"Don't let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my laboratory"

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"Don't let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my laboratory"

Post  Guest on Sun Mar 29, 2015 10:31 pm

One of the most fascinating characters in the history of 20th century science was the great experimental physicist Ernest Rutherford who first proposed the planetary model of the atom for which he also won a Nobel prize. Nine of his students went on to win Nobel prizes.

One of the famous quotes of Rutherford is this one: "Don't let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my laboratory". This can be interpreted narrowly as being aimed at theoretical physicists who preferred discussing and doing theoretical research in physics using mathematics and statistics--instead of producing interpretable data through bench work which was the approach followed by Rutherford. But in a broader sense this quote could be a jibe at people who like to talk about things having nothing to do with their work. for instance, a scientist talking about literature or politics with his colleagues in his laboratory.

Rutherford is quite famous for his quotable quotes. You can read some of them here:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/437411.Ernest_Rutherford

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Re: "Don't let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my laboratory"

Post  Guest on Sun Mar 29, 2015 11:36 pm

one of the nine nobel prize winning students of Rutherford was a man called PMS Blackett. There is a chapter written by Blackett in the book "Rutherford at Manchester". Blackett writes that whenever he has been confronted with a really difficult and formidable scientific problem he would try to imagine how (his teacher) Rutherford would tackle it. This would unleash a chain of thoughts and ideas which would often culminate in the solution to the problem. I thought this was the ultimate tribute of one great scientist to another.

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Re: "Don't let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my laboratory"

Post  Guest on Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:43 pm

Earlier I wrote that Rutherford won a Nobel prize for his planetary atomic model. I was wrong. Rutherford won it for his work on radioactivity. But it is rightly said that he deserved another Nobel for his discovery of the proton (through the famous gold leaf experiment).

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