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Going to university in Germany


First success as a scientist
Edward Teller Scientist
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And I would like to tell you one of the problems I solved, of which I am prac- I am very proud, because- not only my solution but the way how I solved it, I found to my great pleasure a few years ago, has become a legend in Hungary. The problem was this: you have a glass of water and you have an ice cube floating into it- flowing- floating in it. Question: If the ice cube melts, otherwise no change in temperature, by how much will the level of water rise? Now, I remember clearly I read this and within a couple of seconds I heard a memo - a melody. I will not do the favor to you of singing it, I could, but it's a favor if I don't. Unfortunately, I can't even tell you the text because it's Hungarian. It's a famous Hungarian text and it is really a theorem. A body on the water will lose of its weight just as much as the weight of the displaced water, that is the melody. And of course, once you remember that, the rest is easy. Take out the ice cube, you leave a hole. Melt the ice cube, put it into the hole, the ice cube had floated, therefore it had to weigh just as much as the weight of the water that it has displaced. It became that water, and therefore it filled just that hole. And the answer to the question is: the level of water did not rise. That was, in a way, my first success as a scientist.

The late Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb and provided the theoretical framework for the hydrogen bomb. During his long and sometimes controversial career he was a staunch advocate of nuclear power and also of a strong defence policy, calling for the development of advanced thermonuclear weapons.

Listeners: John H. Nuckolls

John H. Nuckolls was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1988 to 1994. He joined the Laboratory in 1955, 3 years after its establishment, with a masters degree in physics from Columbia. He rose to become the Laboratory's Associate Director for Physics before his appointment as Director in 1988.

Nuckolls, a laser fusion and nuclear weapons physicist, helped pioneer the use of computers to understand and simulate physics phenomena at extremes of temperature, density and short time scales. He is internationally recognised for his work in the development and control of nuclear explosions and as a pioneer in the development of laser fusion.

Duration: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008