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Sunday, July 16, 2017

On July 16, 1945 the atomic age began with the Trinity nuclear test

I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

~ J. Robert Oppenheimer* (wiki) (quoting from the Bhagavad-Gita** on witnessing the first atomic explosion, 16 July 1945)

The spherical symmetry about a point approximately
 100 feet above the ground is the height of the test tower
In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.

~ Oppenheimer ("Physics in the Contemporary World," lecture at M.I.T., 25 November 1947)

We have had our last chance. If we do not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.

~ General Douglas MacArthur (wiki) (speech, 2 September 1945)

The assembled Gadget (what scientists were calling the bomb)
 atop the test tower
There are no accidents, only nature throwing her weight around. Even the bomb merely releases energy that nature has put there. Nuclear war would be just a spark in the grandeur of space. Nor can radiation "alter" nature; she will absorb it all. After the bomb, nature will pick up the cards we have spilled, shuffle them, and begin her game again.

~ Camille Paglia (b. 1947) (Sexual Personae, Ch. 1)

It was on this date in 1945 that, for good or ill, the "nuclear age" began, with the explosion of the first experimental atomic bomb, code-named Trinity (wiki), in the western desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Trinity, with a yield equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, was the first spherical implosion bomb, developed at Los Alamos under the auspices of the Manhattan Project during World War II.

The weapon designers were so confident of the success of the simpler gun-barrel configuration that the device of that type dropped on Hiroshima only three weeks later had never been tested. The subsequent Nagasaki bomb (dropped on 9 August) was of the Trinity type. In light of today's on-going nuclear proliferation, American songwriter/satirist Tom Lehrer had already nailed it in his 1960s-era song, "Who's Next?":



Trinity, the first atomic explosion, 16 July 1945:


* N.B. Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was the controversial New York-born physicist who directed the Manhattan Project laboratory in Los Alamos that ultimately designed the first atomic bombs. Later suspected of being a security risk, at least partly for his opposition to developing the hydrogen bomb, he was suspended from his position at the Atomic Energy Commission in 1953.

Trinitite, also known as Alamogordo glass, is the glassy
 residue left on the desert floor after the Trinity
 nuclear bomb test melted the sand into glass.
** The Bhagavad-Gita ("The Song of the Lord") is one of the great poems of Hindu scripture, composed in Sanskrit circa A.D. 100.

Related:


Fan of mushroom clouds? Dozens of nuclear test videos declassified, uploaded to YouTube.



The text above is adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

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