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Writing two articles for Handbuch der Physik


Writing an article for Handbuch der Physik
Hans Bethe Scientist
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I was asked to write an article for the big Handbuch der Physik by Geiger and Scheel, and to write an article about one and two electron problems. And in this I brought together everything that was known about the quantum treatment not only of hydrogen, but also of two electron problems. I had done the hydrogen negative ion, I had been very interested in the Hartree approach of... to heavier atoms where you use the charge distribution of all other electrons to make the potential for any one electron. In fact I was interested in that from the beginning and Ewald had made me even more interested in it. So I wrote a Handbuch article of some 300 pages on this subject. I brought together the theory of the hydrogen atom, including the continuum wave functions, the optical properties, or some rules... sum rule of oscillator strength, sum rule oscillator strength times energies difference, and so on. And then the collision problem... everything I knew about the collision problems from my work, and in addition polarization of the radiation which is emitted after an electron collision. So I put in absolutely everything that I knew.

[Q] Stark effect, Zeeman effect, fine structure, hyperfine structure.

Indeed. All of these, the Stark effect and Zeeman effect in particular, including Stark effect in very strong fields.

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: Handbuch der Physik, Karl Scheel, Hans Geiger

Duration: 2 minutes, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008