Saturday, January 18, 2014

Uncertainty about Heisenberg's motivation

It is very rare that physics is the centre of a play, particularly anything that receives popular or critical acclaim. An exception is the play, Copenhagen by Michael Frayn. It centres around the famous meeting between Heisenberg and Bohr, in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen in 1941.

I enjoyed watching the film version produced by the BBC. Daniel Craig [of James Bond fame] plays Werner Heisenberg. It nicely captures the complexities of not just Heisenberg's visit, but also that of the relationship between Heisenberg and his mentor, the role of Bohr's wife, the passion for physics, and the moral issues associated with nuclear weapons.

1 comment:

  1. I've always found the controversies surrounding Heisenberg and Teller interesting, where I've found it difficult to take sides (more so in Heisenberg's case).

    The one thing that I think is unarguable is that he cannot be clubbed together with full-fledged Nazi sympathisers such as Lenard or Stark. His decision to stay back seems to me to be a little more than having to do what had to be done, but a little less than patriotism; as his son says in his analysis of the play ( Heisengberg did help rebuild physics in Germany in the post war period. I believe his son's retelling and interpretation of events, which I imagine he wouldn't care to distort in his father's favour at the risk of being labelled a sympathiser of the cause himself --- any hints for which people's ears are always pricked up today.