When Robert Downey Jr. accepted his Academy Award earlier this month, he spoke of the people who supported him during times of personal struggle and empowered him to not just restart his acting career, but to reach the pinnacle achievement of one. Downey did not mention nuclear weapons or the fact that the actions of his character, Lewis Strauss, may have led – and might still lead – to the end of human civilization as we know it.

This was perhaps not surprising, given that Downey’s has really been a kind of comeback story that can and should inspire others during trying times. Still, it made me wonder what might have happened if David Krumholtz had been nominated and won as best supporting actor for his portrayal of Strauss’s antidote in Oppenheimer, the famed physicist I.I. Rabi. Would Krumholtz have given a speech inspired by Rabi’s anti-nuclear weapon stance, which the film showcases beautifully?

Remember the guy who refuses to join the Manhattan Project, telling Oppenheimer in Los Alamos that he doesn’t want “300 years of physics to culminate in the making of a bomb?” He’s also the one who looks devastated moments after the “successful” Trinity test. And he is the one who keeps giving Oppenheimer oranges.

The contrast between Strauss and Rabi, in life and on the screen, could not be starker. While Strauss is intent on destroying Oppenheimer, Rabi is a good friend to Oppenheimer from the moment the two met in Europe at a young age. While Strauss is obsessed with hydrogen bombs, weapons that can be thousands of times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Rabi calls them “weapons of genocide.”

Alas, good guys are not nearly as interesting on the screen as the bad ones. And the Strauss/Downey combination is that of a perfect bad guy. Downy put on a delicious display of this badness on Sunday.

And yet, it was Krumholtz’s portrayal that captivated me throughout the film. For one, as a scientist and a mother, I have been worried about nuclear weapons for many years and to see a powerful portrayal in a blockbuster film of someone who was worried about them from the dawn of the nuclear age was inspiring. More than that, I have a personal connection to Rabi. I live with my family in Rabi’s old apartment in a building owned by Columbia University.

Short version of the story: Mrs. Helen Rabi passed away at 102 in 2005, around the time that Columbia was recruiting my husband to join the university as a Professor of Physics. At one point in the negotiations – having known that Mrs. Rabi had passed and having been in the Rabi apartment many years prior (his dad was a graduate student of Rabi’s) – Emlyn almost jokingly said, “I’ll come if you give me the Rabi apartment.” We’ve been living in it pretty much ever since.

Working on nuclear weapons abolition, at times from home, I feel a deep personal connection to Rabi that helps to sustain me in times of challenge. I even have Rabi’s desk in my Columbia office, but that’s a story for another time.

Except for Emma Thomas and Jennifer Lame, the Oppenheimer awardee cohort was dominated by men, a reflection in part of Nolan’s choices, but also of the film’s focus on a time dominated by men. This is just as well. The men can have the beginning of the nuclear age. Women, on the other hand, have been key players in writing the history of the end of the nuclear age.

It started with Women Strike for Peace, which helped bring about the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1962. Women led preparations for the 1982 Central Park Rally, which brought a million people to Central Park to protest the nuclear arms race. Today, women from around the world, including from communities affected by nuclear weapons testing and use, are leading efforts to strengthen and implement the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, our best hope for a world free of this existential threat.

For women from affected communities, nuclear weapons are personal. Exposure to radiation has led to miscarriages and birth defects, as well as cancers in women and girls at higher rates than those in men and boys.

Despite my obsession with Oppenheimer, the most emotional moment of the Oscars for me was the heart wrenching performance of What Was I Made For by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell. Ironic, as I initially even refused to watch Barbie. I was thinking of the way all of us ask this very same question and contend with the eternal desire to feel.

You have to wonder how we can put it all at risk, eight billion people asking what they were made for.