Felix Bloch (1976) - Some Remarks on Superfluidity

Felix Bloch (1976)

Some Remarks on Superfluidity

Felix Bloch (1976)

Some Remarks on Superfluidity

Comment

Although Felix Bloch participated in three Lindau Meetings, the only lecture he gave is the present one. This is a pity, not only for historians of science, but also for the audiences of young scientists that were not allowed to listen to this inspiring lecturer. Even though he was born (and died) in Zürich, Bloch spent most of his life in the US and delivered his lecture in the broken English that Niels Bohr has described as “the international language of physics”. But irrespective of language, Bloch clearly shows that he has been an active teacher with a straightforward pedagogical approach. What he gives the audience is nothing less than a 45-minute lesson in quantum mechanics as applied to a macroscopic amount of superfluid rotating in a ring container, something like a donut, at the absolute zero of temperature. Superfluidity was discovered in liquid helium in the 1930’s and there is a whole zoo of strange effects appearing in this kind of system, such as quantization of rotation in a ring container. This topic is rather far from the work that Bloch received the Nobel Prize for in 1952 and also shows him not to be afraid to stick out his neck. This is so because one of the Nobel Laureates in the audience was Leon Cooper, a true specialist on this type of so-called macroscopic quantum phenomena, who had received the Nobel Prize in physics a few years earlier for a microscopic theory of superconductivity. Bloch delivers his lecture with transparencies, but also without them it is possible to follow it. According to a speech (which is available on Nobelprize.org) that he gave at the end of the Nobel Banquet 1952, thanking the university students for their felicitations, cheers and beautiful songs, his own students had “been a constant stimulus and a great source of inspiration” and the spirit of his young collaborators had “been an important factor in the success of our work.” Hear, hear, hear!Anders Bárány

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