Bulletin of the American Physical Society
APS April Meeting 2010
Volume 55, Number 1
Saturday–Tuesday, February 13–16, 2010; Washington, DC
Session H10: History of Physics Contributed Papers |
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Sponsoring Units: FHP Chair: David Cassidy, Hofstra University Room: Maryland B |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 10:45AM - 10:57AM |
H10.00001: Did Minkowski Change his Mind about Noneuclidean Symmetry in Special Relativity? Felix T. Smith Minkowski (M.) observed in 1907 that the symmetry of relativistic velocity space is the same as that of noneuclidean geometry. He withheld this text from publication, but Sommerfeld published it 6 years after he died, Ann. Phys. (4)\textbf{ 47}, 927 (1915), [1]. Six weeks later in a long, careful article, G\"{o}tt. Nach. (1908) 53, [2], M. made only a much weaker statement about the noneuclidean parallel. In [3], Phys. Zeitschr.\textbf{ 10}, 104 (1909), he avoided the issue entirely. M's reasons for the changes have never been known. I now show that a key equation in [1] had an error in sign, undetected by Sommerfeld or other commentators, which M. evidently soon saw. This error had led to omitting the factor $\beta =\left( {1-v^2/c^2} \right)^{-1/2}$ in the relativistic velocity ${\rm {\bf u}}={\rm {\bf p}}/m_0 =\beta {\rm {\bf v}}=\beta {\rm {\bf \dot {x}}}$. With the error corrected, it became clear that while velocity is constrained to a negative-curvature 3-space, space-time is a flat 4-space. The changes between [1], [2] and [3] will be discussed in the light of M's evolving understanding, his different intended audiences, and the possibility that he chose to defer the noneuclidean aspects of velocity and of space-time for later treatment. [Preview Abstract] |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 10:57AM - 11:09AM |
H10.00002: Ettore Majorana and the birth of autoionization Ennio Arimondo, Charles W. Clark, William C. Martin In some of the first applications of modern quantum mechanics to the spectroscopy of many-electron atoms, Ettore Majorana in 1931 solved several outstanding problems by developing the theory of autoionization [1]. Later literature makes only sporadic references to this accomplishment. After reviewing his work in its contemporary context, we describe subsequent developments in understanding the spectra treated by Majorana, and extensions of his theory to other areas of physics. We find several puzzles concerning the treatment of Majorana's work in the subsequent literature and the way in which the modern theory of autoionization was developed. \newline \newline [1] The relevant papers are those numbered 3 and 5 in the convenient collection, {\em Ettore Majorana Scientific Papers: On the occasion of the centenary of his birth}, ed. G. F. Bassani {\em et al.} (SIF, Bologna 2006), where they are accompanied by English translations and commentary. The originals are, respectively, ``I presunti termini anomali dell'elio," E. Majorana, {\em Il Nuovo Cimento} {\bf 8}, 78 (1931) and ``Teoria dei tripletti {\em P'} incompleti," E. Majorana, {\em Il Nuovo Cimento} {\bf 8}, 107 (1931). [Preview Abstract] |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 11:09AM - 11:21AM |
H10.00003: Llewellyn Hilleth Thomas: An appraisal of an under-appreciated polymath John David Jackson Llewellyn Hilleth Thomas was born in 1903 and died in 1992 at the age of 88. His name is known by most for only two things, Thomas precession and the Thomas-Fermi atom. The many other facets of his career - astrophysics, atomic and molecular physics, nonlinear problems, accelerator physics, magnetohydrodynamics, computer design principles and software and hardware - are largely unknown or forgotten. I review his whole career - his early schooling, his time at Cambridge, then Copenhagen in 1925-26, and back to Cambridge, his move to the US as an assistant professor at Ohio State University in 1929, his wartime years at the Ballistic Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, then in 1946 his new career as a unique resource at IBM's Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory and Columbia University until his first retirement in 1968, and his twilight years at North Carolina State University. Although the Thomas precession and the Thomas-Fermi atom may be the jewels in his crown, his many other accomplishments add to our appreciation of this consummate applied mathematician and physicist. [Preview Abstract] |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 11:21AM - 11:33AM |
H10.00004: The Washington Conference on Theoretical Physics: Bringing the Spirit of Copenhagen to Foggy Bottom Paul Halpern When George Gamow was offered a position at George Washington University in 1934, one of the conditions he set for acceptance was the establishment of an annual physics conference at that university, co-sponsored by the Carnegie Institution. Foggy Bottom, the Washington neighborhood where GWU is located, was not particularly known for physics. Gamow, however, wished to bring the ``spirit of Copenhagen'' to that locale and attract an international group of theorists. The Washington Conference on Theoretical Physics first convened in 1935 and assembled annually until 1947, except for a three year break during the war. Ironically, just like the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen itself, the conference was galvanized the most by Bohr's actual presence. In its fifth, and best known meeting, held in 1939, Bohr stunned the audience when he announced the successful completion of nuclear fission. After the tenth meeting in 1947, Gamow's focus had been turning from nuclear physics to cosmology, he had begun to work more closely with graduate students and local collaborators and, in light of diminished interest, the conference was no longer held. In this talk I will delineate the successes and limitations of the Washington Conference on Theoretical Physics. [Preview Abstract] |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 11:33AM - 11:45AM |
H10.00005: Bullion to B-fields: The Silver Program of the Manhattan Project Cameron Reed Between October 1942 and September 1944, over 14,000 tons of silver bullion bars withdrawn from the U. S. Treasury were melted and cast into magnet coils and busbar pieces for the ``calutron'' electromagnetic isotope-separators constructed at Oak Ridge. Based on Manhattan Engineer District documents, this paper will review the history of this ``Silver Program,'' including discussions of the contractors, production methods, and quantities of material involved. [Preview Abstract] |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 11:45AM - 11:57AM |
H10.00006: What I have learned in reading and writing history of physics Harry Lustig After a fifteen year end-of-career excursion into reading and writing in the history of physics, I will give a personal talk about what I have learned, both the good and the bad. Historians do have a problem, to give an account of history (to quote Leopold von Ranke) ``how it actually has been.'' Sometimes we don't and can't know what actually happened in which case it is admissible and tempting to speculate. It is not all right to assert that such and such must have happened. The worst offense, in my opinion, is for authors to tailor their work so as to ``prove'' a pre-conceived thesis. Names will be named. [Preview Abstract] |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 11:57AM - 12:09PM |
H10.00007: Twist `til we tear the house down: How Clifford solved the universe in 1870 James Beichler It is commonly believed that the first hyperspace theories in physics were developed in the early twentieth century - Kaluza's five-dimensional extension of relativity is the best known, but this is untrue. It is also commonly believed that W.K. Clifford `speculated' on a higher space in 1870, had no followers and never published his theory (if he even had one). Nothing could be further from the historical truth. As early as 1869, Clifford, his followers and students began to develop a physical theory of matter based on a three-dimensional space curved in four dimensions. Clifford began to publish his theory, but modern researchers have failed to recognize his theoretical work because they look for something like Einstein's theory even though Clifford developed an electromagnetic theory. Clifford may not have directly influenced Einstein's relativity, but he made plausible arguments for the reality of space curvature, rendering the rapid acceptance of Einstein's concept of curved space-time more plausible. Clifford's work is either largely ignored by historians, scientists and other scholars or considered irrelevant because the early work on hyperspaces has been associated with ether theories that were abandoned, utilized quaternion algebras that were replaced by vectors and tensors, and was unfortunately associated with spiritualism. [Preview Abstract] |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 12:09PM - 12:21PM |
H10.00008: A Historical View of Kirchhoff's Black Body Universal Distribution Function $\left( K_{\lambda }\right) $ Clarence A. Gall Stefan (1879) established experimentally that Kirchhoff's total emitted intensity $K=\int_{0}^{\infty }K_{\lambda }d\lambda =\sigma T^{4}$. Boltzmann (1884) derived this result from classical thermodynamic principles. V A Michelson (1887) first defined $K_{\lambda }=c_{1}\lambda ^{-6}T^{\frac{3}{2}}e^{-\left ( \frac{c_{2}}{\lambda ^{2}T}\right) }$. Weber suggested $K_ {\lambda }=c_{1}\lambda ^{-2}e^{\left[ c_{3}T-\left( \frac{c_ {2}}{\lambda ^{2}T^{2}}\right) \right] }$. Experimentally, Wien's displacement law required $\lambda _{m}T=b$. Paschen (1896) thus proposed $K_{\lambda }=c_{1}\lambda ^{-\gamma }e^{- \left( \frac{c_{2}}{\lambda T}\right) }$ with $5<\gamma <6$. Compatibility with Stefan-Boltzmann's Law led to the value $\gamma =5$ in Wien's solution. Planck's solution $\left( K_ {\lambda }=c_{1}\lambda ^{-\gamma }\left( e^{\left( \frac{c_{2}} {\lambda T}\right) }-1\right) ^{-1}\right) $ set $\gamma <5$. Rayleigh-Jeans' attempt $\left( K_{\lambda }=c_{1}\lambda ^{-4} Te^{-\left( \frac{c_{2}}{\lambda T}\right) }\right) $ is also noteworthy. From Michelson's first attempt, $\lambda T$ was placed in the denominator of the exponential part of the function. This did not change until Gall's derivation of the function $\left( K_{\lambda }=\sigma \frac{T^{6}}{b^{2}}\lambda e^{-\left( \frac{\lambda T}{b}\right) }\right) $ (http://meetings.aps.org/link/BAPS.2007.MAR.X21.4), based on emission as a decay process (sites.google.com/site/purefieldphysics), placed $\lambda T$ in the numerator. If temperature is defined as reciprocal wavelength then $T^{6}\lambda \equiv \lambda ^{-5}$. It is mathematically evident that the new location of $\lambda T$ is what finally allowed for the exact solution of Kirchhoff's Function with the original empirical constants $\left( \sigma ,b\right) $! [Preview Abstract] |
Sunday, February 14, 2010 12:21PM - 12:33PM |
H10.00009: History of the 3 Theories of Light Jeffrey Boyd Plato, Euclid, {\&} Ptolemy said that when we see a flower, something is emitted from our eyes that travels out to apprehend the flower. The alternative was called the intromission theory: something from the flower comes into our eye, which is how we see. The latter was an unpopular minority view defended by Aristotle, Lucretius and Galen. It wasn't widely accepted until 1021 (Ibn al-Haytham's \textit{Book of Optics}). Einstein {\&} DeBroglie assumed the intromission theory (wave-particle duality). That was fruitful but led to quantum weirdness, Schr\"{o}dinger's cat, {\&} a sense that only mathematical formulas are ``real.'' In 2007 PhysicsWeb said, ``Quantum physics says goodbye to reality.'' The first hybrid emission-intromission theory was introduced by Little in 1996. Little says a wave goes out from your retina to the flower, {\&} is followed backward by a photon. This theory has a weakness stated by Aristotle: ``Then how do we see the stars?'' What's the advantage of this theory? If quantum waves travel in the reverse direction from photons, then most of quantum physics can be explained without quantum weirdness or Schr\"{o}dinger's cat. Quantum mathematics would be unchanged. The diffraction pattern on the screen of the double slit experiment is the same. [Preview Abstract] |
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