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The Story of Helium and the Birth of Astrophysics

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What if one of the most thrilling stories in the history of science turned out to be wrong? Can urban legends creep into the hallo... Weiterlesen
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Beschreibung

What if one of the most thrilling stories in the history of science turned out to be wrong? Can urban legends creep into the hallowed grounds of scientific history? As incredible as it may sound, the story of one of the most important elements in modern times - helium - has been often misrepresented in books, encyclopedias, and online sources, despite the fact that archival materials tell a different story. Open the entry for Helium in any encyclopaedia and you will read a false story that has been repeated over the years. 'Encyclopaedia Britannica', for example, says that helium was discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Janssen while observing a total solar eclipse from India in 1868. Apparently he noticed something new in the spectrum of the sun, which he thought was the signature of an undiscovered element.
The truth is that Janssen never saw any sign of a new element during his observations in India. His reports and letters do not mention any such claim.
Other sources would have you believe that helium was jointly discovered by Janssen and Norman Lockyer, a British scientist, and that their discovery letters reached Paris the same day, one sent from India, and the other from England.
Again, the truth is completely different. Two letters from Lockyer and Janssen did reach Paris the same day in 1868, but their letters did not mention any new element. What they had discovered was a new way of observing the Sun without a solar eclipse. This would ultimately lead to the discovery of helium, in which Lockyer would play a prominent role, but not Janssen.

At the same time, Norman Robert Pogson, a disgruntled British astronomer stationed in India did notice something peculiar during the eclipse. He was the first one to notice something odd about the spectrum of the Sun that day, and his observations would prove crucial to Lockyer's own investigations of helium. But Pogson's report was never published in any peer reviewed journal and it languished on the desk of a local British officer in colonial India.
This book tells the real story behind the discovery of helium, along with biographical sketches of the scientists and descriptions of the milieu in which they worked. It will convey the excitement, confusion, and passion of nineteenth century scientists, using their own words, from their letters and reports.
'The Story of Helium and the Birth of Astrophysics' chronicles one of the most exciting discoveries ever made and explains why it also marked the birth of a new branch of science called 'astrophysics.'

Biman Nath studied physics at the University of Delhi, India and received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park, in the United States. He is currently at the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India. His research focuses on the interaction of gas with galaxies and its implications for the evolution of galaxies and diffuse gas in the universe. He is also interested in the popularization of science and writing fiction.



Autorentext

Biman Nath studied physics at the University of Delhi, India and received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park, in the United States. He is currently at the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India. His research focuses on the interaction of gas with galaxies and its implications for the evolution of galaxies and diffuse gas in the universe. He is also interested in the popularization of science and writing fiction.



Klappentext

Biman Nath
The Story of Helium and the Birth of Astrophysics

Helium was the first element ever discovered by astronomers. Its presence was first indicated in the Sun and not on Earth. Further, its discovery marked the birth of the new science of astrophysics.

However, it turns out that the events leading to the discovery of helium have been rather misrepresented in books, journals, and even encyclopedias. The usual story about its joint discovery during a solar eclipse in 1868 by French astronomer Pierre Janssen and late in England by Norman Lockyer, is far from the truth. Janssen never mentioned any new spectral line in his reports.

The actual story turns out to be as dramatic as in fiction. This book tells the story without jargon, using the words of the scientists themselves (from their letters and reports), and rescues the real story from the backwaters of history.



Inhalt

Chapter 1: The Unbearable Lightness of a 'Noble' Element.- Chapter 2: From Alchemy to Chemistry.- Chapter 3: From Chemistry to Stars.- Chapter 4: Father Secchi, the Priest Who Became an Astronomer.- Chapter 5: Jansse, A Traveling Scientist.- Chapter 6: Norman Lockyer, Clerk Turned Astronomer.- Chapter 7: James F. Tennant, Soldier Turned Astronomer.- Chapter 8: Guntur, the Small Town at the Center of Attention.- Chapter 9: The Perpetual Eclipse of 1868.- Chapter 10: Lockyer and His Cosmic Hieroglyphics.- Chapter 11: The Ghost Element That Refused To Be Identified.- Chapter 12: Helium on Earth.- Chapter 13: The Folklore and Reality of the Discovery of Helium.- Index.

Produktinformationen

Titel: The Story of Helium and the Birth of Astrophysics
Autor:
EAN: 9781461453635
ISBN: 978-1-4614-5363-5
Digitaler Kopierschutz: Wasserzeichen
Format: E-Book (pdf)
Herausgeber: Springer
Genre: Physik, Astronomie
Anzahl Seiten: 274
Veröffentlichung: 10.11.2012
Jahr: 2012
Untertitel: Englisch
Dateigrösse: 3.4 MB