Jewish Atomic Spies

I recently reread a wonderful account of the invention of thermonuclear weapons and the initial years of the cold-war, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. The book goes into the science and history of the work done at Los Alamos, but also describes the political intrigues and espionage carried out on behalf of the Soviet Union. One thing that stands out is the number of Jews among the ranks of the atomic spies.   The most damaging information was provided by the German physicist Klaus Fuchs who was part of the English team at Los …
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Leave the Physicists in Peace – We can Always Shoot Them Later

In the 1940’s and 50’s, Russian science was heavily influenced by Stalin’s darling, Trofim Lysenko. Under Lysenko, not only was research directed towards areas that would advance the state, but even theories that were not politically correct were banned and dissenters eliminated. One of the key examples was the attitude taken towards Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolution, whose focus on the primacy of the genetic mechanism of inheriting characteristics were seen as promoting a class-based world-view. Lysenko and Stalin advocated the Lamarckian approach – inheritance of acquired characteristics, which was more in line with what they termed “proletarian” biology. In …
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Innovation, or Nothing New Under the Sun

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.   (Ecclesiastes 1:9) One of the courses that I took during my first semester in grad school at Columbia Engineering was an introduction to lasers. The professor was a world-renowned expert in free-electron lasers but not the most interesting orator. At one point during one of his lectures my mind started to drift – but not too far from the drone of his voice monologueing on about Bragg diffraction – and I came up with what I thought was …
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Nature’s Brightest Color

My good friend, Professor Tom Skalak from the University of Virginia sent me a link to an article by researchers at Cambridge investigating a type of African berry called Pollia. Here is how phys.org summarized the find: The ‘brightest’ thing in nature, the Pollia condensata fruit, does not get its blue colour from pigment but instead uses structural colour – a method of reflecting light of particular wavelengths – new research reveals. The study was published today in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In The Rarest Blue, we discuss in great detail the five …
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