By Gian Francesco Giudice
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Additional info for A Zeptospace Odyssey: A Journey into the Physics of the LHC
With today’s knowledge, it was proved that Galileo could not have made this kind of public demonstration3. Because of air resistance, it would not work. Also, the typical human reaction time could not have allowed Galileo to drop the balls with the required simultaneity. Actually, there is no mention of this demonstration in any of Galileo’s writings. The story comes from a biography by Vincenzo Viviani (1622–1703), Galileo’s last assistant, who probably wanted to add some extra glory to the celebrated life of his master.
3 Wolfgang Pauli during a lecture in Copenhagen in 1929. Source: Pauli Archive / CERN. Today physicists are more accustomed to inventing new particles, but in those days Pauli’s hypothesis seemed very radical. Actually Pauli did not have the courage to publish his idea in a scientific article, but only described it in a letter sent to a physics meeting on radioactivity at Tübingen, in which he could not participate because had been invited to a ball by the Italian students in a Zurich hotel. Pauli addressed the letter “Dear radioactive ladies and gentlemen,” and he explained that his hypothesis was a “desperate way out”16 of the problem of beta radiation.
The concept of field, originally introduced by Michael Faraday, is fundamental to modern physics. A field associates with each point in space a physical quantity, which can be expressed as a number or as a set of numbers. A hiking map showing altitude contour lines can be viewed as an example of a field. A value of the elevation is associated with each point in the map. A red-hot piece of metal can be interpreted as a field too. The colour hues varying along its surface show the value of the temperature, point by point.