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Armour penetration


The use of my paper on shockwaves with Edward Teller
Hans Bethe Scientist
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So we wrote a paper together and since that was obviously of interest for aviation and probably for the coming war it was never published. It was printed and distributed by the Aberdeen Proving Ground arm of the US Army and I guess we could get copies of it. It was not classified, that is it was not officially secret, but it could not be published in a journal. It has not been published to the present day in any journal, but it has been published in independent pamphlets and it was the starting point for many experimental investigations after the war. In fact shock waves were used as a means to study the rate of chemical reactions in air, and it could also be used for other gases. In particular Arthur Kantrowitz made a life work out of this and studied the rate of molecule... of chemical reactions and similar things in various gases by using our paper.

[Q] You actually also write at this very same time and connected with the same project a paper on shock waves in systems with specified equations of state, I mean more general investigation of...

I did that, encouraged especially by John von Neumann who was deep in war work from the very beginning and it's not a terribly important paper. But I found one curious point, namely in a shock wave normally the matter is compressed, but if you take water between 0oC and 4oC, then it expands under a shock wave.

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: US Army, WWII, Edward Teller, John von Neumann

Duration: 2 minutes, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008