Inspiration from the Past

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In the first decade of its existence, 1943 to 1953, the Los Alamos developed the fission weapon and the weapon, popularly known as the atomic bomb and the bomb. This memoir of that early period is one person’s viewpoint, the view of a man now over 80 years old, looking back on a golden time when he first arrived in Los Alamos with his new bride in March 1947. It is my recall, seasoned with the knowledge of a lifetime, of a new town and a new laboratory. Most of the in this story were known to me personally. Others, I knew through the eyes of my young close friends. But my knowledge is only that of a student, blooming into scholarship in the presence of some of the master scientists of the era. That there is wonder and worship is no accident; these are my personal impres- sions, not the complete view of a skilled biographer. Of course, these people are far more complex than revealed to me by the professor-student relation. Also, I have stayed entirely within the period of that first decade, before the Oppenheimer security investigation, which polarized the scientific community and profoundly altered its rela- tionships. I have not permitted that tragic affair to rewrite the sentiments of the earlier time. So this account is not meant to be history’s dispassionate catalog of events. On the contrary, it is an attempt to give my personal impassioned interpretation of events as I perceived them, played out by people as I have known them. In this process, I have tried to capture some of the essential spirit of the Laboratory at that time. Here is one play that I have written among the many that others could write. I have much enjoyed this scripting. I hope the reader will enjoy the production.

Part I: The Fission Weapons (1943–1946)

The Town, Security, the Any arriving young city dweller once occupied by the faculty and People was in for a culture shock. The streets owners of the Los Alamos Ranch were unpaved. They were a beaded School, which had been taken over by During the , as a newly hired string of mud puddles after a rain, the Army, were substantial. The only Los Alamos staff member, you arutted obstacle course when dried houses that had bathtubs, they still checked in at 109 Palace Avenue, in out. The temporary huts and barracks stand today along the appropriately Santa Fe, where Dorothy McKibben that served as residences were scat- named Bathtub Row. Oppie, as every welcomed you warmly and processed tered apparently randomly about the one called him, and his family occu- your initial paperwork. You would mesa top. That arrangement was one pied one of them. But all in all, what still be unaware of what your job of the two great administrative accom- the newly hired saw was an ugly shan- would be like. Then a no-nonsense plishments of J. Oppenheimer, ty town, mud in the streets, wash dry- WAC in a dusty Jeep drove you up a the Laboratory director. He had con- ing on the outside clothes lines, babies dirt mountain road, fit only for a vinced General Groves, the leader of bawling in a place secluded, unknown wagon trail, that led to the top of the entire Manhattan nuclear weapons to the outside world. Yet this was the a mesa shouldering the east slope of project, to spare the pine trees that town, under the startlingly clear air of the Jemez mountain range. This dotted the mesa. In typical military the northern mountains, range is the rim of the caldera fashion, Groves had planned to bull- where clear-eyed young men were formed over a million years ago doze the area flat to facilitate con- busy discerning , defying tech- when an ancient volcano blew its top. struction. At Oppenheimer’s urgent nical difficulties, striving against time The result of the explosion was the insistence, however, the new houses to alter a foreboding history. Valle Grande, a beautiful meadowed were not placed monotonously side by At the center of town was Ashley valley measuring some 15 by 20 side along barren checkerboard streets Pond, about the size of a baseball miles, a favorite visiting site of the but were angled higgledy-piggledy . Buildings from the Los Alamos Los Alamos residents. among the trees. Only the few houses Ranch School were retained to the

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north: Fuller Lodge with its dramatic was “I’ve got to get back up The big log construction; the Big House, Hill.” A scheduled bus ran between also rustic; and of course, a few hun- Los Alamos and Santa Fe. It was con- dred yards farther along, the Bathtub sidered inappropriate by security to Row homes. Also in this area, the miss the return trip. Underlying this Army had built a cafeteria and a com- reticence to mention Los Alamos was missary run by the military. In a time the pervading atmosphere of security. of war rationing, everyone could get Round the clock, sentries manned great buys at the commissary, which guard gates on all approaches to the Newly hired Los Alamos staff was like a combined general store and town. Official badges were inspected arrived at Lamy, New Mexico. small supermarket. This was one of when people entered and left the area. many fringe benefits to ease the other- Personal guests had to be approved by wise Spartan living conditions on The the security office merely to enter the Hill. To the south and east, fronting town. Off-site, the famous scientists on the pond, was an elbow of wood had pseudonyms to conceal their true construction technical (tech) area identities. Neils Bohr was Nicholas buildings. On the reverse side of these Baker; was Earnest buildings, an unpaved road ran, later Farmer. named Drive after the site of Everywhere the Army presence the first test of a nuclear explosion. was apparent. Soldiers in uniform Two enclosed pedestrian bridges over manned the guard posts and ran the Trinity formed convenient passage- motor pool and the communications At 109 Palace Avenue in Santa Fe, they signed in. ways to other similar office buildings facilities. The Army engineers did all and to Laboratory facilities. The tech the heavy construction. But the Army area was isolated from the general was also a valuable personnel town site by security fences. Military resource for the Laboratory. Young guards, pistols at hip, checked one’s scientists summoned for service by tech area badge at entrances on either their local draft boards were diverted side of Trinity Drive. Designed to be into the Special Engineering temporary, the buildings outlasted the Detachment (SED), some ending up at war and eventually even their eco- Los Alamos. Although they were Once at the tech area in Los nomic utility. Starting in 1956, as the housed in barracks and sometimes Alamos, they spent long hours new tech area was built on the adja- mustered for parade, they worked on applying the new concepts of cent mesa to the south of town, the a par with their brother scientists nuclear to a usable weapon. old buildings were torn down. Around inside the fences at the Lab.1 Ashley Pond today only Fuller Lodge To working at the part of the medical lexicon and one remains, modernized with additions in Lab, their quasi confinement was an not always appreciated by a husband keeping with its original style. understood security necessity. mired in a resistant technical analysis. Nowadays, the Los Alamos Inn stands Besides, they were too busy working People were sometimes under stress, on land cleared of the old Lab build- to be much concerned by the restric- and release by drinking was a com- ings. Musing there, one can sense the tions. But for wives who had no mon indulgence. Although alcohol spirit of that dynamic, vibrant old tech employment at the Lab, it was differ- was off-limits on a military base, that area. The meandering winds seem to ent. Some developed acute cases of was no barrier to the ingenuity of the whisper in one’s ear, recounting the “Hill fever,” a condition usually not staff. It was reliably reported that one wondrous secrets of the atomic bomb that they long ago overheard here. 1 This was the city on the mesa. But After the war, some of the SEDs returned as staff members—for example, Jay Wechsler helped greatly in the engineering of the first hydrogen bomb test. In the Theoretical Division the people living there never called (T Division), Bill Lane was an SED holdover. He was the slender living memory of the group themselves mesa dwellers, hardly ever that had done detailed numerical calculations of the fission bomb using the most modern IBM said, “I live in Los Alamos.” Los equipment of the time. From the higher military ranks, Colonel Ralph Carlisle Smith, Smitty in his civilian reincarnation, was a welcome holdover. Although on the organization charts he Alamos was usually referred to as headed the newly formed legal and document division, he was essentially the unofficial chief “The Hill.’ If one visited Santa Fe, it of staff of the new Laboratory director, , who had replaced Oppie.

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of the well-known landmarks on The Oppie made the decision. Here was The next and the essential convert Hill was useful in giving directions as the place. It was a felicitous choice. was Bethe. He was at the in “To get to the new cafeteria, go two The sank slowly behind the Jemez Massachusetts Institute of Technology blocks past the bootlegger’s and turn range. The shadow of its ridge crept (MIT) Laboratory in left.” sedately eastward along the finger of Cambridge, working on the After he had saved the pines on the the mesa, dulling first the base of the devices that had won the air war over mesa from the general’s bulldozers, ponderosas while their crowns for a Britain. Oppie’s magnetic aura cap- Oppenheimer achieved his second while longer remained enflamed in tured Bethe. Other senior scientists great administrative accomplishment: orange gold. In the years ahead, this were not so easy to recruit. Oppie’s the particular security structure within daily ritual was to contribute much to great personal magnetism was not the Laboratory, quite different from the essential spirit of the Laboratory. capable of catching the pragmatic the standard need-to-know compart- Oppie’s choice was ratified by experimentalist, Isador Isaac Rabi. mentalization desired by General General Groves. He arranged the pur- That Nobel lau- Groves. Oppie insisted that there be chase of the Ranch School for reate to be (1944) reasoned that the no security barriers within the Lab. $440,000. A contract was drawn up nuclear bomb would never be ready in Essentially, every staff member had with the as time to be a factor in the war, whereas “need to know.” Groves gave in; the legal entity responsible for the radar had already demonstrated its Oppie won out. It was a wise victory. Lab. Initially, it was a responsibility in potential to make a meaningful differ- It fostered an essential spirit of cama- name only, but as the years went on, ence. Rabi only consented to be a raderie, which resulted in cooperation the University became an important part-time consultant, an elder states- even under the trying work conditions element in the workings of the man to the younger master scientists, at the Lab and the daunting challenges Laboratory. The contract continues in and a valuable representative of the of nature. All that made for a great force to this day. Lab on the national scene. But many laboratory. The Ranch School was no more. other people from the MIT Radiation Now it was time to build the Laboratory, particularly Victor Laboratory on the site. The first prior- Weisskopf, came to Los Alamos. To Build a Laboratory ity was to assemble the staff. Bethe and Weisskopf were to be Originally, Oppie thought he would leader and deputy of T Division. How did the great laboratory that need three hundred—he ended with With Bethe and Teller aboard, made the atomic bomb come into about three thousand. With Groves’s recruitment snowballed. Oppie could being on an isolated mesa on the east- inspired selection of J. Robert not discuss the nature of the project at ern shoulder of New Mexico’s Jemez Oppenheimer as Laboratory director, Los Alamos, but he could promise mountain range? From his early years staffing of the Laboratory clearly was association with those two scientists. of vacationing in the area, Robert to be successful. A sure accession It was wartime, and the enemy was Oppenheimer knew of the exclusive was . He had been cap- real, powerful, perceived as evil, and Los Alamos Ranch School on that tivated by Oppie’s quick mind, one as threatening. Not only patriotism, but mesa. In the site selection process, the fast as his own, and he even envied also concern for the concepts of civi- Ranch School was probably his secret Oppie’s universal erudition, more var- lization itself, motivated the scientists choice for his nuclear weapons labo- ied than his. Teller hoped to be the to accept without question the unre- ratory. So on a brisk day in November leader of T Division at the vealed and highly secret work. But 1942, Oppie himself, accompanied by Laboratory. He also hungered to con- they could not have dreamed of its Ed McMillan from Berkeley and tinue exploration of the thermonu- eventual worldwide impact. Major John H. Dudley of the clear bomb, the Super. It was Teller Personnel and equipment were Manhattan Engineering District, visit- who had brought that possibility to gathered from the university campuses ed the site incognito. The residents at Oppenheimer’s attention during the and industrial around the the school wondered what these 1942 summer study at Berkeley. country. First to arrive at Los Alamos strange visitors were about. It was There, Oppie and had was Robert Wilson’s Princeton group wartime; perhaps some of the faculty enthusiastically joined Teller in divin- because their project, the isotron for had a potent premonition. In fact, this ing the initial concept of that weapon, separating , had been visit meant that the days of the school so fascinating in its scientific com- abandoned. Richard P. Feynman was were at an end. The school was to be plexity. Edward was to be disappoint- one of the group. Feynman’s addition taken over for the war effort. ed in both these hopes. to the later formed T Division, with

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Bethe and Weisskopf, made a remark- a spy. Actually, the had University of Wisconsin, Stan Ulam, a able triplet combination. accepted the U.K. security clearances first line Polish mathematician, was It was Churchill himself who for the British mission, and so made recruited by his friend and supporter approved the transfer of a star group no independent investigations. It is Johnny von Neuman. of scientists from the British atomic doubtful, however, that they would Initially, a gun device was deemed project to the safety of the United have detected the potential spying of necessary for the assembly of a fission States to aid in the . . weapon. Therefore, early on, the Los They arrived in November 1943. The Other experimentalists rounded out Alamos Laboratory initiated an ord- leader of the British mission was the British mission: William Penney, nance program. William S. (Deak) James , that careful nuclear P. B. , Egon Bretscher, Otto Parsons, a clever, inventive Navy cap- experimentalist who patiently pursued Frisch, and James Tuck, among oth- tain, was chosen as head. He was the . For that discovery he had ers.2 It was a year later that the aboard the B-29 aircraft that dropped received the in 1935. Canadian group, George Plazek, the bombs over Japan. So was young The British mission included theo- Carson Mark, Bengt Carlson, and , who later became the rists , Geoffrey Taylor, Max Goldstein appeared at Los third director of the Los Alamos T. H. R. Skyrmes, and Klaus Fuchs. Alamos. They arrived too late to take Laboratory. Peierls, a well-rounded theoretical part in the main work on the fission We may set the birthday of the , was a Berliner, assistant to bombs, but they stayed on after the Laboratory at April 1, 1943. Even Heisenberg, working in England when war and made important contributions before that date, construction started Hitler expelled the from the uni- in neutronics and in the computational at the site. More important, top pur- versities. Peierls wisely stayed in capability of the Laboratory. chasing priorities for equipment, far England. When the war came, he was In building up the Los Alamos more valuable than cash in wartime, eager to help his adopted country. staff, and chemists mysteri- were obtained. The university scien- Working on the British atomic bomb ously disappeared from their universi- tists and the Laboratory connived on project, he had already correctly esti- ties. Bewildered colleagues they had the transfer of experimental equip- mated the order of magnitude of the left behind sometimes later joined ment to the site, equipment paid for critical of uranium-235 for a fast them on the mesa top. Some of the by the government, more to observe fission weapon, which Heisenberg had recruits were the following: from the the legal niceties of our procurement very badly missed. That error from so Columbia University physics depart- system than as a condition of sale. So capable a physicist and his associates ment, Norman Ramsey, Julian Askin, it was that the Harvard 36-inch passeth understanding. It precluded and Bernie Feld; from the University , disassembled in pieces and the possibility of success in the of California, Eldred Nelson, Robert parts, arrived at Los Alamos in German atomic weapon program. Christy, and ; from the mid-April with Bob Wilson from the Geoffrey (G. I.) Taylor, the ace University of , Nick canceled Princeton project as its hydrodynamics professor, combined Metropolis, , Harold shepherd. By June, it was operating. experimental experience, intuitive the- Agnew, and Harold Argo. Somewhat The two University of Wisconsin Van ory, and clever classical later, in 1944, after the pile under the de Graff generators were comman- to achieve a more thorough under- stadium stands at Chicago had been deered. The 4-million-volt “long standing of this important aspect of operating satisfactorily, Enrico Fermi, tank” was brought online in May and weapon design than any of his Los with his exceptional assistant Herb the 2-million-volt “short tank,” in Alamos colleagues. Klaus Fuchs, of Anderson, joined his European expa- June. Physics measurements could course, was the perfect espionage triates Bethe and Teller. From the then be made, for example, on the agent of the scientific era—capable in crucial number of emitted his science, universal in his technical per fast neutron fission. Only specks 2 interest, and morally motivated to aid While the rest of the mission returned to of uranium-235 and -239 England after the war, Tuck, after a brief the communist cause. He became sojourn in the mother country, came back to were available for that measurement, involved in every aspect of weapon Los Alamos for the rest of his . Tuck but the experiment was successful. was a lively, outgoing person, worthy of his design, the thermonuclear Super, as namesake, the cleric companion of Robin Apparently, nature loves a fission well as the two types of fission Hood. To him physics was a joyous adven- , for that number was weapons. He was easily accepted as a ture or it wasn’t good physics. He started found to be considerably greater than the controlled fusion program at Los valuable coworker, which of course he Alamos, inevitably named the Sherwood 1, the theoretical minimum required. was; no one ever dreamed that he was Program.

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The Master Scientists men, but they nevertheless experienced their daytime work, they would be real poverty, privations, and hunger in expansive, philosophizing about the To understand the contributions of war’s aftermath. Characteristically, innate quality of Nature and their own theorists to the many-faceted work of Enrico Fermi, temperamentally of place in her grand scheme. The ever the Los Alamos Laboratory, one must earthy Italian peasant stock, passed pragmatic Enrico Fermi did not so understand the relationships of four unaffected through that war. indulge. outstanding scientists: J. Robert But while the larger society was Although the young scholars did Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Hans convulsing in this cultural transforma- not fully recognize it, the dark shadow Bethe, and Edward Teller. Though tion, the scientists’ own smaller uni- of Adolph Hitler was lengthening over immensely talented and wise in verse of physics was reveling in the Europe as the sun was setting on the physics beyond their years, they were scientific revolution caused by the two Weimar Republic. On April 7, 1933, still relatively young. Teller was born new central theories of the twentieth Hitler’s captive Reichtag passed the in 1908; Bethe, two years earlier; century, relativity and quantum “Law for the Restoration of the Civil Oppenheimer, in 1904. Fermi was the . Whereas the scientists had Service.” These mild appearing words oldest of the group, not only in age— been victims of the societal changes, meant simply that Jewish faculty he was born in 1901—but in the they were joyous participants, indeed members were to be expelled from the respect they rightly accorded him. He significant contributors to the new sci- universities. The young scientists’ had already received his Nobel Prize ence. At different universities from bright dreams of fulfilling careers in 1938. But to the youngsters in their 1926 to 1933, these young men, turned into nightmares. Edward Teller twenties, the main workforce in the instructed by the grand old profes- and his wife Mici were Jewish. Hans Lab, these four men were indeed the sors—Bohr, Pauli, Sommerfeld, and Bethe was brought up as a wise old souls, though only in their Born—used the new scientific disci- Protestant—German law defined him thirties and forties. Together at Los plines to solve problems in atomic, as Jewish. Fermi was a Catholic, but Alamos, almost from the starting date molecular, and solid-state physics. By he married Laura Capon, a beautiful, of the Laboratory in April 1943, these day they worked hard and ably at their spirited, intelligent young Jew. All four men who had known each other craft. Compared with classical three families realized that they had to for some years, who instinctively mechanics, escape from Europe while they had almost innately understood each other, appeared abstract, nonintuitive. But time. By different paths, at different now worked closely, enthusiastically so simple the premises of that new times, with varied help, anxieties, toward the development of nuclear theory, so universal its application! luck, they all found places in weapons—they were a family of sci- One equation, the Schrödinger equa- America. When the Manhattan Project entific brothers. Much later, the tragic tion, contained almost everything started, they were available and well Oppenheimer affair in April 1954 needed. But that equation concealed prepared for its demands. ripped the family apart forever. remarkable subtleties. It took a newly Of the four outstanding scientists, The of these scientists were developed nonclassical intuition to three—Teller, Bethe, and Fermi— sternly contoured by the great changes penetrate those subtleties. Then easily were European refugees from dicta- that occurred in the twentieth century. the new theory served up quantitative torships. They had felt the personal That was the time of a painful meta- results on problems untouchable by degradation and moral corruption of morphosis of Western civilization. classical theory. totalitarian regimes. Oppie was an Starting from the comfortable assur- These were young men, not yet American intellectual, but he had ances of the Victorian era as a prima- married, still not settled down. Their done postgraduate work under Max rily agricultural society, the transition whole lives were just opening up Born in Europe. All of these men progressed uncertainly toward the before them. They had that zest, that were not merely great scientists; they promise and the perils of the new, pre- wild joy of living, only partly satisfied were extremely complex individuals. dominantly industrial society. In the by their daytime scientific work. By Contrary to the popular stereotype of process, the two great world were night they gathered with colleagues a as an expert in his field but fought, the outflingings of a culture and an occasional younger professor naïve in other disciplines, and particu- trying almost everything to find a sat- in groups where the traditional larly in practical matters, these isfactory accommodation. Bethe and carousels of youth were overlaid with remarkable men were multiphasic in Teller, too young to serve in the mili- something deeper, more . . . the won- their capabilities. Their stern and thor- tary of World War I, escaped the derment at the mysteries of their craft. ough training in science equipped grinding up of a whole generation of Free, however, from the discipline of them to analyze problems in other

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areas of their interests and, where driven by desperation, and he was appropriate, to apply quantitative determined to meet it. His skill was in methods of considerable sophistica- known engineering projects, in pro- tion in their solutions. gramming to meet schedules and The three Europeans had been budgets. His recent practice was in together at Columbia University since military command, where orders were 1939, all living in Leonia, a pretty obeyed, not questioned, and well-paid New Jersey suburb a few miles across contractors, who understood engineer- the Hudson River from New York ing schedules and budgets, were City. Among their friends and an acquiescent to his will or sometimes essential part of their intellectual com- even to his whim. He would have pre- J. Robert Oppenheimer munity were Joe and Maria Mayer ferred to do without the scientists, the and . Urey was the direc- eggheads who could not seem to get tor of the Special Atomic Materials on with the work. Oppie alone could (SAM) Laboratory of the Manhattan not have moved the general to adopt Project, where the fundamental work the exploratory methods of the scien- was done on the separation of the ura- tists in place of his proven procedures nium isotopes. He was already of getting a job, albeit a well-known a Nobel laureate for his discovery of one, done. But Oppie knew the power heavy water containing , the of his scientific associates. He trusted rare mass 2 of hydrogen. Joe their capabilities. Skillfully, he used and Maria Mayer were well known to the necessity of accommodating to Enrico Fermi the three European scientists from their methods to sway the general prewar days. Later in 1963, Maria, away from his accustomed path. aided to a significant extent by her Rather than Groves channeling the good friends Teller and Fermi, was to scientists to his methods, it was the get the for her scientists, through Oppie, who chan- work on the magic numbers of neled Groves’s efforts for their sup- nuclear shell structure. The group port. Groves became not the project often carpooled together, driving to leader directing efforts, but the project Columbia University, where they enabler who helped the scientists do would need only one parking space. their job. Capable an engineer as he Edward Teller When the George was, Groves never realized that he had Washington Bridge to New York from been co-opted to the scientific task. To Leonia, their car contained four cur- the end of his life he really believed rent or future Nobel Prize awardees. that he had made the atomic bomb. Bethe and Teller arrived at Los Alamos almost at its beginning. Fermi Enrico Fermi and Hans Bethe. followed in 1944, as soon as he fin- By 1941, Fermi was already building ished his work on the nuclear pile at anuclear reactor pile in the basement Chicago. of Pupin, the physics building at Columbia University. That pile could Oppenheimer and Groves. Oppie, not achieve criticality because of the of course, was the technical director, neutron-absorbing impurities in the Hans Bethe but General was in blocks then available. Fermi overall charge of the Manhattan was the most complete physicist of Project. General Groves was a capable the brothers, perhaps the most com- after completing his Reviews of no-nonsense engineer, but he was plete physicist of the century. He had article on the quan- incapable of appreciating the scien- aprofound understanding of his sub- tum theory of radiation, he under- tists’ method of probing the unknown ject. In , quantum stood it so well that its extension to territories leading to the realization of mechanics was as natural to him as his theory of just sprung the fission device. He had a timetable . He said that, unbidden into his brain. Both an

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experimentalist and a theorist, he had the in the hydrogen atom Even close colleagues, however, com- the feel of physics in his hands. He 2s and 2p fine structure. By using plained that he had too many ideas; was the supreme practical problem a nonrelativistic approximation and by they could not work on all of them. solver; for example, he developed the staring down some daunting infinities, With the good ones, there were sure to age theory of neutron slowdown he captured the essence of this quan- be some poor ones to be filtered out. enabling simple calculations of tum electrodynamic effect before any- But the faint hearted, who never pro- one else did. Bethe was a genial father pose anything that turns out to be figure to his young associates. They wrong, rarely propose anything signif- could always find him a sympathetic icant. Edward Teller, even by his crit- listener to their troubles, personal or ics, was never assailed as being faint scientific. hearted. Concealed behind his very clear Edward Teller. Edward Teller was physical insights was his full mathe- the most convivial of the three matical competence; he could, when Europeans. It seemed as if he did not he wished, work out in detail his work on physics—he talked out inspirational concepts. However, as physics. He almost had to have a col- a teacher in his classroom, Teller Fermi socializes with coworkers and laborator. For Fermi, physics was in would eschew the mathematical deri- friends at a party. his hand; for Teller, it was on his vations and, instead, develop interest- tongue. This story is told by one of ing physical reasoning to prove performance. At par- Edward’s students who knew Fermi as a point. As a trivial example, in his ties, he was the best riddle and puzzle well. When the student first met both solver of the crowd. The high sport at of them soon after they came to the these events was to stump Fermi. United States, Fermi’s English was so Modestly, he explained his success, heavily disguised by his Italian accent not as due to his particular skill or that he was barely understandable. intellect, but simply to his practice at Teller, on the other hand, spoke well, the art. After a while, he had seen although he sounded obviously quite most of the usual puzzles and had Hungarian. Several years later, the developed the knack of solving the student found that he could under- various types. stand Fermi easily, but Teller’s accent Bethe was lecturing from his clas- had improved not a bit. The student At Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos, Teller talks with (left) while sic articles published in Reviews of reasoned that Teller was always talk- son Paul enjoys his favorite ride. Modern Physics (1936–1937), sum- ing while Fermi really listened. When marizing and systematizing all that the student told this theory to Teller at graduate lectures on mechanics, he was worthwhile knowing about a dinner party, forty years later, Teller obtained the resultant of two forces, at that time. If one could only laugh a huge Hungarian which to the familiar parallelo- knew what was in that “Bethe Bible,” laugh. gram result not by the addition of the one need not bother reading any liter- Edward Teller was one of those x- and y-components of the forces but ature previously published. Most theo- scientists and human beings who are by qualitative arguments rists, as well as the experimentalists, easy to be with but hard to classify. that showed the inevitability of that told Bethe about their work before it His outstanding scientific characteris- conclusion. was published. His brain absorbed it tic was his creativity. Before the war, But it was outside the classroom, all, refined the information, organized he had already made significant con- in one-on-one or one-on-two conver- it, and stored it permanently, but with tributions in molecular and solid-state sations, that Edward excelled. With instant recall. In addition to having physics. But it was his breadth of his peers, he would stimulate; with the formidable manipulative technique, comprehension, rather than any spe- fully developed young scientist, he Bethe had a deep understanding of cific contribution, that gave him his would inspire; with the fresh student, physics, accompanied by a unique effectiveness. Putting diverse aspects he would educate. He helped them all. knack of finding the simple way for together, Teller was able time and Edward Teller was one of a group analyzing a problem. He showed this time again to hit upon the unusual of sometimes called the quality in his 1946 work explaining synthesis; that was his creative mode. Martians because of their apparently

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unearthly intellectual abilities. They service at Los Alamos, he might have Study, he continued the same elitist all came from a small neighborhood gone very far in that field. attitudes. But at Los Alamos, Oppie in : , Teller, Oppie possessed a very quick and was different. He was obviously capa- Theodor von Karman, John von facile mind. He was able rapidly to ble intellectually of recognizing that, Neuman, and . They absorb almost any subject, and since in the Los Alamos setting, his attitude knew each other from their youth. It his interests extended far beyond sci- toward the technical staff must be dif- was Szilard and Teller who ence, he became learned as well in ferent from that he showed to his stu- approached to get his back- philosophy, literature, and language. dents. Not only must he continue to ing for the atomic bomb project and His wide-ranging erudition surprised, be a leading scientist, but also he through him eventually to get even delighted, his colleagues but set must be an effective administrator President Roosevelt to approve it. him apart—he carried himself on a and much more. He remained above The childhood acquaintance and later higher plane. His very quickness also the staff but not distant from them. mature interactions of these He would understand and kindly “Martians” contributed greatly to their appreciate rather than criticize them, effectiveness during the Manhattan and they loved him. In the company Project. of Fermi, Bethe, and Teller, he was in no position to denigrate their abilities. J. Robert Oppenheimer. Recognizing this, Oppie became their Oppenheimer was the director of the facilitator—he provided the opportu- Los Alamos Laboratory, chosen and nity and the atmosphere for them to championed by General Groves. With do their best work. And he could inte- Oppenheimer rested the responsibility grate their work into the overall Lab for the scientific and technical aspects (Left to right) Dorothy McKibben, Oppie, program. He was the coach and the and at a party on of the project. For his authority he Bathtub Row. strategist of his team of star physi- possessed, through the general, the cists. Organizationally, he realized key to unlimited funds and, what was enabled him to understand the varied that it was inappropriate to place more important in the wartime econo- work of the Laboratory staff; some- them all in one theoretical division my of scarcity, the highest priorities. times, he would comprehend even with the resulting question of who But what authority over the minds of more than did the originators. That worked under whom. To Bethe, he those European scientists did he have? faculty made him extraordinarily well gave the name and position of head of Oppie, in his own right, had made sig- suited to direct work in the multidisci- T Division. Fermi had his own nificant contributions in physics. He plinary problems of the Los Alamos Division, “F” Division, of course. By was in part responsible for the Born- program. Furthermore, with his vast temperament, Teller would not per- Oppenheimer adiabatic approximation command of technique, he could often manently be pigeonholed anywhere. of molecular and solid-state physics, integrate scattered work into a sophis- He was permitted to float, nominally which separated the treatment of the ticated and powerful mathematical in T Division, but detachable for spe- degrees of freedom of the rapid formulation. Despite his mental gifts, cial assignment anywhere, either at of the from those in the judgment of the European trio, his own selection or by Oppie’s direc- describing the more stately motion of his accomplishments in science were tion. Edward was a large man with the massive nuclei. He also developed not up to his potential, and they were many and large ideas. He would and then applied the Oppenheimer- competent to make such judgments. prove to be one of the most creative Phillips process to the collisions of So, how could Oppie, as director of people at the Lab. high-energy deuterons with complex the Laboratory, make these men work nuclei. In that process, the in together with him? Role of the European Scientists. the deuteron could not penetrate the Consider the following: Before the What did these three European scien- barrier of the target, and so war, Oppie was one of the intellectual tists bring to the Laboratory during it sat by as a spectator particle, while elite in the company of his students and after the war? Obviously, they its accompanying neutron engaged in and colleagues at Berkeley. He was brought their broad scientific knowl- the reaction. Two of the earliest harsh in his criticism of their work, to edge and great scientific talent. They papers on the theory of black holes some extent belittling their efforts. were also problem solvers, comfort- were his. Had he not been diverted After the war, as director of the able with entering new fields and ven- from his career as scientist by his Princeton Institute for Advanced turing on untrodden grounds—just

Number 28 2003 Los Alamos Science 11 People of the Hill

what was needed to develop the fis- but there was more. These young peo- topic in science leading to a doctorate. sion bomb, a device previously imag- ple had left home and family behind. Here, for most of them for the first ined only in science fiction. To their Joined in a great enterprise, they time, they were in large groups work- tasks, they brought the discipline of could not afford to dissipate their ing together by using big science, big hard work and the habit of persist- energies in divergent pursuits, nor did facilities—a brotherhood of effort, ence, not the dogged persistence fol- they have much opportunity to do so. companions in accomplishment. But lowing a single path toward a destina- They were isolated, confined on The behind all the deadly seriousness of tion, but the persistence to try path Hill, restrained by security measures. the task were a spur and a satisfaction. after path until a broad highway The town was entirely dedicated to For most of the participants, the Los opened up to their goal. There was an their work, no way to escape that fact. Alamos experience was the highlight enduring legacy these scientists left to Their companions in the few hours off of their lives. The work was well Los Alamos. It was the love of sci- from work were usually coworkers. done. ence, the enthusiasm of working in Such concentrated intimacy they had science, and the confidence that sci- never known before. Actually, their ence was the tool of choice for devel- coworkers were like an extended fam- War Work at Los Alamos oping the new industries needed in ily. And what coworkers! Some scien- peace as well as war—to serve the tists worked directly under the When Los Alamos was founded in needs of humankind. Moreover, they European masters, who here were not April 1943, fission bombs were could inspire others to have the same Professor Fermi, Dr. Teller—just already known to be feasible, at least faith. Enrico and Edward. in principle. Two avenues to their pro- As no others, they knew their The hours were long, and the work duction were using the separated ura- opponent—the two sides of . hard. Sometimes it was routine, but nium-235 isotope to be produced by They knew the background and the often it was science at the edge of Oak Ridge or using plutonium-239 to richness of the body of German sci- ence, and they knew the genius of . They also knew at first hand the perversion of values that the Nazis had brought to their coun- tries, and the power of an aroused and united nation whose imagination had been unfortunately captured by its persuasive but demoniac leader. Therefore, they worked with convic- tion spurred on by a terrible fear.

Inspiration of the Scientific Staff. To the more junior scientists (not nec- essarily the younger scientists) at the Lab, Oppie acted with regard, care, and understanding. He was their charismatic leader, and they all but At the Laboratory, the hours were long, and the work hard. The weekly colloquia, one of deified him. His direction and their which is shown in this photo, were stimulating and intense. They are still remembered. combined cooperation made for agreat team. Together with the their capabilities. They found that be produced by the Hanford nuclear European science masters, they played necessity had as brother, opportunity. reactor. But all plans were largely on above their individual capabilities. Though the work had direct applica- paper. Fermi’s pile at Chicago had just They succeeded. They made the fis- tion, the work itself or the methods to demonstrated the first manmade neu- sion bombs. be developed required good science, tron chain reaction in a critical assem- A unique spirit of cooperation and and the best scientists were close at bly. Hanford and Oak Ridge were still camaraderie among the young staff hand to advise, to inspire, or just to “to be’s.” How to design a bomb with scientists pervaded the Laboratory. listen. Here they were not students, the constituents available in only Oppie’s leadership was a part of it, working alone on a small, detailed small amounts and with some critical

12 Los Alamos Science Number 28 2003 People of the Hill

material and nuclear properties Neddermeyer—in the assembly largely unknown? That was the of the plutonium weapon; and Los Alamos problem. Getting the by Bob Christy—for a crucial required plutonium and the sepa- idea that rescued the plutonium rated uranium-235 isotope—that weapon from potential disaster. was the problem of the rest of the Moreover, pure science too was Manhattan Project. cultivated if it had the possibility Meanwhile, news from the bat- of mission application—for tlefield gave a terrifying urgency example, Walter Koski experi- to the tasks of the Laboratory. mented with the collision of two The Battle of Stalingrad, after ter- high explosively driven jets to rible slaughter, had just ended in see what high temperatures Soviet victory on February 2, could be achieved. Teller 1943. It was not yet recognized as improved the theory of radiation the real turning point of the transport at temperatures European war. In the Pacific, the attained in island-hopping campaign had explosions. He developed a barely begun. On the ground in practical statistical treatment of North Africa, the U.S. troops the very many spectral lines in were about to experience their the transport medium under first combat defeat at Kasserine those conditions. This was an Pass. How to proceed at the adaptation of Wigner’s work on Laboratory? There was no time neutron transport in nuclear for the conventional wisdom. reactors, where many neutron What was needed was a new wis- absorption lines exist and must dom chased by haste, built on sci- The building in which criticality experiments were be considered. carried out was called the kiva, a term borrowed entific insight, ingenuity, and from the Pueblo Indians. Here, the kiva is pho- New facilities were built, luck, helped by nature’s guiding tographed from an Indian cave in the nearby wall almost overnight, erupting from hands! of the Pajarito Canyon. the chaos: a critical assembly The goal of the Laboratory, the building, plutonium-handling development of the fission bomb, was and computation, theory, and others as laboratory, high-explosive range, ord- clear, and the basic scientific concepts well. Senior professors headed each nance firing site, sheltered canyon were known. But the detailed imple- division, with younger persons, much location for a nuclear reactor, and menting pathway was vague. Urgency like students, guided and taught by another one for experiments with very dictated that almost everything be them. Not only was the staff expected high intensity radioactive sources. done at once. To General Groves, this to do specific jobs, although that was Finally, when necessary, the scientists process could only bring chaos—no their primary responsibility, but they seconded as engineers, and very capa- firm priorities, no observed schedule, were encouraged to learn and also to bly too—there was no holdup or mis- no PERT charts. He felt beset by innovate. Because at Oppie’s insis- understanding in transition as would more and more requests for strange tence there was no security compart- occur in ordinary industrial practice. pieces of apparatus and for usually mentalization, the senior scientists The entire informal, almost slip- unavailable materials. He did obtain knew, in some sense, all the work at shod-appearing organization fostered them all; that was his genius. the Laboratory. The junior scientists the nascent good feeling and coopera- But the scientists were on familiar were also informed but to a lesser tion of the staff. General Groves did ground. In their research, as usual, extent. Therefore, everyone could not appreciate the character of this nature was in charge, but not always contribute ideas; everyone could join organization, but strangely, he had clear and apparent in her direction. In in their evaluation. Not altogether sur- confidence in Robert Oppenheimer. keeping with their background, the prising therefore, creative contribu- Although to Groves Oppie appeared scientists organized in traditional aca- tions, out of the mainstream of their disorganized, actually Oppie could demic manner, by topical disciplines. work, were made by Jim Tuck—a keep up with everything, understand They created divisions in physics, central idea in the high explosives of everything—he had all the inputs in , explosives, mathematics the plutonium weapon; by Seth the data bank of his brain, and there

Number 28 2003 Los Alamos Science 13 People of the Hill

he could organize them and, as neces- the equation of state of the various ding. Someone, possibly Teller, sug- sary, rapidly reorganize them to take materials in the weapon was needed gested using data obtained by the into account new facts of nature. at pressures and densities starting behavior of seismic waves traveling Oppie worked magic with his people, from their normal state and increasing through the ’s core. That expedi- and they worked their hearts out for during the assembly of the weapons ent would give one intermediary him, performing way over their heads. to conditions surpassing those at the point, valid of course only for iron- That dedication was what made the center of the earth. Then, at the nickel alloys, not for uranium or plu- Los Alamos Laboratory. nuclear explosion, conditions would tonium, under pressures and densities The scientists worked in a special approach those at the center of the like those at the center of the earth. type of mental denial. They knew the sun. was For plutonium, however, there was terrible destructive power of the assigned to the problem. the additional difficulty that only nuclear explosive they were devising. The “sun” part was the easy one. microscopic amounts of that substance They subconsciously could not call it Astrophysicists had already under- were available until too late in the a bomb. Instead, they called it, in gen- stood in principle how to calculate project to make the Bridgeman-type eral, the device, or the gun gadget (the that equation of state. Under those measurements. Still, something had to uranium-235 bomb) and the Christy conditions, all materials form highly be done. In wartime Los Alamos, pes- gadget (the plutonium bomb). The ionized plasma, and the pressure is simism was recognized as a word but plutonium weapon was named after almost entirely due to the free elec- not accepted as an attitude or even as an Oppenheimer protégé, Bob Christy, trons acting as a perfect gas. Guess an emotion. With the minute quantity who very late in the program, pro- the number of free electrons, guided of plutonium they had, the solid-state posed an idea that rescued that device by the astronomers’ formula, and you physicists and chemists did the best from apparent failure. The characteris- have the answer to some reasonable they could, and they did very well. tic time scale of the explosion was approximation. Los Alamos is still They determined the crystal structure, never referred to in its scientific improving this approximation almost as well as the density and even some nomenclature, but was called a shake, 60 years after the work of Metropolis. alloying properties. All that did not obviously short for the flick of the The highly compressed state just help much in determining the desired lamb’s tail. The characteristic cross before the nuclear explosion was equation of state. section for the nuclear processes in treated by Metropolis, with the help of The history of what actually hap- the explosion was called a “barn,” sig- Julius Askin, using the Thomas-Fermi pened thereafter is probably not avail- nifying that it was an easy target. model of the atom. Of course, molec- able. At that time, records were not Despite this levity, the scientists ular or crystal structure had been kept, and the people involved are no worked hard and happily at their mis- squeezed out of the material by this longer around. But we can imagine sion, although at heart they were time. The model, designed for isolated what might have occurred. Perhaps appalled at its potential for destruc- atoms, had to be altered to account for Oppie called a group together: Fermi, tion. Also, they worked with a terrible the pressing presence of neighbors. Teller, Segré, Metropolis. He asked urgency, for the famous European So, the boundary condition on the them to make their best estimate of the expatriates who worked at the density had to be changed values required. After some brilliant Laboratory knew the capability of the from one vanishing at infinity to one but disorganized discussion, Fermi German scientists they had left that is continuous across the boundary said, “This is what we shall use; it will behind. They feared living in a world to the next atom. Further tinkering be good enough for our application. where Hitler would be the first to was necessary to adapt the model Let’s get on with the job.” Indeed that have the bomb. designed for zero temperature to the “Fermi feeling” was often the best, if very considerable temperature of not the only, method for many prob- The Equation of State: An interest. lems, one of the special resources of Example. To illustrate the character At the low pressure end of the the Laboratory. of the work at the Laboratory, let’s range of interest, one had experimen- For this small problem, one of choose one problem of the many. The tal measurements by Percy Bridgeman many in the design of the first fissile material, initially of course in at Harvard and some further data from nuclear weapon, one had to dip into a subcritical configuration, is to be Hugoniot measurements in material the core of the earth and the center of assembled by rather violent, explo- shocked by high explosives. The gap the sun, assemble results from quan- sively driven into a supercrit- between these low-pressure points and tum theory applications and laborato- ical state. To calculate this motion, the Thomas-Fermi results was forbid- ry and high-explosive experiments,

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and patch all together in a hurry, with afterwards continued echoes and date of the commencement of the a feel for physics and a sprinkling of reverberations. Eventually, a cloud of Potsdam conference, therefore had an luck. That was typical work done in bomb debris, desert dust, and atmos- urgency in the mind of General wartime Los Alamos. pheric water droplets lifted off the Groves that had nothing to do with the desert floor and, rising slowly, formed scientific purpose of the test. the characteristic ominous mushroom Further than the two requirements Trinity: A Culmination and shape of a nuclear burst. just discussed, the scientific aspects of aBeginning The Trinity shot was the beginning the Trinity test were initiatives of the of the nuclear testing procedure as Los Alamos Laboratory, aided of course As the work of the Laboratory a central feature of nuclear weapon by the logistics support of the military. went on, unexpected successes alter- development. Contrary to later test The site had been selected by Kenneth nated with heartbreaks. Finally, in the operations, however, Trinity was Bainbridge, the Harvard cyclotron spring of 1945, the gun gadget was anuclear explosion test almost entirely expert chosen by Oppie as test director. ready, its obvious simplicity appar- devoted to the needs of the scientists Naturally, General Groves approved the ently guaranteeing its performance. who designed the weapon. The mili- choice of site. The diagnostic experi- The plutonium device was much tary did not hand down requirements ments were conceived, designed, and more complex, but no one really for the weapon yield, the nuclear executed by the Laboratory. The bomb- knew whether it would work. materials, the safety, survivability, and firing electronics and even the operating Therefore, a crucial nuclear test shot performance specifications that have protocols were Lab responsibilities. was planned. The test site near Academics, only a short time earlier Alamogordo, in the southern New familiar primarily with university labo- Mexico desert, was called Trinity by ratories, learned about field opera- Oppenheimer. He never satisfactorily tions—operations in a somewhat explained his choice of name. uncontrolled environment with essen- In the predawn, dark silence of tially no second-chance opportunities. July 16, 1945, an explosive release of The T-Division theorists too learned nuclear energy from the fission of how to cooperate with the experimen- plutonium-239 in the Christy gadget talists, some even going to the field. caused a supernal flash of that After the success of the Trinity illuminated the desert at the Trinity shot, the realization that the fission test site. The fission bomb was now weapon was a burst upon the The implosion “gadget” is hoisted to the a reality. Brighter than daylight this top of the shot tower at Trinity site. of the staff. Before the flash, with rich promises for the Trinity event, the staff members future; darker than midnight, with now become standard operating pro- were too busy with the everyday portents of fear. Observers wearing cedure. There was only one, but an tasks necessary for the development special dark glasses were able to see overriding, requirement—the weapon of the weapon to dwell upon its con- the initial flash and the early fireball, must fit through the bomb bay doors sequences. They could strive to make confirmation of the value of the time of the B-29 Super Fortress. There was, it work, while fearing that it would. of striving, hope, and heartache in however, a political desideratum—the But after Trinity, the stark reality of their work. Unprotected eyes looking test should be made in time to influ- success stared deep into their psy- at the test tower were blinded for min- ence the upcoming Potsdam confer- ches. Each reacted in his own partic- utes, a foretelling metaphor: In the ence. But unknown to the United ular way. Learned Oppie, at Trinity, coming age, to see without foresight States, Stalin had considerable knowl- quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita, was to lose sight. The first sensation edge of our nuclear weapon progress “Now I am become death, the felt by observers facing the test tower through the espionage of his secret of worlds.” Bainbridge, was the heat of the light pulse, a pal- agents, most important among them, characteristically a realist, said pable force. It felt like simultaneous Klaus Fuchs. Stalin showed no sur- earthily, succinctly, “Now we are all hard slaps on both cheeks. Still not prise, although he must have laughed sons of bitches.” The rest of the sci- a sound, only visible evidences of the silently, inwardly, when Truman entists, back at the Lab, were jubi- shot. Then, the shock wave raced dropped a hint that we had a secret lant but worried. They wondered across the desert floor. When it hit, superweapon in the making. The July whether the bomb should actually be one could hear the first sharp crack, 16 date set for Trinity, which was the dropped on Japan.

Number 28 2003 Los Alamos Science 15 People of the Hill

War’s End: Devolution inhabitants killed. President Truman’s world both in warfare and in the pur- and Revival hand had signed the executive order, suits of peace. When they heard about but his hand was moved by currents the two nuclear explosions that had Achievements. Two entirely differ- he did not control. The debate going obliterated and ent types of fission weapons were on among the Los Alamos scientists and their immediate aftermath in the made, the uranium-235 gun type and about the use of the nuclear weapons on the deck of the the plutonium-239 implosion type. had been soul satisfying to them, but Missouri, they realized the One success alone would have been that long, hard, devastating war was import of their work. They realized an outstanding achievement. At Los over. also that they themselves had been Alamos, the scientists had developed What would history be like if the changed. All future experience and an essentially new mode of operation, bombs were not ready or if the United accomplishments would be measured the intimate meshing of science with States refrained from using them? The in their own eyes against their Los technology. From an idea, the nuclear bloody battle of Okinawa was a fore- Alamos achievements. The isolation bomb, and a single new fact of nature, telling. The War Department estimat- from their families, the living on The the fission process, to the end use of ed that, in the planned October inva- Hill—the beautiful Jemez range in the finished product—all the steps in sion of the mainland, there would be their back yard, the pinked peaks in between were coordinated by the a quarter of a million U.S. casualties the sunset of the Sangre de Cristo in same tightly knitted community of and perhaps one to two million their distant view, in contrast with the effort. True, this result was dust or mud of their unpaved accomplished under the unusual streets and the insubstantial urgency of an overriding nation- houses in which they sheltered al need. In the war effort, no their children—the cama- obstacles were permitted. They raderie of friends who shared were only problems to be the same privations and understood—and once under- delights, the heavy realization stood, to be solved. that two hundred thousand real What was understood?—The human beings had been killed fission process itself, the as a result of the microsecond processes of the chain reaction, duration of the explosions of the nature of the supercritical the devices they had created: assembly, and the dynamics of All this was past and prologue. the ensuing explosion. Along Their future seemed as rosy as the path, one needed to under- the sunset on the Sangres, but stand the chemistry and metal- was it not incarnadined as well lurgy of the various weapon with the extinguished hopes of components and the engineering the Japanese victims? To the of the assembly of the parts. A The fireball at Trinity site. people of that strange city of critical element was the high the hill, their wartime experi- explosive in a use for which precision Japanese casualties. Could the wise, ence had been a singular, slowly never before achieved was absolutely constructive peace that actually evolved epiphany. New sighted now, necessary. Sometimes, a scientist occurred in Japan be made under such they were to see a new world. would do engineering, and he was brutal circumstances? often very good at it—he might even But the bombs were dropped. How Aftermath. In the autumn of 1945, like it. The engineers, for their part, much of the current dichotomy in after successful completion of its had learned how to cooperate with the viewpoint about nuclear energy— wartime mission, the Los Alamos scientists, even though they did not uneasy acceptance in the U.S. of its Laboratory started to disband. always understand the science benefits and unreasoning fear of its Disbanding, however, conveys the involved. dangers—is due to its first use in wrong concept. It was a diaspora in slaughter, however inevitable? which the departees formed a web to Dropping the Bombs. The United The people of Los Alamos had par- maintain the intimate relationships States dropped the bombs. Two ticipated in a unique experience, one that had led to their wartime achieve- Japanese cities were destroyed, their that would alter the prospects of the ments. As they spread across the

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nation, they were the mis- war economy. Hans Bethe sionaries of the new mode had returned to Cornell, of doing science and tech- taking Dick Feynman with nology—big science, but him. Teller joined Fermi at soundly based upon funda- the . mental science, linked in a Of the whole group of tal- group effort with engineer- ented young physicists ing development, all in sup- only Rolf Landshof, port of pragmatic goals in , and Bob the service of the common Richtmyer remained. The good. It was science for Canadians, Carson Mark humanity’s sake, but in an and Bengt Carlson, stayed immediate sense, not as an on as a nucleus of mathe- eventual effect. The success matical talent, specializing of the atomic bomb project in neutron transport meth- conveyed upon these scien- In 1946, two implosion bombs, identical to the one tested at ods. tists an aura of expertise, Trinity site and the one that had destroyed Nagasaki, were tested Some people stayed as part of in the Pacific. which however, outshone because they loved the their real experience. The federal gov- with all three visiting luminaries, countryside; others stayed because the ernment placed them on numerous Bethe, Teller, and Fermi. intense pressure of the wartime effort advisory boards and committees not After the war, the great effort that was relaxed and they could now pursue solely restricted to the future develop- had developed and fielded the two science leisurely but skillfully, using ment of nuclear weapons and nuclear nuclear weapons wound down, mis- the fine facilities of the Lab still largely energy. J. Robert Oppenheimer, for sion accomplished. Well done. The in place; some people simply had not his leadership of Los Alamos, his future roles of the Laboratory were in yet found another place to go. It was amazing erudition, and quick under- doubt. In the euphoria of victory and slowly to dawn upon these few who standing in diverse areas of science the passion to return home to resume remained—and also on the European and human endeavors, was favored as normal life, most of the scientists masters and some others who had the central member in many of these were leaving Los Alamos. They left—that the country had given the groups, even those with policy-mak- believed that their work was done. Laboratory an opportunity, no longer ing responsibilities. Because of this Not realizing that the way science a designated mission, but an opportuni- diaspora, the Manhattan Project, par- would be done in the future had forev- ty to create an institution using the new ticularly the Los Alamos experience, er changed, they were going home, big science in the national interest. Los was to illuminate the larger economy. but they were not going back. Though Alamos has been defining and refining Furthermore, the federal government, they left the Lab behind, the shell this opportunity ever since. which had sponsored the wartime remaining was not destined to fade Robert Oppenheimer was replaced work, now continued to support big away. The Lab had demonstrated that by Norris Bradbury, an experimental science—in government, in industry, a large organization with a mission of physicist who had also served as and in universities as well. The former great national importance could do anaval officer. Bradbury considered Los Alamos staff members were wel- what no single university or combina- himself an interim director, a caretaker comed everywhere. Although the Los tion of universities could accomplish. in the transition from wartime to peace. Alamos Scientific Laboratory (as it It was historically necessary that the He planned to stay on but for a short was named later) lost their service, the Lab should live. The nation subcon- period, less than a year, a matter of commonweal as a whole was well sciously recognized this inevitability, duty rather than desire. He deliberately served by the dispersion of although individual scientists by and kept a low profile. Events, not his Laboratory personnel. With this large did not. hand, were now at the helm of the acceptance in the larger world, the As the Laboratory scientists Laboratory ship. Contrary to his initial Laboratory itself was not to be aban- appeared to evaporate, a stubborn plan, he stayed at his post for 25 years. doned. Some of the departees periodi- residue remained. The seasoned aca- cally returned to the Lab. It was possi- demics were returning to their universi- Operation Crossroads. Faced ble for a staff member at home in Los ties; other young people were going with the diaspora, the remaining Lab Alamos in one afternoon to consult home to participate in the vibrant post- core required some defining activity

Number 28 2003 Los Alamos Science 17 People of the Hill

to ensure its success. The 1946 careers. Darol Froman and Al Graves stethoscopes and white coats they had nuclear test operation in the Pacific were role models for others who habitually used. The same low, subsi- provided one such focus. stayed on—Jerry Kellogg who headed dized fees applied, but now the physi- Counteracting the fragmenting forces the Physics Division, Eric Jette for cians were employees of the AEC. tearing the Laboratory apart was the chemistry, Max Roy explosives, and Laboratory personnel remained unifying effect of Operation Bob Richtmyer for T Division. The employees of the University of Crossroads, the test explosion of two renewed Lab could coalesce around California as before, but somewhat atomic bombs over Atoll in the these strong men, with Norris more integrated into the University western Pacific. This operation was Bradbury as the unifying new system, particularly for retirement much more a military show than a sci- Laboratory director. benefits. Little regarded at the time by entific test. The bombs were dupli- From a weapons viewpoint, the suc- the youthful staff, retirement benefits cates of , the plutonium cessful explosion of four bombs of the eventually proved to be one of the Christy gadget tested at Trinity site, same construction, all giving, so far as attractions of the University relation- the one that had destroyed Nagasaki. was known at the time, comparable ship. New security badges were issued Tested, sure to work, their air burst yields, meant that the new bombs were to Lab employees with numbers start- explosion would give little new infor- a reliable basis for a future stockpile of ing with the letter Z because the Zia mation about the bombs’ internal nuclear weapons. The Laboratory then Company had the only complete list operation. But some military equip- set about carefully, conservatively of residents. The practice of designa- ment was exposed to the blasts to modifying and improving the designs tion by Z number prevails to this day. measure the effects of nuclear explo- of the weapons and systematizing their The town was still closed and resident sions on potential military targets. manufacture. passes were still needed to enter or Thus, the area of nuclear weapon leave. The Laboratory itself was still a effects was born, albeit in a haphazard The Atomic Energy Commission. fenced-in operation with the main and nonquantitative fashion. That was Meanwhile, on the national scene, technical area near Ashley Pond and to be remedied in future tests. From Congress passed legislation establish- varied outlying sites on adjoining the Laboratory, Darol Froman was ing the Atomic Energy Commission mesas. As yet, there was no town gov- chosen as scientific test director. A (AEC), a decision that placed all ernment and apparently no need for combined Army-Navy force provided nuclear energy programs, including one. the logistic support for the opera- weapons, firmly under civilian con- Budgets now came from Congress tion—the progenitor of more sophisti- trol. Furthermore, after some political through the AEC. Although during the cated test programs under Joint Task posturing, Congress confirmed the war the military provided essentially Force Eight, a permanent military enlightened and capable administrator, unlimited funds to the town and the organization established for that pur- David Lilienthal, former chairman of Lab, the expenditures, while generous, pose. Nuclear explosion testing was the Tennessee Valley Authority, as were sometimes made at the wish or now established as a central feature of chairman of the AEC. the whim of military commanders. the Laboratory’s mission. In Los Alamos, the Army left the But now the AEC effectively gave Of course, the components of the region, turning governance over to director Norris Bradbury one overall bombs had to be manufactured, and new civilian agencies. At the check to fund the Laboratory. It was the parts assembled. That was a job Laboratory, the military guards were always an amount larger than the Lab for the Engineering Division of the replaced by AEC-employed civilians could sensibly use. The Lab could Laboratory. Here was a unifying task, in new uniforms. They still rode almost decide for itself what the funds although not a scientific one, focusing horseback to patrol the extensive sur- would support. The Laboratory was the efforts of a fragmented work rounding countryside. In place of the now ready for a new mission—to use force. In its own way, it was done Army Corps of Engineers, the mainte- nuclear weapons to secure the peace with the same can-do spirit of the nance and support services for both as they had terminated the war. heady wartime developments. Lab and town were taken over by the Moreover, it was symbolic of a con- newly formed Zia Company, an off- tinuing mission for Los Alamos. In shoot of the McKee construction firm. fact, nuclear explosion testing was an The doctors in the hospital discarded essential for the rebuilding of the their rarely donned military uniforms Laboratory. The scattered holdovers and provided the same skilled and car- now had new hope for fulfilling ing medical services with the same

18 Los Alamos Science Number 28 2003 People of the Hill

Part II: The Dawn of the Thermonuclear Era (1946–1952)

Getting Ready “well understood” early on. Success in April 1951, was more an industrial than a scientific explored some of the principles of The development period from the miracle, the gathering of scarce thermonuclear reactions. formation of the Lab in April 1943 to resources in a strained wartime econo- The second phase was initiated the explosion of the plutonium fission my to produce the fissile material for with the new concept of a hydrogen bomb at the Trinity site on July 16, the bombs. But the true workings of bomb discovered in late 1950. It was 1945, was the fission era. From the hydrogen bomb were involved and so obviously sure to work that the Trinity to the Mike shot, detonated on obscure. Initially, work was not in the total resources of the Laboratory November 1, 1952, on most fruitful direction. How the hydro- could be focused on it. The concept in the Pacific, was the thermonuclear gen bomb was made was crucially was brilliantly verified by the Mike development era. More dramatically, dependent on how the Lab was recon- shot in the Pacific on November 1, these were the atomic bomb and the stituted after its almost complete dis- 1952, and the hydrogen bomb was hydrogen bomb miracles. But when bandment at the end of the war. born. During this entire period, very two apparent miracles occur together, important improvements were made in there has been no miracle. A causal the performance of fission weapons, mechanism must be involved. Some Chronology significant since they were essential to essential culture at Los Alamos must the operation of the hydrogen bomb. be at work to make both develop- There were two distinct phases in ments possible. Of course, nature was the development of the hydrogen Permanent Housing. By 1948, the also kind. In what follows, why this bomb: the classical Super from 1942 rebuilding of the Los Alamos all came about will in some part be to 1950 and the new and successful Scientific Laboratory was substantial. illuminated. hydrogen bomb from 1950 to 1952. Although far from reaching its peak The fission bomb was made under Thereafter, the hydrogen bomb was wartime status, the Lab in personnel wartime urgency, when a great nation refined and exploited, and today it is was well staffed, in equipment even girded for victory. The greatest the mainstay of the U.S. nuclear arse- robustly furnished. More important nuclear physicists of the time were at nal. than the actual level of competence of Los Alamos, organized under their The Super, proposed by Edward the Lab was the feeling of perma- leader, Robert Oppenheimer, in his Teller and at the nence and the promise of future finest hour. T Division was led by 1942 Berkeley conference, was side- accomplishments. The Army was Hans Bethe—immensely capable, pre- lined during the war, but not aban- gone, an inheritance of wisdom and cisely organized—with a brilliant sup- doned. From 1946 to 1949 with the folly left behind, part of the physical porting group. In contrast, the first tolerance but not the official support and intellectual capital of the town hydrogen bomb was made in a peace- of the national authorities, the work and the Laboratory. The energetic, but time America, relaxed, reaping the continued at a low level because of its sometimes arbitrary, administration of harvest of victory, albeit with the fear scientific interest. But the first Soviet the military was superseded by the of the growing . Norris explosion of a fission weapon on distant and paternalistic oversight of Bradbury was the unassuming director August 29, 1949, changed the relaxed the AEC, responsive to the needs of of the Los Alamos Scientific attitude of the Laboratory. On January the Laboratory. But for the present, Laboratory at that time. 31, 1950, President Truman directed the Lab was on a solid foundation Although Los Alamos under the AEC to continue work on a ther- with an assured future. The town Oppie, with a star supporting cast, monuclear weapon. Then the only adjoining was also transformed into might well be expected to perform candidate was the Super. Increased a permanent city, emphasizing the miracles, under Bradbury, with pre- activity but little progress resulted permanence of the Lab. sumably the second team, it took because the basic problems of the Beginning in July 1947, for the a miracle to perform a miracle. Oppie Super were just too daunting. first time in Los Alamos, really per- opposed the development of the However, the Laboratory added per- manent houses were built, initially in hydrogen bomb; Bethe, after the war, sonnel and accelerated use of comput- the western area. Those houses are refused for some time to work on it. ers. Nuclear tests at the Pacific range, still in use today, although some have The principle of the fission bomb was particularly the George shot of been improved with extra rooms and

Number 28 2003 Los Alamos Science 19 People of the Hill

upper levels: Small but comfortable The First Soviet Nuclear design of improved fission weapons homes, one story, 1000-square-foot Explosion. Joe 1, the first Soviet and, more important, a thermonuclear well-designed floor plans, two or nuclear shot detonated on August 29, weapon. New computing machines three bedrooms, one full bath with 1949, was a historical marker for the were ready at their service. Actually, real bathtub, hardwood floors, beamed scientists at Los Alamos. It confirmed anew method of theoretical scientific open wood ceiling and fireplace in the their conviction that there was no work was in the making. No longer living room, full row of extra closets secret of the atomic bomb—that was progress made by advanced math- down the central hallway, natural gas nature’s book was impartially open to ematical analysis, giving numerical cooking, heating, and hot water, one- all and the Soviet scientists could read results by slide-rule manipulation. car open carport with additional out- it. Although it was no surprise, it Now, scientists programmed the com- door storage. Styling was definitely brought a shock of realism to their puters, and instead of staying up all New Mexico, some fake adobe, single work and changed leisurely investiga- night baby-sitting experimental units or duplexes—all with the fresh- tions into matters of great urgency. setups, they cradle-watched their com- paint smell of newness. Now, additional people joined the puters at their allotted tasks. Except for the upsloping hill to the Laboratory staff. The new method gave birth to far west impinging on the national anew breed. Two other newcomers forest, the western area had been Accelerated Staffing. Among the typified them: Robert Thorne and Art meadow; so the land lacked the tall senior scientists, John Wheeler and Carson. These men would write their pines and small shrubs of the fringing George Gamov were newcomers. The own codes, and nobody else knew woods. Small willows and olive trees old masters of the wartime effort— precisely what was in them; nobody were therefore planted. Today, some Bethe, Teller, and Fermi—took leave else could successfully run them. 50 years after, the area looks richly from their universities and came back, They were opaque to most, but like landscaped. The streets were set out generously giving part time. These the mysterious prophesies of the on an interesting quasi-Cartesian grid mature physicists brought with them Delphic oracles, the output stream of with some cul-de-sacs for variety. anew contingent of their students. computer paper was believed to be With the open spaces included, each From Princeton, as the Matterhorn utterances from the gods. home site averaged half an acre, but Project for civilian applications of Finally, the Lab was up to strength there were no defined lot lines. In controlled thermonuclear burn phased to repeat for the hydrogen bomb the Los Alamos, as counterpoint to down, Wheeler brought Ken Ford and miracle that made the fission bomb Robert ’s memorable New John Toll. Burt Freeman and Joe during World War II. England dictum, “null fences made Devaney added to his group—four good neighbors.” young bachelors injected into a com- The physical isolation of The Hill munity mainly of young marrieds Nuclear Testing and the fenced-in town site exagger- with children. This group was soon ated further the feeling of isolation engaged in calculating the radiation Primary among the tools of the from one’s family. Obviously, almost transport for some of the nuclear test nuclear weapon trade is the nuclear no grandparents and no sisters or shots using new methods devised by test. First used at Trinity site, the cousins or aunts either, only cowork- Wheeler. Hans Bethe sent his students nuclear test is a vast expansion over ers—they were your family. But the George Bell, Walter Goad, Carl traditional scientific experimentation. comradeship of shared work and Walske, and Albert Petschek, and then These tests are expensive. For the shared neighborhood formed bonds came himself. These men joined Pacific tests, the military of Joint Task closer than kin. To the young scien- Conrad Longmire in the neutronics Force Eight deployed ten thousand tists awakening in the morning, feel- group, but they participated more men and almost a thousand ships to ing the crisp clean air, viewing with widely in weapon design. Fermi reap- Enewetak Atoll. The small cadre of 100-mile visibility mountain vistas peared with Dick Garwin—the equiv- scientists was almost lost in the and endless skies, it was like nirvana. alent of a whole laboratory capability human melee of army and construc- When they arrived at the Lab, to the in that couple, not a metaphor but tion personnel. Two entire Pacific working scientists, it was indeed a reality. atolls, Bikini and Enewetak, were a nirvana, but with boundless oppor- Guided by the old masters, these commandeered, their population trans- tunities. And there was that great young men, along with the wartime planted to other islands. A military feeling of comfort and cooperation holdovers, provided the muscle for the tent-city was set up on Enewetak, the with friends at work. detailed calculations necessary for the southern island of the atoll, which

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gave the atoll its name. and general officer grade. A little to the north, on Your quarters at Hickham Parry Island, the quarters were based on your rank. and laboratories of the sci- Quarters were important entists were constructed, an because the schedule of invisible security curtain takeoff of the Military separating that island from Aircraft Transport Service the more populous island to planes was rarely adhered the south. Before the war, to. The procedure was to the islands were covered assemble all travelers at the with coconut palms in cul- site ready to board the tivated rows. During the plane whenever it became fighting in the Pacific, the available—that way, no plantations were destroyed. View of the Enyu Island in the . time would be lost in Twisted military equipment rounding up the passengers was the new flora, decaying as resuming its testing. At the cabinet from the presumed pleasure spots of mementos of the campaigns. Now meeting to decide on the test program, Oahu. This was very efficient for the once again, the palms and the coral Harold Brown, the Defense Director , but it often meant sitting rock of the island were to be sacri- for Research and Engineering, gave around for many hours waiting for ficed, this time to the aims of the test a detailed technical briefing on the your aircraft. And it was your program. The Mike shot, at 10 mega- scale of proposed tests. At the end of assigned aircraft. If on final checkout tons, for example, consumed an entire Brown’s talk, President Kennedy for takeoff, some slight problem was island, Elugelab. turned to his brother Bobby, the found, you were not given another The magnitude of the effort Attorney General. He asked how plane; you just waited for yours to be required for nuclear test programs in many shots the Russians were plan- fixed. Often, the delay was just a few the Pacific put a somewhat unwise ning. When Bobby answered, the hours; sometimes, it was days. Then discipline on the Laboratory. The President, disregarding all Brown’s the level of comfort of your quarters dates for an operation were set long in technical input, simply ordered that would be important. Carson Mark, advance, and the Lab research and the United States should plan for the although he was of general officer development had to be focused on same number of shots in its test rank, stayed with his T-Division scien- preparing shots in time for the opera- resumption series. The United States tists in their field grade quarters. tion. This method precluded some and the Russians have negotiated The C-54, the military version of avenues of research considered too a comprehensive test ban treaty, which the commercial Douglas DC-4, took long term; in other cases, it resulted in both countries now observe, but since off. This was a cargo carrier, with pas- a too-hurried preparation for a test the U.S. Senate so far has refused to sengers only as a courtesy. Along each series. To remedy this failing, the ratify the treaty, it is not the law of the side of the aircraft was a long bench AEC opened up the . land. Since March 1992, however, the of canvas supported by aluminum tub- Whereas in the Pacific the program United States has not conducted any ing. These were the passenger seats. was “get ready for a test,” eventually nuclear test. The center of the fuselage was filled at Nevada the Lab’s watchword with bulk cargo strapped down to lugs became “test when ready.” Transport to the Pacific Atolls. in the floor. The aircraft was not pres- Nuclear testing became a political, To the Los Alamos scientists, working surized, so the top altitude in flight as well as a scientific, enterprise. at the Pacific nuclear test range was was limited to about 8000 feet. No International treaties regulated testing. a whole new cultural experience. It problem flying over the Pacific. Once International motivations resulted in started at Hickam Field in Hawaii, the you passed the Hawaiian Islands, the test moratoriums, mutual or unilateral, departure point for the military air- elevation of the coral atolls of the and in the ending of such moratori- craft transport to the test area. Before Pacific was only a few feet above sea ums. Nor was the number of tests or takeoff, each civilian was given an level. However, at those low altitudes, the nature of the tests free from politi- equivalent military rank. There was there was considerable weather that cal considerations. When the Soviet company grade, corresponding to made for a bumpy ride. The C-54 is Union broke the moratorium in 1961, lieutenant and captain; field grade, arugged aircraft that could take more the United States responded by corresponding to major and colonel; jolting and wind shear pummeling

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than the passengers’ composure could weathered down. Combined with the alone; they are not good to eat. accommodate. subsidence of the ocean floor When the tide is out, the coral rock Slow is this airplane, and large is depressed beneath its mass, the of the tidal plain is exposed. It has the Ocean Pacific. Hours, slow hours caldera disappeared below the surface sharp ridges; the general surface is in flight, fitful sleep sitting up, too of the ocean. slippery with sea slime. A cut from hot, too cold; these aircraft have no But then a billion billion little the coral quickly becomes infected. sophisticated climate control. Bulky coral animalcules went to work. Bacteria too enjoy the plenty of the Mae West lifejackets on at all times These small creatures can survive tidal pools. bring comfort in being uncomfort- only in the narrow subsurface depth From the atoll rim, the water bot- able—one can last long if ditched into of about 20 meters. They built a coral tom, which is the edge of the sea the warm Pacific. Then landfall, in the crown atop the sinking volcanic rock. mound, falls rapidly away to the sea wide ocean that small oval lagoon, They could not invade the deep center floor, 5 kilometers below. The slope is pearled with foam on the seaward rim, of the caldera, which then formed the about 20 degrees. As a result, the low- with deep water at its heart, so beautiful interior lagoon of the atoll. tide boundary is sharp, indented by welcome, as our bird swoops in for As the remnant mountain continued to a landing. Enewetak Island. subside, the lower parts of the coral All is protocol as you leave the died, crushing into limestone, plane by grade when your name is while new live coral was added just called. First, the security check; then below the surface. Wave action con- you are assigned sleeping quarters. An tinually broke off small pieces of this orderly, a lieutenant colonel, takes coral and threw them up to form care of you, bringing your ration of aridge above the surface, the multi- duty-free spirits. Then, a quick wave- islands of the atoll. The weathered rocked ride in an LCM (short for coral formed the fine white sand of man), and you arrive at the islands and their beaches on the Parry Island. Was this one of the boats lagoon. These isles are evanescent. used in the Enewetak campaign? Now What the waves disgorge in great you are on station. storms, they can devour again. At high tide, the great ocean rollers This chapel was built for the people Life on the Atoll. The atoll is the come in and break at the atoll’s outer involved in the tests on Parry Island top of a gigantic sea mound peeking rim. They spill over onto the tidal (now known as Medren Island) in the out above the ocean’s waves. Long, plain, perhaps 100 yards out. The Enewetak Atoll. long ago a hot spot in the earth’s water there is only 4 feet deep, more upper mantle forced a flume through or less, depending on the tide. old dead coral reefs at the surface, live the thin Pacific tectonic plate. Over Rushing toward the shore, the break- coral heads a little way out below the millions of years, molten rock under er’s water mass reforms into small surface. No one is crazy enough to try great pressure pushed through the waves, and they in turn make puny to swim off the atoll rim. The waves flume, spread out upon the ocean crests, which break and spill upon the break sharp, the rocks are sharp, and floor, and piled up to form an under- island sand. As the tide recedes, it the sharks patrol the border. water volcanic mountain. Eventually, bares the black dead coral ridges of For the experimentalists, life on the from the benthic depths 5 kilometers the plain. In thousands of little tidal atoll was a race against time, 12 hours below the surface, the mountain grew pools, it traps the itinerant dogfish aday, 7 days a week. Construction, to pierce the waves, and thence 2, 3, among the resident flora and the sea installation of equipment, servicing, 4 kilometers into the sky. In one or cucumbers that live in these puddles. checkout, calibration—all done for a series of cataclysmic explosions, the The dogfish have sought shelter from a microsecond of data, with no second volcano blew its top, leaving a ringed the deep sea beyond the atoll rim, chance. In contrast, the scientists from caldera remnant. Slowly, moving only where the large predators, sharks and T Division were on hand as experts in 100 kilometers in a million years, the barracuda, play. But many times, the the details of weapon performance or, tectonic ocean plate drifted north- pools become isolated, the sun warms in some cases, for additional informa- westerly, leaving behind the volcano’s the waters, the dogfish have no room tion on the theory of the experiments source of fire. Now dying into new to maneuver, and they become prey to as required. For them, the hours were life phases, the rim of the caldera the shore birds. Humans leave them sometimes heavy with boredom, fur-

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ther weighted by the monotonous Marchant calculators were almost transportation links were needed weather—air temperature 80 degrees unusable after an overnight exposure among them. The mil- , water temperature 80 to the damp. To prevent this deteriora- itary personnel supplied both. degrees, humidity 80 percent, the tion, you kept them, when not in use, Water taxis and LCMs were the trade winds blowing 22 knots, all in a locker heated by a 100-watt bulb, standard interisland carriers. The unchanging day or night. lit all the time. The same lockers also speedy water taxis were a traveler’s But sometimes there was, for these protected your clothes and particularly adventure, if he were up to it. In any island-bound theorists, the excitement leather shoes, all of which otherwise but the calmest seas, these taxis set up of the scientific and technological became moldy almost overnight. a spray that, but for the canvas-top environment itself. You climbed the Food was one of the every day protection of the rear two-thirds of the test towers 100, 150, 200 feet into the recreations on the islands. Holmes and boat, would soak any passenger. You sky to check the layout of experimen- Narver, the support contractor provid- had the choice to sit under the canopy tal equipment because specifications ing the general services, knew how to and inhale the exhaust fumes or to sit and blueprints did not always contain keep their construction workers up front and feel the salt spray dash- the full information needed for a suc- happy: Give them lots of overtime and ing on your face. Most of the young cessful test measurement. lots of food. The budget for food men enjoyed the ride, but Roy Reider, Modifications to equipment were alone, in the 1950 era, was $5 per per- the safety engineer, whose job sometimes made on the spot under son per day. It was a bulk no-menu required him to visit the experimental a theorist’s instruction. You would lift mess hall. You ate what was served. stations often, was seasick susceptible your eyes from the apparatus, and And what food! Choice meat sirloins and hated the transit. The LCMs were there you would stand atop the tower, or filets mignons were piled on great noisy and slow, an experience in the with the constant trades cooling the platters passed down the long tables, practical results of shock waves as the lingering sweat from your climb, and 20 workers sitting on benches on both flat forward ramp in its up position the Pacific stretching to a horizon lost sides filling up their plates. It was smashed into the choppy sea. in the faint sea haze, which to your more than all you could eat. No worry For rapid transit, there were the view might not exist at all, except as about excess quantities prepared—the Army’s L-5s and L-13s, the small another theory. leftovers were the next day’s stew, light observation planes. They could On the atoll, the sea is ever pres- stew to shame French cuisine. On make 100 knots, and Parry to Eleleron ent. The sound of the waves is arrival, the new visitors watched with took only 20 minutes. Operating in a steady background, pleasant when amazement as the old timers, compet- the trade winds, these aircraft were you wish to listen, ignorable when ing with the construction contingent, remarkable. Landing speed was as you are involved. No matter how busy, heaped two or three steaks on their low as 25 knots. In the 25-knot trade you would take some time off to swim plates and sometimes asked for more. winds, they could land on a dime. in the warm waters. No shock as you After a week, one joined the food Actually, a passenger could jump off plunged in, just the warm wetness orgy. But milk was that terrible tasting a landing plane before touchdown refreshing. Most of the men would mixture made from powder, except with but the care needed to step off swim out to the coral heads in the when a freighter had just come in. the end of a moving passenger walk- lagoon, facemask on, snorkle set. Then there was fresh milk, the right way at a modern airport. Not much of There the sea creatures that belong to stuff. Otherwise, no decent milk, but arunway was needed for takeoff the atoll play. No prior experience there was always plenty of ice cream. either. These planes could take only could prepare the invading mesa The burly construction workers were one or two passengers, so it took dwellers for the richness, the variety, able to use up all that food, but some a high priority to get a ride. the colors, the beauty, and the strange- of the sedentary scientists stored the Overcoming these superficial hard- ness of these underwater gardens of excess on their middles. ships was part of the culture of the the sea. test site. Humidity was an enemy. In the Transportation at the Atoll. Were damp and the heat, electrical equip- it not for the support services, the sci- The Pogo Planning Staff. The ment deteriorated, metals corroded, entists could not get their jobs done. Pogo staff, the name borrowed from catalyzed by the tiny salt crystals Since the shot island itself and other the famous comic strip, was the over- always present in the air. northern islands with experimental all technical planning staff for the sci- Experimentalists were readjusting, sites were about 50 kilometers away entific operations. That group had repairing, replacing. The theorists’ from Parry Island, communication and done most of the stateside definition

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of the experiments. Now, they were pleasant. It mattered little that you the possibility to harness on earth this on-site to help in the execution. Fred were wet on the outside of your cloth- energy of the heavens. But instead of Reines, head of the Pogo staff, was on ing, when because of the humidity, using hydrogen, the stellar reaction loan from T Division. Fred was moisture was always condensing on chain was to be short-circuited by abroad-range idea man; some of the the inside. starting with deuterium—deuterium experiments were his personal sugges- Characteristically for those years, nuclei in thermal agitation colliding tions. He was dynamic—no boredom the tests were an all-male operation. with deuterium, a much more rapid in his presence. Pogo staff meetings Indeed, there were but few women process. Although nature had been were almost continuous, monitoring scientists at the Lab—Jane Hall, Diz generous with her margins in the every aspect of the tests. If there were Graves, and Cerda among them. physical parameters, as she had been no apparent problems, Reines might It was understood that it was no deni- in the case of the fission bomb, she suggest something overlooked, or he gration of their competence that they was not nearly as transparent in might even improvise an additional were excluded from the test opera- revealing the proper physics to follow. small experiment. Fred always held an tions. That’s just the way things were. In fact, the path to the hydrogen bomb extra Pogo staff meeting at 8 p.m.— Times have changed, but then the was a tortuous one, with many inter- too early to go to sleep, so why not camaraderie was a man thing, an esting side branches to cause delays. staff up a little more, nothing else to enterprise of brothers. Clearly, the tremendous concentrat- do on the islands. But there was But one got to know one’s ed energy release in a fission device something else in which Fred did not coworkers in a total living experience was the key to initiating the much indulge: the 9 p.m. movie. Darol otherwise impossible, even in the greater energy release in a thermonu- Froman, the associate director of the close-knit Los Alamos town commu- clear fusion assembly. It was time to Lab and a former scientific test direc- nity. Overall, life on the islands was start serious work on that possibility. tor himself, now out on the islands a comradeship in purpose, expressed Now, in a star the thermonuclear fur- and a much-valued presence at the in activity in test preparation, in shar- nace is contained by the pressure gen- Pogo meetings, did like movies. So ing experimental results, in recre- erated by the gravitational effect of its did Harris Mayer, theorist and very ation, and in boredom. huge mass. The reactions proceed good personal friend of Fred’s. slowly, majestically, on a grand scale, Promptly at 8:55 p.m., Darol and the overall cycle taking thousands of Harris would stand up, deliberately The Path to the Hydrogen years. On earth, the problem would be disturbing the meeting, to show Bomb the confinement of the exploding ther- where the proper priorities were, and monuclear bomb. This necessarily leave to go to the movies. The fission bomb was a reality. precarious balance between explosive Fresh movies came in on the C-54 Nature had indeed been generous in force and containment restraints transports. When they were not avail- her choice of nuclear cross sections depends upon the complex relations able, old ones were reshown. The the- and the number of neutrons released of the many physical processes ater was open air, with rows of hard per fission, so that the task was daunt- involved. benches set out before a big screen, ing but doable. But nature had also The idea of a thermonuclear bomb a small bright cutout on the dark sea generously provided for another much powered by the deuterium-deuterium supporting the lighter sky. Darol and greater and more pervasive energy reaction was brought up in the pio- Harris sat down close together source—the thermonuclear furnace of neering Manhattan Project 1942 sum- because they knew what was coming: the stars. There, in contrast to fission, mer study at Berkeley by Edward not the suspense on the screen, but the where a heavy nucleus is split to Teller and Emil Konopinski. weather. Predictable, as were the release its energy, four light hydrogen Oppenheimer, the leader of the study, trades, the rain would come in at nuclei are ultimately fused together to and Hans Bethe, one of the “luminar- 9:45 p.m. The two scientists were pre- form a helium nucleus. In the process, ies” involved, enthusiastically adopted pared; one poncho covered both of the very high of heli- the idea and focused the best efforts of them. They sat together until the rain, um is released. Scientists had been the study on it. Oppie called the bomb as it sometimes would, came down in captivated by the fascinating complex- the Super. During the war, however, sheets so dense that the scattered light ity and excited by the potential of this the Laboratory could not fully indulge from the droplets overwhelmed the thermonuclear fusion reaction even this intense interest of the scientists. image on the screen. Except for these before the Los Alamos Laboratory But after the war, there was time to very dense showers, the rain was was opened in April 1943. Here was explore the concept of the Super.

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Although the Super was not on the monuclear burn could actually be design with many important details main line of the Laboratory’s mission, accomplished. So was born the idea of was worked out by the early days of the curiosity of the scientists could the George shot. Tested at Enewetak 1951, even before the firing of the not be constrained. The everyday in Operation Greenhouse in April George shot. The shot itself was then work of increasing the yield of fission 1951, George was a complete success. an irrelevancy. bombs by small factors paled before The yield was about 225 kilotons, There has been a continuing dis- the promise of the fusion bomb to only a small part of which was the cussion among scientists, historians, increase yields by orders of magni- precious thermonuclear yield. and the curious public about the con- tude. Understandably, volunteers were But George was much more impor- tributions of Teller and Ulam to the eager to work on it. In an informal tant in the process of its conception concept of the thermonuclear bomb. arrangement characteristic of the than it was in the success of its test- The overriding fact is that the bomb is organization of the Laboratory of that ing. Because of its influence, George an actuality. The and the day, they started work on the Super— deserved its ranking as the nonpareil United States made thousands of the measurement of the cross sections shot in nuclear testing. Although the them. China has some in its nuclear of thermonuclear fuel by Jim Tuck, scientists were involved full time in arsenal. So has the United Kingdom. the calculations of the equation of the details of the test, in the shadowy Nature had provided generous mar- state and radiative transfer opacities recesses of their brains, waiting to be gins in the properties of radiation flow by Harris Mayer, the development of brought to full consciousness, were all and nuclear reactions that made this computer codes by Marshall the physics and components of the complex concoction challenging and Rosenbluth, Art Carson, and hydrogen bomb. The daunting diffi- intriguing but, ultimately, not exces- and Cerda Evans, while overall, Teller culties of the Super concept could be sively difficult to master. Teller, Ulam, was dreaming, thinking, analyzing, avoided by a new approach. Not obvi- Sakarov, or some unknown inspiring the other scientists, and yes, ously suggested by the planning for researchers in other countries—that is educating, persuading, the administra- the George test, that approach no longer important. All these men tion of the Lab and the powers in required a new synthesis of all its ele- were talented, creative, worthy of Washington to advance the cause of ments. Consciously, the scientists respect, even if afflicted by some the Super. On the action level, he worked in the usual combination of modicum of “Fame . . . that last infir- drafted Enrico Fermi and Johnny von inspired conception followed by criti- mity of noble mind.” At this late date, Neuman to engage in the concepts cal analysis—sometimes with both the distribution of fame or blame is and the calculations, and he had Stan going on almost simultaneously within adiversion from the stark reality. We Ulam with his dedicated helper and one mind. When both aspects clicked now have the knowledge of the hydro- tireless worker Cornelius Everett to together, then an idea was born. gen bomb. Long ago, humanity took carry them out. However, contrary to Consciously, the scientists did not pro- upon itself the knowledge of good and her transparency in the case of fission ceed by considering a logical exten- evil. What good and evil will we weapons, nature was more complex sion of the elements of George or the make of this? and subtle with the Super concept. principles of its action. They thought She was not prepared to give up its they were considering the problem secrets readily. Our understanding of anew. But in their subconscious, all The George Shot the processes involved, our techniques the elements were there for the view- and tools for diagnosing the device ing; just the new synthesis had to be The nonpareil thermonuclear shot, were not adequate for the job. Will it, made. How very clever of the human wittingly and unwittingly testing won’t it, will it work? Our results mind to uncover the obvious when it many principles of thermonuclear were discouraging. was not obvious! weapon design for the first time, was Progress by grand concepts and This new idea transformed the con- code-named George. It was one of giant steps was stalled. It was time to cept of the Super into the beautifully four shots in the Greenhouse make haste slowly. Consequently, it workable hydrogen bomb. Remarkably Operation of April 1951 on the small was decided to place a small mass of complex, and devilishly interesting island Eleleron of Enewetak Atoll. thermonuclear fuel adjacent to a very was this new concept—and capable of George was a Teller initiative, with large yield fission bomb. Such a small great flexibility in applications. It led ideas and sweat contributed from all mass would not give enough energy to to the felicitous design of a consider- over the Laboratory. It was a test of ignite the Super, but it would demon- able variety of thermonuclear the principle of a thermonuclear reac- strate at least that some external ther- weapons. A transparently workable tion, but it was not, by any means,

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designed as a complete thermonuclear Defense; Mike May, future director of entire setup before the shot. bomb. A fission bomb provided the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory In this experiment the really impor- energy to start the burn reaction in (known as Lawrence Livermore tant problem was protecting the plate a small mass of thermonuclear fuel. National Laboratory since 1979); from the blast and shielding it from But to examine the reaction in detail, Robert Jastrow, Chief Scientist at the gamma rays of the fallout. Heavy it was necessary to separate the fuel NASA, Goddard; Hugh Bradner, concrete shutters, released by explo- from the fission bomb. Therefore, the undersea photographer and underwater sive bolts fired synchronously with design tested had a separate implosion equipment designer par excellence; and the detonation of the bomb, fell by fission bomb with a hefty yield of Bill Grassberger, who had a long, fruit- gravity to tightly seal the detector. about 225 kilotons. Energy from the ful career at Livermore as a radiative The concrete walls were sufficient bomb would ignite the fuel. The test transport expert. Under York’s leader- shielding to attenuate the late-time device was placed atop a sturdy 200- ship, the team members worked with gamma rays from fallout. foot-high tower. Many different the enthusiasm of youth and the luck The George shot on Eleleron Isle, instruments were arranged with of the blessed. On shot night, they had viewed from Parry Island base a clear view of the external mass in an unexplained slow leak in their vacu- 15 miles away, was a terrifying sight. order to diagnose its performance. um pipe—no way to treat it. If it con- The fireball flashed, the cloud formed Two experimental stations were at tinued, the experiment was lost. In the and rose, the characteristic mushroom the base of the tower. One, belonging dead of night, miraculously, the leak shape developed—and rose and rose. to the University of California group stopped. At shot final countdown, the One’s head tilted up and up to follow under Herb York, was to measure the experiment was a “Go!” it, the angle of view increasing. The thermal x-rays from the hot fuel mass. Herb York’s group later became the radial expansion of the cloud and the The other station housed the electron- nucleus of the new Lawrence distortion of perspective made it ics for the Naval Research Laboratory Livermore Laboratory, the second appear that the top of the cloud was (NRL) experiments measuring the weapons laboratory of the United marching with increasing velocity time dependence of the neutrons pro- States. toward us at Parry Island, menacing duced in the thermonuclear fuel. That the puny viewers. Shivers of latent group was headed by Ernst Krause. The 14-MeV Neutrons. The feral fear crept along their spines. The Their aims were the same, diagnosing experiments to measure the total great yield of the fission bomb had the thermonuclear reaction, but the number of thermonuclear neutrons surely been achieved, but what of the ethos of the two groups could not from the external mass of the thermonuclear fuel? have been more different. Greenhouse George shot were A quick water-taxi ride to the shot The NRL group under Ernie straightforward in concept, massive in island. The recovery crew disem- Krause was a well-practiced machine; practice. Louis Rosen’s especially barked on a devastated wasteland: just the men had worked together for designed detectors consisted of coral sand left, the shot tower gone, many years. Krause was careful, nuclear-emulsion plates mounted in and a crater in the coral rock left meticulous, well organized, a hard a massive concrete collimator aimed instead. The recovery crew had to worker himself, and a hard driver of at the fuel mass. Emitted 14-million- wait for clearance from the radiation- his men. Here was a team that knew electron-volt (MeV) neutrons passing safety monitors before going in to by prior experience how to get the job through the collimator would cause recover the precious plates. They had done. On shot day, they were ready, recoil upon elastic scattering made a quick aerial survey of the radi- their station buttoned up. from the hydrogen atoms in the emul- ation levels and plotted a reasonable The University of California group sion of the plate. The ionized track of approach path. The levels were vari- under Herb York was a newly gathered the protons would be revealed when able, hot spots here and there, most assortment of smart, eager young men the plate was developed. The tracks not really dangerous but not trivial. in their first field experience, many could be measured and counted under There was caution in choosing a path later to become stars in their own right. a microscope. The collimator would among the hot spots, where dose rates Besides York, who became head of the not see the much more numerous fis- reached 100 rad per hour. The crew Advanced Research Projects Office in sion neutrons from the multikiloton was in no danger of getting a lethal the Department of Defense and later energy yield of the fission bomb dose; 500 rad was the so-called LD50, Chancellor of the University of itself. A strong 14-MeV neutron meaning a 50 percent chance of dying California at San Diego, there was source placed on the tower at the fuel as a result of exposure. The real fear Harold Brown, a future Secretary of location was used for calibrating the was that one would accumulate the

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maximum permissible dose of 3 rad wilder, deuces and treys wild, then port to the new concept of the ther- for the whole operation. That meant eights and jacks added—no one of monuclear weapon. The immediate a quick ticket home. the group knew the odds of the per- importance of George was the proven To keep within safe limits, one missible fantastic combinations—and performance of the sophisticated diag- needed a good entry and return path do five aces top a royal flush any- nostic tools used. Those instruments and a quick recovery at the detectors. way? Yes. An hour and a quarter later, would be available for the diagnoses When Louis Rosen and his recovery Rosen got up from his microscope, of future, much more complex, crew got to the massive concrete neu- stretched, and said simply, “We got weapon designs. tron cameras, they saw that the cover- them.” The careful scientist and the The sun-tanned crew from the ing, protective layer of sand had been unforgivable miscreant had been Pacific test range returned to a blown away by the blast. The great counting and measuring proton recoil Laboratory that was about to be dra- hunks of concrete had been tilted—of tracks from the 14-MeV neutrons, matically changed by the new ther- course, alignment now was irrelevant, hundreds of them, for the whole time. monuclear weapon concept. Los but were the camera films all right? Alamos was now committed to devel- The opening of the concrete block oping a concrete realization of the cameras to extract the film was not concept and testing it at the Pacific going as it had been in the dry runs. proving grounds. Louis was working hard, but he was Consider this recipe for disaster unhurried even in that radioactive facing the Laboratory and discern how environment. The plates came out such a startling accomplishment could intact. have come from it: A new technical With the precious nuclear-emul- idea proposed in March 1951 to be sion plates safely stowed in shielded tested in only 19 months; the two recovery packets, the group took leaders of the new program, Edward a quick trip by water taxi back to Teller and Marshall Hollaway, who base camp on Parry Island. Strangely, cannot get along with each other; a the time on the return trip passed Louis Rosen Laboratory director, Norris Bradbury, much more quickly than on the who cannot make them cooperate and approach. Then, Louis Rosen went regretfully but decisively chooses into the darkroom to develop the He had folded in the proper calibra- Hollaway as project leader, causing plates. After a wait that seemed tion, done a statistical analysis, and Teller to resign; engineers under longer than it really was, he came out gathered the data in good shape. Yes, Hollaway who need to freeze the and placed a nuclear-emulsion plate that small external mass was one hot design in order to meet the test date; under his microscope. The T-Division thermonuclear source. No question, theorists, no longer the wartime stars, contingent that had gathered to hear thermonuclear fusion was incontro- trying first to understand the applica- the results was waiting anxiously for vertibly demonstrated. ble principles of the design to find the his reaction. If the burn was a suc- appropriate one and unable to come cess, they thought it would be obvi- up with a final design. What organiza- ous, and Louis would say so in Mike—The New Hydrogen tion could complete the task on time? a minute or so. But Louis, face Bomb An organization conceived in the expressionless, said nothing at all. value of each individual scientist, Not to disturb him, they started up The scientists returned from the banded together as coworkers, friends, agame of poker, Carson Mark, Frank bearing rich neighbors, in an enterprise of national Hoyt, , and treasures of experimental results. The significance, with a tradition and a Harris Mayer, with Rod Spence and Booster device, also tested in the will to succeed—that was the Los from the radiochem- Greenhouse Operation, worked well. Alamos Scientific Laboratory of the istry group and Bill Ogle, deputy sci- The ignition of the small fuel mass in 1950s. entific test director. As the minutes the George shot demonstrated a ther- Out on the Pacific test range on the passed with no signal from Louis, monuclear burn and supplemented the island of Elugelab at the north end of they thought in despair that he was understanding achieved in the Enewetak Atoll, the Mike device was anxiously seeking for a few, even Booster. However, the success of set up. No tower for this 60-ton mon- one, true neutron track. The game got George gave only vague moral sup- ster—it stood upright on the coral

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sand. A bewildering array of experi- Why did Los Alamos leap so mental equipment was placed on quickly into the development of the Elugelab and other islands up to new hydrogen bomb? First, there was 25 kilometers away to diagnose the the scientific knowledge of its shot. Ernie Krause’s crew, veterans of inevitability. The concept in the Greenhouse George shot, were Oppenheimer’s word was “sweet.” there but with much more elaborate That concept indeed was “Nature’s experimental equipment this time. sweet and cunning hand laid on” After the preparations on the islands (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night). But had been completed and the northern Oppie, in his years of government end of the atoll evacuated, the center of committee work since Trinity, had activity shifted to the command ship, learned the wisdom of the laconic, the Estes, stationed 50 kilometers south short, and sweet. “Sweet” was his of the detonation point, presumably a appropriate appraisal. He knew this safe distance. From the ship, the firing idea for a signal was sent by trans- would work. No longer was this con- mission to Mike, the deserted monu- The Mike device is pictured just before cept of the bomb a distant hope like ment to destruction. it demonstrates the new thermonuclear the classical Super. At 7:00 a.m. on November 1, 1952, concept. This was pregnant reality. For bet- Mike exploded with a 10-megaton terminated a war. Immediately after ter or for worse, we had to fully under- yield. The island of Elugelab van- the war, the Air Force generals— stand this unborn thing. Surely too, the ished. A crater 1 kilometer in radius familiar with bombing missions of Soviets would know about it, and we and 50 meters deep had been blown in hundreds of , each carrying had to understand what it would mean the coral rock; a fraction of the miss- about 10 tons of high-explosive to them. The wisdom of the wide ing material had been vaporized or bombs, a total of only a few kilo- deployment as a weapons system shattered into dust, which was carried tons—regarded the fission bomb as could not be determined without an up in the to pierce the proper successor to the mass understanding of the characteristics of the tropopause, high though it is in the bomber raid. They had no experience the hydrogen bomb. It had the poten- tropics. At about 15 kilometers alti- with larger yields, and in that mind- tial of increasing the yield of nuclear tude, the cloud entering the stable set, they had no requirements for weapons a hundredfold. At that time, stratosphere was forced to spread out, them. Furthermore, because of secre- the Lab was spending much effort in forming a flat pancake, instead of the cy, they had no knowledge base to improving the fission weapons by rounded top of the mushrooms from understand that much higher yields what was considered great steps: up to the smaller explosions of fission were possible even with the infant fis- a factor of 2. The near perspective was bombs. The stratospheric circulation sion weapon technology. shadowed over by the great looming would carry the radioactive cloud During the 1946–1950 period, the shape of the future. around the entire Northern military were not involved in the When only the classical Super was Hemisphere. Once again, as it had workings of the Laboratory; they the thermonuclear weapon candidate, done at Trinity with the fission bomb, placed no requirements on the bomb Oppenheimer and Bethe particularly, the Lab succeeded spectacularly with yield because they had no vision of its but most of the other scientists as the hydrogen bomb. The Mike shot of utility. They wanted as many bombs well, had an easy decision. There was went off only one year as needed to load their aircraft. Their in their view an abhorrence of the and seven months after the George interest was in packaging and saving weapon they had created. Strongly, explosion. scarce fissile material. When they held the position that the Super approached with questions about was an immoral weapon that should Reaction to the Hydrogen Bomb. bomb yields, they said 20 kilotons is not be developed. Since the probabili- Why was there interest among the fine, no need for more. But once the ty that the Super could be made was military and the Los Alamos scien- military were given the confidence low because of the great technological tists in a weapon that would produce that megaton yields would be avail- problems, they could reinforce the a yield of 1, 10, or even 100 mega- able easily, they quickly changed their moral position by the pragmatic one. tons? The Trinity bomb was 20 kilo- views about requirements. Now it was Because the scarce commodity was tons in yield; it obliterated a city and “no yield too high.” scientific talent, why waste that on the

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Super, which had only a slight chance nuclear arsenal. By the time of the years have proved the worth of such an of success and was unnecessary and next test series—Castle, in 1954— institution, more efficient than a gov- immoral to boot? several versions were available and ernment arsenal, more creative for the But the new hydrogen bomb were tested. Smaller, lighter, cheaper, commonweal than profit-oriented changed the conditions of the argu- more readily maintained in the field, industry, and more focused on national ment. Now, Oppie and Bethe and Rabi, new weapons appeared in the stock- needs than academic institutions. That with the scientific knowledge that they pile. However, the strategic require- being the present, what of the future? had, knew very well that nature would ments began to change as interconti- In the next quarter century as never readily serve up the hydrogen bomb, nental missiles came into the force, before, the riches of our planet may be leaving it to humankind to feast upon complementing the great bombers. spread out before us. We may waste and digest. Now, morality must face up Since multimegaton yields were no them, or we may use them wisely. to reality, not to a remote possibility, longer optimum, the national laborato- Perhaps, unforeseen events may fore- as was the Super. ries developed submegaton weapons close our choices. Nevertheless, at Los in a surprising variety of designs. The Alamos National Laboratory, we have Mike’s Role in Nuclear Weapons heritage of Mike had to be greatly the opportunity to use science and tech- Development. Mike was designed modified. As a result, a healthy com- nology for the benefit of humankind. In with all the features of the new concept petition between Los Alamos and that use, we may hope that wisdom for the hydrogen bomb. As such, it was Livermore arose, both laboratories will prevail in our society. an integral demonstration of a practical contributing to the new stockpile. weapon, even though it was much too heavy to be carried by aircraft. Harris Mayer joined the Manhattan Project at However, it was fielded as an experi- Afterword Columbia University shortly after . Initially, he was with a small theoreti- ment liberally instrumented to test spe- cal group acting as staff for professor Harold cific features of the design and to learn An unusual circumstance, the Urey, the Director of the SAM Laboratory at about the behavior of the weapon if the wartime years. Los Alamos Laboratory the University. His association with the Los yield was not as planned. was born for a single mission: Make Alamos Laboratory began in June 1944, when Edward Teller organized a group under Maria Fortunately, since the behavior was the fission weapon and make it in time Mayer at Columbia to do opacity calculations actually as planned, those measure- to defeat . The legal for him. Both the opacity work and Harris ments confirmed the methods used in framework, a contract with the have been connected with the Lab ever since. several detailed features of the design, University of California to operate the After the war, Teller adopted Harris as his graduate student at the University of Chicago validating the methods for future appli- Laboratory, was merely a convenience. to give him his doctorate for the opacity work. cations in variations of the specific The University was a pass-through for That degree was part of the University’s dona- Mike configuration. Therefore, suffi- funds, nothing more. In fact, the Army tion to the war effort. Between 1947 and 1956, Harris was a group leader in the Theoretical cient information was collected to through General Groves and his Division (T Division). Thereafter, he broad- allow the modifications required to appointed deputies ran the Laboratory ened his perspective by a stint in private indus- reduce mass and even size so that a in every detail. But there was wisdom try—4 years at the Institute for Defense weaponized version could be made beyond intent in this arrangement. An Analyses in the Washington, D.C., environ- ment and 14 years at the Aerospace with confidence. The test also verified entirely new entity was created, a Corporation in Los Angeles—all the while the procedure used in the design— national laboratory, that in the ensuing retaining close contact with the Lab as a con- understanding of the physics, idealiza- years developed into an essential com- sultant. From 1983 onward, he has spent the major part of his time at the Laboratory, work- tion of the physics into models for the ponent of the body politic and the ing with T Division and the Applied Physics computer, and further idealizing the national economy. The legal conven- Division. He now lives in a beautiful home on actual configuration to one that could ience now supported a powerful reality. Barranca Mesa, in Los Alamos. be calculated with new computer codes We, the staff of the Los Alamos on the supercomputers then available at National Laboratory, essentially work the Laboratory. for the U.S. government, but we are Mike was designed as a test of fea- not part of it. Because of our unique sibility, not as a fieldable nuclear legal structure, we can help our gov- weapon. But its success, a 10-megaton ernment objectively, we can provide yield in line with projections, clearly our results to industry impartially, and meant that the thermonuclear weapon we relate to academia as partners would take its place in the U.S. philosophically and intellectually. The

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