Lessons on management styles from Edward Teller, Hans Bethe and Robert Oppenheimer: A question of temperament
4 days ago in The Curious Wavefunction
"Referee's report: This paper contains much that is new and much that is true. Unfortunately, that which is true is not new and that which is new is not true."Another memorable comment was kindly passed on to me by Prof. Tony Barrett of Imperial College, London.
In H. Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber, and Schmidt, 1988.
"This paper should be reduced by 50% and oxidised by 150%"- Anon
It is my opinion that this text will be widely accepted by the organic chemical community. There is nothing like it currently on the market. It reminds me of the Morrison & Mosher text, Asymmetric Synthesis, that was published more than three decades ago. The authors have generated the New Bible of asymmetric catalysis. The results are truly impressive and the cases are both relevant and current. --David A. Evans, Harvard University
My visits to Viki's class in quantum mechanics at MIT were, in every way, a culture shock. The class and the classroom were both huge—at least a hundred students. Weisskopf was also huge, at least he was tall compared to the diminutive Schwinger. I do not think he wore a jacket, or if he did, it must have been rumpled. Schwinger was what we used to call a spiffy dresser.The trick in any class is not to let the students know how much you know (the Schwinger technique) but to let them know how much you, and indeed everyone else, do not know.
Weisskopf's first remark on entering the classroom, was "Boys [there were no women in the class], I just had a wonderful night!" There were raucous catcalls of "Yeah Viki!" along with assorted outbursts of applause. When things had quieted down Weisskopf said, "No, no it's not what you think. Last night, for the first time, I really understood the Born approximation." This was a reference to an important approximation method in quantum mechanics that had been invented in the late 1920s by the German physicist Max Born, with whom Weisskopf studied in Göttingen. Weisskopf then proceeded to derive the principal formulas of the Born approximation, using notes that looked as if they had been written on the back of an envelope. Along the way, he got nearly every factor of two and pi wrong. At each of these mistakes there would be a general outcry from the class; at the end of the process, a correct formula emerged, along with the sense, perhaps illusory, that we were participating in a scientific discovery rather than an intellectual entertainment. Weisskopf also had wonderful insights into what each term in the formula meant for understanding physics. We were, in short, in the hands of a master teacher
A 23 year old female research associate/laboratory technician intended to add an (unknown) aliquot of 1.6 M t-bu-Li (in pentane) to a round bottom flask, placed in a dry ice/acetone bath. She had been employed in the lab for about 3 months. The incident occurred on Dec. 29, during the UCLA holiday shutdown between Christmas and New Years. Researchers are granted permission to work during the shut down for “critical research needs.” There were two post doctoral researchers working in the lab and the adjacent lab, with limited English proficiency.I find it especially sad that she was doing a relatively routine procedure done in hundreds of labs, and was wearing gloves and safety goggles, even if not a lab coat. This sobering incident should remind us that for all that we jest about laboratory procedures and reagents, working in a lab should be a deadly serious activity. Sometimes the monotony blurs the line between casual protocol and hellishly serious work precautions.
The principal investigator had trained the employee to slightly pressurize the bottle (an ~ 250 ml Aldrich Sure Seal container) with Argon and withdraw the desired aliquot using a 60 ml syringe, fitted with a 20 gauge needle. The PI likes to use these particular syringes because they have a tight seal. There is no evidence that the employee used this method. Speculation: she may have just tried to pull up the aliquot in the syringe. Somehow, the syringe plunger popped out or was pulled out of the syringe barrel, splashing the employee with t-bu-Li and pentane. The mixture caught fire, upon contact with air. She was wearing nitrile gloves, safety glasses and synthetic sweater. She was not wearing a lab coat. The fire ignited the gloves and the sweater.
Six feet from the fume hood was an emergency shower. When the employee’s gloves and clothing caught fire, she ran from the area away from the shower. One of the post-docs used his lab coat to smother the flames. 911 was called. UCLA Fire Dept. and emergency medical, Los Angeles City Fire, and Los Angeles County Haz Mat. The EMTs put the employee in the safety shower for gross decon and then transported her to the ER. She’s currently in the Grossman burn unit in Sherman Oaks with second degree burns on her arms and third degree burns on her hands, a total of about 40% of her body. There was very little damage to the lab. Bill has not interviewed the employee.
Dust grows over time as stars manufacture heavy elements called metals, like carbon, silicon and oxygen, that make up dust and then spit them out into space.If carbon and oxygen are heavy metals, then I am heavy indeed.