A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
I am certain that in all of the posts I've made in this blog that I've never considered atomic explosion tourism--vintage, semi-antique, see it-while-it-happened tourism. I'm not talking about going out to the Jounada del Muerto to see Trinity, or taking a bus to Chernobyl, or checking out the sites ad the corner of Trinity and Oppenheimer, as we would now--but witnessing an actual explosion, then. And there were plenty of opportunities to witness one, especially if you were in Vegas,and more so if you took the trouble to disrupt your activities to search for the mushroom cloud rising 5 miles away.
And in the case of the leaflet below, you could take a bus for three bucks and have a clearer view of the detonation.
Just be sure to remember your tie.
[Source: Nevada Public radio, KPNR--see here for a few more examples.]
[In which me meet exceptional coverage of a mammoth day-old event and what must be the first map of NYC under atomic attack.]
The news coverage of the 6 August 1945 bombing of Hiroshima was covered in spectacular (all things and time considered) detail in the 7 August issue of the daily newspaper, PM.1The entire issue of 12 pages (with no advertisement2) was dedicated to the event—I have no idea, really, how they were able to put together this amount of good tough data so very quickly, nimbly and intelligently, as the bomb was detonated at Hiroshima only the day before.
This item is available for purchase via the blog's bookstore, here.
It is odd how well the case is covered, and it is positively issued on the day after --it isn't the case that it was issued for the week of 7 August and released on 13 August, which I thought was a possibility of explaining the deep coverage. But there's no mention of Nagasaki (which would come in two days), so I am certain that the coverage was all accomplished within 24 hours of the use of the weapon. The newspaper distinguishes itself by not screaming something about the “Jap city” being wiped out (as so many other newspapers did), with its front page summarizing beyond the bomb.(“It Will End all War—Or all Men” and “It Will Revolutionize Human Life” as sub-heads; the first being accurate, while the second being nearly so.)
The editorial, “Thank God its OUR Bomb”, by Irving Brant, is a lovely piece of thoughtful interpretation in the opening moments of the nuclear age. He writes: “America must join and lead in a worldwide renunciation of this worldwide renunciation and prevention of war”,and “What will happen to industry, to society, when the power of all the coal mined in a year is compressed into an exploding fistful of atoms?” And further:“There is no escape.The split atom may shatter humanity, but not before then will it retreat into the physical void from which it came.The dust of creation is in our hands.We must master it.” Not bad stuff for having a few hours or so to think this through.
The other articles included “Bombs and Sabotage Stopped Nazi Experiment with Heavy Water”, “New Atomic Era Could Revolutionize Mankind’s Whole Manner of Life/Power Harnessed for Destruction Has Limitless Constructive Possibilities”, big two-page story “Stimson Reveals How Work on Bomb Was Organized”, “Bomb’s Death Range Believed to be 4 Miles”, “Four Scientists who Will Plan Postwar Uses of Atomic Energy”, “Harnessing of Atomic Power research Strengthens US Research”, “If a Piece of the Sun Were Placed on Earth”, “End Not Yet Truman Tells the Japanese”, and another 12 articles.
There’s another baffling article “Steel Tower Vaporized in First Test”, discussing the shot at Alamagordo—it must have been the case that there was an enormous amount of material divulged by the government in the hours after the explosion at Hiroshima .The work at Columbia is also chronicled, as is the personal life of the man in control, General Leslie Grove (and how completely in the dark his wife was, and so on).
One of the most interesting objects to me though is the small graphic on page 7 which shows what effect the Hiroshima atomic bomb would have if dropped on New York City—it was no doubt gigantically sobering to anyone who looked at it, and brought the power of the bomb and its destruction to a common, understandable point. I'm not an historian of the first newspaper coverage of the bomb, but it strikes me that this may well be the first graphic to depict the effects of an atomic bomb exploded over NYC.
In any event, the overall coverage of the event was stunning given the short amount of time to do the research, writing, and publication. Truly a great effort.
1. PM (1940-1948) was a left-wing newspaper funded by Marshall Field III, and was home to excellent reporting. See here for more details. Among the staff writers was I.F.Stone and staff photographers Margaret Bourke-White. Other contributors included Heywood Hale Broun; James Thurber; (the great) Dorothy Parker; Ernest Hemingway; Eugene Lyons; Ben Stolberg; Malcolm Cowley; Tip O'Neill;and Ben Hecht.
2. Actually, NO issue of PM had advertisements--it was entirely ad-free. (And even so it still came close to making money after 8 years.)
PM's stated mission:
PM is against people who push other people around. PM accepts no advertising. PM belongs to no political party. PM is absolutely free and uncensored. PM's sole source of income is its readers--to whom it alone is responsible.PM us one newspaper that can and dares to tell the truth.
Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was a cartoonist for PM (see here for his War cartoons) as was the great Crockett Johnson.
Perhaps nothing is obvious unless it is established or labeled so; perhaps the obviousness must be stated at least once before it can be officially, recognizably, the case. And perhaps the greater the obviousness is, the more the need to make it officially so. Perhaps nothing is so incredibly obvious that it can be studied and dissected and established.
This seems to be more the case in more recent history than in time more further removed: that millions of dollars can be spent “proving” that children do not like to be separated from their mothers, or that cars will go faster downhill than up, or that people will respond to proper medication better than not, and so on, so on into the night, just seem not to need a vastly-funded proof.
And so the case with nuclear warfare, people, and cities.
In this RAND report from 19561, the great issue seems to be laid to rest, once and for all: the problem with nuclear weapons being exploded in/over cities is that since cities are filled with people, people will be killed. And if those people in the cities are there because of professions that depend on city-settings, then more of those people will be killed than not.
This work is available at our blog bookstore, here.
But what this report was really about was the unfortunate aspect of the impact if nuclear warfare on leadership and working positions in significant and strategic industrial/business/government professions. And what the report finds is this: since the vast majority of these positions are located in cities (defined as 100,000 population and above), and since cities will be the major targets in a nuclear “exchange”, the overwhelming majority of these people will be killed, thus leading to strategic human resource vacancies post-war.
It seems that 95% of aeronautical engineers in the U.S. would be killed in a nuclear war, which I guess would mean that it would be difficult to design new aircraft and such in the post apocalypse world. Of course these people would be killed because it was their industrial base that was being targeted and they were collateral damage, so there wouldn’t be any industrial base to produce the components necessary to build, say, a B-52. That part of the equation is not addressed here, though. Nor is there any sort of recommendation presented to fix the problem.
The RAND document just painfully points out the obvious, once and for all; no one really knew what to do with the information now that it was there, in black and white. Certain people could be evacuated, saved from the maelstrom; but saved for what? There were other evacuation plans that were completely doomed from the beginning, sheltering plans, Dr. Strangelove arrangements, but all of that would come into their pitiful being later on.
First, though, the bitter reality of what everyone already knew--one of the greatest of all obviousnesses–had to be make its appearance in print. And so it did.
1. The Concentration of Essential Personnel in American Cities. Margaret Bright Rowan. The RAND Corporation, May 1956. 72pp. 11x8 inches. RARE. No copies located in WorldCat/OCLC
ATOMIC BOMB. The Concentration of Essential Personnel in American Cities. Margaret Bright Rowan. The RAND Corporation, May 1956. 72pp. 11x8 inches. RARE. No copies located in WorldCat/OCLC $350.00
I've collected a sextet of films I found and posted on twitter at one point or another, collected here and placed on one soft pillow. They all seem to be made in 1950-1952, at the beginning of the Great Red Scare of the 1950's. There was a certain amount of fear and loathing about the USSR and the bomb beginning soon after the U.S. use of it in August 1945, though the Soviets didn't successfully test their first weapon until August 29, 1949 (called "Joe 1" in the United States). There was a slow march to the first air drop (1951) to the development of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb in 1954. There was a constant bombardment of popular culture by atomic threat beginning shortly after 1945, with atomic attacks, atomic super heroes, atomic villains, atomic mutants, atomic super races, and so on, and that all accelerated with Soviet nuclear weapons progress through the early/mid-50's. The films and public announcements below represent an early rush of film media to deal with the possibility of ....Atomic Attack.
Atomic Alert, ("elementary version"), 1951--a Bomb awareness film.
I don't often venture into the comic book world unless I'm looking for something, and in a hunt for atomic bomb references in comics <1955 I stumbled upon a reference to Dr. Lise Meitner. (A good short bio and summary of her work can be found here at the American Nuclear Society.) Seeing great physicists in comic books is evidently not common, as subsequent series of searches seem to indicate. The Meitner (1878-1968) mention in Wonder Woman, though, was pretty interesting. Meitner did get a lot of press coverage when she made her tour of the USA in 1946, which I guess led to the panel. She would have been more famous if she had been properly treated by the Nobel committee when they awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry of 1944 to Otto Hahn for work ("for his discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei") that she and Hahn had carried out jointly for years. But it didn't happen, for various reasons, and she really didn't get an official prize/award of recognition for her work until 1966 when she was given the Enrico Fermi award. She did receive an ultimate honor in 1997 when the chemical element with the atomic number of 109 was named (discovered in 1982) was named "Meitnerium" in her honor--the only non-mythological woman's name to be used in designating a chemical element. And she is featured on a few stamps, but outside the general physics community she sort of languished in obscurity for decades--odd since she was about the most significant woman in the history of 20th century physics.
[Source: found in the blog Shakeville, here.Wonder Woman, 1946.]
"Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: A New Type of Nuclear Reaction", by Lise Meitner and Otto R. Frisch; Nature, 143, 239-240, (Feb. 11, 1939). Full text here via Atomic Archive.
See below for the Meitner/Frisch paper from Nature 1939, and also the footnotes for papers cited (a number of which may be purchased via the blog bookstore id you were so inclined to own documents like this).
There's a sotto voce sub-series on the destruction of Manhattan in this blog's longer series on atomic/nuclear weapons. (There are a number of them--if you're interested search those terms in the Google search box at left.) I've found three more from 1951/2 that I've included below. At some point I'll gather all of the Destroyed Cities and makes a larger post of them.
[Source: 'We have now entered the Atomic Age', artwork by Lester Quade, in 1952.]
There's nothing quite so ironic as understatement when the understatement is understated even in advance of itself. I've noticed this here and there with the depictions of atomic/nuclear war in the bomb's early history, say 1946-1960, as seen in comic books. For example, here's something I posted last week that is a fairly representative understatement done in a small way about a big thing:
It is I think representative of an entire class of mid-century image of atomic understatement.
Having found this one others were quick to follow.
The comic World War III is a caustic of advanced crispy-crunchiness, and set in the year 1980, where the future found the Brooklyn Dodgers still playing in NYC. For some reason, the photographer on the roof of the Polo Grounds takes a slow burn of realization that something big was going on, processing the burned pennants /heat/glare before settling on the enormous mushroom cloud rising four miles above Manhattan...
And another fine example, this graduating to a hydrogen bomb later in the decade, a bomb far more unimaginably powerful than the unimaginably powerful 20kt bombs of 1945. Okay, there are red skies and a firestorm the width of a city, and the "mushroom" ends the film, but there is only a perfunctory statement of the too-close-together heads that they now know what a hydrogen bomb explosion was, or is, or could be:
I know it is difficult to describe the Grand Canyon as it would be to witness a nuclear explosion (let alone be in one). But these under-nucleated statements is sort of the equivalent of describing the Grand Canyon as something along the lines of "We're here now and looking down".
And this is about as loud as the screaming gets in Capt. Marvel's adventures with the atomic bomb. This is surprising mainly because the comic was published only about a year after Hiroshima/Nagasaki, and imaging a "flock" of missile launched atomic weapons falling all over the U.S. was a salient look into the possible future.
And in the face of the unspeakable, Capt Marvel seems unflappable:
On the other hand there are excitable statements regarding the bomb:
But it does make one wonder about featuring shock-of-recognition statements about the apocalyptic bell ringing of nuclear weapons as expressed in comic books as a comparative whisper in the description of the thing. It is almost as though if the Cornishman spoke quietly enough he wouldn't make the wakening giant angry.
Now we are all sons of bitches—Kenneth Bainbridge, Trinity Director.
[Image source: the interesting Gray Flannel Suit site, here: http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/blog/so-this-is-the-atomic-bomb-true-comics-march-1946]
I couldn't help but take out the trusty paper microscope for a good strong look at this image. It appeared anonymously in True Comics (issue #47, March 1946) and depicts the explosion of the atomic bomb at the Trinity site Alamogordo on July 16, 1945. I might have given the statement a little more emphasis--maybe an extra exclamation point.
There were many profound thoughts in many profound for-real heads there in the desert, at the reaches of the Jornarda del Muerto("The Dead Man’s Walk", a formerly nearly-impenetrable stretch of desert in the Llano Estacado) at Trinity. Robert Oppenheimer famously cited the Gita (“Now I am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds…”); Enrico Fermi was so busy with his little and excruciatingly wonderful experiment with strips of paper calculating the effect of the blast (he reckoned a very-close 10,000 tons) that he didn’t actually hear the explosion; Edward Teller thought Tellerian thoughts, and so on. Actually the observation points (like S-10000 and Campania Hill) were crowded with big brains: in addition to Oppenheimer, Teller and Fermi were people like Hans Bethe, James Chadwick (whose discovery of the neutron sort of started the whole thing), Richard Feynman, George Kistiakowsky, Phil Morrison, Robert Serber, Vannevar Bush, James Conant, and many others. The were all thinking pretty big things (except for the occasional so-terrific-it-can't-be-real-but-it-must-be-because-Richard Rhodes-documents-it stuff like that which maybe came from Feynman’s mouth, which was “hot dog!”). I think that Bainbridge’s statement was the best, and truest, summation of the morning’s activities, in spite of the necessity to make the whole thing happen. There was just no way that it wouldn't be done.
Anyway, "So this is the atomic bomb" is pretty weak.
I was reminded of this 1951 pamphlet yesterday, a softly-shocking piece of Red Scare propaganda that played on everyone's fear and offered not much more than newspaper and a hole for protection from a nuclear attack. But the thing I hadn't noticed before was how quiet the very noisy cover is.
The point of view here is from a suburb, or exurb, and there seems to be nothing going on--not only is there no activity, but there are also wide swaths of no buildings where there should be. For example the second car on the right is parked at an empty city block-blob, and the whole of the foreground seems to be intensely deserted. It strikes me as odd, given that there is an enormous explosion going on less than a mile away. There is definitely a scene of destruction at the base of the explosion, though we also see the slight outskirts of the city dotted with factory silhouettes, which makes me think that this part of the illustration was also selling a hope-to-survive-vibe.
Covers of pamphlets/comics are legion with more vicious examples of apoca-art--even those publications aimed at kids, like this one--so it wasn't like the times were too gentle to portray real destruction and chaotic noise and viciousness, so I'm not sure what this artwork is really trying to achieve--except that it does manage, in away, to convince a viewer that there may be some calm in the soup of horror.
Describing computer programs "Picnic" for biological/chem weapons damage, and "Dusty" , for radioactive casualties
While preparing for all eventualities of all-out toe-to-to conflict with the Ruskies it is of course advisable to have ways to figure out what might be left after an "exchange" and how it might be used--but really, the important thing is to be able to have an inventory of the post-apocalypse world so that plans could be made for the next part of existence.
And that is what the following workbook outlined in part.
Mathematics and Computation Laboratory, National Resource Evaluation Center, Analytical Program Compendium NREC Technical Manual No. 119 (Revised) (December 1964. 11x8". 92 pp. GVC-bound, with stiff wrappers of the Executive Office of the President NREC/Office of Emergency Planning) holds some of overall answers to the survival issue.
The preface is signed by Joseph D. Coker, (Chief, National resource Evaluation Center) who writes: "The Analytical Program Compendium gives a brief description of the National Resource Evaluation Center's current general purpose analytical programs and replaces earlier editions of the NREC Glossary of Damage Assessment Programs. It is intended as a guide for users and potential users of these programs to indicate the various programs that are presently available and those that are being produced. Separate Technical Reports or Technical Manuals are available for the standard operating programs and for a number of those which are in preparation. Reference to these manuals and reports can be obtained in the Bibliography of Publications (Technical Manual No. 121) published by the NREC. The Compendium contains descriptions of the computer programs of a substantive nature."
[The NREC and the Office of Civil Defense used the UNIVAC scientific programs USE assembly language and 3600 Fortran.]
The list of the contents of the 92-page work is pretty interesting, the book presented in eight sections (or "casualty classes programs"): (I) Attack Analysis Programs; (II) Vulnerability Analysis Programs; (III) Damage Assessment Programs (Direct Effects, sections dedicated to nuclear shots Dusty III, Flame I, Jumbo III, Streak IV, Dart II, Dart III, Picnic, Ready I.(IV) Resource Evaluation Programs; (V) Economic Analysis Programs ; (VI) Resource Management Programs; (VII) Mapping and Display; (VIII) Manual Procedures for Damage Assessment and Resource Evaluation.
Under section III are described the various other programs computing availability of surviving resources and damages to the rest, and to assess capability and loss. For example: Weapons Edit III (working on an 1103 AS or 1105 computer) calculates missile availability; Dusty III (fallout intensity "...at weapon oriented points"; Flame I ("computes an estimate of the extent of the spread of uncontrolled fire") and can compute fire maps; Jumbo III (a casualty assessment program); Attack Environment III ("determines the blast effect from the dominant weapon and combines the separate effects of fallout and from from all weapons that affect each resource point"); Facility Assessment (Namepoint) III ( for physical damage to facilities); Time-Phased Accessibility ("listing of accessibility of resources in various conditions of damage after an attack"); Population III (summing up casualties in populations after attack; Manpower III (translating population losses into labor losses and how it would affect x,y, and z); Livestock III (keeping tabs on livestock "and livestock products"); Streak IV ('high speed estimate of blast and fallout casualties, estimates of damage and denial of facilities..."); Picnic (!, estimating casualties from biological or chemical weapons), and a number of other programs.
There are some other interesting programs for end game times: Net Inventory ("(a) routine (that) is a balance sheet between supply (inventory and production) and demands (requirements)" and Amounts of Production ("a routine (showing) the production based in facility damage and labor casualties; and of course Survival II, which computes "the total requirements...for regions".
Of course it was necessary to figure all of this stuff out so that in the event of The Big One there is a certain control over what is where and what is left and what is needed and so on.
The last section helpfully describes programs of manual damage assessment ("developed by agency representatives for use when computer estimates are not available").
There is no mention made to where these computers are housed.
Below are 66 examples of Cold War era stuff and consumer bits relating to atomic/nuclear and big-boom weapons. All are found in my pinterest page, here, which also houses about 4,000 odd/interesting images that have been collected by Dr. Odd of the Unbelievablorium.
I had never seen this video/film before last night--it is pretty solid, and interesting, and I'm a little surprised because for a general-public sort of production it makes some good-sized presumptions of its audience in relation to any physics background. Most of all though there are appearances of Albert Einstein (at 52:15 and 1:01:14), Otto Frisch (1:03:00) and J.D. Cockcroft (1:17:50).
Source: U.S. National Archives http://research.archives.gov/description/88106
Here's a very useful tool for the early days of nuclear fission and atomic energy--the bibliography from William Stephen's Nuclear Fission and Atomic Energy (published by the Science Press in 1948). The OCR is a little unsteady but the info is there even if it isn't as clear as it might be.
The full text for the work is found at the Internet Archive, here: https://archive.org/details/nuclearfissionan030064mnb
Also see the excellent Louis Turner bibliography for nuclear fission, 1934-1940 (133 items) in an earlier post on this blog, here: http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2013/08/turners-bibliographic-review-of-nuclear-fission-1934-1940.html
Partial Bibliography on Nuclear Fission and Transuranic Elements
Frederick Rockett's Crises Civil Defense and Deterrence makes a curious display of itself on it title page, what with no punctuation and all--same for the title page, though that changes a little to Crisis Civil Defense and Deterrence. With a comma here and there, the title changes meanings a bit. In any event with my little screed over the document was published by the Hudson Institute in 1967 and is actually about how the Soviet Union, China and some other countries could reduce their vulnerability to nuclear attack by undertaking (emergency) civil defense precautions like large-scale evacuations and fallout protection. The author adopts a curious term here--"hostages"--to apply to the civilian population in relation to the nuclear policy of deterrence. And what that means is that with increased numbers of civilians surviving there would be a greater recover capability after a nuclear strike; in deterrence, enemy populations are part of the scheme, being seen as "hostages" to a nuclear strike and therefore a deterrent for that country to initiate an attack. With an increase in the number of survivors to an attack via the civil defense advancements there are fewer "hostages" and therefore the concept of deterrence is weakened, perhaps to the point where countries could begin to think of first-strike capacity with a more-protected population.
[The original document is available for sale at the blog's bookstore, here.]
And so down the rabbit hole we go, discussing mine shaft gaps. This is five year after Dr. Strangelove, but this was very real stuff--and I imagine that if I were in a position to have to think about nuclear strikes and deterrence and etc., I probably would have been thinking in these terms, too.
This report on Exercise Spadefork was issued at the very beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis on October 1,1962. Undertaken by the National Resource Evaluation Center (NREC) and other agencies it was supposed to give a good indication of what happens after a very large nuclear attack on the United States, “Measuring the Capability of Survival”, evaluating what remains of the country and its sovereignty.
The theoretical attack began at 3pm, Friday 21 September 1962. 221 nuclear missiles were exploded in/over the U.S. In the first hour, with a total of 355 in the first 48 hours. [I'm not sure that the Soviet Union had 221 intercontinental ballistic missiles at this time, nowhere near that, unless of course they were able to get their 700-missile medium-range ballistic missiles closer to the U.S.]
A total of 1, 779 megatons were exploded almost equally between ground and air bursts.
20 were 1 megaton; 15 were 10 megaton, and 320 were 5 megaton.
The Hiroshima weapon was about 20 kilotons, so in the roughest sense each one of the 5 megaton weapons carried about 250 Hiroshima weapons; the total 1,779 megaton delivery would (grossly) be equal to about 178,000 Hiroshima weapons.
Most of the attack was delivered against military sites, “population and industrial centers appeared to be secondary targets, with only about 50 major centers receiving signifcant amount of blast damage”. Somehow “no major sections of the country were isolated due to fallout contamination”.
How we make out:
Military & “Sovereignty”: not so bad. Air Force and Navy take major hits (something approaching 50% casualties) but the Army does better, not being targeted so heavily, with 20% losses.