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Oppenheimer’s Ghost

The architect of the nuclear bomb believed technology had an irresistible momentum.
October 29, 2007

In this video, Jason Pontin questions whether we can control the evolution and uses of technology.

A secular saint: J. Robert Oppenheimer, the architect of the nuclear bomb.

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  • Watch this month's "Letter from the Editor" video.

Oppenheimer has become a secular saint because he opposed building an early version of the hydrogen bomb when he was chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. That opposition led to his persecution by anticommunists and a public hearing to investigate his loyalty, after which his security clearance was permanently revoked because of what were called his “defects” of character. Since his death, biographies have represented him as a cultured leftist intellectual at odds with brutish right-wing militarists. But the physicist’s attitude to the nuclear bomb–and to the capacity of technology to be used for both moral and immoral ends–was more complicated.

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