physics

John Tyndall and the Physics of Air

John Tyndall and the Physics of Air

On August 2, 1820, British physicist John Tyndall was born. His initial scientific fame arose in the 1850s from his study of diamagnetism. Later he made discoveries in the realms of infrared radiation and the physical properties of air. As the most prominent example, he was able to demonstrate why the sky is blue. “Every occurrence in Nature is preceded by other occurrences which are its causes, and succeeded by others which are…
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Emil Jannings and the Very First Academy Award

Emil Jannings and the Very First Academy Award

On July 23, 1884, German actor Emil Jannings was born. Jannings is best known for his collaborations with F. W. Murnau [2] and Josef von Sternberg, including 1930’s The Blue Angel, with Marlene Dietrich. He was the first Oscar recipient, honored with the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 1929 ceremony. Jannings is the only German ever to have won that award. “We can only realize the shadows of our dreams.” –…
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Samuel Goudsmit and the Electron Spin

Samuel Goudsmit and the Electron Spin

On July 11, 1902, Dutch-born U.S. physicist Samuel Abraham Goudsmit was born. He is best known for the formulation of the concept of electron spin together with George Eugene Uhlenbeck. It led to recognition that spin was a property of protons, neutrons, and most elementary particles and to a fundamental change in the mathematical structure of quantum mechanics. “I did all the problems a little different from the rest of the class.” –…
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John Wheeler and the Golden Age of General Relativity

John Wheeler and the Golden Age of General Relativity

On July 9, 1911, American theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler was born. Wheeler worked with Niels Bohr in explaining the basic principles behind nuclear fission as well as with Albert Einstein, with whom he tried to achieve Einstein’s vision of a unified field theory. He is also known for popularizing the term black hole, and for coining the terms quantum foam, and wormhole. Background John Wheeler John Archibald Wheeler grew up in a Unitarian…
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Lion Feuchtwanger and his Ardous Path of Knowledge

Lion Feuchtwanger and his Ardous Path of Knowledge

On July 7, 1884, German-Jewish novelist and playwright Lion Feuchtwanger was born. A prominent figure in the literary world of Weimar Germany, he is best known today for his novel Jud Süß and is considered one of the most widely read German-language authors of the 20th century, whose work influenced contemporary playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht.[1] “Thoughts about what you should have done and what you shouldn’t have done, they lead nowhere.” …
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Hans Bethe and the Energy of the Stars

Hans Bethe and the Energy of the Stars

On July 2, 1906, German and American nuclear physicist and Nobel Laureate Hans Albrecht Bethe was born. Bethe helped to shape classical physics into quantum physics and increased the understanding of the atomic processes responsible for the properties of matter and of the forces governing the structures of atomic nuclei. Hans Bethe Background Hans Bethe entered the University of Frankfurt in 1924, majoring in chemistry. However, after a few semesters, he was advised…
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Martin Perl and the Tau Particle

Martin Perl and the Tau Particle

On June 24, 1927, American physicist and Nobel Laureate Martin Lewis Perl was born. He is best known for his discovery of the tau lepton, a subatomic massive particle with a negative charge. The tau, which he found in the mid-1970s, was the first evidence of a third “generation” of fundamental particles. Tau Lepton The tau lepton (τ, also called the tau particle, tauon or simply tau) is an elementary particle similar…
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James Clerk Maxwell and the Electromagnetic Fields

James Clerk Maxwell and the Electromagnetic Fields

On June 13, 1831, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell was born. His most prominent achievement was formulating a set of equations that united previously unrelated observations, experiments, and equations of electricity, magnetism, and optics into a consistent theory. According to his theory he has demonstrated that electricity, magnetism and light are all manifestations of the same phenomenon, namely the electromagnetic field. This has been called the “second great unification in physics”, after…
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Robert Mulliken and the Molecular Orbitals

Robert Mulliken and the Molecular Orbitals

On June 7, 1896, American physicist, chemist, and Nobel Laureate Robert Sonderson Mulliken was born. He is primarily responsible for the early development of molecular orbital theory, i.e. the elaboration of the molecular orbital method of computing the structure of molecules. “…the more accurate the calculations became, the more the concepts tended to vanish into thin air.” — Robert Mulliken, about using old-fashioned chemistry to describe molecular structure, in Molecular Scientists and…
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Nicolas Sadi Carnot and the Science of Thermodynamics

Nicolas Sadi Carnot and the Science of Thermodynamics

On June 1, 1796, French military engineer and physicist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot was born. He is often described as the “father of thermodynamics“. In particular, Carnot gave the first successful theory of the maximum efficiency of heat engines. Carnot’s work attracted little attention during his lifetime, but it was later used by Rudolf Clausius and Lord Kelvin to formalize the second law of thermodynamics and define the concept of entropy. Carnot Background Sadi…
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