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Heisenberg credited with ethical action


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First off, hello to those who remember me from when I used to participate in the forum regularly.


I was reading the book, Hitler's Scientists, by John Cornwell and another book was cited (can't remember the name of that one, sorry) that credited Heisenberg with the ethical feat of preventing Nuclear weapons from being developed by the Nazis first. This sounds as if Heisenberg was being lauded for obfuscation. Do you think this is a valid interpretation of the role Heisenberg played in the practical development of nuclear technologies?

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In this book, Thomas Powers examines the failure of Germany to build an atomic bomb during World War II, focusing on Werner Heisenberg, the project head and perhaps the top physicist in the world at the time. Powers maintains that Germany could have built the bomb had Heisenberg acted as a zealous and organized leader of the project. Historians echoed the conclusions of the Alsos Project for many decades, saying that Germany failed to build a bomb because of Nazi closed-mindedness to "Jewish" science and because of poorly executed experiments by its physicists. In contrast, Powers explores Heisenberg’s side of the controversy. He shows that Heisenberg never derailed the project but never galvanized it either. Heisenberg took a passive role, and opposed giving the bomb to Hitler, who was not interested anyway. The book reveals the complex interactions among German physicists, their relationships with the Nazi regime, and to the world scientific community. The true answers to the controversy, Powers says, will never be known because of Heisenberg’s reluctance to speak of the bomb program after the war. The book is exceptionally well documented and researched.




I think it is pretty much an open question - that will never be able to be firmly resolved in either direction


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I think it is pretty much an open question - that will never be able to be firmly resolved in either direction



Without having read the book, and going purely on the way humans behave, I think Heisenberg would've built an A-Bomb, if he'd been able to.

He only said he didn't really try, for 2 reasons:


1. To excuse his scientific failure


2. To ingratiate himself with the Western Allies, post WWII. (The Hero Who Stopped Hitler Getting The Bomb!)


It's like when the Soviets failed to put a man on the Moon. They claimed they never really wanted to. Oh Yeah?

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