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7 Funny Quotes By Physicist Wolfgang Pauli

quantum mechanics quotes wolfgang pauli physics quotes

Wolfgang Pauli was one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century who played critical role in the development of quantum mechanics. He won the Nobel Prize in 1945 after being nominated by Albert Einstein for the discovery of exclusion principle.

Pauli was infamous for his supposed tendency to cause equipment failure whenever he was around. Stories like, his new car failed during a honeymoon without apparent reason, and a cyclotron at Princeton University burnt in 1950 in his presence.

Once at a reception party, his colleagues decided to parody the Pauli effect by deliberately dropping a chandelier upon Pauli's entrance. But to everyone's surprise, the chandelier stuck instead, becoming yet another example of the Pauli effect.

Hence, Pauli was a really mysterious person whose proximity was disliked by experimental physicists. In this post, let us delve into interesting anecdotes and funny quotes of Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli, the most legendary scientist of the past century.

Prophet Dirac

In the 1927 Solvay conference, Paul Dirac said: If we are honest, and scientists have to be, we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination.

Wolfgang Pauli had kept silent. When asked for his opinion, Pauli jokingly replied: Our friend Dirac has a religion of his own and its guiding principle is, "There is no God and Dirac is His prophet." Everybody burst into laughter, including Dirac and Heisenberg.

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Dirac, Pauli

Elusive Neutrino

Pauli said in 1930: I have done a terrible thing. I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected. After proposing the existence of neutrino, an extremely light electrically neutral particle, that does not participate in the strong interaction and weak force is very short range, so it is very hard to find.

Trolling Heisenberg

Werner Heisenberg claimed to a journalist that Pauli and he had found a unified field theory, but just some technical details were missing. Pauli wrote in a letter, drawing a big rectangle, that "This is to show that I can paint like Titian. Only technical details are missing."

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Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli

Parity violation

If a system behaves in the mirror image as it normally would, it is said to respect parity symmetry. In 1956, Chinese American physicist Chien-Shiung Wu discovered parity violation, leading Pauli to comment: "I cannot believe God is a weak left-hander!"

Bad science

Wolfgang Pauli was known for his colorful objections to careless thinking. When a colleague showed Pauli his paper, Pauli said after reading: This paper is not only not right; it is not even wrong. The phrase caught on to describe bad science or statements that don't satisfy falsifiability.

Why so serious?

Wolfgang Pauli recalled this incident. A person observed that Pauli was strolling aimlessly in the streets of Copenhagen, and said: You look very unhappy. Pauli replied seriously: How can one look happy when he is thinking about the anomalous Zeeman effect?

spectral line split zeeman effect wolfgang pauli physics

Pieter Zeeman discovered in 1896 the splitting of a spectral line into several components in the presence of a static magnetic field. For this discovery, he was awarded Nobel Prize in 1902.

On knowledge

Wolfgang Pauli was of the belief that there is no limit to knowledge. However, as one goes deeply into learning a subject, the ambiguity also increases, since every new answer might open the door to a hundred new questions.

Pauli said: "The best that most of us can hope to achieve in physics is simply to misunderstand at a deeper level." This means that at least we have reached a deeper level to be amazed and confused by the result, so it's worth something.

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