Mathematical physics

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Stephen Fulling, Professor of Mathematics and of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University. Fulling explains the history of why his primary academic department is math and how the field of general relativity became more directly relevant to observational cosmology in the 1960s and 1970s. He recounts his middle-class upbringing in Indiana and his dual interests in math and physics which he developed during his undergraduate years at Harvard. Fulling discusses his graduate work at Princeton, where Arthur Wightman supervised his research. He explains the contemporary controversy over the Casimir effect and his interest in the Minkowski vacuum, and he discusses his postdoctoral appointment at UW-Milwaukee. Fulling describes his work on Riemannian spacetime and Robertson-Walker spacetime, and he explains the opportunity that led him to the University of London, where black holes was a focus of research. He describes meeting Paul Davies and Chris Isham and how the field started to take black holes seriously as observable entities in the 1980s. Fulling explains his longstanding interest in asymptotic expansion and he surveys more recent advances in the Casimir effect. He reflects on the Unruh effect as it approaches its 50th anniversary, and he addresses the disagreement on whether or not it has been observed and whether the Unruh effect implies Unruh radiation. At the end of the interview, Fulling discusses his current interests in the soft wall problem and acceleration radiation, and he explains his ongoing interest in seeing advances in research on Casimir energy. 

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Altadena, California
Abstract

Interview covers the development of several branches of theoretical physics from the 1930s through the 1960s; the most extensive discussions deal with topics in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics as it relates to fission technology, meson field theory, superfluidity and other properties of liquid helium, beta decay and the Universal Fermi Interaction, with particular emphasis on Feynman's work in the reformulation of quantum electrodynamic field equations. Early life in Brooklyn, New York; high school; undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; learning the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on his own. To Princeton University (John A. Wheeler), 1939; serious preoccupation with problem of self-energy of electron and other problems of quantum field theory; work on uranium isotope separation; Ph.D., 1942. Atomic bomb project, Los Alamos (Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi); test explosion at Alamagordo. After World War II teaches mathematical physics at Cornell University; fundamental ideas in quantum electrodynamics crystalize; publishes "A Space-Time View," 1948; Shelter Island Conference (Lamb shift); Poconos Conferences; relations with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichiro Tomonaga; nature and quality of scientific education in Latin America; industry and science policies. To California Institute of Technology, 1951; problems associated with the nature of superfluid helium; work on the Lamb shift (Bethe, Michel Baranger); work on the law of beta decay and violation of parity (Murray Gell-Mann); biological studies; philosophy of scientific discovery; Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; masers (Robert Hellwarth, Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.), 1957; Solvay Conference, 1961. Appraisal of current state of quantum electrodynamics; opinion of the National Academy of Science; Nobel Prize, 1965.

Interviewed by
Katherine Sopka
Interview date
Location
Wellesley, Massachusetts
Abstract

Family background, education, and emergence of scientific orientation. Undergraduate years at Wellesley College (1912-1916); description of physics department. Assistant examiner in U.S. Patent Office during World War I. At MIT under E.B. Wilson as graduate student and laboratory assistant, then lab instructor (1920-24). Returned to MIT for doctoral work in 1928. Mathematical physics thesis under Norbert Wiener, while teaching at Wellesley. Depression years brought teaching position at Wilson College (1930-43), used Wellesley as model. Work on Zeeman Pattern earns her Guggenheim Fellowship (1949-50) at MIT and European labs. World War II years as head of OSRD British Report Section. Returned to Wilson (1945-56), worked part-time at National Science Foundation (1953-56). Retirement years including affiliation with U.S. Army and spectroscopic work at Harvard College Observatory. Comments on women in physics in U.S., her own opportunities, and teaching in general.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Altadena, California
Abstract

Interview covers the development of several branches of theoretical physics from the 1930s through the 1960s; the most extensive discussions deal with topics in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics as it relates to fission technology, meson field theory, superfluidity and other properties of liquid helium, beta decay and the Universal Fermi Interaction, with particular emphasis on Feynman's work in the reformulation of quantum electrodynamic field equations. Early life in Brooklyn, New York; high school; undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; learning the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on his own. To Princeton University (John A. Wheeler), 1939; serious preoccupation with problem of self-energy of electron and other problems of quantum field theory; work on uranium isotope separation; Ph.D., 1942. Atomic bomb project, Los Alamos (Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi); test explosion at Alamagordo. After World War II teaches mathematical physics at Cornell University; fundamental ideas in quantum electrodynamics crystalize; publishes "A Space-Time View," 1948; Shelter Island Conference (Lamb shift); Poconos Conferences; relations with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichiro Tomonaga; nature and quality of scientific education in Latin America; industry and science policies. To California Institute of Technology, 1951; problems associated with the nature of superfluid helium; work on the Lamb shift (Bethe, Michel Baranger); work on the law of beta decay and violation of parity (Murray Gell-Mann); biological studies; philosophy of scientific discovery; Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; masers (Robert Hellwarth, Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.), 1957; Solvay Conference, 1961. Appraisal of current state of quantum electrodynamics; opinion of the National Academy of Science; Nobel Prize, 1965.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Altadena, California
Abstract

Interview covers the development of several branches of theoretical physics from the 1930s through the 1960s; the most extensive discussions deal with topics in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics as it relates to fission technology, meson field theory, superfluidity and other properties of liquid helium, beta decay and the Universal Fermi Interaction, with particular emphasis on Feynman's work in the reformulation of quantum electrodynamic field equations. Early life in Brooklyn, New York; high school; undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; learning the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on his own. To Princeton University (John A. Wheeler), 1939; serious preoccupation with problem of self-energy of electron and other problems of quantum field theory; work on uranium isotope separation; Ph.D., 1942. Atomic bomb project, Los Alamos (Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi); test explosion at Alamagordo. After World War II teaches mathematical physics at Cornell University; fundamental ideas in quantum electrodynamics crystalize; publishes "A Space-Time View," 1948; Shelter Island Conference (Lamb shift); Poconos Conferences; relations with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichiro Tomonaga; nature and quality of scientific education in Latin America; industry and science policies. To California Institute of Technology, 1951; problems associated with the nature of superfluid helium; work on the Lamb shift (Bethe, Michel Baranger); work on the law of beta decay and violation of parity (Murray Gell-Mann); biological studies; philosophy of scientific discovery; Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; masers (Robert Hellwarth, Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.), 1957; Solvay Conference, 1961. Appraisal of current state of quantum electrodynamics; opinion of the National Academy of Science; Nobel Prize, 1965.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Altadena, California
Abstract

Interview covers the development of several branches of theoretical physics from the 1930s through the 1960s; the most extensive discussions deal with topics in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics as it relates to fission technology, meson field theory, superfluidity and other properties of liquid helium, beta decay and the Universal Fermi Interaction, with particular emphasis on Feynman's work in the reformulation of quantum electrodynamic field equations. Early life in Brooklyn, New York; high school; undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; learning the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on his own. To Princeton University (John A. Wheeler), 1939; serious preoccupation with problem of self-energy of electron and other problems of quantum field theory; work on uranium isotope separation; Ph.D., 1942. Atomic bomb project, Los Alamos (Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi); test explosion at Alamagordo. After World War II teaches mathematical physics at Cornell University; fundamental ideas in quantum electrodynamics crystalize; publishes "A Space-Time View," 1948; Shelter Island Conference (Lamb shift); Poconos Conferences; relations with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichiro Tomonaga; nature and quality of scientific education in Latin America; industry and science policies. To California Institute of Technology, 1951; problems associated with the nature of superfluid helium; work on the Lamb shift (Bethe, Michel Baranger); work on the law of beta decay and violation of parity (Murray Gell-Mann); biological studies; philosophy of scientific discovery; Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; masers (Robert Hellwarth, Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.), 1957; Solvay Conference, 1961. Appraisal of current state of quantum electrodynamics; opinion of the National Academy of Science; Nobel Prize, 1965.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Altadena, California
Abstract

Interview covers the development of several branches of theoretical physics from the 1930s through the 1960s; the most extensive discussions deal with topics in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics as it relates to fission technology, meson field theory, superfluidity and other properties of liquid helium, beta decay and the Universal Fermi Interaction, with particular emphasis on Feynman's work in the reformulation of quantum electrodynamic field equations. Early life in Brooklyn, New York; high school; undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; learning the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on his own. To Princeton University (John A. Wheeler), 1939; serious preoccupation with problem of self-energy of electron and other problems of quantum field theory; work on uranium isotope separation; Ph.D., 1942. Atomic bomb project, Los Alamos (Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi); test explosion at Alamagordo. After World War II teaches mathematical physics at Cornell University; fundamental ideas in quantum electrodynamics crystalize; publishes "A Space-Time View," 1948; Shelter Island Conference (Lamb shift); Poconos Conferences; relations with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichiro Tomonaga; nature and quality of scientific education in Latin America; industry and science policies. To California Institute of Technology, 1951; problems associated with the nature of superfluid helium; work on the Lamb shift (Bethe, Michel Baranger); work on the law of beta decay and violation of parity (Murray Gell-Mann); biological studies; philosophy of scientific discovery; Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; masers (Robert Hellwarth, Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.), 1957; Solvay Conference, 1961. Appraisal of current state of quantum electrodynamics; opinion of the National Academy of Science; Nobel Prize, 1965.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Bondi's office, Thames House, London, England
Abstract

Interview focusses on early life in Vienna, family and religion; atmosphere in Vienna in early 1930s; growth of interest in mathematical physics; anti-Semitism in Vienna; influence of history teacher and rejection of religion; influence of reading Eddington and Jeans in the mid-1930s; further study in England and contact with Eddington; Trinity College, 1937-1940; study with Besicovitch; collapse of plebiscite and family in Vienna; internment during World WarII; graduate study with Harold Jeffreys; naval radar, 1942; associates during war and circle at Cambridge; development of radar research team with Gold and Hoyle; developing astronomical interests, 1943; early research on accretion and evolution; cosmology; general relativity; contact with Dyson, Lighthill and W.H. McCrae; work in theoretical stellar structure; the problem of red giants; Hoyle's theory of stellar evolution; Hoyle-Lyttleton red giant models; growing interests in cosmology and discussion of Tolman and Hubble; the Steady State Cosmology; reactions to Steady State theory; gravitational theory and relativity circa 1955.

Interviewed by
Maurice Wilkins
Interview date
Abstract

Discussions with Krishnamurti; development of implicate order; student Donald Schumacher interested in Niels Bohr; Niels Bohr’s theories on quantum mechanics and their influence; Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein’s discussions about quantum mechanics; causal interpretation implicate order and formative cause; synthesis of mathematical and intuitive approaches; interest in the language used in physics; Erwin Schrödinger’s calculations.