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The statistics of masses of neutron stars


The formation of binary neutron stars
Hans Bethe Scientist
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If you have a binary of helium stars, that is stars which don't contain hydrogen any more but only helium, or white dwarfs if you like, then one of them will be a little bit bigger and it will become a supernova; but the helium star - white dwarf - has only a very tiny atmosphere so the younger star which is... which is still a helium star doesn't have much density in the neighborhood of the older star which has just become a supernova. So now this supernova which becomes a neutron star is not exposed to a great deal of... of matter around it and it can survive. That is Gerry Brown's theory of the formation of binaries of neutron stars. There could also be a binary containing one white dwarf and one neutron star. So while this has been accepted by van den Heuvel and other astrophysicists and is certainly very persuasive to me, it gives about the right number of binary neutron stars in the galaxy, the right frequency of occurrence.

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: EPJ van den Heuvel, Gerald Brown

Duration: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008