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Fritz Zwicky

From Academic Kids

Fritz Zwicky (February 14 1898February 8 1974) was a Swiss astronomer, born in Varna, Bulgaria to Swiss parents.

In 1925 he came to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in the United States. He worked at Caltech for the rest of his career but remained a Swiss citizen. He is famous for referring to colleagues with whom he disagreed as "spherical bastards" (because, he claimed, they were bastards any way one looked at them). He was the first to use the virial theorem to deduce the existence of dark matter. He proposed the use of gravitational lenses. With Walter Baade, he came up with the idea that supernovae could create neutron stars and produce cosmic rays. He also pioneered and promoted the use of Schmidt telescopes. In his later career, he compiled a Catalogue of Galaxies and of Clusters of Galaxies (CGCG). He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1972.

The asteroid 1803 Zwicky and Zwicky crater on the moon were both named in his honour.


The Dark Matter Rap

My name is Fritz Zwicky
I can be kind of prickly,
This song had better start
by giving me priority
Whatever anybody says,
I said in 1933
Observe the Coma cluster,
the redshift of the galaxies
imply some big velocities.
They're moving so fast,
there must missing mass!
Dark matter.

For nearly forty years,
the matter problem sits.
Nobody gets worried 'cause,
"It's only crazy Fritz."
The next step's not 'til
the early nineteen seventies,
Ostriker and Peeples,
dynamics of the galaxies,
cold disk instabilities.
They say: "If the mass
were sitting in the stars,
all those pretty spirals
ought to be bars!
Self-gravitating disks? Uh-uh, oh no.
What those spirals need is a massive halo.
And hey, look over here, check out these observations,
Vera Rubin's optical curves of rotation,
they can provide our needed confirmation:
Those curves aren't falling, they're FLAT!
Dark matter's where it's AT!

And so the call goes out for the dark matter candidates:
black holes, snowballs, gas clouds, low mass stars, or planets.
But we quickly hit a snag because galaxy formation
requires too much structure in the background radiation
if there's only baryons and adiabatic fluctuations.
The Russians have an answer: "Wr can solve the impasse.
Lyubimov has shown that the neutrino has mass."
Zeldovich cries, "Pancakes! The dark matter's HOT."
Carlos Frenk, Simon White, Marc Davis say, "NOT!
Quasars are old, and the pancakes must be young.
Forming from the top down it can't be done."
So neutrinos hit the skids, and the picture's looking black.
But California laid-back Blumenthal & Primack
say, "Don't have a heart attack.
There's lots of other particles
Just read the physics articles."

Who's right? It's hard to know, 'til observation or experiment
gives overwhelming evidence that relieves our predicament.
The search is getting popular as many realize
that the detector of dark matter may well win the Nobel Prize.


"The Dark Matter Rap"
-David Weinberg
Featured in Timothy Ferris' The Whole Shebang'


External links

fr:Fritz Zwicky ru:Фритз Цвикки sl:Fritz Zwicky

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