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May 15, 2005



Wow! Who wouldn't have stage fright! How interessting!

I don't know why these productions never make it to Paris. Neither "Copenhaguen" nor this one, I never heard of being played here.


The play and the panel discussion were indeed highly stimulating. I received an e-flyer this morning announcing that there will be one more performance this Thursday (19th) at 2 pm, at the Culture Project, 45 Bleeker Street. It's free; call for reservations at 212-875-4804.


Hi Ursula - According to Google, seems like Copenhagen did make it to Paris, but in early 1999, which is well before I ever noticed it in the US. There's a reference to it here: http://www.courttheatre.org/home/plays/0102/copenhagen/PNcopenhagen.shtml . Now if only we had that time machine...


Thanks! To bad chances are probably slim then to have it on stage again.

Paul Stankus

If you're interested in learning more about the moral
paths of German chemists, I recommend the book
"The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben" by
Joseph Borkin; it's short and a very good read.
It details, for example, how the German chemical
industry escaped prosecution for war crimes in the
First World War by cutting back-room deals with the
French government to share patent rights for making
artificial dyes (hence "Farben"). Haber is featured
prominently in the early part of the book.

Secondly, I've never been all that impressed with Haber's
supposed genius. The nitrogen-fixing process for which
he was awarded the chemistry Nobel prize (see
http://www.britannica.com/nobel/micro/253_44.html ),
later the Haber-Bosch process (Bosch was awarded the
Nobel separately later), is really no more than a clever
choice of catalyst combined with the recognition that
high pressures would tend to drive a reaction in which the
number of molecules decreases. Standard LeChatelier
reasoning that it doesn't take a genius to figure out
(though maybe it did a hundred years ago), and still
inferior to what nitrogen-fixing bacteria manage to do
without high pressures. Now that you know more,
what am I missing here?


I get the impression that even the choice of catalyst wasn't a matter of cleverness, but of sheer determination to find the one that worked among the thousands of trials - but that's no secret: a chemist made precisely that point to me the other day. And yet, sometimes that appears to be enough for the Nobel committees (lucky for those of us who aren't brilliant...)

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