In a chemistry lab, Oppenheimer is advised by Niels Bohr to go to Germany to learn from Max Born. The scene then changes into a montage style with a series of scenes set to classical music playing in the background. In one of these scenes, Oppenheimer breaks his glasses and throws them onto a corner of the wall where pieces of glass already exist:

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Why did Oppenheimer toss his glasses onto the corner of the wall?

  • I've seen that as "where and how far do pieces go when something explodes?" and a metaphor to "where will the explosion stop (if it stops...) if we push the button?". Remember that it's was experimental, and some people feared that the explosion would not stop and destroy our world. But that's merely my opinion though...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Apr 12 at 7:48
  • 4
    @OldPadawan - There was a mild worry that that might be the case. They modelled it and found that it was vanishingly unlikely. The story has grown somewhat in the retelling
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 12 at 9:59
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    ie "the story was crap" :) the same sort of idiocy was said about the LHC
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 12 at 19:35

1 Answer 1


The script elaborates somewhat. Oppenheimer is trying to "hear the music" of a hidden universe of rules. Smashing a glass to watch how it breaks, then doing it again and again would seem perfectly symbolic of concepts like Entropy (e.g. that systems become disordered over time) and what we would now call Chaos Theory.

SPARKS explode in WAVES, WAVES of FIRE CRASHING on a SHORE of GLASS, FLYING OVER the MEDIEVAL SPIRES of Gottingen, I watch BORN and BOHR and DIRAC, GALAXIES of PARTICLES DISPERSE and REFORM, a CUBIST PAINTING transfixes the Young Me, an ORCHESTRA plays STRAVINSKY, I read THE WASTE LAND, I WRITE FURIOUSLY at a desk, I WRITE FURIOUSLY on a chalkboard, I SMASH a glass, and ANOTHER, and ANOTHER, WATCHING the SHARDS skid across the floor, CATCHING and REFRACTING LIGHT, I watch RAINDROPS scintillate a PUDDLE, STREAM down a windowpane, I disturb the surface of a sink full of WATER, watching RIPPLES propagate and INTERFERE, I BOUNCE a ball against a corner of my room, studying its trajectory..

  • Maybe I'm getting you mixed up with someone else, but what happened to your massive 700k-something reputation account on the other stack?
    – FShrike
    Commented Apr 12 at 21:07
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    @FShrike - Phew. It's still there
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 12 at 21:13
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    Oh huh. Remarkable to build up a significant new account in just 9 months.
    – FShrike
    Commented Apr 12 at 21:19
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    @FShrike - People value the same sort of answers here; well-reasoned and well-referenced. I make it a point not to add anything to a post that I can't back up.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 13 at 6:59

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