Wednesday, January 09, 2008

When Superconductivity Became Clear (to Some)

I mentioned last October (2007) of the conference being held at UIUC to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the BCS Theory of Superconductivity. Well now the NY Times has an article related to that, and includes a delightful anecdotal history on how Bardeen recruited Cooper to come to UIUC to work on the superconductivity problem. I think most people are not aware that some of the giants in physics at that time had tried to solve the superconductivity problem and failed!

After wrapping up special and general relativity, Albert Einstein tried, and failed, to devise a theory of superconductivity. Werner Heisenberg, the physicist who came up with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, struggled with the problem, as did other pioneers of quantum mechanics like Niels Bohr and Wolfgang Pauli. Felix Bloch, another thwarted theorist, jokingly concluded: Every theory of superconductivity can be disproved.

You seldom hear in any of Einstein biography of him dabbling in trying to solve this.

This is a terrific story. Don't miss it.


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