Ernest Rutherford

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pages: 279 words: 75,527

Collider by Paul Halpern

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, gravity well, horn antenna, index card, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, statistical model, Stephen Hawking

Thomson, Recollections and Reflections (New York: Macmillan, 1937), pp. 138-139. 4 Ernest Rutherford to Mary Newton, August 1896, in Wilson, Rutherford, Simple Genius, pp. 122-123. 5 Ernest Rutherford to Mary Newton, February 21, 1896, in ibid., p. 68. 6 Thomson, Recollections and Reflections, p. 341. 7 Arthur S. Eve, in Lawrence Badash, “The Importance of Being Ernest Rutherford,” Science 173 (September 3, 1971): 871. 8 Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error (New York: Harper & Bros., 1949), p. 118. 9 Ibid. 10 Ernest Rutherford, “The Development of the Theory of Atomic Structure,” in Joseph Needham and Walter Pagel, eds., Background to Modern Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938), p. 68. 11 Ibid. 12 Ernest Rutherford to B. Boltwood, December 14, 1910, in L. Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1969), p. 235. 13 Ernest Rutherford to Niels Bohr, March 20, 1913, in Niels Bohr, Collected Works, vol. 2 (Amsterdam: North Holland, 1972), p. 583. 14 Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conservations (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 61. 15 Niels Bohr, in Martin Gardner, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener (New York: Quill, 1983), p. 108. 4.

Revealing the atom’s structure would require a special kind of sledgehammer and the steadiest of arms to wield it. 3 Striking Gold Rutherford ’s Scattering Experiments Now I know what the atom looks like! —ERNEST RUTHERFORD, 1911 In a remote farming region of the country the Maoris call Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, a young settler was digging potatoes. With mighty aim, the boy broke up the soil and shoveled the crop that would support his family in troubling times. Though he had little chance of striking gold—unlike other parts of New Zealand, his region didn’t have much—he was nevertheless destined for a golden future. Ernest Rutherford, who would become the first to split open the atom, was born to a family of early New Zealand settlers. His grandfather, George Rutherford, a wheelwright from Dundee, Scotland, had come to the Nelson colony on the tip of the South Island to help assemble a sawmill.

His grandfather, George Rutherford, a wheelwright from Dundee, Scotland, had come to the Nelson colony on the tip of the South Island to help assemble a sawmill. Once the mill was established, the elder Rutherford moved his family to the village of Brightwater (now called Spring Grove) south of Nelson in the Wairoa River valley. There, George’s son James, a flax maker, married an English settler named Martha, who gave birth to Ernest on August 30, 1871. Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), the father of nuclear physics. Attending school in Nelson and university at Canterbury College in Christchurch, the largest and most English city on the South Island, Rutherford proved diligent and capable. A fellow student described him as a “boyish, frank, simple, and very likable youth, with no precocious genius, but once he saw his goal, he went straight to the central point.”1 Rutherford’s nimble hands could work wonders with any kind of mechanical device.


pages: 349 words: 27,507

E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Berlin Wall, British Empire, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Mercator projection, Nelson Mandela, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Stephen Hawking, Thorstein Veblen

This is where Einstein enters the book: his life as a patent clerk in 1905; what he’d been reading, and what he’d been thinking about, which led to all those symbols he wove together in the equation hurtling into place in his mind. If the equation and its operations had stayed solely in Einstein’s hands, our book would simply have continued with Einstein’s life after 1905. But pretty quickly after this great discovery his interests shifted to other topics; his personal story fades from the book, and in- preface stead we pick up with other physicists: more empirical ones now, such as the booming, rugby-playing Ernest Rutherford, and the quiet, ex-POW James Chadwick, who together helped reveal the detailed structures within the atom that could—in principle—be manipulated to allow the great power the equation spoke of to come out. In any other century those theoretical discoveries might have taken a long time to be turned into practical reality, but the details of how Einstein’s equation might be used became clear early in 1939, just as the twentieth century’s greatest war was beginning.

But what would they find, as they tried to peer into the smallest, inner structures within ordinary matter? Into the Atom E=mc 8 University students in 1900 were taught that ordinary matter—bricks and steel and uranium and everything else—was made of smaller particles, called atoms. But what atoms were made of no one knew. One common view was that they were something like tough and shiny ball bearings: mighty glowing entities that no one could see inside. It was only with the research of Ernest Rutherford, a great, booming bear of a man working at England’s Manchester University, in the period around 1910, that anyone got a clearer view. Rutherford was at Manchester, rather than at Oxford or Cambridge, not just because he was from rural New Zealand, and spoke with a common man’s accent. If a research assistant was self-effacing enough, that could be overlooked. The problem rather was that when Rutherford had been a student at Cambridge he had refused to show proper deference to his superiors.

The problem rather was that when Rutherford had been a student at Cambridge he had refused to show proper deference to his superiors. He’d even suggested creating a joint-venture business to earn money from one of his inventions—and that was a mortal sin. Yet the reason he became the scientist who got the first clear glimpse of the inside of atoms was, to a large extent, because his heightened awareness of dis- 93 2 the early years Ernest Rutherford photograph by c. e. wynn-williams. aip emilio segrè visual archives crimination made him the kindest leader of men. The bluff booming exterior was just window dressing. He was good in nurturing skilled assistants, and his key experiment was monitored by a young man who would end up perfecting a most useful mobile radiation detection unit, of Rutherford’s suggested design: the audibly clicking counter was to be Hans Geiger’s claim to fame.


Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton

All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Bayesian statistics, biofilm, bioinformatics, David Attenborough, Ernest Rutherford, germ theory of disease, Isaac Newton, lateral thinking, North Sea oil, nuclear winter

In any case, what could Professors Osborn and Van Valen actually have done in order to test what Tyrannosaurus looked like or how the dinosaurs died out? Dinosaurs are long-dead animals, represented now by skeletons and isolated bones. The extinction of the dinosaurs happened 66 million years ago, so how on Earth could a scientist hope to investigate it scientifically? What is science? This was the point being made by Sir Ernest Rutherford – the New Zealand-born physicist who made his name at the University of Cambridge with the discovery of the half-life of radioactive elements – when he stated, around 1920, that ‘all science is either physics or stamp collecting’. Many hard-nosed physicists might agree with him even today. Nonetheless, he was ruling that much of chemistry, biology, geology, and the applied sciences in medicine and agriculture was not scientific.

At the strong end were mathematics and physics – his sciences, where experiments are designed and can be repeated with the same outcomes endlessly. These are the sciences where theory consists of equations that can be proved as universal laws, such as gravity or the electromagnetic theory of light. At the other end of the spectrum would be the so-called ‘soft sciences’ such as sociology, economics, and psychology. Sir Ernest Rutherford, Nobel-prize-winning physicist, and a man with strong views about what is (and is not) real science. I expect Rutherford was also thinking about the popularity of nature among the Victorians, and how the amateur botanists, sea-pool scourers, and fossil-hunters went out at weekends to collect stuff. Indeed, collecting specimens for their beauty or for the satisfaction of completing a list (‘I’ve seen all the birds listed in the handbook’) is not science.

This is the basis of the engineering design of the structure before it is completed, and we live in skyscrapers and fly in aircraft designed this way, trusting that the calculations were correct. Therefore, if we use the same approach to study a dinosaur skull or leg, we should accept the results as true. Inside the computer is a perfect functioning model of the extinct animal. This is a pretty amazing claim – that palaeobiology is testable science. Even Ernest Rutherford might have accepted that we can now turn some parts of palaeobiology into rigorous, hard science. The revolution I have lived through a revolution. When I started as a student some forty years ago, palaeobiology was a practical subject aimed at solving problems for the oil industry – especially relevant in the town where I grew up, Aberdeen. The granite city was experiencing massive economic growth as a result of the North Sea oil boom.


pages: 203 words: 63,257

Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, New Journalism, race to the bottom, random walk, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Skype, Solar eclipse in 1919, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, undersea cable, uranium enrichment

Becquerel found that photographic plates he had left in a drawer with some uranium salts for several days had smudges on them, as if they had been exposed to light. He reckoned that the salts had emitted some form of radiation, and through a series of follow-up investigations, he showed that this radiation was an intrinsic property of the element uranium. Becquerel’s curious finding intrigued a number of scientists. At Cambridge University, J. J. Thomson, best known for his discovery of the electron, steered the attention of his graduate student Ernest Rutherford to the new discovery. Born in rural New Zealand as the fourth of twelve children to a family of farmers, Rutherford excelled at university and experimented with a radio receiver about the same time as Marconi. He came to England, having won a scholarship, to pursue doctoral research on radio waves under Thomson’s guidance. Instead, excited about Becquerel’s discovery—and perhaps also influenced by the prominent physicist Lord Kelvin’s declaration that “radio has no future”—Thomson encouraged Rutherford to investigate this new radiation.

And, finally, we are on the verge of testing Ettore Majorana’s suggestion that neutrinos behave the same way as their antimatter twins, thereby opening the door to solving the great mystery of how matter came to dominate the universe. Neutrino hunters are about to take center stage for the dramatic next chapter of their epic adventure. * You can listen to a sampling of the sound recordings online at http://listentothedeep.com/acoustics/index.html. TIME LINE 1896: Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity. 1897–1908: Experiments by Ernest Rutherford, the Curies, Paul Villard, Walter Kaufmann, and Hans Geiger revealed that radioactivity produced three types of emissions: alpha particles (equivalent to helium nuclei), beta particles (electrons), and gamma rays (a highly energetic form of electromagnetic radiation). 1898: Marie and Pierre Curie identified radium and polonium and showed that radioactivity is not limited to uranium. circa 1908–1927: Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, James Chadwick, and others found that radioactive beta decays released electrons with a range of energies, raising questions about the law of energy conservation. 1930: Wolfgang Pauli invoked a new neutral particle as “a desperate remedy” to account for the missing energy in beta decay. 1932: James Chadwick discovered the neutron, and Enrico Fermi coined the name “neutrino” to distinguish Pauli’s hypothesized particle from the neutron.

The book is a lively introduction to the weird world of quantum physics. 30 Wolfgang Pauli: The primary source of biographical information and quotes on and from Pauli is Charles P. Enz, No Time to Be Brief: A Scientific Biography of Wolfgang Pauli (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). 31 “I have around me,” … “Whoever studies this”: As quoted in Arthur I. Miller, Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung (New York: Norton, 2009). 35 “If it had been a bullfighter”: As quoted in Enz, No Time to Be Brief. 36 Ernest Rutherford: There is a brief biographical sketch online at www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1908/rutherford-bio.html, and his 1908 Nobel Prize Lecture, “The Chemical Nature of Alpha Particles from Radioactive Substances,” is available online at www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1908/rutherford-lecture.html. 37–38 “It would, nevertheless”… “My husband and I”… “One of our joys”: Quoted in Marie Curie, Pierre Curie, with Autobiographical Notes (New York: Macmillan, 1923); online at http://etext.virginia.edu/toc modeng/public/CurPier.html. 39 “We may say”: Niels Bohr delivered the Faraday Lecture to the Fellows of the Chemical Society in London on May 8, 1930, and it was published as “Chemistry and the Quantum Theory of Atomic Constitution” in the Journal of the Chemical Society (1932): 349–84. 40 “Do you intend”: As quoted in Gino Segrè, Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics (New York: Viking, 2007), 194. 40 “What if someone”: As quoted in Miller, Deciphering the Cosmic Number. 40 “Dear Radioactive Ladies and Gentlemen”: The original German text of the letter is available at the Pauli Archive at CERN and online at http://cds.cern.ch/record/83282/files/meitner_0393.pdf. 42 “I have done a terrible thing”: As far as I could find, this quote attributed to Pauli was first reported by Fred Hoyle, who heard it from fellow astronomer Walter Baade.


pages: 492 words: 149,259

Big Bang by Simon Singh

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, carbon-based life, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, Copley Medal, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Defenestration of Prague, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Hans Lippershey, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, horn antenna, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, Kickstarter, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Paul Erdős, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, scientific mainstream, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, unbiased observer, Wilhelm Olbers, William of Occam

Despite its role in helping to understand how the elements reacted with one another, the periodic table did not offer any insight into the cause of radioactivity. One of the physicists drawn to this problem was a New Zealander, Ernest Rutherford. He was much loved by his colleagues and students, but he was also known as a gruff authoritarian who was prone to temper tantrums and displays of arrogance. For example, according to Rutherford, physics was the only important science. He believed that it provided a deep and meaningful understanding of the universe, whereas all the other sciences were preoccupied with mere measuring and cataloguing. He once stated: ‘All science is either physics or stamp collecting.’ This blinkered comment backfired when the Nobel Committee awarded him the 1908 chemistry prize. Figure 68 The portrait of Ernest Rutherford was taken when he was in his mid-thirties. He had a disdain for chemists, which was not uncommon among physicists.

If Thomson was right, then nothing should be detected, because his plum pudding mix of charges in the atom should not have so drastic an effect on an incoming alpha particle. However, Geiger and Marsden were astonished by what they saw. They did indeed detect alpha particles that had apparently recoiled off the gold atoms. Only 1 in every 8,000 alpha particles was bouncing back, but this was one more than Thomson’s model predicted. The results of the experiment seemed to contradict the plum pudding model. Figure 70 Ernest Rutherford asked his colleagues, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, to study the structure of the atom using alpha particles. Their experiment used a radium sample to provide a source of alpha particles. A slit in a lead shield round the sample directed a beam of alpha particles onto a gold foil, and an alpha detector could be moved to different positions around the gold foil to monitor the deflection of alpha particles.

Neither did the American authorities pick up on more obvious signs of Gamow’s true loyalty, such as the fact that the Soviets had sentenced him to death in absentia for fleeing the USSR. Figure 77 This group photo of the 1933 Solvay Conference in Brussels includes George Gamow (back row, centre), who engineered his escape from the Soviet Union by attending this conference. The conference was devoted to discussing the structure of atoms, so the photo includes many other notable figures. Ernest Rutherford and James Chadwick are seated in the front row, along with Marie Curie and her daughter Irene Joliot, who like her mother won a Nobel prize. Pierre Curie had been killed many years earlier when he was hit by a horse-drawn wagon in 1906. Marie then started a relationship with Paul Langevin, who is in the photograph next to her. Langevin was still married, which led to a public scandal. When Curie received notice of her second Nobel prize she was asked not to come to Stockholm to collect her prize in person, because of the embarrassment it might cause to the Nobel committee.


pages: 310 words: 89,838

Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science by Ian Sample

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Donald Trump, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, uranium enrichment, Yogi Berra

Thomson named them “electrons,” a term introduced by the Irishman George Johnstone Stoney twenty years earlier, and suggested they were ubiquitous ingredients of all the atoms scientists knew. Emboldened by his discovery, Thomson proposed the “plum pudding” model of the atom, so called because it pictured atoms as positively charged balls of matter (the pudding) dotted with tiny negative electrons (the plums). It turned out that Thomson’s atomic pudding was not what Nature ordered.7 The idea fell apart when the New Zealand-born chemist and physicist Ernest Rutherford, based on his work with radium, announced the startling news that atoms were mostly empty. Instead, he said in 1911, almost all of an atom’s mass was bundled up in a central, positive nucleus. Later that decade, Rutherford probed the nucleus more deeply and found evidence for a new kind of particle within, the positively charged proton. By the mid-1930s, physicists had what they believed to be the main building blocks of matter.

The work of Planck and Einstein showed that the atomic world was governed by laws that were completely different from the ones Newton had discovered for the macroscopic world that dominated our daily experience. Newton’s laws work fine for big things like cars and cannonballs, but strange and nonintuitive rules govern the realm of particles. The building blocks of matter simply cannot be understood without understanding the rules of the quantum world. The structure of the atom as perceived today was still being fleshed out when quantum physics came on the scene. Proposals from Ernest Rutherford and the Danish physicist Niels Bohr suggested that atoms had a hard nucleus encircled by electrons in concentric orbits. In 1913, Bohr realized that a quantum interpretation of electron orbits allowed him to explain the colors of light absorbed and given off by hydrogen gas. It was a very specific piece of work, but it bolstered physicists’ confidence that the quantum was key to understanding the structure of matter.

Particle accelerators began life in the late 1920s as ramshackle devices built from spare parts, but they have been transformed over the decades into the largest and most complex machines on the planet. The earliest models produced beams of high-speed particles that were used to break open atomic nuclei. Eventually the machines were powerful enough to create entirely new particles from the energy released in the collisions. The rise of the machines can be traced back to Ernest Rutherford and other physicists who did similar experiments in the 1900s. Rutherford knew that radioactive materials produced streams of high-speed particles that could be used to study the structure of the atom. One common material he and his contemporaries used was radium. It emits alpha particles, which are made up of two protons and two neutrons, at speeds in excess of 20,000 kilometers per second.


pages: 282 words: 89,436

Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics by Paul Halpern

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lone genius, Murray Gell-Mann, New Journalism, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics

After sessions at the building’s grand lecture hall, the more than seven thousand conference members had the option of attending a sumptuous reception hosted by the Imperial Court, a banquet held by the Vienna city government, and a party graciously arranged by the Viennese physicists themselves. Surely no one complained about being underfed. Among the topics of discussion, radiation and atomic physics were all the rage. One of the speakers was German physicist Hans Geiger, inventor of the Geiger counter (proposed in rudimentary form in 1908) and a former coworker of famed New Zealand–born physicist Ernest Rutherford. In 1909, under Rutherford’s supervision at the University of Manchester, Geiger and Ernest Marsden had conducted an artful experiment designed to probe the atom. Bombarding gold foil with alpha particles (a type of radiation identical to helium ions), they discovered that almost all the particles passed unhindered through the foil. However, a small fraction bounced back at sharp angles, like superballs ricocheting off a concrete wall.

Planck, whose voice would have carried much weight, refused to protest the Nazi moves openly, though privately he was aghast at the developments. Recruiters from universities in other countries soon realized that Germany’s loss could well be their gain. The first to recognize the opportunity was Oxford physicist Frederick Lindemann, who set out to snare some notables to beef up his department’s research. Thanks to J. J. Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, and others, Cambridge had leapt far ahead of Oxford in the sciences, and Lindemann hoped to make the situation at least somewhat more balanced. The haughty, posh, much-disliked Lindemann had set his eye on Einstein for a permanent position—but Einstein would commit only to brief yearly visits. The anti-Semitic law meant that others would likely follow Einstein’s path out of Germany. Perhaps, Lindemann thought, they could be persuaded to make Oxford their new home.

Punch, November 19, 1919, 422, cited in Alistair Sponsel, “Constructing a ‘Revolution in Science’: The Campaign to Promote a Favourable Reception for the 1919 Solar Eclipse Experiments,” British Journal for the History of Science 35, no. 4 (2002): 439. 2. Jagdish Mehra and Helmut Rechenberg, Erwin Schrödinger and the Rise of Wave Mechanics, Part 1: Schrödinger in Vienna and Zurich, 1887– 1925, The Historical Development of Quantum Theory, volume 5 (New York: Springer, 1987), 166. 3. George de Hevesy to Ernest Rutherford, October 14, 1913. Rutherford Papers, University of Cambridge, quoted in Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times (New York: World Publishing, 1971), 158. 242 Notes 4. Erwin Schrödinger, Space-Time Structure (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 1. 5. Albert Einstein, speech given in Kyoto, Japan, on December 14, 1922, quoted in Engelbert L. Schücking and Eugene J. Surowitz, “Einstein’s Apple,” unpublished manuscript, 2013. 6.


pages: 332 words: 109,213

The Scientist as Rebel by Freeman Dyson

Albert Einstein, Asilomar, British Empire, Claude Shannon: information theory, dark matter, double helix, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, kremlinology, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, traveling salesman, undersea cable

Some professional astronomers share this vision and welcome the help that amateurs can provide. But most professionals consider the efforts of the amateurs trivial. After all, the professionals with their big instruments and big projects are solving the central problems of cosmology, while the amateurs are finding pretty little comets and asteroids. The view of the majority of professionals was expressed by the physicist Ernest Rutherford, the discoverer of the atomic nucleus, who said: “Physics is the only real science, the rest is butterfly-collecting.” For most professional astronomers, the large-scale structure of the universe is real science, while comets and asteroids are unimportant details of interest only to butterfly collectors. Butterfly-collecting is an amiable hobby, but it should not be confused with serious science.

This is the way it is now, and the way it was eighty years ago when the quantum revolution happened. I am a typical old conservative, out of touch with the new ideas and surrounded by young string theorists whose conversation I do not pretend to understand. In the 1920s, the golden age of quantum theory, the young revolutionaries were Werner Heisenberg and Paul Dirac, making their great discoveries at the age of twenty-five, and the old conservative was Ernest Rutherford, dismissing them with his famous statement, “They play games with their symbols but we turn out the real facts of Nature.” Rutherford was a great scientist, left behind by the revolution that he had helped to bring about. That is the normal state of affairs. Fifty years ago, when I was considerably younger than Greene is now, things were different. The normal state of affairs was inverted.

She could already imagine the horrible distortions of Robert’s true feelings, appearing under the headline “Noted Scientist, Father of Atom Bomb, Turns to Religion in Last Illness.” No poem was read at the ceremony. 1. Edited by Alice K. Smith and Charles Weiner (Harvard University Press, 1980). 21 SEEING THE UNSEEN EVERY ATOM IS almost entirely made of empty space, with a tiny object called the nucleus and even tinier objects called electrons flying around inside it. Ernest Rutherford, a young New Zealander working in Manchester, England, discovered this fact about atoms in 1909. He shot fast particles at a thin film of gold and observed the way the particles bounced back. The pattern of the recoiling particles showed directly the internal structure of the atoms in the film. The discovery of the tiny nucleus came as a big surprise to Rutherford as well as to everybody else.


pages: 208 words: 67,288

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, false memory syndrome, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, phenotype, Richard Feynman, the scientific method

That’s because an atom is too small to be seen, even with a powerful microscope. And yes, you can cut an atom into even smaller pieces – but what you then get is no longer the same element, for reasons we shall soon see. What is more, this is very difficult to do, and it releases an alarming quantity of energy. That is why, for some people, the phrase ‘splitting the atom’ has such an ominous ring to it. It was first done by the great New Zealand scientist Ernest Rutherford in 1919. Although we can’t see an atom, and although we can’t split it without turning it into something else, that doesn’t mean we can’t work out what it is like inside. As I explained in Chapter 1, when scientists can’t see something directly, they propose a ‘model’ of what it might be like, and then they test that model. A scientific model is a way of thinking about how things might be.

Either way, this process of proposing a model and then testing it – what we call the ‘scientific method’ – has a much better chance of getting at the way things really are than even the most imaginative and beautiful myth invented to explain what people didn’t – and often, at the time, couldn’t – understand. An early model of the atom was the so called ‘currant bun’ model proposed by the great English physicist J. J. Thomson at the end of the nineteenth century. I won’t describe it because it was replaced by the more successful Rutherford model, first proposed by the same Ernest Rutherford who split the atom, who came from New Zealand to England to work as Thomson’s pupil and who succeeded Thomson as Cambridge’s Professor of Physics. The Rutherford model, later refined in turn by Rutherford’s pupil, the celebrated Danish physicist Niels Bohr, treats the atom as a tiny, miniaturized solar system. There is a nucleus in the middle of the atom, which contains the bulk of its material.


pages: 208 words: 70,860

Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics by Jim Al-Khalili

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, butterfly effect, clockwork universe, complexity theory, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Laplace demon, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Olbers’ paradox, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, Wilhelm Olbers

It was also known, thanks to the work of Einstein, that light could be made to behave either like a stream of particles or like a spread-out wave, depending on the sort of experiment that was set up and what property of light was being studied. This was strange enough—but evidence was growing that matter particles, such as electrons, could also exhibit such contradictory behavior. In 1916 Niels Bohr had returned triumphantly to Copenhagen from Manchester, where he had helped Ernest Rutherford develop a theoretical model of how electrons orbit the nucleus inside atoms. Within a few years he had set up a new institute in Copenhagen, funded by money from the Carlsberg Brewery. Then, with the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics under his belt, he set about gathering around him some of the greatest scientific geniuses of the age. The most famous of this “brat pack” was the German physicist Werner Heisenberg.

In both cases, we cannot specify where the electron is exactly, but Schrödinger preferred to think of the electron as “really” spread out—until we look, that is. His version of atomic theory became known as “wave mechanics” and his now famous equation described how these waves evolve and behave over time in a fully deterministic way. Figure 9.2 Three pictures of the hydrogen atom with its single electron orbiting the nucleus (a) According to Ernest Rutherford (1911). (b) According to Werner Heisenberg (1925). (c) According to Erwin Schrödinger (1926). Today, we have learned to live with these two ways of viewing the quantum world: Heisenberg’s abstract mathematical way and Schrödinger’s wavy way. Both are taught to students and both seem to work fine, with quantum physicists learning to swap easily between the two pictures depending on the problem to hand.


pages: 684 words: 188,584

The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era by Craig Nelson

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, continuation of politics by other means, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Doomsday Clock, El Camino Real, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, music of the spheres, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, Project Plowshare, Ralph Nader, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, too big to fail, uranium enrichment, William Langewiesche, éminence grise

After three months of vacation in Auvergne, the Curies returned to work in November and made rapid progress, a barium concentrate producing results nine hundred times as strong as uranium’s. One of the school’s chemists could finally see their second element through the spectroscope, and around December 20 they named it: radium. After four years, forty tons of chemicals, and four hundred tons of water, on March 28, 1902, they produced one-tenth of a gram of radium chloride. In time, English chemist Frederick Soddy would work with New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford to discover the secret of uranic rays, the remarkable ability of radioactive elements to, through the spontaneous loss of subatomic particles, change into other elements, producing an emanation of alpha, beta, or gamma rays over the course of what they called a half-life. Subatomically bloated, these elements are forced to constantly shed neutrons or electrons until they achieve a stable, nonradioactive form and are at nucleic peace.

Radium, and with the public support of New York World editor Walter Lippmann, they won their case in 1928. By then, twenty-four of the eight hundred were already dead. Manya Skłodowska Curie became the first woman in French history to be awarded a doctorate, in June of 1903. Sister Bronya, now practicing medicine in Poland, returned to celebrate. She insisted Marie buy a new dress for the occasion, and just as she had for her wedding, she got one that would work equally well as lab wear. Ernest Rutherford, the discoverer of the classical model of the atom (with electrons orbiting nuclei much as the planets revolve around the sun), visited from Canada and was astonished by the Curies’ lab in the cadaver hut, as well as by the celebratory garden party at Paul Langevin’s that evening, illuminated by radium vials—“The luminosity was brilliant in the darkness and it was a splendid finale to an unforgettable day”—and the sight of Pierre’s deeply swollen, burnt hands.

In a letter dated August 11, 1933, Szilard said, “I’m spending much money at present for traveling about and earn of course nothing and cannot possibly go on with this for very long. At the moment, however, I can be so useful that I cannot afford to retire into private life.” On September 13, Leo was walking the streets of London as he always did, in an absentminded haze, a man neither here, nor there, pondering Wells, Hitler, and especially Ernest Rutherford’s pronouncement in the Times the day before that “anyone who looked for a source of power in the transformation of the atoms was talking moonshine.” Nothing bothered Szilard more than hearing a scientist claim something to be impossible if that impossibility hadn’t categorically been proven. On Southampton Row in Bloomsbury, “as I was waiting for the light to change and as the light changed to green and I crossed the street, it suddenly occurred to me that if we could find an element which is split by neutrons and which would emit two neutrons when it absorbed one neutron, such an element, if assembled in sufficiently large mass, could sustain a nuclear chain reaction.


pages: 1,396 words: 245,647

The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, gravity well, Henri Poincaré, invention of radio, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Murray Gell-Mann, period drama, Richard Feynman, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, strikebreaker, University of East Anglia

He would certainly have seen legions of wounded and maimed soldiers hobbling around the city, having returned from France for treatment.14 But the war was a boon for Dirac’s education.15 The exodus of the school’s older boys depleted the higher classes and enabled Dirac and other bright children to fill the gaps and therefore make quick progress. He excelled at science, including chemistry, which he studied in a silence that he broke on one occasion, a fellow student later remembered, when the teacher made an error, which Dirac gently corrected.16 In the foul-smelling laboratories, Dirac learned how to investigate systematically how chemicals behave and learned that all matter is made of atoms. The famous Cambridge scientist Sir Ernest Rutherford gave an idea of the smallness of atoms by pointing out that if everyone in the world spent twelve hours a day placing individual atoms into a thimble, a century would elapse before it was filled.17 Although no one knew what atoms were made of or how they were built, chemists treated them as if they were as palpable as stones. Dirac learned how to interpret the reactions he saw in the laboratory test tubes simply as rearrangements of the chemicals’ constituent atoms – his first glimpse of the idea that the way matter behaves can be understood by studying its most basic constituents.18 In his physics lessons, he saw how the material world could be studied by concentrating, for example, on heat, light and sound.19 But the mind of young Dirac was now venturing far beyond the school curriculum.

Unknown to most of his colleagues, Eddington had used his reputation to contrive the media hullabaloo that followed the announcement in November 1919 that the solar eclipse results supported the prediction of Einstein’s theory rather than Newton’s.16 Dirac attended his lectures and, like most people who first encountered him through his dazzling prose, was disappointed to find that he was an incoherent public speaker who had the habit of abandoning a sentence, as if losing interest, before moving on to the next one.17 But Dirac admired Eddington’s mathematical approach to science, which would become one of the most powerful influences on him. There was no love lost between Eddington and the other great figure of Cambridge science, the New Zealand-born Ernest Rutherford. The two men had sharply contrasting personalities and diametrically opposed approaches to physics. Whereas Eddington was introspective, mild-mannered and fond of mathematical abstraction, Rutherford was outgoing, down to earth, given to volcanic temper tantrums and dismissive of grandiose theorising. ‘Don’t let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my department,’ he growled.18 Unlike Eddington, Rutherford did not look in the least like an intellectual. 19 By the time Dirac first felt his surprisingly limp handshake, Rutherford was a burly fifty-two-year-old, with a walrus moustache, staring blue eyes and given to filling his pipe with a tobacco so dry that it went off like a volcano when he lit it.

Blackett was not there. Rutherford had no time for petty jealousy but was not above making a thinly disguised attack on his recently retired colleague Sir James Jeans, whose The Mysterious Universe had been a best-seller since it first appeared in the bookstores the month before. Rutherford was as down to earth and, at the same time, as snobbish as anyone in science. As the recorder of the dinner wrote: Sir Ernest Rutherford ‘deplored the writing of popular books by men who had been serious scientists, to satisfy the craving for the mysterious exhibited by the public’.49 This was a common opinion in Cambridge. A few months later, his idoliser C. P. Snow – a scientist about to become a writer – sneered at science popularisers for doing a job that was just too easy: ‘there is no argument and no appeal, just worshipper and worshipped’.


pages: 654 words: 204,260

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Brownian motion, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, clean water, Copley Medal, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Attenborough, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

Such was the confusion that by the close of the nineteenth century, depending on which text you consulted, you could learn that the number of years that stood between us and the dawn of complex life in the Cambrian period was 3 million, 18 million, 600 million, 794 million, or 2.4 billion—or some other number within that range. As late as 1910, one of the most respected estimates, by the American George Becker, put the Earth's age at perhaps as little as 55 million years. Just when matters seemed most intractably confused, along came another extraordinary figure with a novel approach. He was a bluff and brilliant New Zealand farm boy named Ernest Rutherford, and he produced pretty well irrefutable evidence that the Earth was at least many hundreds of millions of years old, probably rather more. Remarkably, his evidence was based on alchemy—natural, spontaneous, scientifically credible, and wholly non-occult, but alchemy nonetheless. Newton, it turned out, had not been so wrong after all. And exactly how that came to be is of course another story. 7 ELEMENTAL MATTERS CHEMISTRY AS AN earnest and respectable science is often said to date from 1661, when Robert Boyle of Oxford published The Sceptical Chymist—the first work to distinguish between chemists and alchemists—but it was a slow and often erratic transition.

In the process of their work, the Curies also found two new elements—polonium, which they named after her native country, and radium. In 1903 the Curies and Becquerel were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. (Marie Curie would win a second prize, in chemistry, in 1911, the only person to win in both chemistry and physics.) At McGill University in Montreal the young New Zealand–born Ernest Rutherford became interested in the new radioactive materials. With a colleague named Frederick Soddy he discovered that immense reserves of energy were bound up in these small amounts of matter, and that the radioactive decay of these reserves could account for most of the Earth's warmth. They also discovered that radioactive elements decayed into other elements—that one day you had an atom of uranium, say, and the next you had an atom of lead.

The existence of atoms was so doubtfully held in the German-speaking world in particular that it was said to have played a part in the suicide of the great theoretical physicist, and atomic enthusiast, Ludwig Boltzmann in 1906. It was Einstein who provided the first incontrovertible evidence of atoms' existence with his paper on Brownian motion in 1905, but this attracted little attention and in any case Einstein was soon to become consumed with his work on general relativity. So the first real hero of the atomic age, if not the first personage on the scene, was Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford was born in 1871 in the “back blocks” of New Zealand to parents who had emigrated from Scotland to raise a little flax and a lot of children (to paraphrase Steven Weinberg). Growing up in a remote part of a remote country, he was about as far from the mainstream of science as it was possible to be, but in 1895 he won a scholarship that took him to the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, which was about to become the hottest place in the world to do physics.


pages: 824 words: 218,333

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, Benoit Mandelbrot, butterfly effect, dark matter, discovery of DNA, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, longitudinal study, medical residency, moral hazard, mouse model, New Journalism, out of africa, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ponzi scheme, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Scientific racism, stem cell, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, Thomas Malthus, twin studies

It is the molecule that has the glamour: Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (New York: Basic Books, 1988), 67. Science [would be] ruined: Donald W. Braben, Pioneering Research: A Risk Worth Taking (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2004), 85. Among the early converts: Maurice Wilkins, Maurice Wilkins: The Third Man of the Double Helix: An Autobiography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). Ernest Rutherford: Richard Reeves, A Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008). “Life . . . is a chemical incident”: Arthur M. Silverstein, Paul Ehrlich’s Receptor Immunology: The Magnificent Obsession (San Diego, CA: Academic, 2002), 2. Wilkins found an X-ray diffraction machine: Maurice Wilkins, correspondence with Raymond Gosling on the early days of DNA research at King’s College, 1976, Maurice Wilkins Papers, King’s College London Archives.

The allegiances shifted: the handmaiden of chromatin was suddenly its queen. Among the early converts to the religion of DNA was a young physicist from New Zealand, Maurice Wilkins. The son of a country doctor, Wilkins had studied physics at Cambridge in the 1930s. The gritty frontier of New Zealand—far away and upside down—had already produced a force that had turned twentieth-century physics on its head: Ernest Rutherford, another young man who had traveled to Cambridge on scholarship in 1895, and torn through atomic physics like a neutron beam on the loose. In a blaze of unrivaled experimental frenzy, Rutherford had deduced the properties of radioactivity, built a convincing conceptual model of the atom, shredded the atom into its constituent subatomic pieces, and launched the new frontier of subatomic physics.

Darwin had started out as a natural historian—a fossil collector—but had then radically altered that discipline by seeking the mechanism behind natural history. Mendel, too, had started out as a botanist and a naturalist and radically swerved that discipline by seeking the mechanism that drove heredity and variation. Both Darwin and Mendel observed the natural world to seek deeper causes behind its organization. II. Watson borrowed this memorable phrase from Ernest Rutherford, who, in one of his characteristically brusque moments, had declared, “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” III. These libraries were conceived and created by Tom Maniatis in collaboration with Argiris Efstratiadis and Fotis Kafatos. Maniatis had been unable to work on gene cloning at Harvard because of concerns about the safety of recombinant DNA. He had moved to Cold Spring Harbor on Watson’s invitation so that he could work on gene cloning in peace.


pages: 339 words: 94,769

Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI by John Brockman

AI winter, airport security, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Danny Hillis, David Graeber, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, finite state, friendly AI, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, gig economy, income inequality, industrial robot, information retrieval, invention of writing, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Laplace demon, Loebner Prize, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, Picturephone, profit maximization, profit motive, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Skype, social graph, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, telemarketer, telerobotics, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Upton Sinclair, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K, zero-sum game

The claim, which is backed by no evidence, appears to concede that if superintelligent AI were possible, it would be a significant risk. It’s as if a bus driver, with all of humanity as passengers, said, “Yes, I am driving toward a cliff—in fact, I’m pressing the pedal to the metal! But trust me, we’ll run out of gas before we get there!” The claim represents a foolhardy bet against human ingenuity. We have made such bets before and lost. On September 11, 1933, renowned physicist Ernest Rutherford stated, with utter confidence, “Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.” On September 12, 1933, Leo Szilard invented the neutron-induced nuclear chain reaction. A few years later he demonstrated such a reaction in his laboratory at Columbia University. As he recalled in a memoir: “We switched everything off and went home. That night, there was very little doubt in my mind that the world was headed for grief.”

Darwinian evolution endowed us with powerful fear of concrete threats, not of abstract threats from future technologies that are hard to visualize or even imagine. Consider trying to warn people in 1930 of a future nuclear arms race, when you couldn’t show them a single nuclear explosion video and nobody even knew how to build such weapons. Even top scientists can underestimate uncertainty, making forecasts that are either too optimistic—Where are those fusion reactors and flying cars?—or too pessimistic. Ernest Rutherford, arguably the greatest nuclear physicist of his time, said in 1933—less than twenty-four hours before Leo Szilard conceived of the nuclear chain reaction—that nuclear energy was “moonshine.” Essentially nobody at that time saw the nuclear arms race coming. Third, psychologists have discovered that we tend to avoid thinking of disturbing threats when we believe there’s nothing we can do about them anyway.


pages: 315 words: 92,151

Ten Billion Tomorrows: How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality and Shapes the Future by Brian Clegg

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Brownian motion, call centre, Carrington event, combinatorial explosion, don't be evil, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, game design, gravity well, hive mind, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, silicon-based life, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Turing test

That’s enough to get the hairs on the back of your neck rising, especially bearing in mind that this premonition came from the man who wrote The Time Machine, which is written in the first person by the time traveler. Just how remarkable The World Set Free is can be seen by putting the picture of the future it portrayed alongside a few realities from history. The concept of radioactivity only dated back to the turn of the century, and as late as 1933 Ernest Rutherford, a massive contributor to atomic theory, was quoted as saying, “The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.” In the next year Leo Szilard came up with the concept of a nuclear chain reaction that would make harnessing nuclear power possible; in 1942 Enrico Fermi produced the first working reactor under the bleachers of a disused football stadium in Chicago.

Please use the search function on your e-reading device to search for the relevant passages documented or discussed. 1. THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY Arthur C. Clarke’s prediction of geostationary communication satellites was in Arthur C. Clarke, “Extra Terrestrial Relays,” Wireless World (October 1945): 305–8. The early predictions of nuclear war and atomic bombs came from H. G. Wells, The World Set Free (London: Corgi, 1976). Ernest Rutherford’s dismissal of atomic power was quoted in an article in the New York Herald Tribune, September 12, 1933. The identification of Verne’s error in comparing his work with that of H. G. Wells is pointed out by Adam Roberts in Vassili Christodoulou’s interview with Roberts, “In Praise of Sci-Fi,” IAI News, accessed September 5, 2014, iainews.iai.tv/articles/in-defence-of-sci-fi-auid-385. Hugo Gernsback’s definition of scientifiction is quoted in John Clute and Peter Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (London: Orbit, 1999), p. 311. 2.


pages: 335 words: 95,280

The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far by Lawrence M. Krauss

Albert Einstein, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, the scientific method

While he didn’t himself spearhead the relevant research, he recognized the talents of a young student of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and music at the University of Berlin, Walther Bothe, and in 1912 Planck accepted him as a doctoral student and mentored him throughout the rest of his career. Bothe was spectacularly lucky to be mentored by Planck and, shortly thereafter, by Hans Geiger, of Geiger counter fame. Geiger, in my mind, is one of the most talented experimental physicists to have been overlooked for a Nobel Prize. Geiger had begun his career by doing the experiments, with Ernest Marsden, that Ernest Rutherford utilized to discover the existence of the atomic nucleus. Geiger had just returned from England, where he’d worked with Rutherford, to direct a new laboratory in Berlin, and one of his first acts was to hire Bothe as an assistant. There Bothe learned to focus on important experiments, using simple approaches that yielded immediate results. After an “involuntary vacation” of five years, as a prisoner of war in Siberia during the First World War, Bothe returned and built a remarkable collaboration with Geiger, eventually succeeding him as director of the laboratory.

However, after several conflicting measurements by other groups, further analysis a year later by Chadwick using a nuclear reaction induced by gamma rays—which allowed all energies to be measured with great precision—definitely indicated that the neutron was heavier than the sum of the proton and electron masses, even if barely so, with the mass difference being less than 0.1 percent. It is said that “close” only matters when tossing horseshoes or hand grenades, but the closeness in mass between the proton and the neutron matters a great deal. It is one of the key reasons we exist today. Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity in uranium in 1896, and only three years later Ernest Rutherford discerned that radioactivity occurred in two different types, which he labeled alpha and beta rays. A year later gamma rays were discovered, and Rutherford confirmed them as a new form of radiation in 1903, when he gave them their name. Becquerel determined in 1900 that the “rays” in beta decay were actually electrons, which we now know arise from the decay of the neutron. In beta decay a neutron splits into a proton and an electron, which, as I describe below, would not be possible if the neutron weren’t slightly heavier than protons.


pages: 661 words: 169,298

Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Cepheid variable, Commentariolus, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, delayed gratification, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Karl Jansky, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, planetary scale, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Solar eclipse in 1919, source of truth, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

Time: 1900 Noteworthy Events: Max Planck proposes the quantum theory of radiation, the basis of quantum physics. Time: 1904 Noteworthy Events: Ernest Rutherford suggests that the amount of helium produced by the radioactive decay of minerals in rocks could be employed to measure the age of the earth. Time: 1905 Noteworthy Events: Albert Einstein publishes special theory of relativity, indicating that measurements of space and time are distorted at high velocity and implying that mass and energy are equivalent; in another paper he shows that light is composed of quanta. Noteworthy Events: Jacobus Kapteyn, studying the proper motions of twenty-four hundred stars, finds evidence of what he calls “star streaming”—that stars in our neighborhood move in a preferred direction—an early clue to the rotation of our galaxy. Time: 1911 Noteworthy Events: Ernest Rutherford determines that most of the mass of atoms is contained in their tiny nuclei.

He had detected radioactivity, the emission of subatomic particles by unstable atoms like those of uranium—which, Becquerel noted in announcing his results in 1896, was particularly radioactive. His work helped initiate a path of research that would lead, eventually, to Einstein’s realization that every atom is a bundle of energy. At McGill University in Montreal, the energetic experimentalist Ernest Rutherford, a great bear of a man whose roaring voice sent his assistants and their laboratory glassware trembling, found that radioactive materials can produce surprisingly large amounts of energy. A lump of radium, Rutherford established, generates enough heat to melt its weight in ice every hour, and can continue to do so for a thousand years or more. Other radioactive elements last even longer; some keep ticking away at an almost undiminished rate for billions of years.


pages: 334 words: 100,201

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything by David Christian

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, butterfly effect, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cepheid variable, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, Columbian Exchange, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, demographic transition, double helix, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, Haber-Bosch Process, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Marshall McLuhan, microbiome, nuclear winter, planetary scale, rising living standards, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route, Yogi Berra

But don’t think of atoms as solid balls of matter. They consist almost entirely of empty space. Each has a tiny nucleus in its center made up of protons (with positive charges) and neutrons (which have no charge) bound together by the strong nuclear force. The rest of the atom is mostly empty. Orbiting the nuclei at huge distances are clouds of electrons, roughly one to each proton in the nucleus. Early in the twentieth century, Ernest Rutherford, one of the pioneers of modern nuclear physics, described the nucleus of an atom as “the fly in the cathedral.” The scale Rutherford suggests is about right. But he was writing before the evolution of modern quantum physics, which showed that his metaphor is also misleading. Electrons are minuscule, with about 1/1836 the mass of a proton. Quantum physics showed that we can never pin down their exact speed or position.

In atoms with large nuclei, such as uranium, the repulsive power of lots of positively charged protons can destabilize the nucleus until, eventually, it breaks down spontaneously, emitting high-energy electrons or photons or even whole helium nuclei. As chunks of the nucleus are ejected, the element is transformed into different elements with fewer protons. For example, uranium eventually breaks down to lead. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Ernest Rutherford realized that, even if you could not tell when a particular nucleus was about to break apart, radioactive breakdown was a very regular process when averaged over billions of particles. Every isotope of the same element (isotopes have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons) breaks down at different but regular rates, so it is possible to determine precisely how long it will take for half of the atoms in a given isotope to decay.


pages: 128 words: 38,963

Longitude by Dava Sobel

Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Copley Medal, Dava Sobel, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius

The Royal Society, which had been founded in the previous century as a prestigious scientific discussion group, rallied behind Harrison all through these trying years. His friend George Graham and other admiring members of the society insisted that Harrison leave his workbench long enough to accept the Copley Gold Medal on November 30, 1749. (Later recipients of the Copley Medal include Benjamin Franklin, Henry Cavendish, Joseph Priestley, Captain James Cook, Ernest Rutherford, and Albert Einstein.) Harrison’s Royal Society supporters eventually followed the medal, which was the highest tribute they could confer, with an offer of Fellowship in the Society. This would have put the prestigious initials F.R.S. after his name. But Harrison declined. He asked that the membership be given to his son William instead. As Harrison must have known, Fellowship in the Royal Society is earned by scientific achievement; it cannot ordinarily be transferred, even to one’s next of kin, in the manner of a property deed.


pages: 189 words: 48,180

Elemental: How the Periodic Table Can Now Explain Everything by Tim James

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Dmitri Mendeleev, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Silicon Valley

What we call atoms are not uncuttable at all, and neither are they the smallest things. They’re just stable structures that prefer not to be pulled apart. Electrons are the truly uncuttable particles and, as far as Thomson could figure, they were suspended in an oppositely charged dough. But science makes progress by disproving a hypothesis, not by proving it, and the plum-pudding idea was eventually torn to pieces by Thomson’s student Ernest Rutherford. Raised on a New Zealand sheep farm, Rutherford was known for rejecting expensive equipment and carrying out ludicrous experiments because nobody else was doing them. His unorthodox approach earned him the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, though, so people tended to let him get on with it. He won the prize for discovering that larger atoms could spit out tiny pieces, which he called alpha particles, that are much heavier than electrons and carry the opposite charge.


pages: 185 words: 55,639

The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything by John Gribbin

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking

While physicists were still coming to terms with the idea that bits could be chipped off from the ‘indivisible’ atoms, the discovery of radioactivity was both giving them a new tool with which to probe the structure of atoms themselves and (although it was not realized at first) demonstrating that particles much larger than electrons could break off from atoms. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the New Zealander Ernest Rutherford, working at McGill University in Montreal with Frederick Soddy, showed that radioactivity involves the transformation of atoms of one element into atoms of another element. In the process, the atoms emit one or both of two types of radiation, named (by Rutherford) alpha and beta rays. Beta rays, it turned out, were simply fast-moving electrons. The alpha ‘rays’ also turned out to be fast-moving particles, but much more massive—particles each with a mass about four times that of an atom of hydrogen (the lightest element), and carrying two units of positive charge.


pages: 198 words: 57,703

The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, butterfly effect, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, germ theory of disease, gravity well, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, publish or perish, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, supercomputer in your pocket, the scientific method

And it is E = mc2 that lies behind half a century of accelerator laboratories in which beams of subatomic particles are smashed together at ever higher energies to create new matter—new particles—out of the energy of the collision. But there are rules associated with what sort of matter particles can be created from energy, and we will discuss some of them in the next section. THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF MATTER From the moment, over a century ago, when Ernest Rutherford, with the help of Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, probed the interior of atoms for the first time, by aiming alpha particles at a thin gold leaf and watching how many passed through it and how many bounced back, physicists have been obsessed with delving ever deeper into the subatomic world. They first revealed the structure of atoms themselves—electron clouds surrounding a tiny, dense nucleus.


pages: 186 words: 64,267

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Brownian motion, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking

He used a setup rather like a modern TV picture tube: a red-hot metal filament gave off the electrons, and because these have a negative electric charge, an electric field could be used to accelerate them toward a phosphor-coated screen. When they hit the screen, flashes of light were generated. Soon it was realized that these electrons must be coming from within the atoms themselves, and in 1911 the New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford finally showed that the atoms of matter do have internal structure: they are made up of an extremely tiny, positively charged nucleus, around which a number of electrons orbit. He deduced this by analyzing the way in which alpha-particles, which are positively charged particles given off by radioactive atoms, are deflected when they collide with atoms. At first it was thought that the nucleus of the atom was made up of electrons and different numbers of a positively charged particle called the proton, from the Greek word meaning “first,” because it was believed to be the fundamental unit from which matter was made.


pages: 604 words: 165,488

Mr Five Per Cent: The Many Lives of Calouste Gulbenkian, the World's Richest Man by Jonathan Conlin

accounting loophole / creative accounting, anti-communist, banking crisis, British Empire, carried interest, Ernest Rutherford, estate planning, Fellow of the Royal Society, light touch regulation, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Network effects, Pierre-Simon Laplace, rent-seeking, stakhanovite, Yom Kippur War

Although two prizes were enough to earn the associateship, he also earned Certificates of Merit in 2nd Year Mechanics and Arts of Construction, as well as a Certificate of Distinction in 3rd Year Physics.23 Alongside these he also studied practical chemistry, geology, geometrical and mechanical drawing, surveying and an activity known simply as ‘Workshop’. There were more than 150 lectures a term to attend, with exams at the end of the year. In July 1887 he also sat an external, state examination in magnetism and electricity, gaining an advanced certificate (first class), a stand-alone qualification.24 In later life Gulbenkian also claimed to have studied under Ernest Rutherford, the New Zealand-born pioneer of nuclear physics, as well as the great William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, who helped formulate the second law of thermodynamics.25 Thomson was showered with honours and even gave his name to a unit of measurement (the kelvin, used to measure absolute temperature). But Rutherford did not move to Britain until 1907 and Thomson never taught in London. While Rutherford was plain fabrication, in Kelvin’s case Gulbenkian was confusing William Thomson (physicist) with his former teacher John M.

Jr 182 Rockefeller Foundation 287, 301, 307, 310, 319 Rodin, Auguste, Burghers of Calais bronze 157, Pl (b/w) Romania 60, 68, 73–5, 119, 130–31, 160, 235 Roosevelt, Franklin D. 254 Rosenberg, Alfred 248 Rothschild family (London branch) 106 Rothschild family (Paris branch) 248 bank 33, 106 oil companies 33, 34, 60–61, 67–72, 74 Rothschild, Alphonse de 94 Rothschild, Baron Edmond de 110, 124 Rothschild, Henri de 249, 288 Rothschild, Lionel de 150 Rothschild, Nathan ‘Natty’, 1st Baron 84 Roxana (US oil company) 108 Royal Artillery (British Army) 261 Royal Dutch Petroleum Company: foundation and early development 68 Asiatic and EPU joint ventures 68, 69, 70, 75 merger with Shell 69; see also Royal Dutch-Shell Royal Dutch-Shell: formation 69 purchase of EPU 75 partnership with Turkish Petroleum Company 92, 93–4, 169 early development of global operations 82, 104–9, 115 CSG acts as liaison with French government 109–111, 115–16, 125–31 and post-First World War settlement negotiations 120–22, 123, 135–7, 140 acquisition of control of El Águila (Mexican Eagle) 123–5 Soviet-controlled oil production operations 140–41, 181–2 Venezuelan Oil Concessions contract dispute and CSG’s break with company 146–54, 160–61, 194, 272 cartelisation with Anglo-Persian and Jersey Standard 160, 177 and Red Line Agreement negotiations with TPC 169, 173, 174 attempted speculative attack on 204–5 and IPC concessions outside Iraq 224–5 during Second World War 252, 253 and post-war Middle East oil concession negotiations 264, 265, 271 Royal Horticultural Society 114 Royzenman, Boris 190–91 Rubens, Sir Peter Paul, Hélène Fourment 189 Ruck, Arthur 156 Rudolf Lepke (auction house) 186 Rusk, Dean 307 Russell, George W. E., Social Silhouettes 65 Russian Civil War (1917–22) 112–13, 140 Russian Industrial and Mining Company 60, 61–3 Russo–Turkish War (1877–78) 19 Rutherford, Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron 29 S S. & S. Gulbenkian (firm) 31, 41, 47–8, 79, 296 Sadi, Reşid 84 St Louis, Missouri 108 St Malo 102 St Petersburg (Leningrad) 18 Hermitage Museum 4, 139, 185–90 Saint-Germain-en-Laye 217 Sakhalin island 61 Salazar, António de Oliveira 244, 247, 288, 294 and establishment of Gulbenkian Foundation 306, 307, 308, 309, 312, 313, 314, 315, 317 Salonica (Thessaloniki) 81, 85 Samad Khan Mometazos Saltaneh 175, 176 Samuel, Marcus, 1st Viscount Bearsted 61, 68, 69, 74, 128, 129, 150, 230, 296 Samuel, Samuel 61, 74 Samuel, Walter, 2nd Viscount Bearsted 230 Samuel Pearson and Sons (engineering firm) 115, 122, 124, 150 Samuelson, Marie (later Gulbenkian) 219 San Remo Conference (1920) 121 Oil Agreement 118, 128, 130, 135, 136, 138, 164, 263 Sanson, Paul-Ernest 156–7 Sardar Assad Bakhtiari 175 Sardari, Abdol Hossein 248–9 Sarkis Gulbenkian Fils (firm) 48, 60, 64, 65 collapse 75–6, 79–80 Sassoon, Sir Philip 230 Saudi Arabia 1, 4, 174, 224, 225, 254, 256, 279; see also Aramco Schibaieff, S.


pages: 200 words: 71,482

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

Buckminster Fuller, Ernest Rutherford, Khartoum Gordon, Murray Gell-Mann, stakhanovite, wage slave

If the Derby Ball attracted the nation's richest and most glittering, then the Goldsmiths' Hall that evening attracted the nation's brightest and most wise—a stellar gathering of intellect, rarely either assembled or able to be assembled since. There were two bishops, three vice-chancellors, a dozen peers of the realm (including the Earls of Birkenhead, Elgin, Harrowby, and Crawford & Balcarres, the Viscount Devonport, the Lords Aldenham, Blanesburgh, Cecil, Percy, Queenborough, Wargrave, and Warrington of Clyffe), 27 knights of the realm (among them Sir Ernest Rutherford, splitter of atoms; Sir Arthur QuillerCouch, Cornishman and editor—under the pseudonym `Q'—of the then best-known of poetry anthologies; Sir Henry Newbolt, whose imperially minded, patriotically inspired poetry was known to every jingoist in the land; Sir Gerald Lenox-Conyngham, inventor, Triangulator and Surveyor of India, and first-ever Cambridge Reader in Geodesy; Sir Owen Seaman, the noted satirist, Punch editor and parodist who also `set great store by social activities, shot and swam well and had been Captain of Clare boats'; and Sir Charles Oman, who, despite being `in no sense a thinker', held the Chichele Chair in History at Oxford, was a worldrenowned numismatist, and wrote screeds of fascinations about Domesday Book).


pages: 209 words: 68,587

Stephen Hawking by Leonard Mlodinow

Albert Michelson, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Nelson Mandela, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method

If Cambridge had the Hogwarts look, there was an essential difference. The magic done here was real. There was the courtyard where Newton stamped his foot to time the echoes, and measured the speed of sound; the laboratory built by James Clerk Maxwell, who puzzled out the secrets of electricity and magnetism, and where J. J. Thomson discovered the electron; the bar where Watson and Crick used to drink beer and talk genetics; the building where Ernest Rutherford—the man who unlocked the mystery of atomic structure—conducted his careful experiments. In Cambridge they are rightly proud of their tradition of science, and they call Oxford, which is more humanities oriented, “that other school.” The head of Stephen’s department told me that he, like Stephen, had been an undergraduate at Oxford, and his professors required them to write essays on scientific issues rather than just assigning the usual homework problems.


Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima by James Mahaffey

clean water, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Google Earth, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, loose coupling, Menlo Park, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, uranium enrichment, wage slave, wikimedia commons

The new elements that the Curies had extracted at great labor from uranium ore, radium and polonium, would turn out to be two of the most dangerous substances in the natural world, and both are banned from all but the most critical industrial uses. Both are alpha-ray emitters. An alpha ray is a particle, consisting of a clump of two protons and two neutrons. It is literally the nucleus of a helium atom, and it breaks free of the radium nucleus, flying outward into space. In 1903 the physicist Ernest Rutherford calculated that the energy released from radium by a single alpha particle is a million times larger than the energy produced by any chemical combination of two molecules. The alpha particle has very limited range, and it is easily stopped by the uppermost layer of the skin, but the damage to healthy tissue to this shallow depth is significant. The greatest danger is in ingesting or breathing radium dust, as the destructive energy of each alpha particle released is fully deposited in body tissues.

Cockcroft, the son of a mill owner, was born in the English town of Todmorden in 1897, and he began his journey through knowledge at the Todmorden Secondary School in 1909. Continuing his education at the Victoria University of Manchester, he moved to the Manchester College of Technology after an interruption by the First World War, in which he served as a signaler for the Royal Artillery. After two years studying electrical engineering, he moved on to St. John’s College, Cambridge, in 1924 and enjoyed the privilege of working with Lord Ernest Rutherford unwrapping the structure of the atom. In 1932 Cockcroft and the notable Irish physicist Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton stunned the scientific community by reducing lithium atoms into helium by bombarding them with accelerated protons. This accomplishment was made possible using their invention, the Cockcroft-Walton “ladder” voltage multiplier, which on an unusually dry day could produce an impressive 700,000 volts at the top electrode.


pages: 293 words: 74,709

Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione

Albert Einstein, cuban missile crisis, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, energy security, Ernest Rutherford, Mahatma Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan, uranium enrichment, Yogi Berra

Serber got right to the point: “The object of the Project is to produce a practical military weapon in the form of a bomb in which the energy is released by a fast neutron chain reaction in one or more of the materials known to show nuclear fission.”10 The discovery of fission was new, but the idea of the atom goes back to the early Greek thinkers. In about 400 BCE, Democritus reasoned that if you continuously divided matter, you would eventually get down to the smallest, undividable particle, which he called an atom, meaning “uncuttable.” By the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists realized the atom had an internal structure. In 1908 Ernest Rutherford discovered that atoms had a central core, or nucleus, composed of positively-charged protons, surrounded by the negatively charged electrons detected by J. J. Thompson eleven years earlier. In 1932 James Chadwick discovered that there were particles equal in weight to the proton in the nucleus, but without an electrical charge. He dubbed them neutrons. This led to the atomic model that we are familiar with today, of an atom as a miniature planetary system, with a nucleus of hard, round balls of protons and neutrons with smaller electron balls orbiting around.


pages: 298 words: 81,200

Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, cleantech, complexity theory, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, digital Maoism, digital map, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Ernest Rutherford, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, greed is good, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invention of air conditioning, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, Mason jar, mass immigration, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, online collectivism, packet switching, PageRank, patent troll, pattern recognition, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Oldenburg, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Great Good Place, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, urban planning

COSMIC RAYS (1913) The discovery of cosmic rays—particles that bombard earth from beyond its atmosphere—was the culmination of the work of a number of scientists in the early twentieth century, although the German physicist Werner Kolhörster did receive a Nobel Prize for his work and research in the nascent field. However, Kolhörster’s experiments leaned heavily on earlier discoveries by Victor Hess and Theodor Wulf. ELECTRON’S ROLE IN CHEMICAL BONDING (1913) Danish physicist Niels Bohr proposed his model of the electron (loosely based on British chemist Ernest Rutherford’s model) in 1913, postulating that electrons travel in patterned orbits around the nucleus of an atom, and further theorized that the chemical makeup of an element is derived from the number of electrons in the atom’s orbit. Bohr’s discovery revealed the electron’s fundamental role in chemical bonding. CONTINENTAL DRIFT (1915) In 1915, German meteorologist and geologist Alfred Wegener published a book in which he argued that all the continents of the earth had once been part of one massive landmass called Pangea, which had slowly split apart over time.


Toast by Stross, Charles

anthropic principle, Buckminster Fuller, cosmological principle, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Extropian, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, glass ceiling, gravity well, Khyber Pass, Mars Rover, Mikhail Gorbachev, NP-complete, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, performance metric, phenotype, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, slashdot, speech recognition, strong AI, traveling salesman, Turing test, urban renewal, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Review, Y2K

The Committee is currently investigating autoclaves and very high-pressure steam generators as a route to the extraction of a better brew. However, there appears to be a fundamental limit imposed by pressures greater than two thousand pounds per square inch; at this point the coffee grounds adhere to one another. The result can be a nasty steam explosion, as Frazer discovered to his cost. MacIntyre, for his part, is working with Sir Ernest Rutherford. He still maintains that Radium is the answer. And now it is my sad duty to record the effects the war has had upon our ranks. Marshall Joyce passed away three years ago, a victim of the U-boat attack on the liner Lusitania. His son, Marshall Jr., chose not to follow him into our ranks once he was appraised of the nature of our pursuit. It is with regret that I note the death of Lieutenant William Stephenson.


pages: 287 words: 87,204

Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution by John Gribbin

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, British Empire, Brownian motion, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lateral thinking, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, the scientific method, trade route, upwardly mobile

Thomson announced, in a lecture at the Royal Institution in London, the discovery that the radiation from a wire that is carrying an electric current in a vacuum tube is made up of a stream of electrically charged particles—what we now call electrons. The experimental study of radioactivity was swiftly carried forward by the Curies, Marie (1867–1934) and Pierre (1859–1906), at the Sorbonne; but the person who first appreciated what radioactivity involved, and then used radioactivity to probe the structure of atoms, was Ernest Rutherford (1871–1937), a New Zealander who worked in Canada and England. Rutherford arrived in England in 1895 and worked for a time under Thomson at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. Under Thomson’s influence, he became interested in atomic physics, and soon discovered that there are two kinds of radioactivity, one producing positively charged particles which he dubbed alpha radiation, and the other producing negatively charged particles which he called beta radiation.


pages: 277 words: 87,082

Beyond Weird by Philip Ball

Albert Einstein, Bayesian statistics, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, dematerialisation, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes

That’s OK, so long as we recognize that we’re then making an assumption outside of quantum mechanics. Imagining the electron as a ‘wavy particle’ confined within a tiny box is a rather fruitful way of thinking about how atoms are constituted. One of the first successes of quantum theory was the model of the atom proposed by Bohr in 1913. It was adapted from an earlier picture suggested by the New Zealander Ernest Rutherford, in which he visualized these building blocks of matter as an extremely dense and positively charged central nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. Rutherford and others refined this into a ‘planetary model’, where the electrons circulate in orbits like the planets around the Sun. They’re confined not by walls around the edge of an atom but by the electrical force of attraction to the nucleus at the centre.


pages: 266 words: 87,411

The Slow Fix: Solve Problems, Work Smarter, and Live Better in a World Addicted to Speed by Carl Honore

Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Broken windows theory, call centre, Checklist Manifesto, clean water, clockwatching, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, Dava Sobel, delayed gratification, drone strike, Enrique Peñalosa, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ernest Rutherford, Exxon Valdez, fundamental attribution error, game design, income inequality, index card, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John Harrison: Longitude, lateral thinking, lone genius, medical malpractice, microcredit, Netflix Prize, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, ultimatum game, urban renewal, War on Poverty

Many hours once spent in front of the television are now poured into blogging, gaming or other online pursuits that work our cognitive muscles in ways that watching re-runs of Friends never could. The fierce urgency of the problems now facing mankind also helps focus minds. Even the economic crisis that erupted in 2008 might turn out to have a silver lining: without the cash to splurge on the latest quick fix du jour, we have to be more critical and creative. Or as Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, put it during a burst of austerity in the 1920s: “We’ve got no money, so we’ve got to think.” We are even starting to rewrite the capitalist rule-book. Britain and a half-dozen US states have changed corporate law to make it possible to create companies that put social goals ahead of profits, and several European countries are toying with similar legislation.


pages: 356 words: 95,647

Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking by Charles Seife

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Brownian motion, correlation does not imply causation, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norman Macrae, Project Plowshare, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, Yom Kippur War

Since an atom is, on balance, neither positively nor negatively charged, the positive and negative charges in the atom must be equal and opposite; the charges in the atom have to cancel each other out. This means that for every electron in an atom, there has to be something else in the atom that carries the equivalent positive charge. About a decade after the discovery of the electron, the physicist Ernest Rutherford found out where that equal and opposite charge sits. It resides in tiny, but extremely solid, nucleus at the very center of the atom. This nucleus is quite heavy, thousands of times heavier than an electron, so the nucleus of an atom had to be made of stuff very different from electrons. Rutherford soon figured out what that positively charged stuff was: he realized that the positive charge is cloistered inside a heavy particle known as a proton.


Racing With Death by Beau Riffenburgh

British Empire, David Attenborough, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society

Meanwhile, it took two months before Mawson finally was able to begin a job with the Commission Internationale de Ravitaillement (CIR), the organisation coordinating Allied supplies, for which he oversaw the loading aboard ship in Liverpool of high explosives and poison gas destined for Britain’s allies in Russia. However, although it brought with it the rank of temporary captain, this was a dead-end position that any automaton could carry out, and it quickly became tedious. Its lack of intellectual stimulation was emphasised when compared to Mawson’s regular scholarly and social contacts with the likes of Nobel Prize winners Sir Ernest Rutherford and William H. Bragg; Sir J.J. Thomson, President of the Royal Society; Charles Parsons, the inventor of the steam turbine; and, of course, Kathleen Scott and her young son Peter. Despite being joined by Paquita in November 1916 – after she had left Patricia with relatives for what turned out to be the duration of the war – Mawson remained so frustrated by the lack of a challenge that he wrote to University Registrar Charles Hodge that he intended to return to Adelaide.


pages: 315 words: 89,861

The Simulation Hypothesis by Rizwan Virk

3D printing, Albert Einstein, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, butterfly effect, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, game design, Google Glasses, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, mandelbrot fractal, Marc Andreessen, Minecraft, natural language processing, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, technological singularity, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Zeno's paradox

In this model, each of the planetary bodies is an independent physical entity that acts on the others per the laws of classical mechanics. It is a purely deterministic model—in order to know where things end up, you simply need to know where they started and which forces are acting on them. In this view of the world, the observer is just that—an observer that has no effect on the motions of the bodies being studied. This idea, which started in the macroscopic world, was extended to the microscopic world when Lord Ernest Rutherford discovered the nucleus of the atom. The idea was that there were basic building blocks, which were discreet and independent of one another, just like the planets in the solar system. The nucleus of an atom consisted of protons and neutrons, while electrons traveled around the nucleus in orbits, analogous to how planets orbited the sun. This was called the planetary model (or the Rutherford-Bohr planetary model).


pages: 385 words: 98,015

Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum by Lee Smolin

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Claude Shannon: information theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Turing machine

The chemical elements were understood to be classified by how many electrons they contained. Carbon has 6 electrons, uranium 92, for example. Atoms are electrically neutral, so if an atom contains, say, 6 electrons, that means if you remove those electrons you get a structure with 6 positive charges. Since electrons are so light, this structure, which we can call the nucleus, has most of the mass. In 1911 Ernest Rutherford determined that the nucleus of an atom is tiny, compared to the whole atom. If the atom is a small city, the nucleus is a marble. Shrunk into that tiny volume are all the positive charges and almost all the mass of an atom. The electrons orbit the nucleus in the vast empty space that is most of the atom. The analogy to the solar system is inevitable. The electrons and the nucleus are oppositely charged, and opposite charges attract through the electrical force.


pages: 442 words: 110,704

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel

Albert Einstein, card file, Cepheid variable, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Ernest Rutherford, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, index card, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Solar eclipse in 1919

No one at the Harvard Observatory had yet attempted such an investigation. No one possessed the background to undertake it. But Miss Payne hailed from Newnham College and the famed Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University, a place peopled with pioneers in these nascent fields. The Cavendish was home to Sir J. J. Thomson, recipient of the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the electron. Thomson’s disciple Ernest Rutherford, whom Miss Payne described as “a towering blond giant with a booming voice,” was the discoverer and first explorer of the atomic nucleus, and also the 1908 Nobel laureate in chemistry. During Miss Payne’s student days at the Cavendish, she had learned the complex architecture of the “Bohr atom” directly from Niels Bohr, the 1922 Nobelist in physics. Although none of Bohr’s lectures, which he delivered in a heavy Danish accent, ever lodged in Miss Payne’s memory the way Eddington’s relativity talk had stuck, she took good notes and saved them for later reference.


pages: 416 words: 112,268

Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control by Stuart Russell

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Alfred Russel Wallace, Andrew Wiles, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, blockchain, brain emulation, Cass Sunstein, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, computer vision, connected car, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ernest Rutherford, Flash crash, full employment, future of work, Gerolamo Cardano, ImageNet competition, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of the wheel, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, Mark Zuckerberg, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, NP-complete, openstreetmap, P = NP, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Pierre-Simon Laplace, positional goods, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit maximization, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, RFID, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, smart cities, smart contracts, social intelligence, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, Thales of Miletus, The Future of Employment, Thomas Bayes, Thorstein Veblen, transport as a service, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, uranium enrichment, Von Neumann architecture, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, zero-sum game

There are several breakthroughs that have to happen before we have anything resembling machines with superhuman intelligence. Scientific breakthroughs are notoriously hard to predict. To get a sense of just how hard, we can look back at the history of another field with civilization-ending potential: nuclear physics. In the early years of the twentieth century, perhaps no nuclear physicist was more distinguished than Ernest Rutherford, the discoverer of the proton and the “man who split the atom” (figure 2[a]). Like his colleagues, Rutherford had long been aware that atomic nuclei stored immense amounts of energy; yet the prevailing view was that tapping this source of energy was impossible. On September 11, 1933, the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual meeting in Leicester. Lord Rutherford addressed the evening session.


pages: 515 words: 117,501

Miracle Cure by William Rosen

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, availability heuristic, biofilm, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, creative destruction, demographic transition, discovery of penicillin, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, functional fixedness, germ theory of disease, global supply chain, Haber-Bosch Process, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Louis Pasteur, medical malpractice, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, New Journalism, obamacare, out of africa, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, randomized controlled trial, selection bias, stem cell, transcontinental railway, working poor

In this case, the money for the lab was a bequest from the grandson of William Perrins, the originator of the secret recipe in Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. * Since 1885, presidents of the Royal Society have served for five-year terms. In between Florey’s mentor, Charles Sherrington (1920–1925), and Hopkins (1930–1935), the president was another Nobel laureate: the physicist Ernest Rutherford. In fact, from 1915 to 1990, fifteen consecutive presidents of the Royal Society were Nobel Prize winners . . . and the streak was broken only with the election of Sir Michael Atiyah, a mathematician whose discipline is unrecognized by Alfred Nobel’s trust. * Of Chain’s downside—his Jewishness—Hopkins continued: “I feel that if his race and foreign origin will not be unwelcome in your department, you will import an acceptable and very able colleague in taking him.


pages: 481 words: 125,946

What to Think About Machines That Think: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence by John Brockman

agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, constrained optimization, corporate personhood, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, dark matter, discrete time, Douglas Engelbart, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, endowment effect, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Flash crash, friendly AI, functional fixedness, global pandemic, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, Internet of things, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, loose coupling, microbiome, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Thaler, Rory Sutherland, Satyajit Das, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, social intelligence, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

As Steve Omohundro, Nick Bostrom, and others have explained, the combination of value misalignment with increasingly capable decision-making systems can lead to problems—perhaps even species-ending problems, if the machines are more capable than humans. Some have argued that there’s no conceivable risk to humanity for centuries to come, perhaps forgetting that the interval of time between Ernest Rutherford’s confident assertion that atomic energy would never be feasibly extracted and Leó Szilárd’s invention of the neutron-induced nuclear chain reaction was less than twenty-four hours. For this reason, and the much more immediate reason that domestic robots and self-driving cars will need to share a good deal of the human value system, research on value alignment is well worth pursuing. One possibility is a form of inverse reinforcement learning (IRL)—that is, learning a reward function by observing the behavior of some other agent who’s assumed to be acting in accordance with such a function.


pages: 433 words: 124,454

The Burning Answer: The Solar Revolution: A Quest for Sustainable Power by Keith Barnham

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, carbon footprint, credit crunch, decarbonisation, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, Ernest Rutherford, hydraulic fracturing, hydrogen economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, Naomi Klein, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, uranium enrichment, wikimedia commons

Think of the spectrum of heated sodium as the chord of D major and the neon spectrum as the chord of G7 say. Bohr wisely decided to study hydrogen, the simplest atom, first. Its nucleus is just one proton and it also has one electron. He guessed that the pattern of the light emitted by hydrogen, the distinctive chord of hydrogen, would provide clues to the structure of the atom. The picture of an atom had recently changed dramatically as a result of experiments led by Ernest Rutherford, a New Zealander. Rutherford’s mother was English and a teacher. His father was a Scottish wheelwright. Both had emigrated to New Zealand and Ernest was the fourth child of twelve. Rutherford’s definitive experiments were performed at the University in Manchester before he followed in the footsteps of Maxwell, Rayleigh and Thomson by becoming Cavendish Professor at Cambridge. Rutherford’s experiments showed that the atom was not, after all, like an extremely small snooker ball as generations of physicists had thought.


pages: 476 words: 120,892

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden, Jim Al-Khalili

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, bioinformatics, complexity theory, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Ernest Rutherford, Gödel, Escher, Bach, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, New Journalism, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, theory of mind, traveling salesman, uranium enrichment, Zeno's paradox

It was this work, rather than his more famous theories of relativity, that would win Einstein the Nobel Prize in 1921. But there was also plenty of evidence that light behaves as a spread-out and continuous wave. So how can light be both lumpy and wavy? It didn’t seem to make sense at the time; at least, not within the framework of classical science. The next giant step was taken by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who turned up in Manchester in 1912 to work with Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford had just proposed his famous planetary model of the atom, consisting of a tiny dense nucleus at the center, surrounded by even tinier orbiting electrons. But nobody understood how atoms remained stable. According to standard electromagnetic theory, the negatively charged electrons would constantly emit light energy as they orbited the positively charged nucleus. In doing so, they would lose energy and very quickly (within a thousand billionth of a second) spiral inward toward the nucleus, causing the atom to collapse.


Prime Obsession:: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics by John Derbyshire

Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Colonization of Mars, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Paul Erdős, Richard Feynman, Turing machine, Turing test

(To simply say “the Pólya Conjecture” would be confusing, by the way, as there is another, different conjecture known by that name.) 18 NUMBER THEORY MEETS QUANTUM MECHANICS I n the last chapter I gave the mathI. ematical background and a little historical background to the Hilbert-Pólya Conjecture. The Conjecture was far ahead of its time and lay there untroubled for half a century. That was, however, a very eventful half-century in physics, the most eventful ever. In 1917, just around the time of the Conjecture, Ernest Rutherford observed the splitting of the atom; 15 years later, Cockroft and Walton split the atom by artificial means. This led in turn to Enrico Fermi’s work, to the first controlled chain reaction in 1942, and to the first nuclear explosion on July 16, 1945. “Splitting the atom” is, as all high-school physics teachers tell their classes, a misnomer. You split atoms every time you strike a match. What we are really talking about here is the splitting of the atomic nucleus, the heart of the atom.


When Computers Can Think: The Artificial Intelligence Singularity by Anthony Berglas, William Black, Samantha Thalind, Max Scratchmann, Michelle Estes

3D printing, AI winter, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, availability heuristic, blue-collar work, brain emulation, call centre, cognitive bias, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, create, read, update, delete, cuban missile crisis, David Attenborough, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, factory automation, feminist movement, finite state, Flynn Effect, friendly AI, general-purpose programming language, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Gödel, Escher, Bach, industrial robot, Isaac Newton, job automation, John von Neumann, Law of Accelerating Returns, license plate recognition, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, natural language processing, Parkinson's law, patent troll, patient HM, pattern recognition, phenotype, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, self-driving car, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, Skype, sorting algorithm, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Thomas Malthus, Turing machine, Turing test, uranium enrichment, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, wikimedia commons, zero day

Darwin’s son George also estimated that it would take roughly 56 million years for the moon’s tidal forces to produce a day of 24 hours. Having three independent calculations resulting in roughly the same result made the conclusion appear sound. This was a major problem, however, because 20 million years did not appear to be nearly enough time for evolution to produce the different plants and animals we see today. Then in 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered radioactive decay, and in 1904 Ernest Rutherford proposed that radioactive decay provided a source of heat that would prevent the earth from cooling and therefore invalidate Kelvin’s analysis. This explanation is plausible and indeed is the main one cited today, yet it turns out to be wrong because there is not enough uranium in the earth to heat it significantly. Indeed, the real error with Kelvin’s analysis had already been published by Kelvin’s ex-student John Perry in 1895.


pages: 404 words: 131,034

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, dematerialisation, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, germ theory of disease, global pandemic, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, music of the spheres, pattern recognition, planetary scale, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, spice trade, Thales and the olive presses, Thales of Miletus, Tunguska event

It would be clear from such a world, as it is beginning to be clear from ours, how our matter, our form and much of our character is determined by the deep connection between life and the Cosmos. *It had previously been thought that the protons were uniformly distributed throughout the electron cloud, rather than being concentrated in a nucleus of positive charge at the center. The nucleus was discovered by Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge when some of the bombarding particles were bounced back in the direction from which they had come. Rutherford commented: “It was quite the most incredible event that has ever happened to me in my life. It was almost as incredible as if you fired a 15-inch [cannon] shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back and hit you.” *The spirit of this calculation is very old. The opening sentences of Archimedes’ The Sand Reckoner are: “There are some, King Gelon, who think that the number of the sand is infinite in multitude: and I mean by the sand not only that which exists about Syracuse and the rest of Sicily, but also that which is found in every region, whether inhabited or uninhabited.


pages: 607 words: 133,452

Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin, David K. Levine

"Robert Solow", accounting loophole / creative accounting, agricultural Revolution, barriers to entry, business cycle, cognitive bias, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dean Kamen, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, financial innovation, informal economy, interchangeable parts, invention of radio, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jean Tirole, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, linear programming, market bubble, market design, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, new economy, open economy, peer-to-peer, pirate software, placebo effect, price discrimination, profit maximization, rent-seeking, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, software patent, the market place, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, Y2K

With this exception, the details of my apparatus, which so closely resembles his, have been worked out quite.39 Talk about understatement and gentlemanliness! The fact is that Marconi was using established science at the time: long-run detection of Hertz waves was a widely studied topic. Marconi’s box was frontier engineering, certainly, but there is no real scientific discovery in his black box. Similar experiments were carried out by Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory as early as 1895–96. In describing Marconi’s equipment, which is extremely similar to that of Rutherford and Jackson, even in terms of the size of many parts, Hong concludes: “There was an element of ‘non-obviousness’ in Marconi’s solutions: his grounding40 of one pole of the transmitter and one pole of the receiver.” So, Marconi’s contribution to solving the puzzle was the grounding of antenna and transmitter.


pages: 532 words: 133,143

To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science by Steven Weinberg

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, Commentariolus, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, fudge factor, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, music of the spheres, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Pierre-Simon Laplace, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, retrograde motion, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Responding to the experiments of Thomson and Perrin, the chemist Wilhelm Ostwald, who earlier had been skeptical about atoms, expressed his change of mind in 1908, in a statement that implicitly looked all the way back to Democritus and Leucippus: “I am now convinced that we have recently become possessed of experimental evidence of the discrete or grained nature of matter, which the atomic hypothesis sought in vain for hundreds and thousands of years.”4 But what are atoms? A great step toward the answer was taken in 1911, when experiments in the Manchester laboratory of Ernest Rutherford showed that the mass of gold atoms is concentrated in a small heavy positively charged nucleus, around which revolve lighter negatively charged electrons. The electrons are responsible for the phenomena of ordinary chemistry, while changes in the nucleus release the large energies encountered in radioactivity. This raised a new question: what keeps the orbiting atomic electrons from losing energy through the emission of radiation, and spiraling down into the nucleus?


pages: 436 words: 76

Culture and Prosperity: The Truth About Markets - Why Some Nations Are Rich but Most Remain Poor by John Kay

"Robert Solow", Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, business cycle, California gold rush, complexity theory, computer age, constrained optimization, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, equity premium, Ernest Rutherford, European colonialism, experimental economics, Exxon Valdez, failed state, financial innovation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Akerlof, George Gilder, greed is good, Gunnar Myrdal, haute couture, illegal immigration, income inequality, industrial cluster, information asymmetry, intangible asset, invention of the telephone, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, John Meriwether, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, light touch regulation, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, market bubble, market clearing, market fundamentalism, means of production, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, Naomi Klein, Nash equilibrium, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, pets.com, popular electronics, price discrimination, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, random walk, rent-seeking, Right to Buy, risk tolerance, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, second-price auction, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, The Chicago School, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, the new new thing, The Predators' Ball, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, transaction costs, tulip mania, urban decay, Vilfredo Pareto, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce, yield curve, yield management

They have many similarities. { 60} John Kay Both are low-cost agricultural producers. You can take an elevenhour direct flight from Auckland to Buenos Aires to see the two nations play international rugby. And they have many differences. The most famous Argentines are Eva Peron, movie-star wife of a populist dictator, and the skeptical writer Jorge Luis Borges. The most famous New Zealanders are Ernest Rutherford, who first split the atom (in England), and Edmund Hillary, who climbed Everest (in Nepal). The symbol of Argentina is the gaucho, of New Zealand the kiwi. And New Zealanders seem to have the same affection for Queen Elizabeth of New Zealand that Argentines had for Evita. But both are geographically peripheral countries. Geographic contiguity had a large influence on the development of rich states in Western Europe.


pages: 469 words: 142,230

The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World by Oliver Morton

Albert Einstein, Asilomar, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, Columbian Exchange, decarbonisation, demographic transition, Elon Musk, energy transition, Ernest Rutherford, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, late capitalism, Louis Pasteur, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Philip Mirowski, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, renewable energy transition, Scramble for Africa, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, smart grid, South China Sea, Stewart Brand, Thomas Malthus

An escape to the wilderness holds alongside it the story of a wilderness no longer wild, seen through eyes that can but be civilized; a voyage to the moon is a vision of the Earth. The nineteenth-century fin-de-siècle story of human empire coming to its limits was countered, even at the time of its telling, by stories in which those limits were themselves becoming a thing of the past. Radioactivity, in which individual atoms announce themselves to the world with palpable bursts of energy, was discovered in 1897. In 1903 Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy came up with an explanation of the phenomenon: atoms of one element were turning into atoms of another, liberating some of their internal energy in the process. This ‘transmutation’ (Soddy, a chemist with a mystical streak, liked the word; Rutherford, a no-nonsense physicist, was wary of its alchemical overtones) showed that that internal energy must be prodigious. Sir William Crookes told British newspaper readers that the energy in a gram of radium would serve to lift the whole Royal Navy a kilometre or so into the air.


pages: 449 words: 123,459

The Infinity Puzzle by Frank Close

Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Arthur Eddington, dark matter, El Camino Real, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh

This is the scale of energy where the breaking of electroweak symmetry is predicted to occur, so some theorists suspect that this coincidence is not an accident and that top quarks may somehow be linked to the hiding of electroweak symmetry. It is even possible that totally new fermions, bound to one another by hitherto unknown forces—as in a theory known as “technicolor”— might be the answer.1 The exciting feature is that, until the experiments are done, we do not know which if any of these will be revealed as the source of electroweak symmetry breaking. Whatever awaits us a century after Ernest Rutherford first discovered the atomic nucleus, which revealed atomic structure and led to the modern science of particle physics, the modern conceit is that the heat of the Big Bang congealed into matter and antimatter in perfect symmetry, the symmetry becoming hidden as the universe cooled, thereby providing the structures that Rutherford explored. After thousands of years of speculation and searches for the basic pieces of matter, the outcome of the revolution that pursuit of the Infinity Puzzle helped inspire is that physics has for the first time a testable theory about the origins of the material universe.


pages: 499 words: 144,278

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 4chan, 8-hour work day, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, Asperger Syndrome, augmented reality, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, blue-collar work, Brewster Kahle, Brian Krebs, Broken windows theory, call centre, cellular automata, Chelsea Manning, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, computer vision, Conway's Game of Life, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Danny Hillis, David Heinemeier Hansson, don't be evil, don't repeat yourself, Donald Trump, dumpster diving, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ernest Rutherford, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, Firefox, Frederick Winslow Taylor, game design, glass ceiling, Golden Gate Park, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, Grace Hopper, Guido van Rossum, Hacker Ethic, HyperCard, illegal immigration, ImageNet competition, Internet Archive, Internet of things, Jane Jacobs, John Markoff, Jony Ive, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, Larry Wall, lone genius, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Shuttleworth, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, microservices, Minecraft, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Nate Silver, Network effects, neurotypical, Nicholas Carr, Oculus Rift, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, planetary scale, profit motive, ransomware, recommendation engine, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rubik’s Cube, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Satoshi Nakamoto, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, single-payer health, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, social software, software is eating the world, sorting algorithm, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, TaskRabbit, the High Line, Travis Kalanick, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, universal basic income, urban planning, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, Zimmermann PGP, éminence grise

But human thinking isn’t just pattern matching—or at least it sure doesn’t seem so. AI creators have vastly more to invent before they can get a machine that can truly reason. Sure, Bostrom writes. But these breakthroughs could emerge with surprising speed. This is the world of code, after all, where a single aha insight can take an algorithm from “not working” to “working” in a few minutes. In 1933, the physicist Ernest Rutherford pooh-poohed the idea of nuclear energy as impractical, but merely a decade later, the US was creating nuclear reactors and setting off atom bombs. Back in the early ’00s, even AI experts would have scoffed if you’d told them a Go-playing computer was a few years away. And companies today—particularly in the US and China—are pouring billions into AI. They’re all competing like mad, hoping to become rich off AI advances.


pages: 653 words: 155,847

Energy: A Human History by Richard Rhodes

Albert Einstein, animal electricity, California gold rush, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Copley Medal, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, demographic transition, Dmitri Mendeleev, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, energy transition, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, flex fuel, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, nuclear winter, oil rush, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, Ralph Nader, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, Simon Kuznets, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, Vanguard fund, working poor, young professional

The world has received a new impulse.”71 It had, and the transformation would be profound. But the human world still largely lingered in the dark for half the earth’s each turning. There were remedies for that condition as well: oils, rushes, tallow, the fat of pigs, coal gas, whales. All would serve in their time. * * * I. Two centuries later, the greatest physicists of the early twentieth century—Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, and Niels Bohr—would similarly dismiss the possibility of splitting the atom to release nuclear energy as “moonshine.” II. Sir William Congreve developed the first British military rockets from Indian models in 1805. It was their “red glare” over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that Francis Scott Key evoked in his “The Star-Spangled Banner.” III. About half the volume of the Empire State Building.


pages: 513 words: 152,381

The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity by Toby Ord

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, availability heuristic, Columbian Exchange, computer vision, cosmological constant, cuban missile crisis, decarbonisation, defense in depth, delayed gratification, demographic transition, Doomsday Clock, Drosophila, effective altruism, Elon Musk, Ernest Rutherford, global pandemic, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, nuclear winter, p-value, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, survivorship bias, the scientific method, uranium enrichment

These possibilities are hard to discern through the haze of distance; it is extremely difficult to tell which new technologies will be possible, what form they will take when mature, or the context of the world into which they will arrive. And this veil may not lift until the new technologies are right upon us. For even the best experts or the very inventors of the technology can be blindsided by major developments. One night in 1933, the world’s pre-eminent expert on atomic science, Ernest Rutherford, declared the idea of harnessing atomic energy to be “moonshine.” And the very next morning Leo Szilard discovered the idea of the chain reaction. In 1939, Enrico Fermi told Szilard the chain reaction was but a “remote possibility,” and four years later Fermi was personally overseeing the world’s first nuclear reactor. The staggering list of eminent scientists who thought heavier-than-air flight to be impossible or else decades away is so well rehearsed as to be cliché.


What We Cannot Know: Explorations at the Edge of Knowledge by Marcus Du Sautoy

Albert Michelson, Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Arthur Eddington, banking crisis, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Black Swan, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, Georg Cantor, Hans Lippershey, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Necker cube, Paul Erdős, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, technological singularity, Thales of Miletus, Turing test, wikimedia commons

Thomson had suggested a model of the atom known as the plum pudding. The positively charged part of the atom, which was more massive than the negative electron, formed the pudding making up the bulk of the atom, while the electrons were the tiny fruit inside. Then the age of the bombardment of the atom began which would eventually lead to the ultimate atom smasher: the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The New Zealand-born British physicist Ernest Rutherford is generally credited with the discovery of the proton, the particle that was the building block for all these positive particles that Thomson had investigated. Rutherford became fascinated by the new subject of radioactivity. Uranium atoms seemed to be spitting out particles that could be picked up by photographic plates. There appeared to be two types of radiation, and these became known as alpha particles and beta particles.


pages: 592 words: 161,798

The Future of War by Lawrence Freedman

Albert Einstein, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, British Empire, colonial rule, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, currency manipulation / currency intervention, Donald Trump, drone strike, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global village, Google Glasses, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), John Markoff, long peace, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, open economy, pattern recognition, Peace of Westphalia, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, the scientific method, uranium enrichment, urban sprawl, Valery Gerasimov, WikiLeaks, zero day

One of his most impressive predictions was even more remarkable because he was instrumental in it coming true. Always on the lookout for scientific innovations to help the cause of political progress, he seized upon reports in the early 1900s of breakthroughs in the understanding of atomic structures. His guide was Frederick Soddy, a pioneering student of radioactivity who had gained his reputation while working with physicist Ernest Rutherford at McGill University in Canada. The two had shown that there were circumstances in which atoms might break up, in the process releasing large amounts of energy. Rutherford and Soddy understood how much potential energy might be stored in small amounts of material but could not see how this might be unleashed. Normally radioactivity was released over centuries or even millennia. If a weapon was to be developed using this knowledge, the process would have to be compressed into hours, perhaps less.


pages: 578 words: 168,350

Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West

Alfred Russel Wallace, Anton Chekhov, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, British Empire, butterfly effect, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, clean water, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, continuous integration, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, dark matter, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Frank Gehry, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, Guggenheim Bilbao, housing crisis, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of agriculture, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, laissez-faire capitalism, life extension, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, Marchetti’s constant, Masdar, megacity, Murano, Venice glass, Murray Gell-Mann, New Urbanism, Peter Thiel, profit motive, publish or perish, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, urban renewal, Vernor Vinge, Vilfredo Pareto, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, wikimedia commons, working poor

Consequently, an underlying thread running throughout the book has been an emphasis on developing a more quantitative, computational, predictive understanding based on fundamental principles as a complement to the traditional, more qualitative, narrative arguments that tend to dominate the social, biological, medical, and business literature. Nevertheless, there isn’t a single equation in the book. I took very seriously the admonition of Lord Ernest Rutherford, the famous discoverer of atomic nuclei—“the father of the nuclear age”—that “a theory that you can’t explain to a bartender is probably no damn good.” I’m not entirely convinced that he was right, but I did heed the spirit of what he said. I hope, therefore, that I have succeeded in some small way in keeping the arguments and explanations at an appropriately nontechnical level so that the proverbial “intelligent layperson” didn’t have too much difficulty in following them.


pages: 551 words: 174,280

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch

agricultural Revolution, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Bonfire of the Vanities, conceptual framework, cosmological principle, dark matter, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, first-past-the-post, Georg Cantor, global pandemic, Gödel, Escher, Bach, illegal immigration, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kenneth Arrow, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, pattern recognition, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, technological singularity, Thales of Miletus, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Review, William of Occam, zero-sum game

Yet, even at those unimaginable distances, we are confident that we know what makes stars shine: you will be told that they are powered by the nuclear energy released by transmutation – the conversion of one chemical element into another (mainly hydrogen into helium). Some types of transmutation happen spontaneously on Earth, in the decay of radioactive elements. This was first demonstrated in 1901, by the physicists Frederick Soddy and Ernest Rutherford, but the concept of transmutation was ancient. Alchemists had dreamed for centuries of transmuting ‘base metals’, such as iron or lead, into gold. They never came close to understanding what it would take to achieve that, so they never did so. But scientists in the twentieth century did. And so do stars, when they explode as supernovae. Base metals can be transmuted into gold by stars, and by intelligent beings who understand the processes that power stars, but by nothing else in the universe.


pages: 586 words: 186,548

Architects of Intelligence by Martin Ford

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bayesian statistics, bitcoin, business intelligence, business process, call centre, cloud computing, cognitive bias, Colonization of Mars, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, DARPA: Urban Challenge, deskilling, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Flash crash, future of work, gig economy, Google X / Alphabet X, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hans Rosling, ImageNet competition, income inequality, industrial robot, information retrieval, job automation, John von Neumann, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Loebner Prize, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, means of production, Mitch Kapor, natural language processing, new economy, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, Productivity paradox, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Sam Altman, self-driving car, sensor fusion, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, smart cities, social intelligence, speech recognition, statistical model, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, superintelligent machines, Ted Kaczynski, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Travis Kalanick, Turing test, universal basic income, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, working-age population, zero-sum game, Zipcar

If we can solve this problem for AI, if machines can start to construct their own behavioral hierarchies that allow them to operate successfully in complex environments over long timescales, that will be a huge breakthrough for AGI that takes us a long way towards a human-level functionality in the real world. MARTIN FORD: What is your prediction for when we might achieve AGI? STUART J. RUSSELL: These kinds of breakthroughs have nothing to do with bigger datasets or faster machines, and so we can’t make any kind of quantitative prediction about when they’re going to occur. I always tell the story of what happened in nuclear physics. The consensus view as expressed by Ernest Rutherford on September 11th, 1933, was that it would never be possible to extract atomic energy from atoms. So, his prediction was “never”, but what turned out to be the case was that the next morning Leo Szilard read Rutherford’s speech, became annoyed by it, and invented a nuclear chain reaction mediated by neutrons! Rutherford’s prediction was “never” and the truth was about 16 hours later. In a similar way, it feels quite futile for me to make a quantitative prediction about when these breakthroughs in AGI will arrive, but Rutherford’s story is a good one.


pages: 733 words: 179,391

Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought by Andrew W. Lo

"Robert Solow", Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, algorithmic trading, Andrei Shleifer, Arthur Eddington, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, asset-backed security, backtesting, bank run, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, bitcoin, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, break the buck, Brownian motion, business cycle, business process, butterfly effect, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Carmen Reinhart, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computerized trading, corporate governance, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Diane Coyle, diversification, diversified portfolio, double helix, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Ernest Rutherford, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, Flash crash, Fractional reserve banking, framing effect, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, housing crisis, incomplete markets, index fund, interest rate derivative, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Meriwether, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, martingale, merger arbitrage, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, money market fund, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, Nick Leeson, old-boy network, out of africa, p-value, paper trading, passive investing, Paul Lévy, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, predatory finance, prediction markets, price discovery process, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative hedge fund, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, RAND corporation, random walk, randomized controlled trial, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Sam Peltzman, Shai Danziger, short selling, sovereign wealth fund, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanford prison experiment, statistical arbitrage, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, stocks for the long run, survivorship bias, Thales and the olive presses, The Great Moderation, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, too big to fail, transaction costs, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, ultimatum game, Upton Sinclair, US Airways Flight 1549, Walter Mischel, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

We’ve seen from our excursion into neuroscience 214 • Chapter 6 and evolutionary theory that biology is much more relevant for human behavior and bounded rationality than theories inspired by mathematical physics. In fact, most real world economic phenomena simply look more like biology than physics; it’s very rare to find any economic ideas that conform perfectly to elegant mathematical derivations. The physicist Ernest Rutherford scornfully dismissed every field that wasn’t physics as mere “stamp collecting.” But biology has strong methodological advantages over physics in studying economics. Economic concepts translate naturally to their biological counterparts, and vice versa, such as the allocation of scarce resources and the measurement of diversity in a population. Biology and economics both involve complex systems, while the beautiful simplicity of Newtonian physics has intractable difficulties with systems of more than two elements, as in the three-body problem of classical mechanics.23 There’s already a rich literature in biology on competition, cooperation, population dynamics, ecology, and behavior at a level far deeper than philately.


pages: 636 words: 202,284

Piracy : The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates by Adrian Johns

active measures, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, business intelligence, commoditize, Corn Laws, demand response, distributed generation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, full employment, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Marshall McLuhan, Mont Pelerin Society, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pirate software, Republic of Letters, Richard Stallman, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, software patent, South Sea Bubble, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, traveling salesman, Whole Earth Catalog

They had been motivated not by the desire to listen to broadcasting, which had not existed, but by curiosity about the properties of wireless, the ether, and the future of communication. The development of wireless had taken place largely at their hands. Moreover, the figure of the experimenter as a modest, plainspoken, virtuous worker of wonders commanded widespread respect – before Big Science, it seemed that not much separated the radio researcher from a figure like Ernest Rutherford, who had risen from colonial origins to the pinnacle of scientific achievement. Not least, that figure was seen as a peculiarly British individual, personifying hope for the empire’s future in the face of German discipline and American teamwork. Indeed, Kellaway had found himself facing parliamentary challenges on this score even before the BBC plan was finalized. Rumors about sealed sets, restrictions on equipment, and a monopoly on transmission had all aroused fears for the future of science, and therefore for that of Britain.


pages: 795 words: 215,529

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick

Albert Einstein, American ideology, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Rutherford, gravity well, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Sand Hill Road, Schrödinger's Cat, sexual politics, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, uranium enrichment

He, too, followed the relationship between wavelength and current to an inevitable mathematical conclusion: that light itself behaves not as a continuous wave but as a broken succession of lumps when it interacts with electrons. These were dubious claims. Most physicists found Einstein’s theory of special relativity, published the same year, more palatable. But in 1913 Niels Bohr, a young Dane working in Ernest Rutherford’s laboratory in Manchester, England, proposed a new model of the atom built on these quantum underpinnings. Rutherford had recently imagined the atom as a solar system in miniature, with electrons orbiting the nucleus. Without a quantum theory, physicists would have to accept the notion of electrons gradually spiraling inward as they radiated some of their energy away. The result would be continuous radiation and the eventual collapse of the atom in on itself.


pages: 797 words: 227,399

Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P. W. Singer

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Atahualpa, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bill Joy: nanobots, blue-collar work, borderless world, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, cuban missile crisis, digital map, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Firefox, Francisco Pizarro, Frank Gehry, friendly fire, game design, George Gilder, Google Earth, Grace Hopper, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of gunpowder, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, job automation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Law of Accelerating Returns, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, New Urbanism, pattern recognition, private military company, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Yogi Berra

He forecast a new type of weapon made of radioactive materials, which he called the “atomic bomb.” At the time, physicists thought radioactive elements like uranium only released energy via a slow decay over thousands of years. Wells described a way in which the energy might be bundled up to make an explosion powerful enough to destroy a city. Of course, at the time, most scoffed; the famed scientist Ernest Rutherford even called Wells’s idea “moonshine.” One reader who differed was Leó Szilárd, a Hungarian scientist. Szilárd later became a key part of the Manhattan Project and credited the book with giving him the idea for the nuclear “chain reaction.” Indeed, he even mailed a copy of Wells’s book to Hugo Hirst, one of the founders of General Electric, with a cover note that read, “The forecast of the writers may prove to be more accurate than the forecast of the scientists.”


Global Catastrophic Risks by Nick Bostrom, Milan M. Cirkovic

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, availability heuristic, Bill Joy: nanobots, Black Swan, carbon-based life, cognitive bias, complexity theory, computer age, coronavirus, corporate governance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, death of newspapers, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, distributed generation, Doomsday Clock, Drosophila, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, feminist movement, framing effect, friendly AI, Georg Cantor, global pandemic, global village, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, P = NP, peak oil, phenotype, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, Singularitarianism, social intelligence, South China Sea, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, Tunguska event, twin studies, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, War on Poverty, Westphalian system, Y2K

The key implication for our purposes is that an AI might make a huge jump in intelligence after reaching some threshold of criticality. 3 24 Global catastrophic risks One often encounters scepticism about this scenario - what Good (1965) called an 'intelligence explosion' - because progress in AI has the reputation of being very slow. At this point, it may prove helpful to review a loosely analogous historical surprise. (What follows is taken primarily from Rhodes, 1986.) In 1933, Lord Ernest Rutherford said that no one could ever expect to derive power from splitting the atom: 'Anyone who looked for a source of power in the transformation of atoms was talking moonshine.' At that time laborious hours and weeks were required to fission a handful of nuclei. Flash forward to 1942, in a squash court beneath Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. Physicists are building a shape like a giant doorknob out ofalternate layers of graphite and uranium, intended to start the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction.


pages: 1,197 words: 304,245

The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, commoditize, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lateral thinking, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, social intelligence, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

– Steven Weinberg, To Explain the World (2015)1 § 1 When Herbert Butterfield lectured on the Scientific Revolution at the University of Cambridge in 1948 it was the second year in which an historian at the university had given a series of lectures on the history of science: he had been preceded the year before by the Regius Professor of History, G. N. Clark, an expert on all things seventeenth century, and the medieval historian M. M. Postan had lectured immediately before Butterfield. It was in Cambridge that Isaac Newton (1643–1727) had written his Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica, or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), and here that Ernest Rutherford (1871–1937) had split the atomic nucleus for the first time, in 1932. Here, the historians were acknowledging, they were under a particular obligation to study the history of science. They were also keen to insist that the history of science be done by historians, not by scientists.i 2 The historians and the scientists at Cambridge shared a common education: Latin was a compulsory entrance requirement.


pages: 1,079 words: 321,718

Surfaces and Essences by Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, cognitive dissonance, computer age, computer vision, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Flynn Effect, Georg Cantor, Gerolamo Cardano, Golden Gate Park, haute couture, haute cuisine, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, l'esprit de l'escalier, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, place-making, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, theory of mind, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl, yellow journalism, zero-sum game

while pointing with one’s finger would be deserving of a Nobel Prize in physics, and yet such a banal act is remarkably close to the profound analogy that links the atom and the solar system. That discovery was made collectively, around the turn of the twentieth century, by brilliant scientists, both experimentalists and theoreticians, from many countries; among them were Hantaro Nagaoka, Jean Perrin, Arthur Haas, Ernest Rutherford, John Nicholson, and Niels Bohr. The images at the heart of this analogy were extremely elusive at that time, and it took remarkable intellectual daring, supported by a large number of empirical findings, to come up with such bold ideas. And yet only a few decades later, the educational system had fully integrated these once-revolutionary ideas, and it is in this sense that understanding the analogy between the solar system and the atom’s structure is not all that different from understanding analogies that we all make, day in and day out, totally off the cuff, when we say “here” or “there”.