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Rea/Bohr Speech on Classical Science 


My favorite scene is when Stephen as Niels Bohr makes his speech on classical science. I love that speech, and I love it because of the writing.

The Bohr character talks about mankind constantly being moved to the periphery, and then at the beginning of the 20th century, being brought back into the middle, because of the discoveries in physics -- by being the observer.

I knew instantly how I was going to film the scene. It was just a matter of getting Stephen to pace and talk, while Heisenberg played the piano. It's not particularly original the way the scene is filmed. But it's very succinct and it works, and I enjoyed that scene hugely.
 
 

Rea Speech
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Stephen Rea's Speech

 

BOHR:  You see what we did in those three years, Heisenberg? Not to exaggerate, but we turned the world inside out! Yes, listen, now it comes, now it comes... We put man back at the centre of the universe. Throughout history we keep finding ourselves displaced. We keep exiling ourselves to the periphery of things. First we turn ourselves into a mere adjunct of God's unknowable purposes, tiny figures kneeling in the great cathedral of creation. And no sooner have we recovered ourselves in the Renaissance, no sooner has man become, as Protagoras proclaimed him, the measure of all things, than we're pushed aside again by the products of our own reasoning! We're dwarfed again as physicists build the great new cathedrals for us to wonder at - the laws of classical mechanics that exist whether we exist or not. Until we come to the beginning of the twentieth century, and we're suddenly forced to rise from our knees again.
 
HEISENBERG:  It starts with Einstein.
 
BOHR:  It starts with Einstein. He shows that measurement - measurement, on which the whole possibility of science depends - measurement is not an impersonal event that occurs with impartial universality. It's a human act, carried out from a specific point of view in time and space, from the one particular viewpoint of a possible observer. Then, here in Copenhagen in those three years in the mid-twenties we discover that there is no precisely determinable objective universe. That the universe exists only as a series of approximations. Only within the limits determined by our relationship with it. Only through the understanding lodged inside the human head.


 

 

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