Inside the Mind of a Nobel Prize Winner
This doodle pad was used by T.D. Lee during talks with C.N. Yang, while both were visiting scientists at Brookhaven in the summer of 1956. These discussions led to radically questioning one of physics’ basic tenets and resulted in their being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957 for discovering the violation of the law of parity in the weak interaction.
If you click to view these scrawls in a larger size, you can see in the middle of all this gibberish (sorry for calling it gibberish, but your Brookhaven bloggers are not physicists) the moment of clarity: “C-violation, P-violation.”
Parity is the idea of symmetry within physics. This law affects most of the fundamental forces — gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong interaction — but not the weak force. And it took a conversation and some doodling (and many years of experimentation) for T.D. Lee to put his finger on precisely why that is.