In the film depicting the testing of Oppenheimer's bomb, there's a notable scene where the sound appears to come in late, creating an unusual effect.

This choice seems intentional, but I'm curious about its rationale. Was this a deliberate artistic decision for dramatic effect, or does it have a historical or technical basis? I'm interested in understanding the director's intention or any technical aspects that led to this unique auditory experience in the scene.

  • 8
    YT clip or timestamp would be useful.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jan 1 at 9:15
  • Are you talking about the sound of detonation only or dialogues ??
    – Ankit Sharma
    Commented Jan 3 at 13:00
  • 1
    I'm talking about the sound of detonation. @AnkitSharma Commented Jan 3 at 15:08
  • 1
    Light travels faster than sound.
    – yusuf
    Commented Jan 6 at 8:24

1 Answer 1


Light travels faster than sound, that's the same reason we see lightning before we hear thunder. The same tried to be portrayed in the movie.

Screenrant tried to cover it too:

The delayed sound in Oppenheimer's Trinity test scene scientifically portrays how light travels faster than sound. According to the Trinity test site map, the first observation deck, from where Oppenheimer and his team observed the nuclear detonation, was located about 6 miles away from the detonation site. Since time = distance/speed, where the distance is 9656.06m (6 miles), and speed is 343 m/s (speed of sound), it would take close to 28 seconds for the sound of the nuclear explosion to reach the observation deck from where Oppenheimer and his team were observing the test.

WGTC covered it well with the words of Richard Feynman himself:

It’s a great moment in the film, but was it the case in real life? The answer is yes. For around 90 seconds, the New Mexico desert was deathly quiet, despite the blinding flash and plumes of fiery smoke seen rising into the sky. To Oppenheimer and his team of observers, it must have seemed a lifetime.

Physicist Richard Feynman explained what happened next. “Finally, after about a minute and a half, there’s suddenly a tremendous noise – BANG, and then a rumble, like thunder.” Feynman waited unmoving with his fellow horrified onlookers. After a few moments, a man standing next to him asked, “What’s that?” Feynman replied, “…That was the bomb.”

  • The question is about someone's voice, not the sound of the test explosion.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Jan 3 at 12:28
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    @Greendrake it appears that is just a mistake made by the OP to use "voice" rather than "sound".
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Jan 3 at 22:58
  • However there was also something artistic going on because after the sound of the blast reached them it went silent again as it showed various reactions, then the sound resumed. This surprised me because I have seen several rocket launches so the initial silence seemed quite normal, but then I didn't understand why it went silent again. Then I realized we are supposed to be seeing the same moment repeated from different perspectives as different people watched in silence. I actually did not like this artistic choice as the lack of realism for artistic sake took me out of the movie for a moment Commented Jan 4 at 5:09
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    As a real-world example of this, here's some footage of a 1988 explosion at a chemical plant in Nevada, filmed from a couple of miles away. The sound takes about 10 seconds to reach the camera, enough time for one of the people filming to predict "that's going to be loud". Commented Jan 4 at 16:24
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    I see the parallel, which possibly was the artistic reasoning. But in the "celebration" scene the goal was to convey the emotional experience for Oppenheimer of that situation. For the Trinity test scene my wish would have been to yes convey the feelings, but to prioritize the realism of experiencing a nuclear detonation, something that only occurs once in the film, and something few people have experienced. Both could have been accomplished by simply avoiding the additional silences. But priority was given to the emotion. Probably also why the blast sound wasn't that loud relatively speaking. Commented Jan 4 at 19:35

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