What’s Worth Watching: Bombs Away on American Genius
American Genius, “Oppenheimer vs. Heisenberg” and “Edison vs. Tesla” (Monday, June 22, 9/8c, NatGeo)
Robert Oppenheimer and Werner Heisenberg worked on opposite sides during World War II, each trying to give their respective countries, America and Germany, a scientific advancement that would end the war. Oppenheimer’s “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds” post-A-bomb explosion quote continues to haunt scientists and sophomores in college, while Heisenberg is mostly known as the alter-ego of a fictional meth maker. (If you’d like to learn more about his fascinating Uncertainty Principle—which actually has many more applications than just in quantum mechanics—read on.)
The second hour tells a tale slightly less tragic, on a much smaller scale: Thomas Edison’s brutal intellectual beat-down of fellow inventor Nikola Tesla. Thing is, Tesla’s idea to use alternating current to power the world, instead of Edison’s pet direct current, would actually have served us all infinitely better.