Elementary Particles: Science, Technology, and Society by Luke C. L. Yuan

By Luke C. L. Yuan

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In electron microscopes, incoherent beams of electrons are focused by magnetic fields, and due to the relatively short wavelength of the electrons in the beam very large magnifications can be obtained, so that structures as small as complex molecules can be probed. Similarly, intense incoherent, but directed, nuclear radiation could become an extremely powerful tool, which to contain would require quite new materials that must also first be produced. To illustrate, if 10 lb of matter per day were very efficiently converted into directed radiation traveling with a velocity near that of light, then a thrust would be developed which would move a one-ton weight 30 million miles from a starting point during the first day, and, since acceleration—here about one g which is equal to the gravitational acceleration on the earth's surface—would continue, much greater distances during the following days, truly immense distances compared to those possible with rockets driven by chemical combustion.

Of even greater importance, however, seems to be the stimulation that particle physics provides for industrial development. For instance, the great need for high magnetic fields, in order to produce high-energy particles economically, select the proper ones for study, and to measure their interactions, has provided industry with one of its incentives to develop superconducting materials which can conduct very large currents at very small electric power. As a result, already electric power transmission lines with 36 R.

What seems nearly ideal today may need changes tomorrow. This continuing flow of needs is the most difficult to predict or satisfy. Perhaps the ultimate "frustration" of death will always be hard to accept for humans—and stagnant eternal life without continuing growth seems equally unacceptable—but a substantial reduction or elimination of all the other frustrations occurring in a lifetime might produce a sufficiently stable situation and environment for generally available happiness. How might such aims be helped by research and an understanding of the forces acting in our universe?

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