On this day 78 years ago — July 16, 1945 — the first atomic bomb was tested. It was the world’s first nuclear explosion, and a few weeks later the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, ending World War II.
Readers too young or too oblivious to appreciate the history should see the new Hollywood film Oppenheimer, premiering July 21. The big-screen presentation will no doubt be impressive. But perhaps better, watch the documentary To End All War: Oppenheimer & the Atomic Bomb, currently streaming on Hulu and Peacock. While the movie is still an unknown, the documentary is interesting, coldly factual, and extremely sobering — as it should be.
Those first bombs were detonated almost eight decades ago, and no nuclear weapons have been used since then. Which is a very good thing. Today’s weapons (up to 100 megatons) make the original bombs (15 and 20 kilotons, respectively) look like toys. For a comparison of then and now, see what these weapons could do to some of the world’s great cities.
Readers might also enjoy the New York Times essay “The Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.”