Sunday, April 18, 2010

Landau was fallible

Lev Landau was a master at quantum many-body theory. One of many significant contributions was Fermi liquid theory. Yet it interesting that his response to the notion of the Chandrasekhar limit (the maximum stellar mass that is stable against gravitational collapse due to the electron degeneracy pressure of white dwarfs) was:

“For M > 1.5Mthere exists in the whole quantum theory no cause preventing the system from collapsing to a point. ....As in reality such masses exist quietly as stars and do not show any such ridiculous tendencies, we must conclude that all stars heavier than 1.5Mcertainly possess regions in which the laws of quantum mechanics (and therefore of quantum statistics) are violated.”

"On the theory of stars". Phys. Z. Sowjetunion 1: 285–288 (1932)

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