Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics

Front Cover
Penguin, 2007 - Science - 310 pages
6 Reviews
A fascinating look at the landmark 1932 gathering of the biggest names in physics

Known by physicists as the “miracle year,” 1932 saw the discovery of the neutron and the first artificially induced nuclear transmutation. However, while physicists celebrated these momentous discoveries—which presaged the era of big science and nuclear bombs—Europe was moving inexorably toward totalitarianism and war. In April of that year, about forty of the world’s leading physicists—including Werner Heisenberg, Lise Meitner, and Paul Dirac—came to Niels Bohr’s Copenhagen Institute for their annual informal meeting about the frontiers of physics.

Physicist Gino Segrč brings to life this historic gathering, which ended with a humorous skit based on Goethe’s Faust—a skit that eerily foreshadowed events that would soon unfold. Little did the scientists know the Faustian bargains they would face in the near future. Capturing the interplay between the great scientists as well as the discoveries they discussed and debated, Segrč evokes the moment when physics—and the world—was about to lose its innocence.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
2
4 stars
1
3 stars
1
2 stars
2
1 star
0

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - satyridae - LibraryThing

The Faust component of the book was minuscule and the struggle for the soul of physics (whatever that might be) was to my eyes illusory. The book was, for the most part, a series of anecdotes- most of which have been more coherently told elsewhere. I was disappointed. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - pineapplejuggler - LibraryThing

My first impression is that this is one of my favorite books ever. The physicist-author's writing is very lucid and easy to follow, despite the heavy subject matter of quantum mechanics and nuclear ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
The Changing Times
17
The 1920s a The Birth of the Quantum Why Copenhasen?
39
The Front Row The Revolutionaries
71
The Front Row The Young Ones
95
The Periodic Table The New Kepler Gottingen in 1922 i
129
The King in Decline
155
Conservation of Energy
181
The New Generation Comes of Age
207
The Apprenticeship Copenhagen 1932 a The Blegdamsvej Faust
224
Ehrenfests End
249
Coda
271
Bibliography
293
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Gino Segrč is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. An internationally renowned expert on high-energy elementary-particle theoretical physics, he is the author of A Matter of Degrees: What Temperature Reveals About the Past and Future of Our Species, Planet, and Universe. He has received awards from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Bibliographic information