The Real Story of Oppenheimer | Hero or Villain? | Dhruv Rathee

The Real Story of Oppenheimer | Hero or Villain? | Dhruv Rathee

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"Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." Hello, friends! 16th July 1945, around 5.30 in the morning. In the desert of America's state New Mexico, a bomb explodes.

But this is not a normal bomb explosion. This was the first time a nuclear bomb was being tested. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! This nuclear test was codenamed Trinity and the project was led by scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer was shocked to see this bomb blast. He had expected the size of the explosion to be around 0.3 kilotons of TNT. But in reality, this blast was 50 times more dangerous.

15-20 kilotons of TNT. The blast released so much heat that a steel tower evaporated. The shockwave was felt from a distance of 160 km. The mushroom cloud that erupted went up to 12 km in the sky.

Upon seeing all this, Oppenheimer was so shocked that he uttered a line from the Bhagavad Gita. "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." You might be asking; how did Oppenheimer know about Bhagavad Gita? We will talk about that later in the video. Since Christopher Nolan made a new film.

So I thought this would be the right opportunity to make a video on him. What was his story? How did he develop the nuclear bomb? Was Oppenheimer a hero or a villain? And how did he feel when millions of people lost their lives because of his creation? Let's find out in today's video. Julius Robert Oppenheimer is known as the father of the atomic bomb. He was the director of the Manhattan Project that created the first nuclear weapons.

Let's start this story from his childhood. He was born in 1904 to a German Jewish family in New York City. And he was considered a child genius since childhood. He was studying high-level physics and chemistry at the age of only 10. And he was very knowledgeable about mineralogy.

About property of minerals. He was so knowledgeable that at the age of 12 he was invited to give a lecture at New York's Mineralogical Club. Later in 1922, when he went to Harvard to study, he completed his 4-year degree in 3 years. He was at the top of his class.

He majored in chemistry and he was knowledgeable about many subjects. Physics, philosophy, literature, and even Eastern religion. But in Harvard, he realized that among all these subjects, his real passion was physics. Later in 1927, at the age of 23, he did his PhD. But there was a dark side hidden behind this genius.

His friends said that Oppenheimer had self-destructive tendencies. He was a chain smoker and was suffering through depression. One day, he told his brother, I need physics more than friends. He was focused only on his studies and remained unaware of what was happening in the world around him. Until the early 1930s, when Adolf Hitler rose in Germany. He gradually became more politically aware.

Because of Hitler's tyranny, many German scientists were fleeing from Germany to America. There were many big names on this list. Like Albert Einstein. John von Neumann, who pioneered modern computers. Leo Szilard, who will play an important role in our story. Hans Bethe, who discovered fusion in stars.

Edward Teller, who is called the father of the hydrogen bomb. And Enrico Fermi, who will play another important role in our story. All these scientists mainly were German-Jewish and because Oppenheimer himself came from a German-Jewish family, when he started paying attention to the atrocities on Jews, his interest in politics started developing. This is his quote from 1936. "I started to understand how deeply political and economic events affect people's lives. I felt the need to participate in this community."

Influenced by the left-wing ideology he went to many political meetings. And donated money to many labour unions and striking farm workers. In September 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, which was the beginning of World War 2. As I explained in my video on World War 2, America was not interested in getting involved in this war.

But still, America was preparing for the worst. Actually, what happened was that a month before the war started, in August 1939, Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard wrote a letter to American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In this letter, they warned the American President that Hitler is working on nuclear weapons. And that he may be successful in making this extremely powerful bomb.

That's why America should be prepared. As soon as he read this letter, the American President set up an advisory committee on uranium. Taking immediately action. A team of scientists and military officials was formed. Their job was to research the potential of uranium. Can uranium be made into a weapon? After the findings of this committee, the American government started funding Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard.

For researching how nuclear chain reactions work. And how to separate the isotopes of uranium. The thing is that the naturally found uranium on earth is the uranium-238 isotope. Less than 1% of the uranium is actually a U-235 isotope. And only this U-235 isotope, could be used to make the bomb. The first challenge for these scientists was to find a way to make uranium-235 using the uranium-238.

But the scientists working on this project were told not to tell Albert Einstein anything. Because the American government was afraid that Albert Einstein's ideology was very left-wing. It could have been a potential security risk. As you know, Albert Einstein was one of those people who used to sleep for 10 hours a night. He knew the importance of sleep and he used to take strategic naps in the day.

Compare this to today's social media motivational gurus who tell you that you should not waste time sleeping. They tell fraud stories of how the successful people sleep only for 5-6 hours a night. All lies. The truth is that regular and sufficient sleep is very important for every human being. Apart from a few exceptions, every human being needs to sleep for 7-9 hours to be at the top of their health. Especially if you want to maximize your productivity and happiness.

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Now, let's come back to the topic. Oppenheimer was doing his independent research on nuclear fission with Edward Teller and other scientists. December 1940. Apart from the Uranium-235 isotope, another radioactive element was discovered which scientists believe could also be used to make nuclear weapons. The name of this element was Plutonium. On 11th October 1941 American President sends a message to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill saying that both countries should collaborate for atomic development.

Not even 2 months later that on 7th December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America officially entered World War 2. "A state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire." American President Roosevelt announced that America will become a part of the Allied powers who were fighting against Germany and Japan. If you want to know the whole story of World War 2, I have made two videos on it. Part 1 and part 2, and detailed everything from start to end. If you haven't seen it, I will put the link in the description you can watch them after this video.

But at this point in time, it becomes clear that the scientific mission of developing nuclear weapons had turned into a military mission. America spent $2.2 billion on this one project. Taking inflation into account, it is equivalent to $24 billion today. Almost 2 trillion Indian rupees.

The American military had an engineering wing the Army Corps of Engineers. It made ports and airfields for the army. Its involvement was approved by President Roosevelt in June 1942. Now, the office of the North Atlantic Division was in Manhattan, New York City.

And when they got the responsibility to make nuclear weapons, they made their headquarters in the same building, on the 18th floor. These headquarters were named Manhattan Engineer District and from this point in time, the Manhattan Project officially started. The date was 13th August 1942.

Next month, on 17th September, Colonel Leslie Richard Groves was appointed as the head of the project. And he made the decision to appoint Oppenheimer as the leader of the design of the atomic bomb. A secret location was decided to keep this project under cover. Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

This city is also called the Secret City because an entire city was built here only for this project. Thousands of scientists, researchers, and workers were moved to this city and they had only one task. Creating Uranium-235 from Uranium-238. I will not go into the details of the science of nuclear fission because I explained it in the video on Chernobyl. You can watch that video if you want to understand it in detail. The point is that Uranium-238 is not very fissionable.

It cannot undergo a chain reaction to make a bomb. It was very important to extract Uranium-235. Only Uranium-235 can undergo a chain reaction which is why it was required. The plan was to try out 4 different methods to make U-235 from U-238.

Gaseous diffusion, centrifuge, electromagnetic separation, and liquid thermal diffusion. After testing these 4 different technologies, 2 technologies proved to be successful to some extent. Electromagnetic separation and gaseous diffusion. In electromagnetic separation, a large magnet is used to separate U-235 from U-238.

In gaseous diffusion, Uranium-hexafluoride gas is passed through a porous membrane in which the light molecules of U-235 pass successfully. But since the U-238 molecules are heavier and they get filtered out. Apart from this, at a different location in Washington, scientists were at work producing Plutonium as well. Plutonium is also produced from Uranium 238. When an isotope of hydrogen is bombarded with Uranium 238 then plutonium is produced. Later it was found that plutonium is more radioactive and more fissionable as compared to Uranium 235.

Apart from these two locations, they were looking for a third location. For Project Y. A location where the actual work of designing and making these bombs would take place. General Groves wanted a remote location for this. So that the project could remain a secret. Oppenheimer knew exactly such a location.

It is a place where Oppenheimer spent his summers happily. Surrounded by mountains and beautiful landscapes, the Pecos Valley in New Mexico. After setting up all these locations, there was only one obvious thing left to do. To practically test out a chain reaction. Everything was theoretical till now.

So they needed proof on whether the whole concept of the atomic bomb was feasible or not. 2nd December 1942. Scientist Enrico Fermi conducted the first successful practical experiment.

In a squash court of the University of Chicago, he ran a chain reaction, which helps light up a bulb. "The clickety-clack of their instruments, proved they had achieved the first human-made nuclear chain reaction." By this point, General Groves was impressed with Oppenheimer's ability. He wanted to appoint him as the director of Project Y. But some senior members of the military doubted Oppenheimer. The same way that they doubted Albert Einstein.

Many friends of Oppenheimer, his wife, and in fact, his brother, were all hard-core communists. He was influenced by the left-wing ideology himself. America was afraid that this communist ideology could go against their country. But despite these concerns, General Groves personally supported Oppenheimer and said that this project could not happen without Oppenheimer.

And that he was essential for this project. And because of this, on 20th July 1943, Oppenheimer was made the lead of this project. To make an atom bomb, Oppenheimer's expertise was required in the calculation of critical mass. Critical mass is basically a minimum amount of mass of Uranium-235 or Plutonium which is needed to have a chain reaction, to sustain a chain reaction. The minimum amount of radioactive elements that would be needed to carry out a chain reaction and a bomb blast. It seems easy today, but there were many unknown factors at that time.

We hardly knew anything about the properties of Uranium-235. Plutonium-239 was actually discovered in 1940. And by the end of 1943, only 2 milligrams of plutonium could be produced. That's why America was developing two atom bombs. The first bomb was based on Uranium-235, named Little Boy.

The mechanism of this bomb was basically a gun-type design. Two masses of Uranium-235 were taken, which were sub-critical. Less than the critical value. And they were combined rapidly with each other.

With this combination, the critical mass was reached and a fission chain reaction follows resulting in an explosion. The second bomb was the plutonium bomb which was using plutonium-239 and its name was Fat Man. It was more difficult to design. Here, it could not be designed as a gun because if the masses of two plutonium were combined, it would react very quickly and the fission reaction would end before the critical mass could be reached.

"A Plutonium gun-bomb would melt, not explode." Here, scientists created a different design for the plutonium bomb. The mass of plutonium was to be placed under high pressure and density in a spherical structure. A sub-critical mass of plutonium was placed inside a hollow sphere.

And outside the sphere, explosives were used to create an implosion in the mass of plutonium. When the explosives outside exploded, the plutonium would be under high pressure and it would reach the critical mass. This concept was called the implosion method. Scientists already knew about the gun method, but this was the first time that the implosion method was theoretically mentioned. Oppenheimer believed that it was necessary to test it out before actually putting it in the bomb.

General Groves said that they can't test such things because they had produced only a small amount of plutonium. But Oppenheimer was adamant that the test was necessary. So General Groves had to finally agree. And then, friends, the Trinity Test was conducted. I talked about this at the beginning of the video. In the desert of New Mexico, a test nuclear bomb was dropped This test bomb was called Gadget.

It contained 13 pounds of plutonium. Scientists hung Gadget 100 ft in the air using a steel tower. And on 16th July 1945, at 5.30 am, this bomb was detonated. As I told you, this bomb was much more powerful than Oppenheimer expected.

The steel tower completely evaporated. After the bomb blast, a mildly radioactive green-coloured glass was formed, which was named Trinitite. It was after seeing this blast, that Oppenheimer uttered some lines of the Bhagavad Gita.

"Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. I suppose we all thought that, one way or another." Actually, Oppenheimer was a Sanskrit scholar and he had studied the entire Bhagavad Gita in its original form. He describes the Bhagavad Gita as one of the most influential books of his life. Less than a month after the Trinity test, on 6th August 1945, the Little Boy bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

If that wasn't enough, then three days later, this plutonium Fat Man bomb was dropped on Nagasaki too. What was the effect of dropping these atomic bombs? I have discussed this in detail in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki video. Albert Einstein's first reaction upon hearing this news was "Woe is me." A melancholy statement. It is believed that Albert Einstein also said this. "Mankind invented the atomic bomb, but no mouse would ever construct a mousetrap."

Oppenheimer expressed happiness after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He wished that this bomb could be used against Nazi Germany and Hitler. But when the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Oppenheimer was shocked.

On 17th August, he went to Washington to meet the Secretary of War. To hand-deliver the letter he wrote. He directly said that he wanted to ban nuclear weapons. He was very regretful about his part in it.

The technology he handed over to humas. Oppenheimer considered the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima as a necessary evil. But now he was afraid for the future.

What will different countries do with this technology in the future? In the meantime, in April 1945, American President Roosevelt passed away. The next American President was Harry Truman. Two months after the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Oppenheimer got a chance to meet President Truman. When meeting the President, he said directly, "I have blood on my hands." And President Truman was so angry after hearing this that he started shouting at him. He told his secretary to throw Oppenheimer out of the office and that he didn't want to see his face ever again.

Oppenheimer later worked with the US Atomic Energy Commission to stop other such nuclear attacks. He wanted to establish control over nuclear weapons. In 1949, when President Truman approached the commission with the idea of making a hydrogen bomb, Oppenheimer strongly opposed it. But this opposition was of no use because America developed a hydrogen bomb later and also conducted tests in 1952. Edward Teller was the scientist who helped in making this hydrogen bomb. And he is called the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb today.

Because of Oppenheimer's resistance and his left-wing ideology, his job was snatched away from him. He spent the rest of his life in the academic profession and used to give lectures all over the world. Even though he was nominated for the Nobel Prize thrice, he could not win even once.

In 1965, due to throat cancer, Oppenheimer died at the age of 62. Which was not surprising as he was a terrible chain smoker throughout his life. Today, there are 9 countries that have nuclear weapons. India, Pakistan, China, the USA, France, the UK, Israel, Russia, and North Korea.

But the positive thing is that in the last 80 years, no other nuclear weapon has been used. If you liked the video, you can learn the whole story of Chernobyl in this video by clicking here. You will be able to understand a little more about nuclear reactions. See you in the next video. Thank you very much!

2023-07-25 16:31

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