Oppenheimer's Grandson Weighs in on Christopher Nolan Film

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J. Robert Oppenheimer's grandson, Charles Oppenheimer, on Christopher Nolan's film: 'I thought it told a compelling story and I could just take it as art that was really engaging. I was really happy to have that reaction. I didn't expect it'

You saw the movie. Were there parts that hit you the hardest, emotionally?

Sometimes facts get dragged through a game of telephone. In the movie, it's treated vaguely and you don't really know what's going on unless you know this incredibly deep backstory. So it honestly didn't bother me. It bothers me that it was in the biography with that emphasis, not a disclaimer of, this is an unsubstantiated rumor that we want to put in our book to make it interesting. But I like some of the dramatization.

There have always been two facts in tension: on the one hand, Oppenheimer helped create a weapon of mass destruction that was used to kill. On the other hand, the existence of nuclear weapons has succeeded as a deterrent for nearly 80 years, with superpowers like the U.S., Russia, and China avoiding war for fear of what would happen if those weapons again got into play.

The gut reaction from Truman and others was, let's just make as many of these bombs as fast as possible and we'll keep it secret and the Russians will never get the bomb. So you have a scientific expert that's telling the government, this is what we need to do, and you have the government doing the opposite. We got into an arms race not because of a hard-nosed, pragmatic understanding of we need to build these bombs, but a scientific misunderstanding that we could keep it secret.

 

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