The only movies [Bohr] liked were Wild Westerns (Hollywood style), and he always needed a couple of his students to go with him and explain the complicated plots... But his theoretical mind showed even in this movie expeditions. He developed a theory to explain why although the villain always draws first, the hero is faster and manages to kill him. This Bohr theory was based on psychology. Since the hero never shots first, the villain has to decide when to draw, which impedes his action. The hero on the other hand acts according to conditioned reflexes and grabs the gun automatically as soon as he sees the villain's hand move. We disagreed with this theory, and the next day I went to a toy store and bought two guns in Western holders. We shot it out with Bohr, he being the hero, and he "killed" all his students.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Advent calendar #24: Bohr's theory of the Wild West
Today's anecdote about Niels Bohr comes from George Gamow's book "Thirty years that shook physics - The story of quantum theory." This is the same Gamow we have met earlier in correspondence with Wolfgang Pauli. Gamow is the person who famously predicted the cosmic background radiation long before it was discovered. In the late 1920s, he was a student in Copenhagen under Niels Bohr, and tells the following: