"I am death, shatterer of worlds..." Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the atom bomb, intoned this line from the Bhagavad Gita after witnessing the first nuclear explosion at Alamogordo in 1945.
Horrified by the specter he had unleashed upon the world, Oppenheimer spent the rest of his life lobbying for the international sharing of information and a ban on nuclear weapons. Many of his colleagues did not share his vision.
Edward Teller, "The Father of the H-Bomb", seized on the nightmare scenarios born of Cold War paranoia, and pushed for the development of stronger nuclear weapons and increased testing. Teller also tried to put a friendly face on these weapons of mass destruction and tried to convince then president Kennedy that atomic weapons could be used peacefully as "Nuclear Dynamite".
Teller suggested that with a little finesse, he could blast a new and bigger canal through Panama and "Project Plowshare" was born. What Teller neglected to mention was that his program of planetary engineering would probably blanket the earth with radioactive dust and possibly doom mankind...
The film, narrated by David Suzuki, makes use of dramatic nuclear testing footage to demonstrate the awesome powers involved, but after the tenth time the overall effect is dampened. Much more potent are the interviews with Teller - even in the face of overwhelming evidence, he still maintains that the Bugbear of nuclear fallout is a hoax, or at best greatly exaggerated, and marked the emergence of an anti-scientific trend in society.
Even more frightening is Teller's resolve to enact his plans, noting blithely that all they would have to do to build the canal is relocate thirty thousand San Blas Indians while blasting takes place, wait a year and let the Indians return. Teller claims they would only have to endure slightly higher radiation levels, but states that such is the price of progress. As one of Teller's former colleagues notes, it sounds like a great plan - if you've undergone decerebration.
A chilling reminder of the kinds of discussions that go on today behind closed doors even today. We may yet become the first species to render itself extinct.
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