Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cry me a river of Heavy water - Work in Progress

Vermork Hydroelectric Plant in Norway.
Site of German production of Heavy
Water as mixer in Atomic
stew during WW II.
I woke up yesterday, thinking about the frenetic sheer terror of the Jewish expatriate scientist community relating to Hitler that made the bomb happen. Generally, I tend to think of it more as mankind or Western man on this push. Just had a weird iteration thereof that a.m.

For a couple plus years I have been jabbing at a book on the German bomb.  I can't really put Thomas Powers' Heisenberg's War ahead of American Prometheus, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, or Now It Can be Told – all important stories of the atomic bomb - but it belongs on the same shelf that tells the saga of the Western World's creative drive toward absolute destruction. That the Reich team sputtered does not detract from the tale - failure can be informative.

It is the story of Germany's failed effort to build a bomb before and during World War II, and as such is faced with the difficult task of unraveling a botch. Hovering ever over the story has been the notion that Heisenberg may have cleverly sabotaged the project; Heisenberg's War sheds light on the issue, but I am not sure that it moves the notion - true or not - even a bit toward more clarity.

Werner Heisenberg was a far more accomplished physicist than his bomb building American counterpart Robert Oppenheimer.  Heisenberg formulated basic concepts of quantum mechanics, and won a Nobel prize in 1932. He did not want to leave Germany, despite some persecution as a "Jew Lover". As the greatest living German physicist still in Germany he got the assignment.

There is little evidence that Heisenberg's technical organizing skills were on par with Oppy's. But some disavantages were not of his making. His project was under funded and constantly on the run.**

Having to vie for attention among assorted German mega weapon projects - the V2 was Hitler's favorite up-and-coming death instrument – Heisenberg's program didn’t have the resources that the US program had. I read recently that Germany only spent an estimated one million dollars in their efforts.  While, the Americans spent over two billion dollars.***


Tentative Conclusion:  The bomb set the tone almost 50 years out – the people who lived under its specter are themselves leaving terra firma – as in history eternal, a new generation is coming to the fore in more or less total oblivion of what went before.  Was this not possibly behind some of the thinking that led President Obama, as he looks toward retirement and to a presidential campaign dominated by blowhard know-nothing Trumpf, to orate at Hiroshima? Have we looked into our most spectral depths?

The Atomic Bomb was created by and in turn it spawned what President Obama described as a special logic of fear.* The failed Nazi quest is ably detailed here, but there is a feeling very much still prowls in the murk of time.  I'd suggest this is a must read for most anyone interested in engineering, technology and history.

** Bombings, commando attacks, etc.

* In American Prometheus: Doctorow is quoted in the book saying “The Great golem we have made against our enemies is our culture, our bomb culture-its logic, its faith, its vision.”

*** I've grappled with Heisneberg book for many years... meanwhile I find what I am looking for in a simple theme paper tonight.'02/Matt%20E.htm

[[[I'd like to add more to this. Some consideration of heavy water. And The history of science failure. I'm listening to a lecture in the philosophy of science that starts with a discussion of Thomas Kuhn in the structure of scientific revolutions in his interest on the less on the underlying rationality of the scientific method and more on trying to explain various kinds of scientific billiards the new rationality and of course we have that here with Heisenberg ]]]



The first time I ever heard Dylan chorttle

When you tell the story so many times that you begin to worry - maybe that is the time to write it down and put it aside and put it right there. That may be the case with the first time I ever heard Bob Dylan singh. The route was circuitous in that I came to him under a cover.

The Byrd's version of Tambourine Man was this gigantic hit - as hits could be for mere days in that time - it was a gigantic hit for me, cause it turned around what I listened too (Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett) - The guitars were electric folk, like the Searchers but almost psychedelic in their reverberating drone. Now we know that sound - something like Fill Spector meets Leadbelly - was the creation of the Wrecking Crew - the Los Angeles studio band par excellence. The words though - wow - total poetry.

Take me on a trip up on your magic swirling ship all my senses have been. Stripped and my hands can't field to grip

outside the kin of pop or Broadway … I guess I knew Bob Dylan wrote Blownin in the Wind by Repeatable Mary and now I was learning that he was the author of this number, the Turtles hit, and Sonny and Cher number on and on suddenly -but the Byrds were a high-power mix.…

I can remember with Dave Murray listening to the words that you really weren't going to find a Bob Dylan record in the record racks of our town too much in those days - I think I ran into Dave when I was coming from my last day of baseball in eighth grade - and we stopped at Jerry Jamison's (he was laid up or something) and his brother was home from college. Yeah he had a guitar, a lot of Hootenany records of the era which is 1965 lo and behold had a Bob Dylan record I think it was Bob Dylan's first record in any case we put it on

And I was completely blown away at how bad Bob Sang. I'd listened to folk almost every night for long periods of time - folk (but Chad Mitchell Trio harmonious style ) and Broadway and I didn't like rock 'n roll much not enough to listen to the stations anyway - but his voice was so grating and untutored and I really had no comparative template hear it by .. to do it it only lasted for maybe a week or so before I would just love his music and buy as many records as I could

All that is kind of a prelude to consideration of his new record - Fallen Angels - questions to ask about it: Is it a put on? does he really think he can sing that well? does he think he can sing better than Rod Stewart? Is this a requirement to meet product quota? Is some of it not really that bad? Or even good? Is he trying to place himself in a continuum of songwriter time? Is he preparing us for what might be his last great epic to come?

More Bob stuff

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Flew this week to SF and back. Some turbulence over Rockies. How grand to watch Warriors with Dave and Jim. Yell! When I got home read the details on Egypt air crash. Cozy&safe on my porch, with no expectations to fly again soon. Watched doc on The Last Man on the Moon - Gene Cernan. There he was, at beginning, sitting in cowboy hat at rodeo, and nobody about him knowing, he was the last man on the moon: A poem. Got to thinnin bout the 'pilot talk' best described by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff... (J.Vaughan)

Anyone who travels very much on airlines in the United States soon gets to know the voice of the airline pilot… coming over the intercom… with a particular drawl, a particular folksiness, a particular down-home calmness that is so exaggerated it begins to parody itself… the voice that tells you, as the airliner is caught in thunderheads and goes bolting up and down a thousand feet at a single gulp, to check your seat belts because 'uh, folks, it might get a little choppy'… 

Who doesn't know that voice! And who can forget it, - even after he is proved right and the emergency is over.  That particular voice may sound vaguely Southern or Southwestern, but it is specifically Appalachian in origin. It originated in the mountains of West Virginia, in the coal country, in Lincoln County, so far up in the hollows that, as the saying went, 'they had to pipe in daylight.' In the late 1940s and early 1950s this up-hollow voice drifted down from on high, from over the high desert of California, down, down, down, from the upper reaches of the [Pilot] Brotherhood into all phases of American aviation. It was amazing. It was Pygmalion in reverse. Military pilots and then, soon, airline pilots, pilots from Maine and Massachusetts and the Dakotas and Oregon and everywhere else, began to talk in that poker-hollow West Virginia drawl, or as close to it as they could bend their native accents. It was the drawl of the most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff: Chuck Yeager.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Cow at Sea

When Tarzan left Wisconsin
normalcy was slow to return

the cows got disconnected,
some ran off the farm

One even surfed the Atlantic
to hear again the apeman's song.

Featured Post

Backporch Poesy June 2016

Reading from three favorite poetry anthologies on the back porch on June 17 (anniversary of Watergate breakin!) The three tomes are 1-Th...