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January 11, 2016

Half Life: Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist and Spy?

Professor Frank Close
Report by: Mike Meynell
Professor Frank Close

Professor Frank Close

Bruno Pontecorvo was the father of neutrino astronomy and a brilliant nuclear physicist who disappeared through the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War. He was first with an idea on how to find the ghostly neutrino, he proposed experiments that led to discovery of solar neutrinos, he realised that there is more than one variety of these enigmatic beasts and inspired the new science of neutrino astronomy. Yet, he never won a Nobel Prize, and this is partly because his time in the Soviet Union prevented him fulfilling his ideas. To this day, the mystery remains – why did he flee so suddenly, was he a brilliant spy as well as a physicist, and what secrets did he take with him to the Soviet Union?

In this lecture, Professor Frank Close of Oxford University told the story, from his new book Half Life and revealed the role of the infamous traitor, Kim Philby in the affair.

Frank Close is Professor Emeritus at Oxford University and Fellow of Exeter College; former Head of Theoretical Physics at Rutherford Laboratory and Head of Communications at CERN. Winner of the Royal Society Michael Faraday Award for Science Communication in 2014, and three times winner of the British Science Writers Prize. In addition to over 200 research papers on the quark and gluon structure of nuclear particles, he has written 15 popular science books, including Neutrino, and the theme for this talk: Half Life. He is currently writing a book about eclipses and researching the life and work of Klaus Fuchs.

Here are some pictures from the evening:

Pictures from the Evening (by Malcolm Porter):

Posted under: Flamsteed, Flamsteed Lecture, Meeting Report