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What's Wrong With This Picture?

  1. Oct 11, 2006 #1

    ZapperZ

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    OK, if you've read this in Physics Today or some other publications, you should disqualify yourself.

    This is one of the most famous picture of Enrico Fermi. Yet, this picture has been a constant 'debate' among many physicists and science historians. Can you spot what is the issue with this picture?

    [​IMG]

    Zz.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 11, 2006 #2
    Guess he messed up alpha. :biggrin:
     
  4. Oct 11, 2006 #3

    Danger

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    Fermi was left-handed?
     
  5. Oct 11, 2006 #4
    :rofl: That was my guess initially.
     
  6. Oct 11, 2006 #5

    Integral

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    The partial wrt t of what?
     
  7. Oct 11, 2006 #6

    EL

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    I guess he's just writing the operators.

    I'll go for the "alpha", since if alpha is ment to be the fine structure constant, he's switched e and h.
     
  8. Oct 11, 2006 #7

    brewnog

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    Ooh was he left handed?
     
  9. Oct 11, 2006 #8
    Looks like he erased something in the Hamiltonian - replaced "+" with "-"? A sign error?
     
  10. Oct 11, 2006 #9
    I see it! Neutrino found it, it's the alpha.
     
  11. Oct 11, 2006 #10

    Gokul43201

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    Looks more like a written spoonerism than an error.
     
  12. Oct 11, 2006 #11
  13. Oct 16, 2006 #12

    ZapperZ

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    What is wrong with this picture, of course, is the expresson for alpha, the fine structure constant. It should have been

    [tex]\alpha = \frac{e^2}{\hbar c}[/itex]

    Physicists seem to have argued over this image for years. Many see it for what it is - Fermi made a mistake. Others who knew Fermi very well and understand his sense of humor (and his sometime "childlike" quality as evident in his fondnes for Winnie the Pooh) point to the "twinkle" in his eyes and believe that he was pulling a fast one.

    Either way, it made for a great conversation piece.

    Zz.
     
  14. Jul 24, 2008 #13
  15. Jul 24, 2008 #14

    robphy

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    It's on a stamp
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2008
  16. Jul 24, 2008 #15

    lisab

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    This picture looks like it was taken at the same photoshoot as the other picture. Looks like the same suit, and the diagram is the same.
     
  17. Jul 24, 2008 #16

    Defennder

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    He died a pretty long time ago, as this thread itself has. Why resurrect it?
     
  18. Jul 24, 2008 #17

    Defennder

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    Uh, is it just me or does Zapper's last post bear great similarity to this page:
    http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/ArgonneNow/Fall_2006/Fermi_equation_conundrum.html
     
  19. Jul 24, 2008 #18

    lisab

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    Dang, posting to dead threads again!
     
  20. Jul 24, 2008 #19

    BobG

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    He's wearing the same suit and tie in this picture: http://www.historyplace.com/specials/calendar/docs-pix/enrico-fermi.jpg

    Did he own any other suits?

    Was he like Hari Seldon and owned an entire closet of the exact same suit?

    I once owned 24 T-shirts with the exact same color and design. They were left over from a "Conference on the Future" or something like that and had an Einstein quote on them. My brother-in-law is a policeman and he was moonlighting as a security guard for the event. After the conference, when they were disposing of the left over stuff, he figured I might like a box of T-shirts. Trouble is that the neighbors didn't know how many of the T-shirts I owned and just figured that must be my lucky T-shirt or something. They were afraid to come close enough to talk to me because they figured it had to start smelling pretty bad after wearing it for around 12 days straight.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2008
  21. Jul 24, 2008 #20

    ZapperZ

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