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The Unholy Trinity

Sixty-three years ago today, the Trinity Test changed the face of the world. Wired have a cool little anniversary feature filling you in on some of the background and interesting parts of history:

With gallows humor, the Los Alamos physicists got up a betting pool on the possible yield of the bomb. Estimates ranged from zero to as high as 45,000 tons of TNT. Enrico Fermi, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938 for his work on nuclear fission, offered side odds on the bomb destroying all life on the planet.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, was under no illusions about what he and his fellow physicists had wrought. The effects of the blast, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, moved the intellectual Oppenheimer to quote from the Bhagavad Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.”

More prosaically, Dr. Kenneth Bainbridge, site director of the Trinity test, said: “Now we are all sons-of-bitches.”

Also at Wired is a small gallery of related images.

For more in-depth historical background, check out the Atomic Archive pages on the Manhattan Project and Trinity Test, as well as Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Trinity page, which features historical documents related to the test (in PDF format). You can also find footage of the Trinity shot (along with subsequent tests) on this page.

I’ve also seen plenty of good comments about Richard Rhodes’ comprehensive book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (Amazon US). A fascinating and awful (in the proper definition of the word) period of history, well worth digging in to.

  1. It Came From Los Alamos
    Next time you’re in las Vegas, don’t miss the National Atomic Museum, a handsome new adjunct to the Smithsonian that conserves the history of the Nevada Test Site and of atomic testing.

    In one taped interview shown there, a scientist says something like, “Soon there will be no one alive who has actually witnessed a nuclear explosion, and I’m not sure that’s completely a good thing.” I believe he meant that we need to keep alive the visceral impact of these weapons’ destructiveness, so that we never become casual about them.

    DVD’s of bomb test footage, lovingly remastered:

    (I am not affiliated with these companies or products.)

    1. Computers vs the real McCoy
      The most powerful computers mankind has ever built have one main purpose: to create virtual simmulations of nuclear explosions as accurately as humanly possible.

      Of course, some people claim this is not a good approach, since what happens when a nuke explodes is so incredibly complex that no computer simmulation will be able to reproduce it in its totality; hence they plead that new nukes should be built to replace the aging US arsenal.

      Kind of depressing, how we keep rationalizing our need for these devices.

      It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
      It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

      Red Pill Junkie

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