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2015
August 2015
 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 Fold3.com.
Meditations
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.
Visions
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?
Visions
The Soviet space dogs were more than just adorable mutts — but they were those, too.
12The arming plugs of the Little Boy bomb.
Meditations
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/
Meditations
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.
Redactions
Along with almost getting hit by a car, he made important contributions to the atomic bomb's design.
April 2015
10The progress of a successful reaction using an imploded reflector. The little yellow parts are a "splitting atom" animation which is disabled by default (because it decreases performance). Note that I am aware that my simulation neglects any effects caused by fission products! They would just be too much of a degradation to performance.
Visions
The problem with thinking about the "critical mass" as a fixed quantity, and a new visualization to aid in thinking about it in a better way.
March 2015
27Ken Ford by Mark Makela for the New York Times.
News and Notes | Redactions
The US government has once again created a headache for itself in trying to censor information about the hydrogen bomb.
 6Trinity test fireballs, to scale.
Redactions
In 1945, some scientists thought we should "demonstrate" the bomb to Japan before dropping it on a city. Others disagreed. Who was right?
February 2015
13Excerpt from a guide produced by the Oak Ridge Safety program.
Redactions
The details of the two dozen Manhattan Project deaths at Los Alamos reveal much about the work of building the bomb, and the people who did it.
January 2015
30At left, the floorplan of the planned Enola Gay exhibition; at right, the actual exhibition that aired: the retreat of the political into the refuge of the technical. From Richard H. Krohn, "History and the Culture Wars: The Case of the Smithsonian Institute's Enola Gay Exhibition," Journal of American History 82, no. 3 (1995), 1036-1063.
Visions
Why creating a "Manhattan Project National Park" is an important and necessary step to preserve the past.
16Oppenheimer_Unredacted_Part2
 9Oppenheimer photo courtesy of the of the Emilio Segrè Visual Archive; photo of the hearing transcript by Alex Wellerstein.
Redactions
In October 2014, the lost Oppenheimer security hearing transcripts were released. This is the story behind the story.
 7The Sunday Times (UK) version of the "bunker" story.
Meditations
Was a "Nazi nuclear bunker" recently discovered? Almost certainly not — but that hasn't stopped the story from being passed around.
 2Espionage Act secrecy stamp (photograph by Alex Wellerstein)
Redactions
The year in nuclear historical scholarship.
2014
December 2014
15Stimpy button
Visions
Is there a big red button that can launch nuclear war? No — but thinking about why there isn't is a nice way into the complexities of command and control issues.
 1Licorne nuclear test
Visions
There are thousands of photographs of mushroom clouds — so why do we always see the same ones?
November 2014
14Unmaking the Bomb model
Visions
Experiments in representing the atomic bomb and the substances that fuel it.
10Louis Slotin and Herb Lehr at the assembly of the Trinity "Gadget." Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory Archives, photo TR-229.
Redactions
The Trinity and Fat Man atomic bombs were powered primarily by plutonium — but not exclusively.
October 2014
17Mugshots of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Source: Library of Congress.
Meditations
Can one empathize with the spies who never confess?
16Wellerstein - Laser fusion talk
News and Notes
A public lecture on how laser fusion came to be, and the unique classification problems it posed for the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1960s and 1970s.
September 2014
26Sollinger's IAEA emblem
Visions
The impressive ugliness that almost became the emblem of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
22This map gives a rough indication of the methodology used to construct the casualty estimates for a Little Boy bomb targeted on World War II Tokyo. Percentages are expected average fatality rates. The actual method used (see below) used many more gradations of difference. One can see, though, the way in which the most intense of the effects of the atomic bomb are highly localized relative to the total size of Tokyo.
Meditations
How many people would have died if an atomic bomb had been dropped on Tokyo in early 1945, instead of firebombs? And why does it matter?
 5Manhattan District History - Book 2 - Vol 5 - cover
Redactions
When the head of the Manhattan Project had questions about the history of the atomic bomb, he had a special, secret place to look for answers.
August 2014
22Yahata/Yawata target map, March 1945. Kokura arsenal is visible to the east. Source: JapanAirRaids.org. Click here for the uncropped, unadjusted version.
Meditations
The original target for the second atomic bomb was Kokura, not Nagasaki. Why was Kokura spared? Three theories are considered.
 8Target map of Kyoto, June 1945, with atomic bomb aiming point indicated. This image is a composite of eight separate microfilm images from two maps (Kyoto North and Kyoto South) that I stitched together in Photoshop.
Redactions
Did Truman fundamentally misunderstand the atomic bomb because of a debate over its use?
July 2014
25How much of tactical nuclear weapons was just swagger? Above, the Davy Crockett weapons system, in full-swagger mode.
Redactions
Would the bomb have won the war? A JASON report on the question from 1967 explores the limits of tactical nuclear weapons.
14Wheeler-H-bomb-ACP
News and Notes
There's never a right time to lose a secret H-bomb document. But for John Archibald, there might not have been a worse time than early January 1953.
11Feynman smear
Redactions
Richard Feynman's FBI file contains one very pointed, personal, anonymous attack. But can we figure out who wrote it from the context?
June 2014
27A postwar re-creation of the genesis of the Einstein-Szilard letter.
Meditations
How important was Albert Einstein's work or personal intervention to the making of the atomic bomb? Not as important as most people think.
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