Hans Bethe

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In existographies, Hans Bethe (49 BE-50 AE) (1906-2005 ACM) (IQ:175|#305) (ID:1.79|98|) (PR:5,977|65AE / physicist:141) (RGM:268|1,350+) (Becker 160:144) (Simmons 100:58) (GPE:66) (GAE:#) (Landau scale:1.5) (CR:12) (LH:4) (TL:16) was a German-born American physicist noted for his work, with Enrico Fermi, on the development of exchange force theory; and for his 1939 work on stelar nucleosynthesis, wherein he showed how, in the proton-proton chain reaction, how a proton can beta decay into a neutron via the weak interaction during the brief moment of fusion, making deuterium the initial product in the chain, therein showing how reactions in stars could produce elements sized up to nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen.


In circa 1933, Enrico Fermi and Bethe summarized the core exchange force model by suggesting that interactions between charged particles could be described in terms of photons being exchanged between particles.[1]

In 1939, Bethe added the final pieces to Arthur Eddington’s proton-proton chain reaction model, by showing that a proton can beta decay into a neutron via the weak interaction during the brief moment of fusion, making deuterium the initial product in the chain.

Jasons | Rent-a-Genius

In the post WWII, up until about 1993, Bethe was one of about 100 or so scientists worked as $850/day “rent-a-genius” place fillers for the government; the following is an image of this:[2]


A few existive members of the $850/day rent-a-genius “Jason” think tank, from left: Hans Bethe, Freeman Dyson [1923-], Richard Garwin [1928-], Steven Weinberg [1933-], and Murray Gell-Mann [1929-].


Bethe completed his PhD under Arnold Sommerfeld.


Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Bethe:

“For a near genius like me, physics can be brutal. The operative word is near, near genius, not genius, only near genius. For an ordinary genius, physics can be even more brutal. The operative word is ordinary, ordinary genius. Why is physics brutal? Physics is hierarchical and most physicists know where in the hierarchy they stand. As a young physicist moves into the profession, as physicists begin to settle into the hierarchy above and below him or her, and when brutal physics makes its appearance, fantasies begin to come face to face with reality. Physics is brutal because it is so revealing, so efficiently and accurately revealing. I was fortunate to have had several conversations with Hans Bethe. In one of these conversations, we talked about the immediate years after World War II when he and Feynman were colleagues in the physics department at Cornell University. They were both working on quantum electrodynamics (QED) and Bethe and I were talking about this. At one point the great Hans Bethe said, “Feynman was just down the hall and I knew he was miles ahead of me.” Bethe was an active physicist from about 1930 until his death in 2005. Throughout this 75-year time span he knew his abilities exceeded those of most other physicists. Bethe also knew early in his career that Feynman’s abilities exceeded his. He knew Feynman could do things he could never do. Physics is revealing…and brutal..”
— John Rigden (2018), “The Brutality of Physics[3]

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Bethe:

“I am about the leading theoretician in America. That does not mean the best. Wigner is certainly better and Oppenheimer and Teller probably just as good. But I do more and talk more and that counts too.”
— Hans Bethe (c.1937), “Letter to Mother” (on various professorship offers)
“Feynman was just down the hall and I knew he was miles ahead of me.”
— Hans Bethe (c.1945), “Comment to John Rigden” [3]
“Feynman was a magician. With a magician, you just do not know how he does it.”
— Hans Bethe (c.1945), Publication

End matter

See also


  1. Gribbin, John. (2002). Quantum Physics: A Beginner's Guide to the Subatomic World. DK Publishing.
  2. (a) Finkbeiner, Ann. (2006). The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite. Viking.
    (b) Horgan, John. (2006). “Rent-a-Genius” (Ѻ), The New York Times, Apr 16.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rigden, John. (2018). “The Brutality of Physics”, Forum of the History of Physics, APS.org, Spring.

Further reading

  • Schweber, Silvan S. (2012). Nuclear Forces: the Making of the Physicist Hans Bethe. Harvard University Press.

External links

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