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The Mushroom Cloud

16th July 1945

If you could change the world…would you want to?

Today is July 16th, 1945. On the surface, things appear well at the Alamos for a change. We had champagne today at the barracks, amidst all the mud and scientists and a very happy president in a very celebratory mood. The army men are overjoyed; they really think we'll have the Germans and the Japs by their hairy balls with this one. I want to laugh sardonically right in their fancy bushy moustaches (it's obvious the war will soon be won anyway) but working here has long since robbed me of my voice and rebellion.

The luminaries have mixed reactions about today. Fermi is like a proud father; he hasn't stopped grinning since. It's beginning to sicken me, and I fear I will not be able to stand his beaming pride much longer before I crumple into a breakdown of my own. Feynman, that free spirit and practical joker is in a much more somber mood than his usual persona suggests. I don't believe we'll hear much more of Injun Joe drumming away into the night. I suppose a good night's sleep is on the cards.

Myself … what has become of this shell?

Still tall, still thin, still smoking two packs a day (with the exception of today; I fear I may unconsciously promote myself to the mythical realm of six-pack chain smokers). The days leading up to this forsaken date in history have been particularly unkind to my appetite. I have never experienced such depression and such desire to retreat into reclusion since the time in Paris when I had leapt up and attempted to throttle my dear friend Francis Ferguson by the neck. God, that incident still embarrasses me even now. To think that it had all begun with me merely narrating the frustrations I had at the time with experimental physics!

I used to think I needed physics more than I needed friends. But what good is physics if it removes from existence all of mankind, let alone any friends I might have?

Katherine has also been losing weight. This whole mess has clearly affected her too. She hates to see me like this, and I hate to see her like this. The days of our courtship in Berkeley seem so distant now, I am not even sure if it is a memory or only a dream. God knows I need those memories. Memories are the platform for our reason, and should we lose them, we lose our sanity. I need all the sanity I can get in these dark times.

I cannot quite remember what exactly it was that I felt when we drove out to the vast desolate plains of Alamogordo in the early hours of the morning. Ah, yes. I remember now. I am ashamed to have felt great confidence and pride, amour propre bursting out of my chest as I looked ahead at the site of our first major test. The ranch shack housing the gadget, the fruit of our labor, awaited us. The rain was pouring down in buckets and lightning struck like warning signals from the gods. We held our breath each time the electricity split the sky, for an accidental detonation would be disaster.

I had named the test site Trinity. In retrospect, it was blasphemous of me to suggest a place of destruction to be named as such. Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death. From it a quotation:

"As West and East
In all flat Maps—and I am one—are on,
So death doth touch the Resurrection."

That still does not make a Trinity, but in another, Donne opens,

"Batter my heart, three person'd God;—."

Beyond this, I have no clue whatever as to why I named it so.

The skies finally cleared at about 5 a.m. We were shepherded to a base camp ten miles away. Feynman, that eternal joker, refused to wear the dark glasses that would protect his eyes from the flash, testament to both his testicular fortitude and general lack of good sense.

The passing of twenty minutes seemed like an eternity, a lifetime. I laugh now to think whose lifetime it was. Perhaps it was mine; that would explain my wasting away. The flash reached us first, illuminating our surroundings brighter than any sun can, swathing us with colors of purple, to green, and eventually to white before the roar of the shock wave hit us like a million-gun salute forty seconds later. The presence of the 12km-tall mushroom cloud was so immense, so loud, so bright, so hot – and it was so very hot, like being in an oven in that bunker ten miles away- that I felt like I was standing at the feet and mercy of a malevolent and omnipresent god.

If the radiance of a thousand suns

were to burst into the sky,

that would be like

the splendor of the Mighty One—

I am become Death, the shatterer of Worlds.

I am become death. I led this team, a team composed of the most brilliant physicists around that I had handpicked myself, into creating the most devastating weapon ever invented in the history of mankind, and in two weeks the world will witness the full extent of its powers. We will watch and shake and tremble at what we will do to this earth and at how we will change it.

At how I will change it.

The name on my badge says "J. R. Oppenheimer", but it will not mean a thing to those Japs. I am keeping this journal as proof that I once was famous, I once graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard in just three years, I once was the bright founder of modern theoretical physics; and I am keeping this journal as proof that as of today, July 16th 1945, I wish I never were any of the above.

They will know me as the man who made the A-bomb.

8 mad rant(s):

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  1. Arbitary Juggernaut said...

    J.R. Oppenheimer was the man who invented the A-bomb which underwent its first test detonation on 16th July 1945. This was a narration on how i think Mr. Oppenheimer would have wrote his journal (had he have kept a journal that is).

    Enjoy! =)  

  2. Arbitary Juggernaut said...

    For this post and more like them visit my other blog at:

    P.S. I hope Jared doesn't mind me advertising my blog on RANDTS .. =P  

  3. Maverick said...

    >> arbitary juggernaut,

    Well, I wouldn't mind, really... but only just this once, OK? Haha!

    This is one hell of a post! I enjoyed reading every letter of it. You'd think that this WAS Oppenheimer's journal. Which museum did you get it from?

    ...kidding. Well-written, 'nuff said. Great job! =)

    ~verus rara avis~  

  4. gungrave1988 said...

    Really cool post. I actually felt something reading every word on the post. I respect ya,man. Awesome post!!!  

  5. Comrade Cripple said...

    The atomic bomb (nuclear weapons) has prevented the Third World War so far yet we almost got annihilated by it.

    I heard that the truth about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not about ending World War 2 with less dead. Negotiations were not pushed as hard as it could. The Japs may have surrendered just through talks alone. The only reason Truman wanted a A-Bomb strike was to intimidate USSR. All the innocents dead for nothing but evil sabre rattling.

    J. R. Oppenheimer really personifies death especially the victims of the A-Bombs. May God forgive him and not forsake his soul.

    I just wish for a world without wars let alone nuclear weapons.

    [Arbitary Juggernaut]: This is your best post so far.  

  6. kuffar lime said...

    Power corrupts the soul, money corrupts the heart. Some corrupted individuals pillage resources, some steal and some kill.

    We have some people "here" who should have replaced the Hiroshima and Nagasaki dead for they personify hopeless evil.  

  7. Arbitary Juggernaut said...

    Thank you all! Its good to know that i have now made a significant contribution to RANDTS and have justified Albert for wanting (and getting) me to join this institution of the free willed.

    Arigato Khozaimas.

    ~Ni bogu Svenska, Ni chortyu Kocherga~
    I am neither the candle of God nor the Rod of the Devil.  

  8. Comrade Cripple said...

    We need Japanese characters! Lolz  


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