I am a sceptic of relativity theory and am trying to become a believer. As far as I know (about this theory), time slows down when some one travels at the speed of light. What about blind people ? Will this effect happen for them as well ?.. I am curious because blind people have nothing to do with light.
The Digital Computer Laboratory (DCL) is organized and tasked with building the University's first computer system. Professor of Physics Ralph Meagher is named Chief Engineer. (Professors of Physics will be involved in the design and construction of Illiacs I, II, and III.)
Wheeler Loomis inaugurates a full program in solid state physics, one of the first in the nation, and recruits Frederick Seitz, head of the Physics Department at Carnegie Institute of Technology, to head it. It is to be an interdisciplinary program, run by a committee of representatives from Physics, Chemistry, and several College of Engineering departments. Seitz immediately hires Robert Maurer, David Lazarus, Charles Slichter, and Dillon Mapother.
Graduate student Erwin Hahn discovers spin echoes and free precession in condensed matter, introducing new techniques in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) that will totally dominate physical, chemical, and biological applications of NMR.
The Board of Trustees approves the purchase of a large digital computer for $150,000 from the Reeves Instrument Company. When it becomes clear that the company cannot deliver the machine, the University's Research Board, headed by physicist Louis Ridenour, proposes that it design a computer itself. (On January 13, 1949, the Trustees authorize the Research Board to proceed.)
The newly completed 20-MeV betatron is used to treat an actual cancer patient, under the supervision of local physician Henry Quastler. (Quastler will later join the university full-time and establish a major program in medical radiology.)
Still an unpaid Physics non-person, Gertrude Goldhaber confirms the identity of beta rays with atomic electrons by showing that the Pauli exclusion principle operates in states of a constituent beta ray particle and an atomic electron.
Physicist Louis Ridenour, who became acquainted with Wheeler Loomis at the Rad Lab, becomes Dean of the Graduate College at Illinois at his urging, which will have profound implications for Physics.
Wheeler Loomis returns from the Rad Lab and begins to rebuild the department, as many faculty members, displaced by war research, accept positions at other universities and the national labs, including John Manley, John R. Richardson, Gerhart K. Groetzinger, Lyle W. Phillips, H. William Koch, Gerald F. Tape, Robert Serber, Norman Ramsey, and Herbert A. Nye.
Loomis is vigorous in establishing strong interactions in research programs between Physics and other units in the University, particularly with the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering (now Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Metallurgy (now Materials Science and Engineering). Joint appointments are frequently arranged whereby physicists are recruited as full- or part-time faculty members of other campus departments. (These interactions will lead to major new programs in physical metallurgy in the Department of Metallurgy and in semiconductor science in the Department of Electrical Engineering, as well as to the full development of the Department of Computer Science.) Loomis initiates a strong physics-chemistry-biology program, eventually attracting such scholars as Robert Emerson, Salvador Luria, and Hans Frauenfelder.
To Physics' astonishment, the Illinois General Assembly allocates $1.5 million to build the 250-MeV betatron and a structure to house it at the University. A 75-MeV betatron is designed and built as a prototype for the larger machine.
With the end of the war and the lifting of security restrictions, Gerald Kruger announces the part played by the Department in the war effort. The betatron had been used by the Manhattan Project to determine basic properties of thorium, uranium, and plutonium. Professor Maurice Goldhaber and Gertrude Goldhaber proved the usefulness of beryllium in a uranium pile. Professors John H. Manley and Robert Serber helped write the feasibility reports for the atom bomb. In all, 19 members of the Physics Department worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and another 32 worked on the development of radar at MIT.
Plans are laid to construct a 250-MeV betatron on the Illinois campus for "pure research." "By building a big machine and vigorously supporting the program of research with it," writes Kerst, "the University can acquire and maintain a position of leadership and great distinction in physics."
Graduate student H. William Koch uses the smaller betatron in great secrecy for the first photofission experiments on uranium and plutonium.
Physics is caught between two opposing trends — more and more faculty members are leaving for Los Alamos and the Rad Lab at MIT, while enrollments in physics classes are skyrocketing, reaching a peak enrollment of 2600. Most of the new arrivals are military students in the Naval Training School, the Navy V-12 program, and the Army Specialized Training, Assignment, and Reclassification (STAR) Center. Illinois faculty from music, architecture, agriculture, and biology, as well as many faculty wives, brush up on their physics to handle the load.
Professor Donald Kerst is awarded the Comstock Prize in Physics by the National Academy of Sciences for his invention of the electron accelerator (betatron) although the award will not be announced until November 1945 for security reasons.
In furtherance of the war effort, the betatron is modified to create an x-ray lithography device for detecting flaws in metals or other materials. In collaboration with the Illinois group, the Allis-Chalmers Company engineers and builds a commercial push-button 25-MeV betatron—these machines are used at Los Alamos, the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, and the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey throughout the war to test carriages for heavy guns, cast armor, shell casings, rudder posts, hull castings, steam valves, turret faces, and ingots.
Although unable to obtain an official position because of University nepotism rules, physicist Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber, working as an unpaid assistant in the basement of the Physics Laboratory with her husband, discovers that neutrons are emitted in spontaneous fission. [This paper was received for publication on May 18, 1942, but was voluntarily withheld from publication until the end of the war. ed.]
A Department Salvage Committee is appointed and cleans out the same Physics basement, donating some two or three tons of old scrap iron and brass to the government for the war effort.
Rosalyn Sussman accepts a teaching assistantship in Physics and comes to the University of Illinois ("the most prestigious school to which I had applied"). At the College of Engineering's fall faculty meeting, she is the only woman present, and the Dean congratulates her on being the first woman there since 1917.
Wheeler Loomis leaves Urbana to take over administrative leadership of the MIT Rad Lab, leaving the department in the capable hands of Gerald Kruger until after the war. On May 19, 1941, there is about $300 left in the departmental budget to run the department until July 1.
Professor Donald Kerst completes the world's first magnetic induction accelerator, aided by a special grant of $400 from the Dean of the College of Engineering "who needed a lot of persuasion [from Wheeler Loomis] before agreeing to fund such a 'long shot'." Unfortunately, the project runs some $2000 over budget, "due to huge charges by the University's Physical Plant Service Department."
After the new machine is referred to variously as a "rheotron," an "inductron," a "Super-X-Ray Machine," and a "cosmic ray machine" in early press releases, a departmental contest is held to name it (one entry is ausserordentlichhochgeschwindigkeitelektronenentwickelndenschwerarbeitsbeigollitron), and Kerst settles on "betatron."
A general exodus of Physics faculty to the MIT Radiation Laboratory and to a super secret government installation near Los Alamos, New Mexico, begins. (Eventually 52 Physics staff will take leaves of absence to work in war research. One of the diaspora is a new PhD from Harvard, Norman Ramsey, who arrives in September 1940 and leaves for the Rad Lab in November — the shortest "permanent" appointment in departmental history. (Ramsey will share the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physics.)
Wheeler Loomis begins a Physics newsletter as a way of keeping in touch with absent faculty members.
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