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Spanish-American war cannon


Setting off bottle rockets to celebrate discoveries
John Wheeler Scientist
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Well, how can you celebrate if somebody makes a discovery, unless you do set off a rocket. And you light the rocket, you put it on the floor, and it goes down the corridor, spewing out smoke and all the secretaries come to their door and see this smoke laden hallway, and go back inside. And the rocket gets all the way down the end of the hall, goes off with a bang. And you've really celebrated your friend's discovery. And I keep a rocket in my office, even now, in hopes that somebody will come in and tell me about some discovery. What will it take to set off that rocket, what kind of discovery? Well, I always liked those words of the philosopher of science; the importance of a discovery is proportional to the surprise it causes. So, I'm ready for any surprise.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 1 minute, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008