Download Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist by Frank Close PDF

By Frank Close

It used to be on the top of the chilly conflict, in the summertime of 1950, whilst Bruno Pontecorvo mysteriously vanished at the back of the Iron Curtain. Who used to be he, and what prompted him to vanish? used to be he easily a physicist, or additionally a undercover agent and communist radical? A protégé of Enrico Fermi, Pontecorvo used to be probably the most promising nuclear physicists on the earth. He spent years trying to find the Higgs boson of his day—the neutrino—a approximately massless particle considered necessary to the method of particle decay. His paintings at the long island undertaking helped to bring in the nuclear age, and proven his attractiveness as an excellent physicist. Why, then, might he disappear as he stood at the cusp of real greatness, even perhaps the Nobel Prize?

In Half-Life, physicist and historian Frank shut bargains a heretofore untold heritage of Pontecorvo’s existence, in keeping with extraordinary entry to Pontecorvo’s family and friends and the Russian scientists with whom he could later paintings. shut takes a microscope to Pontecorvo’s existence, combining a radical biography of 1 of crucial scientsts of the 20th century with the drama of chilly conflict espionage. With all of the components of a chilly struggle thriller—classified atomic examine, an notorious double agent, a potential kidnapping by means of Soviet operatives—Half-Life is a historical past of nuclear physics at might be its strongest: whilst it created the bomb.physics at probably its strongest: while it created the bomb.

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Additional info for Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy

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4 In fact, this change of focus lasted for the rest of his life. In January 1934, Fermi went on a skiing trip to the Alps. It was on his return that he saw the way forward, thanks to a discovery made in France by Irène Joliot-Curie (the daughter of Marie Curie) and her husband, Frédéric. The Joliot-Curies had been exploring the uncharted inner space of the atomic nucleus since at least 1930. Four years later, after a series of misadventures, they made a discovery that would inspire Fermi and his group—including its new member Bruno Pontecorvo.

Soon, Italy was in turmoil. During 1920, many factories were occupied. Industrial unrest spread rapidly, and at one point half a million workers were involved, spearheaded by the Italian socialist and communist parties. 28 Paris and Politics 29 Fascism too began its rise. Benito Mussolini, having been expelled by the socialists in 1914, formed the National Fascist Party. By 1922 he was prime minister, and by 1925 he was the self-styled “Il Duce”—the Leader. The Pontecorvo family’s reaction was typical of many intellectuals opposed to fascist rule, with its censorship, overweening propaganda, and (later) active anti-Semitism.

In Berkeley, California, Ernest Lawrence built a machine that used a mix of electric and magnetic fields to guide charged particles around curves, speeding them up as the arc grew bigger. This invention, known as a cyclotron, gave birth to what is known today as high-energy physics. Although Rutherford was reluctant to embrace large-scale physics at Cambridge, elsewhere—most notably in Berkeley—a new age of particle accelerators was beginning. Those who didn’t join this new adventure were in danger of being left behind.

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