They are perhaps the most disturbing invention in existence. Any intelligent person fears them. But even the smartest people in the world don’t always understand the weight of such a creation. Today we will discuss the atomic bomb.
The Demon Core fought back against experiments.
The infamous Demon Core was a plutonium sphere manufactured for an early atomic bomb. In the 1950s, it was used for experiments and killed two scientists in two separate lab accidents. Other members of the scientific teams involved would later die of cancer or other complications of radiation exposure. The notorious core was scheduled to be placed in a test bomb to be detonated in the South Pacific, but scientists thought better of it. It was eventually melted down and recycled.
Its blasts have distinctive seismic signatures.
Scientists use those signatures to find suspected nuclear blasts around the world, the last of which was detected under North Korea. A nuclear blast lacks the S-waves seen in a regular tectonic earthquake and has mostly P-waves (or pressure waves). The point of origin is also tracked back to a focused point rather than settling across a fault.
Castle Bravo was an accident.
Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device ever set off by the United States, and it wasn’t supposed to be. The hydrogen bomb’s initial yield was predicted to be 5 or 6 megatons. Instead, it was 15 megatons, left behind a 6,510 foot crater, and released tons or radiation across the landscape. Um, oops! The mix-up concerned lithium isotopes within the new “dry” fuel used for the bomb.
One poor guy was at both Japanese bombings.
You could say that Tsutomu Yamaguchi was either the unluckiest or luckiest man alive. Unlucky because he was in both bombings, but lucky that he survived. He was on a business trip to Hiroshima when “Little Boy” was dropped on the city. Badly burnt, he returned to his hometown of Nagasaki to recover, only to see it happen again with “Fat Man.” Tsutomu suffered from years of complications from radiation exposure but survived to the age of 93, when he died of stomach cancer.
Some scientists threw a party when the first bomb was dropped.
Well, they had a big fancy dinner to celebrate. Robert Oppenheimer was disgusted and refused to attend, saying this was not something to be happy about. I guess this is more of a disturbing than an interesting fact, but maybe they all are in this article.
The Russians dropped the biggest bomb in existence.
In an obvious entry into the pissing contest that was the Cold War, Khrushchev wanted his scientists to create a 100 megaton bomb. They were unable to stop the building of said bomb, but they were able to talk him down to 50 megatons, as if this made it any better. The flash from the device, known as Tsar Bomba, was seen 600 miles away and the heat from the blast was felt 160 miles from ground zero. Its cloud was so huge that it punched through the atmosphere and reached the very edge of space.
Robert Oppenheimer didn’t quote the Bhagavad Gita at the Trinity test.
He thought of the famous quote, but he didn’t actually say it there. When asked, he couldn’t remember what he actually said, as he may have been in shock at the time. It was during a later interview when he quoted the famous line, “I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.”
We’ve lost a few.
This is probably the most disturbing fact on the list, other than the dinner party. There have been several close calls with nuclear weapons over the years, incidents referred to as Broken Arrows. Several planes have either been forced to jettison bombs or bombs were lost when aircraft vanished. At the moment there are six nuclear weapons from the American arsenal that are unaccounted for. As far as we’ve been told, anyway.
Nagasaki was not the original target.
Originally “Fat Man” was supposed to be dropped on the city of Kokura. Unfortunately for Nagasaki, clouds and bad weather meant that the original target was impossible to access. The plane was being fired upon by Japanese pilots who had learned since Hiroshima and the American pilots chose a target farther down on the list.
Only one country has de-weaponized.
Not as interesting a fact as a sad one. The only country on Earth that has de-weaponized is South Africa. They secretly built six bombs, but said weapons were dismantled and the program shut down. Wouldn’t it be nice if more countries followed their example?
I’ve seen the Nuclear Test Site in Nevada and I’m convinced it’s haunted. It’s haunted by the memories and echoes of the past. By the ghosts of scientists walking the labs where they used to work. By the cries of animals who fell victim to radiation tests. And over it all, there is the scream of an invention that may just have been powerful enough to possess intelligence. You never know. If it’s true, this would be yet another on a long list of reasons why we shouldn’t be building and detonating them in the first place.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Richard Rhodes. 1986.
Berkeley Seismology Lab- www.seismo.berkeley.edu
Brookings Institution- www.brookings.edu
Live Science- www.livescience.com
Atomic Archive- www.atomicarchive.com