Robert James Moon
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Robert James Moon (February 14, 1911 – November 1, 1989) was an American physicist, chemist and engineer. An important figure in 20th century nuclear science, he was involved in America's wartime Manhattan Project. He pioneered work on the fundamental structure of the atomic nucleus based on Platonic solids.
Life and work
From a rural background, he arrived at the University of Chicago at the age of 16 in 1928. He earned a Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry under William Draper Harkins and then a doctorate in physics. Starting in the 1930s, he taught at both departments.
In the 1930s, Moon built one of the first cyclotrons in the world, with many improvements over the device built by Ernest Lawrence. During World War II, he played a key role in the Manhattan Project. After the war, he constructed the first scanning X-ray microscope and pioneered in optical biophysics studies on the action potential in nerves. He conducted biophysical research in connection with the Argonne National Laboratory.
His study of the electrodynamic theories of André-Marie Ampère and Wilhelm Weber led him to reconsider the usual interpretation of the Rutherford scattering data, which ignores the variation in force between charged particles as a result of relative velocities and accelerations. Calculations based on the Weber electrodynamics forced Moon to re-conceptualize most of what is, still today, taken for granted in atomic and nuclear physics.
In the 1984 – 1986 period, Moon came up with his proposal for a geometric ordering of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus based on nested Platonic solids. This "Moon Model", was inspired by Johannes Kepler’s conception of the solar system, as described in Kepler's work Mysterium Cosmographicum. The model is also inspired by the discovery by von Klitzing of the quantum Hall effect, leading Moon to believe that space itself is quantized, and that the nucleons are positioned at discrete locations, i.e. at the vertices of a set of nested platonic solids.
- Hecht, Laurence; Stevens, Charles B. (Fall 2004), "New Explorations with The Moon Model" (PDF), 21st Century Science and Technology, p. 58
- University of Chicago Photo Archive, Accelerator Building http://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/db.xqy?one=apf2-00146.xml