Boundstate Beta Decay

An addendum to Cognitive Dissonance : A Parable.

          Early in my career I was asked to solve a Nuclear Physics conundrum that goes by the title, "Boundstate Beta Decay". First consider one type of beta decay:

Beta Decay
          A neutron in the nucleus of an atom is transformed into a proton by the emission of a beta particle (really just an electron) and an anti-neutrino.
          As a neutron ceases to exist a proton, an electron, and an anti-neutrino appear in its place. The electron, and anti-neutrino travel away from the original site of the neutron typically at large speeds, while the proton moves very slowly.

          The conundrum starts with the observation that theoretically it should be possible for the beta particle to not make it out of the atom. That is, it should be possible for a neutron to transform into a proton (beta decay) but have the electron stay in the atom while the anti-neutrino zips away without being detected (as is usually the case).
          The challenge is to explain how this process might be detected in the laboratory.




Conventional Philosopher's Answer:

          The electron that is emitted by the neutron travels outward from the nucleus. As it interacts with the vacuum field (virtual photons) it slows down, as it becomes part of the cloud of electrons surrounding the nucleus, giving up kinetic energy to bremsstrahlung (literally Breaking Radiation). This bremsstrahlung will appear as soft x-rays emerging from the atom.




My Answer:

          I am neither a Classical nor a Conventional Philosopher. The above analysis fails to properly acknowledge the quantum mechanical nature of the events it pretends to describe.
          The conventional image of tiny marbles of various sizes transferring energy and momentum via wavelike interactions does not describe anything real. None of the atomic constituents do this. The best we can say is that as the decay occurs all constituents interact to result in the outcome described in the "Conventional Philosopher's Answer". While the calculation (to determine the probability of occurrence) uses the normal Feynman notation (think Diagrams) we must include all participating particles (this includes all the atomic electrons) to understand the real process. The conventional wisdom that nuclear processes are isolated from the rest of the atom are simply wrong. Ultimately, the anti-neutrino is only able to carry so much energy away from the atom, any excess must reside in a photon emitted from the atom as a whole.




          Truth is stranger than fiction · · · and oh so much more interesting.




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Pricknick's picture

to have had you as a teacher.
I'll be days on this one.

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Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

PriceRip's picture

          As the electron is coming to a stop it is as a car brakeing to a stop. The electron's acceleration then is due to its interaction with the virtual photons in the volume of space through which it travels.

          That English teacher / councilor was correct: I will never be a successful Physicist.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

sojourns's picture

Did you hear the other day (featured on Science Friday I think) about the Danish (I think) woman, a physicist who, through a rather complicated process using sodium atoms, managed to stop light. I'm sure it's old news for you. I was amazed especially at the description of the process. First she slowed it to an unbelievable 17 meters per second and then completely stopped it. There are few things left for me that invoke and fill me with child-like wonder; this is one of them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lene_Hau

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"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."
John Cage

PriceRip's picture

          Thanks for this link.

          One of the benefits of teaching is having students bring examples like this to class. I distinctly remember that I did not find this one. Usually students would describe something like this in class and then ask me how it was done. I would always respond with my favorite answer, "I don't know", because the best way to start an interesting conversation is to get them to work out the details from what they know.

          "What one fool can do, another can too.", Feynman. "What one fool can do, another can figure out.", me. I taught my students that if you don't what someone to know how you have accomplished a particular task, you must first never let anyone know you accomplished said task. The corollary: There are no secrets in a community of physicists.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

Schrodinger's cat bit me, but that was neither here nor there? Biggrin

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Fighting for democratic principles,... well, since forever

Alligator Ed's picture

There are no secrets in a community of physicists.

But this is a thought experiment, isn't it (Something that Republicans will be unable to replicate, which is why no physicists are Republicans.

Actually some things in the micro-scale are somewhat generalizable to the magna scale. One instance I like to think about, although neither is micro-scale, is the dissemination of genetic change in bacteria compared to the dissemination of cultural change in humans. (This of course implies that other than technology, have humans really made ANY cultural advancements?)

One of the oldest documents in existence is the papyrus dealing with the battle of Megiddo (ancient name for Armageddon). So war dates from the onset of history and undoubtedly derives from earlier times. There is not one single year in all of earth's recorded history in which no wars occurred. So perhaps the human equivalent of a super-charged anti-neutrino does not exist---translation: the "No War" state cannot exist.

I wonder if PriceRip could make a more logical discussion of my inelegant hypothesis.

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of ayn rand.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Alligator Ed's picture

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because it's quite logical.
Ayn was all about the superior man's long suffering and eventual freedom from (and destruction of) the lesser man.
A celebration and ovation for the most capable and powerful in our world.
What's not to like about that for guy that can understand things few humans understand and well hell, they gave us the bomb!
Everyone thinks they're 'better' than someone else.
And like I keep saying, there are very smart people who are tired of all the dumbasses in the world screwing everything up.

I'd never heard this before, about physicists and Ayn. Can't say I'm surprised.

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With their hearts they turned to each others heart for refuge
In troubled years that came before the deluge
*Jackson Browne, 1974, Before the Deluge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SX-HFcSIoU

PriceRip's picture

          Your quip about the "gave us the bomb!" is totally alien to my world and that of those I met while at Los Alamos. Ayn Rand would never exalt those I knew and those who wrote the journals I read.

          Physicists, at least the types I have known, admiring Ayn Rand just seems so counterintuitive. But, as I said, my experience is only anecdotal, and virtually worthless.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

either looking to prove God's existence or else to use their PhDs as leverage to get into finance. About a third of the faculty were millionaires.

It was an interesting time in my life.

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riverlover's picture

Was grad school a psychodrama for us all? I still have nightmares, 40 years out. Gutted through it, in love near the end with a human. That helped.

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Physicists discovered the principles of the bomb.
Physicists AT Los Alamos produced the first bomb.
How could we have the bomb without the Physicists?

Certainly Ayn's celebration of Meritocracy was directed towards the elite Captains of Industry, still it was a celebration of Meritocracy. Are Physicists immune to thoughts of meritocracy? Do you suggest that Physicists are without ego?
Are you suggesting that Physicists are so altruistic that given a sinking lifeboat, shared with ditch diggers and only one life-preserver the Physicist would not argue that their value to the world is so much greater, that they should get the preserver?

UntimelyRipped offers their observation of an admiration of Ayn in some part of the field of Physics.
You offer that you have seen no such admiration.
I offer that given the Meritocracy of Ayn's work that it would be logical and unsurprising that some subset of Physicists would be drawn to Ayn's message.
My contention appears validated by Untimely's observation.

Most times when I feel I haven't a clue of what you're saying is when there are mathematical equations that I am unfamiliar with involved. But here we have no equations.
Physicists created the bomb. Physicists have been observed admiring Ayn's work.
I put serious effort into trying to make sure that I understand what you have to say PR. It would be foolish to do otherwise with the messages of the learned.
But ya lost me completely this time. I don't understand why saying Physicists gave us the bomb is alien to the Physicist's world.

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With their hearts they turned to each others heart for refuge
In troubled years that came before the deluge
*Jackson Browne, 1974, Before the Deluge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SX-HFcSIoU

PriceRip's picture

          · · · would be drawn to Ayn's message. That's the connection to which I refered. Except for a few notables most of the physicists that actually were involved with giving us the bomb did not want any more of the damned things built.

          The physicists that I have known over the years that are most closely related (academically linked) to the "built the bomb" physicists are most definitely not fans of Ayn Rand. As for other physicists, well that's a different story. I have known a lot of "physicists" that have the credentials but are more like engineers. The relationship between physics and engineering is complicated: In broad brush strokes, the more engineer like the more Ayn Rand like.

          A large part of the problem we are having with the Wall Street crowd is do to the influx of physicists, along with mathematicians, that are as psychopathic as Ayn Rand. These physicists and mathematicians represent the worst of us (humans) that happen to have credentials, unfortunately.

          As for your lifeboat question: None of the physicists that I know would argue that their value to the world is greater than any other person. And no, they would not argue that they should get the preserver. The ones I know would work to their last breath trying to come up with a way to save the others. Maybe I just happen to know a classier set of physicists than you know.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

I was referring to all Physicists when I used 'gave us the bomb' not the members of the project. Oppenheimer's face as he spoke his famous 'Destroyer of worlds' message will forever haunt and trouble me.

Please know that I have no doubt that the vast, much greater than vast, majority of Physicists have a moral center of the noblest quality. How could one look to the stars and not feel small. How could one not feel compassion once one had felt small.
Personally, I love Physics and greatly admire those who seek understanding, and the unknown. I am not denigrating Physicists.
I only acknowledge that they are subject to human nature and are not all Gandhi's.

In you're reply, I find the validation of my contention that 'Spock would not say that'.
Your admonishment and admission of those engineer-physicists (and physicists types other) of the Randian persuasion settles the issue I'd say.

I stand justly admonished about that lifeboat. It was a terrible analogy. Even I, a supreme cynic when it comes to human's humanity believe that the scientists adhere to a nobler morality. Again, 'once you've seen the stars....'
Still, it is possible and if possible then a certainty somewhere, sometime. No?

I'm not the smartest guy here. sometimes I wish I was stupider so I wasn't so painfully aware of that at times.
Think me not unappreciative of any and all indulgences of patience.

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With their hearts they turned to each others heart for refuge
In troubled years that came before the deluge
*Jackson Browne, 1974, Before the Deluge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SX-HFcSIoU

PriceRip's picture

          I didn't have any real problem with what you wrote. This medium doesn't facilitate a smooth flow of conversation. In fact this medium is less conversationally friendly than was the (now antiquated) UseNet News Groups we used to create on the fly.

          As for the "smart" trope · · · I had a friend that, for a variety of reasons, only took a few college classes. He never had a decent job (his assessment, I concurred). He lived a life not at all to his liking, and died a very painful death. But he could argue with the best of them. I took him with me to a national conference, and he absorbed esoterica like a sponge. I was not surprised because I had known him for a few years, and often wondered what his life would have been like if · · ·

          Richard was smarter than me by every meaningful measure save one · · · academic credentials. And, while our close mutual friends knew the truth so many we encountered just could not see him for what he was.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

I always read your posts at least twice (more often more than twice) before I dare to reply! lol
And I fear I still get it wrong.

My true love was way smarter than I. She was far more skilled in debate yet we would argue the universe in a search for truth for hour upon hour.
And she loved me.
I don't care who is smartest. I just want to understand my world as best I can.

I think I would be happy in one of your classes. if only to listen in.

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With their hearts they turned to each others heart for refuge
In troubled years that came before the deluge
*Jackson Browne, 1974, Before the Deluge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SX-HFcSIoU

PriceRip's picture

          I have no experience that would support or negate the implied conclusion. Perhaps on the spectrum from theoretical through experimental and beyond to engineer, the latter might be more prone to the psychopathic. The very thought of Ayn Rand makes my skin crawl.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

I'm going to go to an economist not a physicist. Likewise, I'll go to a physicist, not an economist, for an expert analysis of String Theory. I believe the consensus among economists is that Ayn Rand is a bunch of garbage. I highly respect people who spend their lives studying, discovering and teaching things in their chosen profession. I reject any notion that learning is a bad thing.

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Beware the bullshit factories.

PriceRip's picture

          Who is John Galt? tagged many structures on and near campus. It seemed that many architecture students were smitten by the allure of the egotistical and self-important. The myth of the self-made man, the rugged individualist, taking his due isn't just a Hollywood trope. Ayn Rand isn't just about economics. In fact, I suggest she is much more about abnormal psychology than economics.

          So, from my point of view, an economist has very little to offer.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

are using Ayn Rand's "philosophy" as a justification to cut taxes for the rich and deregulate and end "handouts" like healthcare.

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Beware the bullshit factories.

I literally read Atlas Shrugged after my mother, Limbaugh lover that she was, asked me had I ever heard of Ayn Rand. I'd heard of her and the book and I found a paperback copy on sale cheap at Borders or wherever. I read the whole thing but for that long screed. It was really not very good fiction and I read it more on the implied dare from my mother than anything. Always good to have some idea how the enemy thinks but Gawd what a dumb book.

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Only a fool lets someone else tell him who his enemy is. Assata Shakur

The ONLY reason I read it.

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With their hearts they turned to each others heart for refuge
In troubled years that came before the deluge
*Jackson Browne, 1974, Before the Deluge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SX-HFcSIoU

When I was a lot younger. My friend said it made him feel "powerful". I was a lot more impressionable and maybe had a more favorable opinion of it back then, but there was a lot of never-ending, annoying lectures and really shallow characters.

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Beware the bullshit factories.

Supposedly no longer. He has more recently somewhat disavowed Rand. *cough, of course he's lying, cough*

Does Ryan's budgets make more sense now?

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With their hearts they turned to each others heart for refuge
In troubled years that came before the deluge
*Jackson Browne, 1974, Before the Deluge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SX-HFcSIoU

Azazello's picture

While many of my class were reading Ayn Rand I read Henry Miller. Rand was not a philosopher. There is no such school as "objectivism." I could not get through one of her novels. Economics is an important and necessary discipline. Ayn Rand was not an economist either.

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Alan Greenspan was a huge fan of Ayn Rand. He used to hang out with her back in the day, and worshipped at the altar of Objectivism. I read Atlas Shrugged more to say I had read the thing than anything. I didn't make the political connections as sharply as I would now, but it was a rather boring book and that whole 75 page soliloquy by "John Galt" I freely confess I've never made it through. Economists love them some Ayn Rand when it suits them. I even read not long ago that both Brad Pitt and none other than world altruist Angelina Jolie love them some Ayn Rand. Ick.

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Only a fool lets someone else tell him who his enemy is. Assata Shakur

Just my observing opinion from being related to a couple of economics professors.

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Beware the bullshit factories.

And somewhat hopeful. But his policies live on, that's the scary part. People want to act surprised with Trump but he's only the culmination. Hillary would have been no different and neither was Obama. Trickle Down is the way we roll. We've exported that poison to the globe now and sadly, I doubt Greenspan is the only one smitten with Ayn Rand and that whole meritocracy deserves oligarchic wealth and control thing. I use Angelina Jolie more of an example of how the wealthy use her "philosophy" to justify to themselves their immense wealth while so many suffer needlessly. But hey, at least our poor have TV's, right?

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Only a fool lets someone else tell him who his enemy is. Assata Shakur

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PriceRip's picture

          My emotional states, as I am writing the article (of which this OP is a part), match those of Harrison Ford's character well.

          The clash of cultures in the scientific community is a very real, but insouciant phenomenon. Some of my colleagues choose to not engage rather than question the appropriateness, for example, of the Copenhagen Interpretation's non-scientific lanquage. I am charmed by N. David Mermin's comment of dislike for interpretations of Quantum Mechanics in his paper introducing The Ithaca Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

riverlover's picture

I will cogitate, but it drips of academic superiority to me, a former superior academic, daughter of a superior academic. You see the problem. And I am in Ithaca!

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PriceRip's picture

          David and I have had "words". I am sure, however, he has no memory of me · · · such is life.

          To be fair, when at the gaming table (on the field of honor?), I come off as a bit of an academic snob (okay, a jerk ! To be more accurate.). Particularly if certain people are sitting across the way. It is even worse on-line as you know.

Aggressive · · · Pardon · · · Aggressive

          In defense of my colleagues: I am constructing an argument saying: Physicists (as in all of them) have been screwing up by using these various (and there are several) interpretations of QM. I would be surprised if they didn't think me a bit cheeky.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

riverlover's picture

We do good cocktail party routines. I have not been invited to any recently, and the last conversations were with 30-somethings, and I went to school with their parents. Conversation stopper, that. Except to tell 30-something to tell parents I said 'hi'.

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PriceRip's picture

          I hang out with the young ones. The "adults" (around here) tend to be a bit stuffy and one dimensional. Fortunately, all of the original physics department faculty have retired and everyone in the department is young. In fact, I inherited the Tenure Line generated for the department creator and passed it along to Mariana. Last September I stopped by her office and mentioned that I had just turned 77. She excitedly told me that she was (to within a couple of days) one-half of my age, then we talked for another hour about all sorts of things.

          As a K-12 student I spent most of my time with adults. As a faculty member I spent most of my time with young adults. Funny how life works out.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

riverlover's picture

I was a bright one, tested in 6th grade for I do not know what. I went to a private girl's school on scholarship, 7th through 12th. Learned to hang out with the richies, was casual friends with a suicide victim, had a schizo friend there as well, who fell apart later but is still with the living. A painful learning experience that I still learn from.

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PriceRip's picture

          It is too bad that mental health professionals don't really understand what they are doing. Their lack of understanding contributed to John's difficulty with his paranoid schizophrenia.

          After 1970, he was never committed to a hospital again, and he refused any further medication. · · ·

          He attributed the depiction (A Beautiful Mind) to the screenwriter who was worried about the film encouraging people with the disorder to stop taking their medication.

          The real problem is that the professionals do not know this option exists, and that is not only sad: it is dangerous. Too many of them do not seem to be able to grasp the notion of "active listening". But then perhaps having "delusions of adequacy" is a positive indicator whereas having "delusions of grandeur" is a negative indicator, and why would you trust the latter particularly as you will never treat the former.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

a song with these lyrics....

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book

I had in mind precisely the propriety of the Copenhagen Interpretation's non-scientific lanquage and the charm of N. David Mermin's comment of dislike for interpretations of Quantum Mechanics in his paper introducing The Ithaca Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. How ever did you guess? One of us must be psychic!

Clash of Cultures? Language? Hmm. Nothing dead naught on leaps to mind. The brief, spoken intro to the Click Song may be the closest thing. These songs can be enjoyable in their own right, anyway. (I don't know a thing about physics, but I do know how to kick a thread. :wink:)

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PriceRip's picture

          The subject line is a riff on a note my granddaughter got from her teacher: "I love how smart your brain is."

          We, as a result of now our brain evolved and how thought is generated (that would be the QM connection), understand (as opposed to know) how events are related in an "as seen throught a glass darkly" kind of way. So, from time to time, I like to note "the great cosmic alignments" that "create" these "spooky" psychic resonances.

          Oh ! and thanks for the tunes. So, now I will listen to The Click Song.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

Makeba's wiki is worth a read, too. Among other things, she died in her seventies, right after doing a benefit concert for an activist.

I went to one of her concerts with an African American friend who was born in the US. Makeba said that white people called it the click song because they could not pronounce the real name. My friend leaned over and whispered, "White people aren't the only ones who can't pronounce it." I've tried and tried to make that sound, but never succeeded.

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PriceRip's picture

          Dr. Mariana Lazarova took over my tenure track line when I retired two years ago. She is Bulgarian and her last name Лазарова is spoken with a dental click "r". Most people do not even hear the sound. She was quite surprised when I introduced her to another person and pronounced her name flawlessly. Sometimes I surprise myself as generally I have a very bad ear for languages.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

that is similar, but not identical, to the the Xhosa "click." It's in Al Qaeeda, if that is pronounced by an Arab. It begins Qatar, as well, even though some on our broadcast media pronounce it "catarrh" for some bizarre reason. "Cutter" is closer to the Arab pronunciation (and doesn't make me clear my throat reflexively).

I can do the Arab version, or at least come close enough, though I have to consciously remember to do it. (Some indigenous Mexicans and maybe South Americans have something similar in their language, I think. IIRC, the x is "Uxmal" is pronounced with a form of click sound, though we gringos tend to use the "sh" sound.) But I just cannot do what Makeba does. It sounds to me more like someone using some sort of percussion device than language, but language it is.

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PriceRip's picture

          Actually these four people gave us the bomb.

          Nuclear fission of heavy elements was discovered on December 17, 1938 by German Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann, and explained theoretically in January 1939 by Lise Meitner and her nephew Otto Robert Frisch.

 

          As soon as these experimental results were made public, every competent physics graduate student understood "the bomb" implication. So I suppose we should tag this with Meitner and Frisch as they were the ones that explained the nucleonics.

          Another super duper top secret: it is not about the mass. A critical mass is not what is required to create a fission bomb. A critical assembly is required to produce an explosion. As per, what every competent physicist knows, the requirement for an explosion is for each generation of neutrons to produce more neutrons than did the previous generation of neutrons. It is this exponential "growth" that defines the evolution of an explosion. So, the next time you hear someone say you need a critical mass to make a bomb, you can proffer a correction. Guaranteed to impress the ladies. Okay, that would be from the adolescent point of view.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

riverlover's picture

Always a fave of adolescent males. Females not so much, but I am thinking a generation (30 years) back.

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PriceRip's picture

          Both chemical and nuclear explosions involve a rapid release of energy in a small space. This energy heats a small volume of air that quickly expands producing a shockwave that you hear as the report or explosion. So, on a macro-scale the two have similar dynamics. On a micro-scale the two are very different.

          Chemical detonations are characterized by a linear rate of burning of the explosive material. Typically, the burn ends as nearly all the explosive material is burned.

          Nuclear detonations are characterized by reactions (fissions) occurring with an exponentially increasing rate. The reactions cease as the nuclear material fractures and the concentration of free neutrons quickly drops below the critical density. Therefore, not all of the nuclear material is "used up" in the explosion.




          As I was writing the above I started thinking, "I really like this question." I had not thought about how these two processes are different in this particular way, so now I have a new layer of understanding. Thanks for asking the question.

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Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.