Friday, August 05, 2011

100 Years Of Rutherford's Atom

I frequently highlight events that are happening here in the US, especially around where I live. But here's something happening across the pond (from me). The folks in Manchester, England, will have the opportunity to mark the 100th anniversary of the Rutherford's model of the atom with a series of public lectures.

The lectures will explain how fundamental physics has moved on from Rutherford's discovery to the huge and elaborate experiments taking place in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC); how medical physics is underpinned by our improved understanding of the atom; and, finally, how power is generated by the splitting of the atom, and nuclear power's safety record.

The public lectures accompany the Institute of Physics' (IOP) academic conference, 'The Rutherford Centennial Conference on Nuclear Physics' , as it was 100 years ago, in 1911, as chair of physics at the University of Manchester that Ernest Rutherford - now deemed the father of nuclear physics - devised the now familiar model of the atom.
One would hope that the series of lectures will not only give a historical view of the usefulness of the Rutherford's model, but also show clearly how we've gone past that. Anyone dealing with incoming school kids, or talking to the public, would have encountered the need to correct the impression that an atom has these electrons orbiting a nucleus, much like the planetary model of Rutherford's. As useful as that was, it is no longer accurate.


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