Newstalgia Reference Room - a lecture, given at the University of Colorado in 1961 by Philosopher and Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer who was closely associated with the discovery and development of the Atomic Bomb.
March 16, 2011

J. Robert Oppenheimer - inextricably linked with the Atom.

As the world holds its collective breath for the outcome of the Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan, perhaps going back and looking at the people who were responsible for the discovery and development of Nuclear Energy might shed some light, or maybe a little understanding. Or maybe just some distraction for an hour or so.

J. Robert Oppenheimer has been synonymous, for better or worse, with the development of the Atomic Bomb, ironically for use against Japan during World War 2. Later, he would seek peaceful uses of Atomic Energy and was Chairman of the newly formed Atomic Energy Commission in 1947. Those peaceful uses also included Nuclear power as an energy source.

In 1961 he gave a lecture at the University of Colorado to discuss the role of Physics and Philosophy in the role of modern life.

J. Robert Oppenheimer: “There isn’t really anything irreversible about Art. It won’t go away, but it’s not primarily there as something for others to build upon. It’s primarily there for enjoyment, insight, understanding. It is this irreversible character which means that in man’s history, the sciences make changes which cannot be wished away and cannot be undone. I’ll give two examples, very different ones. There is much talk, has been for fifteen years about getting rid of Atomic weapons. I, like all people have a deep sympathy with that talk. But we mustn’t fool ourselves. The world is not going to be the same no matter what we do with Atomic bombs because the knowledge of how to make them cannot be exorcised. It is there and all our arrangements for living in a new age must bear in mind its omnipresent virtual presence. And the fact that one cannot change that.”

Oppenheimer died in 1967, long before any of our current situations came to light. I'm not sure if he anticipated the problems we're having today. But then, I don't think anyone did when it was The Manhattan Project.

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