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Download Essays 1958-1962 on Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge by Niels Bohr PDF

By Niels Bohr

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In particular, as early as 1 9 1 l, he had conceived the ingenious tracer method which has since become so powerful a tool in chemical and THE RUTHERFORD MEMORIAL LECTURE 1958 33 biological research. As Hevesy has himself humorously described, he was led to this method by the negative results of elaborate work under­ taken as a response to a challenge by Rutherford who had told him that, "if he was worth his salt'', he ought to be helpful by separating the valuable radium D from the large amount of lead chloride extracted from pitchblende and presented to Rutherford by the Austrian Govern­ ment.

Thus, in or dinary electrodynamics, the composition of the radiation an electro n system should be det ermined by the fre­ quencies an d ampl itu de s of the harmonic oscillations into which the motion of the system can be resolved. Of course, no su ch simpl e rela­ tion holds between the Kepl eria n motion of an ele ctron aroun d a h eavy nucleus and the r a diation emitted by transitions between the stat io n ary states of the system. However, in the l i miting case of tra nsiti ons between states for which th e values of th e quantum number n are large comp ar ed with thei r difference, it could be shown that the fr equ en ci es of the components of the radiation , appe a ri ng as the result of the r an dom individual transition processes, coincide as ymp t ot ically with those of the harmonic com po nent s of the electron motion.

Indeed, the functions of the building blocks of modern mechanical and electromagnetic calculation devices are determined simply by their shape and by such ordinary material properties as mechanical rigidity, electric conductivity and magnetic susceptibility. As far as the construction of machines is con­ cerned, such materials are formed once and for all by more or less regular crystalline accumulations of atoms, while in the living organisms we have to do with a remarkable rhythm of another kind where mole­ cular polymerisation which, when carried on indefinitely, would make the organism as dead as a crystal, is time and again interrupted.

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