Three Tales


Scene 1
It could not have been a technical matter

New York Times headline May 7, 1937 – drummed out: Hindenburg burns in Lakehurst crash, 21 known Dead, 12 missing, 64 escape.

3 tenors: It could not have been a technical matter

Headline: Dr. Hans Luther, the German Ambassador, said the disaster must not cause the world to lose faith in dirigibles and that it could not have been a technical matter.

Radio announcer Herb Morrison: It flashed, it flashed and it’s crashing, it’s crashing terrible. It burst, it burst into flame. Get this Scotty! Get this Scotty!

It flashed, it flashed and it’s crashing. Bursting, bursting into flame. Oh, its flames. Get this, get this Scotty!

Bursting into flame, into flame. Get this Scotty! It flashed and its crashing, it flashed. It’s crashing terrible. Get this, get this Scotty.

It burst, it burst into flame, into flame. It flashed, it flashed and its crashing.

Oh, it flashed. It’s crashing terrible. Get this, get this Scotty

Scene II
Nibelung Zeppelin
no text

Scene III
A very impressive thing to see

F. von Moltke: It was enormous and it was like silver

2 sopranos & 2 tenors: enormous

F. von Moltke: and it sort of made a humming noise

F. von Moltke: A very impressive thing to see

F. von Moltke: Have you seen pictures?

F. von Moltke: Why do such a thing?

2 sopranos & 2 tenors: why?

F. von Moltke: Why have such a cigar, huge silver cigar in the sky?

F. von Moltke: That’s another matter

Scene IV
I couldn’t understand it

New York Times, May 7, 1937: drummed out &3 tenors: Captain Ernst Lehmann gasped, “I couldn’t understand it” as he staggered out

Newsreel announcer from 1937: The Hindenburg has gone. Her tragedy will not halt the march of progress. From her ashes will arise the knowledge, from her fate, the lesson, that will lead to a greater and a better means of mastering the air. If so, her dead will not have died in vain.”

The Hindenburg has gone. She was the largest thing that ever flew. She represented man’s latest attempt to conquer the Atlantic by air. Her tragedy will not halt the march of progress.

F r o m h e r a s h e s w i l l a r i s e t h e k n o w l e d g e.


Biographical note on interviewee in Scene III:

Freya von Moltke is the widow of Helmuth James von Moltke, the German aristocrat who served in the Abwehr or German Intelligence Service in World War II where he worked to undermine Hitler. He was found out and hung in 1944. Freya lived in Germany during World War I, through Hindenburg’s presidency and Hitler’s rise to power. She now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.


In the air-1

NewYork Times headline: Atom Bomb Exploded

Countdown: Ten

3 tenors (from New York Times): I watched it, I watched it climb

Genesis (drummed out): And G-d

headline: Atom bomb exploded over Bikini fleet

Countdown: Nine

3 tenors : I watched it climb to a height of two miles

Genesis : created man

headline: Two ships are sunk, nineteen damaged out of seventy three

Countdown: Eight

3 tenors: It never stood still

Genesis: in His image

The atoll – 1

New York Times: July 25, 1946: King sees ‘big boom’ – Bikini Monach has little to say

US Navy film maker: Take one! (Slap)

headline: King Judah of Bikini witnessed today’s atomic bombing

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: King Judah, of Bikini witnessed

US Navy officer: Now then James, Now then James, tell them please

headline: witnessed today’s atomic bombing of his one time home lagoon

Genesis : Male and female

headline: bombing of his one time home lagoon from the topmost deck of this ship

film maker: Take two!

headline: from the topmost deck of this ship – Bikini monarch has little to say

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: his one time home

officer: tell them please, that the United State Government now

headline: Bikini monarch has little to say

Genesis: G-d created them

On the ships – 1

3 tenors-from New York Times: This test is designed

Genesis: and G-d blessed them

3 tenors: to measure the effects

Genesis: and G-d said to them

3 tenors : on metal, flesh, air and water


In the air-2

headline: Blast biggest yet

Countdown: Seven

3 tenors-from New York Times: gigantic, a gigantic shimmering mushroom

Genesis: “Be fruitful”

headline: Huge spout and cloud

Countdown: Six

3 tenors: ever changing, ever changing its form and color, ever changing

American radio announcer: The atom bomb plane ‘Dave’s Dream’,
D a v e’ s D r e a m

3 tenors: ever changing

announcer: is starting down the runway, d o w n t h e r u n w a y,
d o w n t h e r u n w a y

Genesis: “and multiply”

headline: More ships sink in mounting toll

Countdown: Five

3 tenors: difficult, for the human eye to follow

announcer: Fifty miles an hour I should say, now sixty, n o w s i x t y

3 tenors: difficult

announcer: Now we’re up to a hundred, a hundred and twenty

Genesis : “and fill the earth”

headline: Russia rejects, US Atom control plan

Countdown: Four

3 tenors: Then it became a giant tree

announcer: The atom bomb is in the air

3 tenors : a giant tree

announcer: on its way to Bikini, t o B i k i n i

Genesis: “and subdue it”

The atoll – 2

British radio announcer: Small and remote, its just the place, they say, for the next atom bomb

film maker: Crossroads, scene 24 take one!

2 sopranos, 2 tenors – from New York Times: He looked long, through his binoculars

Navy officer: The United State Government, wants to take this great destructive power

Genesis: “And rule over the fish of the sea”

announcer: S m a l l a n d r e m o t e, i t s j u s t t h e p l a c e, t h e y s a y

film maker: Crossroads, scene 24 take two!

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: and then muttered, ‘big boom’.

officer: turn this great destructive power into something for the benefit of all mankind

Genesis: “the birds of the air”

On the ships – 2

3 tenors – from New York Times: Five hundred phtographers, seven hundred cameras and half the world’s supply of film

Genesis: “and every living thing”

3 tenors in canon: Five hundred phtographers, seven hundred cameras and half the world’s supply of film

Genesis: “that moves upon the earth.”


In the air-3

Headline: Flash ten times brighter than the sun

Countdown: Three

3 tenors – from New York Times: Then it became a giant tree

American radio announcer: Listen, you hear that rhythmic ticking noise?
R h y t h m i c t i c k i n g n o i s e?

Genesis: And G-d created man

Headline: One million degrees Fahrenheit

Countdown: Two

3 tenors: bearing invisible fruits

announcer: so long as you hear it, you’ll know the bomb has not gone off

Genesis: In His image

Headline: Thirty five march in protest

Countdown: One

3 tenors : fruits of the Tree of Knowledge

announcer: well, you won’t be hearing that metronome much longer now

Genesis: male and female

The atoll – 3

British radio announcer: The inhabitants have been taken away, transferred to another coral island, and given new homes.

film maker: Crossroads, scene 26 take one!

2 sopranos, 2 tenors – from New York Times: with absolutely no show

officer: and that these experiments, and that these experiments here at Bikini

Genesis: “Be fruitful and multiply”

announcer: T h e i n h a b i t a n t s h a v e b e e n t a k e n a w a y

film maker: Crossroads, scene 26 take two!

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: he turned away

officer: and that these experiments here at Bikini are the first step in that direction

Genesis: “And fill the earth and subdue it”

On the ships – 3

3 tenors: ten, nine, eight

Genesis: “and rule over the fish of the sea”

Navy announcer: Put on goggles or turn away

3 tenors: seven, six, five

Genesis: “the birds of the air”

announcer: turn away

3 tenors: four, three, two, one

Genesis: “and every living thing”

announcer: turn away



Countdown: zero, z e r o, z  e  r  o

Genesis: And the Eternal formed the man, of dust of the ground

Headline: Smallest bathing suit in the world

Headline: Bikini still uninhabitable

2 sopranos & 3 tenors – from New York Times: Said King Judah, of Bikini, “It’s all changed. It’s not the same.”

Genesis: And placed him in the Garden of Eden, to serve it and to keep it




Kismet – from Genesis: And placed him in the garden of Eden, to serve it and to keep it.

Ruth Deech- The process is as follows

Deech- The process is as

Richard Dawkins – They removed the nucleus from an egg.

Dawkins – No genes in it at all

Deech – Take out, that DNA

James Watson – DNA is the script – DNA is script for life.

2 Sopranos: The process is as follows

Dawkins –They put in all the genes – from another cell

Deech – Which can come from the skin, the hair, anywhere you like.

Gina Kolata – They took a frozen, frozen udder cell. From a sheep that was dead

Dawkins – We, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes.

Dawkins: machines, machines, are machines (looped)

Kolata – f  r  o   z   e  n  u   d   d  e  r  c   e  l   l

Deech – You pop it into your enucleated egg

Deech – You then fertilize it – with a little electric shock.

Deech – It starts growing.

2 Sopranos: It starts growing

Deech – Hasn’t happened with humans, but it happened with Dolly


Typing: First successful cloning of adult mammal

Typing/3 Tenors: 277 udder cells, 29 embryos yield 1 live sheep

Roslin Institute worker: Let me introduce, Dolly

Dolly : Baaaa

Kismet: Would you like to be cloned?

3 Tenors, long canon on: 277 udder cells, 29 embryos yield 1 live sheep.

Stephen J. Gould: No, wouldn’t be me. Just a genetic copy.

Dawkins: It would be a truly riveting, fascinating experience.

Gould: Identical twins are better, and closer clones than Dolly

Jaron Lanier: Cloning is only one of the new biological tricks. Not the one to be most worried about.

Kismet – from Genesis: And placed him in the garden of Eden, to serve it and to keep it.

Human body machine

Dawkins: We, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes.

Dawkins: Machines, machines, are machines (looped)

Sherry Turkle: When Marvin Minsky said, “The mind is a meat machine”, people freaked.

Dawkins: A monkey is a machine that preserves genes up trees,

Watson: The script for human life is 3 billion letters,

Turkle: It doesn’t seem so frightening anymore.

Dawkins: a fish is a machine that preserves genes in the water.

Turkle: preparing for a new kind of -kind of cyborg consciousness


Dawkins: They’re all about preserving the code, preserving DNA.

Rodney Brooks: We’ve always thought of our brains in terms of our latest technology

Dawkins: DNA is a molecule – it carries coded information – exactly like a computer tape.

Brooks: So at one point our brains were steam engines.

Dawkins: What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire

Brooks: When I was a kid, they were telephone switching networks

Dawkins: not warm breath, not a ‘spark of life’.

Brooks: Then they became digital computers.

Dawkins: If you want to understand life,

Brooks: Then, massively parallel digital computers

Dawkins: think about information technology

Brooks: Probably, out there now, there are kid’s books which say that our brain is the world wide web.

Dawkins: I don’t think there’s anything that we are, that is in principle, deeply different from what computers are.

Brooks: We probably haven’t got it right yet.


Brooks: Alan Turing came up with this idea

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: Alan Turing

Genesis, drummed out: And the Eternal

Brooks: if you talked to a computer over instant messaging,

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: talked to a computer

Genesis: commanded the man,

Brooks: and you couldn’t tell the difference

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: couldn’t tell the difference

Genesis: of every tree of the Garden

Brooks: between whether it was a computer answering you or a person answering you.

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: a computer or a person

Genesis: you may freely eat.

Brooks: Then the computer must be intelligent

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: must be intelligent

Genesis: But of the tree of knowledge

Brooks: That leaves out a whole lot of stuff that we do with one another

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: leaves out a whole lot

Genesis: of good and evil

Brooks: We look each other in the eye,

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: we look

Genesis: you must not eat

Brooks: we smile

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: we smile

Genesis: for on the day you eat it,

Brooks: we nod at each other.

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: we nod

Genesis: you will surely die.


Steven Pinker: I might be fooled by a good silk flower. It doesn’t mean that its a real flower. It may just mean that I don’t know enough about flowers.

Dawkins: We, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes.

Robert Pollack: I have no sense of guilt pulling the plug on any machine.

Adin Steinsaltz: Its a machine or not a machine. The real question would be: Are you responsible or not responsible for anything?

Turkle: Not what the computer does, but what the computer does to us.

Kevin Warwick: The human body is extremely limited. I would love to upgrade myself.


Dawkins: Darwinian natural selection is the key to understanding the whole of the existence of life.

Dawkins: A self replicating molecule really began the origin of life.

Dawkins: It replicates, it produces copies and copies and copies and copies. If its successful, there are are going to be thousands of copies in the future.

Dawkins: copies, copies and copies (looped)

Dawkins: these things competed in the primeval soup

Dawkins: They started to build – cells around themselves – colonies of cells – which are what we are.

Dawkins: The ones that were good at it, stayed, the ones that were bad, didn’t stay.

Dawkins: Natural selection. the blind, unconscious, automatic, process – has no purpose – in mind.


Joshua Getzler: Evolution is – in a sense, the emergence of a new religion.

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: A new religion

Dawkins: Consider the idea of God.

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: Consider

Lanier: Its a terrible mistake, to think of the spiritual impulse, as arising from cognitive weakness.

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: Terrible mistake

Getzler: Well, its a religious war – its a war between religions.

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: Religious war

Dawkins: God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value, or infective power

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: Survival value

Getzler: The 20th century, where religious thinking was abandoned for secular and Darwinian ideology

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: Abandoned

Dawkins: If we all demanded evidence before we would believe something, religions would get nowhere.

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: Demanded evidence

Getzler: The 20th century was the worst graveyard in human history…and that should give us pause…

2 sopranos, 2 tenors: Worst graveyard


Steinsaltz: Every creature has a song – The song of the dogs – and the song of the doves – the song of the fly – the song of the fox. – What do they say?


Ray Kurzweil: Technology is a continuation of evolution

Kurzweil: we can create things

Kurzweil: far faster than biological evolution

Kurzweil: can create something more intelligent than ourselves

Kurzweil: intelligent machines.

Kurzwei: machines, machines, intelligent, ‘telligent machines (looped)

Cynthia Breazeal: Kismet is my baby

Cynthia: Building a baby the hard way

Cynthia: How do you play the role of evolution?

Sherry: One 10 year old said to me

Sherry: The robots are like Pinnochio

Sherry: not like real boys

Sherry: They’re sort of alive

Cynthia: sort of alive

Sheri: doesn’t have a mother

Sheri: doesn’t have siblings

Sheri: doesn’t know its gonna die.


Kurzweil: We’re going to be thrown from our perch of evolutionary superiority

Bill Joy: If we create a species smarter than ourselves our prospects are dim

Marvin Minsky: intelligent robots – will be ah, our replacement.

Bill Joy: If we’re gonna create a robot species we oughta take a vote first


Henri Atlan: The Prophet Jeremiah

Atlan: decided

Atlan: to build

Atlan: an artificial man

Atlan: he was perfect

Atlan: was able to talk

Atlan: immediately he talked to Jeremiah

Atlan: and he ask him

Atlan: “What did you do?”

Atlan: “Well, look, I have succeeded”

Atlan: Say, “No, no no, is not good.”

Atlan: “From now on

Atlan: when people will meet other people in the street

Atlan: they will not know

Atlan: whether you made them

Atlan: or G-d made them”

Atlan: “Undo – me”

Atlan: So that’s what Jeremiah did.


Brooks: I don’t think robots are going to take over from us

Rod Brooks: because there isn’t going to an an ‘us’

Rod Brooks: Because we, are starting to bring technology, into our bodies.

Cynthia: This, gives me pause (looped)

Minsky: You go and buy this module

Minsky: in the Mind Store

Minsky: and have it connected to you brain

Minsky: and then you do four or five part counterpoint

Kurzweil: If I scan your brain

Kurzweil: download that information

Kurzweil: I’ll have a little you

Kurzweil: right here in my personal computer.

Minsky: No reason people should put up with death

Minsky: start redesigning ourselves

Minsky: I think we’ll turn into

Minsky: something quite different.


Dawkins: Once upon a time there was

Dawkins: carbon based life,

Dawkins: and it gave over to,

Dawkins: silicon based life.

Dawkins: I don’t view the prospect, with equanimity

Dawkins: maybe I’m just sentimental


Deech: Here we are

2 sopranos & 3 tenors: Here we are

Deech: under the Tree

2 sopranos & 3 tenors: under the Tree again

2 sopranos & 3 tenors: at the end of the day

Steinsaltz: The sin of Adam – in eating

Steinsaltz: he was too hasty.

Kismet: Every creature has a song, what do they say?

Cynthia: (To Kismet as her robot baby) So how’s your day goin’?

Cynthia: Yeah?

Cynthia: You got it all planned out?

Cynthia: You do?

Cynthia: You got it all planned out?

Cynthia: Maybe you’ll play with your yellow toy?



Dolly Interviewees
in order of appearance

Ruth Deech is chair of the U.K. Human Fertilization & Embryology Authority which oversees embryo research and assisted reproduction and advises the government on related issues such as cloning. She is a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, a trustee of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Richard Dawkins is the first Charles Simonyi Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. His bestselling books include The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and River out of Eden. He has won the 1987 Royal Society of Literature Award, the 1990 Michael Faraday Award, the 1994 Nakayama Award for Human Science and the 1997 International Cosmos Prize.

James D. Watson along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for their work discovering the structure of DNA. He is the author of The Double Helix and the ground breaking textbook The Molecular Biology of the Gene. He is currently President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York and was the first Director of the National Center for Human Genome Research.

Gina Kolata has been writing about science for the New York Times for over a decade. She originally broke the story of Dolly in America and is the author of Clone – the road to Dolly and the path ahead. She has a degree in microbiology and has studied molecular biology at MIT at the graduate level. She has taught writing at Princeton University.

Kismet is the robot created by Cynthia Breazeal at MIT designed for social interactions with humans. Cynthia writes, “a new range of applications (domestic, entertainment, health care, etc.) are driving the development of robots that can interact and cooperate with people, and play a part in their daily lives.” Kismet has aroused media interest world wide.

Stephen Jay Gould was Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard and curator of invertebrate paleontology at that university’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. He was also Vincent Astor Visiting Professor of Biology at New York University. His bestselling books include Wonderful Life, The Mismeasure of Man and Questioning the Millennium.

Jaron Lanier coined the term ‘Virtual Reality’. He co-developed the first glove device for virtual world interaction and the first virtual reality applications in surgical simulation. He is a visiting artist at the Interactive Telecommunications Program of the Tisch School of the Arts, at New York University, and a visiting scholar at the Columbia University Computer Science Department.

Sherry Turkle is Professor of the Sociology of Science at MIT and a clinical psychologist. She is the author of Life on the Screen: Identity in the age of the Internet and The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit . Her current research is on the psychological impact of computational objects ranging from “affective computers” to robotic dolls and pets.

Rodney Brooks is Director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and is the Fujitsu Professor of Computer Science. His research is concerned with both the engineering of intelligent robots and with understanding human intelligence through building humanoid robots. He books include Cambrian Intelligence (1999) and Flesh and Machines published in 2002.

Steven Pinker is professor of psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT. He is the author of the bestselling books The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works. His research on visual cognition and on the psychology of language has received the Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences and two prizes from the American Psychological Association.

Robert Pollack is professor of biological sciences at Columbia University and is director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion. His books include The Missing Moment and Signs of Life: The Language and Meaning of DNA which received the Lionel Trilling Award and was translated into six languages.

Adin Steinsaltz is internationally regarded as one of the leading rabbis of the century. Time magazine called him a “once-in-a-millennium scholar”. He has almost completed translating the entire Babylonian Talmud into modern Hebrew as well as English, French and Russian. He has been a resident scholar at Yale and the Institute for Advanced study at Princeton. He fulfills a unique role as a bridge between those who are religious and those who are not.

Kevin Warwick is Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading in U.K. He attracted considerable attention recently when he had a small computer implant surgically put into his arm and is planning further bodily implants. He is at the forefront of those who would like to merge themselves with technology to become the first cyborgs.

Joshua Getzler is Senior Law Fellow at St. Hugh’s College and University Lecturer in Law at Oxford University. Earlier on he studied Chemistry and Physics though his degrees are in Law and History. He also has a keen interest in Darwin as an intellectual backdrop to economics and other aspects of our civilization.

Ray Kurzweil’s inventions include reading machines for the blind, music synthesizers for Stevie Wonder and many others and speech recognition technology. He is the author of the best selling The Age of Spiritual Machines. He was named inventor of the year by MIT in 1998 and was awarded the Dickson Prize from Carnegie Mellon in 1994.

Cynthia Breazeal is a post doctoral Fellow working in robotics at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. Her specialty is socially intelligent humanoid robots and she has recently built Kismet. She writes, “The sorts of competencies I would like Kismet to learn are those social and communicative skills exhibited by human infants within their first year of life.”

Bill Joy is co-founder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems. He is co-author of The Java Language Specification and principal designer of Berkeley Unix (BSD), the first ‘open source’ operating system. In 1997, President Clinton appointed him Co-Chairman of the Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee. His article in Wired ‘Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us’ produced a huge response and he is now at work on a book expanding this subject.

Marvin Minsky is Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, at MIT. His research has led to both theoretical and practical advances in artificial intelligence and placed his imprint upon the entire field. He is the author of The Society of Mind. Since the early 1950s, he has worked on using computational ideas to characterize human psychological processes, as well as working to endow machines with intelligence.

Henri Atlan MD is Professor Emeritus of Biophysics at the Universities of Paris and Jerusalem. He is Director of Research in the Philosophy of Biology at EHESS in Paris and a member of the French National Committee for Health and Life Sciences. He has written numerous works on cell biology, immunology, artificial intelligence and philosophy of biology. He is a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur.