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LIFE@Lynchburg: The Heisenberg Certainty Principle

September 13, 2023 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Presented by Kevin Smith.

Even today, the name Werner Heisenberg invokes an odd combination of feelings involving great intelligence and foreboding. As Nazi Germany’s leading theoretical physicist, Heisenberg led Nazi Germany’s nuclear power and atomic bomb development program.

Heisenberg was brilliant, gifted, and someone the Allies feared. But, his efforts failed. What Heisenberg is best known for is his uncertainty principle, which captured the mathematical transition from the Newtonian world of physics to the subatomic world of quantum physics. Heisenberg presided over the quantum world of theoretical physics and won a Nobel prize in 1933.

By December 1944, one thing was certain – Nazi Germany was nowhere close to developing an atomic bomb. What few people know is that the person who concluded this, after talking with Heisenberg, was American, Jewish, and a professional baseball player. His name was Moe Berg and, in 1944, he was sent to kill Heisenberg in Zurich if he concluded that Germany was close to developing an atomic bomb.

This man who spared Heisenberg’s life was every bit as brilliant as Heisenberg and every bit as inscrutable. He was a polymath with a photographic memory who, after graduating from Princeton University and Columbia Law School, went on to play professional baseball and became a spy.

This is the curious story of two brilliant individuals brought together by their country’s respective atomic efforts. It is also a story that proves that truth is better than fiction.

The University of Lynchburg’s LIFE@Lynchburg program offers not-for-credit learning opportunities for community members age 50 and older. The program features weekly presentations on a variety of engaging topics, taught by current and retired faculty and staff members or area educators and presenters.

Our payment and membership options and benefits provide access to a range of on-campus amenities.

  • Semester pass: $85
  • Semester Virtual Membership: $49
  • Annual Membership: $150
  • Annual Virtual Membership: $79
  • Single Event Pass: $12

Learn more about our different membership options.


September 13, 2023
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Event Category:


Sarah M. Rhodes

Persons needing accommodations for disabilities at a University of Lynchburg event should contact the Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources at least one week before the event.