“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. These words, extracted from the religious text of the Bhagavad Gita, took a whole new meaning and momentum when they were uttered from the lips of J. Robert Oppenheimer, right after the first successful detonation of an atomic bomb –dubbed simply as “the gadget” by the secretive Manhattan project— on the desert of the Trinity site test,in New Mexico.
The ancient Hindu phrase is now forever embedded in the history of the XXth century, for it signaled the Dawn of the Atomic Age: The moment when Mankind mastered the enormous power binding atomic nuclei together; the moment when we harnessed the flame stolen from mount Olympus… and realized we could set the whole world on fire with it.
That happened 70 years ago, on July 16th 1945.
Below is a documentary developed by Local Legacies Project of the US Library of Congress, exploring the events and the people behind the Manhattan Project, which was responsible for not only developing the Little Boy and Fat Man atomic bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also changing the entire course of human history along the way:
Of course, such an ‘official’ version of this historic event would never acknowledge how we, the public, still ignore MANY things about the German atomic program under the 3rd Reich, which was what prompted Einstein and many other prominent scientists who had fled Europe to write to president Roosevelt, urging him to approve the creation of a project capable of beating the Nazis in building an atomic bomb. We, for example, are still uncertain about what really happened in that famous meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941 in the city of Copenhagen, even though there’s plenty of letters and written material intended to explain it. Heisenberg was at the time collaborating in the Nazi nuclear program, and whatever cryptic message he said to Bohr –he was concerned that because of his sensitive work he was being constantly monitored– seems to have greatly upset his old mentor.
The fact that the more ‘information’ we seem to have about the Copenhagen meeting –there’s even a stage play inspired by the event– the less certain we are about what really went on between these 2 founding fathers of Quantum mechanics, would no doubt have pleased Heisenberg, discoverer of the Uncertainty Principle…
There are also researchers like Joseph P. Farrell, who has proposed in his books that the scientists of the Manhattan project didn’t have enough fissile material to build the bombs, and that the uranium they ended up using had come from a captured German U-boat.
But perhaps the biggest enigma is whether the explosion of July 16th, 1945 was less than a novel breakthrough, and more like a ‘re-discovery’ of a long-lost technology. When once asked by a student if the Trinity test was the first time an atomic device had been detonated, Oppenheimer replied “well, yes; in modern times.“
Whether Oppenheimer had a great-great-great-grandfather who managed to build an “iron thunderbolt” or not, as (supposedly) described in the Hindu text of the Mahabharata, is something I’ll leave Ancient Alien fans and their debunkers to debate. For me, what’s important is that for 70 years we’ve lived under the shadow of Trinity’s fiery blast, and the Manhattan genie is never going back to its bottle.
With all the recent developments concerning the deal between Iran and the United States, which seems to have set back the Doomsday clock a few minutes back –or forward, depending on your political POV!– I think it’s important to remember that being an advanced civilization is knowing we are all walking on the edge of a knife. Forever.