Saturday, July 17, 2010

Now I Am Become Death, The Destroyer Of Worlds

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the Trinity Test, the world's first nuclear explosion and the beginning of the Atomic Age. Expectation among the scientists that morning in the New Mexico desert ranged from a dud bomb to a world-devouring atmospheric explosion. Luckily, the result was reasonable and the success allowed the United States to pursue a quick and definitive ending to war with Japan. I am sure the debate on using nuclear weapons against civilian targets in Japan will be an endless one. Also, I am sure that President Harry Truman's decision to use those weapons saved Japan and the United States and its allies millions of additional casualties. Regardless of your position on this question and the Atomic Age, the greater reality is simply that our world has been transformed. Our ability to choose between creation and destruction has always been with us. The events of July 16, 1945 tell us that we must be even more careful to choose wisely.

The Department of Energy has a fine mixed media post on the Trinity Test and its context within the Manhattan Project. Access the article here. The Wikipedia entry for Trinity provides additional information, including several illustrations, and many interesting external links. Access Wikipedia:Trinity here.

The title of this post is a quote taken from the Bhagavad Gita by J. Robert Oppenheimer on the realization of what he and his fellow scientists accomplished in the Trinity Test. In the Gita, the speaker is Vishnu, a supreme god in the Hindu tradition. Perhaps Oppenheimer's pessimism and quote was justified. I like to recall that Vishnu, as supreme god, had many avatars or incarnations. One of them is Krishna, also known as the Lord of the Cosmic Dance. As such, the Dancer is the creator, sustainer, and destroyer of the world as he stands on the Dwarf of Ignorance. I wasn't at Trinity that morning. Didn't see the flash or feel the heat or wind from the blast. Still, I'd like to think that Krishna did the talking that day.