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Shifting Energy Cultures Series

February 02, 2015
The Shifting Energy Cultures Series is part of a multi-disciplinary research project funded by the Institute for Energy and the Environment that explores the so... Read More »

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  • Shifting Energy Culture Series

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    12:00 PM-2:00 PM

    LeBow Engineering Center, Hill Conference Room, Room 240, 31st and Market Streets, Philadelphia PA 19104

    • Everyone


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  • Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Practice of Theory, 1890-1926.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    3:30 PM-5:00 PM

    Stein Auditorium Nesbitt 111 3215 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19106

    • Everyone
    Suman Seth is the third speaker in the Science and Society Speaker Series. Dr. Seth is Associate Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University and his talk is entitled "Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Practice of Theory, 1890-1926".

    In January 1922, the Munich theoretical physicist, Arnold Sommerfeld, wrote to Albert Einstein. He reported the many successes of Sommerfeld’s recent work and that of his students, including Werner Heisenberg, a young man in his third semester who had just completed pioneering work on the anomalous Zeeman effect. Confidence was running high, yet for Sommerfeld, the situation was not ideal: “Everything works,” he wrote, “but remains at the deepest level unclear.” This fact suggested a division of labour: “I can only advance the craft of the quantum,” he told Einstein, “you would have to make its philosophy.”

    Drawn from Dr. Seth’s book, “Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Practice of Theory, 1890-1926”(MIT, 2010), this talk will explore the role of “craft” in two different, yet related, areas of research in the Sommerfeld school. The first being the connection between research problems taken up during peacetime in Munich and the roles played by German theoretical physicists during WWI. Theoretical physics was once eminently practical. And the second, the meaning of “craft” in Sommerfeld’s theoretical practice in the 1920s, with a focus on what became known as the “number mysticism” of the older quantum theory.

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