Victor Weisskopf, Director of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, speaking at Nobel Conference XII - The Nature of the Physical Universe held at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. Weisskopf’s topic was the elementary particle. Victor Weisskopf helped develop the atomic bomb.
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the president Is the Chapman ladies and gentlemen? I hope you wouldn't believe all that stories from Sunday school and his mother asked him. What did you learn today? And he said well the Jews leaving Egypt leaving Egypt and crossing the river on a pontoon bridge and the moment they're over and the Egyptian Army came after Moses, press the button and on the bridge exploded and they looked at Johnny and said the teacher told you to oh, no, no, no, he told us a story but you wouldn't have believed that. So I was asked to let me nice. And this is so. The difficult thing especially I'm running into one danger and Emily it will take too long. And so I hope when you get bored. About the way do the people at the very end hear me there? Yep, well speaks for the technology. Well, where is it? Go to stop? I bought. I think I was about 15 years or so Mr. Bean is my 1923 and I bet time. I read a lot of popular articles on science. And indeed I should say something about this. I wish there were more of it today. These were from magazine German magazine called the cosmos. I'm not sure what it still exists, but it was an excellent thing. It was on a lower level than the scientific which is hard to understand how many people end up? I'm sorry that we don't have these things anymore, but it wasn't serious scientific influence me and many other people to be in the wealth cross talks about all these and you things like light quanta and light waves and I had to have time to the stand still have how it comes to the light wave is at the same time a popsicle in the way until I ain't slept down in the road to hope to Max Planck. I rode right away to the greatest physicists living at the dark and wrote him a letter. Max Planck answered me very unfortunately, he answered very seriously little handwriting filled a postcard and explained it as well as he could imagine that little boy of 15 years. I am now everytime religiously, but I get a letter from a high school kid. I answer it. I knew what it means mint plant, but I know what it meant and I will never forget that. This certainly was one of the reasons why I decided to seriously need to get into into physics, but it was just from the reading these eyes have got the idea that isn't terribly exciting new development structure of atoms is just about to be cleared up at that time many difficulties with dry as in boy. I really couldn't understand but I was terribly interested in professional scientists. My father was loyal but But anyway, I said I would like to and so I did and my father gave it and I went to the university 26 Indiana for two years and then the professor and I have the food near me said don't stay together. Just no good in physics. Although he himself parsley. something about the climate in the which one makes such a decision Emily to study Physics if you wanted to become a research physicist, you didn't have much chance maybe off of those who Different from now and if you can't then or what you could do it in the street intake physicist at that time if you wanted to study chemistry at that time, so well, it's not the worst thing but that's what the one had to count with. All right, I'll be high school. Did you forget is the political situation now speaking of the years 27 28 29 the beginning of the great economic crisis, the beginning of the of the tremendous political crisis in Germany and Austria Austria, the threatening narcissism and this was the background. Under which we lived at that time. Well, I came to Gottingen indeed by the tremendous place. It was the center of the new quantum mechanics getting in in Copenhagen where the new quantum mechanics was created suddenly immersed in these discussions off a completely new revolutionary ideas. Most of them. I didn't understand most of them but complicated that I sort of thought while I have to learn all the big mathematics of the complications so that I can also talk with these people. I was very lucky in one respect named Ali-A. the main theoretical physicist Max phone fell sick and have to be replaced for a year by a physicist from Holland Max Paul ehrenfest who was originally also a Viennese and so he took great interest in me at that time the number of students in physics were so low that may be about 10 or 12 that you could take interests as a professor in 102 and he took and he had a tremendous influence on me because he said Forget these complications all those getting in people talk much to highfalutin mathematics. That's not the essential thing. Physics is simple, but subtle that's what he said and it is simple and so and so from him I have this tradition. I learned this tradition that before you cannot say it in a simple way. You didn't understand. I already unlocked to him. But the pop singer justification, which we got at that time where those small groups as I said that maybe 10-12 Stillness of physics really took the study seriously and that we love much more from ourselves then from regular classes, but one of these adductor glasses was at 7:00 in the morning which excluded it for me and and the song Alone from each other as some of you may know that the people who is now got the Nobel Prize for biology. In fact, you may have been given one of them just by discussion. And spy trying to explain one thing or the other to us. And and also one man who had a tremendous influence on me twice James Frank. He's a physicist of is actually an experimental physicist the also Nobel Prize. He has time for no matter work in the spectroscopy. He had Sophia feeling for physics. We always said he had the direct line to God. He knew what how things will come out. And I remember when I have to when I chose my doctor's see this is on the theory of the line of the Wits of spectral lines, and I when we sat down calculating James prank was not a theoretical physicist. He told us guy from the beginning but we'll come out and ask him. How do you know it says well, I know and after we have made all these calculations indeed but his prediction for those who are physicists. The width of the line is the sum of the width of the two levels of the transition today. Every student knows that we are at that time. It was really extremely surprising and my doctor who was actually witness Eugene wigner populated This Together. C is a little anecdote. We talked about some paper that just appeared in the in the end and begin to read the title until all that's an interesting problem. And then they took a piece of paper and showed me how he calculates this seems to have promised and then he comes to the circus is you see that's the mess up and then I asked him now and I'm going to go home and read that paper says, oh no don't do it because either it's just what I have just letting down and you don't know what is not what I've written down that it's wrong. No, well, then I made my PhD Dad wasn't Ali Wong height of the Eastern Europe, but I guess here to the height of the economic recession jobs that anyway have to get for a physicist. But at that time was an impossibility and a little means to support me and the so I went as a postdoc. Do Heisenberg know I always tell the story to my students have to tell them you see today. Is a man who gets paid to work after his top parade on some scientific problem at that time if postmarked is a man who is allowed to work on the problem. And okay about as I said would help with my parents so I could go to Heisenberg who was at that time in like six and we have the props one of the most interesting times they are because this was the year 1932 and those who have been at my lecture me remember when I emphasized about the year 1932 was probably the most interesting yet in physics for a long time. The concept of antimatter and then also the police for Malaysian of the week is very fundamental events. I must say one thing about my own entrance into the Palace of physics. The great events of that so-called golden age as it is referred to in the title of my worlds here. The great events took place a little earlier 25 and from there, you know, it was like opening up. AAU treasure treasure box because suddenly explain at least and it's basic inexpensive features SI every PhD at that time then in this field opened up a new field of physics London began chemistry on a new basis State everybody who did his Ph.D. Open up and you feel most too late. I felt like the famous Story the son of Alexander the Great you know, who said you you you have conquered all countries what is left for me? and then across the it, isn't that way the opening up means really only opening up for that and people still at working on those things that are 50 years ago, but still when I came in that that they don't problem so ready came up well after this half year Heisenberg I did have a little opportunity to earn some money back because sure didn't go in. Belen asked me to replace an assistant of his who went to America for half a year for you. Actually I should have come so I ran to believe in shredding good and And that's an interesting time because I'm the first row that was Einstein blank and all the famous people were sitting there and I remember one story which perhaps we'll I'm use some of the physicist. Another physicist who became a very close friend of mine later named Rehan scope for Mom. He had died and fortunately measurements of the clamp. Famous fundamental constant of quantum theory and always the same result came out and that he was sitting nelsd famous physicist, but also famous for his skepticism do everything modern and he didn't really believe in quantum theory, but when he saw all these proves that all the same body, oh came out. He bought these spoke. He leaned over to Max Planck who was founder of I think now you do have a few chances. So that was reading that not that time. Well after shutting my eyes only temporary job was for one year, but it wasn't for half a year because during that here again to show you the background in which we had to work at that time during that year Hitler came to power. And that ended of course abruptly my stay in Berlin. I have to fill out. I got a black that I still have asking me to fill out to put down the race of my four grandparents. I didn't fill it out. And by the way himself has been very much attacked by the Nazis and had to leave for the middle of the night because it was a very impulsive physicist and that in one of those demonstrations before one of the Jewish department stores in the center of Berlin. He saw one of his collaborators who was sending his and he could save the life of shielding you from the other of him his colleagues and then we had to expedite road again quickly last night over the front to you. So it wasn't an agreeable time. The country is a member of my office. It's a bad way visited only a few weeks ago or not. The visit Berlin East Berlin and looked at the very same office, which I have at that time. We should have window to the main entrance Courtyard of the Berlin University daily fights daily beatings of Jewish students directly before my window and in many cases, I have to call them in and help them and let them out by the back door. So it it wasn't physics alone, but somehow I don't think that's well, let me say this way that the fact that there was physics and there were these fantastic problems was a tremendous help to survive something which is very very much greater than all that thing's all these things that happen and and we have the privilege to deal with this and that I think our sanity during those years. Well, then nothing. I went to Russia. I did have an invitation. I had an invitation to come they're not for money, but just for board and room and board and spend it very interesting and kako working with some of the Russian physicist who have to come from that side of human difficulties and then after we became just the great Stroke of Luck. Probably through the efforts of trading I believe I got a Rockefeller Fellowship. I Can't Describe to you what that means, you know, especially if you have nothing. And that and also I mean American money and end with the letter saying I can do what I want with it. I can go to whatever place I wish to go and the cross I choose to go to Copenhagen Denmark founder of atomic physics and the great place. Where should I go Copenhagen? So I chose Copenhagen for my Rockefeller and I didn't look like it in very many respect and one of the most important aspects is that I met my wife in Copenhagen. And this is my connection with Scandinavia. No, I want to describe to your Copenhagen because these are real great time of Copenhagen was in the late twenties, and now we are at 1933. end up Well here was Niels Bohr surrounded by a group of young people my age of that time. He has very special style of his own. and this is a I have a special task cards. You seem that, you know the greatest among his colleagues acting talkin living as an equal among us to mount a GoPro and optimistic Joker and choose a stick people. Who are they out of the feeling of the spirit of joy that can hardly be described? Remember When But I came there I must be young. This Dracula spirit and once I usually took the newcomers out for a little walk after a few and I said I'm a little taken aback by the fact that the people like gamophen until I do see some later in the picture making so many jokes you say about looks like physics and then and then serious that you can only joke about that. I find this a very important statement. Another thing. Well that was already seen them. Actually, they become Unity of physicists in some ways is still in this group. I just tried to describe it. If you would well save Arrington from all religions and here was this this coming Spirit and the coming One of the students each other nationality just didn't play a role and I think this experience International collaboration suck me stamps from there. This is why I took such great enthusiasm that job that I'm ready to go to Geneva and the directors International Institute Europe, which International European Institute. Well know I'm getting already getting ready too long. But let me just tell you before I show the pictures a few more things about my next after about a year in Copenhagen I came. Add to Copenhagen and my friend Max stanbrook. It was my roommate in college was there two already before I came and a few weeks before? And he was at the station. And they said to me. Oh, you know Copenhagen is a wonderful place, you know, I am coming here to work and then I had that told him I had behind me already and I'm not interested and then he said And well I gave in naturally I am listening and so I use to make decisions. After about a year longer I got again I had to do it because I was still a very difficult time to go live with the developments in Germany. And and also in Austria my own Homeland, it was practically impossible to come back because Leaps and Bounds, so I got to know if it from Tunica to become assistant or receptors associated with compounding. One of the great sound does a panda make Alex and the wonderful man that famous mad because of his goodness. I would say just his humanness and And we had a wonderful relationship. So I have to select a few select a few that have to do with me. For example. When I came to say I didn't know pop but I knew Polly if I'm seeing and then again and then I finally I heard some noise and he was sitting at the other end of the room on his desk and the calculated something and he said for us to just let me finish this and so he calculating cockroach after 10 minutes. Is it who are you and then I said, I guess I asked you to be my assistant, but then he told me but you know, actually I wanted to take beta but constipated works now on solid-state and I don't like solid state physics, although I started it. So, okay. What should I say? And then I said well and here's the problem which I wish you would look at. Okay after 10 days, he came inside. Well, what did you do? What did you how far did you come and I showed him what I did and he looked at yourself. I should have taken beta. song I really should not. fall into the Rock of telling more my story about Polly because I said it will not in any how I think that's before I show the pictures I would like to make one of my after all this morning. This was a golden age, but I'm always a little worried when I talk about these things before students because I run does give the impression depression. I do not want to give us so much more. Wonderful at that time that it is now. So it was a different time. Either develop the development of science. Is that way and express this in many ways. Tom cool always talks about things but I would like to save this way there from time to time maybe every 50 years or so deep in new insides. I bet come suddenly to the consciousness of the scientific community and then but the other thinks and this these inside years are preceded by long and many years of observation of discoveries of discoveries of new product new phenomena that went and followed by long years of exploitation of those new insights and applications and really depending the ideas and and and spending that many things on the basis of their was inside those inside. Do not happen often. I'm in the quantum mechanics vs. Nexus an example Maxwell's electricity and magnetism is an example of times but they're well, maybe all the 50 years or so, but then we are now leaving those who have been at the talks of Rhinebeck and Gelman with according to the opinion of those gentlemen. We are short shortly before such a. I have been more skeptical and still am such a time will come that's what I would like to say at to the young people who those who are in physics are planning to go in physics that I'm not even sure what is the most interesting time to be alive in physics because we are now in a Time Well, there are enormous amount of discoveries of new phenomena coming up and having been discovered and we'll all fields of physics particle physics astronomy laser physics physics plasma physics, so it is different from that time, but in its own way someone at least as interesting today. And it's also the father of modern physics lies in these newly discovered natural phenomena, which seemingly cannot be explained without a person inside. But the more unexplainable things are between see the more exciting physics will be in the future. What now? Let's look at the pictures. I should touch with a few words about the pictures. The pictures are mostly Copenhagen pictures pictures in it, and they are not at this time in order to explain something and he's supposed to have said in this picture asked Music Fest. Let me eat. the next picture I got that you may recognize me because if it is 40 years ago or more than 45 years ago me in the middle. And the other one is right sick from right cigarette German physicist physicist came to Copenhagen for discussing the newest assault and that has always had in the evening what we called it the comic session. Where we did some from the mostly about the older physicists and and now there was a group of us by Max tell Brooke Gamo of the other ones that did the work. It was terrible because you have to be at the conference the bus yesterday and that you go to the conference you listen to the dogs in the evening at night. You have to write those the comic session the jokes and here we are just and I think some of you may know who have read the book 20 years That Shook physics by Gamo and that's in the appendix of a book that is the text of such a session and that session was a very famous one because performance of goethe's Faust which was really And that apply to physics by the way, I should say that connection was the electron electron One Direction. I Would Say and the electron at that time, you know what the spin of the electron was discovered. So Gretchen head to spin and my Danish waifu dancer profession actually performed the electron and now that's is the inventor the discovery of the proton Magnetic Moment. Laughing over a joke because I would like to tell about him. Is this the oldest Stone made a fundamental Discovery important at that time and they might that the Magnetic Moment of the proton these I normally it's about three times larger than one would expect from the equations. It sounds that are not very exciting, but it is a tremendous thing end up at that time. Very much under the impression. The physicists will understand all the D-Loc equation equation that explains the speed of the electron in a very new and extremely interesting to talk about it end up. And stone came to he wasn't he worked at Hamburg. He came to us and told us about his experiment that he intends to measure the proton but the measurements when I get finished. We only told us the mess up that nothing was so let me ask all the theoretical physicist. Do you predict will be so under the influence of the Dirac equation that everybody from the greatest max pain down to the smallest canvas student. We keep ice cap, they all. Said well, of course, the one magnetom this is but this unit and he went around with a piece of paper and said to put your signature beside. And 3 months later, he came again today announcing his measurements, which was three magnets and projecting on the screen those signatures and the next picture. Well here you have me and small standing up in the front of those meetings. And the one close to him is probably again and then comes out soft and Lisa might now. I should tell you another thing, you know when we about those comic sessions really a great from. Want to put something. I must say that to latest session where we projected a picture of a picture for those who know what it is and then voice was held a physicist. So imitating a little hand speed it saying here on this picture. You see an event that has not yet taken place, but it is not too early to draw the following conclusions that the thing I wanted to say. Is this the great physicists including I am fasting plan, Kentucky. So it would be wonderful, you know in 10-15 years when we will be the big shots and we will sit in the first row and new generation will amuse ask OK time went by then. The ball went by and then in the fort in the 50s Boy again took up the conferences and we all came to Copenhagen and who made the comic sessions who played in the comic stations for nothing the first robot on the on the stage again, they'll break right Seca myself the new generations just no good next picture. Oh that's misses ball. I'm afraid they had its little she's just he still alive and how home was for all of us. Just it. heaven Annex picture and cameras facing her and you know that little boy that is the latest Nobel Prize winner. Next picture because at that time, you know, they physicist physicist. Typically when Heisenberg stops giving a talk, he first puts the chalk in a regular rectangular Arrangements on the table before him as you see doing it. Next picture. Then that's the end.