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Prof. Rabi of U. S. at Unesco Parley Asks Setting Up of Nuclear Laboratory


FLORENCE, Italy, June 7—The establishment of a nuclear physics laboratory, complete with cyclotron, in Western Europe was proposed today to members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization by Prof. Isidor I. Rabi, United States representative.

The United States Nobel prize winner suggested the nuclear science center as the first of several pure research laboratories to which Unesco could give an initial push leaving financing and operation to the joint action of the states that would take part in regional enterprise. Provisionally, Unesco's program committee gave its blessings to the recommendation, which without mentioning the physics center as a pilot operation, simple called for the creation of regional laboratories to promote “international collaboration of scientists.”

Would Use Counterpart Funds

The idea of starting with a. nuclear project, however, was quickly taken up by Britain. Prof. George Thomson, British physicist. Proposed, moreover, that the cost of construction be met by counterpart funds available in the Marshal Plan countries of Western Europe. Warm support came also from Italy, Switzerland, Brazil and the Netherlands.

The immediate reaction of some delegates was that, ideally, such a center should be set up in Switzerland and that its cost should be equivalent to more than $3,000,000.

In submitting his suggestion Professor Rabi told the conference he had in mind the “construction of a large instrument at a suitable place on the continent of Europe of the kind which is being built in many parts of the United States and Britain.” He elaborated on this after the session, saying he referred to a cyclotron of the type in several American universities, including Columbia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell.

Professor Rabi assured the conference the project would have the support of Belgian, Dutch, West German, French, Italian and Swiss scientists and added that he had already discussed the idea with many of them.

From the point of view of simplicity, he said, Europe is the best place to begin since it is the cradle of science, while its experts now are without facilities.

For Other Projects

“If such an initial project were to succeed, its organization would be an impetus and model for other projects of this type in other fields." Professor Rabi said. “It would also be a great victory for Unesco if it were able to show a visible and tangible result of its efforts as a catalytic agent in obtaining the practical collaboration of scientists from various countries in the region.”

He said he envisaged a modest beginning for Unesco with a sum of about $5,000 to cover the cost of selecting the site and taking construction estimates. Unesco, he emphasized, should not contribute to the building or maintenance out of its regular budget.

From: The New York Times, Thursday, 8 Jun 1950, p. 3.

See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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