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Man and the multitude. This University of Illinois Centennial symposium presented by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences studies contemporary man poised between past and future and between isolation and community of the world. Guest speakers and panel members comment on the conflicting forces which push men apart from others. And into communion with others. Lectures in this series will be followed by discussions involving speakers visiting professors and University of Illinois faculty members as well as interested students. Our speaker George Wald is professor of biology at Harvard University. He first identified vitamin A in the retina and in 1939 received the Eli Lilly award for fundamental research in biochemistry from the American Chemical Society. He has also received the Lasker Award of the American Public Health Association and the proctor medal of the Association for Research in ophthalmology. Recent awards include the Romford medal from the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Ives medal from the Optical Society of America. Mr wall has been a member of the faculty of Harvard since 1934 and is tutor instructor associate professor and Professor. He will now speak on the human enterprise a scientist's view. Man is engaged in an unending effort to know. That is a pit in my eyes. In science. Science. Is an attempt to understand all reality. As such it is altogether good as a culture in which the good. There can be no bad science. Not science as knowing.
Any other attitude would be a plea for ignorance. There is another kind of enterprise. Quite different from science. You have frequently confused with it. It is the application of science to useful lands. Technology. I've said that all science is good. But I should not think of saying any such thing about technology. Technology. Is for use. And in any properly functioning society. New and running and to prizes in technology. Should be the subject of constant review and decision in terms of the needs and goals and aspirations our grat society.
To sum up these few words. I think if one asks. Should one narrow all that one can. The answer clearly is less. If one asks should one do all that one can. The answer as clearly is no. There is a similar dichotomy. Between two other towns. Creation. And production. Creation. Is altogether good. As our culture interprets the good. But production again. Is for use. And all production. In a properly run society. Should be a constant judgment and review.
In terms. Of the needs and goals and aspirations of that society. One speaks frequently nowadays of the alienation. Many. With aspects of the modern world and frequently one. Describes. An alien nation with science. I think however that that is to misunderstand the meaning of science. Which is knowing. Science. Cannot. In the long run. Produce a feeling of alienation. On the contrary. Its principal business is to make man feel at home in the universe. To tell him. What kind of human advice.
He inhabits. And what his status is within that universe. The only quarrel that can be with science in this regard. Is that it has not gone far enough well hasn't done its work well enough. There can be nothing wrong with science. That ignorance can folks. There was a period in the last 50 to 100 years. In which scientists were busy clearing a ground. That had become cluttered with traditional leaves of various kind. And for a time it seemed as though science was undercutting man's view of himself. And his place. And space and
time. Depriving him. Of a position of dignity and substance in the universe. That he had believed in and cherish. And for a time. Giving him nothing to replace those lost beliefs. But that was a passing phase in which science itself was trying to achieve. New ground. That ground is now being found. And in the past few years. Our view of nature and man's place in the universe. Has achieved a degree of unity that we've never had before. Within that community. There is a proud and substantial place for man. What is that unity.
Matter appears to us in a hierarchy of states of organization. Beginning with the elementary particles. Of the atoms of the molecules. Of the. Ultimately living organisms of the animal and plant societies. And this hierarchy of states of organization. Is reflected also in a temporal or temporal sequence. We realize now. That we live in a historical universe. One in which not only living organisms. But stars and galaxies are born and. Come to maturity grow old and die.
That the universe is made of four kinds of elementary particle. Protons. Electrons. Neutrons. And photons which are particles of radiation. Perfectly proper particles although unlike the others they have no rest mass. One could begin in such a universe as this with hydrogen. One could indeed begin with such a universe as this. With one of those elementary particles neutrons. From Within. The half life of about 15 minutes. Half those neutrons would have decayed into
protons electrons. And radiation. Thank. You. If one thinks of starting with such a plasma. Of elementary particles. As we suppose this universe itself began. And as surely. Galaxies and stars begin. If we suppose that beginning with plasma. Of elementary particles. One thinks that here and there. This. Will form. Within this fluid. And these eddies then become the nuclei of condensation. And under the forces
of. The gravity. These masses of material they begin to collapse about such nuclei and then collapsing. Heat up. Temperature rises and that is as it reaches something in the neighborhood of five million degrees. The process begins. With the so-called band that wood isn't panning the so-called burning. Of hydrogen to helium more properly. Of protons which are hydrogen nuclei to nuclei or particles. The protons have mass about 1 and we here iam nuclei have mass about 4 4 protons go to
make one alpha particle or nucleus. But in that multiplication of four ones becoming four roughly there is a small loss of mass right here in the M nucleus has a somewhat slightly smaller mass. Than that for protons. And that mass. Is converted to radiation. By. According to I should say better Einstein's famous equation E equals MC squared. Though the mass is small it's multiplied by a tremendous numbers c square C is the speed of light. Three times ten to the tenth centimeters per second c square is nine times 10 to the twentieth. And enormous number. And so this small mass.
Is turned into a great amount of radiation. That mass of material that has been collapsing to this point having reached this temperature which this process begins and begins to pour out radiation. These enormous quantities of energy poured out in that way begin to resist the further collapse of the mass and it comes into a kind of delicate balance. A steady state. And this is the birth of a star. It is now a young star. And has started on its period of youth and maturity all the time that we say it is on the Main Sequence. Oh. But there comes a time in Apatow. When this star. Whose metabolism. Consists of that
conversion. Of hydrogen to helium. There comes a time inevitably when it begins to run out of hydrogen. And with this. It begins to collapse again. And then collapsing. Heats Up other. And when the temperature in its interior reaches something. Of the order of 100 million degrees. A new series of nuclear reactions. Begin. And these began again to pour out huge amounts of energy which not only resist all further collapse but blow this star up. To much greater dimensions than it had before. And it now has become. A red giant. It is now in its period of senility. It is a
dying. Star. It is red because its surface has cooled. But in the deep interior there it is enormous temperatures. And that those temperature has. A new reaction develops. From burning. Hydrogen. To helium. And that reaction depends upon a process. That so far as one president knows. Can happen only under these conditions. You see there are 92 natural elements. And that Hooley life. The first generation of stars involved only two elements hydrogen and helium. And that had raised the problem. For physicists. Where are the other elements come from.
And George gamma. Some years ago. A man who never hesitates to rush in where angels fear to tread. I. Drew a nice diagram. Of a graph. Out the first 20 minutes of the universe. By the end of which one had all the elements. But then it turned out shortly afterward. That there was trouble and any such separation. You see. I've already described how one goes from an element of mass one hydrogen to one of mass for helium. How does one go on. Well. You could add one more hydrogen that would make five. But there is no stable element of mass 5. Well you could add two of those here limbs together four and four make eight. But there is no stable element of Mance 8. And the whole story got stuck at this point.
Until one realized these new possibilities that the marriage in the interiors. Of. Dying stars. And red giants. Because there one can begin to. And I'm using the wrong term again. Burn in. Helium. Helium has mass for. Add two mediums together and you have mass 8. That's beryllium beryllium. Of Mass a highly unstable half life. About 10 to the minus 16 seconds. But at these enormous densities. And these temperatures in the deep interiors of red giants. That little girl really mass it forms can capture one more helium. It's just arithmetic. Eight and four make twelve. Please tell me what's 12 mass 12 as carbon. And that's how carbon. And do it this universe. And then
when you have carbon cannot another here you mean 12 and 4 makes 16 watt 16. Oxygen 16 mass 16 as oxygen. And that's the way oxygen came into this universe. And when one has the carbon. And the oxygen. They become catalysts. For a new way of burning hydrogen to helium in which the carbon of mass 12. Begins picking up. Hydrogen nuclei protons when it's got to work them. We've got to mass 14 watts mass 14 nitrogen and that's how nitrogen comes into the universe. And then nitrogen picks up two more protons eventually and you've got to 16 which is oxygen and then the oxygen nucleus Cleaves. And you've got whom and your packet carbon. And so you've made a
cycle. This is the famous C and O carbon nitrogen oxygen cycle for the burning of hydrogen. To helium. It's. A red giant is in a very delicate condition. It's highly unstable structure. And it keeps belching out masses of material and those are flares and it keeps. Getting rid of still larger minutes distilling off material all the time into space and there are these flares and there are no V and sometimes things get completely out of and then the thing just blows up and that's a supernova. And in all these ways. These. Larger elements. Which have been made in the deep interiors of red giants. Go back into space
in the form of gases. And interstellar and intergalactic dust. It's estimated that perhaps as much as half the mass of our universe is in the form of such gas as dust. And. We. Can condense again. And produce new generations of stars and galaxies. Our sun. It. Is such a later generation of stars. Later generation star. We know that. Because though it's composed 99 percent of hydrogen and helium the remaining 1 percent. Is composed of these heavier elements which it must have been from earlier generations of stars that had a guide.
And so this. These heavier elements this stuff formed in the red giants spewed out into space by them of Ages of times past. Secular reading about in the space of the universe. Became the Sept and its eventual end of our sun. And planets and ourselves. For living organisms the living parts of living organisms are composed 99 percent. Of those four elements mentioned hydrogen. Oxygen nitrogen and carbon. This is the most profound connection I know in the universe. It's a connection. That brings together. The main substance and the
metabolism of stars. With the substance and the metabolism of living organisms all living organisms. The relationship goes even deeper than that for there's a direct connection. On this planet. And I would suppose on all planets in the universe that there are life. Ultimately life comes to run. On starlight. The photosynthesis performed by plants. That starlight. Is made. By the burning of hydrogen to helium. By the interaction. Of the nuclei. Of the same four elements that are almost wholly composed of living organisms. So there is this profound empty connection. Between the lives of
stars. And the lives of living organisms. And a moving. Fact in the US. Which is that stars must die. That organisms may live. In the. Stars. The atoms are all stripped down to their nuclei these nuclei are positively charged they're moving about in a fluid that contains many electrons one can imagine that statistically there are more electrons in the neighborhood of nuclei than elsewhere. But they're not organized about the nuclei for that one needs to go to cooler places in the universe. And there. The electrons do become organized about the nuclei so that we have complete atoms. And we
complete the atoms. Through the interactions. Of. Their outermost electrons. One has the possibility. Of forming. Chemical bonds of making molecules. These molecules. In. Any planet. That possesses the right properties. These molecules. To include. The molecules made of those four elements carbon hydrogen nitrogen and oxygen. That type of molecule that we call organic because they are so closely it dandified with living organisms. We know now that by ordinary Geo chemical processes. Such molecules. Are formed slowly but continuously
in the upper reaches of the atmosphere particularly during the early history of planets when their atmospheres. Are reducing. As you said when they're composed of these when they contain these elements in their most reduced forms the oxygen. As water. The carbon. As methane for the most part C H for the nitrogen. As ammonia and H3. And hydrogen gas. And one has demonstrated now as many of you must know in very simple and crude laboratory experiments that if one subjects mixtures of such gases of these four gases just mention for example. To activation with radiation such as
would be received in starlight. Or electric discharges such as occur. In our atmosphere. That. They come to form very complex mixtures of organic molecules including such molecules as amino acids. Simple nitrogenous bases. Molecules are very important. In the eventual formation of living organisms. And so and I think all of you know the story by now we suppose. That by ordinary Geo chemical processes these such organic molecules are produced mainly in the upper atmosphere leached out of the upper atmosphere into the sea and accumulate in the seas and the anaerobic conditions over long ages of time
and in the sea in their collisions interact with one another so that the seas accumulate higher and higher concentrations of organic molecules. And they and their interactions. Produce more and more complex mixtures. And finally begin to produce aggregates of such molecules. Some of these aggregates through their chance composition are more effective then there is in sweeping. Organic molecules. Out of the neighborhood incorporating them into their own composition. And we suppose that. Sometime somewhere or several times in several places such an aggregate of organic molecules and seawater reached the point that we would be willing to concede.
Is he alive. I've been trying all too hurriedly and superficially and quickly. Too. Describe. The evolution of this you love us this historical human of us. This is what we. Suppose. Has. Happened. And. If you've followed this story. You see that it proceeds in a series of great developments. We've begun with the ultimate particles and eventually whole atoms. And with those we are still in the realm. Of Heisenberg's indeterminacy or uncertainty principle. These particles are so small
that they are subject to the limitation that one cannot simultaneously describe their positions and motions. But with the emergence of molecules a great new development has taken place. Something new has appeared on the scene. Because with molecules one comes out finally. Out of that. Realm. Of indeterminacy into that determine that world with molecules there is the first appearance in the universe. Thing is with Shapes. And sizes.
Man and the multitude
George Wald, part one
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University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
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Episode Description
This program presents the first part of a lecture by George Wald, Harvard University, on "The Human Enterprise: A Scientist's View."
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A lecture series commemorating the centennial of the University of Illinois.
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Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
Speaker: Wald, George, 1906-1997
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-41-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:52
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Chicago: “Man and the multitude; George Wald, part one,” 1967-09-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 27, 2024,
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APA: Man and the multitude; George Wald, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from