Talk:Isidor Isaac Rabi

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Featured article Isidor Isaac Rabi is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.


I found this quote on Slashdot:

"We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids?" -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission

Does anyone have some info on it's background, context time of utterance, etc.? Brutulf 09:44, Feb 17, 2005 (UTC)

It looks like the quote may have become a little distorted. The context is basically Rabi defending Oppenheimer against charges of leaking classified information.

The Bates College reference probably should be removed, since Rabi neither studied nor taught there. The degree Rabi received from Bates was honorary and was just one of dozens of honorary doctorates he received. There is no reason to feature this one and not the others.

Since there are no objections, I have removed the reference.


Does anyone know how to pronounce his last name? Is it Rah-bye or Rah-bee? 23:09, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

It's "RAH-bee". (talk) 00:00, 22 October 2008 (UTC)

Gave the atomic bomb to Israel?[edit] Revery (talk) 08:39, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

"Who ordered this?"[edit]

This famous question may be taken in at least two ways: mystically ("What God set this in order?") or wryly, in imitation of a table of diners at a restaurant ("Which physicist wanted this?"). I'm thinking, from personal experience, of a large party of diners at a Chinese restaurant with many dishes on the menu, and a plate of unrecognized food shows up. What exactly did Rabi mean when he asked this question? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Larrykoen (talkcontribs) 15:05, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Isidor Isaac Rabi/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: TimothyRias (talk · contribs) 09:51, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Rate Attribute Review Comment
1. Well written:
1a. the prose is clear and concise, and the spelling and grammar are correct. Good prose through out. Could maybe work a little bit on conciseness.TR 10:53, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
1b. it complies with the manual of style guidelines for lead sections, layout, words to watch, fiction, and list incorporation. The style of the lede is good but not brilliant. If this ever goes to FAC this would be a point to work on.
2. Verifiable with no original research:
2a. it contains a list of all references (sources of information), presented in accordance with the layout style guideline. excellently sourced
2b. all in-line citations are from reliable sources, including those for direct quotations, statistics, published opinion, counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, and contentious material relating to living persons—science-based articles should follow the scientific citation guidelines.
2c. it contains no original research.
3. Broad in its coverage:
3a. it addresses the main aspects of the topic. The article currently focuses on his life story, but misses some points. See comments bellow.
3b. it stays focused on the topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style). May be on the detailed side in some cases, but not terribly so.
4. Neutral: it represents viewpoints fairly and without editorial bias, giving due weight to each.
5. Stable: it does not change significantly from day to day because of an ongoing edit war or content dispute.
6. Illustrated, if possible, by images:
6a. images are tagged with their copyright status, and valid fair use rationales are provided for non-free content.
6b. images are relevant to the topic, and have suitable captions. WP:ALT texts would need to be added for FA.
7. Overall assessment.

General comments[edit]

I'll add comments here as I go through the article. (note that some of these may be more relevant to a future FA review)TR 09:51, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • Okay, but there is FA chance of it going to FA in 2012, and the odds are only slightly better in 2013. The FA queue is that long. I have several years' supply of FACs. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
  • The lede is very linear in time, basically forming a short three paragraph biography. This closely reflects the structure of the rest of the article, however typically one would expect a more topical structure (e.g. one paragraph about his work, one about his life, one about his accolades). A reader should quickly be able to get answers to the big W questions. Who was Rabi? What is he known for? Why is that important? etc.TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
    • Added a bit. There was a bit of to-ing a fro-ing about magnetic resonance, but in my country, MRI is more familiar to the layman. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

*"His first scientific paper was published in Modern Electrics when he was in elementary school." What kind of paper was this? According to our page on that magazine, it primarily published science fiction stories. In any case, I find it hard to believe that this article can be described as a "scientific paper". Please check.TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • That's not what the Modern Electrics article says. It says it was primarily a magazine for radio enthusiasts. Added a second source, and a bit more about the paper. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Better, but 'scientific paper' still sounds like a huge overstatement for an article in a radio amateur magazine.TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
But one that is used in both the cited sources. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
It will have to do then.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

*"He became an atheist." This sentence is rather oddily wedged between the other statements without making a real connection. Also when? And what exactly does that mean in this context? Did he actively start proclaiming that there was no god? Or did he simply stop believing in one?TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • Added a bit more for you. After my experience with the Dirac article, I must warn you that some editors don't want the Wikipedia to speak of such matters. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Much better. Now, at least there is some context for the statement.TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

*"but neither he nor any of his Jewish classmates received any job offers" This sounds like an implicit accusation of anti-semitism, which may raise issues with WP:NPOV. (Although not unlikely in that period) I suggest either making the statement more explicit. Provided it can be backed up with a source that does so. If no such source can be found, I suggest just dropping the sentence, as it apparently is not that relevant.TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • Well of course I can back up everything I wrote. What does the source say? Rabi had received no job offers. Nor did his Jewish classmates receive any. In 1919, Jews did not get jobs in chemical companies, nor did they have access to faculty positions in colleges and universities. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
    Suggestion: "but since Jews at that time did not get jobs in the chemical industry or academia, he was not offer any positions." My concern with the current sentence is that it suggest something without actually saying it. That is not a good thing for an encyclopedia.TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
    Re-worded per your suggestion. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
    I slightly tweaked your wording. Since you already mention that there was a general trend of not hiring jews, there is little relevance in the fact that his Jewish classmates got jobs or not.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

*"the equation was a hypergeometric function, which Jacobi had solved" This does not make sense to me. Hypergeometric functions are solutions to certain differential equations. Shouldn't this read something like: "Jacobi showed that the solution to this equation was a hypergeometric function"? Please check.TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • The equation had the form of a hypergeometric equation, which Jacobi had already solved. The solution was expressed in terms of a hypergeometric series. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
    In that case, the sentence should say "the equation had the form of a hypergeometric equation" not "the equation was a hypergeometric function". The latter, simply does not make sense. An equation cannot be a function.TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
    Re-worded per your suggestion. I used to know how to solve these. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
    "Hypergeometric function" is the same thing as "hypergeometric series" (strictly speaking the latter is the limit of the former.) I took the limit of replacing the word "function" with equation.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

*"sent it to Physical Review, which published it in 1927." A ref with a citation to the actual paper would be nice. (Same for other explicit mentions of papers).TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • Done. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      Thanks, the same thing goes for the other mentions of scientific papers he published.TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      The reference currently cites the wrong article! (It is citing the article from his thesis)TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
      Moved to the right place. Added a reference to what I believe is the correct article. Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:58, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
      It would be nice if you could also add direct refs for the 1929 articles in Nature and Zeitschrift für Physik mentioned in the text. (Note that this isn't really critical for the current GAN. I just like it when the direct links are easily available.)TR 08:11, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
      Added. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:38, 17 August 2012 (UTC)

*"In May 1927, Rabi was appointed a Barnard Fellow" What is a Barnard Fellow? (The provided wikilink makes no mention of a fellowship) Who awards these?TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • Unlinked. Barnard College at Columbia University awards them, but I don't have a source for this. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      Maybe it would be better to say "Rabi was awarded a fellowship from Barnard College"?TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      My source doesn't say that though. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      It will have to do then.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

*"This came with a $1,500 stipend" Annually?, monthly? One-off?TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • For a northern hemisphere academic year, ie September to June. Added words to this effect. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

*" In Zurich Rabi met Paul Dirac, Walter Heitler, Fritz London, Francis Wheeler Loomis, John von Neumann, John Slater, Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner" That's a rather long list of names. A top physicist will meet a lot of other top physicist during his career. Is their any particular relevance to him meeting these particular people? Was it important to his further development as a physicist?TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • Yes. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      Make that clear then.TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      Suggestion: "In Zurich, he met with some of the finest minds in physics including... (list of big name physicists)". This makes it much clearer to the general reader (who may not have heard of any of these names) who these people were and why meeting them was relevant to Rabi.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
      • Added per your suggestion. Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:58, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

*" Rabi received an offer of a lectureship from Columbia, with a salary of $3,000" per year? (You may want to ask yourself how relevant these actual numbers are. A typical reader will not be able to judge whether this was a lot or very little at the time.)TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • The point was that he was living hand to mouth. He may have achieved a lot more in Europe, but with a wife and child to support he felt the offer was too good to turn down. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      That point is currently not coming across, because a reader cant judge whether the amount is very much or very little. If it was a good salary it may be more effective to just say "with a good salary". Similarly for the earlier mention of the Rockefeller stipend, it may be more effective to say "a small stipend from the Rockefeller Foundation." That communicates the point much more effectively than the actual numbers.TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      The impression I get from the cited source (Rigden) is that the main appeal was that the job was in physics and in his home town, New York. No mention is made to indicate that the height of the salary was a deciding factor.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
      • My reading of Rigden (p. 67) was that Helen's pregnancy was the key factor in giving up their itinerant lifestyle in Europe. But the fact that the job was in NYC was an important factor. Added a few more words to this effect. Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:58, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

*"and returned to the United States in August on the SS President Roosevelt." What is the relevance of the name of the ship on which he travelled? (Even if it was a famous ship).TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • I thought that the modern reader should know that the trip to Europe was a big deal at the time, so I wanted to emphasise the voyage was by ship. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      I see your point. Not sure if it is currently coming across.TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

*"In addition to his teaching duties, Rabi's time was impacted... " Is there a word/clause missing after "time"?TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • No, but I don't like it. Re-written. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      Better, but now there is a word missing :)TR 13:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      Added missing word. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

*"Stern's group had observed that hydrogen did not behave as predicted." Where was Stern again at this time?TR 11:27, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • Still in Hamburg. He remained there until the Nazis came to power. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:54, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

*"Rabi became the only Jewish faculty member at Columbia." The only at the time, or the only ever up till then. (In the latter case you want to say first.)TR 13:51, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • There had been five previous appointments in the 1885-1900 period. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      OK.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

*"including a cavity magnetron, which promised to revolutionise radar." Could you maybe add a few words to give a general idea what a cavity magnetron is for the general reader?TR 13:51, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • Added a bit. They can read the article to find out more. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      Much better.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
  • There is very little information about the kind of scientific work Rabi did after ww2. There is a lot of talk about the various official functions in which he served, but he must have done some scientific work as well. Or is there simply nothing worth mentioning?TR 13:51, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

**No, he didn't do anything. He published his last scientific papers in 1947. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

    • That does not appear to be true. Here is a 1956 paper by him [1]. There seems to be a whole bunch of papers published in 1950s.TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
      Working on it. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:01, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
      Added a bit. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:38, 17 August 2012 (UTC)

*The article currently makes no mention of when Rabi was appointed full professor. (1937, according to his Nobel bio)TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

*The article appears to be incomplete on the topic of honors and awards. For example, there is no mention of him being president of the APS in 1950 or is various honorific doctorates. It may be worthwhile to have a separate section which discusses his honors and awards. (Instead of the current paragraph near the end of the later life section.)TR 10:42, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

    • It is usually preferable to have the honours and awards in the text rather than in a separate section. Added a mention of his presidency of the APS. Unfortunately, I have no list of his honorary doctorates. Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:58, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
      You may want to have a look at the biography on the Nobel prize website I linked above. It mentions several honorary doctorates, academy memberships, etc.TR 21:25, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
      I have included those, from that site, but not the honorary doctorates. This is because of an objection on the talk page to some honorary doctorates being included and not others. Hawkeye7 (talk) 00:15, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
      I don't see the objection you are talking about on the talk page. Is there reason to assume that there are more honorary doctorates? (In any case, I don't think mentioning them is too important anyway.)TR 08:11, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
      This edit from 2006. It refers to an honorary doctarate not mentioned in the Nobel article (possibly because it was awarded after the article was written); so there is at least one. A google search turned up a couple more. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:12, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
  • A final comment. I think the article may be a bit harsh on Rabi's teaching. Rigden takes as a somewhat milder tone by providing some context. For one Rabi was trying to teach QM from the primary sources before any textbooks had been written. He still may not have done a very good job, but some nuance in that direction may be warranted.TR 08:11, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
    • It's just that obliqueness you were complaining about, which is so necessary to steering controversial articles through the review processes. made the point explicitly. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:48, 17 August 2012 (UTC)

Proton,Deuteron,Neutron Magnetic Moments[edit]

I've been looking into the history of the measurement of the neutron magnetic moment. I believe this article rather misrepresents the situation; see the neutron magnetic moment article. Rabi was first to measure the p,d magnetic moments fairly accurately, yes, but these had been measured earlier in 1933-4. The more accurate measurements from the late 1930's were a result of the magnetic resonance techniques developed by Rabi. I would suggest a slight rewrite to suggest that Rabi made accurate indirect determinations of the magnetic moment of the neutron, which was one of the aims of the p and d measurements. The article as it reads now suggests Rabi discovered the p and d magnetic moments, but that is not true. p was by Otto Stern, while d was likely a simultaneous discovery by Stern and Rabi groups. Both groups were after the n magnetic moment with these measurements, I believe.

While I am here, I note that the electric quadrupole moment discovery for the d was actually rather stunning. People were struggling with understanding the nature of the nuclear force at the time, and this discovery was a real breakthrough in that regard. The Rigden book notes this (p. 113, bottom). The nuclear force was not a central force, for one. This article leaves the discovery hanging, without stating why it was so important. Bdushaw (talk) 10:07, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

I have revised the article in line with your suggestions. If you can fix up the neutron magnetic moment article, that would be good. Hawkeye7 (talk) 22:17, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Looks good now; I couldn't have written it better myself... :) I've been working on the neutron magnetic moment article over the past few weeks. I'm about done with it. Happy to have an objective review of it if you (or anyone) finds themselves with a dull moment. Meanwhile, the proton magnetic moment article needs quite a lot of work. (And one wonders if there should not be a deuteron magnetic moment article.) Bdushaw (talk) 05:26, 1 February 2015 (UTC)

external link?[edit]

Would an interview with transcript with Isidor Isaac Rabi from 1986 be useful here as an external link? Focus of conversation is nuclear weapons policy. (I have a conflict of interest; otherwise I would add it myself.) Mccallucc (talk) 18:20, 23 March 2016 (UTC)

YesY Added. I like external links where the reader can actually see and hear the subject. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:56, 23 March 2016 (UTC)