Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

American Prometheus

I'm about halfway thru American Prometheus, the 2005 biography of Robert Oppenheimer. As i haven't really read much biography, i'm not sure if it's good or not. The information is definitely amazing, but the presentation seems a bit weird.
It'll be going along telling facts and events and then suddenly the narrative voice will become weirdly oppinionated or colloquial.

Quick summary of things i've learned about the bomb -

  • The fact that uranium is fissionable was discovered around 1939 by german physicists. This was the moment when the idea of nuclear explosions first came about.

  • Because so many jewish physicists had been persecuted by the nazis*, there was a large scientific community in the united states which both opposed nazi germany and knew a lot about atomic physics.

  • Research towards the bomb was started quite early, before 1941 i think. The motivation on the part of Oppenheimer et al was to build (and use) the bomb before the nazis did.

  • A shocking number of otherwise stand-up pacifists worked on the Manhatten Project.

  • Only one scientist quit the project after the war in Europe ended.

  • The U.S. knew Japan was seeking to surrender, and wanted to use the bomb before Russia declared war on Japan, becuase they figured Japan would surrender if that happened and then we wouldn't get to demonstrate the bomb to the Russians.

  • Oppenheimer & friends approved of the Hiroshima bomb. Why ? He'd convinced himself and others that the only way to deterr the world from a nuclear arms race was to actually use the bomb. Go figure.

  • Oppenheimer blah blah, genius, amazingly charismatic, blah blah.

  • More to come.

* Do i capitalize nazi ? - i guess i definitely don't capitalize it right after i just didn't capitalize jewish, huh.

I'll soon be starting The Time Traveller's Wife, a story by Audrey Niffenegger. The premise is that there's this life-long couple, but the guy has temporal teleportitis. That is, he uncontrollably teleports in time. So sometimes their together and he's 50 and she's never met him before, sometimes vice-versa, etc. Mykle said he heard it's poorly written. We'll soon see about that. It happens to be the current book for Michelle's book club.


  • time traveller's wife seems to be well written so far. its told from the perspective of the two lovers, switching voices (and ages). its a bit 'bodice ripper' for me, sans the lovemaking scenes.

    i am going to study the book club questions so i have the right answer when we meet.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:21 AM  

  • i finally picked it up last night,
    i'll probably start it soon.

    i'm usually an anti-fan of sex scenes , except in straight-up smut. we'll see.

    i think it's weird that there's book club questions in the back. what's the story w/ that ? is this a like written-for-bookclubs book ?

    By Blogger good old o, at 1:28 PM  

  • I'm joining the book club.

    Nowdays some publishers market books that did well with a certain demographic in hardback (i assume this demographic to be middle-age white people who shop in indie bookstores)as "book club" books once they come out in trade paperback. I think it started with Ballantine, who tried to capitalize on the Oprah Book club phenomenon by making a "Ballantine Book Club" and publishing special paperbacks with questions and sometimes author interviews in the back. There are certain young adult books that have always had this because it was assumed they were taught in high school lit. classes. For instance "The Outsiders" and "Bless Me Ultima".

    By Blogger The Sensualist, at 5:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home