Heisenberg and the A-Bomb: Just Say No

I read through the article breathlessly, astonished at the moral implications of what I was learning. When I got to the end, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, trying to begin to take in the import of what I’d just read.

The article was “The Private Heisenberg and the Absent Bomb,” by Thomas Powers, in the December 22, 2016 issue of The New York Review of Books. I’d been drawn to the article because, during the 1980s, I’d studied and written about the development of the atomic bomb in the U.S. during World War II and the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union which followed the war.

The U.S. wartime project to develop an atomic bomb, supported by Britain and Canada, was named the Manhattan Project. Its Scientific Director at New Mexico’s Los Alamos Laboratory was physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. The U.S. Army, intensely eager to create an atomic bomb before the Germans did, allocated immense resources of money and manpower to the project. [Read more…]

Where’s the Guilt?

15698224630_85fddfa509_zI’ve had the experience of dealing with renters from time to time, though more in the capacity of property manager than as landlord. It has been one of the ugliest, most unpleasant things a person can go through in business.

You might say, “Well, everybody knows that—people don’t really respect what they don’t own.” True, I suppose, to a degree. But then, I’ve rented property for most of my life, in one way or the other, and it would be a slander to myself not to qualify such an adage. I’ve kept up the places and paid my rent. I’ve given them back to their owners in as good a shape as they gave them to me, “normal wear and tear accepted.” So I think there’s something else behind what I’ve gone through. Let me relate my woes:

Let it be said that this property is in a prime location, is practically brand new, and is marketed at a price that would chase away the kind of folks who aren’t paying much, so don’t care much. A professional set is the target audience and a professional set, by and large, has been interested in leasing it.

But you’d be surprised at what even professionals are capable of doing. The first group of people came well recommended and had good references; they had the money and were anxious to move right in. They were in transition (which now I know is always a dangerous state—volatile and unpredictable). [Read more…]

Conscience: An Epitaph

Lucian Freud, Reflection (Self-portrait), 1985.

Time melts as it’s made, said Anthony Burgess. Each moment is both increase and surcease, the tip of the fountain, bubbling, collapsing—itself upon itself—at once always there and then never there at all. Like ice in a country made of steam, it lives and dies in the rift.

Wrapped within our youth, we do not see this, or if we do, it is of no consequence. We purchase the perjury of our stature and trust the deceit of our mass. We weigh ourselves, take our measure, and assume our heft and reach too great for a world so flat. In our young fancies, we are the stuff of marble, and cannot feel time’s rain wear upon us, both outside and in.

We would not care about time at all but for what it does. And what it does is always a shock. For in spite of what we believe of ourselves, one inauspicious morning, or one historic dusk, without notice, the cold, flat mirror resolves to house a stranger—an unwanted guest that will not leave, that lingers like a bad taste, intruding in pools of water, in store-front reflections, and in the sheen of another’s eye. [Read more…]