Troubador The Dicethrower

Released: 07/06/2010

ISBN: 9781848763616

Format: Paperback

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The Dicethrower

A drama in two parts


Loosely based on the life and times of Albert Einstein, The Dicethrower is a poetic drama about the quest for certainty in an uncertain world. Dreistein, a physicist in Parallel Universe 3, seeks certainty in mathematics, knowing that to do so is to discard most of life. His wife, Mileva, abandons physics to make a secure home for her children. Their lifelong Jewish friend Michel finds in old age that there are no isms, there is only the call from the Cross. A host of characters look for certainty through money and military power. Time and chance baffle happen to all. Two physicists set out with clear questions about time and find strange answers about chance. A pacifist fails to live at peace with his wife, and initiates the project which bombed Hiroshima. A socialist Europhile lands up as a black sheep in capitalist USA. A scientific hero and celebrity, voted the Man of the Century, complains that everything he touched turned into mess. A country, which science helped to make great, holds a clearance sale of its brains. We see the increasing politicization of science as the search for truth begins to deliver power: the Military-Industrial Complex. The drama is in two parts. Part 1, World War 1, shows "men of the greatest possible culture behaving as though their brains had been amputated": producing the chemical explosives and "chemical weapons of mass destruction" - white phosphorus and phosgene - which are still in use. Part 2, World War 2, shows scientists of the highest possible reputation for pacifism and philosophy initiating the nuclear explosives and nuclear poisons which are a million times worse - and still with us, only more so. We hope there will be no part 3 because Part 3 would have to be World War 3.

But, like Galileo Galilei by Bertholdt Brecht, this drama aims to present poetry and passion as well as science and history. The physics are as accurate and up-to-date as the author could make them after consulting books by first class physicists and reading some of the original papers; the main biographical and historical facts are as accurate as human affairs would allow. So, read as prose, it forms quite an interesting potted digest of physics and war in '"the world of yesteryear". Nevertheless, this is not a docu-drama: it is set in a parallel universe; the hero has a different name; the play opens and closes deliberately in the manner of a fantasia; and there are interludes of poetry, song, music - even a ballet of ideological gymnastics. By this means the element of dramatic poetry is released without the awful responsibility of trying to do justice to the motives of real people, living or dead. The characterization ranges from idealisation (Mileva) through more or less sketchy realism (most of these fictional characters) to caricature and downright demonization (Wieland/Wayland). The style of presentation for different scenes varies from comedy or pathos (for private faces) to slapstick or tragic farce (in public places). It has been said that History repeats itself - first as tragedy and then as farce. The relevance of these fictional characters is not their history but our present - and our future.

Plays involving physics and physicists appear to have become an independent genre in drama. In his controversy with Nobel prizewinner, Max Born, Einstein wrote in 1926 that he was convinced that God does not throw dice, (i.e. that physics is deterministic, not probabilistic, as claimed by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg), from which the name of the book, "The Dicethrower". Bertolt Brecht in his "Life of Galileo" popularized a genre of drama based on the authentic framework of a scientist's biography in which the imagined action and dialogue form the essence of the play. Michael Frayn's play "Copenhagen", using this genre, was based on a meeting in occupied Copenhagen in 1941 between Niels Bohr and his former assistant Heisenberg, head of the nuclear energy project in Nazi Germany. The play, although devoted to discussions between two physicists, nevertheless drew record "lay" audiences, running more than 300 performances in both London and New York. Maroudas' "Dicethrower" belongs to this genre, although he allows himself more licence with the life of Einstein than did Brecht or Frayn, and to emphasize this Einstein becomes Dreistein in a "third parallel universe", although the biographical framework, as well as the letters quoted, are essentially authentic. Maroudas gives a comprehensive overview of the life and times of Einstein - his profound scientific insight, his troubled relations with his first wife Mileva Maric, his overt and courageous anti-militarism in a Germany up to its neck in the fervour of a patriotic war - with a light and sympathetic, but sometimes ironic touch. The text is slowed down occasionally by scientific clarifications, but on the whole it is coherent and smoothly flowing, providing most enjoyable reading.

by Prof Colman Altman, Physics Dept, Technion

N.G. Maroudas

Nicolas George Maroudas was born in South Africa, of Greek father and Anglo-South-African mother, in 1934. He met his wife Alice, a Polish holocaust survivor, on a Chemical Engineering course at Witwaterstrand University in 1950. They settled in London, had three children, obtained PhDs and entered research careers in Cell Biology and Biomedical Engineering. He is now retired and lives in Lower Galilee, Israel. He is an agnostic who blunders around in a dazed state of wonder and gratitude at the marvelous privilege of going through a life. He has published a few scientific papers and devised an accurate hexadecimal notation for musical overtones to simplify key relationships. His hobby is coding classical music in this notation for high resolution digital replay.

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