Wednesday, November 29, 2006

WHAT LITTLE I REMEMBER

This article is a review of the book ‘WHAT LITTLE I REMEMBER’ written by Otto Robert Frisch a nuclear scientist. There is another very good book dealing with the personal history of the Atomic scientists titled Brighter Than A Thousand Suns; Robert Jungk: Penguin Books

Otto Robert Frisch, nephew of Lis Meitner, was born on Oct. 1, 1904 in Vienna. He decided against Mathematics for he never wanted to spend his life with a pencil and a waste paper basket. He enjoyed making things so he turned to Physics. He worked in Copenhagen under Neils Bohr; helped in making the atom bomb during Second World War at Los Alamos, taught at Cambridge University and directed the Nuclear Physics Dept. of the Cavandish Laboratory.

Dalton had suggested atoms in the beginning of the last century. It was thought useful for explaining empirical facts to the Chemist. But it was at the end of the last century that the romance with atomic physics began; attracting the best of the brains to its bosom. The book What little I remember though an autobiographical sketch is full of anecdotes shedding light on the actors involved in one of the most fascinating stories of this century; The love of nuclear physics. The book is not only a charming light-hearted story of Frisch but also the life of almost every outstanding Nuclear Physicist of this century. The stories are charming, the language plain and simple to the envy of many English Professors.

The book is full of anecdotes from Einstein, Bohr, Pauli, Feynman to our own Homi Bhabha, a dark skinned young man who was mistaken to be Italian by Frisch. We see many faces of these great men. One illuminating incident was when a young man after a lecture by Einstein got up and said,
‘What Einstein has told us is not so stupid but the second equation does not follow from the first. It needs an assumption, which need not be correct’.
Every one in the hall turned around and stared at him. Except Einstein who was concentrating at the black board. And after few minutes he turned and said ‘
The young man is right. Forget everything I have told you today’.
Humility is the first virtue of a great man.

The present edition of the book is brought out by `Canto'. It has done great service. It is reprinting some of the best published by Cambridge University Press. Some of the other good titles in Science section to be read are Mr. Tompkins in paper back by George Gamov. A Mathematician Apology by GH Hardy. But as far as this book is concerned it has brought life to some of the people that the author had met from What little I[he] remember[ed]’ The book will be enjoyed by those who are familiar and equally by those, not so familiar with the world of nuclear physics.

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