58th Anniversary of Atomic Age
July 21, 2003 6:45 AM   Subscribe

This is the 58th Anniversary of the Atomic Age. The successful Trinity nuclear test was made July 16, 1945, in which a six-kilogram sphere of plutonium, compressed to supercriticality by explosive lenses, exploded over the New Mexico desert with a force equal to approximately 20,000 tons of TNT. The Stafford Memo (original in PDF), dated 58 years ago today, is the declassified official report. Outside the use of the weapon in warfare, the risks to humans were uncertain.
posted by Mo Nickels (11 comments total)
"...no one who had witnessed the test was in a frame of mind to discuss anything." -- General Leslie Groves. That's how I feel after reading these accounts of the successful Trinity detonation. It's interesting how Fermi and others kind of half expected that the blast might ignite the whole atmosphere of the earth and kill everything and everybody in the world. Imagine their relief...
posted by Faze at 8:00 AM on July 21, 2003

"I was a bit annoyed with Fermi the evening before, when he suddenly offered to take wagers from his fellow scientists on whether or not the bomb would ignite the atmosphere, and if so, whether it would merely destroy New Mexico or destroy the world."


posted by DakotaPaul at 8:57 AM on July 21, 2003

A World Destroyed is a decent read. One thing the book highlighted was the government's need for scientists clever enough to do the work but at the same time too single-minded to really linger over the implications of what they were doing until it was well out of their hands.

Ah well, it's been 58 years and we're mostly okay, right? I mean, schoolkids don't even have bomb drills any more. That's an improvement, right? Right?

posted by tyro urge at 9:32 AM on July 21, 2003

They still have bomb drills in Missouri at least; they just call them tornado drills. Many of the air raid tornado sirens still have their Civil Defense logos on them.
posted by zsazsa at 10:01 AM on July 21, 2003

Happy birthday, Atomic Age! Here's to 58 more wonderful years!

...that is...of course...assuming we HAVE 58 more years. Do we, Atomic Age? 'Cause I don't want to have to wake up tomorrow and then die in a blast initiated by a fundamentalist terror cell with a nuke purchased from North Korean sources on the black market. That would totally suck, Atomic Age.
posted by mathis23 at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2003

A toast to senseless destruction, the only thing worth celebrating.
posted by ed at 11:54 AM on July 21, 2003

Every day in college I got to walk past this obnoxious statue built to "honor" Chicago's portion of the Manhattan Project, and the new era of cheap, clean nuclear power.

Funny that it looks like a mushroom cloud.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:00 PM on July 21, 2003

In less than three weeks, there is another 58th nuclear anniversary.

Also, check out the The Atomic Revolution comic book, which offers a more optimistic view of our nuclear future.
posted by samuelad at 12:24 PM on July 21, 2003

In less than three weeks, there is another 58th nuclear anniversary.

And I look forward to celebrating the millions of lives that were saved by preventing the conventional invasion of Japan in 1945-6!
posted by darren at 1:34 PM on July 21, 2003

I just happened to rent "the atomic cafe" over the weekend. It is a collection of govt propaganda and newsreels covering the dawn of the atomic age.

After seeing some of the talk of legislators of the time it is lucky the the US and the USSR didn't blow up the planet back in the 50s.
posted by birdherder at 5:31 PM on July 21, 2003

The best part of "Atomic Cafe" is the Louvin Brothers singing "Great Atomic Bomb" on the soundtrack. It carries the whole film, and ten years from now, it will be the only thing you remember about it (except for that catchy little "Duck and Cover" ditty). In any case, I probably owe my existence to the atomic bomb, as my father was in the Army, stationed a few hundred miles from the Japanese mainland, poised for the invasion, when it went off. Were those guys relieved!
posted by Faze at 6:29 AM on July 22, 2003

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