Archive for June 3rd, 2008

Fermi’s nobel lecture (1938)

June 3, 2008

The simplicity of Fermi’s nobel lecture (1938) is stunning — the implications of this work changed history forever. Other nobel lectures i’ve read go on and on — this lecture is only 8 pages. Fermi also cites and gives credit to a dozens of other researchers upon whose work his discoveries are based. He explains the discovery of radioactivity caused by neutron bombardment and study of interactions of “thermal” neutrons with all the elements, including uranium and thorium.

p. 415,

The small dimensions, the perfect steadiness and the utmost simplicity are, however, sometimes very useful features of the radon + beryllium sources.


His experiments involve neutron sources, paraffin wax, and spinning wheels, not complicated particle accelerators or machinery. Anyone with a freshman-level chemistry/physics knowledge should be able to understand the lecture, but even that is not absolutely needed.