Maria Goeppert-Mayer

Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1906 - 1972) received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

Maria Goeppert came from a family with a long history of university professors and a family expectation that she would attend university. Although university preparatory classes were not as readily available for young women she was availed herself of opportunities and passed the entrance examinations to enter the University at Göttingen in the Spring 1924. Intending to study mathematics, she became interested in physics and changed to that field; earning a doctorate in theoretical physics in 1930.

In 1930 she came to the USA with her new husband Joseph Edward Mayer. During most the depression years she was not able to find a teaching position at a university however continued her research and learning in various fields of physics. In 1946 they went to Chicago and she became Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Chicago and was a researcher at the Argonne National Laboratory. It was during this time that Dr. Goeppert-Mayer did the work on nuclear shell structure for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1963 with J. Hans D. Jensen and Eugene Paul Wigner.

In 1960 she received an appointment as Professor of Physics at University of California San Diego.

Much of this information is from the Nobel Prize site:


I am indebted to Sharon Presley for sparking my interest in Dr. Goeppert-Mayer by her post in Facebook about her as a series of women in science:


March 24 is Ada Lovelace Day in the blogosphere.

A Sad Situation

Recently we have had news reports that are a sad commentary on the state of knowledge and discourse in some segments of the USA.

A few weeks back there was a poll of a couple of thousand Republicans taken by Daily Kos and Research 2000. I just became aware of the poll and one question jumped out at me because it was not a question about policy but about a simple matter of where Obama was born. According to the poll when asked if they believed that Obama was born in the United States 36% said No. Think about this a moment; 36% said No; based on what? There is a birth certificate and newspaper notice and reports of relatives that support Obama being born in Hawaii. Is there any evidence for any other birth place for Obama or which calls into question the evidence for Hawaii? Although many seem to have investigated this matter none has been provided. So why do 36% of the people in the poll say No? Are these 36% saying No based on wishful thinking or what? The poll was sponsored by Daily Kos which has a known political bias and while I do not think the poll was deliberately distorted; for the sake of discussion let us cut 36% in half and call it 18%. Still 18% is approximately 1 in 6 people. For 1 in 6 people to answer a poll that Obama was not born in the USA is mind boggling.

The news reports I have seen indicate that racial slurs were shouted at Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as he and other Congresspersons walked into vote Saturday on the health bill. The report is that the person or persons shouting the racial slurs were part of a rally against the bill; the organizer of the rally has denounced the racial slurs. Also it is reported that Rep. Barney Frank was called a homophobic slur. This sort of behavior is boorish and vile.

Over the weekend several windows in offices of Democratic party members were broken by bricks and rocks. At least one person named Mike Vanderboegh actually has a blog where he appears to be advocating this sort of misbehavior and general stupidity. It is difficult to make much sense of his ramblings but if he thinks that throwing bricks through windows is going to improve the situation then he is mistaken. It is difficult to tell if he is a misguided idiot or a delusional fool or a hypocritical opportunist out for personal gain. Unfortunately Vanderboegh is the type of person who has no clue about libertarian philosphy yet will think it is a neat sounding term so will call themselves libertarian. Glenn Beck is another one who seems to want to falsely call himself a libertarian. Beck and Vanderboegh are not libertarians.

I would like to suggest that there are a lot of people who need to slow down, take a deep breath and get a grip; then maybe rational discourse will be possible.


Ash - A Book Review

Warning this review contains spoilers.

The novel Ash is not the type of book I normally read. It is a book with fairies and spells and magic. It is written for and marketed towards teens. So how did I happen to read the book? I had seen it mentioned in a couple of blogs so I was aware of the title. What got me really interested was listening to the author Melinda Lo participate on a panel at the 2009 World Fantasy Convention held in San Jose. I found Lo's remarks about the book and writing in general interesting enough that after the panel was over I went to the dealer's room and found a copy to buy. Just as I getting ready to make the purchase the author came by and so I now have an autographed copy.

A quick summary of the book is that it is Cinderella retold. The story has the usual elements of a cruel stepmother and her two daughters who have access to the court. Ash is the step daughter who is made to do the manual labor of the household. Melinda Lo does a fine job of maintaining the overall structure of the Cinderella story while adding new twists and character changes that it keeps the readers interest. For example the two daughters Ana and Clara have character differences which keep them from simply being stereotypes; this is particularly true of Clara who is a more pleasant and less self-absorbed character; and who at the end of the novel shows signs of becoming a better person. The book is further populated with a range of characters from both the fairy world and the non-fairy world.

The story picks up intensity as Ash meets and becomes friends with Kaisa the women who leads the King's hunt. Since this is a Cinderella story we are given a grand ball where Ash dances with the prince and dazzles him. But to be able to attend the ball Ash has to make a pact with Sidhean of the fairy world and paying that debt provides tension and we see Ash grow as she struggles to deal with her commitments as well as understand the relationship between Sidhean and her mother whose death is described early in the book.

The book concludes Ash returning to the royal court where the prince is going to announce his choice from all of the eligible young ladies of the country. But Ash leaves her cruel stepmother not for the prince but for the Kaisa the King's Huntress. This conclusion is well written and flows easily from the rest of the book without seeming hurried or overly dramatic.

For persons like me who do not normally read stories with fairies the book might start a bit slow however after the first few pages I got into the flow of the book and it was well paced through out. It is also the appropriate length at about 260 pages of easy to read type. Too many authors might have been tempted to pad the length out and I think increasing the length would have diminished the pace of the book. I recommend this book.

Potlatch and Restaurant Review

Potlatch is a small literary oriented SF convention that is held annually in each the Seattle or San Francisco Bay Area or occasionally in Portland. This year it was held March 5-7 in Seattle. I attended and had a wonderful time. The attendance is about 150 people and it has a single track of programming on generally literary topics as well as a small dealers room where one can find many interesting books. In addition to the scheduled program items there are nanoprogram items which are small gatherings which any person at the con arranges by putting up a notice of the topic, location and time. Anyone interested can show up. In 2011 the next Potlatch is scheduled to be in the San Francisco Bay Area most likely in Sunnyvale. More information can be found at the Potlatch website.

Potlatch was held in the Hotel Deca; an atypical hotel with character located in the University district of Seattle. There many choices for eating in that area. On Saturday a group of five from Potlatch walked the few blocks to eat at Chaco Canyon Cafe. This quirky vegetarian, organic restaurant prepares tasty food and serves it in relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Two people in our group of five SF fans run a farm which sells produce to the restaurant and were the ones who recommended it. Everyone in our group enjoyed the food.