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May 2016
27What Presidents Talk About When the Talk About Hiroshima - Screenshot
Some thoughts about the first sitting President to have visited Hiroshima.
23The hands of Louis Slotin, shortly after admission to the Los Alamos hospital. Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory, via the New York Public Library (Paul Mullin papers on the Louis Slotin Sonata).
Digging into the unusual death of Louis Slotin and the fate of the bomb core that killed him.
 9Screenshot of my interactive viewer for the nuclear war plan. Click to view.
Taking a close look at the targets and consequences of a declassified US nuclear war plan.
April 2016
22warhead silhouettes - thermonuclears - big
What do the shapes of nuclear weapons reveal, and what do they hide?
 8"But will it work?" With enough money thrown at the problem, the answer is yes, according to Los Alamos. Source: National Security Science (April 2013).
Inventing the bomb was hard. Maintaining the bomb was harder.
March 2016
18I forget what provoked this response, but I couldn't not include it here.
If you could talk about secrecy with the former head of the CIA and the NSA, what would you say?
February 2016
26Michael Frayn's Copenhagen
What does Frayn's famous play get wrong, and what does it get right?
12Solzhenitsyn's Gulag mugshot from 1953. Source: Gulag Archipelago, scanned version from
How did the first history of the atomic bomb end up in a Soviet Gulag prison?
 5The hands of the censor: Charles L. Marshall, Director of Classification, declassifying a document as part of the Atomic Energy Commission's 1971-1976 "declassification drive." Source: Nuclear Testing Archive. Click for the uncropped version.
The year in historical nuclear scholarship. 
January 2016
 9New Yorker - An H-bomb by Any Other Name
News and Notes
Brief thoughts on the recent North Korean "H-bomb" test.
December 2015
11Tatlock text
 4Ted Hall's Los Alamos badge photograph — teenage angst, Soviet mole.
What caused the atomic spies of Los Alamos to do what they did? Somewhere in the zone between ideology and ego, monsters live.
November 2015
27Met Lab chemist Moddy Taylor (photo from 1960) — not the "typical" image of a Manhattan Project scientist. Source:  Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History.
What does an atomic bomb scientist look like? Not just white men.
20Los Alamos scientists keep their distance from a 1,000 ci radiation source used in the RaLa experiments.
Reading about the various radiation hazards in the Manhattan Project's history can be spine-tingling, even with a measured view of the dangers.
13Haigerloch nuclear reactor replica
At what point did the Manhattan Project scientists and administrators realize they weren't in a race with Nazi Germany after all?
 6A young J. Robert Oppenheimer. Source: Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.
The popular version of Oppenheimer at Los Alamos is one of infinite competence, confidence, and charm. The reality is far more complex.
October 2015
30William Laurence (left) and J. Robert Oppenheimer at the Trinity Site in September 1945, as part of a “press safari” to the ruins of the first atomic test. I find the contrasts in their physiognomical contrast fascinating. Source: Google LIFE images.
One of the most unusual, curious, and controversial members of the Manhattan Project was their in-house newspaperman from the New York Times.
23Szilard’s folder from the Manhattan Engineer District files.
How far would Manhattan Project security go to deal with a problematic genius?
13Posing with the Gadget, in the middle of a desert.
Some notes on doing historical consulting for the period-piece, neo-noir drama, "Manhattan."
 9Target map of Niigata, from General Groves' files, summer of 1945.
Niigata was one of the possible targets for atomic attack in 1945. Why was it spared? And why don't we ever talk about it?
September 2015
 8Richard G. Hewlett, posing in 1958 with the Bush-Conant document collection.
News and Notes
Richard Hewlett, the first official historian of the Atomic Energy Commission, has died at the age of 92.
 4The intense Ernest Lawrence. Credit: Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.
Did "Big Science" pioneer Ernest Lawrence believe that Japan should have been warned before Hiroshima?
August 2015
21Detail from a damage map of Nagasaki, produced by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, 1946. I have the original of this in my possession. I find this particular piece of the map quite valuable to examine up close — one gets a sense of the nature of the area around "Ground Zero" very acutely when examining it. There were war plants to the north and south of the detonation point, but mostly the labeled structures are explicitly, painfully civilian (schools, hospitals, prisons). Click to enlarge.
Seven decades later, how do we talk about the atomic bombs?
 7New Yorker - Nagasaki - The Last Bomb
 3Unusual photograph of the late cloud of Hiroshima, as seen from the air. This was probably taken by aircraft that arrived several hours after the bombing to do damage reconnaissance; they reported the target was obscured by huge amounts of smoke. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, via
Considering a few of the options that were on the table in 1945.
July 2015
17The late stages of the Trinity cloud as viewed from many miles distant, as it becomes a shifting, twisting column of radioactive dust. Obtained from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
What does the Trinity test signify, in the broad sweep of human history?
June 2015
26A Soviet matchbox with a heroic Laika, the first dog in space. Caption: "First satellite passenger — the dog, Laika." Want it on a shirt, or a really wonderful mug?
The Soviet space dogs were more than just adorable mutts — but they were those, too.
12The arming plugs of the Little Boy bomb.
What remains of the Manhattan Project? A lot of documents. Some people. A few places. And a handful of artifacts.
May 2015
29Several of the still-living Manhattan Project veterans/
Historians sometimes need a reminder that places and people, not just documents, make up the past.
11Bohr and General Groves' personal technical advisor, Richard Tolman, attending the opening of the Bicentennial Conference on "The Future of Nuclear Science," circa 1947. Source: Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Niels Bohr Library, American Institute of Physics.
Along with almost getting hit by a car, he made important contributions to the atomic bomb's design.
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