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by John Canaday
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History & Criticism
  • Author:
    John Canaday
  • ISBN:
    0299168506
  • ISBN13:
    978-0299168506
  • Genre:
  • Publisher:
    University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (August 24, 2000)
  • Pages:
    340 pages
  • Subcategory:
    History & Criticism
  • Language:
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    1403 kb
  • ePUB format
    1295 kb
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    1585 kb
  • Rating:
    4.4
  • Votes:
    122
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I have been interested in both literature and science for many years, so this book seemed like a natural for m.

I have been interested in both literature and science for many years, so this book seemed like a natural for me. My own educational and professional background is more on the scientific side of the house, with chemistry and physics particular areas of interest, despite a degree in biology. From that vantage point I examined "The Nuclear Muse. I came away conflicted about the book.

Xviii, 310 pages : 24 cm. "John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World War, including Niels Bohr's "The Quantum Postulate"; the Blegdamsvej Faust. "John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World War, including Niels Bohr's "The Quantum Postulate"; the Blegdamsvej Faust, a parody of Goethe's Faust that cast physicists as its principle characters; The Los Alamos Primer, the technical lectures used for training at Los Alamos; scientists' descriptions of their work and of the Trinity. Test; and Leo Szilard's post-war novella, The Voice of the Dolphins. -Publisher's description.

John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before .

book by John Canaday. John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World War, including Niels Bohr's "The Quantum Postulate"; the Blegdamsvej Faust, a parody of Goethe's Faust that cast physicists as its principle characters; The Los Alamos Primer, the technical lectures used for training at Los Alamos; scientists' descriptions of their work and of the Trinity.

In The Nuclear Muse, John Canaday, poet, teacher, tutor, and student of science, using techniques of. .The strength of Canaday's book lies in the encapsulated history of modern physics he presents to make his case for a connection between fiction and physics.

In so doing, Canaday joins the ranks of sociologists, historians, and anthropologists (Bruno Latour, Sharon Traweek, Hugh Gusterson, among others) who have donned literary lab coats and peered into the universe beneath the microscope.

John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World . About the author (2000). John Canaday is a prize-winning poet and playwright who has been a Watson Fellow and the Starbuck Fellow in Poetry at Boston University.

John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World War, including Niels Bohr s "The Quantum Postulate"; the Blegdamsvej Faust, a parody of Goethe s Faust that cast physicists as its principle characters; The Los Alamos Primer, the technical lectures used for training at Los Alamos; scientists descriptions of their work and of the Trinity test; and Leo Szilard s post-war novella, The Voice of the Dolphins.

The Nuclear Muse book. John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World War, including Niels Bohr’s "The Quantum Postulate"; the Blegdamsvej Faust, a parody of Goethe’s Faust that cast physicists as its principle characters; The Los Alamos Primer, the technical lectures used for training at Los Alamos; scientists’ descriptions of their John Canaday analyzes a variety.

Science and Literature John Canaday is a prize-winning poet and playwright who has been a Watson Fellow and the Starbuck Fellow in Poetry at Boston University.

Science and Literature. Canaday's insightful study has added a fourth dimension to our understanding of how we 'learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. "-Martin J. Sherwin, author of A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and its Legacies. He tutors students in literature, writing, history, mathematics, and physics. edu or (608) 263-0734.

Translating History of Science Books into Chinese: Why? . Introduction: The Humanities and the Sciences.

Translating History of Science Books into Chinese: Why? Which Ones? How? Butian. Ten Problems in History and Philosophy of Science.

John Canaday, The Nuclear Muse: Literature, Physics and the First Atomic Bombs (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000), 268, n. 12. Goethe, Faust: A Tragedy, trans. Walter Arndt (New York: Norton, 1976), lines 382–3. On the role of science in the play, see P. D. Smith, ‘Scientific Themes in Goethe’s Faust’, in Paul Bishop, e. A Companion to Goethe’s Faust (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2001), 194–220. 13. The Blegdamsvej Faust is on microfilm 66 of the Archive for the History of Quantum Physics (American Philosophical Society)

Deconstructing the Bomb: Recent Perspectives on Nuclear History. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002. John Canaday - 2004 - Isis 95 (3):536-537.

Deconstructing the Bomb: Recent Perspectives on Nuclear History. J. Hughes - 2004 - British Journal for the History of Science 37 (4):455-464. The Nuclear Muse: Literature, Physics, and the First Atomic Bomb. Andrew Rojecki - 2005 - Isis: A Journal of the History of Science 96:296-297. Essays on Galileo and the History and Philosophy of Science. Out of the Dead House: NineteenthCentury Women Physicians and the Writing of Medicine. Madison/London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.

John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World War, including Niels Bohr’s "The Quantum Postulate"; the Blegdamsvej Faust, a parody of Goethe’s Faust that cast physicists as its principle characters; The Los Alamos Primer, the technical lectures used for training at Los Alamos; scientists’ descriptions of their work and of the Trinity test; and Leo Szilard’s post-war novella, The Voice of the Dolphins.

Jark
In this fascinating work, Canaday illuminates the capacity of different disciplines to reveal truth in its myriad aspects. While loyal to the dictates of each system, Canaday displays how they influence one another, each utilizing its form of "fallen talk," to use Canaday's term, which allows Man to make sense of, and create within, this world. By exploring the influence of metaphor upon the thinking of scientists as they created the nuclear bomb, Canaday conveys their ability to view their work in idealized terms, its meaning for humanity. Literature can be seen as an influential calling in this work, and creativity, both tangible as well as ethereal, so to speak, can be seen to overlap in effect. Similar to Marilynne Robinson, in her Terry lectures, published recently as, Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self (Terry Lectures) The Absence of Mind, Canaday seeks to reveal bridges between systems of thought, arenas where constructive and creative interactions can and do take place, the very arenas where our souls find their common resonance.
Chuynopana
I have been interested in both literature and science for many years, so this book seemed like a natural for me. My own educational and professional background is more on the scientific side of the house, with chemistry and physics particular areas of interest, despite a degree in biology. From that vantage point I examined "The Nuclear Muse." I came away conflicted about the book. There are moments of true brilliance and insight in Canaday's work, but there are moments of weakness and non sequitur as well. After pondering this review for a few days, I tend to think a better title for the work would have been "Stretching the Premise." In most areas of the book Canaday starts off with an interesting premise, but frequently over-analyzes the material to the point of absurdity, a trait all too common in contemporary literary criticism.

From a historical point of view, there is some interesting information to be gleaned here that would normally remain unknown to the scientists among us. W.H. Auden in particular comes across differently than I would have expected: he seems to have been an eminently practical man with a good conceptualization of the fundamental differences of the social value of science versus the literary world. In addition to discussions of Auden, Blake, and Mary Shelley, a good introduction to some of the important concepts of quantum mechanics are detailed. I thought the disagreement of Newton and Huygens (vis-à-vis the particle versus wave theories of light) was well explained, as was Bohr's complementarity principle, and the general difficulty of rationalizing classical and quantum mechanics. While Bohr tried to politely bridge the gap between the two (the reference from "Blegdamsvej Faust" about Bohr preferring to "argue without arguing" cuts to the core of the man both humorously and respectfully), Pauli contrasts in demeanor as a harsh and uncompromising man. These types of observations are what this book does best. I found the Faust conflict entertaining and enlightening (if a little lengthy). The parallels between Goethe's Faust in which Mephistopheles and Faust are in conflict are obvious: here Pauli is clearly the Mephistopheles analog, in conflict with Bohr in the great neutron-neutrino debate. Interestingly in this version the role of Gretchen from Goethe's version is played by the neutron, who sings "Once upon a time, [there was a King] who had an enormous flea. He loved it quite a bit, Just like gravitation." Before concluding, this same song ends up lightly prodding Einstein's Unified Field Theory.

The part of the book I thought I would enjoy most, covering the "Los Alamos Primer" actually turned out to be my least favorite. Here is where Canaday elevates premise stretching to a new level. He uses extensive flowery language throughout to explain what the Los Alamos scientists meant by simple word choice without really understanding the way scientists speak to each other and use conceptual models as referents during theoretical development. These men were scientists. They spoke and wrote like scientists. Despite their scientific brilliance they were not James Joyce, nor did they want to be. Canaday even admits on page 116 that "scientists and sociologists may object that I am 'reading too much into' the language of the 'Primer'- that its authors never intended the sort of implications I am finding in it....readers with a background in literary studies are more likely to understand that the meaning of a text is not dependent on its author's conscious intentions." Here is where Canaday totally overreaches: he takes an internal, classified handout that was written by theoretical physicists for theoretical physicists about nuclear physics and draws conclusions that absolutely cannot be accurately drawn from the material present. Apparently Canaday realizes this is a precarious area, yet attempts to exploit it nonetheless. He does the same thing on page 151 when he discusses an offhand humorous quip by Los Alamos physicist Hugh Richards that "usually there was negligible precipitation until the Indians did their rain dances in June." Canaday asserts that there are "several layers of meaning embedded in this code." He, in fact, counts six levels of meaning in that sentence and goes on to say that "I have, obviously, oversimplified here...." For me the credibility of the entire book was compromised by assertions such as these. For Canaday to ascribe six layers of hidden meaning in what was in context a humorous quip by a physical scientist renders the remainder of his conclusions specious.

For all the faults of the book, though, there are worthwhile thoughts sprinkled throughout. I love the analysis, for instance, of the remark by Otto Frisch that a nuclear explosion is "a red-hot elephant standing balanced on its trunk incongruously." In this example on page 210 Canaday grasps the essence of scientific prose and metaphor and provides genuine literary insight.

The book is partially redeemed by the conclusion where Canaday explains his views of the differences between literature and physics. The most accurate statement he makes here is "physics strives for objectivity, literature for subjectivity." I agree completely. Unfortunately that sentence comes on page 248 of a 249 page book. If Canaday had embraced his concluding points throughout this book, it would have been a much more solid work.
Zugar
From the title The Nuclear Muse: Literature, Physics and the First Atomic Bomb, one might expect a scholarly work with meaningful insight. Unfortunately, what one finds is closer to intellectual sleight of hand, buzzwords, and assertions which are, if not wrong, trivial. An exhaustive catalog of the deficiencies of this volume would be excessive. This review will concentrate on some illustrative examples.
A recurrent flaw in this book is the author's almost disingenuous failure to recognize the concept of models in science. On page 34, Canaday cites Frisch's Working with Atoms (1965) "Almost two hundred years ago the chemists found they could explain a lot by assuming that all things are made from a few dozen kinds of tiny bits called atoms...." On page 35, Canaday (mis-) characterizes this as "chemists `found' that matter was constructed of atoms." Atomic theory proposed for scientific purposes (as opposed to a philosophical ploy for the advancement of atheism-see The Atom in the History of Human Thought, Bernard Pullman) began with Dalton. It did not become accepted until the early 20th Century. Bronowski relates [The Ascent of Man] that Boltzmann committed suicide in 1906 because he felt that atomic theory would not be accepted. The arguments for atomic theory were based on its utility in explaining experimental facts. Frisch's careful statement reflects this history; Canaday's misses or dismisses it entirely. I would have more confidence in Canaday's exegesis if he showed first that he could grasp the literal meanings correctly.
Another failure to recognize the use of models occurs in Canaday's discussion of the Los Alamos Primer, which he defines as a work of fiction and, therefore, literary, because it contained simplifications and described a thing that did not (yet) exist. A definition should make useful discriminations. Canaday's definition of fiction does not. By his definition, the blue prints for next year's model of Cadillac is as much a work of fiction as Frankenstein. President Lincoln pointed out the problem with such definitions: if you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Four; calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one. Where models, such as those used in the Los Alamos Primer, simplify, or idealize, they introduce (one hopes) not significant error and as Bacon pointed out "Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion." Chemists even have an old joke on the subject. A ruler, wishing to improve his country's dairy industry hires a physical chemist for what turns into a long and expensive study. Upon opening the first of several volumes of results, the ruler reads the first sentence, "Assume a spherical cow." Clearly, scientists are not unaware of their use of models and do not apply a model without considering limitations arising from the simplifications used in generating them. If one removed the word "fiction" and substituted "model" in much of this discussion, Canaday's writing would make more sense.
While on the subject of the Los Alamos Primer and points missed, the chapter contains a five-page section under the heading "What's in a Name?" in which he discusses "all" the ramifications of the word "primer" with a "short i." Although he discusses the humor in this word choice, he never considers the meaning of "primer" with a "long i:" a device used to detonate the main explosive charge of a weapon. Considering the purpose of the Manhattan project, for which the primer was written, this seems to be either a significant oversight or an hypothesis to be dismissed with an explanation to the reader.
Yet a third disappointing treatment of models is seen in Canaday's treatment (throughout the book) of the problem of the "wave" and "particle" models for the properties of light. Particularly vexing is his failure to reveal to the reader the resolution of this "problem" by de Broglie in the 1920's. His reasons for this omission are, at best, mysterious.
Other examples of "literary" contributions included Arthur Compton's cryptic disclosure to James Conant of Fermi's successful chain reaction and Oppenheimer's reaction to the successful Trinity test. The first was "The Italian navigator has just landed in the new world." The problem here is that this example, despite the five-page discussion of it as a literary reference, is historical, not literary. Oppenheimer's quote was from the Bhagavad Gita. (There are Scriptural references from others cited as well.) Again, this begs the question because the citations are from religious works. One suspects that the strictly observant of the faiths associated with these works would take a dim view of treating their holy writ as wholly lit.
There is another problem with the Oppenheimer quote (p.185). Canaday spends a long paragraph (p. 186) agonizing over the accuracy of the quote-taken from a book, taken from another book, transcribed from a documentary quoting an interview is accurate, especially in light of an alternate version. Oh, which is right and where did the alternate arise? Oh, agony. The documentary in question is available on video tape and Oppenheimer is quoted correctly in Canaday's sources. Why he did not make the effort to find it himself is between him and his notion of scholarship. As to the origin of the variant, Canaday, apparently without realizing it, includes its most likely origin, some thirty-five pages later, in Laurence's account of his talk with Oppenheimer the day following the test.
Finally, one must ask the question of whether the scientific-literary connection is real or merely a fluke. It is hard to argue that Canaday makes much of a case. While making much of H. G. Wells' contribution to nuclear research in The World Set Free because it deals with generating atomic energy, would there not be more examples of such a connection in other fields were it real? Would anyone seriously argue that the poison gas in The War of the Worlds-"...it is possible that [an unknown element] combines with Argon to form a compound...."-contributed to the discover of noble gas compounds? What about the influence of The First Men in the Moon or From the Earth to the Moon on the Apollo Missions? (The closest one is apt to get is von Braun's adopting the practice of counting backwards at rocket launches after seeing it in Fritz Lang's "The Woman in the Moon.") Perhaps a better characterization of the examples in this book would be that scientists, being people, when communicating rely largely on language (with all its shortcomings) and that it is human nature to deal with novel situations in terms of familiar situations. (The extreme example of the latter is the quote: when your only tool is a hammer, all problems tend to look like nails.)
I feel bad about criticizing this book so harshly. Let me make up for it by outlining a topic for Canaday's next book on interactions between science and literature. Mary Shelley's father, who educated her, was an enlightenment philosopher and, thus, had an antipathy toward the Church. The greatest blow recently dealt to the power of the Church (in regard to its infallibility) was the Copernican overthrow of the Ptolemaic geocentric universe. Thus, he was apt to read Copernicus and to have had Mary read it as well. The preface of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (as translated by Jerzy Dobrzyski) contains the suggestive sentence "... taking from various places hands, feet, a head and other pieces ... since these fragments would not belong one to another at all, a monster rather than a man would be put together from them." Clearly, such a sentence could remain in Mary Shelley's subconscious mind and later manifest itself in the dream which lead to Frankenstein.