August 22, 2023

Oppenheimer (Movie Review and Endnotes)


J Robert Oppenheimer Endnotes

Movie Review:Talk about poisoning apple - Bohrs not involved. He did get caught. Probably not poisoned to Kill.His math was always bad. And he was embarrassed by it.Basically everything with Einstein was inventedOppie to Strauss “Unlike you I can’t hide my Jewishness” but it was actually Oppie who ran from his JewishnessDownplayed his arrogance a little. But I actually think they did a good job with this. You see why Strauss wouldn’t like him.I think they did a good job with Rabbi.Rabbi always gave him a hard time about his faith and that would have been fun to put in there.i can’t believe he didn’t do Heisenberg and Oppie competing for the same girlHow did Oppenheimer become such a womanizer?Not a fellow traveler. A party member.Jean Tatlock - She was more spunky. Everything is so dour.“You just needed to get laid” not totally off.The Alvarez scene is really good. I wish there was more of that.No more flowers is true. Lol. They do a good job with that. She was mercurial.Kitty not SO hurt by his cheating. Explain how their relationship began.It was not just with Jean Tatlock that he had an affair.Jean a lesbian. And wasn’t murdered.Kitty also much more spunky.The baby thing is accurate, although they didn’t try to give him to Chevalier. Gave him away for a couple months when he was very young. And asked about adoption.I didn’t think Damon was a good Groves - he just doesn’t have the abrasiveness. But it’s also written so that Oppie is the prime mover. In reality, Groves cowed Oppie and got him to turn on fellow communists.The soundtrack is really goodI thought they did a pretty good job with Teller. Brilliant, belligerent, prickly. Committed to hydrogen bomb. But this was partially driven by not being made head of his dept.Chevalier affair. Was it just an amateur affair? Probably not.The brothel at Los Alamos. a world within a world. Some things are just eternal.The portrayal of Strauss is pretty sympathetic. It’s a good part when he keeps showing the results of the Soviet test.Of course they make Kenneth Nichols evil, instead of acknowledging that he was right.Pash didn’t kill TatlockShould the bomb have been used?I really like “Are those safe distances?” - based on your calculations. Reminds me of the cave.The explosion didn’t look that big to me. They should have abandoned the practical effects.I loved the sound delay.True to life that the decision to drop was out of the scientists handsThey do a good job of highlighting his opinion that the bomb would end war. I thought maybe his hyperventilating about dropping the bomb on Japan was overwrought.I oppose the dropping of the bomb, while thinking Oppenheimer has no particular guilt for it.The world will remember this day. It’s too soon to determine what the results of the bombing are. But I’ll bet the Japanese didn’t like it. I’m so proud of what you have accomplished. I just wish we had it in time to use against the Germans.It’s actually unknown if Richard Tolman found out about the affair with Ruth.

Additionally:Let’s talk about his love life. What made him go from mega geek to notorious womanizer?Hated piano lessons. The only physicist I ever knew who wasn’t musical.Connection between math and music.Do I think they should have dropped the atom bomb on Japan? No.Was Oppenheimer a spy?A little more on GrovesAt one point in the negotiations, writes Groves, Nichols said that they would need between 5 and 10000 tons of silver. This led to the icy reply, Colonel, in the Treasury we do not speak of tons of silver. Our unit is the troy ounce. Eventually 395 million troy ounces of silver, 13,540 short tons, went off from the West Point Depository to be cast into cylindrical billets.

Hello, and welcome to How to Take Over the World. This is Ben Wilson. This is part two in my series on J. Robert Oppenheimer.

In this episode, I'm going to review the movie Oppenheimer. So I'm going to talk about what was accurate, and what was not accurate, and what I thought was true to character, and what I maybe imagined differently from what was portrayed in the movie and more generally what I liked and what I didn’t like.

I'm also going to go through some of my endnotes. So some of the thoughts, just a couple of things I jotted down that didn't fit into the narrative on the main episode that I think you still might be interested in.

So with that, let's get into it after this quick break.

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So I've actually watched the Oppenheimer movie twice now, and on the second time I took really detailed notes of what I thought and how it compared to real life. So I'm just going to go through some of those notes.

And to start off with, I really liked the movie. Excellent music, good acting, incredible cinematography. I really enjoyed it and if you haven’t seen it yet I think you will too.

So when I go through and note some of these historical inaccuracies, it’s not necessarily a criticism. I mean sometimes it is, but most of the time I assume Christopher Nolan and his team knew the real history, they just needed to simplify things because it’s a movie.

You know it was already three hours long, and there is a bunch of stuff that I wish they had included, but what was Nolan going to do, make it a four hour movie? Of course not, so I’m pointing this stuff out because it’s interesting to see where they made changes and to note what really happened, but I’m not doing it as a criticism of the team behind Oppenheimer.

so first, the poisoning of the apple. This played out differently in real life.

For one thing, Niels Bohr was not involved in any way. For another thing, he did get caught. He actually turned himself in, which does not happen in the movie. And then thirdly, the fact that he did turn himself in, they knew that he tried to poison Blackett, but he didn't get kicked out of the university.

He only got sent to see a psychiatrist in London. Probably means that he didn't poison to kill. So they have him putting in I think it's like potassium cyanide. But that stuff that will kill you. It seems maybe like it was a little bit more of a prank like he was hoping to make Blackett sick

If you literally tried to kill your professor I I don't think it would let you keep going to college there. And I wish they had made that just a part of his larger descent into madness and talked about some of these other stories of him trying to strangle people and drop luggage on their head and everything else.

One thing from early on in the moviethat was correct that I didn't mention in the first episode is Oppenheimer's math was always not good.

He always was self conscious about it. He was embarrassed by the fact that he did not have a super deep understanding of the mathematics behind physics. Part of that was the fact that he didn't study physics as an undergraduate. He studied chemistry and I think he just never got around to getting some of those fundamental mathematics.

And then by then I think he was so far ahead in the field, that he was embarrassed to go back and learn basic mathematical physics so he never did.

Which leads me to another story actually that I liked that I didn't talk about in the first episode and they did not have in the movie, which is as a child he was forced by his mother, who was very cultured, to take piano lessons. And he hated piano lessons. And so there's this story that one time he gets really, really sick and is bedridden for weeks and is in terrible pain.

And so his mother comes and checks on him and says, you know, Robert, how do you feel? And he says. Like I do when I have to practice the piano. And so that was kind of the final straw. She's like, okay, you don't have to take piano lessons anymore if you hate it that much.

One of his colleagues said that Oppenheimer was the only physicist who he ever knew who wasn't musical. And there is this connection between mathematical ability and musicality.

People who are good at math are often musical. Whether that is Einstein who was a very good violin player, or Brian May, the lead guitarist for the band Queen, who studied mathematics and physics at the imperial college of London before embarking on a music career.

So it’s interesting that mathematics and music tend to go together and Oppenheimer appeared not to be terribly gifted at either.

On the topic of Einstein, who I just mentioned, they were not all that close. They did have more contact after the war when they were both at Princeton, but they didn’t talk that much, and the movie takes a lot of conversations that Oppenehimer was with other people, and makes them between him and Einstein.

Which is understandable, Einstein is a big name, everyone knows who he is. It makes sense that they would expand his role in Oppenheimer’s life, but it’s worth noting that basically all of the Einstein scenes are made up, other than the one where he urges him to turn his back on the US when his security clearance is being revoked.

One other note when Oppenheimer is talking to Strauss. So Strauss, his name is spelled like Strauss, which is a very Jewish name. He pronounced it Strauss cause he says that's how they pronounce it in the South. It's the Southern pronunciation and Oppenheimer, whose name is Oppenheimer says, unlike you, I can't hide my Jewishness, which I get what he's saying with the last names, right?

Oppenheimer, or what are you going to do with Oppenheimer? That is a very Jewish sounding last name. And yeah, Strauss to Strauss. Okay. You can say it's a Southern pronunciation. Probably there is an element there of I'm hiding my ethnic identity, but what's interesting is that that's not really true to their characters at all.

Oppenheimer is the one who hid his Jewishness very much. He was never religiously Jewish, and outside of his upbringing at the Ethical Culture School, never made any efforts to deliberately cultivate relationships with other Jews. Never involved himself in the Jewish community. He did help Jews who were fleeing Europe when it came under Nazi occupation, so I’m not trying to say that he 100 percent turned his back on it, but his Jewishness was just not a major part of his life.

Whereas Strauss is someone who went to synagogue, was involved with his local Jewish congregation, was personally observant, you know, was Jewish. So it's just interesting that they had that line in there when the reality of how they lived their lives was sort of the opposite.

On that note, the person who heckled him the most about his lack of religion was Isidor Rabi. Rabi was very Jewish, in an ethnic sense. Never tried to hide from his Jewishness, and in fact was very in touch with it. He was good friends with Oppenheimer, encouraged him to get in touch with his Jewish side.

Rabi claimed that Oppenheimer “Never got to be an integrated personality because he was Jewish, but he wished he weren’t and tried to pretend he wasn’t.”

Rabi sort of acted as Oppenheimer’s conscience in many ways and I think he is played very well by David Krumholtz in the film Oppenheimer. He really conveys the warmth that you feel when you read about Isidor Rabi.

Which actually brings me to one of my criticisms of the film. Everyone is so dour all the time. The two exceptions are Rabi and Neils Bohr, played by Kenneth Branagh.

But everyone else is so dour. It’s especially incongruous with his love interests. So his longtime girlfriend, Jean Tatlock, arguably the love of his life, was a very spunky person, a partier. She was very mercurial, very up and down. But she wasn’t somber and dour, which is how I think she comes across in the movie.

Similarly his wife Kitty was a partier and they make her this very serious woman in the movie, I just don’t understand why they did that to those two women.

Speaking of dour, I think one thing they do pretty well is portray Oppenheimer’s arrogance.

Early on especially you get this feeling of why Strauss wouldn't have liked Oppenheimer,There is a scene where he's walking around with him and he's offering him this amazing position at Princeton and showing him like, look, you're gonna get this house, you're gonna be on these beautiful grounds, you're right across the street from where you'll work, you'll have complete academic freedom. You get to work with all these amazing people.

And Oppenheimer goes, I'll consider it. He goes, this is an amazing offer I'm making you. And Robert says, yeah. That's why I'm considering it. And it does come across as condescending. And in that moment, I think you get why straws would feel the way he did about Oppenheimer.

One of the interesting things, is you have all these people who agreed that Oppenheimer could be just unbelievably condescending and arrogant. Almost reflexively so.

And yet somehow, he was able to turn it off during the Manhattan Project. They all agree that that arrogance was put in check when he needed it most, which I find really interesting.

One other thing I was shocked they didn’t include was Oppenheimer and Heisenberg cometing for the same girl in Gottingen.

It just feels so cinematic, in grad school we went after the same girl, and now we’re racing each other to build the atom bomb. But I guess you can only include so many love interests. And so many rivals, right? They would have had to do much more of a Heisenberg storyline.

One thing in the movie, they take his word for it - when Oppenheimer said that he was just a fellow traveler and never a communist party member. I went over this in the first episode, but it is likely that he was in fact, a secret communist party member based on the evidence. That's what I think.

Of course, no one can know for sure. That's the nature of being a secret party member. You know, he paid communist party dues. And they actually say, in the movie. He says, yes, I donated through the communist party to the Spanish civil war through 1942. Well, the Spanish civil war ended in 1939.

So um, that right there kind of is the crux of the issue of why to me, it seems like he was a party member. Like these look more like party dues than they do like contributions to a foreign war effort.

Okay, other notes I made….

Speaking of Jean Tatlock, there are two more things I want to point out. There is this scene in the movie where he brings her flowers and she says no more flowers and throws them away in his face.

And that really happened.

Oppenheimer would bring her flowers and she would always go, Robert, stop bringing me flowers. She hated it. She asked him to stop multiple times but it was compulsive.

Even after she complained repeatedly, please no more flowers. He would bring her flowers. And she would throw them away in front of his face. And you see that in the movie. I thought that was a great scene because that's really what happened in real life.

It was just one of those quirks of Oppenheimer’s personality. He liked to be thoughtful. And so he persisted in getting her flowers even after she asked him not to.

One thing the movie insinuates is that maybe Jean Tatlock was murdered. She was not murdered. She committed suicide.

There's no good evidence to me that she was killed by the FBI. In the book, American Prometheus, the authors try to make the case that maybe she was murdered, and that is where the movie gets it from.

I just think the evidence that they put out there is so, so weak. So the evidence is that she didn’t sign her suicide note. But it was in her handwriting. She didn’t sign it because she had just taken lethal amounts of drugs and her handwriting slowly gets worse and trails off. Also there was a sedative in her blood that you can use to knock someone out like a chloroform type thing.

So that is the other piece of evidence they pointed to. But it was only trace amounts, it wouldn’t have been enough to knock her out, and she did a lot of drugs recreationally and that could have been one. I guess the other thing that seems like evidence is it's a very weird way to kill yourself, to drown yourself in a bathtub. Which I agree. I think what happened was she was trying to overdose in the bath. She wanted to die peacefully in a warm bath. And the drugs kicked in too soon and she fell in face first and drowned before she could get in.

From suicide onto happier things… one scene that I absolutely love from the movy is when Alvarez, who is a physicist at Berkeley, reads in the paper that they have split the atom and runs out mid haircut. And that really happened in real life.

And in the movie Oppenheimer sees him and follows him really in real life. Oppenheimer was already on campus when Alvarez comes in with half a haircut to deliver the news. And then they immediately go out and replicate the results.

But I, that to me is one of the few parts of the movie that is genuinely exciting and that feels kind of like this heist movie. I wish more of the movie was like that. I know it has to be kidn fo somber because this whole things results in hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese people losing their lives, but nevertheless, the atom bomb is one of the great scientific achievements, one of the great human achievements, of all time.

And so I wish they had imparted more of that excitement of discovery and of building something unprecedented. That Alvarez scene to me, is one of the few times they did that, and I wish there was more of it in the movie.

He never lets it get buoyant and elevate to the point where you're like, wow, this is amazing. Look what they're doing. That to me is the one time in the movie where. Christopher Nolan lets that happen. And I wish he had done more of that throughout the second act. Um, but I did love that scene.

One thing, that I thought was stretched, was Kitty was married to someone else and then Robert whisks her off and gets her pregnant. And then he calls up her husband and he says, Hey, I just got your wife pregnant. So let's all be adults about this. And you guys are going to get divorced and I'm going to marry her.

The guy is like, okay, but that is to say Kitty went into this marriage with very open eyes. She knew that Robert was a womanizer. It wasn't just Jean Tatlock that he had an affair with. He had at least one other affair. I imagine he had many other affairs while he was married to Kitty.

And I don't think that she was naive to this. Again, in the movie, when it comes out in the trial that he had this affair with Jean while he was married to Kitty, he tells her, it's nothing I hadn't already told you, and she says, yeah, but now the whole world knows.

But it's still, I don't know, you get this impression, especially with the way that Kitty is played by Emily Blunt. For whatever reason to me, in her body language, it seems to me, that she's very put out by her husband having had this affair, that like, maybe she knew, but it's very raw for her.

I don't think that's true. You know, this is the middle of the, this is the middle of the 20th century with a bunch of communists. They were all running around with each other. Marital ties were, let's say, uh, not as strong as they might be in some other communities. And so I just think she went in with eyes wide open to the stuff that Oppenheimer was getting up to and I don't think it bothered her that much. It wouldn’t shock me if Kitty had affairs of her own.

Of course it is true. It would be hard to have your husband's affair displayed in front of the entire world. But I thought they overplayed that part.

Let’s stay with Kitty. She was an interesting person. She was a hard drinker. Some people refer to her as an alcoholic. Now, others insisted that she drank a lot, but she was not an alcoholic.

Who knows? She liked to socialize and she liked to drink.

The issues that they show with their children are true. They gave away their first child for a couple months when he was only a couple months old. And Kitty and Robert went off to the ranch in New Mexico and just spent some time alone because she really struggled with being a mother.

The authors of American Prometheus, Bird and Sherwin, think that this is one of the reasons that she never properly bonded with her first son. And that story about Oppenheimer going to another family and asking them if they would adopt their, their son is true. That actually happened.

It wasn't actually the Chevaliers, but whatever, they're combining characters, that's fine. But, you know, Robert was a more doting father. He did like being with his kids, but he was never around, you know, he worked so much because of what he was doing and Kitty just really struggled to be at home and be a mother.

That scene where the baby is crying and Robert says “Shouldn’t you go to him” and she says “you go to him. I’ve been going to him all day” was very true to life.

And those issues persisted, the Oppenheimer children had very difficult relationships with their parents.

Other notes…

I didn't think Matt Damon was a good General Groves. He just didn't have the abrasiveness. I think Matt Damon is just a little Too nice to be General Groves,

I also think they kind of wanted to write it So that Oppenheimer was the prime mover Whereas in reality Groves cowed Oppie and got him to do a lot of things that he didn't want to do

He got him to turn on a lot of fellow communists and turn people in, for example.

So in the movie, Oppenheimer is always getting one over on Groves. And he seems almost meek and deferential toward Oppenheimer. In reality he liked and worked well with Oppenheimer but was never deferential to ANYBODY. He was incredibly hard charging. Always the alpha in the room.

IAnd I just think they were missing that abrasiveness from Matt Damon's performance. Groves is just one of the most interesting characters I've ever read about. You don't see characters like that anymore. I think everyone's got to be nice now.

there's a great story about groves. At one point he's negotiating with the treasury department to buy a bunch of silver, a bunch of the United States silver stock, because they needed it, I believe for the enrhciment process. So they need all the silver and, well, here's the quote.

It says at one point in the negotiations, writes groves, Nichols said that they would need between five and 10, 000 tons of silver. This led to the icy reply. Colonel in the treasury. We do not speak of tons of silver. Our unit is the Troy ounce. At which point they go, okay, we're going to need 395 million Troy ounces of silver.

Uh, it ends up being actually 13, over 13, 000 tons of silver that they need. ANd Groves meticulously tracks it and in the end melts it down and returns every ounce back to the treasury department.

And he is always doing heroic feats like this. The Manhattan project was just as much a marvel of organizational complexity and industrial design as it was of hard science and engineering. And Groves was the mover behind a lot of that organizational complexity and getting things done.

One of the things that I wish I had talked about last episode, actually, now that I think about it, is the brothel at Los Alamos. Of course there are no people around, no professional prostitutes. But some enterprising young women who were hired to do menial tasks around the town, found that this could be a lucrative trade.

And so they started a brothel. And eventually, it came to the attention of the higher ups when some venereal diseases started going around. So they shut down the brothel. But then some of the young men start to complain, so they open the brothel back up but this time with testing and hygiene measures in place.

Nature finds a way, as the saying goes. There is no point to that story, I just found it hilarious. The most intelligent people in the world and they still couldn’t resist. Even 160 IQ geniuses have human needs.

Other notes…I just knew they were Gonna do this. I knew that they were going to make the security agents evil Right. Just trying to stop science from happening and unreasonably suspicious of everyone and seeing ghosts behind every door and in every corner. They portray Kenneth Nichols, who in reality was the director of the project and much more involved in logistics, he was a remarkable man in his own right, but they make him essentially the head of security and this really vindictive evil guy.

They don't acknowledge that he was right. There were four spies at Los Alamos. They talk about Klaus Fuchs, who was the most damaging spy, but he was not the only one. There were three others.

And so it's just funny to me that they make this guy out to be this great villain for being so suspicious of everyone when it's like, yeah, arguably he should have been more suspicious because there were spies who were smuggling out secrets to the Soviets.

And they were able to build an atom bomb only two years later,

The whole cold war could have been avoided if these spies had been rooted out. And yet Nichols is portrayed as this villain for being concerned about it. I think it’s ridiculous. But I’m not surprised.

Okay I guess I better go back to something positive about the movie. One other scene that I love is when they're talking about the nuclear test. And Oppenheimer says, we're going to be so and so this many yards away. And one of the scientists says, are those safe distances? And he says, they're based on your calculations. And so I love that because it just shows the level to which this was a homemade bomb.

There was no safety net. There were no official protocols. There was no guidebook, no best practices.

This was basically like a science fair project. The nuclear bomb is a science fair project. And it must have been exhilarating but also terrifying to work on.

I mostly loved the actual test of the bomb. I love that they did the sound delay. A minute and a half between when they saw the bomb go off and when they actually heard the blast. I thought that was so well done. You know, you're overawed by this view of this bomb and you don't even think about the sound and then a minute and a half later, boom, it hits everyone.

My only issue was,

I have mixed feelings about the test scene the explosion itself was a little underwhelming to me.

It didn't look that big. I think they used all real effects. And my feeling is, man, you guys should have just done a CGI nuke. It didn't look like a nuclear explosion. You could tell they were just trying to cut around the fact that it was a relatively small explosion.

Maybe I'm a snob but that was how I felt.

One other thing that was accurate that they embellished a little was Oppenheimer did go meet with President Truman. He did say, Uh, we feel like we have blood on our hands and Truman really did not like that. He was upset about it. And they do part of his quote. I wanted to pull other things, uh, that he said, Truman said of Oppenheimer blood on his hands, dammit, he hasn't half as much blood on his hands as I have.

You just don't go around bellyaching about it. And then he later told his secretary of state, Dean Acheson, I don't want to see that son of a bitch in this office ever again. And he constantly referred to him as a crybaby scientist.

I really liked that scene. Although I didn’t like that they made Truman out to be some sort of idiot. I thought that was unfair.

Speaking of Truman.

That brings me to one last discrepancy between the movie and the historical record.

Oppenheimer definitely had qualms about dropping the bomb on Japan, or at least reservations. He wasn't sure about it and he paced back and forth afterwards saying those poor people, those poor little people.

Um, and it's true that he said to Truman, you know, I feel like we might have blood on our hands. But at the same time, he never disavowed his involvement with the project.

In fact, there was a play in the early sixties called “On The Matter of J Robert Oppenheimer” and it portrayed him much as the movie Oppenheimer does. As feeling abject horror at what he has done.

In fact he wrote an open letter to the play. He said you say I think "we have done the work of the devil." "This is the very opposite of what I think," "I had never said that I regretted participating in a responsible way in the making of the bomb."

In the movie, when he gives his speech right after the dropping of the bomb on Japan, they make him hallucinate visions of burning corpses and he's hearing screams and he’s just so tortured.

In reality, and they portray this, but they don't, you know, give you the context in reality, you know, there is that little gym where he gives the speech and normally he would just come out from the side of the stage and walk onto the stage, but to kind of like rile people up, he ran out through the crowd and he does walk out through the crowd in, uh, in the movie.

But you don't get the context that, like, this was something special he was doing as, like, a moment of celebration. You know, he's running through the crowd and people go wild and they're cheering, like, Yeah! Woo! We did it! And, look, I mean, just look at the text of what he said. The world will remember this day.

It's too soon to determine what the results of the bombing are, but I'll bet the Japanese didn't like it. I'm so proud of what you have accomplished. I just wish we had done it in time to use against the Germans. Um, that's an excerpt of what he said. That's what they have in the movie. It is an accurate excerpt.

They portray him as racked with horrible guilt. And while he was sober about what they had done, he always disavowed the notion that he felt guilt or that he had done something wrong by being involved with the Manhattan Project.

Okay, just a couple things I wanted to talk about in closing, a few more end notes. One, was Oppenheimer a spy? My answer, probably not, but maybe. Here's a little bit of the evidence, I'll just give you the high level view. First, I guess I'll give you the evidence for him being a spy. This is why some people think he's a spy.

There are scholars, good scholars, who think that Oppenheimer was a Soviet spy. Here's why. Number one.

Number one, the head Soviet spy for the San Francisco Bay Area said that he was. And so that is pretty compelling evidence. He wrote back, you know, so when the Berlin wall, so, you know, when the Soviet union collapsed, we were able to go in and get a lot of documents.

So, you know, there was a lot of back and forth. We were able to, so, you know, we, we now know it's been declassified that the head spy, yeah, he wrote back to the Soviet union and he was giving an accounting of what he had done. And he said, um, you know, look, I recruited J Robert Oppenheimer. To be a spy for us.

That's a pretty big feather in my cap. Okay, I'll respond to that later, but that's one piece of evidence. Another is a document from a high ranking, from a high ranking Soviet spy in... Moscow also listed him as a Soviet agent. So both of those are pretty compelling pieces of evidence. And then the other thing is that there were just so many spies at Los Alamos who were never caught.

And so, you know, okay, did he turn a blind eye? Um,

so did he turn a blind eye, you know, maybe, uh, but what's the evidence against. Okay. The evidence against is this guy in the Bay area who said that he had recruited Oppenheimer. He was being recalled to the Soviet union.

He was being recalled to the Soviet union. Um, there were some accusations against him. It's a long story, but he might've been padding his resume a little bit. Right. So maybe Oppenheimer joins this, you know, secret communist group that we had talked about earlier. And he just kind of inflates that to be like, Oh yeah.

He was a spy to make himself look better back in Moscow, but he, but he actually wasn't similarly, you know, that document in Moscow from, I think it's like the common turn. So like high up official probably was based on that same evidence. So if you don't believe one, you probably won't believe the other.

And then I guess the biggest evidence against him being a spy is there's this conversation that the FBI recorded

where essentially you have one of his friends who is a go between is, is essentially a Soviet spy. And look, I know it's not great. He's his friends with a Soviet spy, but okay. His friend who's a Soviet spy is talking with another, is talking with a member of the physics department. I think he's actually a student at the physics department, but a good physicist at Berkeley and, um, this conversation got wiretapped by the FBI.

And in it, uh, I think it's Joe Weinberg. And he's talking with Nelson, uh, I think

he's talking to Nelson, I think. But anyways, they're going back and forth and they basically say, uh, what's up with Oppenheimer? Can we get him to give some Intel on this project? And, uh, Nelson's going, no, you know, he's not as solid as he used to be. I think his wife is having a bad influence on him and getting involved with all this military stuff.

I just, I don't think that, um, you know, I basically, I think he's a squish now. I don't think he's really as committed to communists as he used to be. And on the one hand you might go, Oh, okay, well maybe this is just something that, you know, they know where a FBI wiretap is. And so they, um, so they're kind of conspicuously going.

Oh, Oppenheimer, he used to be on our side, but now he's not definitely not a spy in order to like, give him some breathing room, uh, from the FBI. Right. Except, uh, these two give some very incriminating information. In fact, it. Ended up coming down hard on Joe Weinberg and ended up ruining his physics career.

So that's not the kind of stuff that you would say if you were kind of trying to drop counter,

if you're trying to drop, you know, disinformation for the FBI. So to me, that conversation that was recorded by the FBI. It is really exculpatory. And I do think it's the case that Oppenheimer had been involved with the American communist party and maybe even had shared, I don't even know if you'd called it intelligence, um, but like high level information, uh, he'd, you know, been open with people about what he was doing.

I mean, none of that stuff was classified, right. Um, but I think once he got involved in the Manhattan project in an official capacity, this is someone who liked to feel important.

And this is someone who ended up turning in other. Former communists and kind of telling on them. So I just think it's very unlikely he himself spied, or even that he knew about the spies at Los Alamos and kind of overlooked it, you know, that might sound incriminating, or there were four spies under him at Los Alamos, but at the same time, that wasn't his job to root out spies, right?

He wasn't going over people's background checks and stuff. Um, that was the army's job. So I don't know how much of that really should land on his shoulders as responsibility.

And then I'm going to end with one last question. I don't know if I should answer this question, but I had a friend who listened to the first episode and he says, he's, he's a single guy. He goes, you know, I'm listening to this and the guy's basically an incel can't get a date and then goes to become a notorious womanizer in Berkeley.

Uh, that, you know, Ben, I'm interested in this process. Would, would you tell me what changed, uh, asking for a friend? You know, I, uh, I think people would be interested to know. What can turn someone from completely hapless with women to, um,

to seemingly an unstoppable force? And I think it's a very, pretty easy answer. I mean, he's very intelligent, and so I think that's obviously attractive, right? He was funny, he knew a lot, I don't know. Intelligence is attractive, I think. The other thing is, um, he was a nobody, and then he was a somebody. I think that, I think that everyone, but especially women, are often attracted to competence.

So... I think it's good to look for women in your field of competence, if that makes sense. So look, if you are, I don't know, a gym bro, if you're super big and strong, like try and meet women in a context that's going to emphasize that, where they'll know that about you and you try and meet women who that means something to them, right?

Um, if you're really, really smart again. You want to find the women who that means something to, um, you know, go where the geeks are essentially, I guess. And, um, and then demonstrate your com, demonstrate your intelligence in that setting. Uh,

so I guess that's basically my advice. I, I think that's the thing that changed is when he's at Berkeley now, he's a world known physicist and all the women that he's meeting, that he's dating, That's how he meets them. They're either students at Berkeley or they are associates of other professors at Berkeley.

So he dates other professors daughters and their friends. He also dates people who he meets through the communist party. And he's like a big star, a great speaker there. So it's just, I guess if I have to extrapolate dating advice from this, it's go to places where you're the man and find people there.

And, uh, and that's, I think, going to generate more interest. Okay, great. I'm not going to make a habit of this. I don't know that that was the best dating advice in the world. So it might be the only dating advice I ever give on this podcast. That does it for this week.

Don't hold it against me. That does it for this week. I hope you enjoyed these end notes until next time. Thank you for listening to how to take over the world.

I guess, I always like to close on a more profound note. So I’ll just end with this: What is the meaning of Oppenheimer? And to me, the meaning of all of this is that human ingenuity is an awesome force. Atomic energy is the ultimate expression of our mastery of the universe around us.

And yes that power is terrifying and destructive but it’s also beautiful and inspiring. I actually think that is something the movie does well. It captures the awe and the terror of what humans can accomplish.

So be an Oppenheimer. Accomplish the impossible, even if it means shredding the very fabric of reality. I would rather have one Oppenheimer. One Manhattan Project, than a billion happy little peasants digging in the earth day after day. Dare to be a prometheus.

Okay that does it. Until next time, thanks for listening to How to Take Over the World.

About Episode

What did the movie Oppenheimer get right? What was historically inaccurate? Did they manage to capture the true spirit of all the characters involved? What does J Rober Oppenheimer's life ultimately mean? I answer all of these questions and share some of my unused notes about the life of J Robert Oppenheimer.

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