The year is 1932. Hitler is rising in power. Harold Urey announces the discovery of deuterium, a hydrogen isotope. James Chadwick discovers the neutron. Heisenberg receives the Nobel Prize for his work in Quantum physics. It is a miracle year in Physics, matched only by Einstein's advances in 1905. A few of the most brilliant physicists in the world decide to convene in Copenhagen and ... write a play!
Written on the 100th anniversary of the death of Goethe, The Blegdamsvej Faust
is a remarkable document from a turning point in Physics.
Among the cast of characters:
Mephistopheles: played by Wolfgang Pauli
"His ability to make experiments self destruct simply by being in the same room was legendary, and has been dubbed the "Pauli effect"
The Lord: played by Neils Bohr
“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”
Faust: played by Paul Ehrenfest
"The physicists transform Faust’s death scene at the end of Goethe’s play into a moment of supreme bathos. Mephistopheles ushers a press photographer on stage and it is this that is Faust’s undoing. Paul Ehrenfest utters Faust’s famous dying words, just as he is about to be immortalized by the photographer:
“Faust (highly excited, he takes a pose for the press photographer)
To this fair moment let me say:
‘You are so beautiful – Oh, stay!’
A trace of me will linger ’mongst the Great,
Within the annals of The Fourth Estate.
Anticipating fortune so benign,
I now enjoy the moment that is mine!”'
including the characters of Oppenheimer (Oppie), Landau, Gamow, Dirac and Chadwick.
The Blegdamsvej Faust was written in German. In his intimately written book, Thirty Years that Shook Physics
, Gamow publishes the English translation.