What More Do You Want from Dr. Oppenheimer?

Robert Oppenheimer was predictably devastated by the withdrawal of his [security] clearance. “I think it broke his spirit, really,” [Robert] Serber reflects. “He had spent the years after the war being an adviser, being in high places, knowing what was going on. To be in on things gave him a sense of importance. That became his whole life. As [I.I.] Rabi said, he could run the Institute [for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey] with his left hand. And now he really didn’t have anything to do.” [Hans] Bethe felt “he was not the same person afterward.” Of the hearing …

A Realistic View of the Way Power Gets Used by Governments

But whatever the technical originality of the idea [Stanislaw] Ulam and [Edward] Teller developed together in February 1951, John Manley concluded, the political effect was electrifying. “Teller and Ulam really won [the argument about building the thermonuclear bomb] by figuring out how to do it… You don’t really want to work on something that you don’t know how to do.” Los Alamos radiochemist George Cowan enlarges shrewdly on Manley’s point: Knowing that it was going to work sure encouraged those people to go ahead and do it. Particularly because now, whether you believed that it was a good idea or …