"Oppenheimer"

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Paul_Schatzkin
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"Oppenheimer"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

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I am going to see the film Oppenheimer this afternoon in a large screen format and again next week in IMAX.

I expect to have quite a bit to say on the subject. I hope others here will see it and chime in as well.

For now this is just a placeholder for where that discussion will go.

Here's the trailer if you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks and haven't already seen it:

https://youtu.be/bK6ldnjE3Y0

--PS
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Dennis P Brown
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Dennis P Brown »

Just got back after watching the movie.

Warning - some small spoilers (though the atomic bomb did work ;) )

Overall, an entertaining movie. Extremely light - as in essentially non-existent - on science. Certainly shows Oppenheimer had strong principles towards issues in general but was rather hazy - ok, completely indifferent on the idea of fidelity of marriage (through, not up to Feynman's level.) Gave a fairly accurate overview (of what I've read) towards the various moral issues of scientist in the atomic bomb project towards using it to end the war. Think they made Oppenheimer a rather contrary and a bit confused person on morality overall - as in he was human and could hold various concepts that were opposed while trying to figure out the issues relative to new information.

White-washed some history but expected (mostly background so not too relevant but annoying.)

As for the central issue - did he deserve to lose his security clearance? Well, the director and writer makes that issue very clear. Yet to really decide it actually depends on your understanding of both the times and the meaning of having a clearance (hint: its not a right but something only granted.) I've said enough on that topic and others can see the movie and discus it if so inclined.

Overall, four stars out of five as history movies go.
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TL;dr: "Dense" and "Engaging"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

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I saw Oppenheimer Thursday night on a big screen in a comfy theater with a bucket of popcorn.

Given my pentient for historical details and accuracy, having seen it once and then done some digging, I'm going to have to see it again. That has already been scheduled for next week in IMAX.

In the meantime, here is my two-word critique: dense and engaging.

*

On its merits strictly as a film, Oppenheimer is unquestionably deserving of the full 5-star treatment. It's hard to imagine anything that can keep me fixed in a seat (no matter how plush) for three hours. This film does that quite nicely despite getting a tad 'talky' in the final hour. The writing, acting, cinematography, special effects (all the things real film reviewers wax on about) are all out of the tippy-top drawer. You expect nothing less of Christopher Nolan and he and his star-studded colloaborators certainly deliver.

The actors in this film are going to have to stand in line for their Oscar nods.

Cillian Murphy as the title character commands almost every frame of the entire three hours with mercurial grace, charm and intensity. Matt Damon goes right up the edge of comic relief as Manhattan Project Director General Leslie Groves. Robert Downey, Jr. brings a surprisingly diabolical quality as Oppeneheimer's antagonist, the scheming bureaucrat Lewis Strauss.

All the stars of the Quantum Diaspora get a cameo in this film: Bohr, Fermi, Szillard, Teller, Bethe, Heisenberg, Feynman et al. The lineup of scientists in this film reminded of what John F. Kennedy said about a gathering of Nobel Laureates at the White House in 1962: "...the most extraordinary collection of talent... ever gathered at the White House with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." This is the most extraordary collection of marquee scientists ever gathered on celluloid.

But the performance I found the most arresting was Emily Blunt as Kitty, Oppenheimer's boozy, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes impatient wife. In her limited screen time Blunt expresses the true emotional toll of her husband's work – the epic threat, the moral dilemmas, the impact on the individuals who made these decisions.

And, for what it's worth I have no quarrel with Oppenheimer's marital infidelities. That was the least of his moral compromises.

Oppenheimer is not so much about the making of the atomic bomb as it is about the moral quandaries that accompany the acquisition divine knowledge and the unleashing of ungodly power in a device whose only purpose is mass destruction.

One thing that struck me about Oppenheimer the scientist is that, given his clumsy early attempts at experimental physics (as accurately depicted in the film), he seems an unlikely choice to direct a project that would involve the most complex engineering... like... ever. I think the scene where Damon-as-Groves recruits Murphy-as-Oppenheimer was one of the clever-dialog highlights of the film.

Even with the convention of cutting beteween monochrome and color to distinguish the different timelines, I found it difficult to follow the narrative to its morally challenging conclusion. I had to think long and hard in the final hour to recall the seed of Lewis Strauss' vitriol that was quickly planted in the first hour.

As three hours of passive entertainment, Oppenheimer is very satisfying on any number of levels. Unfortunately, I am not an entirely passive viewer: it's not as easy for me to watch a movie like this without one wary eye turned toward the actual history.

After seeing the film, I did as I always do after seeing any movie that is 'based on a true story' – though I prefer the disclaimer that opened the movie American Hustle:
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IMG_0025.jpeg
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In this case, I was gratified to discover that most of what this film portrays actually did happen. Oppenheimer cleaves as closely to the known facts as could be expected when condensing a whole lifetime into just three hours.

Here's one account of the fact-v-fiction:

https://slate.com/culture/2023/07/oppen ... oject.html

As an exercise in 'actual history,' I'll hold back about half a star and give it 4.5.

That half star is deducted for the premise that sets up the payoff at the end.

I am perhaps too overly-concerned about 'actual' history. That is, after all, how we got here. That's why fusor.net exists - because fifty years ago I discovered that the 'popular history' of the origins of television ("too complicated to be invented by any single individual!) are objectively false.

And, oh, look! If you bother to dig a little further what do you find? A path from the advent of video to bottling a star – a pursuit that not even Oppenheimer or Edward Tellar could fathom.

So the actual facts have more meaning to me than the average viewer.

After the screening, I encountered a small cluster of millennial-types discussing what they'd just seen, and volunteered my conclusion that the ending was weakly constructed out of a questionable premise. Their response was along the lines of "So what? Why didn't he use more CGI to show the bomb going off?!?!"

So, confirmation: I am not the average viewer.

There has been a lot of commentary about audiences rendered speechless after the final visuals, how powerfully affected people were by the devastating impact of the film's final moments:

https://screenrant.com/oppenheimer-movi ... n-details/

I was less stunned than perplexed because I'd done enough homework before settling in with my Popcorn and Pepsi to suspect that the scene preceding the final visuals was based on a false premise set in the second hour of the film.

Since this needs to be a 'spoiler free' critique, I'll skip the details. Hopefully it's not giving too much away to say that my quibble is with the final scene between Oppenheimer and the elderly Albert Einstein (Tom Conti) – itself a callback to several earlier scenes with Einstein. This account of fact-v-fiction confirms what I suspected on first viewing – that the premise in question is... fiction:

https://www.businessinsider.com/oppenhe ... ong-2023-7

...which I recommend reading after you've seen the film. At least go in thinking every word and frame is 'based on a true story.'

There is creative license – like a scene early in the film with a young Oppenheimer, Quantum Statesman Neils Bohr (Kenneth Branagh) and an apple – and then there is liberty that crosses the line from verifiable to pure fiction. Sometimes crossing that line defeats the purpose of an otherwise monumental effort – as with Aaron Sorkin's rendering of the Farnsworth story:

https://farnovision.com/wp/tragedy/

I don't think Oppenheimer comes anywhere close to the counter-factual liberties that Sorkin took with The Farnsworth Invention, but, yes: I had a personal agenda while watching this film.

The work we (I use the term loosely) do here – like Oppenheimer's 'gadget' – begins with Einstein's equation E=mc2: take a quantity of matter, convert it into energy and 'bang.' Or, as we'd like to see one day, not a bang but a reliable stream of electricity.

I watched this film for clues how a similar, parallel story – how the advent of television produced a path to a controlled fusion reaction might also one day be, ummm... fused?... into the popular/historical/cultural firmament.

This is the important detail that is too frequently overlooked when speaking of Einstein and all that he revealed: Einstein was not awarded a Nobel Prize in 1921 for Relativity or E=mc2. His Nobel was for articulating and quantifying the photoelectric effect - a foundation of the quantum mechanics that ultimately produced the atom bomb – and the central principal that produced electronic video two decades earlier.

So everything from television to the atomic and hydrogen bombs all emerged from the same cosmological swamp that Einstein led us into with the papers her published in 1905:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annus_mirabilis_papers

And here it might be useful to recall what Einstein said to Philo Farnsworth when they spoke on the phone in 1948 about controlling fusion:
This is the good part of my work. You must continue yours.
Einstein implored Farnsworth to publish his math. Which he never did.

And therein lie the beginnings of a mystery as enduring as "whatever happened to J. Robert Oppenheimer?"
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"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 60 years in the past and we missed it."
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Emma Black »

Spoiler alerts: We just got back from seeing in here in Cambridge , home of physics and the cavendish laboratory. A deeply satisfying watch and an assault of the senses at times. I do agree with Paul in that there was a fair amount of predictability during the final hour.

I had just re-read Richard Rhodes making of the atomic bomb so the names and events were somewhat fresh in my mind. The scene where they sent off the 100 ton calibration shot was deliberately almost with lackadaisical care, when in reality it was an important test to ensure the instruments worked correctly. They added some 1000 curies to the giant pile of TNT as well. This was a clear choice not to try and draw the audience in too much to the what and the how. Backgrounding the science completely, actually worked fairly well in keeping the focus on Oppenheimer rather than us seeing the technical problems to be solved.

Afterwards I was explaining to some students that the small green rock, id brought with me in a little jar was a piece of sand melted by the real explosion. It is always something to be looked upon as if you are totally mad.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

Emma Black wrote: Sat Jul 22, 2023 8:06 pm Afterwards I was explaining to some students that the small green rock, id brought with me in a little jar was a piece of sand melted by the real explosion. It is always something to be looked upon as if you are totally mad.
How did you come by the Trinitite (sp?) ? Have you been to Alamogordo?

I remember Richard having some he was selling at HEAS the last time I was there. Sorry now I didn't pick some up, that would impress my friends now.

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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

Dennis P Brown wrote: Fri Jul 21, 2023 8:11 pm Warning - some small spoilers (though the atomic bomb did work ;) )
Yeah, yeah, sure.

What else are you gonna tell us, that men actually walked on the moon?!?!?!

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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Dennis P Brown »

Outstanding post, Paul. I will not add anything to that post because it is far too through and complete.

I would like to explain an issue the movie left out that does Oppenheimer the only injustice I feel should have been made crystal clear and wasn't.

The difference in power between an Atomic Bomb and the Super or Hydrogen Bomb. To end all life (higher) on Earth using Atomic Bombs alone would be both difficult and require quantities that border on impossible to make. The Atomic Bomb is a very low yield device compared to the Hydrogen Bomb. Far more important, it is extremely clean compared to the Super (one can safely visit Trinity site (even the day after the explosion!) but not Bikini Atoll even after over seventy-seven years!)

With a few thousand Hydrogen Bombs detonated over all major cities in the world 99% of the human race would be dead in a year or so and the rest (and all other higher life forms) would soon follow (yes, a few people deep underground would exist but their likelihood to survive long term on a radioactive planet look dim indeed.) I'll ignore the possible Cobalt seeded Bomb few talk about and hopefully, is a fiction ... .

Unlike the military or most politicians Oppenheimer fully recognized this critical difference between the weapons and this caused him (and other scientist) to oppose that bombs development and deployment. I never got that information from the movie so Oppenheimer's objections to its deployment (and lack of treaty to prevent that) is not made clear and almost appears as him just being contrary about the new weapon (remember, a few Supers had already been detonated by the time Oppenheimer had come fully around to opposing that weapon. So he knew full well its far deadlier aspects.)

Or that is my impression from the movie.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Richard Hull »

I have seen an interview with Teller and he told it like it was. To paraphrase... ' I was the one who knew, others did not. I knew the knowledge was out there. Had we not made the fission bomb first and the hydrogen bomb first, others certainly would have, and relatively quickly. Once the knowledge is out there, it is but a matter of time.'

As for some sort of pipe dream about a treaty to share the information and contain the manufacture of such weapons. It was the folly of self-important fools that dreamed that one up. Doomed the moment it left the lips of those proposing it. It was a different time. I was there to see it unfold and play duck and cover all through elementary school.

Oh spoiler alert they show a count down on a nixie display. The tubes show were of the distinctive Burroughs type made after 1953
National Union did make some early masked numeral gas tubes of a large and crude type just before 1945. However here is what Wiki had to say...

....The specific design used in the mass-produced Nixie tubes was developed around 1948 by the Haydu brothers, who sold the patent to Burroughs in 1952.....

Nixies even in the fifties were rarely used due to costs as prior to IC chips over 100 expensive early transistors were needed to drive a simple six digit counter. Early counters of WWII tended to use the Burroughs vertical stacked numerical displays with 4-6 vacuum tubes in each decade. I include images of a 1950 counter I bought at a hamfest with 64 vacuum tubes in it! I checked its retail price from Berkley Nuclear when morphed into Beckman and it was over $1200 1950 dollars or about the price of a new car then.

The Brits did have a gas counter tube in late 1939, the dekatron, with its little whirly dot rotating and stopping on a numbered panel I have two of these counters. These tubes saw a very long life in counters. There is a photo of Fermi standing in front of one in the 40's

It is little technical details that often spoil a movie for me.

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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Emma Black »

To answer your question Paul, I have two samples of Trinitite, one brought back from a US based friend the other came from United Nuclear some years ago. I have recently done my own gamma spectrum of them and it seems to match what you would expect. They do still have some for sale from time to time I believe, but its rather expensive now. A trip there would be interesting though.

I also noticed the nixie tube clock they had, which seems to have become synonymous with "retro". The Dekatron I thought came a bit later on? Over at the National Museum of Computing they have a vast functioning computer from the early 50's featuring about 800 of the things, its pretty impressive to stand in front of when its operating.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Dennis P Brown »

Just saw that Barbenheimer has broken box office records so apparently the so-called social meme was real. While Oppenheimer didn't exceed Barbie it has done better than expectations (being realistic - it is primarily about a physicist as well as being 3 hours long) - over $80 million for the three days. However, it has done just as good overseas (guess there are a lot of people like Emma in Europe and even Asia, too that want to see this movie. Not going to speculate on Japan, however.)
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Jim Kovalchick »

Did anyone notice that Carl Willis appears in the film as an extra?
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

Jim Kovalchick wrote: Sun Jul 23, 2023 4:09 pm Did anyone notice that Carl Willis appears in the film as an extra?
Carl Willis was in Barbie?!?!?!

I haven't seen it yet.

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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Richard Hull »

I saw the movie, of course, and will not comment more than I have on the movie often having the wrong gear and wrong actor selection for Groves and others, I give the movie, from my view, a nice big ho-hum. I will purchase the DVD just to say I have it and allow myself to get more critical in review. For the whole truth, read Rhodes two great books on both the A and H bomb efforts. The movie is just a 3 hour escape and entertainment.

As for Oppie's moral compass: All men's compass point due women 24-7, married or not for 90% of us. It's nature, hormones and the natural order of things until you can do it any more. A total non-issue.

The best nuclear presentation in a movie that I have yet seen is Chernobyl. It wasn't the event was not the great killer predicted at the time. Just a mere disaster. Older Russian folk are now being allowed back into the exclusion zone to resume their lives on their own land. Pripyat is now a booming tourist attraction, day-trip bonanza. Nuclear archeology is already a thing along with nuclear tourism.

The Brits were far ahead in gas numerical displays with the dekatron. In spite of having to read the count on a panel, they were fairly fast in the vacuum tube era. 5 mhz count rate was easy with the lowest digit having a special tube with twice the pins to allow it to count and thereby pass on a much slower 500khz trigger to the next decade. The stock tubes could handle 500khz. The dekatron is ultra retro and a long term of watching them spin like tops out of sync with high count rates can induce an epileptic fit in those susceptible, I might imagine.

I took my Trinitite sales section down in the trading post as it resulted in only three small orders. It was up for 3 years. I still have plenty for sale in the U.S. and at the big HEAS gathering this October. (see the admin forum for the invite to the event this year.)

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Emma Black »

I agree with you on the Chernobyl series. We spent a week in pripyat back in 2017 really fascinating.

From the roof of the mostly finished unit 5, we also climbed right down into the void that the core would have been. Around the cooling tower for this unit there were quite a few hot spots, which are most likely small bits of buried fuel, like the one Carl found on his trip there.
158C1E1F-429A-4CE6-886F-CAE70351DC89_1_102_o.jpeg
This is in the entrance to the main hospital. Originally you could wander down into the lower levels where the pretty radioactive firemans uniforms had been discarded. This room was a bit too spicy though so they filled the staircase with sand and left a small piece on what would have been the reception desk.
B6AF6AAF-245C-43F5-BE2D-941004127054_1_102_o.jpeg
What with the landmines and other stuff there now I suspect the tourism days are gone.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by JoeBallantyne »

Paul -

I really doubt that Carl Willis would make any effort at all to be an extra in Barbie...

Oppenheimer on the other hand, I could see Carl very much wanting to be part of that.

Plus I would be amazed if they didn't shoot at least part of Oppenheimer on site in New Mexico, where Carl lives.

Joe.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Richard Hull »

Yes the Ukraine war has spoiled a beautiful nuclear tourism site. While no longer radioactive the Trinity site is still open two days out of the year with vast crowds there for the events and bus tours of the Mc Donald ranch where the core was assembled a few miles from the bomb site. They put on a good show there with a number of vendors in booths near the gate where you can walk through Jumbo. Images of My trip with Bill Kolb and Paul Carlock early this century.

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Me at the monument.  Tough to get a photo with just you as everyone wants to stand by it and take photos.
Me at the monument. Tough to get a photo with just you as everyone wants to stand by it and take photos.
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Fat man inert bomb casing brough in on a low boy trailer each year for the event.
The Mc Donald's ranch house that is maintained flawlessly as it was in 1945
The Mc Donald's ranch house that is maintained flawlessly as it was in 1945
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Some small pieces of trinitite found at an ant hill. The ants seem to love them and drag them near their nests. Bizarre!
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

A couple of quick points and I'll come back later with some more. I'm working on a blog post that ties Farnsworth into all this discussion (of course he is!) and I'll link to that when it's posted. In the meantime...
Dennis P Brown wrote: Sat Jul 22, 2023 9:03 pm With a few thousand Hydrogen Bombs detonated over all major cities in the world 99% of the human race would be dead in a year or so and the rest (and all other higher life forms) would soon follow (yes, a few people deep underground would exist but their likelihood to survive long term on a radioactive planet look dim indeed.)
I read a little more about Edward Teller over the weekend and, jeez, I wonder if the movie didn't go nearly far enough to paint him as the villain of the piece. Not only was he instrumental in discrediting Oppenheimer, but the movie ends with the fabricated scene btw Oppenheimer and Einstein lamenting the end of the world when, hell, Teller didn't even have the bit in his teeth yet!

*

As for that last scene and the scary visuals at the end, check out this piece in Vanity Fair about O & E:

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/20 ... -real-life

(I think VF will let non-subscribers read one article without quantum tunneling through the paywall by means of a credit card.)

This piece offers a sympathetic treatment of the Oppenheimer/Einstein relationship in the real world and Nolan's treatment of it in the movie. But, then, that's what you'd expect of Vanity Fair, which is about as Hollywood as it gets.

*

For the grins value, I watched the 1989 epic thriller (I kid!) Fat Man and Little Boy last night, with Paul Newman as Gen. Leslie Groves and...I had to look up who played Oppenheimer. Who the hell is Dwight Schulz?

Granted, film making was an entirely different art in 1989, but seeing this one gave me a fresh respect for how much Christopher Nolan did manage to adhere to some semblance of the actual story line. But, then, Nolan had the book American Prometheus to work with (and probably borrowed some from Richard Rhodes as well).

FM & LB on the other hand relies entirely too much on fictional story lines, like the furtive love story btw John Cusak and Laura Dern as... two entirely fictional characters. Their unconsumated affair gets cut short when the Cusak character has an accident with the 'Demon Core' and is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation.

In the movie, the Cusak character is named Michael Merriman. In reality, the Demon Core incident that claimed the life of Harry Daghlian didn't even happen until a couple of weeks after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Harry Daghlian (Haroutune Krikor Daghlian Jr: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Daghlian

The Demon Core: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_core

The two movies - Oppenheimer and Fat Man & Little Boy - remind me of the trope that 'period pieces' are usually reflective not so much of the period they portray as the period when they are made. FM & LB was made at the end of the Reagan era, and has a very 'morning in America' quality to it; Oppenheimer, whatever its merits or faults, seems to carry the weight of the far more fractious times we are living in now (thank you, Internet!)

*

After viewing the two films I have one question:

Both of these movies depict the design and construction of the "Fat Man" plutonium bomb that was tested at Alamagordo and dropped on Nagasaki. The first bomb dropped on Hiroshima was the "Little Boy" uranium bomb. While FM & LB at least shows some of the effort that went into the uranium bomb configuration, neither shows that variation being tested.

So how did they know the uranium bomb was gonna work over Hiroshima if they hadn't tested it yet?

*

And finally (for now):
Richard Hull wrote: Sun Jul 23, 2023 4:32 pm The movie is just a 3 hour escape and entertainment.
Geez, Richard, what did you expect?

Probably a good thing you didn't slip into the wrong auditorium and see Barbie (which I'm going to see with a friend next week – just so I can renew my identity as a card carrying cultural dilletante.)

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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Dennis P Brown »

I too was puzzled that the scientist and military people had no issue with testing the 'gun' type bomb by dropping it on a city. I do remember in the movie Oppenheimer(?) saying they 'knew' that design would work but why?

No idea how Farnsworth is tied into all this - now that would be an extremely interesting post to see.

The very large theater I went to (Also, had a very large screen) didn't have anyone available to check movie pass's - all was done on the honor system. Wow, so guess I could have just gone into Barbie after Oppenheimer ... not happening.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Emma Black »

My understanding is that the uranium bomb was a far less complicated design which effectively just needed to bring two subcritical masses of 80% ish enriched U235 together at a comparatively low speed. I've seen it written that even just physically dropping the two uranium parts onto one another would probably result in a bang of a few hundred tons of TNT equivalent.
Little_Boy_Internal_Components.png
This approach of course does not work in plutonium weapons derived from reactor bread plutonium, which would likely pre-detonate due to the spontaneous fissions of Pu240, so the more complicated implosion method was required.

I also think they did not have the uranium to spare for a test although all the individual components were tested.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Richard Hull »

The gun weapon, Little Boy, was a given to work. No doubt existed due to careful and precise work on fission rates. No one even bothered to question it. No test of this bomb was ever made. U-235 did not exist, nor could it be separated in a fast track manner in the 1944-45 time frame.

Early on, with even small samples of plutonium, they were stunned in that its fission rate due to simple experiment was horrific! It would be impossible to use it in the planned gun bomb for plutonium. (Projectile velocity far too slow for the fast fissioning plutonium) This meant a critical and fast method would be absolutely necessary if plutonium could even be used at all to make a bomb! Far too tricky.

The implosion idea surfaced early, but how to do this? Explosives have a far higher detonation velocity than can be found capable in a projectile based gun weapon. Explosive lensing was already a thing in armor piercing ammunition. A lens plan was certainly the only way to compress a sub critical mass of plutonium fast enough to achieve a nuclear explosion. Even after the many tests and the explosive lens was fixed at the soccer ball type design with variable rate different explosives, there was grave doubts about what would be Fat Man. It had to be tested!

Plutonium can be made back then at Hanford at a prodigious rate compared to the snail's pace for U-235 at Oak Ridge.

As it turns out, with the success of Fat Man, compressive explosion of a plutonium core would be the only method used after the war for all of our A bomb arsenal. Today with advanced centrifuges, U-235 can be used by rogue nations with great ease to make plenty of U-235 for conventional gun type bombs or in many other ways. It is odd that U-235 is now easier to get than Plutonium, the reverse of 1945. The manufacture of plutonium demands many working nuclear reactors based on U235 or MOX fuels to be up and running 24-7-365. Spinning mechanical centrifuges are far easier to manufacture than many nuclear reactors which demand a large supply of U-235 and hundreds of millions needed to make a single reactor with years in construction.

H bombs are for very advanced nations with lots of working nuclear reactors. A bombs are relatively easy to fabricate using centrifuged U-235.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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Re: "Oppenheimer" - And Farnsworth???

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

Dennis P Brown wrote: Mon Jul 24, 2023 8:23 am No idea how Farnsworth is tied into all this - now that would be an extremely interesting post to see.
Mostly, Farnsworth "tied into all this" by not tying in to it.

Call it "parallel paths from a single point of origin."

Oppenheimer, Einstein – And Farnsworth – https://farnovision.com/wp/o-e-f/

I just hit "publish" on this one. It's fairly typical for such posts to go through some revision after they've gone 'live,' so I can hardly wait to see what the experts here have to add 🤣

--PS
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"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 60 years in the past and we missed it."
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Dennis P Brown
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Dennis P Brown »

Paul, thanks for the link that explains the details about Farnsworth. I'll leave it for others to read it for themselves rather than post here myself. I did leave a comment at the page.

I still think that Oppenheimer was not opposed to atomic bombs just using them (after he saw what resulted.) Hence, his desire for treaties rather than bans (through he was naïve to think the Super wouldn't be built I understand his desire to see it not tested or at least controlled.)

Yet again, Emma comes through to answer a question that many of us didn't know.

If I recall correctly, it just wasn't the compression of the plutonium but also the initiator that caused the fast flashover burn leading to the real power of a plutonium bomb. No idea who came up with that initiator approch, through.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

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Read the Farnovision piece.

You lament there is no money for a movie regarding the genesis of what made the bomb possible.

There is no real drama no finished product. Just a plodding inexorable path of research, refinement and advances done in laboratories from 1896 on by virtual unknowns for the common movie goer. There is no director so great as to trace this story in a manner that would not bore the hell out of the average joe who is made of common stuff and possessed of little perception of that which brought the unknown truths about nuclear physics into being.

Einstein did nothing but explain why radium gave off energy. This melded with the already fully accepted energy cannot be created or destroyed and that all reactions (at that, time chemical in nature), must be balanced. By 1912, these reactions were being balanced for nuclear reactions by Rutherford, Fajans, Soddy, and Hevesay. Einstein was a theorist and never went near a lab, much like Oppie.

Soddy the most adventurous and outspoken. He gave us the name Isotope and confounded his mentor Rutherford by mentioning that there was a tremendous amount of energy bound up in Uranium, Radium and Thorium and that in future this energy would power the world. Rutherford, possibly the greatest experimentalist to have ever lived, gave a quick and violent retort in public that, "Anyone who says that the energy from radioactive elements will one day power the world is talking moonshine".

Hahn and Strassman did the nuclear experiment for which they had no chemical explanation. For they were bombarding uranium with neutrons to create the next element beyond Uranium, much as Fermi was doing in Italy to create new isotopes of new elements beyond those bombarded. Hahn had a great idea for sure. However, no heavy new element beyond Uranium was found. Yet, they were finding Barium and other elements in their chemical analysis. Sending a letter to his former lab partner, the now exiled Jewish Lisa Meitner in Switzerland about his problem, she and her nephew Otto Frisch noodled out via the chemical reactions reported, that the uranium was being fissioned and the calculations showed that a rather tremendous amount of binding energy was being released. The energy was so tiny in Hahn's macro experiment that it went undetected while the chemical signatures of the newly created elements, barium, etc., could be detected.

So many stories by so many unknowns, step by step in the lab, and lab alone, built nuclear physics until the latent thoughts regarding quanta put forth by Max Planck blossomed into the Quantum theoretical considerations and advances in the 30's and 40's.

Boring, boring, boring....

The movie Marie Currie made in the 40's with Greer Garson is well done but most it that common folks liked was the very well developed human saga. The science was also very accurately reported in the lab. It was truly engaging for even the critical scientists.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

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Richard Hull wrote: Mon Jul 24, 2023 3:03 pm You lament there is no money for a movie regarding the genesis of what made the bomb possible.
Boy, Richard, did you ever misread that!

I'm not lamenting that there's no movie about "what made the bomb possible."

if I'm lamenting anything (alright, I am), it's there never been a movie - or even a TeeVee Movie - about how television arrived on the planet.

And despite what you say about all the individuals who figured in the evolution of quantum mechanics that ultimately let to Trinity, there was plenty of drama in the advent of electronic video. You can start with the whole Sarnoff -v- Farnsworth 'David and Goliath' story but that only has meaning if you extrapolate into the rest his life and get into the fusion story.

Hell, even as great a dramatist as Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The West Wing, The Social Network) thought the story had potential. He just got so preoccupied with the Sarnoff angle that he couldn't deliver:

https://farnovision.com/wp/tragedy/

Also:

https://thefarnsworthinvention.com (I snagged the domain before the producers thought of it!).

FYI, there was another movie about Marie Curie with the marvelous actress Rosamund Pike in the title role, Radioactive (2019). View the trailer here:

https://youtu.be/mU0oOUTo5zo

That one was pretty good, as I recall, so shows that all this stuff you call 'boring' can in fact be effectively rendered on screen.

In fact, that one warrants a second viewing. Love me some Rosamund Pike.

--PS
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Author of The Boy Who Invented Television: 2023 Edition – https://amz.run/6ag1
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 60 years in the past and we missed it."
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Dennis P Brown »

Great series of explanations, Richard. You cover the subjects in good depth, yet remain accessible even as you provide the technical details.

Paul, I watched the Curie (2019) doc with my daughter in that same year. It was very good. Besides the sexist issues that were covered but not beaten to death, the shear dirty and grueling nature of the work she did came through very clearly. Her brilliance was the main focus and properly covered in an interesting fashion. A good show not unlike Oppenheimer but far more focused and shorter.

A film story that really needs to be made would be the life and fantastic contributions of Emmy Noether. While a mathematician her impact on Physics was huge and is at the heart of the foundations of the subject. Einstein called her work the greatest done and even Planck both admired her brilliance and attempted to promote her into the realms of the physics élite (which at that time, couldn't accept her.)

Finally, I do believe that television, much like telephone land lines, are becoming like dinosaurs and looking to go mostly that route, as well.
Last edited by Dennis P Brown on Mon Jul 24, 2023 7:06 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

Dennis P Brown wrote: Mon Jul 24, 2023 3:36 pm Finally, I do believe that television, much like telephone land lines, are becoming like dinosaurs and looking to go mostly that route, as well.
Tell that to the 65" 4K OLED display with 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound in my living room!

🤣

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"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 60 years in the past and we missed it."
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Dennis P Brown »

Paul, most people use cable for their input signal and do not use Farnsworth invention anymore - i.e. TV via an antenna's is what I was referencing. That device had for most everyone and still, for some, enabled them to only get a few 'local' stations via that carrier wave; where as the Farnsworth device then converts these waves into an image.
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Emma Black »

Whilst I for one would love to see a big multi part documentary taken from "Richard Rhodes book - the making of the atomic bomb", I'm not sure that there would be enough takers to make such a series profitable.

I do fully agree with Richard on Rutherford - he famously hated big complicated equipment like particle accelerators. His use of "bits of string" to come up with some of the most world changing experiments is fascinating. I would love to see a walk though and recreation of many of these famous early experiments.

A video that some will find interesting about some of the engineering of the platinum core and the role gallium had:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLZMzsRB86E
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

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I think this pretty well nails it:
IMG_0044.jpeg
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
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"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 60 years in the past and we missed it."
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Re: "Oppenheimer"

Post by Richard Hull »

“There are no great men. There are only great challenges which ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.”
― FADM William F. Halsey, U.S. Navy.

We laud and recognize "great men" for one or more magnificent moments in their lives for any number of what "we" or as an individual might perceive to be great moments. Outside of that they are, at the core, "ordinary men". Any negative part of their character can never detract or remove them from their accomplishment or accolades heaped on them by history. It just shows how ordinary they were outside of some worshipful praise accorded them.

\All men are mortal. All men are flawed in one or more ways. The pity is their time views them one way, but time and moirés change.

In the study of optics related to lensing, there are positive and negative lens'. The positive lens focuses to a point. Negative lens expand a view over a very wide field. What one sees and describes depends on the lens employed. So it is with lensing the lives of men.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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