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The uncertainty of Copenhagen

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On Sunday, most PBS stations will be showing an adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play Copenhagen by Michael Frayn. Howard Davies does a good job of opening up the play which focuses on a 1941 meeting between Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr (played by Stephen Rea). It is a play about uncertainty of memory, both personal and historical.

The website has historical background, interviews with Frayn and Davies and an examination of how a scene from the play was adapted. Frayn says he got the idea to write the play while reading Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb by Thomas Powers.

There is extensive information related to the play and the controversy over it on the web. Someone has posted Frayn’s postscript to the play. After Bohr’s letters on the meeting were released earlier this year (which contradict Heisenberg’s version), Frayn wrote a Post-postscript and Copenhagen Revisited.

At symposium on the play in Washington, Heisenberg’s son delivered a paper on his reactions to “Copenhagen.” There were also earlier symposeums in New York (scroll down for the papers) and in Copenhagen in 2001 and 1999.

More information on the development of the atomic bomb can be found in Jon Else’s excellent documentary the Day After Trinity and at the Atomic Archive.

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