Happy Birthday, Niels Bohr!

Niels Bohr standing next to a blackboard with equations on it.
Because equations are awesome.
So, as most people might not know were it not for the Google Doodle, today's the 127th anniversary of Niels Bohr's birthday. I'm not going to talk about his life (mostly because I'm lazy, partly because the internet's got a wealth of information about him already), but I am going to talk about the influence him and the other greats of physics have had on me.

You might wonder how a bunch of dead white males from the first half of the twentieth century could possibly influence a sixteen-year-old girl - a sixteen-year-old girl, mind you, who hasn't even gone to university yet and whose knowledge of theoretical physics, and the maths behind it, is thus very limited. Moreover, that physics is relatively old - even the positron, the first evidence of antimatter, was discovered in 1932; the modern theory of antimatter itself originates in a 1928 paper by Paul Dirac. Even something as exotic as antimatter is ancient (not that it's even that exotic considering we use it in PET) - and relativity is about a century old! It is also increasingly clear to us that this old physics is breaking down, so why be influenced by the people who created it? Those are questions you may ask and that I must answer.

I've been interested in physics ever since I was about six years old and my dad first told me about atoms - particles too small to see that made up the entire universe. I read up about them. I read up about space and stars and particularly black holes, which interested me purely because of how strange and scary (to an overly sensitive child like me, the idea of an object with enough gravity to stop even light from escaping was a bit frightening) they were; then my interest in black holes led me to relativity and quantum mechanics, and I've stayed there ever since. And when you think of the physics giants of the twentieth century, they all stand before you: Einstein, Heisenberg, Dirac, Bohr, Schwarzschild for coming up with the Schwarzschild solution...These people inspired me because they made so many advances in the way we understand the world, from atoms all the way up to the universe itself. They changed the way we think about physics. That's not something many people can lay claim to.

So happy birthday, Niels Bohr, and thank you for coming up with your model of atomic structure and helping to provide a foundation for quantum theory - among so many other things. And thank you, as well, for having helped to inspire me to take up physics and hopefully do what you did.