the day the genie was let out of the bottle
July 16, 2004 2:55 PM   Subscribe

You could have used a Julian date for an added touch of wank.
posted by the fire you left me at 3:01 PM on July 16, 2004

I also could have used a page that actually had the eyewitness accounts. The one I settled on looked prettier. This one has them.
posted by crunchland at 3:03 PM on July 16, 2004

Wait, Trinity Test Day and Apollo-11 landing were on the same day?? Crazy.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:05 PM on July 16, 2004

I was really excited to see Luis W. Alvarez there; he's one of my favorite scientists. Now if only the links worked, we'd be getting somewhere.
posted by Alison at 3:05 PM on July 16, 2004

Ah. Thankyou, crunchland.
posted by Alison at 3:06 PM on July 16, 2004

The links work here
posted by udeups at 3:07 PM on July 16, 2004

Actually, Civil_Disobedient, today in 1969 was the day of the launch of Apollo 11. The anniversary of the landing isn't until the 20th. More info here (scroll down).
posted by crunchland at 3:17 PM on July 16, 2004

Wait, Trinity Test Day and Apollo-11 landing were on the same day?? Crazy. Apollo launch, landing was the 20th.

Just coincidence. My grandfather worked on the project. He designed doors that closed protecting the scientist viewing its explosion. Yet his memory of the date is the birth of his first grandson. It becomes odder when you realize his only daughter was born on December 7th. Numbers have a way making something out of nothing. If I had been born 23 years earlier I could think one hell of an explosion jarred me from my mom’s womb, but not. Instead I share a date with this and Corey Feldman's birth.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:28 PM on July 16, 2004

Japan's Atomic Bomb (Nazi Sub carried uranium)

But nothing the U-234 concealed in its warrens was more surprising than 10 containers filled with 1,200 pounds of uranium oxide, a basic material of atomic bombs. Up to then, the Allies suspected that both Nazi Germany and imperial Japan had nuclear progr ams but considered them rudimentary and isolated.

Historians have quietly puzzled over that uranium shipment for years, wondering, among other things, what the U.S. military did with it. Little headway was made because of federal secrecy.

Now, however, a former official of the Manhattan Project, John Lansdale Jr., says that the uranium went into the mix of raw materials used for making the world's first atom bombs. At the time he was an Army lieutenant colonel for intelligence and security for the atom bomb project. One of his main jobs was tracking uranium.

Lansdale's assertion in an interview raises the possibility that the American weapons that leveled the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki contained at least some nuclear material originally destined for Japan's own atomic program and perhaps for attacks on the United States.

posted by thomcatspike at 3:41 PM on July 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

from cyril smith's report:

Later reflections were on the manner of defense against it and the realization that a city is henceforth not the place in which to live.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:44 PM on July 16, 2004

U-234, a minelaying U-boat, left Germany on 5 April 1945, her mine-storage areas full of material for Japan.
No capture date could be found, yet its uranium supply could have been used on the first test. If I've read the article’s about the sub correctly, the sub contained only 1/5 the uranium need for exploding the atom bomb. The captured uranium would have been mixed in with the limited US supply on hand with portions being used here and in the future. What is the coincidence of that, uranium bound for Japan used on Japan?!?!?!?
posted by thomcatspike at 3:55 PM on July 16, 2004

The McDonald Ranch.

Trinity marker, ground zero.
posted by carter at 4:06 PM on July 16, 2004

[nice post]
posted by carter at 4:08 PM on July 16, 2004

Richard Rhodes, in his first book on the creation of nuclear weapons, quotes physicist I.I. Rabi:

You would wish it would stop; altogether it lasted about two seconds. Finally it was over, diminishing, and we looked toward the place where the bomb had been; there was an enormous ball of fire which grew and grew and it rolled as it grew; it went up into the air, in yellow flashes and into scarlet and green. It looked menacing. It seemed to come toward one.

A new thing had just been born; a new control; a new understanding of man, which man had acquired over nature....We turned to one another and offered congratulations, for the first few minutes. Then, there was a chill, which was not the morning cold; it was a chill that came to one when one thought, as for instance when I thought of my wooden house in Cambridge, and my laboratory in New York, and of the millions of people living around there, and this power of nature which we had first understood it to be -- well, there it was.

Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer:

We waited until the blast had passed, walked out of the shelter and then it was extremely solemn. We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita: Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him he takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 4:11 PM on July 16, 2004

Wait, Corey Feldman and tomscatpike were born on the same day?? Crazy.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:36 PM on July 16, 2004

We took the Trinity tour, and were told that most of the locals didn't know that an atomic bomb had been detonated. They claimed an ammunition storage site had blown up.

It's an amazing place. The photos in that link are better than mine.
posted by answergrape at 5:25 PM on July 16, 2004

Wait, there are only 365 available dates, so since there are more than 365 events some have to fall on the same day?? Crazy.
posted by spazzm at 7:11 PM on July 16, 2004

I went to college right up the road from there. Some friends of mine took the tour and smuggled out some trinitite. They were passing it around the dorm halls, and when a piece came to me, I popped it in my mouth and swallowed it. Oh, if I could have captured the look on their faces!

After graduation, I worked for a while with the local electric co-op, whose territory included the northern half of White Sands Missile Range. I imagine the place is amazing to visitors, but really ground zero looks like the rest of the desert and never struck me as anything other than a historic place. Until I did some surveying work on the mountain overlooking the valley -- from above, the crater still stands out, and it's totally obvious what happened there.
posted by ewagoner at 9:29 PM on July 16, 2004

Wow, I thought that Jorn Barger was the only other person living in Soccorro.

It's a great place to be a Scientist, especially if you like to blow things up.
posted by answergrape at 9:43 PM on July 16, 2004

I, too, was at Tech for a while, after my divorce. I didn't like the school so much (it was truly and deeply an alien culture after being at SJC1), but I loved most of the people since I'm a science nerd and all. Most of my friends were physicists: astronomers, some atmospheric physicists, some geophysicists. For those that don't know, the VLA is there2, so there's tons of great astronomers; and then there's Langmuir Lab, one of the premiere lightning research labs in the US (triggered lightning! [after following the link, I see that the photo was taken by my friend]). I didn't know anyone who was at EMRTC, but I sure heard a lot of explosions. (The most memorable was a gasoline tanker they suspended in air and shot at with a high-velocity rifle until it exploded.)

I'd like to take this opportunity to follow-up on foldy's quote from Rhodes's book and say that The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won the Pulitzer, is one of the best books I've read in recent years (and I've read a lot of books in recent years!). He tells the story in a very engaging fashion; it's important history; and he presents the physics in a very accessible manner. But, if nothing else, everyone should read his chapter on the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. There are things there you will never, ever forget. Dark Sun, his followup book on the thermonuclear bomb, is notable not just for that history, but should be read for its comprehensive treatment of Soviet nuclear espionage in the US at the time.

Please, go buy the first book. You won't be disapointed.

1 SJC and NMT are easily the two best schools in the state—I think that SJC is one of the best schools in the US. But one is the über-liberal arts college, the other an über-technical/engineering/science school. At SJC, I despaired of finding other people who would talk about computing with me; at NMT that wasn't a problem. On the other hand, no one at NMT talked about, say, literature. In fact, the chief topics of discussion were computers and Star Trek. No one talked about their work, assuming (even within the same general discipline) that it's too technical for anyone else (other than their colleagues) to understand.

2 My then-girlfriend was one of the few female astronomers at the NRAO at the time that "Contact" was being filmed; she was a grad student doing research with the director of NRAO. He had been reluctant to let them film at the VLA, but relented. Anyway, they actually had a film crew follow around my friend for a day or so, to see "what astronomers do"—probably because she was a she, and Jodie Foster played a female astronomer. My friend wryly remarked that they probably didn't get any exciting footage of her using her computer.

posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:43 PM on July 16, 2004

Great link. I particularly like the fact that accounts differ so much, and that you can tell so much about what each person found important about the event from what they reported.
For example, Cyril Smith:
“At the instant after the shot, my reactions were compounded of relief that ‘it worked‘; consciousness of extreme silence, and a momentary question as to whether we had done more than we intended.”
Enrico Fermi:
“I tried to estimate its strength by dropping from about six feet small pieces of paper...”
and Maurice Shapiro:
“My impression at the time was that an enemy observer stationed about 20 miles from the scene of delivery would be deeply impressed, to say the least.”
posted by snarfodox at 1:20 AM on July 17, 2004

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