Wednesday, 27 May 2015 06:13

My association with nuclear physicists

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You appear to know a lot about actual electricity since you mentioned Michael Faraday's discovery of electrical motor in the mid nineteenth century. I am going to assume that you understand James Clerk Maxwell's four equations (on electromagnetism), Boltzmann's studies on gasses and heat and J.J. Thomson's discovery of electrons in 1897; further, I assume that you understand the three laws of thermodynamics etc.

Since you appear to have technical understanding of electricity (which goes with heat, light and motion, even sound), I would appreciate it if you did a paper, like Dr. Ogbonnia did, on the nature of electricity. That would educate all of us.

Further, I am glad to hear that you are into nuclear physics. In case you do not know him, let me refer you to Tunde Elegba. Upon securing his PhD in nuclear physics he headed to Ahmadu Bello University.

Tunde and his friends took me to the Lawrence Livermore laboratories (at the University of California). Spending evenings with Tunde and his physicist friends was one of the high water marks of my student days. We talked about Becquerel's response to Roentgen's discovery of the X ray in 1895, Pierre and Marie Curie's discovery of radiation, radium and polonium; Max Planck's studies with black bodies in 1900 that led him to conclude that light has quanta/particles (hence quantum mechanics).

We talked about Albert Einstein's 1905 studies that showed that light actually knocked off electrons from hot bodies (the photoelectric effect of light, proving that light is in particles as well as in waves, as Thomas Young's double slit experiment in 1803 proved.

Isaac Newton believed that light is in particles and Huygens believed that it was wave...both men are correct.

Einstein was given the Nobel Prize for his photoelectric effects paper, not for his special relativity and general relativity theory.

We talked about Ernest Rutherford's experiments at the University of Manchester (he had returned to the UK from McGill University in Canada...he later worked at Cambridge University), his shooting particles at a gold foil and realizing that something is making the particles bounce back and his surmising in 1911 that the atom has a positively charged particle in its center (the atom has electron(s) circling a nucleus...thus, the atom is not the smallest indivisible part of matter, as the Greek Democritus had said and John Dalton in 1805 reaffirmed in his atomic theory of matter).

In 1913 Neils Bohr, who had just completed his PhD at the University of Copenhagen and had come to understudy Rutherford, provided us with the first primitive understanding of how electrons circled around the nucleus (he later propounded the complementarity principle: photons/electrons can work as particles or wave but not both at the same time).

In 1924 Louis Broglie in his doctoral dissertation told us that electrons behave like light behave, that is, have both wave and particle functions (through its interference effect in double slit experiments).

Then in the 1920s all hell broke loose as quantum mechanics came into its own. In 1925 Schrodinger wrote his wave equations; in the same year, Heisenberg's posited his uncertainty principle (if you know the position of the electron you will not simultaneously know its momentum, velocity around the nucleus).

Paul Dirac's studies showing that when there is nuclear fusion or fission some mass is lost. In stars when hydrogen atoms combine to form helium some mass is lost.

Helium has two protons and two neutrons in its nucleus and two electrons circling them. When two sets of hydrogen atoms (hydrogen has one proton in its nucleus and one electron circling it, except in its isotopes where there may be one or two neutrons in the nucleus) combine the resulting helium has about .3% less mass; so, where did the lost mass go? Some went to neutrinos and some to radiation: alpha, beta and gamma radiation, Pauli later clarified.

Energy is always lost in physical reactions (hence second law of thermodynamics, cannot completely recombine a broken object for some of it is lost; a broken egg, for example, cannot be put together for some parts of it is now lost).

In 1932 James Chadwick's discovered the neutral neutron particle sharing the nucleus space with the positively charged proton (electrons are always negatively charged).

This completed our understanding of the four forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces.

At the University of Columbia, Enrico Fermi put into work Strassman, Otto Hahn and Liese Meitner's discovery that nuclear fission could be engendered when neutrons are used to strike the nucleus of uranium 238/235 (uranium has 92 protons and 146 neutrons in its nucleus and 92 electrons at various shells around the nucleus...Bohr helped us fully understand valence, how chemical reaction leads to the exchange of electrons to form molecules and or compounds) and cause chain reaction that lead to nuclear fission hence nuclear bomb that the Manhattan project under Robert Oppenheimer managed to produce in August of 1945, and with which Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan were devastated and the second world war ended).

Later, nuclear fission was used to generate the type of heat that exists inside stars so as to cause hydrogen nuclei to fuse, hence hydrogen bomb.

In some evenings we talked about the Big Bang and how the universe came into being, the whatever came out of nowhere (singularity), got hot and exploded and gave off photons and electrons; how photons combined into quarks and quarks combined into neutrons and protons and how by the end of three minutes (Steven Weinberg's thesis) formed nuclei of the simplest elements, hydrogen and helium; how subsequently the universe was plasma of nuclei and electrons and what happened 400, 000 years later as the expanding universe cooled.

Alan Goth's inflation theory explained why the incipient universe did not collapse to itself from gravity).

Nuclei captured electrons to form atoms, hydrogen and helium and give off radiation (the cosmic microwave background radiation discovered by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson in 1965 at Bell laboratories in New Jersey, thus proving the reality of what the Russian, Alexander Friedmann surmised from Einstein's general relativity theory, that the universe is expanding and if it is expanding as proved by Edwin Hubble's studies of Red-shifting, Lemaitre's, Gamow's conjecture that the universe begun in one spot and exploded, Big Bang and refuting Fred Hoyle's steady alternative explanation.

Talking about the expanding universe, we talked about our ancestors views on the universe. The Greek Ptolemy viewed the earth as the center of the universe, a view shared by Aristotle and picked up by the Catholic Church, for it made human beings God's special creation.

Copernicus in 1543 posited that the earth revolved around the sun. Galileo in 1610 discovered that our sola, sun is a medium sized star and its planets are at the tail end of a spiral galaxy, The Milky way.

In 1687 Isaac Newton posited the law of gravity and three laws of motion. Tyco Brahe, Kepler and Huygens all had their say on the nature of stars, galaxies and the universe.

We now know that the universe is composed of gazillion galaxies, each galaxy with, at least, 200 billion stars in it (where is the universe expanding to, anyway? if you blow up a balloon there must be space behind it for it to expand to, so, does a pre-existing vacuum exist for the universe to expand to?

Is there such a thing as vacuum since in vacuum are virtual particles (matter and anti-matter, say, electrons and anti-electron/positron emerge from vacuum and annihilate one another and radiation is given off).

If the universe is expanding would the galaxies and stars eventually lose heat and die in a Big Chill as opposed to a big crunch were at some point the universe reverses its expansion and collapses unto itself and another big bang is recreated, the re-bounce view of the universe?

Superstrings view comes to the rescue or does it? How about Hugh Everett's many worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics (now construed as multiverses); what are the ramifications of John Bell's ideas on non-locality?

We talked about how in time the cloud of hydrogen gas clumped into parts and how gravity then acted on each clump to produce heat and pressure in its core that led to hydrogen fusing into helium hence stars are born; how the initial massive stars lived short lives before exploding and in the accompanying heat producing heavier elements (anything beyond iron).

We speculated on the fate of our star, sola (sun); in three billion years it would swell up (and incorporate its two nearest planets, Mercury and Venus)and become a red giant and then slough off its outer parts and become a white dwarf; eventually the remaining part of it would become a small black rock in space.

We talked about how massive stars exploded in supernovae, and their cores collapsed to either neutron stars or black holes. We talked about Stephen Hawking's findings on what happens when you enter the event horizon of black holes.

Look, man it was fun days, those graduate school days. I have not had the likes of them since then. I look forward to your paper on electricity.


Ozodiobi Osuji

May 24, 2015

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176