With North Korea in the news, we thought this would be an interesting article to post online…In the current issue of MAKE we have an article by George Dyson called “Strange Love: or, how they learned to start worrying and love to hate the bomb.” Here’s a link to the article on MAKE and the full PDF (you’ll get this automatically if you added us on iTunes)… – “Physicists love explosions. We owe our nuclear predicament to a quirk of human nature: designing, making, and testing nuclear explosives can be fun. “The sin of the physicists at Los Alamos did not lie in their having built a lethal weapon,” physicist Freeman Dyson (my father) has explained. “They did not just build the bomb. They enjoyed building it. They had the best time of their lives building it. That, I believe, is what Oppenheimer had in mind when he said that they had sinned.” Eight years ago, I began interviewing retired (and semi-retired) nuclear weaponeers who had worked on Project Orion — the technically promising but politically unacceptable effort, begun in 1957, to build an interplanetary spaceship propelled by nuclear bombs. The project’s leader, physicist Theodore B. Taylor (1925-2004), exemplified the conflict between love of explosions and fear of the results.
“I was given a chemistry set when I was 7 or 8 and that rapidly turned into a laboratory for making explosives, with one restriction set down by my mother: never, never under any circumstances was I allowed to make nitroglycerine,” said Taylor. “So I didn’t.” He experimented with more explosive and less stable alternatives instead. “I was fascinated by explosions. I still am. Without any attraction to the damage. I hated to just fiddle around. I wanted to go to extremes.”
Taylor promised his mother, in the aftermath of Hiroshima, that he would never work on nuclear weapons, but the temptation proved impossible to resist. After an unsuccessful first attempt at a Ph.D., Taylor with his wife, Caro, and four-month-old Clare, drove their 1941 Buick to Los Alamos from Berkeley in November of 1949. “Within 24 hours of our arrival at Los Alamos, I was deeply immersed in the nuclear weapons program. Within a week, I was hooked on understanding what went on at these enormously high energy densities, clear off any human scale.”
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