Old school

I’m still a bit woozy from a late night disk recovery at home which kept me up until about 4am Wednesday morning, but I thought I would point out two items in an old area of interest of mine: theoretical physics.

First, Physics Today has devoted a special issue to Hans Bethe. Bethe’s range and impact on physics is astounding to me: his 1967 Nobel prize for determining the nuclear reactions that result in the burning of stars came after many contributions to atomic and nuclear physics, roles at both the MIT Radiation Lab and Los Alamos during the Second World War, and important calculations for statistical physics. Oh, and he performed the first theoretical calculation of the Lamb shift, which validated the idea of quantum electrodynamics. The series of articles by friends and colleagues is excellent and, if you can grab a copy, definitely worth a read. (The site doesn’t have it, on first glance.)

Reading the practical scenarios where Bethe connected theory to a problem at hand, and then kept going, I wonder if Bethe might have been a better role model than my graduate school choice of Lev Landau, the 1962 Nobel winner in Physics (for the theory of superfluid helium, among other contributions). Of course, Landau’s preferred working style involved reclining upon his couch, which is a fundamental contribution I still hope to emulate.

The other item is that an old graduate school friend of mine, Mark Trodden, is, with a group of other—I’ll say young—theoretical physicists, writing a focussed-on-science-but-still-popular blog entitled Cosmic Variance. These are smart folks and, since we all can’t be research scientists, it’s a treat to get a chance to see some distinct intellectual viewpoints. Check it out.

(Maybe if I end up with another involuntary late night of repairs and resyncing, I’ll have a look around and see who else from school is blogging actively. Or just melancholily ruminate on lapsing and relapsing between engineering and science (which is why, when I confessed to dilettantism, I was being quite honest).)

Updated 2010-09-05: Fixed link to reflect Mark being at UPenn.