. JJ: September, 2014
It was in the fall of 1998 shortly after my retirement that I attended the International Conference on Exotic Nuclei and Atomic Masses ENAM1998 at the Shanty Creek Resorts near Bellaire in Northern Michigan. One day I became aware that several of my faculty colleagues from the University of Michigan were present, Fred Becchetti, Larry Jones, Bob Lewis, Ted Hecht, Byron Roe, and a few others. I asked them whether they had come to play golf at the resort. Well, they hadn’t. What I didn’t know was that at the beginning of the banquet in the evening Fred Becchetti announced that I had retired, and he gave me a present and a document. I then had to say a few words which were not very coherent. I very much regret not thinking about this earlier, because I could have made some interesting comments for the attendees of this conference and selected reminiscences about earlier atomic mass conferences.
For example, something like this: “First, I want to thank my colleagues from the University of Michigan to have come here on this occasion. When I saw them earlier I thought they had come to play golf. Also, I thank you for the gift. – Given the opportunity, I want to say a few words mostly about earlier AMCO and ENAM conferences. (Atomic Masses and Fundamental Constants / Exotic Nuclei and Atomic Masses)
The first AMCO Conference which I attended was AMCO3 at Winnipeg, Mannitoba, in 1967. I had received a letter from Professor Burcham in England whether I could give a talk on Coulomb energies. I had just published a paper on “Vector and Tensor Coulomb Energies”.
But let me very briefly back up. The first International Nuclear Physics Conference which I ever attended was as a beginning student in Heidelberg in about 1950. The occasion was the 60s birthday of Professor Bothe. He later became my Ph.D. thesis chairman, also – more importantly – he received the Nobel Prize. This was the very first international conference in Germany after the second world war. It was attended by Bothe, of course, Kopfermann, Mayer-Leibnitz, Heisenberg, Otto Hahn, Schmelzer – who built the Univac at the GSI in Darmstadt – J.H.D.Jensen and Maria Goeppert-Meyer from Chicago – later both recipients of the Nobel prize for the discovery of the nuclear shell model. Then Gentner who became important at CERN and then director of the MPI in Heidelberg, Prof. Clay from Leyden, Nordheim from California, remember the Nordheim rules, Scandinavian participation, Lise Meitner, Wolfgang Pauli, also a recipients of the Nobel prize, and many others. Again, this was my first international nuclear physics conference. – Another interesting conference which I attended was a few years later in 1958 in Geneva on the “Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy”. I came back and told my colleagues at the Max–Planck-Institute what I had learned, fusion energy will become available in 2-3 years.
A conference which changed my life was the Congrès International de Physique Nucleaire in 1964 in Paris. I had previously spent a couple of years as a Research Associate and Lecturer at the University of Michigan, and I had returned to Germany. At this conference I again met my colleague Bill Parkinson from Ann Arbor. He asked me why I had never responded to their letter. I hadn’t received this letter. It got lost. Well, they had made me an offer for a faculty position. The rest is history.
Back to AMCO3 in Winnipeg. I gave my invited presentation, and I still remember that a distinguished participant of the Conference, actually a very distinguished participant, fell asleep in the first row. I am inclined to believe that this was due to jetlag, of course. – But I also distinctly remember walking down a hallway, with sunshine coming in from the side, when three Israeli physicists came the other direction. I had exchanged pre- and re-prints with Nissan Zeldes before, but this was the first time I met him in person. I did not know then that this would become a lifelong friendship with him and later also with his wife Carla. Christa and I met Carla when they spend a long sabbatical in Ann Arbor at the end of the 1980s and again in 1995.
And then came all the other wonderful and interesting AMCO Conferences in Teddington near London, in Paris, East Lansing, Damstadt. Then the joint NFFS/AMCO conference in 1992 in Bernkastel-Kues, beautiful sunshine, and the first ENAM (Exotic Nuclei and Atomic Masses) conference in Arles, France. And finally the present conference in Northern Michigan.
At the Teddington Conference I remember the evening when Nissan and I went to see the play “Fiddler on the Roof”. In Paris I remember the banquet up on the Eiffel Tower, and also the initial reception at the Musèe de Metrology. We were reminded of the 100-year anniversary of the 1875 “Convention du Mètre”. But I still have to memorize that 1 mile has 5280 feet and a gallon of milk contains 128 fluid ounces !
So, let me conclude with AMCO 8, the conference which wasn’t. AMCO 8 was to take place in Jerusalem in 1990 organized by Nissan Zeldes. I had prepared such a nice talk, and then it was cancelled because of events in the Middle East. E-mails went back and forth before the conference, whether one should cancel, or whether the Israeli organizers had worked out plans to evacuate all participants. Well, long before the beginning of the conference I had requested airline tickets from TWA using frequent flyer miles, still worth something in those days. So, I had two free tickets from Detroit Metro to Ben Gurion Airport. Also with a one-week stop in Rome. And, since TWA didn’t fly Rome-Israel, “unfortunately” we had to fly back to Paris for another two days. Well, we arrived in Israel but there was no conference. Therefore, Nissan and Carla had all the time to spend with us. There were no tourists in town. At the hotel we could pick the room with the best view down onto the Old City and the Jaffa Gate. Christa and I together with a woman from New York tried to have a guided tour through the Old City. After much effort the boss of the tourist organization took us around to interesting places. In one place Yeshiva students shouted at us because women were not allowed there, in another place young Palestinian boys wanted to throw stones at us. One day the four of us drove down to the Dead Sea. We swam, and then we sat down in a spa hotel lobby, and I remember that we started talking into the dark as if we had known each other since childhood, even though our childhoods in Germany and Israel, Carla’s in Italy before she had to leave, were indeed very different. – After the week in Jerusalem was over, at the suggestion of a secretary, I was the only one who had his registration fee reimbursed. After all, I had attended the Conference !
International Conferences are important for the exchange of scientific ideas and for establishing collaborations. But these gatherings are equally important for making personal contacts between people from different parts of the world and different cultures. – Let me stop here.”
Added later: Since ENAM1995 in Arles the four of us always spend time together after the conference, then driving through the Provence with Nîmes and Avignon. In 1998 at the conference in Bellaire the two wives explored the Northern Michigan countryside while the husband listened to lectures, and afterward we spend time together at our cottage on Lake Michigan. In 2001 after the conference in Finland we flew to Saint Petersburg to enjoy this beautiful city with its museums. The last of this sequence of conferences we both attended was ENAM2004 at the beautiful Callaway Gardens in Georgia. After this conference we drove back to Ann Arbor and spent a week together. Yes, friendships are important. Since then only email, snail mail, telephone calls.
I have, of course attended over the years very many other meetings, symposia, workshops, and conferences, many in the United States, but also in Canada and many places in Europe, and in later years in Russia and Japan. In 1990 I attended the Symposium “Nuclear Physics in the 1990’s” in Santa Fe in Honor of Akito Arima, an important Japanese theorist and administrator and visitor to Ann Arbor in 1973 for a 2-week workshop. In 1991 I helped to organize here in Ann Arbor an International Symposium to Honor our colleague K.T.Hecht, “Group Theory and Special Symmetries in Nuclear Physics”. In 2000, at the last conference I attended in Japan, a special challenge arose when towards the end I had to express thanks to the conference organizer – in Japanese.
Shown in the photographs are Nissan Zeldes (1926 – 2014) and his wife Carla Zeldes (1929 – 2013). Nissan was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Racah Institute of Physics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During his career he has been guest scientist at the Niels Bohr Institut in Copenhagen, at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, at CSNSM and IPN in Orsay, at the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and at the University of Tennesse in Knoxville. In particular, he spent a sabbatical of 15 months at the University of Michigan in 1989/90 and again for 3–4 months in 1995. He interacted primarily with the Nuclear Group and the Theory Group, also with Professor Homer Neal.
. Nissan Zeldes’ last publication was a review of the groundbreaking papers of Racah who developed the mathematical methods for the calculation of the spectra of complex atoms. This work was carried out in Jerusalem in complete scientific isolation during the years of World War II. In this work Racah pioneered the use of symmetries and group theory.
Zeldes, N., “Giulio Racah and Theoretical Physics in Jerusalem”, Arch Hist Exact Sci 63, 289 – 323 (2009)