Round and round and round go the deuterons , Round and round the magnet swings them , Round and round and round go the deuterons , Smack in the target goes the ion beam . -- From "The Cyclotronist's Nightmare" by Dr. Arthur Roberts
Not apt to hit the Top 40, this song. Probably not something you'll hum in your head for days and days, either.
But to an atom smasher it's downright catchy.
About 60 atom smashers -- or, to be exact, 60 physicists who helped pioneer the development of nuclear accelerators, otherwise known as . . . atom smashers -- had a party (an "Atom Smasher Jubilee," they called it) at the Smithsonian's History and Technology Museum last night. They had sherry in a charcoal gray library, then dinner, and then were to listen to Roberts sing his deuteron song as well as "Particle Physics, You've Stolen My Heart."
"Romantic is one thing it isn't," said Roberts, a courtly gentleman who's currently immersed in a two-year feasibility study on the Deep Underwater Muon and Neutrino Detector. This gets highly complicated, but can best be explained in brief as a search for weak atomic particles outside the earth's atmosphere.
But back to the jubilee. The reason for it was the 50th anniversary of U.S. involvement in atom smashing, a scientific breakthrough that made possible, among others things, the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
Which wasn't exactly tactful to mention last night. "We weren't responsible," said Dr. M. Stanley Livingston, a physicist who helped develop the cyclotron accelerator at the University of California-Berkeley. "I don't like to associate with that. Atom smashing explained and explored nuclear physics . . . Let's not disturb the history of nuclear physics by bringing that into it."
If this particular get-together was any indication, what physicists tend to talk about on their off hours is electron volts, tesla coils, bubble chambers and magnets.
But then, at least one of the few wives in attendance saw a clear advantage in being married to a nuclear physicist as opposed to say, a doctor. "They aren't usually," she said, "called out on emergencies."