Convergence is a history of modern science with an original and significant twist. Various …



Madeleine’s War

Matthew Hammond is a British military officer posted to the European theater during World …



stack of newspapers

A Link Between the Boston and Birmingham Bombers

No one, so far as I know, has yet pointed out a potentially significant parallel between T …


Echoes from the Jungle

Some pleasures
of reading

  • Marcus (later Sir Marcus) Oliphant was professor of physics at Birmingham University, which included among its distinguished achievements the invention of radar and the crucial equations which showed exactly how much (or how little) uranium was needed to make an atomic bomb, the calculations which brought the Manhattan Project into the realm of the feasible. Later he returned to his native Australia where he helped found the Australian National University at Canberra and where he was involved in the construction of a particle accelerator which never worked and was eventually abandoned. This expensive fiasco became known in Australian academic circles as 'The White Oliphant'.

    Sorry, I forgot where I read this.

  • During World War II, physicists working on the development of the atomic bomb were naturally well aware of the grim context of their activities and tried to lighten their load with some macabre word games. One was to imagine what the the last words of each of their number might be. One individual in particular gave them a problem - Egon Bretscher. He was notably pessimistic about his health and no one could think how to turn this into his last words. Then, one day, he provided the answer himself. He arrived at the Cambridge lab and observed, 'I don't know what's wrong with me today. I feel so well.'

    Rudolf Peierls, Bird of Passage, Princeton University Press, 1985.

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