[Marxism] Partisanship and Objectivity in Theoretical Work: Politics and natural science

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Fri Mar 24 09:56:37 MST 2006

On Fri, 24 Mar 2006 10:32:59 -0500 Les Schaffer <schaffer at optonline.net>

> i don't really see how Einstein's big idea of relativity contributed 
> so
> directly to the bomb.

Out of relativity theory, it was really just the E=mc^2 formula
that was directly relevant to the work of the nuclear scientists.
The broader theory of special relativity was generally not directly
relevant to their work.

> people were playing with nuclear reactions independently of his 
> work.
> historically, there was a whole branch of physics that took off at 
> the
> very end of the 1800's -- nuclear physics -- with a complete set of 
> its
> own questions and quandries. Roentgen (X-rays, high energy), 
> Rutherford
> (nuclear bombardment before they knew what "nuclear" meant), Walton 
> &
> Cockcroft (nuclear reactions, first **confirmation** -- not use --  
> of
> E=mc^2).  these are people who dabbled with bombarding materials,
> developing the NOTION of a nucleus as they went along.  Lise Meitner
> confirmed that the 200 MeV yield (U235) of a single nuclear fission  
> --
> first calculated using basic 19-th century electrostatics and some
> knowledge of the size of nuclei --  made sense in terms of measured
> "mass defects" and e=mc^2. thus relativity provided  basically an
> (energy) accounting/bookeeping check.  on the theoretical front, 
> more
> significant was Bohr's work on the nuclear drop model of the uranium
> nucleus, which gave scientists a *mechanism* for understanding how 
> the
> fission process proceeds from bombardment to energy release. Meitner
> used this drop model for her book-keeping check.

If we are going to say that relativity had a role in the development of
nuclear weaponry, then we can't ignore quantum mechanics either.
And unlike relativity, quantum mechanics was the work of many
people: Planck, Einstein, de Brogile, Schroedinger, Heisenberg,
Bohr, Dirac, Pauli, Fermi, Feynman, and many, many other scientists.
Some of these people did go on to work on nuclear weaponry
during WW II.

> if there is any place to start giving up on "great person" science,
> maybe we should start here with the atomic bomb.
> les schaffer

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