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Physics in Perspective

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 179–217 | Cite as

Writing the Biography of Hans Bethe: Contextual History and Paul Forman1

  • Silvan S. Schweber
Article

Abstract

Some facets of the life of Hans Bethe after World War II are presented to illustrate how Paul Forman’s works, and in particular his various theses—on mathematics and physics in Wilhelmine and Weimar Germany, on physics in the immediate post-World War II period, and on postmodernity—have influenced my biography of Bethe. Some aspects of the history of post-World War II quantum field theory, of solid state/condensed matter physics, and of the development of neoliberalism—the commitment to the belief that the market knows best, to free trade, to enhanced privatization, and to a drastic reduction of the government’s role in regulating the economy—are reviewed in order to make some observations regarding certain “top-down” views in solid state physics in postmodernity, the economic and cultural condition of many Western societies since the 1980s, the decade in which many historians assume modernity to have ended.

Keywords

Hans Bethe Paul Forman Weimar Forman theses postmodernity neoliberalism effective field theory nuclear theory mathematical physics physics summer schools Lamb shift Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) Nuclear Utilization Target Selection (NUTS) 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am indebted to Jeffrey Goldstone, Kurt Gottfried, and Snait Gissis for very valuable and useful discussions; to Paul Forman for extended talks regarding the content of this article and for his critical reading of it and suggestions. The helpful recommendations by Peter Pesic and Robert Crease, the editors of Physics in Perspective, are likewise gratefully acknowledged.

References

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    In “Hacking the Quantum Revolution” (ref. 103), I take issue with Laughlin and Pines’s formulation of the foundational theory that is the point of departure for Laughlin’s assertions in A Different Universe. Robert B. Laughlin and David Pines, “The Theory of Everything,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97, no. 1 (2000), 28–31.Google Scholar
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© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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