Search This Blog

Monday, July 24, 2023

Trinity, Atom Bomb - bio-pic of Robert Oppenheimer

Imp Pre-script :  1. Truth is stranger than fiction, and History has more twists than any soap opera.  Not sure how many would read this lengthy post.  In case you do, request that you register your comments – at least a 5 !!

2.  I am no Cine buff – yet the hype behind this bio-pic makes me think that I may see this move on theatre !!

A few decades ago, new movies would be released on Friday, festival days like Deepavali, Pongal, New year etc., 

The Hindu trinity comprises Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. The three Gods represent the cyclical nature of our existence from birth, preservation, and destruction to subsequent regeneration. These Gods are identifiable in their artistic representations by the icons commonly associated with them. 

The Los Alamos Laboratory, also known as Project Y, was a secret laboratory established by the Manhattan Project and operated by the University of California during World War II. Its mission was to design and build the first atomic bombs. Robert Oppenheimer was its first director, serving from 1943 to December 1945, when he was succeeded by Norris Bradbury. 

Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, conducted by the United States Army on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. The test was conducted in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on what was then the White Sands Proving Grounds. 

The code name "Trinity" was assigned by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, inspired by the poetry of John Donne. The test was of an implosion-design plutonium device, nicknamed the "Gadget", of the same design as the Fat Man bomb later detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. The complexity of the design required a major effort from the Los Alamos Laboratory.   The test site was later declared a National Historic Landmark district in 1965, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places the following year. 

The man at the helm is a powerful name in History – Oppenheimer.  His diverse interests sometimes even   interrupted his focus on science. He liked things that were difficult and since much of the scientific work appeared easy for him, he developed an interest in the mystical and the cryptic. After leaving Harvard, he began to acquaint himself with the classical Hindu texts through their English translations. He also had an interest in learning languages and learned Sanskrit,under Arthur W. Ryder at Berkeley in 1933. He eventually read literary works such as the Bhagavad Gita and Meghaduta in their original Sanskrit and deeply pondered them. He later cited the Gita as one of the books that most shaped his philosophy of life., He wrote to his brother that the Gita was "very easy and quite marvelous", and called it "the most beautiful philosophical song existing in any known tongue."  He later gave copies of  holy Bhagwat Geetha  as presents to his friends and kept a personal, worn-out copy on the bookshelf by his desk. He even nicknamed his car Garuda, the mount bird of the Hindu god Sriman Narayana.  

The recent release of two vastly different films, "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer," has created a unique and humorous juxtaposition in the entertainment world. The movies, targeting different audiences, have sparked a surge of interest online, generating predictions of significant box-office success. 

"Barbie" showcases the iconic Mattel doll's pink-themed universe, while "Oppenheimer" delves into the story of the architect behind the atomic bomb. Despite their distinct themes, the two films have become intertwined in a conjoined hype cycle, resulting in a surge in ticket sales. AMC Entertainment reported that over 40,000 people purchased tickets for a double feature of both films, amounting to five hours of movie viewing. 

Although the films are expected to perform well, "Barbie" is projected to outshine "Oppenheimer" at the box office. Analysts predict that "Barbie" has the potential to rake in an impressive $158 million in the United States and Canada through the opening weekend. On the other hand, "Oppenheimer" is estimated to bring in approximately half of that amount, around $50 million in domestic sales. Warner Bros., the studio behind "Barbie," cautiously tempered expectations, suggesting a more conservative estimate of around $75 million.  

Oppenheimer is an epic biographical thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Based on the 2005 biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, the film chronicles the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who was pivotal in developing the first nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project, and thereby ushering in the Atomic Age. Cillian Murphy stars as the titular character, with Emily Blunt as Oppenheimer's wife, Katherine "Kitty" Oppenheimer, Matt Damon as General Leslie Groves, Oppenheimer's military handler.  The project was announced in September 2021 after Universal Pictures won a bidding war for Nolan's screenplay.  

Oppenheimer premiered at Le Grand Rex in Paris on July 11, 2023, and was theatrically released in the United Kingdom and United States on July 21, 2023 by Universal Pictures. Its simultaneous release with the fantasy comedy Barbie gave rise to the "Barbenheimer" phenomenon and drove audiences to go see both films as a double feature. The film received widespread critical acclaim, with praise towards Nolan's direction and screenplay, the performances of the cast, visuals, and Göransson's score. 

Plot  :  A young, brilliant J. Robert Oppenheimer grapples with homesickness and anxiety at the Cavendish Laboratory under Patrick Blackett, a demanding tutor, for whom he leaves a poisoned apple. A visiting Niels Bohr almost eats it, but Oppenheimer stops him in time. After completing his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Göttingen, he returns to the United States, driven by the absence of research on quantum physics. He starts teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, while also dedicating time to the California Institute of Technology. Along the way, he encounters significant figures like Ernest Lawrence, the 1939 Nobel Prize winner who emphasizes the importance of practical applications; Jean Tatlock, a member of the Communist Party USA with whom he has an on-and-off romantic relationship until her eventual suicide; and ex-Communist biologist Katherine Puening, whom he later marries.  

General Leslie Groves approaches Oppenheimer and requests his involvement in the development of the atomic bomb, known as the Manhattan Project, but only after Oppenheimer assures him of having no sympathies for communism. Consequently, Oppenheimer assembles a team of scientists to work together in secret and create the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico, aiming to use it as a means to save the world despite the concerns about the potential global repercussions; in particular, the danger of the Nazis and their antisemitism drives the Jewish Oppenheimer. At one point, he and renowned physicist Albert Einstein discuss the possibility of the bomb triggering a chain reaction that could lead to catastrophic consequences and potentially the end of the world.  

Julius Robert Oppenheimer  [22.4.1904- 18.2.1967] was an American theoretical physicist and director of the Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II. He is often credited as the "father of the atomic bomb" for his role in organizing the Manhattan Project, the research and development undertaking that created the first nuclear weapons.  Born to German Jewish immigrants in New York City, Oppenheimer earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Harvard University in 1925 and a PhD in physics from the University of Göttingen in Germany in 1927. After research at other institutions, he joined the physics department at the University of California, Berkeley, where he became a full professor in 1936. On July 16, 1945, he was present at the first test of the atomic bomb, Trinity. In August 1945, the weapons were used against Japan in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which remain the only use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict.

In 1947, Oppenheimer became the director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and chaired the influential General Advisory Committee of the newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission.

How the movie unfolds remains to be seen but his personal life was full of twists too !!  

The Manhattan Project was top secret and did not become public knowledge until after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Oppenheimer became a national spokesman for science who was emblematic of a new type of technocratic power. He became a household name and his portrait appeared on the covers of Life and Time.  Nuclear physics became a powerful force as all governments of the world began to realize the strategic and political power that came with nuclear weapons.   

But,  FBI under J. Edgar Hoover had been following Oppenheimer since before the war, when he showed Communist sympathies as a professor at Berkeley and had been close to members of the Communist Party, including his wife and brother. They strongly suspected that he himself was a member of the party, based on wiretaps in which party members referred to him or appeared to refer to him as a communist, as well as reports from informers within the party.  The FBI furnished Oppenheimer's political enemies with evidence that intimated communist ties.  In 1954,  Strauss pressed for Oppenheimer's security clearance to be revoked. 

Earlier,in June 1949, Oppenheimer testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee that he had associations with the Communist Party USA in the 1930s. Frank Oppenheimer and his wife Jackie testified before HUAC that they had been members of the Communist Party USA. Frank was subsequently fired from his University of Minnesota position. Unable to find work in physics for many years, he became a cattle rancher in Colorado. He later taught high school physics and was the founder of the San Francisco Exploratorium.   In 1953,   United States Congress Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, sent Hoover a letter saying that "more probably than not J. Robert Oppenheimer is an agent of the Soviet Union."  On December 21, 1953, Strauss told Oppenheimer that his security clearance had been suspended, pending resolution of a series of charges outlined in a letter, and discussed his resigning by way of requesting termination of his consulting contract with the AEC.  The hearing that followed in April–May 1954, was held in secret, focused on Oppenheimer's past communist ties and his association during the Manhattan Project with suspected disloyal or communist scientists. 

Years after his birth, in Dec 2022, United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm vacated the 1954 revocation of Oppenheimer's security clearance. 

Oppenheimer was a chain smoker and was diagnosed with throat cancer in late 1965. After inconclusive surgery, he underwent unsuccessful radiation treatment and chemotherapy late in 1966. He fell into a coma and died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, on February 18, 1967 aged 62. 

Long story of a great personality who was hailed as father of Technological warfare !  but was condemned to be a traitor .. .. and posthumously remembered as one who loved his Nation.
With regards – S. Sampathkumar



  1. Though a long post, the message it conveys is noteworthy. Kudos for the painstaking efforts for the collection of information.
    Varalaru mukkiyam amaichare. 😂

  2. Excellent article, Sir. However, Trinity is also a Catholic term, referring to the threefold nature of God as Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, and we created ours to offer apologetics to our Western Masters.

    However, given Mr. Oppenheimer was a Jew, albeit only as an ethnic identity, his use of the term may have referred to what you suggest.

  3. Enjoyed the writeup Anna .....✔️✔️✔️

  4. Very well narration about Oppenheimer. After reading article eager to watch the movie. The narrations starts aptly with Hindu trinities of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and taken to in depth of biography of Oppenheimer - probably he relates to Shiva as destroyer - and his contribution fo theoretical physics particularly in quantum mechanics. Interestingly the one who designed and built atom bomb became an advocate for international control of atomic energy and urged for cooperation to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons post world War 11. Though he remembers as tragic figure, torn between his contributions to science and the devastating consequences of his work on the atomic bomb, but inspirational. Worth reading and keep writing Sir.