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Chadwick and Goldhaber's work on deuteron disintegration


Heisenberg's theory on the composition of a nucleus
Hans Bethe Scientist
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Now, Heisenberg, as soon as the neutron had been discovered, wrote two very useful papers saying 'Well now we know how the nucleus is made up. It's made of neutrons and protons. They are substantial particles, they can very easily fit into the nucleus by wave mechanics. We can get their wave functions inside the nucleus. We can get their interaction.' And then after Heisenberg, Majorana improved that interaction, Wigner got into the act and suggested a third type of interaction. Heisenberg actually was wrong about the interaction he proposed. Majorana was the one most closely right, and so Peierls and I both began working on nuclear physics.

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: Werner Heisenberg, Ettore Majorana, Eugene Wigner, Rudi Peierls

Duration: 1 minute, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008