The idea for the free-flowing roundtable discussion was sparked by the staging of the play Copenhagen, by Michael Frayn, at the Wilshire Theatre, running now through January 6, 2002.
The play is inspired by an event that has intrigued and baffled historians for more than 50 years - a 1941 meeting between two brilliant physicists, longtime friends whose work together had opened the way to the atom, but who were now on opposite sides during World War II. Werner Heisenberg made a covert trip to Copenhagen, at great risk, to see his Danish counterpart Niels Bohr and his wife, Margrethe, but the meeting ended in disaster. Copenhagen explores the events of this secret meeting, and attempts to answer the questions: Why did Heisenberg go to Denmark? What did the two men say to each other? What happened at this pivotal meeting that was a defining moment of the modern nuclear age?
The roundtable discussion will include Robert Christy, a leading researcher on the Manhattan Project, and an Institute Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, at Caltech; Marge Leighton, a close friend of the Bohr family; Jay Labinger, an expert on the cultural and literary aspects of science and the administrator of the Beckman Institute at Caltech; Diana Barkan Buchwald, general editor and director of the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech and an associate professor of the history of science; and Copenhagen actor Hank Stratton, who plays Werner Heisenberg. It will be moderated by Steven Koonin, Caltech provost and theoretical nuclear physicist.
The three-person play also features Len Cariou as Niels Bohr, and Mariette Hartley as Margrethe Bohr.
The roundtable discussion will explore the meeting between Heisenberg and Bohr, focusing on personal reminiscences, as well as modern interpretations of the events preceding the construction of nuclear weapons by the Allies. The participants will consider broader scientific, historical, philosophical, and artistic dimensions of this encounter and its dramatization in the play.
The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. For information, call 1-888-222-5832. Beckman Auditorium is at 332 S. Michigan Avenue, south of Del Mar.
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