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1. Hermann Staudinger Lecture mit Nobelpreisträger Douglas D. Osheroff

Douglas D. Osheroff

Douglas D. Osheroff (Stanford) shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics along with David Lee and Robert C. Richardson.

Wann 27.06.2008
von 18:15 bis 19:15
Kontakttelefon +49(0)761 203-97407
Teilnehmer öffentlich / open to the public
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For the first Hermann Staudinger Lecture, on Friday, June 27th 2008, the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (FRIAS) welcomed a world-renowned physicist, Douglas D. Osheroff of Stanford University, Departments of Physics and Applied Physics. In 1996 Osheroff was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics with David Lee and Robert C. Richardson for discovering the superfluidic nature of 3He. This discovery was made in 1971 while Osheroff was a graduate at Cornell University.

In the focus of Osheroff’s talk were discoveries and advances in science at large. By their very nature, those discoveries that most change the way we think about nature cannot be anticipated. How, then, are such discoveries made, and are there research strategies which can increase the probability of making such a discovery?

To answer this question positively, Osheroff argued that a linked chain of discoveries and inventions throughout the history of physics can be found. Based on the following different examples of inventions, such as the discovery of superconductivity, the blackbody form and anisotropy of cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR), nuclear magnetic resonance and the three dimensional conformation of organic molecules, Osheroff recognized different patterns which led to these inventions in order to formulate strategies which may help to make such advances in science possible.

According to Osheroff, one observation reached by studying these examples is that the process of advancing science may often lead to inventions and technologies that directly benefit mankind. However, it is impossible to know where the advance will come from that might solve a problem facing mankind. Also important is the use of the best technological instruments available, borrowing the best technologies you can and understanding what exactly your instrumentation is measuring in order to be able to view nature from a new perspective or in a different realm. Before starting the research one should, in addition, look in unexplored regions of the landscape. Most importantly, Osheroff emphasized that in every experiment subtle unexplained behaviour can occur and one should not dismiss it since this of itself could lead to new discoveries.

In the second half of his lecture, Osheroff talked about the history of his own discovery, the superfluidity in 3He. Conclusions he drew from his own experiences were not to give up when things go badly during an experiment, spend some time doing something else,  avoid too many commitments and  vary the subject of your research occasionally. It is also vital to build flexibility into one’s experiments. As an applied physics’ scientist, Osheroff commented  that theoreticians may have a nose for interesting physics but do not expect them to have all the details correct.

The last conclusion Osheroff drew concerned the fact that only a few scientists like him get rewarded for their work. It is often forgotten that this work is based on the research of others which made the scientific discovery possible. Advances in science are seldom made by individuals alone. They are a result of the scientific community as a whole, asking questions, developing new technologies and sharing the results and ideas with others.  To ensure rapid progress one must support scientific research broadly and encourage scientists to collaborate with each other and devote time to satisfying their own curiosities. Therefore one answer to the question, how advances in sciences are made, lies in collaboration and complementary expertise.

The vivid discussion after the lecture covered the many aspects of Osheroff’s personal experiences, his experiments and outlooks gathered throughout his successful academic career.