Why Oppenheimer Deserves His Own Movie

Why Oppenheimer Deserves His Own Movie

J. Robert Oppenheimer forever changed the course of history. He may be the most important physicist to have ever lived. Part of this video is sponsored by Wren. Offset your carbon footprint on Wren: ​https://www.wren.co/start/veritasium1 For the first 100 people who sign up, I will personally pay for the first month of your subscription!

If you want to learn more about Oppeheimer, I strongly recommend the book “American Prometheus” By Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. It is a remarkable book, very much deserving of the Pulitzer prize it received.

If you’re looking for a molecular modeling kit, try Snatoms – a kit I invented where the atoms snap together magnetically – https://ve42.co/SnatomsV

A huge thank you to Dr. Martin Rohde and Dr. Antonia Denkova from the TU Delft for proofreading the script and providing valuable feedback.


Bird, K., & Sherwin, M. J. (2021). American Prometheus: the triumph and tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Atlantic Books.

Smith, A. K., & Weiner, C. (1980). Robert Oppenheimer: letters and recollections. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 36(5), 19-27. – https://ve42.co/Smith1980

Combes, J. M., Duclos, P., & Seiler, R. (1981). The born-oppenheimer approximation. Rigorous atomic and molecular physics, 185-213. – https://ve42.co/Combes1981

Rhodes, R. (2012). The making of the atomic bomb. Simon and Schuster.

Oppenheimer, J. R., & Volkoff, G. M. (1939). On massive neutron cores. Physical Review, 55(4), 374. – https://ve42.co/Oppenheimer1939b

Oppenheimer, J. R. (1927). Bemerkung zur Zerstreuung der α-Teilchen. Zeitschrift für Physik, 43(5-6), 413-415. – https://ve42.co/Oppenheimer1927

Oppenheimer, J. R. (1927). Zur quantenmechanik der richtungsentartung. Zeitschrift für Physik, 43(1-2), 27-46. – https://ve42.co/Oppenheimer1927b

Born, M., & Oppenheimer, R. (1927). Zur Quantentheorie der Molekeln Annalen der Physik, v. 84. – https://ve42.co/Born1927

Oppenheimer, J. R. (1928). Three notes on the quantum theory of aperiodic effects. Physical review, 31(1), 66.

Oppenheimer, J. R. (1928). On the quantum theory of the capture of electrons. Physical review, 31(3), 349.

Oppenheimer, J. R. (1931). Note on light quanta and the electromagnetic field. Physical Review, 38(4), 725.

Furry, W. H., & Oppenheimer, J. R. (1934). On the theory of the electron and positive. Physical Review, 45(4), 245. – https://ve42.co/Oppenheimer1934

Oppenheimer, J. R. (1935). Note on charge and field fluctuations. Physical Review, 47(2), 144. – https://ve42.co/Oppenheimer1935

Oppenheimer, J. R., & Snyder, H. (1939). On continued gravitational contraction. Physical Review, 56(5), 455. – https://ve42.co/Oppenheimer1939

Oppenheimer, J. R., & Phillips, M. (1935). Note on the transmutation function for deuterons. Physical Review, 48(6), 500. – https://ve42.co/Oppenheimer1935b

Malik, J. (1985). Yields of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear explosions (No. LA-8819). Los Alamos National Lab.(LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States). – https://ve42.co/Malik1985

Ignition of the atmosphere with nuclear bombs — https://ve42.co/Konopinski46

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Written by Petr Lebedev & Derek Muller
Edited by Trenton Oliver & Katrina Jackson
Filmed by Derek Muller
Animation by Fabio Albertelli, Ivy Tello, & Mike Radjabov
Illustration by Jakub Misiek and Celia Bode
Additional video/photos supplied by Getty Images & Pond5
Music from Epidemic Sound

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35 Responses

  1. 2veritasium says:

    I will personally pay to offset your carbon emissions for one month through this video’s sponsor, Wren (for the first 100 people to sign up). Check it out: https://www.wren.co/start/veritasium1

  2. Docishauk says:

    The writing, the storytelling, the composition is impeccable. Another home run Veritasium team.

  3. Macadonian Noob says:

    When the news media mistakenly thought Alfred Nobel had died, they published an article labeling him as the marchant of death for his invention of dynamite. He sought to erase his tainted legacy by donating his amassed wealth to those who helped humanity become better. Awarding Oppenheimer the Noble Prize when he quoted that he has become the death, the destroyer of worlds, what Alfred sought to erase from his name, would have been very ironic.

    • NO NO says:

      Wish I could pin this to the top. It was a Nobel Peace Prize, though I could see how many would interpret the work of Oppenheimer and team as a peace project considering the losses we had sustained in the island hopping campaigns up till that point.

  4. Lee Chesnalavage says:

    I’m now patiently waiting for Derek to explain why Barbie deserves her own movie.

    • Richard Kuberski says:

      We saw the last Indiana Jones movie last week and watched the trailer for Barbie. It just might be fun to watch, assuming the trailer gives an honest preview. However, I’m waiting for someone else to give an opinion before I take the time to watch it.

    • Manilka Sheran says:

      Margot Robbie is reason enough!

    • Kenna Rajora says:

      When I googled the movie my screen turned pink and filled with fireworks.

  5. Michael Mangion says:

    Beautifully written and delivered as always and if anyone is intrigued by this subject matter then I’d seriously recommend reading “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” Just one thing to clarify is that most of the energy released in a typical H-bomb actually comes from fission, not fusion. Three-stage weapons surround the fusion core with a jacket of U238 and use the flood of neutrons coming from the fusion reaction (the 2nd stage) to convert that U238 into Plutonium 239 which promptly fissions, releasing most of the energy – and fallout.

  6. JMSA says:

    I enjoy seeing The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes in the list. Read it twice and listened to the audiobook twice. Wonderful book which manages to explain the science, the personality, the politics, the logistics, the human drama, etc. To anyone reading this comment: if you liked the video, get the book.

  7. Carlos Trudo says:

    One of the key takeaways is: “if you are needed than you are a hero, once your job is done you become a problem”

    • Oakley says:

      Alan Turing vibes. Its an unfortunate trend

      For those who don’t know, he was gay, fathered computer science and probably brought an end (or an earlier one) to ww2, and then was jailed afterwards for being gay and killed himself in prison.

    • Gabor Rajnai says:

      @Oakley Well Neumann invited Turing to Princeton but he refused…

  8. Timothy Wilson says:

    Oppenheimer may be the most important physicist to have ever lived, but you can’t possibly expect Barbie to compete in that field when she’s busy also being a doctor, astronaut, veterinarian, president, model, etc.

  9. DJ Stoplicht Official says:

    This might just be one of your best videos. The story is very clear and informative, and the pacing is spot on. Bravo

    • Jonathan Soto says:

      The ending felt weirdly glued together and rushed. Normally Derek knows to end videos evenly, but this ending definitely felt like that last paragraph you would expect to find in a middle-schooler’s essay.

  10. Gudde Moien says:

    The editing and writing are both definitely impeccable, but Derek’s narration is what makes it go that extra mile. I have been watching Derek since his earlier youtube days. those days there were not many science channels, I had to cling on to discovery or NAT or somethin’ somethin’. Derek’s simple explanation of basic principles, even though I knew all about it, made me watch it through his eyes. Today, of course, there’s a whole MCN team working behind the videos, more polished and professional, yet, Derek’s way of explaining, still remains in parts.. Kudos

    • Zacorin says:

      I was his teacher when he was a young boy and can tell you, he ain’t lying if he says he’s gotta poop. My classroom was it’s own nuclear waddle zone for a week after one indent. 1

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