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Early resistance to black hole concept and some current thoughts


Tullio Regge. Work on black holes (Part 2)
John Wheeler Scientist
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Regge, because of his physical infirmity, realizes more than most of us that life is limited. He wants to squeeze as much as possible into it. So he has, among other things, designed a special kind of sofa cushion, which is artistic as well as comfortable, and some manufacturer makes it now. And he also got himself elected to the European Parliament. He had to run... he ran on the ticket of getting ramps for people with wheelchairs and all kinds of special helps in buildings so that the handicapped could get around as much as other people. The party that would back Regge on his proposals turned out to the Communist Party, so he became a Communist delegate. That was some years ago. When I saw him in Rome, in May of this year, he said that he's resigning from the European Parliament, he's giving up being a delegate and his activities all going to physics. But another thing he did was to act as co-author of a book with the great Italian writer, Primo Levi. He, in that, he tells coming to visit me in Leiden, there's not very much in it about this paper that we were working on, but he tells about the fireworks that I had succeeded in getting hold of and about how I could set them off in the grounds of the institute when we were working there, on a Sunday. But we didn't realize all the furor we would cause. The police force arrived, after we'd set them off. We had to convince them that we were not terrorists.

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: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008