Dr. Paula Bohr at ACWR 2011
December 21, 2011
As part of the inaugural session of the International Conference on Wireless Technologies for Humanitarian Relief, Dr. Paula Bohr, grand-daughter of the renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate, Niels Bohr, and daughter of another Nobel Laureate Aage Bohr, delivered a talk. Given below are some excerpts from her talk.
I would like to thank Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi for inviting me to speak here. It is a great honor and a privilege.
My wonderful father Aage influenced me in many ways. From early childhood, he encouraged my intuition and my logical thinking abilities whenever an opportunity arose. These qualities brought me many beneficial results in my own practice as a medical doctor.
What I found really unique about my father was how his goodness embraced his work, his colleagues, his family and all of his life.
My father as well as my grandfather (Niels Bohr) were very humble men despite their fame.
Niels Bohr played a part in the onset of quantum physics and is said to have revolutionized classical physics with his strong intuition. In 1913, he postulated the first model of the atom.
People questioned the model asking why the attraction between the positive and negative ions didn’t make the atom collapse.
Niels answer was that one had to break away from classical physics, especially the ideas of continuity and determinism, and introduce completely new concepts to understand the world of atoms.
He introduced the concept of complementarity at a time when scientists were exploring light and were trying to determine whether it was a wave or a particle. Different experiments showed contradictory evidence.
Niels Bohr postulated that an electron was not just an electron. Depending on the settings, it could behave either as a particle or as a wave. On the surface, these results seemed to be contradictory but seen together, they make a whole and complement each other. This is the essence of complementarity.
To understand the atomic world, in addition to breaking away from classical physics of the time, the concept of probability was also introduced.
Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr had good-natured arguments about this point. Einstein’s famous quote, “God does not play dice,” was born out of this dispute, which lasted all their life.
Only much later it was proven that Niels Bohr was right, not in terms of God actually playing dice, but in terms of breaking with the former principle of causalities.
Niels Bohr’s passion for physics was led by a ravenous curiosity for every aspect of life, which he generously shared with anyone interested.
Niels Bohr was known to dislike the dogmas of religion; nevertheless, he had a very spiritual approach to life.
He was very fond of an antique statue of Buddha he had bought in 1937, while visiting the Daibutsu Temple in Japan. He kept it in his office where he loved to talk about the philosophy of the East, which had made a big impression on him during his travels.
He perceived a harmony between the oriental philosophy and his own vision of life that saw opposites as complementary.
Niels Bohr had a very happy marriage to his wife Margrethe Bohr, which lasted till his death in 1962.
During the Second World War, Niels Bohr and my father, who were Danish citizens, worked in Los Alamos, U.S.A. in the Manhattan project under Oppenheimer to build an atomic bomb. Yet Niels Bohr was very concerned about its use. He didn’t actually expect the bomb to be built anytime soon.
In 1941, after Germany invaded Russia, he received a visit from the German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who was like a son to him. Heisenberg was convinced that Germany could win the war and he was working as a physicist for the German Military. He told Niels Bohr that Germany was close to building an atomic bomb.
Niels was shocked. He realized that sooner or later the Russians would also learn to build a bomb. Unless all countries entered a dialogue, a very threatening situation could build up. The countries would compete against each other to own the biggest arsenal of bombs and nuclear weapons.
Niels wanted to convince the leading politicians of the time of the need for world peace. In 1950, in an Open Letter addressed to the United Nations, he explained his vision regarding how to prevent a catastrophic situation that could be caused by the atomic bomb.
Unfortunately, his thoughts did not have much impact on leading politicians. Besides continuing his research in physics, for the rest of his life, he tried to make the world understand the importance of those ideas.
I was so incredibly fortunate to meet Amma in 2003. Amma has transformed my life. She has opened my heart and keeps deepening my understanding of the need for compassion. Amma says that compassion is the only way to peace. And to be more compassionate, we need to open our hearts towards each other.
As Amma says the outer world will only change if individuals change from within.
Amma shows us the way by her example of selfless service to the world.
We need to change towards more openness and compassion, as my grandfather envisioned. The needed change cannot be superimposed by any government or politicians.
This might be the reason my grandfather’s letter has not had the full effect.
I have brought with me a copy of the Open Letter Niels Bohr wrote with his own hands, to hand over to Amma. I cannot see any hands more worthy than hers, she who continues to embrace us with unconditional love.
Wireless Technologies for Humanitarian Relief
Dr. Venkat Welcomes ACWR 2011 Delegates
ACWR 2011 Inaugurated
Swamiji’s Address at Inauguration of ACWR 2011
ACWR 2011 Delegates Meet Chancellor Amma
Panel Discussion on Wireless in Healthcare
Disaster Relief at ACWR 2011
Keynote Speeches at ACWR 2011
ACWR 2011 Concludes