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The absorption of light by electrons and the Franck-Condon Principle


Political persuasions (Part 2)
Edward Teller Scientist
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The decisive point. Landau, a real communist, had been arrested by Stalin as a western spy. I heard some rumors before that. I did not hear a simple fact as impressive as that and as close to me as that and I can tell you, my final decision came even later and I'm now deviating from telling you things in proper se- time sequence. In the early '40s, I think actually in '43, after coming to Los Alamos, I read a book by a very wonderful Hungarian author, in English. The name: Arthur Koestler. The title: "Darkness at Noon". I don't remember another occasion where one book influenced me so thoroughly. I now know that Koestler had been a convinced communist, had worked for them for years and then turned against them and wrote this book. "Darkness at Noon". Noon. The triumph of communism in Russia, but darkness. The book is about a man like Landau, not Landau, arrested by Stalin's apparatus. And the book is really wonderful, because you could read three-quarters of it and you see the problem, you see the accusations, you hear the defense and if you pay attention to nothing but the book, you have no conclusion. You don't know who is right and you don't know who is wrong. And then you read the last quarter and it becomes clear, without any doubt, that Stalin and communism in the Soviet Union is the worst kind of dictatorship. Precisely because the book emphasizes doubts, causes the reader - if he's at all inclined to do so - causes the reader to think and gives the answers only at the end. In a way, that is an approach, not so very different from the approach in physics where the new science of quantum mechanics did arise, not as a simple, straightforward proof, but connected with a lot of doubts and giving the answer to that doubt. I read that book in the first month, the first few weeks I spent in Los Alamos in the early '40s - early month of '43. By the time I started to work very seriously on the atomic bomb, I was an anticommunist. But that followed a period of well over a decade where I was looking and searching for an answer.

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: 5 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008