Built on Facts

The 1927 Solvay Conference

I’m on the road today and so can’t write up an extensive post. So for today, I leave you with a picture from physics history: the 1927 Solvay conference. It proved that there’s no critical mass for genius. If there were, this gathering would have exploded. A large fraction of my “Greatest Physicists” are all in the same place smiling (or glowering) for the camera:

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(Click for full size)

If I had a time machine, that conference would be pretty high on my list of things to see.

Comments

  1. #1 Cyrus Robinson
    November 25, 2008

    Ha! I’m ashamed to tell you, Mr. Springer, that I only readily recognize one person in the photograph. Ah well, very interesting none-the-less. I think I shall Google the Solvay Conference now.

    -Cy

  2. #2 Peter Morgan
    November 25, 2008

    For those who want to do more than look at pictures, there’s Bacciagaluppi & Valentini’s book on the conference due from Cambridge UP in 2009, “Quantum Theory at the Crossroads: Reconsidering the 1927 Solvay Conference”, which is available in preprint form at http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0609184.

  3. #3 Peter Morgan
    November 25, 2008

    The URL was auto-recognized with the final period included. Remove the final period for the correct URL.

  4. #4 Sarah
    November 25, 2008

    If you find that time machine, do you have room for one other?

    What I would give to have been a fly on the wall at that conference…

  5. #5 Bob Dowling
    November 25, 2008

    If you used a time machine to visit the Solvay conference I think its participants would be queuing up to talk to you!

  6. #6 Peter
    November 25, 2008

    If you used a time machine to visit the Solvay conference I would expect considerable discussion re: the obvious time travel issues of free will, causality, and deterministic invariance.

    Stock market tips would also be a hot item….

  7. #7 Chelonian
    November 26, 2008

    Incidentally, the building they’re all posing in front of is where I went to high school (in Brussels, Belgium). My classmates and I sometimes fantasized that these guys had run experimental demonstrations in the very rooms where we took physics and chemistry lab classes. The fittings certainly looked old enough to have been period-authentic!

  8. #8 CCPhysicist
    November 28, 2008

    Yeah, the discussions between Bohr and Einstein alone would have been priceless to witness, but you can get quite a lot from the essays, counter-essays, and letters they wrote. The articles included in Paul Shilpp’s collection (also has the auto-bio of Einstein) are a good start.

    Cy – The page he links to has all of the names listed with their Wiki bio links, so you can identify them *and* what they did that made their presence relevant.

    Chelonian – No experiments, demonstrations or otherwise, would have been possible because Pauli was there. However, the odds that substantial samples of radioactive materials had been shown in a room used for the 1911 conference would have been quite high.

    I love the way Pauli is “looking down on” de Broglie in that picture. Significant?

    By the way, my nominee for “coolest dude” has to be standing at the upper left. It would have been great to hitch a ride on his balloon (10 miles up) to look for cosmic rays, or his first generation bathyscaphe (over 2 miles deep). However, Piccard’s taste in crash helmets left a lot to be desired. Go check it out. (I still remember the photo of him with the balloon from my grandfather’s collection of ancient National Geographic magazines.)

  9. #9 Oyunlar
    March 25, 2009

    My classmates and I sometimes fantasized that these guys had run experimental demonstrations in the very rooms where we took physics and chemistry lab classes. The fittings certainly looked old enough to have been period-authentic!

  10. #10 Uncle B
    March 25, 2011

    no Blacks? WTF!

  11. #11 Phill
    July 3, 2011

    Oyunlar that’s hilarious.. These guys.. wow the brain power in that room. Ienie right in the middle heading up the gang. amazing