Victor Weisskopf and the joy of scientific insight

by Ashutosh Jogalekar Victor Weisskopf (Viki to his friends) emigrated to the United States in the 1930s as part of the windfall of Jewish European emigre physicists which the country inherited thanks to Adolf Hitler. In many ways Weisskopf’s story was typical of his generation’s: born to well-to-do parents in Vienna at the turn of…

On Nobel Prizes, diversity and tool-driven scientific revolutions

by Ashutosh Jogalekar The Nobel Prizes in science will be announced this week. For more than a century the prizes have recognized high achievement in physics, chemistry and medicine. Some scientists crave the prizes so much that they get obsessed with them. A prominent, world-famous chemist once had lunch with my graduate school advisor. After…

The wisdom of John Wheeler and Oliver Sacks

by Ashutosh Jogalekar A rare and happy coincidence today: The birthdays of both John Archibald Wheeler and Oliver Sacks. Wheeler was one of the most prominent physicists of the twentieth century. Sacks was one of the most prominent medical writers of his time. Both of them were great explorers, the first of the universe beyond…

Black Holes and the Curse of Beauty: When Revolutionary Physicists Turn Conservative

by Ashutosh Jogalekar On September 1, 1939, the leading journal of physics in the United States, Physical Review, carried two remarkable papers. One was by a young professor of physics at Princeton University named John Wheeler and his mentor Niels Bohr. The other was by a young postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley,…

If you believe Western Civilization is oppressive, you will ensure it is oppressive

by Ashutosh Jogalekar Philosopher John Locke's spirited defense of the natural rights of man should apply to all men and women, not just one's favorite factions. When the British left India in 1947, they left a complicated legacy behind. On one hand, Indians had suffered tremendously under oppressive British rule for more than 250 years.…