Atomic Bomb



On this episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin goes over the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan, the dangers of nuclear energy and remarks on the anniversary of the atomic bombs that…


This month marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of the mass destruction the United States wrought on the civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And though it is often framed through the lens of ‘bringing an end to WWII’s bloody Pacific front’, the harsh images and stories of survival after the blasts reveal some of the most horrific realities of war and devastation any nation has ever had to face. Last year, the International Center of Photography exhibited many of the 1,100 images taken by the Physical Damage Division of the United States Bombing Survey in 1945. They have over 700 photos in their collection, and a new book published by Steidl:

After the United States detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the U.S. government restricted the circulation of images of the bomb’s deadly effect. President Truman dispatched some 1,150 military personnel and civilians, including photographers, to record the destruction as part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The goal of the Survey’s Physical Damage Division was to photograph and analyze methodically the impact of the atomic bomb on various building materials surrounding the blast site, the first “Ground Zero.” The haunting, once-classified images of absence and annihilation formed the basis for civil defense architecture in the United States.


A fantastic find from the National Archives by Robert Krulwich for NPR:

They weren’t crazy. They weren’t being punished. All but one volunteered to do this (which makes it all the more astonishing.)

On July 19, 1957, five Air Force officers and one photographer stood together on a patch of ground about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. They’d marked the spot “Ground Zero. Population 5” on a hand-lettered sign hammered into the soft ground right next to them.

As we watch, directly overhead, two F-89 jets roar into view and one of them shoots off a nuclear missile carrying an atomic warhead.

They wait. There is a countdown. 18,500 feet above them, the missile is intercepted and blows up. Which means, these men intentionally stood directly underneath an exploding 2 kiloton nuclear bomb. One of them, at the key moment (he’s wearing sunglasses), looks up. You have to see this to believe it.


Starfish PrimeIt was hypothesized at the time, the radiation might provide a defensive shield above the U.S. against Soviet nukes, but aside from the light show, it ended up frying many of our satellites. The radiation took 10 years to dissipate, which made study of our natural radiation belts, the Van Allen belts, problematic during that period.

Wikipedia has a good article explaining the test and NPR has a good article and video about it from a few years ago:

Back in the summer of 1962, the U.S. blew up a hydrogen bomb in outer space, some 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean. It was a weapons test, but one that created a man-made light show that has never been equaled — and hopefully never will:


Newly unveiled — a beautiful, haunting glimpse at life inside the carefree, secret 1940s desert summer camp that birthed the atom bomb:

In 1943, the top scientists from the United States and other nations gathered in Los Alamos, NM for the Manhattan Project. Among them was physicist Hugh Bradner. With informal permission from the U.S. Army, he shot a collection of home movies of life in a place that officially didn’t exist, and of people working on a project that ultimately changed history. His footage represents the only look at life in the Los Alamos area during that time.


Oak Ridge Associated Universities has a groovy collection of vintage “atomic toys” and games for children which referenced and/or promoted nuclear technology. Included are board games such as “Uranium Rush” and “Nuclear…



“In the early 1900s, radium was more valuable than gold and platinum. As such, the term “Radium” was incorporated into the brand names of any number of products even when these products…


The New York Times has a jaw-dropping slideshow of photographer George Yoshitake’s images of 1950s nuclear blasts conducted in the Nevada desert and South Pacific. Yoshitake was lucky, or perhaps cursed, to…



Alex Pasternack writes on Motherboard:

In the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, some of the greatest scientific minds of a generation gathered in the New Mexican desert to watch the results of their unprecedented, world-changing experiment: to build the most powerful weapon in the world. But when they pressed the button on their bomb, nicknamed “Gadget,” they weren’t quite sure what would happen.

The general consensus was that the bomb would yield energy equivalent to 5,000 tons of TNT (the actual result as it was finally calculated was 21,000 tons). Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project, had bet ten dollars against scientist George Kistiakowsky’s wager, with his entire month’s pay, that the bomb would not work at all. Enrico Fermi offered a wager on “whether or not the bomb would ignite the atmosphere, and if so, whether it would merely destroy New Mexico or destroy the world.”


NuclearArtOver 2,000 detonations! Really informative. Duncan Geere writes on Wired.com (UK):

A Japanese artist named Isao Hashimoto has created a series of works about nuclear weapons. One is titled “1945—1998” and shows a history of the world’s nuclear explosions.

Over the course of fourteen and a half minutes, every single one of the 2,053 nuclear tests and explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998 are is plotted on a map.

After a couple of minutes or so, however, once the USSR and Britain entered the nuclear club, the tests really start to build up, reaching a peak of nearly 140 in 1962, and remaining well over 40 each year until the mid-80s.

It’s a compelling insight into the history of humanity’s greatest destructive force, especially when you remember that only two nuclear explosions have ever been detonated offensively, both in 1945. Since then, despite more than 2,000 other tests and billions of dollars having been spent on their development, no nuclear warheads have been used in anger.


And you thought you had a bad week…Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only human ever to experience two atomic bombings, has died at age 93: The only person officially recognized as a survivor of…


On the fascinating site Letters of Note:

ABombAt 11:00 a.m. on August 9th, 1945, just a minute before the second atomic bomb in the space of three days was dropped on Japan, a B-29 bomber named The Great Artiste quietly dropped three canisters from the sky. Inside each of the canisters, alongside a shockwave gauge designed by American physicist Luis Alvarez, was an unsigned copy of the following letter.

The letter, written by Alvarez and two fellow scientists, was addressed to Japanese nuclear physicist Ryokichi Sagane —a man with whom Alvarez had previously worked at Berkeley — and pleaded with him to inform his ‘leaders’ of the impending ‘total annihilation’ of their cities.

The letter reached Sagane a month later after being found 50km from the centre of devastation: Nagasaki.

Alvarez and Sagane met again 4 years later, at which point the letter was finally signed.