Quantum Profiles

Princeton University Press
2
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For the prominent science writer Jeremy Bernstein, the profile is the most congenial way of communicating science. Here, in what he labels a "series of conversations carried on in the reader's behalf and my own," he evokes the tremendous intellectual excitement of the world of modern physics, especially the quantum revolution. Drawing on his well-known talent for explaining the most complex scientific ideas for the layperson, Bernstein gives us a lively sense of what the issues of quantum mechanics are and of various ways in which individual physicists approached them.

The author begins this series of interconnected profiles by describing the life and work of John Stewart Bell, the brilliant physicist employed at the gigantic elementary particle laboratory near Geneva (CERN), whose "Bell's Inequality" inspired a generation of researchers to confront, by experiment, just how peculiar and counterintuitional quantum mechanics really is. Bernstein then discusses the career of the prodigiously active and creative John Archibald Wheeler, who worked in the beginning stages of almost every branch of contemporary physics and invented the terms "black hole," "ergo-sphere," "geon," "Planck length," and "stellarator." The book closes with a moving commentary on the correspondence, of fifty-two years duration, between Einstein and the gentle, talented, but little-known Swiss engineer Michele Angelo Besso. "Of all the Einstein letters I have read these are surely the most striking, on a purely human level," writes Bernstein of the Einstein-Besso correspondence. "Einstein was not given to close friendships--`the merely personal,' as he once put it--but these letters are filled with `the merely personal,' even though the deep issues of physics and its philosophy are never very far away."

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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Nov 1, 1990
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9781400820542
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Jeremy Bernstein
When plutonium was first manufactured at Berkeley in the spring of 1941, there was so little of it that it was not visible to the naked eye. It took a year to accumulate enough so that one could actually see it. Now there is so much that we don’t know what to do to get rid of it. We have created a monster.

The history of plutonium is as strange as the element itself. When scientists began looking for it, they did so simply in the spirit of inquiry, not certain whether there were still spots to fill on the periodic table. But the discovery of fission made it clear that this still-hypothetical element would be more than just a scientific curiosityâ€"it could be a powerful nuclear weapon.

As it turned out, it is good for almost nothing else. Plutonium’s nuclear potential put it at the heart of the World War II arms raceâ€"the Russians found out about it through espionage, the Germans through independent research, and everybody wanted some. Now, nearly everyone has someâ€"the United States alone has about 47 metric tonsâ€"but it has almost no uses besides warmongering. How did the product of scientific curiosity become such a dangerous burden?

In his new history of this complex and dangerous element, noted physicist Jeremy Bernstein describes the steps that were taken to transform plutonium from a laboratory novelty into the nuclear weapon that destroyed Nagasaki. This is the first book to weave together the many strands of plutonium’s story, explaining not only the science but the people involved.

Jeremy Bernstein
When plutonium was first manufactured at Berkeley in the spring of 1941, there was so little of it that it was not visible to the naked eye. It took a year to accumulate enough so that one could actually see it. Now there is so much that we don’t know what to do to get rid of it. We have created a monster.

The history of plutonium is as strange as the element itself. When scientists began looking for it, they did so simply in the spirit of inquiry, not certain whether there were still spots to fill on the periodic table. But the discovery of fission made it clear that this still-hypothetical element would be more than just a scientific curiosity—it could be a powerful nuclear weapon.

As it turned out, it is good for almost nothing else. Plutonium’s nuclear potential put it at the heart of the World War II arms race—the Russians found out about it through espionage, the Germans through independent research, and everybody wanted some. Now, nearly everyone has some—the United States alone has about 47 metric tons—but it has almost no uses besides warmongering. How did the product of scientific curiosity become such a dangerous burden?

In his new history of this complex and dangerous element, noted physicist Jeremy Bernstein describes the steps that were taken to transform plutonium from a laboratory novelty into the nuclear weapon that destroyed Nagasaki. This is the first book to weave together the many strands of plutonium’s story, explaining not only the science but the people involved.
Jeremy Bernstein
Over the years, Jeremy Bernstein has been in contact with many of the world’s most renowned physicists and other scientists, many of whom were involved in politics, literature, and language. In this diverse collection of essays, he reflects on their work, their personal relationships, their motives, and their contributions. Even for those people he writes about that he did not know personally, he provides important insights into their lives and work, and questions their character, their decisions, and the lives they led.

In the first three essays, Professor Bernstein looks at economic theory and how some physicists who developed interesting economic models based on derivatives and hedge funds almost led to the country into bankruptcy. In later essays, he discusses a suspect visit to Poland by the great Heisenberg during the Nazi era, a visit that there is almost nothing written about.

Included also are essays on ancient languages and a nuclear weapons program in South Africa that was supposedly dismantled. In one particularly humorous essay, he describes how an ill-conceived manned spaceship to be powered by an atomic bomb was being developed by some of the country’s most powerful intellects. The project never got off the ground.

Dipping into these pages is like rummaging around in the mind of a genius who has a potpourri of interests and an abundance of fascinating experiences. Bernstein has not only rubbed elbows with some of the finest minds in world, he has worked and played with them. He has sometimes mourned with them and laughed at them. His sharp wit and even sharper analysis make for a fascinating read.

Jeremy Bernstein
Over the years, Jeremy Bernstein has been in contact with many of the world’s most renowned physicists and other scientists, many of whom were involved in politics, literature, and language. In this diverse collection of essays, he reflects on their work, their personal relationships, their motives, and their contributions. Even for those people he writes about that he did not know personally, he provides important insights into their lives and work, and questions their character, their decisions, and the lives they led.

In the first three essays, Professor Bernstein looks at economic theory and how some physicists who developed interesting economic models based on derivatives and hedge funds almost led to the country into bankruptcy. In later essays, he discusses a suspect visit to Poland by the great Heisenberg during the Nazi era, a visit that there is almost nothing written about.

Included also are essays on ancient languages and a nuclear weapons program in South Africa that was supposedly dismantled. In one particularly humorous essay, he describes how an ill-conceived manned spaceship to be powered by an atomic bomb was being developed by some of the country’s most powerful intellects. The project never got off the ground.

Dipping into these pages is like rummaging around in the mind of a genius who has a potpourri of interests and an abundance of fascinating experiences. Bernstein has not only rubbed elbows with some of the finest minds in world, he has worked and played with them. He has sometimes mourned with them and laughed at them. His sharp wit and even sharper analysis make for a fascinating read.

Jeremy Bernstein
When plutonium was first manufactured at Berkeley in the spring of 1941, there was so little of it that it was not visible to the naked eye. It took a year to accumulate enough so that one could actually see it. Now there is so much that we don’t know what to do to get rid of it. We have created a monster.

The history of plutonium is as strange as the element itself. When scientists began looking for it, they did so simply in the spirit of inquiry, not certain whether there were still spots to fill on the periodic table. But the discovery of fission made it clear that this still-hypothetical element would be more than just a scientific curiosityâ€"it could be a powerful nuclear weapon.

As it turned out, it is good for almost nothing else. Plutonium’s nuclear potential put it at the heart of the World War II arms raceâ€"the Russians found out about it through espionage, the Germans through independent research, and everybody wanted some. Now, nearly everyone has someâ€"the United States alone has about 47 metric tonsâ€"but it has almost no uses besides warmongering. How did the product of scientific curiosity become such a dangerous burden?

In his new history of this complex and dangerous element, noted physicist Jeremy Bernstein describes the steps that were taken to transform plutonium from a laboratory novelty into the nuclear weapon that destroyed Nagasaki. This is the first book to weave together the many strands of plutonium’s story, explaining not only the science but the people involved.

Jeremy Bernstein
When plutonium was first manufactured at Berkeley in the spring of 1941, there was so little of it that it was not visible to the naked eye. It took a year to accumulate enough so that one could actually see it. Now there is so much that we don’t know what to do to get rid of it. We have created a monster.

The history of plutonium is as strange as the element itself. When scientists began looking for it, they did so simply in the spirit of inquiry, not certain whether there were still spots to fill on the periodic table. But the discovery of fission made it clear that this still-hypothetical element would be more than just a scientific curiosity—it could be a powerful nuclear weapon.

As it turned out, it is good for almost nothing else. Plutonium’s nuclear potential put it at the heart of the World War II arms race—the Russians found out about it through espionage, the Germans through independent research, and everybody wanted some. Now, nearly everyone has some—the United States alone has about 47 metric tons—but it has almost no uses besides warmongering. How did the product of scientific curiosity become such a dangerous burden?

In his new history of this complex and dangerous element, noted physicist Jeremy Bernstein describes the steps that were taken to transform plutonium from a laboratory novelty into the nuclear weapon that destroyed Nagasaki. This is the first book to weave together the many strands of plutonium’s story, explaining not only the science but the people involved.
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