Nathan Rosen

Nathan Rosen (March 22, 1909 – December 18, 1995) was an American-Israeli physicist noted for his study on the structure of the hydrogen molecule and his work with Albert Einstein and Boris Podolsky on entangled wave functions and the EPR paradox.

Nathan Rosen was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. He attended MIT during the Great Depression where he received a bachelor’s degree in electromechanical engineering and later a masters and a doctorate in physics. As a student he published several papers of note, one being “The Neutron,” which attempted to explain the structure of the atomic nucleus a year before their discovery by James Chadwick. He also developed an interest in wave functions, and later, gravitation, when he worked as a fellow at the University of Michigan and Princeton University.

The beginning of the 20th century science was progressing quickly, and the inner workings of the atom were just beginning to be discovered. In 1900, Max Planck proposed the quantum theory, the idea that all energy moves in discrete amounts called quanta. In 1905, Albert Einstein published his theory of special relativity, which would be instrumental in the progression of physics and the understanding of the universe. Around 1927, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, collaborating with many other physicists, developed the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory, determining the probabilities of the movement of particles. These breakthroughs provided the model for the structure and workings of the atom and drove the revolution that would sweep up Nathan Rosen.

Work with Einstein

Albert, Boris & Nathan

In 1935 he became Albert Einstein’s assistant at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and continued in that position until 1945. While working with Einstein, Rosen pointed out the peculiarities of Einstein’s studies involving entangled wave functions, and, in coordination with Boris Podolsky, a paper was drafted. The paper, entitled “Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?” labeled these effects the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox or EPR paradox. Einstein encouraged Rosen to continue his career in physics in Israel thereafter. Einstein and Rosen discovered the mathematical solution for a type of wormhole connecting distant areas in space. Dubbed an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or Schwarzschild Wormhole, the solution was found by merging the mathematical models of a black hole and a white hole (a theoretical black hole moving backward in time), using Einstein’s field equations. Einstein-Rosen Bridges are purely theoretical. It was shown in a 1962 paper by theoretical physicists John A. Wheeler and Robert W. Fuller that these types of wormholes are unstable.

Later in his life, Nathan Rosen turned his attentions to teaching and the establishment of new universities. After briefly working for two years in the Soviet Union at the University of Kiev starting in 1936, he returned to the United States, where he taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1941 to 1952. In 1953, after permanently moving to Israel, he joined the Technion in Haifa, Israel. During this time Rosen was advisor to Asher Peres. Technion now has a lecture series named for him. He was President of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in the 1970s and commuted between the two institutions from his home in Haifa. Additionally, Nathan Rosen helped found the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Physical Society of Israel (serving as president from 1955–57), and the International Society for General Relativity and Gravitation (president 1974-77). He was very active in encouraging the founding of higher educational institutions in Israel.

Contributions to physics

Rosen made a number of contributions to modern physics. One of the most lasting discoveries Rosen brought to physics was his formulation of the structure of the hydrogen molecule, a molecule where none of the electrons have a definite quantum number, but the pair of electrons has a pure state. Rosen used what he called “entangled” wave functions to represent the molecule’s structure.

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