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Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle


Professor Kobe (Part 2)
Edward Teller Scientist
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How do you prepare? Well, a very important part of my preparation was that I talked to students who took that examination from Kobe on earlier occasions. And then I also talk- read a very nice book by Bieberbach on the theory of functions, which I greatly enjoyed. And, at the proper day, I went to see Kobe. And he started by asking me one or two trivial questions, not much more difficult in the theory of functions, how much is two and two? That, I knew. Then, Kobe says- Now, talk about whatever you like. And for that, I was prepared. Because I found out by talking with others who took the examination, that he almost always asked that question. I know precisely what I talked about. The theory of functions really works in the complex plane, where a number is given. For instance, like 5 + 7 x i, where i is the square root of -1, which in a common sense of the word does not exist, and is defined like i- as i. And what a function in the complex plane does is to transform the complex plane, the points in the complex plane, from one configuration to the other, all right? I talk of a function, f(x) . Then x has a position in the complex plane, and f(x) another position. And in this way, a region in the complex plane, by the function, is transformed into another region. Now, I set out to prove a theorem that if you have any simply connected region in the complex plane, essentially one without holes in it, then you can find the function - an analytic function - a function that satisfies certain simple criteria, which tram-transforms that comple- complex system without a hole in it. Transforms it into the interior of the unit- unit circle. Beautiful proof. I talked and I talked and I talked, for much more than half an hour. And Kobe sat there and listened. And he asked- Where did you get that proof? I said- I got it from the book of Bieberbach, the common textbook. - Ah, you got it from Bieberbach. I suppose you know that I was the first one to prove that theorem? I said- Yes sir, I know that. I did not add- and that's why I talked about it. I won - I got my good grade.

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: 3 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008