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Oppenheimer Death Quote: Hindu Scripture Reveals True Origin

The story of the man behind the atom bomb, Oppenheimer, is the subject of a new film by Christopher Nolan.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the team of scientists who developed the world's first nuclear weapon in 1945, famously declared himself, or possibly the power of the atom bomb he had unleashed, as "Death, the destroyer of worlds." This ominous title is fitting, as it reflects the immense danger posed by nuclear weapons.

Alan Robock, a climatologist and leading expert on nuclear winter, emphasized the gravity of Oppenheimer's creation, calling it "the greatest danger that the world has been faced with." The race to develop the bomb before the Nazis, known as the Manhattan Project, is the subject of Christopher Nolan's film "Oppenheimer," where the haunting death quote makes an appearance.

The real context of Oppenheimer's words can be traced back to the Trinity Test in the New Mexico desert, the first atom bomb explosion ever. In a 1965 NBC broadcast, Oppenheimer recalled the moment of the historic detonation, displaying a thousand-yard stare and long pauses that reflected the weight of his actions.

Physicist Kenneth Bainbridge, who directed the Trinity Test, expressed his sense of responsibility with the words, "When I shook hands with Oppenheimer, I said 'Now we're all sons of bitches.'" This sentiment captures the moral dilemma faced by those involved in the development of nuclear weapons.

Oppenheimer's reference to Sanskrit scripture during this pivotal moment suggests that Hindu writings may have helped him make sense of the destructive power he was bringing into the world. The scripture he quoted involves the god Vishnu speaking to the warrior prince Arjuna, emphasizing the soldier's duty to fight and the concept of divine determination of life and death.

The Nolan film also explores the question of Oppenheimer's responsibility for how the US used the atom bomb and the lives it took. In the NBC interview, Oppenheimer discussed the justifications for developing the nuclear bomb and the hope that it would never be used, reflecting the moral complexity of his role in the creation of such a destructive force.

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