Typically, two colliding atoms ricochet like billiard balls. But not always. When the kinetic energy of two atoms totals the energy needed to bind them together, the atoms stick to form a temporary molecule.
This phenomenon – called Feshbach resonance – is the discovery of Herman Feshbach, a nuclear physicist at MIT and author of “Methods of Theoretical Physics,” a standard reference text for graduate students.
In the 1950s, Feshbach crossed paths with scientists for the Manhattan Project, America’s endeavor to build an atomic bomb.
When asked to helped develop the H-bomb, Feshbach declined, maintaining an anti-nuclear weapon stance throughout his entire life.
In 1969, he helped found the Union of Concerned Scientists and participated in movements against military research at MIT.
In addition to his protesting, Feshbach left another legacy at the school, helping to increase the number of women and minority faculty members as chair of the Equal Opportunity Committee.