Eureka and euphoria: About scientists and their discoveries
Popular science literature is very interesting to Habrahabr readers. Today I want to share my impressions of the collection " Eureka and Euphoria ". This book is not so much about how our world works, but about people who explore it. It is filled with hundreds of stories about outstanding and brilliant scientists and their discoveries. Like a good joke, it not only entertains, but also invites you to think.
Many of the stories described are known, for example, the accidental discovery of penicillin . But the author of the collection, Walter Grattser conveys not only facts, but also the full story, and the human relations associated with it.
Alexander Fleming noticed a mold extract that can overcome harmful bacteria, said: "It's funny," but did not attach much importance. Only nine years later, Howard Flory and Ernest Chain, independently of Fleming, began to study this extract tightly. After the Second World War, all three simultaneously received the Nobel Prize for the allocation of penicillin. Fleming himself said that he did not deserve this award, but admitted that he enjoyed his fame.
Talking about inventions, the author of the collection always explains what their essence is and how they influenced science and humanity.
The book tells not only about the history of discoveries, but also about just interesting episodes from the life of scientists, for example, Igor Tamm :
During the Civil War, he was captured by one of Makhno’s gangs. He was taken to the ataman - "a bearded man in a high fur hat, with machine-gun ribbons converging on his chest, and a pair of hand grenades hanging from his belt."
- You son of a bitch, a communist agitator, why are you undermining mother Ukraine? We will kill you.
“Not at all,” Tamm replied. - I am a professor at Odessa University and came here to get at least some food.
- Nonsense! Cried the chieftain. - What professor are you?
- I teach math.
- Math? Asked the chieftain. “Then find me an estimate of the approximation of the McLaren series by the first n-terms.” You decide - you will be released, no - I will shoot.
Tamm could not believe his ears: the task belonged to a rather narrow field of higher mathematics. With trembling hands and at gunpoint he managed to come up with a solution and showed it to the chieftain.
- Right! - said the chieftain. “Now I see that you are really a professor.” Well then, go home.
The book reveals the characters of brilliant scientists . For example, Niels Bohr had a "peculiar manner of conducting public lectures." Here is how Abraham Pais describes her :
The main reason was that, speaking, he was at the same time all in his thoughts. I remember once, having finished exposing part of the proof, Bohr said: “And ... and ...”, fell silent for a second and added: “But ...”, and then continued. Between "and" and "but," he managed to think through the next step. Nevertheless, he simply forgot to speak it out loud and hurried on.
After reading "Eureka and Euphoria" you learn that natural scientists are distinguished by a fantastic desire for knowledge, for which there are no barriers. People did research even in Auschwitz or in Soviet camps. For example, Chadwick in a fascist internment camp investigated radioactive toothpaste using an electroscope made of “tin foil, wood”.
You can enjoy many other stories about people's dedication to science and the risks involved. Everyone knows the story of Khavkin , who infected himself with cholera in order to test the vaccine. But there were other examples of the manic pursuit of truth. For example, Alexander von Humboldt raised “two blisters the size of a horse’s bridle” on his back, cut them and brought zinc and silver electrodes to them to study “ animal magnetism ”. He himself describes the sensations that have arisen:
“I experienced acute pain, which was so severe that the trapezius muscle vibrated noticeably, trembling passed to the base of the skull and echoed in the vertebrae. A touch of silver caused three to four solitary twitches that I could make out. "The frogs laid on my back, observers reported that they jumped."Another time, he plunged the electrodes into a hole in the place of a torn tooth, believing that "such a decisive stimulation of the nerve should suppress the pain."
Ingenious scientists emphasizes the ability to deeply focus. This is the story of Niels Bohr.
He was the goalkeeper of a football club. During one of the matches, the game was played at the opponent’s goal, but after the blow the ball spun and flew towards the goal of Bohr. Everyone expected him to run out and grab him. But, to everyone's surprise, he remained standing, focusing his attention on the goal post. The ball would surely have flown there if Bourne hadn’t returned the reality to the shout of a determined spectator. His apologies after the match sounded amazing: Bor had a math problem that fascinated him so much that he had to do the calculations right at the goal post.
The book is written in a popular language, but on the basis of approaches characteristic of scientific work : an account of the history preceding the discovery, the absence of “water” and the reliability, which is expressed in links to information sources. For example, the exact version of the famous joke about Dirac , published in the book “ Physicists are joking ” , is described :
In the discussion after the seminar, one of the participants began like this: “Professor Dirac, I did not fully understand your conclusion ...” When he finished his question, there was a long silence. In the end, the seminar chairman asked if Dirac would answer the question. “It was not a question,” Dirac said, “but a statement.” At the same time, the compiler of the collection points out that "Dirac did not mean to be rude - the concrete character of his thinking was just manifested."
“ Eureka and Euphoria ” is a very fascinating book. I excitedly read all of its 650 pages in just 10 days. I think that you will also be interested.