The fact that Earth Day coincides with J. Robert Oppenheimer’s birthday is perhaps no coincidence. Along with Enrico Fermi, Oppenheimer developed the first prototype nuclear weapon that was detonated in the “Trinity” test in Los Alamos, New Mexico on July 16, 1945. Upon seeing the colossal column of fire and resultant mushroom cloud, Oppenheimer quoted a line from the Hindu holy book the Bhagavad Gita, saying, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” And indeed he was correct, as nearly 200,000 residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would soon discover, vaporized as recompense for the 2,402 American lives lost at Pearl Harbor during World War II.
Thus far, the United States, thankfully, remains the only country to have detonated a nuclear device in hostility. India, Pakistan, Russia, China, UK, France, and North Korea (the other nuclear nations) have yet to do so. But tensions always run high. You never know. And undoubtedly more nations will be developing their own weapons of mass destruction despite the best efforts to prevent them from doing so. And then what? Before you know it – pop goes the world.
To celebrate Earth Day–here’s some highlights from our nuclear age with a cheery little song from Men Without Hats.
Pop Goes the World
The apocalypse has a soundtrack.
The explosion that started a craze.
The House in the Middle
Here’s a video from the National Clean Up, Paint Up, Fix Up Bureau. This classic infomercial, and failure in utilitarian judgment, would be a laugh out loud parody joke if it were not lamentably true, advocating keeping a tidy home in order to best survive the blast from the atomic bomb. Look your tidy house is now only 90% sawdust! You can rebuild it as you merrily struggle forward in a world populated by packs of roving mutant cannibals.
Between 1946 and 1958 the United States test detonated 23 nuclear bombs. Sexy Bikini Atoll, Va-va-va-kaboom!
The first detonation of a hydrogen bomb–the John Wayne of nuclear blasts.
One positive thing that emerged from the development of the nuclear bomb is the movie Dr. Strangelove, a darkly satiric look at a world gone mad. Directed by the great Stanley Kubrick, the closing song is a perfect compliment to any Armageddon. “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.”
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