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Translating Gravitation into Russian and Chinese


Origins of the book Gravitation with Thorne and Misner
John Wheeler Scientist
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I had, at the last days of Project Matterhorn, been giving this course in gravitation and I produced notes there. But my biggest drive to produce notes came when I was giving lectures at the University of Kyoto, because I realized that my Japanese friends would not all understand English equally well, and therefore each day I wrote out in advance what I would be talking about and had these notes mimeographed so that everybody had a set of notes to look at, and that became a help in producing a book. But Charlie Misner and Kip Thorne also had their pushes to produce notes, and one time we were talking and we said to each other "We ought to make a book out of these things" - and we ended up in essence signing a treaty that we'd make a book. And Kip Thorne was a great organizer and he pulled these things together and we were very lucky to have a publisher who had good ideas how to put it together. We split the pages into easy things where one could quick get a view of the subject and we marked these with a big black-- visible from the corner of the book, and the other pages giving more technical detail. And we had an illustrator, a Japanese American - I'm trying to remember his name right now - but he fulfilled my ... He went by the nickname 'Ishy'. Yes, Ishikawa. I can't understand anything if I can't make a picture of it, and if you ask me to do - how I would make a picture of something so ephemeral, so strange as the idea of this being a self-generated universe, I would put a luminous pair of arrows like this pointing toward the future, and another luminous pair of arrows pointing toward the past. I don't know what the diagram means, but it's just an encouragement to me to have a diagram like that to help think about what it would mean to have a picture of how this universe is self-generated. Well, this book has a lot of references at the end, I think a thousand references, and thanks to the good sense of Kip Thorne we engaged somebody, who was good at looking up references, to get all these references. I wish I had his services day before yesterday when I was looking up unsuccessfully a paper by the Russian scientist Ivanenko on the collision of two gravitons to make a pair of positive and negative electrons. I never did succeed in finding the reference, but I know if I go hard enough at it, I can find it.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 4 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008