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Hoping high energy physics would be the key to nuclear forces


Resonance for neutral pi mesons
Hans Bethe Scientist
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Well, our role at the time was to produce mesons, pi mesons, by the interaction of electrons with nuclei, and indeed the Cornell machine was able to do that. And it showed that the interaction was increasing with electron energy, and it looked as if we were building up to a resonance. But we weren't quite there. But Berkeley, which was building a synchrocyclotron using Macmillan's ideas, got going a little earlier and I believe it was Wilson giving advice to Macmillan just how to get his cyclotron really operating, and then that cyclotron scooped us in produce... in showing the resonance in the interaction between pi mesons and protons. That was work done by Macmillan, Alvarez, and Panofsky, which showed the resonance for neutral pi mesons.

The late German-American physicist Hans Bethe once described himself as the H-bomb's midwife. He left Nazi Germany in 1933, after which he helped develop the first atomic bomb, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his contribution to the theory of nuclear reactions, advocated tighter controls over nuclear weapons and campaigned vigorously for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: Cornell Electron-positron Storage Ring, CESR, Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory, Cornell University, Berkeley, Edwin McMillan, Luis Alvarez, Wolfgang KH Panofsky

Duration: 1 minute, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008