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One Small Step for Woman: Probing the Depths of Inner Space Marie Curie and the Revolution in Our Concept of Matter. David Banach Department of Philosophy. Introduction: Curie's Greatness as a Discoverer . .

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One Small Step for Woman:Probing the Depths of Inner SpaceMarie Curie and the Revolution in Our Concept of Matter

David Banach

Department of Philosophy

introduction curie s greatness as a discoverer
Introduction: Curie's Greatness as a Discoverer.

Her strength, her purity of will, her austerity toward herself, her objectivity, her incorruptible judgment--all these were of a kind seldom found joined in a single individual . . . The greatest scientific deed of her life--proving the existence of radioactive elements and isolating them--owes its accomplishment not merely to bold intuition but to a devotion and tenacity in execution under the most extreme hardships imaginable, such as the history of experimental science has not often witnessed. (Albert Einstein (Out of My Later Years

introduction curie s greatness as a discoverer4
Introduction: Curie's Greatness as a Discoverer.

A.Discovery requires great and courageous shifts in how we see the world.

B.Curie's discovery of radiation was the beginning of a revolution in how we see the world, one that undermined the comfortable, ordered world of the Enlightenment.

thomas s kuhn s philosophy of science
Thomas S. Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science
  • The Paradigm: the context of scientific inquiry. Science goes on within a constellation of beliefs, practices, habits, and values that determines how the scientist sees the world.
  • Normal Science is science that is guided and defined by a paradigm.
  • Paradigm Shifts: In order to make a really new discovery, the scientist must break free from the paradigm into a new mode of scientific inquiry that Kuhn calls revolutionary science.

"Saturn is not alone but is composed of three, which almost touch one another and never move nor change with respect to one another. They are arranged in a line parallel to the zodiac, and the middle one [Saturn itself] is about three times the size of the lateral ones [the edges of the rings].“ Galileo 1610

  • 1. Can Scientists in different paradigms talk to each other, or are the worlds they see so different that their paradigms are incommensurable?
  • 2. Is there a bedrock of objective fact, outside of our paradigms, that scientists can use to judge which paradigm is most true?
part two what is matter
Part Two: What is Matter?
  • A Mechanical Universe. The Universe was a vast machine populated by indivisible tiny hunks of matter called atoms. Mathematical laws of motion governed the workings of the little billiard ball like projectiles that made up the vast machine of the universe. The world was composed of smaller versions of the familiar types of objects and forces that make up the macroscopic world.
the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine sir james jeans
“The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.” Sir James Jeans
  • 1. Waves!: Light, Electricity and Magnetism are unified in Maxwell’s wave equations. (1873)
  • 2. The Atom is not atomic! (1897-1911)
  • 3. The Atom grows up: The Bohr model (1913) and Quantum Mysteries! (1925)
1867 Marie Curie Born
  • 1873 Maxwell formulates wave equations linking light, electricity and magnetism.
  • 1895 X-rays discovered by Wilhem Röntgen
  • 1896 Discovery of Radioactivity by French Physicist Antoine Becquerel
  • 1897 English Physicist J.J. Thomson discovers the electron.
  • 1898 Marie and Pierre Curie discover new radioactive element in pitchblende ores and announce existence of polonium and radium
  • 1902 Marie Curie isolates pure samples of the radioactive elements Radium and Polonium.
  • 1905 Albert Einstein publishes his Special Theory of Relativity and paper on quantum radiation of energy.
  • 1911 Ernest Rutherford discovers the atomic nucleus.
  • 1913 Danish physicist Neils Bohr formulates the theory of the atom with small central nucleus and orbiting electrons.
  • 1916 Albert Einstein publishes his General Theory of Relativity
  • 1925 Heisenberg formulates Quantum mechanics for atoms.
  • Schrodinger's wave equation for particles.
And here are trees and I know their gnarled surface, water and I feel its taste. These scents of grass and stars at night, certain evenings when the heart relaxes‑how shall I negate this world whose power and strength I feel? Yet all the knowledge on earth will give me nothing to assure me that me that this world is mine. You describe it to me and you teach me to classify it. You enumerate its laws and in my thirst for knowledge I admit that they are true. You take apart its mechanism and my hope increases. At the final stage you teach me that this wondrous and multicolored universe can be reduced to the atom and that the atom itself can be reduced to the electron. But you tell me of an invisible planetary system in which the planets gravitate around a nucleus. You explain this world to me with an image. I realize then that you have been reduced to poetry: I shall never know . . . . That science that was to teach me everything ends up in hypothesis, that lucidity founders in a metaphor, that uncertainty is resolved in a work of art. What need had I of so many efforts? The soft lines of these hills and the hand of evening on this troubled heart teach me much more.
  • Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
the scale of the new internal space comparing sizes
The Scale of the New Internal SpaceComparing Sizes
  • Assuming you weigh about 150 lbs, you are about 4 x 1028 or
  • 40000000000000000000000000000 times heavier than a proton.
  • Assuming you have a radius of about 0.5 meters you are about 4 x 1014 or 400000000000000 times larger than a proton.
if you were a proton the electron the size of a pea would be about 21 160 meters or 13 1 miles away
If you were a proton, the electron, the size of a pea, would be about 21,160 meters or 13.1 miles away.
the electron 13 1 miles away would be about the size of a pea
The electron 13.1 miles away would be about the size of a pea.
  • It would exert an electrical attraction of about 7,370,000 lbs. on you. (This is scaled by size not weight so it is a conservative estimate.)
  • The gravitational pull would be only 3.3 x 10-33 lbs.

If you were the Sun, the entire Solar system would fit in a 2.65 mile radius. The Earth would be 1mm, 100 yards away. Jupiter would be 1cm 600 yards away.

If you were a proton in a nucleus with other protons you would be about 1.6 meter or 5.2 feet away, about two chairs over.
  • You would be repelled by electrical forces from this other proton with a force of 1.25 x 1015 lbs or
  • 1,250,000,000,000,000 lbs. !!!!
  • The actual force between two protons is 3.2 lbs!

The Energy stored in the Nucleus is almost unimaginable

If you were to give off a gamma ray, you would release 1.1 x 1021 Ev, which is 176 watts/sec or 129 ft.-lbs.A beta particle would release you would release 3.96 x 1021 Ev, which is 633 watts/sec or 464 ft.-lbs.

the uncertainty principle werner heisenberg 1925
The Uncertainty PrincipleWerner Heisenberg 1925
  • It is impossible to simultaneously determine the exact position and momentum of any piece of matter. If we know where it is, we can’t measure where it is going, and vice versa.
part three marie curie s discovery as an achievement in the humanities
Part Three: Marie Curie's Discovery as an Achievement in the Humanities.
  • (1) It reveals to us a beauty and structure in nature completely independent of us yet in harmony with our faculties. It makes us feel at home in the world.
  • (2) It exposes us to the sublime, those aspects of nature that go beyond our capacities of sense and our faculties of understanding to enlarge us and make us greater than ourselves.

Marie Curie had the courage and the faith in Truth to take the first steps towards a Romance of the Mind with a world whose mysteries exceed our grasp.