Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Oppenheimer Was a Communist

From a Jewish Commentary article:
… Chevalier also identified Oppenheimer as the author of two 1940 pamphlets put out by the “College Faculties Committee, Communist Party of California.” Oppenheimer, who was the scion of a wealthy New York family, had also paid for the printing and distribution of those pamphlets. Herken interviewed Philip Morrison, a former Oppenheimer graduate student and then Communist, who claimed that he, Morrison, had taken to the printer a third pamphlet written by Oppenheimer justifying the Soviet invasion of Finland.
The movie was supposed to be factual. It portrays Oppie as a Commie fellow traveler.

A reviewer notes:

But there are also flaws [SPOILERS FOLLOW]:

1. Stuff that never happened. Most preposterously, Oppenheimer travels all the way from Los Alamos to Princeton, to have Einstein check the calculation suggesting that the atomic bomb could ignite the atmosphere.

2. Weirdly, but in common with pretty much every previous literary treatment of this material, the movie finds the revocation of Oppenheimer’s security clearance a far more riveting topic than either the actual creation of the bomb or the prospect of global thermonuclear war. Maybe half the movie consists of committee hearings.

3. The movie misses the opportunity to dramatize almost any of the scientific turning points, from Szilard’s original idea for a chain reaction to the realization of the need to separate U-235 to the invention of the implosion design—somehow, a 3-hour movie didn’t have time for any of this.

Einstein was also a Commie fellow traveler, and was beyond the point where anyone would trust him to do a physics calculation. Igniting the atmosphere was a minor worry.

Obviously bringing in Einstein and igniting the atmosphere was done to overdramatize the movie. But why? They were inventing the A-bomb. They were fighting World War II. Isn't that enough drama? It damages a true story when it is overdramatized with absurd fictions.

Why make a $100M A-bomb story, without telling any of the technical difficulties? What is the story?

This is baffling. Presumably the movie makers will say that the audience is mostly non-physicists, and may not understand or appreciate a detailed physics lesson. But it could tell the basics in a way that most could understand.

Finally the security clearance story is an obscure historical footnote of no particular interest or importance. It was the Cold War, and he should have lost his clearance years earlier. It used to be something leftists would complain about, but the case against him was pretty strong.

The movie would have been better with more war and bomb stuff, and less political drama about trivialities.

1 comment:

CFT said...

Communism is very good for three things:
1. Making huge numbers of people incredibly poor to the point of starvation.

2. Brutally killing huge numbers of people from point #1 who are citizens in said communist country.

3. Giving intellectuals and academics in western countries something to claim is a wonderful idea despite it never working...and having a tendency to do lots and lots of point #1 and point #2.