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Documents the 1932 gathering of some forty of the world's top names in physics, placing the meeting against a backdrop of key scientific developments while citing the contributions of specific figures and offering insight into how their unsuspecting collaborations gave way to subsequent historical events.
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Gino SegrĂ¨ is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. An internationally renowned expert on high-energy elementary-particle theoretical physics, he is the author of A Matter of Degrees: What Temperature Reveals About the Past and Future of Our Species, Planet, and Universe. He has received awards from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. Segrč (A Matter of Degrees) once again applies a human scale to important physics topics in a way that's as informative and accessible as it is appealing. Beginning in 1929, Niels Bohr hosted an annual gathering in Copenhagen for his fellow physicists, where they joked and argued about the new theory of quantum mechanics. Tradition demanded that the younger physicists entertain with a skit, and in 1932, the centenary of Goethe's death, the entertainment was Max Delbrück's parody of Faust, with the proponents of classical physics and the new quantum mechanics fighting for primacy. The discovery of the neutron and the positron had disturbed classical atomic theory, while quantum mechanics raised troubling issues, such as how one could find the true position of an electron and how the photon could be both a particle and a wave. Segrč brings the scientists and their ideas to vivid life, from convivial Bohr and iconoclastic Wolfgang Pauli (nicknamed "Scourge of God"), to emotionally guarded Werner Heisenberg, gracious Lise Meitner, reclusive Paul Dirac and others, as well as the consequences of their discoveries. For after 1932 came Hitler and WWII, and a new physics that could never be as intimate, or as innocent, as it had once been. (June 18)
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