How Disaster Accompanied a Quantum Physicist Wherever He Went
To the world, Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli was an esteemed theoretical physicist, a Nobel laureate. To the depth psychology community associated with Carl G. Jung, his extraordinary, vivid dreams, packed with symbolism (according to Jung), and anonymously conveyed to preserve patient privacy, were widely discussed. (Once Pauli and Jung published a book together, the thin cloak of anonymity dropped away.). Finally, to the circle of physicists surrounding Pauli, he was admired for his brilliance, feared for his scathing criticisms, and mocked for the “Pauli Effect:” a propensity for disaster striking whenever he was in the vicinity of a laboratory, or other structure.
If Wolfgang Pauli set foot in an experimental physics laboratory, the legend went, sheer mayhem would result. Beakers would crack, bunsen burners fail to ignite, oscilloscopes would cease to function, and expensive equipment would catch on fire. Collecting data would be useless, except perhaps calculating the total damage for an insurance report. Thus the Pauli Effect, succinctly stated, is that Pauli and labs were an explosive mix. No wonder researcher Otto Stern decided to bar Pauli from passing through the doors of his laboratory.
Theorist George Gamow, on the other hand, insisted that the Pauli Effect was proof of his high standing in the field of theoretical physics — like an opera singer breaking glass with her voice, brilliant theoreticians seemed to have a propensity for shattering delicate lab apparatus.
But even if Pauli didn’t step foot inside a lab, as long as he was in its vicinity its researchers could not rest easy. The Pauli Effect appeared to work through walls and across considerable distances. For instance, one time the train Pauli was riding in was briefly passing…