Saturday, February 21, 2009

Physics Quote of the Day (Feb 15 - Feb 21)

Here are the Physics Quotes of the Day for last week. As I want to do this on a regular basis, I decided to quote a physicist which has an event related to the day. In that way, I have good hope to last for a whole year. These (sometimes abridged) quotes are published daily on my Twitter timeline. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @materion. You may also find them by the appropriate hashtag #pqotd Twitter search. All these quotes are also on Wikiquote.

"We do not aim at « mathematical rigour » of exposition, which in theoretical physics often amounts to self-deception." Lev Davidovich Landau and Evgenii Lifshitz, born 21 February 1915.

"Who sees the future? Let us have free scope for all directions of research; away with dogmatism, either atomistic or anti-atomistic!" Ludwig Boltzmann, born 20 February 1844.

"Mathematics is written for mathematicians." Nicolaus Copernicus, born 19 February 1473.

"All this, the positive and physical essence of mechanics, which makes its chief and highest interest for a student of nature, is in existing treatises completely buried and concealed beneath a mass of technical considerations." Ernst Mach, born 18 February 1838.

"Shall we do it?" "Well, then let's go, we shall do it!" Otto Stern (born 17 February 1888) asking, Walther Gerlach answering.

"... it is shameful that there are so few women in science ..." Chien-Shiung Wu, died 16 February 1997.

Bonus for February 16th:
"Erwin with his psi can do
Calculations quite a few.
But one thing has not been seen:
Just what does psi really mean?
Erich Hückel, died 16 February 1980.

"In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." Galileo Galilei, born 15 February 1564.


  1. I wondered Arjen if you had ever heard of Nazi efforts in World War 2 to create plasma from spinning mercury inside contra-rotating centrifuges?

    Often this is referred to as Die Glocke or the so called Nazi Bell. Often dismissed as pure myth, It attracts many nutters with theories about UFOs and anti gravity.

    However I am intrigued by the science behind it as descriptions indicate plasma was intended to excite compounds of Beryllium and Thorium in a jelly substance (probably Parraffin) placed at the axis of rotation.

    Several Nazi nuclear scientists were interned at Farm Hall in England and their conversations were secretly recorded. They kept referring to photo-chemistry as an alternate method of acquiring fissile uranium. There is no official acknowledgement that the Nazis ever used photo fission however they were well aware of such experiments published by Japanese nuclear scientists Shimezu and Arakatsu etc, in 1941. Have you any opinion please as to scientific principles behind this Nazi Bell experiment?

    It was led by Prof Walther Gerlach the grandfather of spin polarisation of atoms.

  2. Hello Simon,

    I have never heard about the Nazi Bell, so you're learning me a new story. I don't have any opinion about the scientific principles behind this Glocke experiment. I would have to learn a bit more about it.

    By the way, as you seem to have some knowledge about German science during WW2, do you know anything about the German physicist Walter Herrmann? He worked on nuclear fission experiments during WW2 in Germany, and after the war for the Soviet Union. According to his (quite incomplete) wikipedia page, he's possibly still alive, but I doubt that very much.