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The structure of molecules (Part 2)


The structure of molecules (Part 1)
Edward Teller Scientist
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I want to talk to you about one application of my early work on these electronic excitations, followed by vibration. One work which I believe is quite amusing in connection with one of the classical problems of the structure of molecules. I am talking about benzene. What is benzene? Six carbon atoms in an exact hexagon with six hydrogen atoms hanging out, again same six-fold symmetry, all in a plane. The classically accepted formula for that molecule was something a little peculiar. Not one formula but two. Of the six carbon atoms, the six carbon atoms are alternately connected with single bonds repres- representing a pair of electrons and double bonds representing two pairs of electrons. Now, this you can do, obviously, in two ways. Double bond, single bond, double bond, single bond, double bond, single bond, back to double bond. Or the opposite. Single bond, double bond, single bond, double bond, single bond, double bond, single bond.

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

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008