It’s not rocket science, it’s a matter of conscience.

The true moral path isn’t always obvious. Frankly, by the time Bohr got to the allies things had already gone way down the road to the bomb as the pile in the squash court had already proven the chain reaction, X23 was running at Oak Ridge enriching uranium and Hanford was under construction. As for Climategate, the impact seem to have been muted by the ongoing antics of the climate team in the six years since.

Pointman's

In September 1941 during WWII, two men met in Copenhagen ostensibly for a scientific symposium, but outside of it in the evenings and in a social context, they informally discussed the theoretical possibility of making a whole new type of bomb. They were the physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Bohr was a Dane, whose country had already been occupied by the Germans, which Heisenberg was.

A young Heisenberg had been at one time Bohr’s star pupil and they still had a strong relationship. In the relatively new field of what was to be called nuclear physics, they were pioneering giants. They were both geniuses, in the original but now devalued sense of the word, rather than the more modern one applied to those gifted individuals who can do things like drop their trousers on stage and raise a nervous titter from the audience.

Bohr, even though still living in occupied Denmark, was discreetly working…

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One comment

  1. MadRocketSci · September 2, 2015

    Interesting information about Heisenberg. I always sort of suspected that of him. I’ve run across some other correspondence of the physics community of the time: Rosenfeld was another scientist who was apparently an insufferable arrogant backstabbing elitist in how he treated the people he worked with personally.

    There are a lot of layers to what went on in the physics community in the 1920s through 50s. There is the obvious elephant of WWII in the room. There were a lot of challenging new discoveries in physics at the time too. On one level, though, there was also a no holds barred philosophical struggle between scientific realists (people who believe there is an actual external world that has a state, that evolves according to regular laws) and rebellious anti-realists (it was also a generational struggle). From my reading, it seems to me a lot of the fallout from that underground struggle colors (distorts, IMO) the way we interpret the results of quantum mechanics even today.

    The victors who wrote the history books were the anti-realists. People who stubbornly clung to the idea of an objective external world (like Einstein or Schrodinger) are said to have “lost” the argument, due to poorly interpreting their objections, and horribly glossing over gaping logical holes in the consensus interpretation. People who wouldn’t bother to parse the “old guard’s” arguments are encouraged to dismiss these people as “too old and senile to understand the radical new physics”.

    Anyway, a lot of the things that appear as “axioms” – assertions without support or justification, and seem to have the flavor of some sort of dogma: Might actually be just that! Not to say that QM isn’t very successful, or that there aren’t genuine non-classical phenomena that require different laws. There is indeed genuine weirdness in the behavior of the microscopic world. But as to the way the theory is interpreted – there is a lot that makes no **** sense, that no amount of browbeating can really gloss over.

    But our present QM formalism is not purely epistemological; it is a peculiar mixture describing
    in part realities of Nature, in part incomplete human information about Nature { all scrambled up
    by Heisenberg and Bohr into an omelette that nobody has seen how to unscramble. Yet we think
    that the unscrambling is a prerequisite for any further advance in basic physical theory.For, if we
    cannot separate the subjective and objective aspects of the formalism, we cannot know what we
    are talking about; it is just that simple.

    Jaynes, E. T. “PROBABILITY IN QUANTUM THEORYy,” 1990.

    Like

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