E=mc2 and why the Nazis lost WWII…

SkyHarbor, 2014/05/09 

A remarkable docudrama by NOVA about Albert Einstein and his ‘annus mirabilis’ of 1905 and the insights which led to E = mc2. But don’t miss the story of Lise Meitner, Otto Hahn and the first splitting of the Uranium atom (ie: nuclear fission) in 1938. After that discovery, any competent physicist could see the huge implications. It was this that triggered the famous letter to Franklin Roosevelt and the “Manhattan Project” which produced the world’s first atomic bombs.

Dr. Meitner was an Austrian Jew and was able to get out of Germany (to Holland and later Sweden) in time to avoid internment. Einstein (also a Jew) had left ‘Der Fätherland’ in 1933 soon after Hitler had assumed the Chancellorship.

What Germany realised too late was that it was those very JEWISH chemists and physicists whom the Nazis had hounded out of Europe who later provided much of the fundamental knowledge which helped America and the Allies win WWII so decisively in 1945.

Lise Meitner was not awarded the 1944 Nobel Prise for Chemistry along with Hahn, though she had clearly merited the honour. Such was the fate of female scientists in those days. They were rarely taken seriously. But Meitner accepted the slight with remarkably good grace:

“Surely Hahn fully deserved the Nobel Prize in chemistry. There is really no doubt about it. But I believe that Otto Robert Frisch and I contributed something not insignificant to the clarification of the process of uranium fission – how it originates and that it produces so much energy, and that was something very remote from Hahn. For this reason I find it a bit unjust that in newspapers I was called a Mitarbeiterin [co-worker] of Hahn’s in the same sense that Strassman was.” — Prof. Dr. Lise Meitner

source: Wikipedia: Otto Hahn

Very much worth your time IMHO.

Narrated by John Lithgow. In addition to Albert Einstein we meet:
Michael Faraday and James Maxwell
Antoine de Lavoisier and Mme. Lavoisier
Émilie du Châtelet
Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner

All of whom contributed to the ideas that culminated with Einstein…


  1. SkyHarbor wrote,

    While in the Einstein ‘stacks’ at YouTube, I happened upon the film “Einstein and Eddington” which you may recall discussing at some length a few years back (Einstein, Eddington, War and Gravity…).

    The NOVA program very nicely shows the predecessors and background to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. Here’s Big Al’s original paper:
    ‘On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies’ by A. Einstein (1905) [PDF]
    It’s really not that bad, and contains Einstein’s derivation of E = mc2.

    The General Theory is considerably more dense, but for the ambitious, here ’tis:
    Einstein’s ‘The General Theory of Relativity’ (1916) [PDF]

    General Relativity IS dense, but gives us a whole new theory of gravity with a new vision of spacetime as curved and warpable in the presence of mass.

    The times were fraught. The General Theory was completed against the horrendous backdrop of the First World War. Both Britain and Germany thought in terms of ‘English science’ or ‘German science’ and even communication between English and German scientists was discouraged or illegal. Both Einstein and Eddington were pacifists (Eddington was a devout Quaker)… so they eventually found a way. Here’s the film:

    “Space tells objects how to move.
    Objects tell space what shape to be.”
    – David Tennant as Arthur Eddington. Perhaps the most succinct explication of general relativity ever uttered…

    Comment on 2014/05/09 @ 2:17 pm

  2. SkyHarbor wrote,

    Robert Oppenheimer and the Day After Trinity:

    Outstanding documentary on J. R. Oppenheimer and the development of the Atomic Bomb – and aftermath… told by the actual principle actors themselves…

    Comment on 2014/05/10 @ 4:04 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Powered by WordPress