December 15 marks the passing of Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Pauli is best known for the Pauli Exclusion Principle which states no two identical particles with half-integer spin cannot occupy the same quantum state in a quantum system simultaneously. This is typically applied to electrons around an atom. No two electrons in an atom can have the same quantum state or same four quantum numbers of energy, angular momentum, magnetic angular momentum, and spin.
Did you know he was rather infamous for what his colleagues called the Pauli Effect?
The Pauli Effect would manifest itself by odd little occurrences when Pauli was in the area. Equipment would suddenly break down or develop odd quirks. Vacuum tubes would suddenly burn out or the power would mysteriously fail. These events would happen often enough to cause his colleagues to recommend Pauli stay away from the laboratory when important demonstrations or experiments were to be conducted.
Notable Science History Events for December 15
1970 – Venera 7 lands on Venus.
Venera 7 was a Soviet probe designed to land on the surface of Venus. It was launched from the Baikonur launch site and would arrive at Venus on December 15. It entered the atmosphere and managed to reach the surface, becoming the first spacecraft to land and transmit data from another planet. The lander transmitted data for 20 minutes from the surface before going silent. The data showed an outside temperature of 475 °C (887 °F) with a pressure 90 times the pressure on Earth.
1958 – Wolfgang Pauli died.
1916 – Maurice Wilkins was born.
Wilkins was a New Zealand biophysicist who shares the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Francis Crick and James Watson for determining the molecular structure of DNA. Wilkins worked with x-ray diffraction techniques to examine DNA molecules from calf thymus and produced photographs of long, thin DNA molecules. He worked with Crick and Watson to improve the x-ray sensitivity and ultimately determine the structure of the molecule.
1860 – Niels Ryberg Finsen was born.
Finsen was a Danish physician who was awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his treatment of diseases with light radiation. He started investigations in the treatment of diseases with sunlight and heat lamps. He later devised new treatments for smallpox using a red light and a treatment for lupus.
1852 – Antoine Henri Becquerel was born.
Becquerel was a French physicist who was awarded half the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of radioactivity. He placed a sample uranium and a photographic plate in a black bag into a drawer while waiting for clear weather to expose the uranium to sunlight for an experiment. When he developed the plate a couple days later, he found an image of the uranium rocks. The existence of the image demonstrated the existence of radioactivity.