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December 4, 2005

Opera Atomic

Historical Omission Corrected

Tim Gleason recently sent me a review essay by Dennis Overbye from the October 18, 2005, issue of the New York Times for Dr. Atomic, an opera by the San Francisco Opera Company about the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb. An opera about the Bomb? And then I thought, why not? Why shouldn't even the darkest and most serious side of physics be granted its right to artistic expression too? After all, it might do a lot toward bridging this schism between the material and the spiritual sides of our nature that we're always hearing about.

Having decided that such a precedent might not be a bad thing, it crossed my mind to wonder what Sirs William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan might have made of it. Since history has chosen to deny them such opportunity, after some cogitation I emerge pen-in-teeth to correct the matter with following the modest endeavor.

                              SONG -- SIR ROBERT

                    I am the king of energee,
                    The ruler of technocracee,
                    Whose brow with laurels Academia decks.
TELLER              And we are his seconds and his helpers and his techs
FERMI               And we are his seconds and his helpers and his techs
SIR ROBERT          At the chalkboard here I stand,
                    Eminent, tall, and grand,
                    I display the most towering of intellects,
TELLER              And so do his seconds and his helpers and his techs
ALL                 And so do his seconds and his helpers and his techs
SIR ROBERT          To elucidate science I am able,
                    With slide rule and logarithm table
                    I know all the complex functions giving y in terms of  x,
TELLER              And so do his seconds and his helpers and his techs
ALL                 And so do his seconds and his helpers and his techs
                    Compilers of equations,
                    And doctoral dissertations,
                    And his techs!


                            SONG -- SIR ROBERT

            When I was a lad, I felt the call,
            To devote myself to physics mathematical.
            I mastered the laws of how Nature behaves,
            In masses, forces, particles, and quantum waves.
            I studied those laws so assiduously,
            That now I am the ruler of technocracee!

CHORUS: Teller, Fermi, Szilard, Wigner, Feynman, Einstein, Von Neuman, dancing in line
            He studied those laws so assiduously,
            That now he is the ruler of technocracee!

            From when it was time to matriculate,
            The path was smooth for me to graduate. 	
            As a post-doc student I excelled above all,
            Collecting honors and diplomas for my ego wall.
            I shone with such brilliance for the world to see,
            That now I am the ruler of technocracee!.

CHORUS	He shone with, etc.

            When the pile went critical the Prez launched a mission,
            To develop a bomb from uranium fission,
            He formed a team and made me the boss,
            And we set up on a mesa at Los Alamos.
            I managed that team so effectively,
            That now I am the ruler of technocracee!

CHORUS	He managed, etc.

            Rumors leaked through the fascist curtain,
            What Heisenberg was doing was alarmingly uncertain.
            We worked ourselves at a frantic pace,
            Knowing we might be in a do-or-die race.
            But I got us there first at Trinity,
            And now I am the ruler of techocracee! 

CHORUS	He got us there first, etc.

            Inexorable wheels had been set in motion,
            Taking our brainchilds over the ocean.	
            I reached the top of the exalted tower,
            A destroyer of worlds, I now had the power.
            They called it the achievement of the century,
            And it made me the ruler of technocracee!

CHORUS	They called it, etc.

            So scientists all, wherever you may be,
            If you want to rise to the top of the tree.
            If your soul isn't fettered by compassion's school,
            Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.
            Don't be impeded by humanity,
            And you may be rulers of technocracee!

CHORUS	Don't be impeded, etc.
 
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