Friday, March 26, 2021

John von Neumann, 1966 Documentary


This 1966 documentary on von Neumann was produced by the Mathematical Association of America. It includes interviews with Wigner, Ulam, Halmos, Goldstine, and others. 

At ~34m Bethe (leader of the Los Alamos theory division) gives primary credit to vN for the implosion method in fission bombs. While vN's previous work on shock waves and explosive lenses is often acknowledged as important for solving the implosion problem, this is the first time I have seen him given credit for the idea itself. Seth Neddermeyer's Enrico Fermi Award citation gives him credit for "invention of the implosion technique" and the original solid core design was referred to as the "Christy gadget" after Robert Christy. As usual, history is much more complicated than the simplified narrative that becomes conventional.
Teller: He could and did talk to my three-year-old son on his own terms and I sometimes wondered whether his relations to the rest of us were a little bit similar.
A recent application of vN's Quantum Ergodic Theorem: Macroscopic Superposition States in Isolated Quantum Systems.

Cloning vN (science fiction): short story, longer (AI vs genetic engineering).

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