The
Nuclear-Free Future
Award

in the Category


SOLUTIONS

is presented to

HANS GRASSMANN

GERMANY

Berlin
10 April 2011

Hans Grassmann

Life in the ivory tower is governed by strict rules. In 1978 Werner Heisenberg (he of the uncertainty principle) picked Hans-Peter Dürr to suceed him as the head of the Max-Planck-Institut for Physics. Murray Gell-Man, American Nobel laureate in Physics, didn’t like Heisenberg’s choice: “Dürr wants to make the world a better place; I’d rather see him do proper physics.” When a scientist wants to help create a better world, he is in for abuse. Hans Grassmann sees such abuse as a challenge.

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Grassmann studied physics at Erlangen and Hamburg. While still a student he helped develop a new calorimetric method to measure the energy of particles – a feat that propelled him into the forefront of promising young physicists. The cutting-edge high-resolution spectroscopes at Stanford and in NASA satellites are based on Grassmann’s approach. From 1984-1988 he worked with Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN in Geneva. In 1994, at Fermilab in Chicago, he discovered, together with Giorgio Bellettini and Marina Cobal, the “top Quark” – the heaviest known particle.

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The path to a brilliant career in nuclear physics was now wide open, but Hans Grassmann decided to step out of the ivory tower where immense amounts of money are wasted on projects that have nothing to do with improving the quality of life.

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“Using simple mirror systems we can replace oil, coal and nuclear power with solar energy at a competitive price.”

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He started writing books that examine physics for its social, cultural and environmental benefits: “Das Top Quark”, “Picasso und Mercedes Benz” (1997), “Alles Quark. Ein Physikbuch” (1999), “Das Denken und seine Zukunft” (2001) and most recently Ahnung von der Materie. Physik für alle (2008).

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Moving to Udine University in Italy, Grassmann with his students developed a new solar mirror system. His aluminium “linear mirrors” are inexpensive, robust and mobile. Prototypes are installed and produce heat; industrial-scale production is just starting up (www.isomorph.it).

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“Using simple mirror systems we can replace oil, coal and nuclear power with solar energy at a competitive price. To do this, we do not have to go to the desert, the system I propose works in Germany as well.

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The establishment could have developed such mirror systems thirty or fifty years ago; they didn’t do it, and they are now doing everything in their power to prevent others from developing them,” says Grassmann, and he adds, “It is possible to avoid the wars over oil, to end the production of nuclear waste and to stop global warming. There would be no extra cost. All we have to do is grant freedom of thought, not just in politics but in science as well. … Fanatics and extremists benefit from the money we pay for oil. We even finance their development of atom bombs. At the same time we kill the minds of our young scientists, who could show us the way out of this insanity. How stupid and immoral can we get?”

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Hans Grassmann practices what he preaches – science for the people, consistently and with exemplary staying power. We are proud to honor him with the Nuclear-Free Future Solutions Award.

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– Claus Biegert
English translation: Craig Reishus