Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Selling your soul for a couple of lousy positrons (Science & Imagination)
Today's Science Times has an interview with Gino Segre, a physicist and science historian. Most recently he wrote Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics, about the landmark 1932 conference of physicists organized by Neils Bohr. Just as the Nazi's rose to power and were to physically displace most of these scientists, the positron was being discovered, and an understanding of nuclear physics was beginning to gel. These great creative thinkers not only exchanged ideas, they also staged a pastiche of Faust in honor of 100th anniversary of Goethe's death, starring Neils Bohr as Mephistopheles. The war soon incited by the Nazis was to hasten the creation of the Atom Bomb. Segre's book seems to take the meeting of the scientific and the artistic one step further, in presenting nuclear physics as the ultimate knowledge Faust sold his soul to attain. Here is Segre's own summary of the book, it sounds like something just up my street - I'm going to have to get a copy.
And if you want to see what the latest Fausts are up to - check out this post at 3 Quarks Daily on the Large Hadron Collider. 20 years and $8 billion in the making, it was created for the purpose of discovering, or should I say revealing, a particle called the Boson; it is 17 miles in circumfrence.