The Physics of Cold in the Cold War—“On-Line Computing” Between the ICBM Program and Superconductivity

  • Johannes Knolle
  • Christian Joas
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 299)


Superconductivity—the loss of resistance in various materials close to absolute zero temperature—was a hot topic after World War II. Advances in nuclear reactor technology led to the discovery of the isotope effect in 1950 (Maxwell 1950; Reynolds et al. 1950), which brought about crucial insights about the role of electron-lattice interactions in superconductors that ultimately led to the formulation of a microscopic theory of this phenomenon. Generations of physicists had been struggling to find an explanation of superconductivity ever since its discovery in 1911 by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes.


Nonlinear Integral Equation Quantitative Theory Absolute Zero Temperature Eliashberg Equation Hughes Aircraft 
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 The authors wish to thank R. Joseph Anderson, Alexander S. Blum, Jeremiah James, Christoph Lehner, Jean Matricon, Jürgen Renn, Skúli Sigurðsson, and Georges Waysand for helpful comments and suggestions, as well as the Project on the History and Foundations of Quantum Physics (a collaborative project of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Berlin) for its generous financial support. Substantial parts of the present contribution are based on Knolle, J., Joas, C. 2013. Supraleitung und Interkontinentalraketen. “On-Line Computing” zwischen Militär, Industrie und Wissenschaft. In Physik im Kalten Krieg. Beiträge zur Physikgeschichte während des Ost-West-Konflikts, ed. D. Hoffmann and C. Forstner. Wiesbaden: Springer.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex SystemsDresdenGermany
  2. 2.Ludwig Maximilians UniversityMunichGermany
  3. 3.Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society and Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

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