Almanac June 28 :: Maria Goeppert-Mayer

Maria Goeppert-Mayer (June 28, 1906 – February 20, 1972) was a German-born American theoretical physicist, and Nobel laureate in Physics for proposing the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus. She is the second female laureate in physics, after Marie Curie.

Her description of how "magic numbers" of nucleons engender atomic stability:
"Think of a room full of waltzers. Suppose they go round the room in circles, each circle enclosed within another. Then imagine that in each circle, you can fit twice as many dancers by having one pair go anti-clockwise and another pair go counterclockwise. Then add one more variation; all the dancers are spinning twirling round and round like tops as they circle the room, each pair both twirling and circling. But only some of those that go counterclockwise are twirling counterclockwise. The others are twirling clockwise while circling counterclockwise. The same is true of those that are dancing around clockwise: some twirl clockwise, others twirl counterclockwise."




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