Saturday, July 16, 2016

Now I Am Become Death, The Destroyer Of Worlds

Trinity explosion at 0.016 second after detonation, July 16, 1945

Today marks the 71st anniversary of the Trinity Test, the explosion of the world's first plutonium bomb 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 by this new power. As a leader of the free world, we have a huge responsibility regarding the use of nuclear power for creation and destruction as well as its proliferation. The events of July 16, 1945 and in the month that followed showed us the awesome power of the atom. Seventy years of nuclear history has only focused us even more on being careful to choose wisely in such matters.

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

Shiva, the Lord of the Cosmic Dance

Our title for this post is a quote taken from the Bhagavad Gita spoken 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 were justified. I like to recall that Vishnu, as supreme god, had many avatars or incarnations. One of them is  Shiva,  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 have no doubt it was quite a dance for all who witnessed this historic event given that some scientists believed nothing would happen while others hypothesized a nuclear chain reaction that would destroy the planet. 

No comments: