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Location: Great Boreal Deciduous Hardwood Forest, New England, United States

old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

12 February 2006

save your doodles

The Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island NY USA had a big-ass atom smasher (particle accelerator) in 1956, a proton synchrotron called the Cosmotron. When C.N. Yang and T.D. Lee were there as visiting theoretical physicists, they examined the evidence of a lot of high-speed, high-energy particle collisions in the Cosmotron to try to make some sense out of what was going on.

Parity is the common-sense idea that the physical world behaves exactly the same in a left-right mirror image as it does in front of the mirror. In 1956, nearly all physicists accepted that Parity was the Way of the World. Why shouldn't it be?

Yang and Lee doodled their ideas about interpreting the Brookhaven particle collisions on this sketch pad, and came to the conclusion that Parity was being Violated -- some collisions were not behaving in a mirror-image symmetry. They received their Nobel Physics Prize in 1957.

Usually you have to wait a few years for your ideas or discoveries to settle and be chewed around by your colleagues, but their discovery was so astonishing -- and so easy to verify, if you had a big-ass atom smasher (I built the Heathkit atom smasher AS-660) -- that they got their invitation to Stockholm in the return mail more or less.


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