PAUL DIRAC (1902-1984)
While sailing on an ocean liner to Japan in 1929 Paul Dirac found Werner Heisenberg, both in their 20s and unmarried, as companion. Heisenberg gregarious as ever loved dancing. One day Dirac asked why he danced and got the unsurprising answer that it was a pleasure to dance with nice girls. After about five minutes of silence, he asked: ‘Heisenberg, how do you know beforehand that the girls are nice?’”
Dirac was the unlikely hero and he still is widely declared the second greatest scientist of the 20th century. He proposes anti-matter not on the basis of physical observation, but because his own mathematical logic tells him that it must exist. Even this day anti-matter remains elusive.*
His great achievement was to provide Physics with the modern mathematics now used universally to cope with its most fundamental problems. Dirac began work on the new quantum mechanics as soon as it was introduced by Heisenberg in 1925 independently producing a mathematical equivalent for calculating atomic properties – and wrote a series of papers on the subject. This led up to his relativistic theory of the electron (1928) and the theory of holes (1930). This latter theory required the existence of a positive particle having the same mass and charge as the known (negative) electron. This positron also was discovered experimentally at a later date (1932).
At a time quantum theory based on matter and radiation was causing a ripple in the academic world , -there were two versions extant, one that of Schroedinger, de Broglie and the other of Bohr , this Lucasian Professor of Mathematics showed Einstein’s theory of relativity as well as the other two were a different aspect of a more general mathematical concept of the atom (1926-1932).
In 1933 he received Nobel Prize along with Schroedinger for his Relativistic theory of the electron(1928)
Dirac established the relativistic equation for the electron, which now bears his name. The remarkable notion of an antiparticle to each particle – i.e. the positron as antiparticle to the electron – stems from his equation. He was also the first to develop quantum field theory, which underlies all theoretical work on sub-atomic or “elementary” particles today, work that is fundamental to our understanding of the forces of nature.
Excerpt from the Guardian:
“Here’s a puzzle. Bristol boy– has an unhappy childhood, but doesn’t mention it for 50 years; learns to speak French, German and Russian, but becomes famous for his long silences; embarks on the wrong career; gets interested in mathematics and ends up at Cambridge, where he becomes famous for his even longer silences; hears about Einstein and gets into advanced physics; and then goes to Copenhagen to meet Niels Bohr, who grumbles to Ernest Rutherford, “This Dirac, he seems to know a lot of physics, but he never says anything.”
Somehow this silent, solemn, young beanpole earns the enthusiastic friendship and admiration of vibrant and merrymaking geniuses such as Bohr himself, Robert Oppenheimer, Werner Heisenberg, George Gamow, Peter Kapitza and so on, is a proof of super-symmetry at quantum level can well accommodate genius although devoid of reciprocal entertainment or conversation.
in Nov.2010 an international team of 42 scientists trapped 38 antihydrogen atoms – one by one – for a fraction of a second. The goal is to test fundamental theories of physics and to potentially unravel one of the great mysteries of science. Physicists theorize that there was an equal amount of matter and antimatter created at the Big Bang, yet antimatter somehow vanished.