Seventy years after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear weapons, David Kaiser investigates the legacy of 'the physicists' war'. ... The Second World War marked an unprecedented mobilization of scientists and engineers, and a turning point in the relationship between research and the state. By the end of the war, the nuclear weapons project, code-named the Manhattan Engineer District, absorbed thousands of researchers and billions of dollars. It sprawled across 30 facilities throughout the United States and Canada, with British teams working alongside Americans and Canadians. Allied efforts on radar swelled to comparable scale. ... the term had been coined long before August 1945, and originally it had nothing to do with bombs or radar. Rather, the physicists' war had referred to an urgent, ambitious training mission: to teach elementary physics to as many enlisted men as possible. ... Both views of how scientists could serve their nations — the quotidian and the cataclysmic — have shaped scientific research and higher education to this day.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once told the head of the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA), “Give my regards to the catcher.” The catcher was Moe Berg, who spent 15 seasons in the majors before taking up espionage for the government. Spyball tells the extraordinary story of Berg, a linguist/Ivy-educated lawyer/.243 lifetime hitter whom manager Casey Stengel called “the strangest man to ever play the game of baseball.” Berg walked in eclectic circles, counting Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, and the Marx Brothers among his friends, but it was his service to his country that truly distinguished him. His surreptitious filming of Tokyo during a 1934 baseball tour helped develop strategies for the eventual bombing of the city during World War II, and his cloak-and-dagger mind games involving a German scientist helped prove that the Nazis were failing in their attempts to develop an atomic bomb.