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Eureka and euphoria: About scientists and their discoveries

"The true story is to be found in" personal jokes and private correspondence of those who make this story. "

John hey

Popular science literature is very interesting to the readers of Habrahabr. Today I want to share my impressions about the collection of “ Eureka and euphoria ”. This book is not so much about how our world works, but about the people who explore it. It is filled with hundreds of stories about outstanding and brilliant scientists and their discoveries. Like a good joke, it not only entertains, but also invites for reflection.
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Many of the stories described are known, for example, the accidental discovery of penicillin . But the author of the collection, Walter Gratzer, transmits not only the facts, but also the full story, and the human relations associated with it.

Alexander Fleming, noticing a mildew extract that can fight off harmful bacteria, said: “This is fun,” but did not attach much importance. Only nine years later, Howard Florey and Ernest Chain, regardless of Fleming, were closely involved in the study of this extract. After the Second World War, all three of them simultaneously received the Nobel Prize for the allocation of penicillin. Fleming himself said that he did not deserve this prize, but he admitted that he enjoyed his fame.

Talking about inventions, the author of the collection always explains what their essence is and how they influenced science and humanity.

The book tells not only about the history of discoveries, but also about just interesting episodes from the life of scientists, for example, Igor Tamm :

During the Civil War, he was captured by one of the Makhno gangs. He was taken to the ataman - “a bearded peasant in a high fur hat, who had criss-cross machine-gun bands on his chest, and a pair of hand grenades dangled from his belt.”

“You son of a bitch, a communist agitator, why are you undermining Mother Ukraine?” We will kill you.

“Not at all,” answered Tamm. - I am a professor at Odessa University and came here to get at least some food.

- Lies! - the chieftain exclaimed. “What professor are you?”

- I teach math.

- Math? - asked the chieftain. - Then find me an estimate of the approximation of the McLaren series by the first n-terms. You decide - you will be released, no - I will shoot.

Tamm could not believe his ears: the task belonged to a rather narrow field of higher mathematics. With trembling hands and under the barrel of a rifle, he managed to withdraw the decision and showed it to the ataman.

- Right! - said the chieftain. “Now I see that you are a true professor.” Well, go home.


The book reveals the characters of brilliant scientists . For example, Niels Bohr was "a kind of way to conduct public lectures." Here is how Abraham Pais describes her:

The main reason was that, speaking, he was at the same time full of thoughts. I remember once, having finished to state a part of the proof, Bor said: “And ... and ...”, stopped for a second and added: “But ...”, and then continued. Between "and" and "but" he managed to think of the next step. Nevertheless, he simply forgot to speak it out loud and hurried on.


After reading “Eureka and Euphoria” you will find out that born scientists have a fantastic burden for knowledge, for which there are no barriers. People engaged in research, even in Auschwitz or the Soviet camps. For example, Chadwick in a fascist internment camp explored radioactive toothpaste using an electroscope made of tin foil, wood.

You can enjoy many other stories about people's loyalty to science and the risks involved. Everyone knows the story of Khavkin , who infected himself with cholera in order to try out the vaccine. But there were other examples of the manic desire for truth. For example, Alexander von Humbolt raised on his back "two blisters, the size of a horse's bridle," incised them and led them to zinc and silver electrodes to study " animal magnetism ." He himself describes the sensations:
“I experienced a sharp pain that was so severe that the trapezoid muscle vibrated noticeably, the tremor was transmitted to the base of the skull and echoed in the vertebrae. The touch of silver caused three or four single twitches that I could discern. About the frogs, laid on my back, observers reported that they jumped. "
On another occasion, he plunged the electrodes into a hole at the site of a torn out tooth, believing that "such a strong stimulation of the nerve should suppress pain."

Brilliant scientists emphasizes the ability to deeply concentrate. It shows the story with Niels Bohr.
He was the goalkeeper of the football club. During one of the matches, the game was played at the gates of the enemy, but the ball spun after the strike and flew towards the gates of Bohr. Everyone was waiting for him to run out and grab him. But, to everyone's surprise, he remained standing, concentrating his attention on the goal post. The ball would surely have flown in there, do not bring Born back into reality by a shout from a determined viewer. His apologies after the match sounded amazing: Boru came up with a mathematical problem that fascinated him so much that he had to make calculations right at the goalpost.


The book is written in a popular language, but on the basis of approaches characteristic of scientific work : the presentation of the history preceding the discovery, the absence of "water" and reliability, which is expressed in references to information sources. For example, the exact version of the famous joke about Dirac , published in the book “ Physicists are joking ” is described:

During the discussion after the seminar, one of the participants began: “Professor Dirac, I did not fully understand your conclusion ...” When he finished his question, there was a long silence. In the end, the chairman asked if Dirac would answer the question. “It was not a question,” Dirac said, “but a statement.” In this case, the compiler of the collection indicates that "Dirac did not mean to be rude - just the specific nature of his thinking manifested itself."


Eureka and Euphoria ” is a very exciting book. I avidly read all of its 650 pages in just 10 days. I think that you will also be interested.

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/100824/


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