Richard Rhodes · 886 pages
Rating: (14.2K votes)
“Before it is science and career, before it is livelihood, before even it is family or love, freedom is sound sleep and safety to notice the play of morning sun.”
“For the scientist, at exactly the moment of discovery—that most unstable existential moment—the external world, nature itself, deeply confirms his innermost fantastic convictions. Anchored abruptly in the world, Leviathan gasping on his hook, he is saved from extreme mental disorder by the most profound affirmation of the real.”
“[Chemist Michael] Polanyi found one other necessary requirement for full initiation into science: Belief. If science has become the orthodoxy of the West, individuals are nevertheless still free to take it or leave it, in whole or in part; believers in astrology, Marxism and virgin birth abound. But "no one can become a scientist unless he presumes that the scientific doctrine and method are fundamentally sound and that their ultimate premises can be unquestionably accepted.”
“Any account of science which does not explicitly describe it as something we believe in is essentially incomplete and a false pretense. It amounts to a claim that science is essentially different from and superior to all human beliefs that are not scientific statements--and this is untrue.”
“We can imagine that this complicated array of moving things which constitutes “the world” is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing. Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics. Even if we know every rule, however . . . what we really can explain in terms of those rules is very limited, because almost all situations are so enormously complicated that we cannot follow the plays of the game using the rules, much less tell what is going to happen next. We must, therefore, limit ourselves to the more basic question of the rules of the game. If we know the rules, we consider that we “understand” the world.”
“Rather than sleep, Tibbets crawled through the thirty-foot tunnel to chat
with the waist crew, wondering if they knew what they were carrying. "A
chemist's nightmare," the tail gunner, Robert Caron, guessed, then "a
physicist's nightmare." "Not exactly," Tibbets hedged. Tibbets was leaving
by the time Caron put two and two together:
'Tibbets stayed a little longer, and then started to crawl forward up the tunnel. I remembered something else, and just as the last of the Old Man was disappearing, I sort of tugged at his foot, which was still showing. He came sliding back in a hurry, thinking maybe
something was wrong. "What's the matter?"
I looked at him and said, "Colonel, are we splitting atoms today?"
This time he gave me a really funny look, and said, "That's about it.”
“British experimenters used Bank of England sealing wax to make glass tubes airtight.”
“When he thundered up the steep staircase [of the institute], two steps at a time, there were few of us younger ones that could keep pace with him. The peace of the library was often broken by a brisk game of pingpong, and I don’t remember ever beating Bohr at that game.”
“The physics faculty of the University of Berlin included Nobel laureates Albert Einstein, Max Planck and Max von Laue,”
“Science grew out of the craft tradition”
“informal system of mastery and apprenticeship over which was laid the more recent system of the European graduate school.”
“He even found time on the day of the occupation to worry about the large gold Nobel Prize medals that Max von Laue and James Franck had given him for safekeeping.1290 Exporting gold from Germany was a serious criminal offense and their names were engraved on the medals.1291, 1292 George de Hevesy devised an effective solution—literally: he dissolved the medals separately in acid. As solutions of black liquid in unmarked jars they sat out the war innocently on a laboratory shelf.”
“Out of the prospering but vulnerable Hungarian Jewish middle class came no fewer than seven of the twentieth century’s most exceptional scientists: in order of birth, Theodor von Kármán, George de Hevesy, Michael Polanyi, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann and Edward Teller.”
“collected minerals and at ten years of age wrote poems but still played with blocks.”
“The Manhattan District bore no relation to the industrial or social life of our country; it was a separate state, with its own airplanes and its own factories and its thousands of secrets. It had a peculiar sovereignty, one that could bring about the end, peacefully or violently, of all other sovereignties.”
“Bohr, for his part, supple pragmatist and democrat that he was, never an absolutist, heard once too often about Einstein’s personal insight into the gambling habits of the Deity. He scolded his distinguished colleague finally in Einstein’s own terms. God does not throw dice? “Nor is it our business to prescribe to God how He should run the world.”502”
“two examiners, said simply that hardly anyone in Denmark was well enough informed on the subject to judge the candidate’s work.”
“the highest form of musicality in the sphere of thought.”
“He even found time on the day of the occupation to worry about the large gold Nobel Prize medals that Max von Laue and James Franck had given him for safekeeping.1290 Exporting gold from Germany was a serious criminal offense and their names were engraved on the medals.1291, 1292 George de Hevesy devised an effective solution—literally: he dissolved the medals separately in acid. As solutions of black liquid in unmarked jars they sat out the war innocently on a laboratory shelf. Afterward the Nobel Foundation recast them and returned them to their owners.”
“Bohr proposed once that the goal of science is not universal truth. Rather, he argued, the modest but relentless goal of science is “the gradual removal of prejudices.”
“was simply unable to let things be foggy. Since they always are, this kept him pretty active.”
“About one hundred refugee physicists emigrated to the United States between 1933 and 1941.”
“The 509th commander introduced Parsons, who wasted no words. He told the crews the bomb they were going to drop was something new in the history of warfare, the most destructive weapon ever made: it would probably almost totally destroy an area three miles across.”
“Bohr had learned to be alert for bright students who were not afraid to argue.”
“Pump seals therefore had to be devised that were both gastight and greaseless, a puzzle no one had ever solved before that required the development of new kinds of plastics. (The seal material that eventually served at Oak Ridge came into its own after the war under the brand name Teflon.)”
“The difference between the thinking of the paranoid patient and the scientist comes from the latter’s ability and willingness to test out his fantasies or grandiose conceptualizations through the systems of checks and balances science has established—and to give up those schemes that are shown not to be valid on the basis of these scientific checks.”
“Nations existed in a condition of international anarchy. No hierarchical authority defined their relations with one another. They negotiated voluntarily as self-interest moved them and took what they could get. War had been their final negotiation, brutally resolving their worst disputes. Now an ultimate power had appeared.”
“A.E.G., the German General Electric, signed Szilard on as a paid consultant and actually built one of the Einstein-Szilard refrigerators, but the magnetic pump was so noisy compared to even the noisy conventional compressors of the day that it never left the engineering lab.”
“So Fermi said, “Well . . . there is the remote possibility that neutrons may be emitted in the fission of uranium and then of course perhaps a chain reaction can be made.” Rabi said, “What do you mean by ‘remote possibility’?” and Fermi said, “Well, ten per cent.” Rabi said, “Ten per cent is not a remote possibility if it means that we may die of it. If I have pneumonia and the doctor tells me that there is a remote possibility that I might die, and it’s ten percent, I get excited about it.”
“trained no fewer than eleven Nobel Prize winners during his life, an unsurpassed record.”
“Are not they temperate from a kind of intemperance?”
“She was only a few yards from the door. If she lunged, she could be safely inside with solid metal between her and the bear. But she had called to him, and he had come. The tranquilizer dart that she had shot on the sea ice now lay in front of her. Impossibly, inexplicably, the bear had brought it back to her. She felt light-headed, and she knew she was shaking. She raised her eyes to look at the bear.
He was a mass of shadows at the edge of the station floodlights. She could make out the shape of his muzzle and the hunch of his shoulders. "Cassandra Dasent," he said. His voice was a soft rumble.
She felt as if her heart had stopped beating.”
“Reckon women don't think like men." "Why on earth don't they learn how?" I rubbed my face. "Ain't meant to, honey." I smiled and kissed his brow. "It occurs to us to ask the same thing. Keeps the world turning, I suspect.”
“In any case, if they don't do it to you, they do it to someone else...if you let them do it to others, you become an accomplice, intentionally or not”
“He was so delighted when I bested him that he slapped me on the back and sent me flying into a tree, which I knocked down. It was a hundred year old oak.”
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