His paper, posted to the physics archive in January, resembles Dr. Jacobson’s in many ways, but Dr. Verlinde bristles when people say he has added nothing new to Dr. Jacobson’s analysis. What is new, he said, is the idea that differences in entropy can be the driving mechanism behind gravity, that gravity is, as he puts it [is] an “entropic force.”
That inspiration came to him courtesy of a thief.
As he was about to go home from a vacation in the south of France last summer, a thief broke into his room and stole his laptop, his keys, his passport, everything. “I had to stay a week longer,” he said, “I got this idea.”
Up the beach, his brother got a series of e-mail messages first saying that he had to stay longer, then that he had a new idea and finally, on the third day, that he knew how to derive Newton’s laws from first principles, at which point Herman recalled thinking, “What’s going on here? What has he been drinking?”
When they talked the next day it all made more sense, at least to Herman. “It’s interesting,” Herman said, “how having to change plans can lead to different thoughts.”