Friday, 20 September 2019

Semi-empirical mass formula on the plane

I've just returned from a long trip away, to visit students on MPhys placement, attend a conference and discuss work with some people I am collaborating with (a phrase I still think of as meaning something sinister).  On the plane I watched a terrible film called Red Joan.  It sounded like it might be a decent enough spy thriller and Judy Dench's name lent it some respectability.  On-topic for me is that it featured someone (the eponymous hero, or antihero, Joan) who passed secrets about the UK's wartime and post-war atomic weapon secrets to the Russians.  There was one scene, supposedly dramatically showing people thinking about a physics problem, in which the camera focused on the pencil-and-paper working of one of the scientists, which showed the semi-empirical mass formula (see attached photo).  This is certainly something that was known in the late 40s, and the kind of thing that would have been used to give an idea of the energy release from nuclear fission, so credit to them for doing that research.  Given that I was on my way to a conference where I talked about the semi-empirical mass formula, it was a nice coincidence, and I took the photo of the screen on the back of the seat in front and used it in my talk, and here in this post.

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