Archive for the ‘The Nuclear Age’ Category

The St. Louis Baby Teeth Survey

Sometimes, you can’t make stuff like this up. Read this:

Dr. Louise Reiss, who was the leader of the survey, just passed away in 2011. Here is her obituary in the New York Times:

Duck and Cover- scene from The Iron Giant

First, if you haven’t seen this gem of a movie, you must treat yourself. So well done! The Iron Giant is set in the late 1950s/early 1960s. It portrays so well the fear of the unknown–and the ultimate dangers of the Arms Race and the paranoia that was produced during the Cold War, when people lives every day with the fear that life could be obliterated in a matter of moments.

In this scene, Hogarth, a kid who is considered nerdy and odd because he is very smart, is daydreaming as the class is shown a PSA (Public Service Announcement) on what to do in a nuclear attack. At the same time, there are rumors around town that a giant monster is roaming around– and Hogarth knows more than he is letting on. Not the irony of the last 15 seconds of the very brief clip.

What is the irony of this clip compared to the “Daisy” commercial below?

Science in the 1950s

To supply more details from our class discussion this week.

On early computers in the 1940s and 1950s:

and on the importance of the transistor:

and on the development of the polio vaccine:

and the creation of the US’s first commercial nuclear reactor:

The US attempts to answer the challenge of Sputnik with Vanguard

Nuclear weapons testing: Castle Bravo, the Bikini Atoll, and the Lucky Dragon

First here is a good site with a nice overview:

The largest explosion ever unleashed by the US was the 15 megaton explosion called Castle Bravo.

The blast was far more powerful than scientists had anticipated, and fallout landed on inhabited parts of Bikini Atoll and on fishermen on a Japanese tuna boat whose name was, ironically, the “5th Lucky Dragon.”

And how Lucky was the Lucky Dragon? Here is an outstanding National History Day video created by a student named Lauren White in Maryland:

And the quest to limit nuclear weapons continues even in 2010. One of you all sent me this link:

Nuclear weapons development timeline

Watch this.
Development of Nuclear weapons in 4 minutes (like the Madonna song)

First test of a Hydrogen Bomb: Ivy Mike

Here is a link to a brief article outlining the science behind the bomb: Make sure especially you remember who Edward Teller is.

The first test took place on Elugaleb Island in the Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands on October 31, 1952. The bomb was referred to by the nickname “the sausage.”

Here is a short film with sound and narration of the first test explosion:

This one shows the shock wave traveling from the bomb:

And here the US entered the “thermonuclear age.” How big was the explosion?

According to, “The mushroom cloud climbed to 57,000 feet in only 90 seconds, entering the stratosphere. One minute later it reached 108,000 feet, eventually stabilizing at a ceiling of 120,000 feet. Half an hour after the test the mushroom stretched 60 miles across, with the base of the mushroom head joining the stem at 45,000 feet.” The fireball from the explosion reached a width of 3.5 miles. The crater was 6200 feet wide and 164 feet deep.

The "Mushroom Cloud from the Ivy Mike test

Here is a before and after photo of Eleugaleb Island:

And as impressive as this was, it was not the largest thermonuclear device ever exploded by the US. That honor went to the CASTLE Bravo Test in 1954, where we accidentally nuked a Japanese fishing boat. More on that coming soon…