Oppenheimer: The ‘Destroyer of Worlds’ who built the atomic bomb — and how his legacy still affects us today | Tech News

Whenever Vladimir Putin raises the specter of a nuclear confrontation, the clues eventually point to one person.

eighty years ago president of russia invade Ukraineand bringing the potential of such weapons back into the mainstreamJ. Robert Oppenheimer was recruited to lead a team that would build the world’s first atomic bomb.

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the manhattan project was in Second World War In 1942, people feared that if us Hitler’s Nazi scientists made them first, not its allies.

The American, a left-wing theoretical physicist not known for his leadership skills or laboratory acumen, was an unconventional pick but one that proved extremely effective.

With blockbuster biopic Oppenheimer in theaters, Sky News reports how the father of the atomic bomb is still shaping the world decades after his creation was deployed.

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an unusual recruitment

Oppenheimer was appointed by the program’s military leader, General Leslie Groves, to head Site Y, a secret weapons research facility in Los Alamos, new mexico.

But as Oppenheimer biographer Professor Ray Monk puts it, there were “all sorts of reasons” not to appoint him, not least because ties to communist organizations made him a suspect for the FBI.

Born in New York in 1906 to a Jewish family, he turned to the left as a student as friends and relatives of the German fascist regime were oppressed and forced to flee.

While studying at Harvard University, Cambridgeand GermanyAt the University of Göttingen in the 1920s, he became famous for his “disasters in the laboratory”. Speaking of his time studying physics at Harvard University, Oppenheimer himself said: “I always felt extremely dissatisfied with myself.”

PhD. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the new dean of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, stands in front of a blackboard covered in mathematical formulas.  17th of 1947. Oppenheimer served as wartime director of the Manhattan Project as it developed and produced the first atomic bomb.  (Photo by Associated Press)
Oppenheimer worked in education before and after the war

He might not be convincing in the lab, but he found his calling as a university lecturer California. His ability to explain complex science in a relatively simple and convincing manner proved key to impressing Groves, who interviewed countless scientists before meeting Oppenheimer by chance.

Crucially, he also recognized urgency.

Prof Munk said: “Oppenheimer knew that Heisenberg was one of the greatest scientists in the world, that he worked with him in Göttingen, was leading the Nazi bomb project, and worried that they would get one before the Allies. bomb.

“He has no doubts about it — the job of all scientists in the United States and allied countries is to build a bomb first.”

Catalog Number: Oppenheimer J Robert C35.  Oppenheimer and Groves at Ground Zero, September 1945.Image credit: Digital Photo Archive, Department of Energy (DOE), courtesy of AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archive
Oppenheimer had an unconventional relationship with Leslie Groves.Image: DOE Digital Photo Archive

build a bomb

Los Alamos was one of three sites critical to the development of the atomic bomb.

The other is a factory in Hanford, washingtonwhere plutonium is manufactured; and a hidden base in Oak Ridge, Tennesseeused to enrich uranium.

These two elements will serve as fuel for bombs built at Los Alamos, two of which Dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945.

The Science Behind the Oppenheimer Bomb

The basis of the atomic bomb is the process of nuclear fission – when the nucleus of an atom splits into two smaller nuclei, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process.

It was discovered by two German scientists in 1938, and Oppenheimer realized its devastating potential when contacted in 1939.

The prospect of weaponizing nuclear fission has captured the attention of scientists across Europe, with plutonium and uranium thought to be elements that could undergo the process.

Once the process is understood, the race to weaponize it begins.

Cynthia C Kelly, founder and chair of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, worked to preserve the Manhattan Project, which was critical in earning the three sites U.S. National Park status.

“It was an unprecedented comprehensive effort,” she said of the Manhattan Project, which was named after it. New York City the region in which it was established.

Since the city that never sleeps is too busy for such a secretive initiative, the three laboratories were set up in remote locations far from the city center and the coast. They brought together geniuses from America and abroad – including Britain and some who had fled Nazi Germany – for a single-minded pursuit.

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“It required creative thinking from machinist to craftsman—everything had to be perfect,” Kelly added, with a “typically absent-minded professor” at the heart of it.

“They have to take this heretofore uncontrolled energy, figure out a way to control it, and pack it tight enough to fit in the bomb bay of an aircraft that can transport and drop it.

“They have no confidence that this technology will be used in time to end the war.”

At the atomic bomb testing site near Almagordo, New Mexico, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, a physicist at the University of California, gazed at the site while smoking a pipe.  October 9, 1945.  (Photo by Associated Press)
Oppenheimer’s atomic bomb testing site near Almagordo, New Mexico

become death

But they did take advantage of it – and the world would change forever.


“Now I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” he said after the so-called Trinity test, citing a sacred Hindu text that reminded him of his acumen as a philosopher and scientist.

Weeks later, the death toll reached unimaginable proportions. On August 6, a uranium-based bomb called “Little Boy” was detonated over Hiroshima; three days later, another “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki.

The latest explosion was bigger than the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945

Both cities were beyond recognition, 200,000 people died, Japan Surrender. Oppenheimer was shocked.

“He didn’t have any moral qualms until the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima,” Professor Munk said.

“Even when the Germans surrendered (May 7, 1945) and it was clear that the Americans would still use bombs against the Japanese, he was not disturbed.

“But he thought it would be enough to demonstrate the awesome power of this weapon.”

- March 1946 File Photo - This panoramic view of the city of Hiroshima was taken in March 1946, six months after the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945.50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the atomic bombing of World War II in August 1995
Hiroshima, March 1946, six months after the United States dropped the atomic bomb

a new world

Oppenheimer was transformed by the bomb despite its undoubted role in ending World War II, which killed an estimated 90 million people, arguing that it made the prospect of future conflict “unbearable” .

“It leads us up the last few steps to the pass; beyond the pass is a different country,” he said in 1946, before voicing opposition to the government’s plans to develop larger nuclear weapons.

Oppenheimer was ignored and under serious suspicion, and his security clearance at the Atomic Energy Commission was eventually revoked. When he died of lung cancer in 1967, he lost the power he once held.

FILE - This October 17, 1945 file photo Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer of the New Mexico Atomic Bomb Manufacturing Project Laboratory testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington.

Nuclear weapons have not been used again, but the threat remains. The arsenals of the United States and Russia are much smaller than at the height of the Cold War, but they hold 90 percent of the world’s estimated 13,000 weapons stockpile.

including other nuclear powers China, India, Pakistanand North Korea. like putin, Kim Jong Un has repeatedly threatened to use them. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization dedicated to reducing nuclear and biological threats, said the world could be “sleepwalking through a nuclear catastrophe”.

Cynthia C. Kelly said there was “no way to put the genie back in the bottle” since Oppenheimer witnessed the Trinity test in the New Mexico desert.

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“The threat of nuclear weapons will never go away”

over the mountain

Although Oppenheimer’s postwar efforts failed, his work is the best example for world leaders Why They Don’t Want to Risk Mutual Assured Destruction by Launching Nukes.

Two cities devastated beyond recognition seemed to act as the ultimate deterrent.

“Oppenheimer was asked on several occasions to regret the development of the atomic bomb, especially when he visited Japan, but his answer was always no,” Professor Munk said.

“Arguably, the weapons were never used again, showing that deterrence works.”

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Will Russia use nuclear weapons?

Beyond deterrence, the Manhattan Project ushered in an era of science and innovation that is still felt today, including nuclear power, which was critical to we weaning ourselves off greenhouse gas emissions.

last year, US scientists conduct first-ever nuclear fusion experiment, achieve net energy gainpaving the way for “clean energy that could revolutionize the world.”

Some experts are calling for a Manhattan Project-style move in response climate change, using the same sense of urgency and determination to respond to crises that threaten us all.amazing rise artificial intelligence, has been compared to the threat of a nuclear weapons makermay provide another such opportunity.

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Energy: Is fusion the future?

Unfortunately, nothing keeps people focused like war.

“Weapons are part of the nuclear story, and they will stay with us until we blow ourselves up,” Kelly said.

“Hopefully that doesn’t happen, and if Oppenheimer says that, we’ll be able to see the other side of the mountain.”

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