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Just as Christians divide history according to the birth of Christ, so we might divide modern history by another birth, July 16, 1945 —BAB and AAB, Before the Atom Bomb and After the Atom Bomb. The test, named “Trinity” by Robert Oppenheimer because he loved the poetry of John Donne, produced a new world, one in which humanity could possibly destroy itself. A dangerous era was born, one that could not be revoked. Christopher Nolan’s massive film, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “American Prometheus” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, shows how the scientist that presided over Trinity clearly understood this. His obsession with how the A-bomb would be used after the war even led to his professional undoing. In some ways, this scientific thriller can be viewed as a cautionary film.
In “Oppenheimer,” the Christopher Nolan film released by Universal Studios on July 21, there’s one breathless moment when J. Robert Oppenheimer, portrayed by Cillian Murphy, walks General Leslie Groves, played by Matt Damon, out onto a vast plain in the middle of the New Mexico desert.