The Pauli effect
Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 16-19
Wolfgang Pauli’s relationship with practical apparatus led to a phenomenon that became known as the Pauli effect. It is claimed that whenever Pauli entered a laboratory, equipment would suddenly break down. There are a number of documented cases of the effect. Pauli’s visit to an observatory coincided with damage to a refractor telescope. When he was travelling on a train, the cars behind his carriage decoupled whilst he carried on to his destination and on Pauli’s arrival at Princeton, an expensive new cyclotron caught fire. As a result of such reports, a university colleague banned Pauli from entering his laboratory. The legend of the Pauli effect led colleagues at a physics conference to set up a practical joke. They rigged a chandelier to come crashing down when Pauli entered the room. However, the apparatus became stuck and the chandelier remained suspended, which some have interpreted as further confirmation of the Pauli effect.