nuclear physics

Lev Artsimovich, the Father of the Tokamak

Lev Artsimovich, the Father of the Tokamak

On February 25, 1909, Soviet physicist Lev Artsimovich was born. Artsimovich worked on the field of nuclear fusion and plasma physics and is best known for providing the basis of the Tokamak, a device capable of confining ultra-high temperature plasma suitable for research into controlled nuclear fusion. “Science is a way to pursue one’s sense of inquiry at the expense of the State.” — Lev Artsimovich, as quoted by E.E. Kintner in…
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Robert Hofstadter and controlled Nuclear Fission

Robert Hofstadter and controlled Nuclear Fission

On February 5, 1915, American physicist Robert Hofstadter was born. He was the joint winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics (together with Rudolf Mössbauer) “for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and for his consequent discoveries concerning the structure of nucleons“. He revealed the hitherto unknown structure of these particles and helped create an identifying order for subatomic particles. He also correctly predicted the existence of the…
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Faster than the Speed of Light – Pavel Cherenkov and the Cherenkov Radiation

Faster than the Speed of Light – Pavel Cherenkov and the Cherenkov Radiation

On July 15, 1904, Soviet physicist Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov was born. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1958 with Ilya Frank [4] and Igor Tamm for the discovery of Cherenkov radiation, made in 1934. Cherenkov radiation is a faint blue light emitted by electrons passing through a transparent medium when their speed exceeds the speed of light in that medium. This sounds pretty weird, doesn’t it. With Einstein he have learned…
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William Penney and the British Nuclear Programme

William Penney and the British Nuclear Programme

On June 24, 1909, English mathematician William George Penney, Baron Penney , was born. He is acknowledged as having had a leading role in the development of Britain’s nuclear programme, a clandestine programme started in 1942 during World War II which produced the first British atomic bomb in 1952. William Penney – Early Years William Penney was raised in Sheerness, Kent, and attended the local technical school in Colchester where he completed his technical…
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Aage Niels Bohr and the Understanding of the Nuclear Structure

Aage Niels Bohr and the Understanding of the Nuclear Structure

On June 19, 1922, Danish nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate Aage Niels Bohr was born, son of the famous physicist and Nobel laureate Niels Bohr. Aage Bohr shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Physics with Ben R. Mottelson and James Rainwater “for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection.” “The…
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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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George Gamow and his fundamental Views on the Foundations of Science

George Gamow and his fundamental Views on the Foundations of Science

On March 4, 1904, theoretical physicist and cosmologist George Gamow was born. He was an early advocate and developer of George Lemaître’s Big Bang theory. Besides his contributions to physics, in his middle and late career, Gamow focused more on teaching, and became well known as an author of popular books on science, which are still in print more than 50 years after their publication. “There was a young fellow from Trinity,…
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Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds – The Trinity Test

Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds – The Trinity Test

On July 16, 1945, the first detonation of a nuclear device with the code name Trinity took place in the Jornada del Muerto desert in New Mexico. Although nuclear chain reactions had been hypothesized already in 1933 and the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction (Chicago Pile-1) had taken place in December 1942, the date of the Trinity test is usually considered to be the beginning of the Atomic Age. Los Alamos director…
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Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker – The Responsibility of Science in the Atomic Age

Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker – The Responsibility of Science in the Atomic Age

On June 28, 1912, German physicist at philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker was born. Being a member of the team of physicists, who under Werner Heisenberg‘s lead performed nuclear research in Germany during World War 2, Weizsäcker later made important theoretical discoveries regarding energy production in stars from nuclear fusion processes. He also did influential theoretical work on planetary formation in the early Solar System. “It’s useful when we learn to wonder…
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