Frasi di Robert Oppenheimer
Data di nascita: 22. Aprile 1904
Data di morte: 18. Febbraio 1967
Altri nomi: Julius Robert Oppenheimer
Julius Robert Oppenheimer è stato un fisico statunitense.
Diede importanti contributi nel campo della fisica moderna, in particolare alla meccanica quantistica, ma la sua fama è legata soprattutto alla costruzione della prima bomba atomica nell'ambito del progetto Manhattan e alla successiva crisi di coscienza che lo indusse a rifiutare di lavorare per quella all'idrogeno. È stato inoltre il primo a capire l'effetto tunnel quantistico, ad avvicinarsi con le sue ricerche alla scoperta del positrone, a portare avanti la teoria sulle piogge di raggi cosmici e a verificare il collasso di grandi stelle causato dalla forza gravitazionale.
Frasi Robert Oppenheimer
„[Commentando il bombardamento di Hiroshima e Nagasaki] In un certo senso basilare che nessuna volgarità, umorismo o esagerazione possono dissolvere, i fisici hanno conosciuto il peccato; e questa è una conoscenza che non si può perdere.“
da una conferenza al MIT di Boston del 1947
Origine: Citato in Physics in the Contemporary World, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. IV, n. 3, marzo 1948, p. 66. Citato in Giancarlo Sturloni, Le mele di Chernobyl sono buone. Mezzo secolo di rischio tecnologico, Sironi, 2006, p. 223.
„Sapevamo che il mondo non sarebbe stato più lo stesso. Alcuni risero, altri piansero, i più rimasero in silenzio. Mi ricordai del verso delle scritture Indù, il Baghavad-Gita. Vishnu tenta di convincere il Principe che dovrebbe compiere il suo dovere e per impressionarlo assume la sua forma dalle molteplici braccia e dice, "Adesso sono diventato Morte, il distruttore dei mondi." Suppongo lo pensammo tutti, in un modo o nell'altro.“
„Ci sono dei fanciulli che giocano per le strade, i quali potrebbero benissimo risolvere qualcuno dei problemi di fisica nucleare che mi pongo, proprio perché essi hanno delle forme di percezione che ormai io ho perso da tempo.“
Origine: Citato in Beaudot A.,La crèativité, Bordas , Paris, 1973. Citato in Alessandro Antonietti, L'intuizione visiva, Francoangeli, 1995, p. 13.
„[Su Albert Einstein] In lui non c'era quasi nulla di ricercato ed era totalmente inesperto delle cose del mondo… Ha sempre avuto una purezza meravigliosa, fanciullesca e insieme profondamente ostinata.“
Origine: Da On Albert Einstein, New York Review of Books, 17 marzo 1966; citato in Albert Einstein, Pensieri di un uomo curioso (The Quotable Einstein), a cura di Alice Calaprice, prefazione di Freeman Dyson, traduzione di Sylvie Coyaud, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milano, 1997, p. 179. ISBN 88-04-47479-3
Origine: Citato in Enzo Biagi, Testimone del tempo, SEI, Torino, 1971, p. 213.
„If the development by the enemy as well as by us of thermonuclear weapons could have been averted, I think we would be in a somewhat safer world today than we are…I do not think we want to argue technical questions here, and I do not think it is very meaningful for me to speculate as to how we would have responded had the technical picture at that time been more as it was later.
However, it is my judgment in these things that when you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb. I do not think anybody opposed making it; there were some debates about what to do with it after it was made. I cannot very well imagine if we had known in late 1949 what we got to know by early 1951 that the tone of our report would have been the same.“
Oppenheimer testifying in his defense in his 1954 security hearings, discussing the American reaction to the first successful Russian test of an atomic bomb and the debate whether to develop the "super" hydrogen bombs with vastly higher explosive power; from volume II of the Oppenheimer hearing transcripts http://www.osti.gov/includes/opennet/includes/Oppenheimer%20hearings/Vol%20II%20Oppenheimer.pdf, pg 95/266 (emphasis added)
This is derived from a statement of James Branch Cabell, in The Silver Stallion (1926) : The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.
Variante: The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true.
„We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism.“
"Encouragement of Science" (Address at Science Talent Institute, 6 Mar 1950), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, v.7, #1 (Jan 1951) p. 6-8
Contesto: We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to enquire. We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.
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„To try to be happy is to try to build a machine with no other specification than that it shall run noiselessly.“
Letter to his brother Frank (14 October 1929), published in Robert Oppenheimer : Letters and Recollections (1995) edited by Alice Kimball Smith, p. 136
Contesto: Everyone wants rather to be pleasing to women and that desire is not altogether, though it is very largely, a manifestation of vanity. But one cannot aim to be pleasing to women any more than one can aim to have taste, or beauty of expression, or happiness; for these things are not specific aims which one may learn to attain; they are descriptions of the adequacy of one's living. To try to be happy is to try to build a machine with no other specification than that it shall run noiselessly.
„There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry … There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.“
As quoted in "J. Robert Oppenheimer" by L. Barnett, in Life, Vol. 7, No. 9, International Edition (24 October 1949), p. 58; sometimes a partial version (the final sentence) is misattributed to Marcel Proust.
Contesto: There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry … There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.
„I believe that through discipline, though not through discipline alone, we can achieve serenity, and a certain small but precious measure of the freedom from the accidents of incarnation, and charity, and that detachment which preserves the world which it renounces.“
Letter to his brother Frank (12 March 1932), published in Robert Oppenheimer : Letters and Recollections (1995) edited by Alice Kimball Smith, p. 155
Contesto: I believe that through discipline, though not through discipline alone, we can achieve serenity, and a certain small but precious measure of the freedom from the accidents of incarnation, and charity, and that detachment which preserves the world which it renounces. I believe that through discipline we can learn to preserve what is essential to our happiness in more and more adverse circumstances, and to abandon with simplicity what would else have seemed to us indispensable; that we come a little to see the world without the gross distortion of personal desire, and in seeing it so, accept more easily our earthly privation and its earthly horror — But because I believe that the reward of discipline is greater than its immediate objective, I would not have you think that discipline without objective is possible: in its nature discipline involves the subjection of the soul to some perhaps minor end; and that end must be real, if the discipline is not to be factitious. Therefore I think that all things which evoke discipline: study, and our duties to men and to the commonwealth, war, and personal hardship, and even the need for subsistence, ought to be greeted by us with profound gratitude, for only through them can we attain to the least detachment; and only so can we know peace.
„If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of the nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people of this world must unite or they will perish.“
Acceptance Speech, Army-Navy "Excellence" Award (16 November 1945)
Contesto: It is with appreciation and gratefulness that I accept from you this scroll for the Los Alamos Laboratory, and for the men and women whose work and whose hearts have made it. It is our hope that in years to come we may look at the scroll and all that it signifies, with pride. Today that pride must be tempered by a profound concern. If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of the nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people of this world must unite or they will perish. This war that has ravaged so much of the earth, has written these words. The atomic bomb has spelled them out for all men to understand. Other men have spoken them in other times, and of other wars, of other weapons. They have not prevailed. There are some misled by a false sense of human history, who hold that they will not prevail today. It is not for us to believe that. By our minds we are committed, committed to a world united, before the common peril, in law and in humanity.
„In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.“
Physics in the Contemporary World, Arthur D. Little Memorial Lecture at M.I.T. (25 November 1947)
Contesto: Despite the vision and farseeing wisdom of our wartime heads of state, the physicists have felt the peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving the realization of atomic weapons. Nor can we forget that these weapons, as they were in fact used, dramatized so mercilessly the inhumanity and evil of modern war. In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.
„There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.“
Quoted at Vision '65 "New Challenges for Human Communications" (21-23 October 1965) and published in v 65: New Challenges for human communications, Volume 4, International Center for the Typographic Arts, Southern Illinois University (1965), p. 221
Words spoken to his class at Berkeley during the period 1932-1934, as quoted by Wendell Furry in American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005), by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, p. 84
„There are no secrets about the world of nature. There are secrets about the thoughts and intentions of men.“
Interview with Edward R. Murrow, A Conversation with J. Robert Oppenheimer (1955)
„We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita: Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."“
I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.
Interview about the Trinity explosion, first broadcast as part of the television documentary The Decision to Drop the Bomb (1965), produced by Fred Freed, NBC White Paper; the translation is his own. online video at atomicarchive.com http://www.atomicarchive.com/Movies/Movie8.shtml
It is possible that Oppenheimer is referring to Bhagavad-Gita xi:32: श्रीभगवानुवाच | कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत्प्रवृद्धो लोकान्समाहर्तुमिह प्रवृत्त: (śrī-bhagavān uvāca kālo 'smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ) ("The blessed one [Krishna] said: I am the full-grown [or mighty] world-destroying Time [or Death], now engaged in destroying the worlds").
„It's not that I don't feel bad about it. It's just that I don't feel worse today than what I felt yesterday.“
Response to question on his feelings about the atomic bombings, while visiting Japan in 1960.