Showing posts with label Biography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biography. Show all posts

10 Kip Thorne Facts That You Didn't Know

kip thorne biography physics nobel prize winner

Kip Thorne is a celebrated American theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 2017 for his role in the detection of gravitational waves. He is also well known outside the realm of physics as Thorne is a man of many talents.

Born in 1940, Thorne grew up in a highly academic environment. His father was a professor of soil chemistry and his mother was a famous economist. Although his upbringing was in the Latter-day Saints faith, Thorne became an atheist later on.

When Kip was 8 years old, he attended a children's lecture on solar system and fell in love with astronomy. He wanted to uncover the secret of the stars (and so he did). Following are 10 facts related to Kip Thorne that will blow your mind.

1. Thorne received his bachelor of science degree from Caltech and his PhD from Princeton University. He was ONLY 30 years old when he joined Caltech as one of the youngest Professors in the institute's history.

2. Thorne is remembered by his students as someone with the ability to make a mundane topic exciting and fun to learn. In his illustrious academic career, Thorne has assisted at least 50 physicists in obtaining their Ph.D. at Caltech.

3. Thorne was trained under John Wheeler, renowned physicist who coined the term black hole. Thorne was among the first scientists to research on black holes, time travel and worm holes. He accurately predicted that red supergiant stars existed.

4. Thorne was friends with Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan. In the movie The Theory of Everything, Thorne was played by actor Enzo Cilenti. Thorne had contributed ideas on wormhole travel to Carl Sagan for use in his novel, Contact.

5. The story of record breaking movie Interstellar (2014) was conceived by producer Lynda Obst and physicist Kip Thorne. Thorne acted as an executive producer and scientific consultant on the film. He also wrote a book explaining the science of Interstellar.

interstellar movie kip thorne biography physics

6. Not only Interstellar, Kip also helped Nolan for the movie Tenet on the ideas of quantum physics and time. Christopher Nolan said in an interview: I've been very inspired by working with great scientists like Kip Thorne.

7. Thorne has also acted. He appeared in The Big Bang Theory when the Coopers are trying to get some Nobel winners on their side to counter their rivals. Kip breaks Sheldon's heart by refusing his gift (or bribe) but it was a fun collaboration nonetheless.

8. Kip loves to write. He even resigned from his position at Caltech to pursue a career in writing and making movies for the big screen. Thorne is the winner of Phi Beta Kappa Science Writing Award, one of the most prestigious recognitions in America.

9. Thorne also became a Nobel laureate, the highest honor in physics, for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves, an extraordinary journey of over 30 years of work, displaying incredible persistence.

10. Not proven yet, but Thorne has a theory that predicts the existence of a universally anti-gravitating matter, the element which is causing the universe to expand at accelerated rate and might make warp drive and worm hole travel a possibility.

Deepak Dhar First Indian To Win Boltzmann Medal

indian physicist deepak dhar boltzmann medal

Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906) who is well known for presenting the logarithmic connection between entropy and probability in his kinetic theory of gases, was never properly recognized during his lifetime.

In celebration of his ground-breaking work, Boltzmann medal is awarded once every three years by IUPAP in the field of statistical mechanics. In 2022, Deepak Dhar became the first Indian physicist to win the Boltzmann medal, sharing it with American physicist John Hopfield.

Deepak Dhar is famous among his students as a loveable science teacher. He was also a teaching assistant to Nobel laureate Richard Feynman when he completed his PhD from Caltech in 1978.

Deepak was born in Oct, 1951 to an average Indian household in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and showed proficiency in mathematics from an early age. He completed his bachelor degree from the prestigious Allahabad University in 1970.

Deepak moved to the US after getting master's degree in physics from IIT-Kanpur in 1972. He returned to India the same year he completed his PhD from Caltech, where he held Richard Feynman fellowship. This shows his undying love for the motherland and a desire to teach in India.

Deepak became a full-time research fellow at TIFR, Mumbai where he was later promoted as an associate professor in 1991. He also served as visiting professor at the University of Paris during this time.

Post retirement, Deepak Dhar is a distinguished visiting faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. After winning Boltzmann medal, Deepak said: It is always nice to win but the award was never the driving force.

Quoting Isaac Newton, Dhar added: I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Dhar was previously honored with Satyendra Nath Bose medal by the government in 2001. He feels that much work can still be done in statistical mechanics, a field pioneered by Bose in India. Science needs to be loved, Dhar feels, and not something students are afraid of.

Deepak is known for his research on stochastic processes or random systems, that are part and parcel of day to day life. Examples include stock market, blood pressure, movement of a gas molecule, etc.

Deepak Dhar feels that physics has a lot new opportunities that are screaming for attention. But we are short-changing younger generation with low quality education, he says. Why would students pursue career in physics if their interest is killed at early stage?

5 Important Discoveries By Heinrich Rudolf Hertz

heinrich hertz biography experimental physics

Heinrich Hertz (1857–1894) was a renowned German experimental physicist whose discoveries over a period of 10 years served as the foundation stones of modern communication technology and quantum mechanics.

Hertz was home schooled from age 15, as he was an outstanding student who showed proficiency not only in the sciences but also in foreign languages, such as Arabic and Sanskrit. In 1930, the SI unit of frequency was named Hertz in his honor.

1. Inertia of electricity

Hertz studied under physicist Hermann von Helmholtz at the University of Berlin. In 1878, Helmholtz was involved in a fierce debate with a colleague: Does electric current have mass? He announced a prize to anyone who could answer the question.

At that time, electron was not yet discovered so it was a big ask. Hertz accepted the challenge as it gave him immense pleasure in learning directly from nature through well thought out experiments.

After one year of hard work, Hertz settled the debate by showing in a series of experiments that if electric current had any mass at all, it must be negligibly small. Nearly 20 years later, electron was discovered by J.J. Thomson.

2. Radio waves

Hertz was 7 years old when James Clerk Maxwell wrote the famous equations of electromagnetic theory. No one was able to generate electromagnetic waves until Hertz in 1887. Hertz was 30 years old at the time.

Hertz was demonstrating electrical sparks to his students in 1886. He noticed during the lecture that sparks produced a regular electrical vibration within the electric wires.

Hertz thought that this vibration was caused by accelerating and decelerating electrical charges. If Maxwell was right, this would radiate electromagnetic waves through air.

When Hertz was asked in an interview the use of electromagnetic waves, he replied: Nothing I guess. This is just a home-made experiment that proves Maestro Maxwell right.

3. Electromagnetic spectrum

Hertz calculated the speed of radio waves he created and found it to be the same as the speed of light. This was an experimental triumph as he had proved yet another prediction of Maxwell.

Hertz also showed that the waves radiating from his oscillator could be reflected, refracted, polarized and produced interference patterns like light.

In 1890s, Hertz also worked with ultraviolet and x-ray. He concluded that UV, radio, x-ray and light are part of a large family of waves which is today called the electromagnetic spectrum.

4. Photoelectric effect

In 1887, Hertz observed that an electrically charged metal when put under ultraviolet light lost its charge faster than otherwise. This is called photoelectric effect.

As Hertz was an experimental physicist he did not try explaining the phenomenon. Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein was a young boy in Munich at this time.

In 1905, Einstein wrote the theory of photoelectric effect and won the Nobel Prize for the same in 1921. This work played a key role in the development of quantum mechanics.

5. Contact mechanics

Hertz wrote a paper in 1881 outlining the field of contact mechanics. Contact mechanics is a part of mechanical engineering in which engineers study the touch points of solids.

The principles of contact mechanics are useful in applications such as rail-wheel contact, braking systems and tyres.

Summing up

Heinrich Hertz was only 36 years old when he died of complications in surgery to fix his constant migraines. In just 15 years of his scientific career Hertz made pioneering contributions to various fields of physics.

From Maxwell to Einstein, Hertz is the famous experimenter whose observations either confirmed a previous theory or laid groundwork for a new theory. Hertz is among the few scientists in whose honor an SI unit is named.

Japan's First Nobel Laureate Survived Two World Wars

hideki yukawa first japanese nobel laureate meson

Hideki Yukawa (1907-1981) was the first Japanese Nobel laureate who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1949. This recognition was a silver lining to the devastating second world war that destroyed Japan's cities. Yukawa inspired a whole new generation of children to look up to scientists.


Hideki Yukawa was born on January 23 in Tokyo as Hideki Ogawa to a middle class Japanese family of academicians that belonged to the Samurai clan.

While he was not as outstanding a student as his older brothers, Hideki showed an aptitude for mathematics and the sciences.

When Hideki was 8 years old, the first world war broke out in which Japan participated in an alliance with Entente Powers. By the time war ended, Yukawa was already a teenager in Kyoto.
Yukawa's geologist father wanted him to become a mathematician. Hideki ditched that idea in high school after his teacher marked his exam answer incorrect when he proved a theorem in a different manner than the teacher expected.


Yukawa graduated from Kyoto University at age 22 where he stayed on as a teacher for four years, until 1933. During this time, he also married Sumi Yukawa in accordance with Japanese customs.

Since his father-in-law had no sons, Hideki Ogawa was adopted by the Yukawa family and thereby a name change from Ogawa to Yukawa. The couple had two sons.
In 1933, Yukawa moved to Osaka University where he earned his doctorate in 1938, aged 31. He rejoined Kyoto University in 1939 as a professor of theoretical physics.

Major works

In 1935, during his time at Osaka University, Yukawa proposed a theory of nuclear forces in which he predicted the existence of a carrier particle of strong and weak interactions.

The particle's predicted mass was between that of the electron and that of the proton. It was named meson taken from mesos, the Greek word for intermediate.

Yukawa returned to Kyoto University in 1939 but could not continue his research work as the second world war broke out. One of Yukawa's younger brothers died in the war.
With most physicists working in applied projects for wartime necessities, Yukawa who grew up resenting the war, spent this time with his family.

hideki yukawa first japanese nobel laureate with family meson

Good news came after the war ended as Meson was discovered in 1947 in the cosmic radiation showers by British experimental physicist Cecil Frank Powell. Yukawa went on to be the first Japanese Nobel laureate in 1949.

In 1955, Hideki Yukawa signed the Russell–Einstein Manifesto, issued by British polymath Bertrand Russell calling for nuclear disarmament. Yukawa retired from Kyoto University in 1970 as a Professor Emeritus.
Nobel laureate Yukawa, who survived two world wars, became an inspiration for modern Japan. Since his victory, 20 Japanese nationals have won Nobel Prize in the sciences. In 1977, Yukawa was awarded Order of the Rising Sun, one of the highest honors in Japan.

Google Honors Stephen Hawking With New Doodle

stephen hawking happy birthday google doodle stephen hawking quotes

Renowned astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking was nicknamed Einstein at school because he did fairly well in scientific subjects. He was inspired by his maths teacher Dikran Tahta to pursue a degree in mathematics.

However, Hawking's father Frank (who was a medical researcher) advised his son to study medicine instead, as jobs were very few for maths graduates. Stephen showed no interest in biology and so he found a middle ground...
Hawking graduated with a bachelor degree in physics from Oxford University in 1962. This feat was overshadowed by the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's disease, a condition in which motor neurons get damaged leading to paralysis.

The crippling disease did not dishearten Stephen Hawking for long – not when he completed his doctorate in physics from Cambridge University, 1966. Or when later in life he went on a zero gravity flight:

stephen hawking quotes happy birthday stephen hawking google doodle stephen hawking zero gravity flight

Hawking authored several best-selling books on physics and astronomy. His most successful written work A brief history of time sold more than 25 million copies, making him an international celebrity. In 2014, a film depicting hawking's battle with the Lou Gehrig's disease was also released.
Hawking said: The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away.

Because of his excellent sense of humor, Hawking starred on such TV shows as Futurama, The Simpsons and The big bang theory as himself. Hawking said: Humor is what keeps me going, and life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.

In 2022, on Hawking's 80th birthday, Google has honored the legendary astrophysicist with a doodle on their homepage and a heartwarming video to top it off.

stephen hawking 80th birthday google doodle stephen hawking best quotes

The doctor had given Stephen just a few years to live in his twenties credit to the life threatening disease. Not only did Hawking beat the odds but also revolutionized physics for next half a century.

His work with mathematician Roger Penrose about the universe's origins and the theorems on black holes made Hawking an undeniable force in the field of physics.
Following are 5 motivational Stephen Hawking quotes:

  1. Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

  2. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up.

  3. One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist.....Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.

  4. We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.

  5. It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space and philosophy of our existence. I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these 'how' and 'why' questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.

When Stephen Hawking abruptly passed away in 2018, he left a many in tears... an aching void in the scientific world that still needs to be filled. Because, Hawking was the most beloved scientist of this generation, rightly on par with Einstein.

10 Roger Penrose Facts That You Didn't Know

mathematician roger penrose 10 facts

Nobel British mathematician and physicist Sir Roger Penrose is popularly known for black hole singularity theorems which later on inspired Stephen Hawking's singularity theorem for the entire universe. In 2020, Penrose won the physics Nobel Prize for work done in the 1960s. Yes, it took that long.

Childhood Penrose spent his early childhood during the second World War in Canada. It is quite surprising to know that Penrose was not always the brilliant man he is today. After winning the Nobel prize, in an interview, he revealed: "I was always very slow. I was good at maths, yes, but I didn't necessarily do very well in my tests."

Genius family There also was added pressure due to the fact that he was born in the Penrose family, a family of artists, scientists and chess players.

Penrose's paternal grandfather was a famous portrait artist while his maternal grandfather was a physiologist and an early biochemist.

His father Lionel was a geneticist whose interests extended well beyond his profession and included such fields as geometry and chess, which he often shared with his children.

No surprise that Penrose's older brother went on to become a distinguished physicist himself. The younger brother and sister became Chess grandmaster and geneticist respectively.

Roger Penrose family 10 facts about Roger Penrose

Love of geometry – As a student, Penrose used to create illusory objects like the Penrose Triangle and the Penrose stairs. Several artworks by the renowned Dutch artist M.C. Escher were in part inspired by Penrose's impossible figures.

Roger Penrose mathematics 10 facts Penrose Triangle

PhD Post graduation, Penrose came under the supervision of mathematician W. V. D. Hodge. Though after one year, he was "thrown out" of the class for not being able to find solution to the problem assigned to him. "I decided that the problem Hodge suggested had no solution but he didn't believe me."

For the next two years, Penrose worked under geometer John Todd and in 1958 finished his doctorate degree with a thesis on tensor methods in algebraic geometry.

Inspiration Roger Penrose was encouraged by his cosmologist friend Dennis Sciama to work alongside Stephen Hawking on the problems in astrophysics. "What are you doing with this pure mathematics nonsense? Come and work on physics and cosmology."

Lectures on quantum theory by Paul Dirac and on general relativity by Hermann Bondi influenced Penrose further. In the 1960s, he joined Sciama and Hawking to derive the Penrose–Hawking singularity theorems using Indian physicist Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri's namesake equation.

Consciousness – Apart from the problems in physics, Penrose has also explored the nature of consciousness, especially in his 1989 book: The Emperor's New Mind.

He was partly motivated to write the book after hearing computer scientist Marvin Minsky, one of the fathers of artificial intelligence, say: Human brain is just a computer made up of meat.

Minsky was of the belief that human intelligence could be mimicked artificially in accordance with a learning program. Roger Penrose argued against that viewpoint, saying: Human thought and intelligence cannot be simulated artificially.

In 1997, Penrose devised a theory of consciousness based upon quantum gravity. However, it failed to garner critical or experimental support. Hawking commented: Penrose's argument seemed to be that consciousness is a mystery and quantum gravity is another mystery so they must be related.

Religion – Roger Penrose regards himself as an agnostic. During an interview with the BBC in 2010, he stated: "I'm not a believer myself. I don't believe in established religions of any kind." Penrose is also a well-known supporter of Humanists UK organization.

Cycle of time – According to Penrose, the universe keeps dying and being reborn. In 2010, he reported possible evidence based on the data from cosmic microwave background, of an earlier universe existing before the Big Bang.

His conformal cyclic cosmology model although derives inspiration from Hindu-Buddhist philosophies is built within the framework of general relativity. Penrose has popularized the theory in his 2010 book Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe.

Architecture – Believe it or not but Roger Penrose has made a remarkable contribution to architecture as well. Penrose tiling, a covering of the plane by non-overlapping polygons, is quite a popular choice for floor designs.

mathematician roger penrose 10 facts

According to one alumnus, the campus of Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad was inspired by Penrose architecture. "The domes and the corridors were the nodes and connections respectively of the Penrose architecture."

Similarly, Miami University in Ohio, Andrew Wiles Building at the University of Oxford and Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy (as seen in the picture) make use of Penrose Tiling.

Maxwell, Greatest Physicist Who Died Too Soon

james clerk maxwell biography, facts

James Clerk Maxwell was a renowned Scottish mathematician who built upon the works of English scientist Michael Faraday and revolutionized physics in whatever little time he spent on Earth.

His most important contribution was the unification of electricity, magnetism and optics into one coherent body of knowledge. Maxwell's research paved the way for technologies like radio, television, mobile phones and infrared telescopes.

Einstein said of Maxwell: The special theory of relativity owes its origins to Maxwell's Equations of the electromagnetic field. Planck added: He achieved greatness unequalled.

Early genius

When Maxwell was 13 years old, he won the Mathematics Medal and the first prize in both English and poetry. Following is one of his short poems:

The world may be utterly crazy
And life may be labour in vain;
But I'd rather be silly than lazy,
And would not quit life for its pain.

He published his first scientific paper at 14. The paper was written on a series of oval curves that could be traced with pins and threads, showing his love for geometry.


When he was 24, Maxwell used to set up examination papers for Trinity College. A year later, he became a professor of natural philosophy at Aberdeen University aged 25. Maxwell was at least 15 years younger than his colleagues.

There he studied the nature of Saturn’s rings for almost two years and compiled his observations in a detailed essay, titled: The Stability of Saturn’s Rings.

When Voyager spacecrafts went to space in the 1980s, they confirmed many of the conclusions that Maxwell had made over a century before.


Maxwell joined King's College, London in 1860. Here he forayed into works published by Faraday and also met him on several occasions. Michael Faraday, who was 40 years older than Maxwell, became an admirer.

Maxwell examined the behavior of electric and magnetic fields in his 1861 paper: 'On physical lines of force'. In 1862, while giving a lecture, he calculated that the speed of propagation of an electromagnetic field is same as the speed of light.

Thus, he went on to conclude that light is itself an electromagnetic disturbance which propagates through the space according to electromagnetic laws.

Last years

Maxwell resigned in 1865 and returned to his home in Scotland. He also frequented to Cambridge where he was supervising the construction of Cavendish Laboratory.

In 1871, aged 40, he was elected the first Cavendish Professor of Physics. Here he wrote three popular books called Theory of HeatMatter and Motion and A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.
His famous twenty equations, which in their modern form are four partial differential equations, known as Maxwell's equations, first appeared in 1873.

In 1879, Maxwell reported difficulty in swallowing food. It was found that he had abdominal cancer, to which he succumbed the same year, at the age of 48.


In 1884, five years after Maxwell's death, Heinrich Hertz, a German physicist successfully produced electromagnetic waves in a laboratory as predicted by Maxwell.

Physicists say that Maxwell achieved for light what Newton had achieved for gravity: Unification. It took Maxwell's genius to collect the laws from the scattered pile of experimental evidence then at hand.

American physicist Richard Feynman wrote: Maxwell's equations didn't just change the world. They opened up a new one. Feynman labeled it the 'most significant discovery' of the 19th century.

Today, world's largest single-dish telescope that operates in submillimeter wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum is called James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in his honor.

Engineer Who Won Physics Nobel Prize Twice

john bardeen twice nobel prize winner physics superconductivity transistor

Winning the Nobel Prize once is no easy feat let alone winning it twice! The first ever person to do win the Nobel Prize twice was celebrated chemist and physicist Marie Curie as many of you might already know.

Similarly, John Bardeen has won the prestigious prize for physics not once but twice! If you ever watched The Big Bang Theory, a show in which engineering as a field is consistently made fun of, it might come off as surprising that Bardeen was an engineer by education and profession.

John Bardeen (1908-1991) completed his bachelor and master degrees in electrical engineering in 1928 and 1929 respectively. He was then employed by Gulf Oil Corporation where he worked for four years.

However, his love for physics was intact and urged him to go back to school. Therefore, he enrolled at Princeton University to study physics and mathematics in 1933.

There he wrote a thesis on solid-state physics under the guidance of Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner. After graduating in 1935, he was chosen as Junior Fellow at Harvard University, a position he held for three years.

In 1939, the second world war broke out and John could no longer facilitate his individual research interests. The big break came after the war in October 1945 when he started working at Bell Labs.

Along with colleagues William Shockley and Walter Brattain, John invented the first transistor in 1947. Their relationship, however, soured when Shockley tried to take most of the credit for the invention.

first transistor invented by john bardeen physics
Replica of the first transistor

Shockley prevented both Bardeen and Brattain from working any further on the transistor technologies. So, John left Bell Labs in 1951 and accepted an offer from the University of Illinois to study superconductivity.

In 1956, he shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Shockley and Brattain for their work on the transistor. Today, as you might know, most of computing technologies are unimaginable without the transistor.

When Bardeen brought only one of his three children to the prize distribution ceremony, the King of Sweden ridiculed him, to which Bardeen candidly replied: "Next time I will bring them all to Sweden."

In 1957, John wrote a theory of superconductivity along with Leon Cooper and John Schrieffer. It ushered a new era of transportation and medical technologies such as MagLev and MRI respectively.

15 years later, John kept the promise he made to the King of Sweden when he took his three children to the Nobel Prize distribution ceremony in 1972.

John stayed as a professor of engineering at University of Illinois until 1975. In 1983, Sony corporation, which owed much of its commercial success to inventions by John, created an honorary John Bardeen professorship at the university.

It's similar to the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, a chair founded in 1663 and held by icons like Newton, Dirac and Hawking.

In a 1988 interview, when Bardeen was asked to comment on religion, he said: "I am not a religious person and so do not think about it very much." John was a very humble scientist who donated much of his Nobel Prize money. He enjoyed hosting cookouts for neighbours who were unaware of his scientific achievements.

If you make a list of people – politicians, scientists, sportspersons, etc – who have had the greatest impact on the 20th century, John's name would certainly make it to the top ten. Because, without his work, none of the modern technologies would be possible.

Who was Joseph Fourier?

joseph fourier series transform physics maths

Joseph Fourier is a renowned name in the scientific world credit to Fourier series and Fourier transform. His work is useful to various problems in physics including (but not limited to) heat transfer and vibrations.

Apart from his scientific ventures, Fourier was also involved in French politics. He played a significant part in the French Revolution at his district and came to the notice of a young French revolutionary Napoleon Bonaparte.

Joseph Fourier was born on March 21, 1768 in Auxerre, France to a very poor family. He was orphaned at the age of nine. Fourier could not afford formal schooling as a result, however, he did receive an extensive training by the Church.

His exceptional mathematical prowess was recognized by those around. Fourier was appointed scientific advisor to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 at the age of 30. He was promoted by Napoleon to the post of governor in Southeastern France.

It was there, in his free time, that Fourier conducted experiments on heat transfer. In 1807, he submitted a paper on the same to Paris Institute and invented two important mathematical tools while doing so.

The first contribution is called Fourier series in his honor. The tool to make other functions by adding infinite sine (and/or cosine) waves. It was indeed a groundbreaking breakthrough at the time.

The second contribution was dimensional analysis i.e. an equation can be correct only if the dimensions match on both sides of the equality. This finds use in physics.

In the 1820s, Fourier made another contribution to math: finding real roots of polynomials. But, his major work in this decade was the discovery of and experiments on the greenhouse effect.

In 1827, Fourier published an article in which he claimed that the Earth's atmosphere might act as an insulator. This was his last major work as he died in 1830 aged 62.

Five Interesting Facts About George Gamow

george gamow biography physics cosmology

George Gamow (1904–1968) was an all-rounder in true sense of the word. He made contributions to many branches of physics as well as to the field of biology. Gamow was also quite funny and a well-known prankster as we shall see.

College life

Gamow studied under renowned Russian physicist Alexander Friedmann at the University of Leningrad. He made friends with Lev Landau and Matvei Bronstein and the trio came to be referred as the Three Musketeers.

After graduating, he started doing research into the atomic nucleus, which became the basis for his doctorate. From 1928 to 1931 he worked under Ernest Rutherford. In 1932, he built a draft for the first cyclotron in Europe which was completed in 1937.

Important contributions

In 1928, Gamow proposed an explanation for alpha decay of a nucleus by using quantum mechanical principles. He helped build the first cyclotron in Europe, an early version of the particle accelerator, which helped in further studies on radioactivity.

In 1940s, Gamow shifted his attention on cosmology. During this time, he worked with Lemaitre on the Big Bang theory. It was his idea that the early universe was dominated by radiation rather than by matter. He wrote in a paper the presence of background radiation (remnants of the big bang which were later discovered in 1965).

Gamow worked with Francis Crick and James Watson to understand the structures of DNA and RNA. His work played a key role in the formulation of genetic theory.


Gamow earned fame and recognition as a science writer. In 1956, he was awarded the Kalinga Prize by UNESCO for popularizing science with his books. He also sketched many cartoons and illustrations for his books which added quite a dimension to and complemented the text.


George Gamow had all the qualities of a great physics teacher. He conveyed a sense of excitement with the revolution in physics. His doctoral students included Ralph Alpher and Vera Rubin whose significant works were prediction of cosmic microwave background and detection of dark matter, respectively.


George Gamow was full of life much like Feynman never too dull or boring. He possessed an infectious, almost manic enthusiasm in whatever he did. American biologist James Watson described Gamow as card-trick playing, limerick-singing practical joker.

He loved the Greek letters and so much so that he called his wife Rho even though her name actually was Lyubov Vokhmintseva.

His most famous prank was the Alpher–Bethe–Gamow paper. He could not resist adding his colleague Hans Bethe to the list of authors, as a pun on the first three letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha beta gamma.
© 2019-2022
made with by vedang