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October is objectively the best month. Forget the scary movies and the crisp fall weather — October is so much more! It’s a time when we highlight hidden figures and unsung heroes in science during events like Hispanic Heritage Month, the Nobel Prize announcement, and Ada Lovelace Day. 

But there’s another observance in October that we celebrate in the United States that has risen to prominence in recent years— one that celebrates the contributions of American workers with disabilities and promotes inclusive employment policies and practices. And that is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. 
For October’s Photos of the Month, join me in learning about physicists with disabilities who have broken barriers in the physical sciences and have made important contributions to science and society. 

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Nobel season is an exciting time for the field of physics. This year, we congratulate Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L'Huillier, who are now 2023 Nobel Laureates "for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter."

Whenever the prize in physics is announced, we always have a flurry of activity to see if the Niels Bohr Library & Archives happens to have an oral history or photos that involve the laureates, as we sometimes do. Although we don’t have any this year, this got me thinking: there are so many scientists involved with remarkable research, and many people who have expressed that their colleague or mentor deserve the award. This is a complex subject that I can’t hope to scratch the surface of in a short blog post, although, I will point out that Anne L’Huillier is now only the 5th woman to become a Nobel Laureate in Physics since the prize’s inception in 1901, and that three of the five women got the award in the last six years (2018 Donna Strickland, 2020 Andrea Ghez, 2023 Anne L’Huillier).

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September Photos of the Month

Many things happen in September. It’s a time to go back to school, to look forward to a change in the weather, to do fall gardening, to plan Halloween costumes, and it’s a time to remember Inge Lehmann’s groundbreaking paper that concludes that the Earth has a solid inner core.

The year was 1936. Thoughts of what might be under the Earth’s crust were present in the public cultural imagination, thanks in part to Jules Verne’s classic and other works of late 19th century subterranean fiction (Will Harben’s Land of the Changing Sun (1894), Gabriel Tarde’s Underground Man (1896), Charles Beale’s The Secret of the Earth from 1899, to name a few).The late 19th century and turn of the 20th was also an important time in the history of seismology. According to Ari Ben-Menahem, seismology “aims simultaneously to obtain the infrastructure of the Earth's interior with the aid of seismic wave phenomena, and to study the nature of earthquake sources with the ultimate goal of mitigating and eventually controlling the phenomenon.” In other words, seismologists concern themselves with the study of earthquakes and what is under the Earth’s crust. The first seismometer (an instrument with a pendulum or spring that can record earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and explosions) was designed by James Forbes in 1841. In 1894, the term seismograph appeared, which is now often interchangeable with seismometer, to describe the physical recording of ground displacements. By the early 20th century, scientists were able to tell through seismographs that all was not solid under the Earth’s crust.

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A Niels Bohr Library & Archives Researcher!
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CM: Tell us a little about yourself: what do you currently do? How did your interest in the history of science come about?

DD: I’m a professional science writer – a full-time life science marketer by day, and a part-time freelance writer for various clients including the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I feel privileged to be able to talk openly with scientists in government and industry who are really pushing at the limits of innovation. I do my best to help convey the respect and wonder that I feel for the work they’re doing through my storytelling.

I’m interested in storytelling about science, and history has so many interesting stories yet to be told. Archives like the Niels Bohr Library & Archives (NBLA) are rich with first-person accounts, photographs, correspondence, and so many other types of documents. It’s a special feeling to be able to immerse yourself in a different moment of time through primary materials, past people’s belongings.

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It seems easy, looking back, to dismiss some of the fundamental building blocks of atomic theory as antiquated or primitive; after all, we all know electrons exist, further subdivided into quarks and—maybe—even smaller fundamental pieces. But the history of atomic theory shows a progression in steps, not leaps, and was built on the backs of two men: Democritus and Dalton. Read further to discover what these two individuals proposed in their time that came to build our understanding of the universe as we know it.

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Showing Off a New Look for Library Book Displays

It’s been a while since we highlighted our physical space, but we’ve done a little refresher of our reading room in College Park, Maryland that we’re feeling quite proud of. We used to have a large wall of shelves covered in journals, but even before COVID-19 changed the way everything worked, very few people were coming into the library to browse our print journals.

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August Photos of the Month

As the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C. has been a hub for musicians performing, politicians legislating, and scientists creating the cutting-edge of technology and information since its founding. This Photos of the Month post covers the work and lives of physicists in the District of Columbia, collected in our visual archives, as well as the photographs’ locations on this interactive map. The post can be read either here, as a traditional blog post, or by using the interactive Google MyMap below to pan around and view photos at the locations where they were taken. 

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July Photos of the Month

This month marks the theatrical release of the much-anticipated biopic Oppenheimer, which details the life and work of J. Robert Oppenheimer throughout his time working on the Manhattan Project and the following events of his life. The cast of characters included in this movie is a veritable who’s who of atomic physicists from the early 20th century; one of these physicists, portrayed by Kenneth Branagh, is our beloved Niels Bohr. Much to my partner’s embarrassment, I may have attempted to get a “Niels Bohr! Niels Bohr!” chant going in the movie theater before the film began.

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How has a massive textbook that has not been updated remained so relevant?

A guest post by Ryan Dahn. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the esteemed general-relativity textbook Gravitation. Authored by Charles Misner and Kip Thorne and their former adviser at Princeton, John Wheeler, Gravitation has proved so influential that it is known in the academic community by the acronym MTW. Despite being somewhat outdated, MTW is still in print today in essentially its original form.

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June Photos of the Month

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography came to my attention a few months ago when I learned that they have collected giant sea spider specimens from Antarctica, and my interest was piqued! Though I’m certainly a big fan of visiting the ocean, I've been relatively unfamiliar with oceanography as a field.