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Edward Teller

Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

There was an absence in our teaching system, as there is, I believe, in most high school teaching systems, to consider mathematics and science as exact. "It is so, it is provable, it is indubitable!" All of it is true. But it misses the point. The interesting thing in the exact sciences is what is not yet known, what is in doubt, and that process of doubt, of contradiction, which actually occurs as science changes from century to century, should be reproduced in every student's mind. And I think, as a matter of fact, it is being reproduced in every good student's mind.
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Edward Teller

Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

We had a busy conference. And my wife and I got very tired by the end of the conference. But no sooner did we start to relax -- let's say 15 minutes after -- there was a telephone call, and my friend Leo Szilard was on the other end. "I am at the Union Station, come and get me." Well, Szilard was perhaps the last -- or one of the last -- men who had a great influence on me. That is, a great positive influence. No one could have had a greater influence on me than Hitler, who made it entirely clear to me that one could not ignore politics, and very particularly one could not ignore the worst evils in politics. What Szilard wanted was to say, "Here is what I have been waiting for! Here is what I have told you in London years ago: fission. Maybe in fission, when a big nucleus -- the biggest, uranium -- splits into two pieces, perhaps this fission, caused by one neutron, will emit two neutrons and then nuclear explosions will become possible." It made sense. And a few weeks later, there was Szilard on the phone calling in from New York. "I have found the neutrons!"
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Edward Teller

Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

That summer, I was teaching at Columbia and Szilard came to me one day. "Can you drive me out to the end of Long Island to see Einstein?" You know, Szilard was very ingenious and could do anything except drive a car. And furthermore, he had false hopes that I would be a good driver. At any rate, I got him to Einstein. He invited us to a cup of tea, and Szilard took a letter out of his pocket and Einstein read it carefully and signed it, and made one relevant remark. "This is the first time," he said, "we would get energy directly from the atomic nucleus, rather than from the sun, which got it from the atomic nucleus." He handed the letter back to Szilard, and that was the second of August. The rest is known to everybody. I had played my essential role as Szilard's chauffeur. Szilard gave the letter to an acquaintance of his who knew the President -- who knew Roosevelt. The letter was signed on the second of August, a little more than four weeks before Hitler invaded Poland. The delivery of the letter was slow, but it got there, circumventing any interference by secretaries. And FDR saw it, end of October, after Hitler and Stalin defeated -- and divided between themselves -- Poland. The letter said the science is there. Nuclear explosives can be made, and the Germans were the first to know about it, they discovered it. I cannot think of a time where such a letter could have made more of an impact on Roosevelt than the time when he actually got it. He immediately issued orders and we got going.
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Edward Teller

Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

In the spring of 1940, I got an invitation to a Pan-American Congress -- to which I was determined not to go -- in Washington, next door. And Roosevelt was going to speak and I still was not going. But the day before his speech, Hitler invaded the Lowlands and it was very clear that the decisions in the World War were now immediately impending. And Roosevelt was going to speak about that, so I was going. The first and only time that I saw Roosevelt, and that was from a distance. He talked about the fact that the time to fly from Europe to the American continent was not so great, that small nations are not secure, neither are big ones, that the scientists may be blamed for the horrible things that are happening. "But," said Roosevelt, "I am a pacifist, and you, my friends, are pacifists, but I am telling you, if you are not going to work on the instruments of war, freedom will be lost everywhere." That was the question on my mind. And I had the impression that Roosevelt was talking to me. And of course that was stupid to think so -- me of 2,000 people -- but yes, me. Because, of a couple of thousand people present, it may have been he and I and none other who knew about the possibility of the atomic bomb. I read the letter that he read, and I knew the actions that he had already taken to start work on nuclear explosives. When he finished talking, my mind was made up. And I remember looking at my watch, he had talked 20 minutes.
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Twyla Tharp

Dancer and Choreographer

Twyla Tharp: When I'm in the studio, when I'm warm, when I'm what people call improvising, but what I call futzing because improvisation seems like such a somehow institutionalized word. What I do is completely the opposite of institutionalized, it's the messiest thing you can imagine. That when I'm in a certain state where the cerebral powers are turned off, and the body just goes according to directive that I know not of, it's at those times that I feel a very special connection to I feel the most right. I don't want to become too mystic about this, but things feel as though they're in the best order at that particular moment. It's a short period. It goes only, at maximum, an hour. I pay a very great price to be able to maintain that. But it is, that hour that -- I use the same phrase over and over again -- that tells me who I am. I think it's that way for anyone who does anything that is personal to them. There are moments where things come, and they don't know where they've come from. It's the business of discovery, and being able to have that freshness in your daily procedure that enrichens the life. It keeps the discipline that's necessary for any artist from becoming stale.
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Twyla Tharp

Dancer and Choreographer

Twyla Tharp: I thought I had to make an impact on history. It was quite simple. I had to become the greatest choreographer of my time. That was my mission, and that's what I set out to do. And whether or not that's been accomplished, at least I have the common sense to know we don't determine those things. Posterity deals with us however it sees fit. But I certainly gave it 20 years of my best shot.
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Twyla Tharp

Dancer and Choreographer

Twyla Tharp: I not only have a very intimate connection with rhythm because of I'm sure that children who are fortunate enough to have professional parents -- or parents who introduce them at a very young and emotional age to a calling that becomes their profession and their chosen passion, which seems like a contradiction in terms but is not -- have an advantage over all others. The fact that my mother held me before I could really walk, and I was dealing with music, embeds it in a way that is otherwise just not possible. That very, very early training, so that rhythmically I have a sense of it. Aurally I have a sense of it. It's connected to smell, it's connected to taste. It's not a dry thing. It has a great deal of living force to it.
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Wayne Thiebaud

Painter and Teacher

It was somehow important to me to be honest in what we do, and to love what it is we paint. These were lessons given to me by other artists, obviously. To do what you love, or are interested in, or have some regard for. And it seems to me that it's easy to overlook what we spend our majority of time doing, and that's an intimate association with everyday things: putting on our shoes, tying our ties, eating our breakfast, cooking our meals, washing our dishes. Somehow that ongoing human activity seems to me very much worth doing. It's only when we become presumptive, I think -- to think we're better than that, and we'd like to be, and should think of ourselves being better -- that we begin to ignore those things. But in a wonderful way, children really remind us of it. They go to the gumball machines with their little penny and put it in and say, "Look, Dad!" Look what came out of this terrible-looking thing, this magenta sweet little whirl of wonder. And that, to me, is as good as we get.
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Wayne Thiebaud

Painter and Teacher

Wayne Thiebaud: I'm one sort of against mysteriousness about painting. But it's there somewhere. But when you think about it, painting itself is a kind of miracle, because what you're doing is reducing a three-dimensional world of living, active organized chaos into this little, flat, unmoving, quiet, flat thing, which has to, in some ways, be able to speak to you.

Interviewer: So in a way you can never perfectly reach that?

Wayne Thiebaud: I don't think so. I don't think perfection is a very interesting thing, because we are all imperfect. And that's quite wonderful, because it's what we call human.
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