientific breakthrough; so it may be surprising to learn that the uncertainty principle was intuited by Heisenberg’s contemporary, the Argentine poet and fiction writer Jorge Luis Borges, and predicted by philosophers centuries and even millenniums before him.
Read the rest of Borges, Paradox and Perception - NYTimes.com
William Egginton is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University. His most recent book is the forthcoming “The Man Who Invented Fiction: Cervantes in the Modern World.”