Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Steve Chaplin
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2009

From A-bombs to Imaginariums, Oppenheimer is focus of book tour, Monday colloquium

Oct. 15, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Award-winning science writer and University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism professor KC Cole will speak here Monday (Oct. 19) about her new biographical memoir of atomic bomb developer Frank Oppenheimer.

Cole will discuss Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up, which has been described as a love story about physics and what it means to be human.

KC Cole

Award-winning science writer KC Cole will speak about her former mentor Frank Oppenheimer during a special IU Department of Physics colloquium Monday (Oct. 19).

The special colloquium entitled "The Uncle of the Atom Bomb: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up" is being hosted by the IU College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics. The public event gets underway at 4 p.m. in Room 122 of the IU Chemistry Building.

Cole, a long time science writer for the Los Angeles Times who was a friend and colleague of Oppenheimer's for years, has drawn from letters, documents and extensive interviews to write a very personal story of a man whose irrepressible spirit would go on to inspire so many.

Oppenheimer helped create enough enriched uranium to build the first atomic bomb but was then exiled from physics for his leftist views. After 10 years as a rancher and high school teacher he then went on to create The Exploratorium in San Francisco, a new kind of museum dedicated to unstructured exploration and discovery. It was, and still is, a place where science, art, perception and technology are parts of one magical whole, Cole said.

Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens

"Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up," is author KC Cole's eighth non-fiction book and a memoir and biography of her former mentor and self-described "uncle" of the atomic bomb.

Print-Quality Photo

"Emerging from 10 years of exile on a Colorado ranch to create not just a multimillion dollar institution but also a revolution that was felt all over the world, his Exploratorium was a 'museum of human awareness' that combined art and science while it encouraged play, experimentation and a sense of joy and wonder; its success inspired a transformation in museums around the globe," Cole said. "In many ways it was Frank's answer to the atom bomb."

Cole's writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Smithsonian, The Columbia Journalism Review, Newsweek, Esquire, Ms., The Washington Post and many other publications. Her work has been featured in The Best American Science Writing 2004 and 2005, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002.

Described by as "the Leonardo da Vinci of science writing," she is the author of eight nonfiction books, including the national best-seller The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty; Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos, based on her LA Times columns; The Hole in the Universe; and First You Build a Cloud.

"Something incredibly wonderful will happen when you open this book," said Alan Alda, author of Things I learned While Talking to Myself, in support of the book. "You'll come face to face with a man who had an uncanny knack for making the wonders of nature available to the rest of us, and you'll get to look inside his extraordinary mind, which itself was one of the wonders of nature. As always, K.C. Cole delivers science to us as a thrilling ride, a deeply human story and a gallery of unimaginable beauty."

For more information, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or