Watched the last episode of the TV series Manh(A)ttan last night. As TV drama goes, especially as night time soaps go, it was good. Despite a few weak episodes, at times it was great.
But it fails to give a clear or consistent sense of the scope of the Manhattan Project; it glosses over the chasm between theoretical science and nuts-and-bolts engineering and misses the vast sweep of the thousands who turned wet-behind-the-ears science into best-guess engineering not once but over and over again, in an interlocking network of efforts that ultimately worked out like a Fermi Estimate: a series of best guesses that staggered their way to a working end product.
In place of a huge group of brilliant minds and distinctly different personalities, the TV series gave viewers a handful of Physics Gods and a few dozen platoons of presumably Ph.D. spear-carriers. Facing down one of the most fascinating stories of desperate science, they blinked.
It's good entertainment; it's just not how science works, it's not how engineering works and it is most assuredly not how the Manhattan Project worked. The science parts of the TV series are too small, and too concentrated in too few individuals.
I'll give them a B+ nevertheless. If the series had been dreamed up in a world where the A-bomb had never been developed, it would have been first-rate drama. Alas, it was a mere flashbulb against the glare of Trinity. A good flashbulb, a well-made one, but still--
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
8 months ago