22 September 2009

Irony is good for the diet

After my little rant about Satchel (brief review: a horrible book by a man who at times seems to know nothing about baseball, especially advanced statistical metrics), I've dived into another biography. In a wonderful turn of events, however, this one is magnificent already. The book is American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. I'm sure I'll write more about it later, but I had to post one little delicious bit of irony I came across.

A little back story. As I may have mentioned before, I'm a graduate student in music history at UMD. This being my second year of the MA program, I have to write a thesis, and I've chosen to study John Adams' opera Doctor Atomic. It's the story of Oppenheimer in the days leading up to the first test of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, NM. If you have a chance to see or hear it, do so, as it is a really stunning work and one that I think is going to carve itself a place in the permanent repertoire of opera companies around the world.

With that said, I came across this little bit (page 31 of the paperback edition) that makes me smile at the fantastic irony of Adams' work.
The one thing Boyd and Oppenheimer did not have in common was music. "I was very fond of music," Boyd recalled, "but once a year he would go to an opera, with me and Bernheim usually, and he'd leave after the first act. He just couldn't take any more." Herbert Smith had also noticed this peculiarity, and once said to Robert, "You're the only physicist I've ever known who wasn't also musical."
I wonder what Oppie would think of the opera about him?


  1. see, i have plenty of company in the boooooo opera tent :)

  2. Maybe you, too, can grow up to destroy the world!!

    That'd be kind of neat, actually.