Fire flashed in the pre-dawn New Mexico desert with the explosive force of 20 kilotons of TNT. Ground zero was 40 miles west of Socorro but the 7.5-mile high mushroom cloud was still seen and felt over 150 miles away in El Paso. It was the first successful nuclear detonation. Robert Oppenheimer witnessed this at the South 10000-Shelter, 10,000 yards south of Zero. And, after viewing the fireball he was led to famously state: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” For good reason the quote became iconic. Taken from the Hindu Scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita, Oppenheimer imbued the words with something mysterious, with some pretty damn ominous overtones that also obliquely hinted at his own uncertainty at his role as “the father of the atomic bomb.” Doubts which would of course lead to charges of communism, public humiliation and his security clearance being stripped at the hands of the McCarthy Commission in 1954. But on that morning in 1945, Trinity was a success, and Oppenheimer had reason to feel self-congratulatory. The atmosphere didn’t ignite, the oceans didn’t boil, the fabric of space-time remained untorn, and sure, one could argue that something nearly equally catastrophic was loosed upon the world that morning, and it’s certainly clear that Oppenheimer understood that. But it’s a good quote, and always makes for a strong introductory anecdote. What’s less known, but no less interesting, is what he said the night before, as he stood on one of the wooden observation towers, in the fading light of the New Mexico evening, preparing for the climax to three years of relentless work. He surveyed the Oscuras Mountains along the horizon and spoke the following to himself: “Funny how the mountains always inspire our work.” He said this to no one in particular, almost offhandedly, slightly above a whisper, but it was overheard and recorded by a nearby metallurgist. Scientific discovery is an artistic act of creation where what was imagined in the minds of men is made real. Coming from the creator of one of the most sublime spectacles that few have ever seen, one that leveled cities and changed the course of history, this is both incredible and terrifying.