Notebook

Serber also remembers taking part in a plan, devised by Oppenheimer and army security, to spread false rumours about what was happening at the Mesa… “We propose,” Oppenheimer wrote, “that it be let known that the Los Alamos Project is working on a new type of rocket and that the detail should be added that this is a largely electrical device…” What struck Oppenheimer as a credible plan, however, turned out, in practice, to be a laughable failure. Together with others from the laboratory, Serber was instructed to go to a bar in Santa Fe and start stalking in a loud voice about the electric rocket they were working on. The problem they encountered was that, no matter how loudly they discussed it, no one seemed very interested. Eventually Serber approached a drunk at the bar and said to him: “Do you know what we’re doing at Los Alamos? We’re building an electric rocket!” It was, Serber admits, mission unaccomplished.

Ray Monk: “Inside The Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer”.

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