By Gian Francesco Giudice

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The energy of the shot is shared between the two bullets in a random way. Since we are able to see only one of the two bullets, we are deceived and led to believe that some of the energy has disappeared. 3 Wolfgang Pauli during a lecture in Copenhagen in 1929. Source: Pauli Archive / CERN. Today physicists are more accustomed to inventing new particles, but in those days Pauli’s hypothesis seemed very radical. Actually Pauli did not have the courage to publish his idea in a scientific article, but only described it in a letter sent to a physics meeting on radioactivity at Tübingen, in which he could not participate because had been invited to a ball by the Italian students in a Zurich hotel.

This is already a remarkable achievement for an equation, but there is more. Dirac’s equation not only gives a unified description of special relativity and quantum mechanics, but it also determines the magnetic properties of the electron, in perfect agreement with experiments. The taciturn Dirac had discovered the common mathematical language with which special relativity and quantum mechanics could finally discourse. However, something wasn’t quite right. Dirac’s equation had a double solution: besides the electron, the equation was also describing some other mysterious entity, possibly another particle.

He thought 22 P. Freund, A Passion for Discovery, World Scientific, Singapore 2007. D I S S E C T I N G M A T T E R | 25 it would be good for me to learn French in that way. Since I found that I couldn’t express myself in French, it was better for me to stay silent than to talk in English. ”23 Dirac’s discretion was legendary. ”24 Dirac used words sparingly, but he could talk with equations. At the beginning of the 20th century, special relativity and quantum mechanics revolutionized the world of physics.