Brilliant scholars laid the foundation for the atrocities

The dark side of science, a literary idea as old as Mary Shelley FrankensteinHowever, it has not been described as convincing since then Blind light From Benjamin LaBatute. The Chilean author has written a “narrative” about brilliant scholars, whose role is not only to advance science into the future, but also to lay the foundation for atrocities.

Fritz Haber is the hero of the first (and best) chapter. In a confusing associative story, guided by a chemical substance, Labatute describes how Haber saved millions of people from malnutrition with an invention that converts nitrogen from the air into solids that can be used in fertilizers. He also organized the first poison gas attack of World War I, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of French soldiers, animals and plants. Haber’s invention of nitrogen also helped the Germans manufacture explosives, making the Great War years longer – adding more losses. Haber, who kept his Jewish origins a secret, died in 1934, “ without knowing that the pesticides he helped create would be used by the Nazis a few years later to protect his half-sister, brother-in-law, nephews, nephews and countless other Jews. . Kill in the gas chambers, “Labatott writes.

Labatut shows a very obscene fondness for these kinds of extremism in history, vacillating between what we call “progress” and cold bloodshed. Dive into the lives of inimitable geniuses, loners not adapted to the y chromosome, who cleverly attempt to calculate quantum things (Schrodinger, Heisenberg), and prove the existence of black holes (Schwarzschild) or the heart of mathematics (Grothendieck). They were attacks of intellectual grandeur, after which the world was forever unknown and incomprehensible, and the geniuses went crazy.

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Amphetamine addiction

Between the lines that you want to read roughly, an appeal to a different model of science, in which there is not the only genius, but cooperation, exchange, thinking and liability Being central.

Sometimes Labatut goes a little too far with his arousal and amphetamine approach, but you can argue that this is a legitimate literary choice – after all, the book starts with Goering’s addiction to amphetamine. The lustful descriptions of scholarly frenzy are an aesthetic contrast to the theoretical physics that is being explained in the meantime.

More interesting than showing the arrogance of faith in progress Blind light As a literary form. Why is this called a novel? As a series of historical biographies, it has a lot in common with popular science bestsellers, except that it’s better written. Yes, LaBatott writes a novel, he gives Schrödinger a clumsy, sanatorium love story, and Heisenberg takes a hallucinatory experience on absinthe. They touch the experiences with which he affectionates the “perpetrators”. But perhaps this explicit designation of the genre is essentially a poetic phrase: “When we stopped understanding the world” (Schrodinger and Heisenberg’s chapter title), literature became truly essential.

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