Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Cooper discusses his recent work in the understanding of consciousness from a material point of view. Although there is concern that this might take away from the mystery of life, he quips, “If you tell me what the chemistry is of the digestion of a great wine… it’s not going to stop me from enjoying the wine.”
Superconductivity and Other Insoluble Problems: Are There Limits to Scientific Understanding?
A talk by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon N. Cooper
When an ordinary metal is cooled to very low temperatures — near absolute zero — its electrical resistance vanishes. Once a current starts to flow in a loop of such “superconducting” wire, it flows forever. Discovered in 1911, this remarkable phenomenon defied explanation for nearly fifty years, until the work of John Bardeen, Leon Cooper and J. Robert Schrieffer. Today, superconductivity is still a central topic in scientific research and in the search for new technologies, while the “BCS” theory has had implications for our understanding of systems ranging from the atomic nucleus to the behavior of massive stars. To celebrate the centennial of the original discovery, we are delighted to welcome Professor Cooper, who will reflect on the history of superconductivity and on the nature of scientific explanation.
Leon Cooper is the Thomas J. Watson, Sr., Professor of Science at Brown University, where he also directs the Center for Neural Science. A graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, he shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the theory of superconductivity.