back to article Happy NukeDay to you! 70 years in the shadow of the bomb post-Trinity

At 5:30am on July 16, 1945, American and British scientists watched the detonation of the world's first nuclear weapon and mankind entered the atomic age. Youtube Video The Trinity test was the high point of the Manhattan Project, the Allied powers' plan to develop an atomic bomb before the Germans or Japanese managed it. The …

  1. Thorne

    They should be testing to increase the efficiency of them for the Orion Project. Odds are it's how the first interstellar flights will be powered.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Greatest PM in history

      Has there ever been a greater project manager than Leslie Groves? He really is the unsung hero of WW2 for the US. Dude knew how to get shit done period (also built the Pentagon). He was actually making a lot of the decisions about when and where to nuke as well. Sorry for the thread jack.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      The 1950s designs for Orion launchers are reputedly extremely efficient with very little fallout and still classified.

      It helps that they're small - 60-80kt or less.

      IMO they're the only practical way to get the amount of material required to build a space elevator into orbit, but it's doubtful one will ever launch from Earth's surface.

  2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    frotz!

    Sharp words between the superpowers. Tanks in East Berlin. And now,

    reports the BBC, rumors of a satellite blackout. It's enough to spoil

    your continental breakfast.

    But the world will have to wait. This is the last day of your $599

    London Getaway Package, and you're determined to soak up as much

    of that authentic English ambience as you can. So you've left the tour

    bus behind, ditched the camera and escaped to Hyde Park for a

    contemplative stroll through the Kensington Gardens.

    Palace Gate

    A tide of perambulators surges north along the crowded Broad Walk.

    Shaded glades stretch away to the northeast, and a hint of color

    marks the western edge of the Flower Walk.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: frotz!

      Now where is that roadrunner...

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    He might be right about re-opening testing in a different time and place.

    However, given the way things are, some countries will suddenly see it as a urinating contest and go for a bigger boom. Others will look at it and start building their own as it's cost efficient way (in their minds) to destroy the enemy. I think that re-opening testing would be a bad thing overall. If the world was different.... maybe.

    I won't even go into the mass hysteria that this would create about nuke power plants.....

  4. Martin Budden
    Stop

    unintended consequences

    He may well be right when he says that all normal people witnessing a nuke will become peaceniks, but it could have the opposite effect on psychopaths. And if those psychopaths happen to be government leaders (not exactly a far-fetched idea, I'm sure you'll agree) then the last thing we want to be doing is giving them nasty ideas.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: unintended consequences

      What do you mean "if those psychopaths happen to be government leaders"? I'm damn pretty sure it's a job requirement.

      In fact, I know it is.

    2. Jim 59

      Re: unintended consequences

      "Historically I'm probably the last person alive to see a thermonuclear explosion with my naked eyes," he said. "The last explosion was a long time ago but for those that actually saw it, we all had the same experience, which was to turn us into peaceniks."

      Leonard Cheshire VC was a witness to the Nagasaki bomb, after which he resigned, opened a hospice and spent the rest of his life in charity work and conflict resolution.

      1. stizzleswick
        Headmaster

        Re: unintended consequences

        " was a witness to the Nagasaki bomb" -- the Nagasaki bomb was not a thermonuclear explosion, just a simple fission bomb, though.

  5. Charles Manning

    Bombing Japan

    After spending years building these damn things it was inevitable they'd bomb Japan with them - hence the rush once the first bomb was detonated.

    War time does accelerate development and deployment, but rushing an untested technology like this through into war in less than a month is unprecedented. They really wanted to drop that bomb and wanted to do so before the war fizzled out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bombing Japan

      Probably not.

      I think that they rushed it to production to prevent an invasion, like we suffered on Iwo Jima, of Japan.

      I knew a man who was there, and friends and relatives that knew him before WWII said he wasn't the same after coming back from Iwo.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bombing Japan

        Bombing Japan will always be open to interpretations... Let's face it, how big was the temptation to nuke some indoctrinated hostile non-surrendering (and non-white) islanders? Yet till this day some will try to justify the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was simply put, plain wrong; never before human beings had used such destruction force against their own kind..., but as some say it's always easier to go after people we perceive different. To some extent the bombings of these two towns could be assimilated to the holocaust in Auschwitz as in both situations victims were innocent civilians.

        Ok, release the downvotes!

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Bombing Japan

          Check what a "conventional" firebombing made in Dresda... and they were not so different, from a racial point of view. That destructive power was *already* available, just not in a single bomb launched from a single plane.

          But there are still a difference between bombing an hostile nation that started the war, and killing your own citizens en masse just because you don't like what they think.

          1. Wzrd1

            Re: Bombing Japan

            "Check what a "conventional" firebombing made in Dresda... "

            The UK firebombed German cities, the US took notes and applied lessons learned when Tokyo was firebombed and severely damaged and greater loss of life than Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It was the immediate effect of a single bomb that permitted the Emperor to demand his military surrender.

        2. Mad Mike

          Re: Bombing Japan

          @Ac

          'never before human beings had used such destruction force against their own kind'

          Not sure this is really true. Dresden resulted in 25,000 deaths, mostly non-combatants. Once you get above a certain number, it doesn't really matter. 25k, 50k, 75k.........does it really make a difference to the rights and wrongs?

          I think the particular issue with the Japanese, which made them an 'easier' target, was their behaviour during the war. The brutal treatment of POWs and civilians alike. Experimentation on them etc.etc. I'm sure the allies had difficulty thinking of the Japanese as people when this was known, hence making it easier to conceive of this sort of attack.

          Blockading the islands would have been a lot easier said that done, especially with all the forces scattered around the area outside of Japan. They would probably have come to Japans aid as much as possible and with people willing to commit suicide during the actions, losses to the allies in imposing a blockage would have been very high. Not as bad as invading, but very high all the same.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: Bombing Japan

            The March 1945 bombing of Tokyo is said to have caused more than 80,000 casualties, with some estimates weill over 90,000. The very fact that number are so different, is another indication of how much devastating it was. It was more devastating than Hiroshima and Nagasaki (but for the radiations), just it required hundreds of bombers - but they were available.

            This sort of attack became the norm in WWII. It was clear that only destroying any industrial capacity - including civilan workers and their families - and the morale of people, the war could end avoiding even larger battles and the risk to be blocked into something alike a WWI stalemate.

            It was not a question of race. Germany attempted it on British cities first, than RAF and USAAF answered. Brutal civilian treatment and POWs were also a Nazi German standard. Sure, being looked at as the Evil Empire helps to justify even the most horrible air attack. Especially since pilots can't see their victims in the eyes.

            The main issue with Japan was it was an island. And islands are notoriously hard to attack- as Nazi generals learnt the hard way. The initial phases of a landing were always very risky, because the infantry had no heavy weapons, the area is small, and the defender can concentrate counterattacks on it. The only way to establish a sound foothold is to weaken avaliable defences so much they can't destroy it, and ensure both the support fleet and the foothold can't be reached by new enemy forces.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Bombing Japan

              > And islands are notoriously hard to attack- as Nazi generals learnt the hard way.

              Blockaded islands that you can fire bomb at will are also unnecessary to attack.

              You can starve the entire population over a winter then leave the remainder to die in the summer once you have destroyed the water/sewage/power and medical services.

              1. LDS Silver badge

                Re: Bombing Japan

                Destroying a large island in such a way takes a lot of time and resources. Bombs and explosives don't grow alone in fields, planes burn combustible, engines wears and crashes, pilots needs replacements. Same for ships. How long can you sustain a large blockade? What is someone else somewhere else takes advantage of your forces being heavily committed? What about your own country supporting a longer war?

                And what if your enemy meanwhile finishes a new deadly weapon you're unaware of?

                Waiting too much is never a good way to win a war.

          2. asdf Silver badge

            Re: Bombing Japan

            >'never before human beings had used such destruction force against their own kind'

            The worst by far was to come later. Never in history has a leader (Mao) killed 50+ million of his own people and yet still been revered by future generations.

        3. peter_dtm

          Re: Bombing Japan

          Dresden

          Fire bombing of Tokyo a couple of weeks before the Bombs; the Bombs prevented multiple city fire bombing (and therefore reduced the casulaties). And of course the after effects (radiation sickness) was not anticipated; unlike the after effects of fire storms

          and bonus downvotes for trying to conflate the holcaust with acts of war; you really need to understand what the Nazis were up to in their genocides; it is not hard to do.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bombing Japan

      It was going to take something real big to make the people who never surrender, surrender. Nasty stuff. I heard it was so horrible afterwards on the ground that they started bashing in people's heads with rocks to put them out of their misery. Also not so good hearing Japan's nationalistic right wants in on the war profiteering now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bombing Japan

        There was also a question as to whether a it should have been demonstrated to the Japanese government on open country first.

        Even after the two bombs had been dropped on cities - some of the influential members of the Japanese government didn't want to surrender. The otherwise ineffective Emperor had to use his divine reputation with the public in order to effect a surrender.

        That supports the USA's fears that the main Japanese islands would produce even more casualties on both sides than had the invasion of Okinawa. The archive films showing even mothers and children committing suicide rather than surrender are horrific. The level of ideological indoctrination of the Japanese population is hard to grasp.

        The same thing happened to a lesser extent in Germany - with even young boys being forced to fight against the Russians. An undeserved charge of desertion led to summary hanging from a lamppost in Berlin for at least one 15 year old boy. One officer led his boys to surrender to the Western Allies rather than waste their lives in a lost cause.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Bombing Japan

          With the available media back then, how to perform a sensible demonstration? Ask the Japanese commanders to trust you and come to a desert location to see your next marvellous weapon? Film it, and then show it in Japanese cinemas a few weeks later, with allied commander ensuring it was all true, and not a fake? Radio it, maybe by Orson Welles who was so good at making people believe aliens has landed?

          It is also true, as you point out, that after the first bomb some Japanese commander didn't want to surrender (and also the Soviet Union ignored Japanese attempt to look for a truce, waiting for Japan to collapse to declare war...) , and some even after the second - up to the point they assaulted the Imperial Palace - considered sacred - trying to stop the capitulation the Emperor wanted to save his country from further destruction.

          Yet, we have to understand how difficult was back then to propagate correct informations, especially in an already heavily damaged country, with reports, B/W photos and movies requiring time and proper assessment by all the involved people. In some ways, the visible aftermath of a nuclear bomb was not very different from that of an heavy bombardment using incendiary bombs (but radiations, but you can't see them). Aerial reconnaissance won't tell the difference, and you had to believe it was a single bomb from a single plane really - because noone was ever capable of that, or even close.

          Then witnesses reports, and wounded people analysis can tell you it was very different, but in those times it could take days if not weeks to collect and integrate them, and have them pushed to the right desk.

          It's debatable if there was so much hurry to launch the Nagasaki bomb, I'm almost sure someone wanted to test it too before it was too late - because of its different technology - maybe a few days more could have been allowed, but maybe they would have not changed the situation much.

          Probably USA commanders could not understand also why Japanese didn't surrender immediately after being demonstrated the destructive power of the bomb, while probably Japanese were so stunned they couldn't understand fully what they were hit by, and that even the most crazy hopes were lost.

          Remember that was not a movie script or a video game - it was people fighting against each other brutally, without knowing what the others really thought, had available and planned. You can't really let an enemy take the time to react and fight back.

          1. Wzrd1

            Re: Bombing Japan

            "Probably USA commanders could not understand also why Japanese didn't surrender immediately after being demonstrated the destructive power of the bomb, while probably Japanese were so stunned they couldn't understand fully what they were hit by, and that even the most crazy hopes were lost."

            It took 3 days for the Imperial government to notice that Hiroshima was destroyed by bombing. Nagasaki confirmed vague reports of utter devastation and was closer to be reached after the bombing, where the results would've become readily apparent.

            Conventional bombing leaves distinctive signs, incendiary bombs also leave distinctive signs. A nuclear air burst also leaves distinctive signs, incineration and shattered masonry that no other bomb can cause.

      2. Wzrd1

        Re: Bombing Japan

        " I heard it was so horrible afterwards on the ground that they started bashing in people's heads with rocks to put them out of their misery."

        I never read a report stating that occurred. Nothing even close.

        But, if one really wants to turn world leaders into anti-nuclear weapon types, show them the still classified photos and films of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the blasts.

        I saw them decades ago and they still pop up in a nightmare on occasion.

        1. J__M__M

          Re: Bombing Japan

          But, if one really wants to turn world leaders into anti-nuclear weapon types, show them the still classified photos and films of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the blasts...

          Tokyo a few months before was no picnic.

    3. arctic_haze Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Bombing Japan

      What most people don't realize is that Manhattan Project was an answer to the research Otto Hahn and colleagues did in the Third Reich. Einstein wrote a letter to Roosevelt urging him to do something similar. So the real purpose of the project was to bomb Germany. Luckily for itself, Nazi Germany collapsed before the bomb was ready. And because it was ready and the war with Japan was still in full swing.... You know the rest of the story.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Bombing Japan

      It was tested - this very experiment was a test to check if it really worked. There was not much nuclear material available then to perform many tests, or a public demonstration as someone thinks it was possible - if the demonstation had failed, it was very precious material wasted (and there were no TV, youtube or twitter than to show everybody the event).

      It's very probable someone in the military services was eager to see the bomb used on a real target, but it's far to easy to think *now* that the war would have ended soon *then* - in the Summer of 1945 it was maybe clear that Japan had lost - but how long it would have taken to surrender, and at what price how many Japaneses and Allies would have died before it-, was totally unknown, try to put yourself in the place of those commanders, and think what you would have done.

      B-29s were perfectly able to kill tens of thousand people even without a nuclear bomb, just it took hundreds of them and not a single one, but USAAF had enough to keep on destroying Japaneses cities, but without the monstrous menace of "the bomb". Heavy "carpet bombing" was somehow still accepted as a "normal" consequence of war, and thinking, that, after all, you could still try to defend from it. In a very horrible way, maybe the nuclear bombs even saved many lives, at the price of the horrendous death of others.

      Also, with the Soviet army deep in Europe, keeping on a long, costly fight in the Far East could have been very dangerous. It was already clear the "ally" was the next dangerous enemy.

      Sure, the long term effects have been severely understimated. Just you see in the photos people at the very site of the explosion, wearing shoe protections only. Nobody really knew then what they were "creating", because nobody really made anything close before, and theories and calculations (without computers) couldn't tell enough. It was a true "terra incognita".

      Just thank heavens it wasn't first delivered in the hands of the most psychopatic leader of the time...

      1. HPCJohn

        Re: Bombing Japan

        Yes it was a test of the implosion mechanism.

        they knew the gun mechanism would work, and that was dropped untested.

      2. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Bombing Japan

        The Japanese had been hinting about surrender since January and talking seriously about it since May.

        The Emperor had already given up by then. Some of the military were still in it, but not all of them

        The only sticking points were the exact terms - they didn't want anything that looked unconditional, and they wanted an assurance the Emperor's dignity (such as it was) would be protected.

        Discussions were proceeding via the Soviets, who were happy to drag their heels, but the USA had already cracked Japan's diplomatic encryption codes so everyone knew the state of play.

        The usual excuse of preventing the high costs of a land invasion is nonsense. Japan's islands would have been blockaded, and it's almost certain the Japanese would have surrendered by the end of the year at the very latest - most probably by October.

        It's more likely the two weapons were dropped to discourage Soviet interest in Japan or Western Europe, and to see what the weapons did in action.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Bombing Japan

          Yalta asked for an unconditional surrender - those were the terms, there was no space for negotiating. Germany had no other choice. It didn't look they were so much worried about Emperor dignity, when they forced him to hide into a cellar when he decided he was going to accept those terms to save his country.

          Diplomatics contacts were attempted by some senior officials close to the Emperor. Almost all the commanders in charge were trying to fight till the very end. Germany just did it until Berlin was just a pile of ruins- don't forget - and that was what allied commanders worried about. The fact that the Russians dismissed the attempts didn't help also.

          A blockade of the Japan islands would have been a problem even for the then very mighty Pacific Fleet, especially under continuos kamikaze and submarine attacks, while there were still large Japanese forces to fight outside Japan, like those in Taiwan and mainland China

          And there were no plans for a blockade - there were plans for a land invasion of Japan exactly like it was done in Europe instead. The chied commander was McArthur, do you believe he would have waited? Okinawa invasion had been planned exactly to launch a land attack to the main island.

          And would have more heavy bombardments - look for what the one over Tokyo in March 1945 did - famine, pestilences, maybe a civil war been better?

          Sure, someone also wanted to see the bombs in action, and what Soviets were plainning after the defeat of Germany was unknown. Anyway, they got their bomb so quickly it made the advantage useless.

          But your hypothesis about a surrender in October is just that - an hypothesis - sure, in 2015 everthing is pretty clear, in 1945 the smoke of war made everything far less clear. Nobody then believed in a quick enough surrender - not in a two-three months.

        2. J__M__M

          Re: Bombing Japan

          "The Japanese had been hinting about surrender since January and talking seriously about it since May."

          Then why did it take two?

          "The Emperor had already given up by then"

          You say that like the dude had any pull whatsoever.

          "The usual excuse of preventing the high costs of a land invasion is nonsense"

          Spoken like a true armchair quarterback, 70 years removed.

          Revisionist history... it gets old.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bombing Japan @J_M_M

            You call those that question the necessity of the a-bombings revisionists, but several key military personnel, politicians and scientists at the time had their doubts.

            "American leaders who were in a position to know the facts did not believe, either at the time or later, that the atomic bombings were needed to end the war.

            When he was informed in mid-July 1945 by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson of the decision to use the atomic bomb, General Dwight Eisenhower was deeply troubled. He disclosed his strong reservations about using the new weapon in his 1963 memoir, The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 (pp. 312-313):

            During his [Stimson's] recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face."

            "The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing ... I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon," Eisenhower said in 1963.

            Shortly after "V-J Day," the end of the Pacific war, Brig. General Bonnie Fellers summed up in a memo for General MacArthur: "Neither the atomic bombing nor the entry of the Soviet Union into the war forced Japan's unconditional surrender. She was defeated before either these events took place."

            Similarly, Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, later commented:

            It is my opinion that the use of the barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan ... The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons ... My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.

            If the United States had been willing to wait, said Admiral Ernest King, US Chief of Naval Operations, "the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials."

            Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-born scientist who played a major role in the development of the atomic bomb, argued against its use. "Japan was essentially defeated," he said, and "it would be wrong to attack its cities with atomic bombs as if atomic bombs were simply another military weapon." In a 1960 magazine article, Szilard wrote: "If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them."

            General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of US Army forces in the Pacific, stated on numerous occasions before his death that the atomic bomb was completely unnecessary from a military point of view: "My staff was unanimous in believing that Japan was on the point of collapse and surrender."

            General Curtis LeMay, who had pioneered precision bombing of Germany and Japan (and who later headed the Strategic Air Command and served as Air Force chief of staff), put it most succinctly: "The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war."

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: Bombing Japan @J_M_M

              Hindsight is always 20/20, and noone *after* the bombs were launched liked and was ready to take the responsibility and the burden.

              Anyway, it's interesting how the already "defeated" Germany, for example, could launch the Ardennes counter-offensive and almost break the US lines, or resist until Spring 1945 on the Gothic Line in Italy, despite the efforts to break it. What in 1944 looked an easy ride to Germany didn't happen. Arnhem is another example of an ill-fated operation thinking the enemy is already defeated... while Dresden was bombed in February 1945, wasn't Germany already defeated and supposed to surrender soon too?

              Germany was effectively blockaded since the summer of 1943 - it didn't forbit it to fight two years more.

              McArthur wasn't the one removed in Corea because he was about to start a total war against China and Russia, and ready to use nuclear weapons against them? Of course he would have far preferred to lead an invasion of Japan himself, and be crowned the "Caesar of Japan" while entering Tokyo. The bombs took the laurel of victory from his hands...

              And anyway, starving a whole country - the mighty fleet would have started to sink fishing boats? - while bombing it with incendiary weapons like was done in Tokyo is any better than using nuclear weapons? Conventional bombing did kill women and children too, and a firestorm is no better than a nuclear one when you find yourself in the middle of it. Read reports from Dresden and Tokyo, your blood will chill...

              Still people now seem to forget that Germany and Japan were then lead by fanatic leaders for whom the word "surrender" had no meaning. Did Germany surrendered before Berlin was invaded, destroyed fighting street by street, fifteen years old sent to fight tanks with their rifles, and the leaders committed suicide? Why allies didn't stop at German borders and waited for Germany to surrender? Just to looth the technology?

              Have you ever seen the interview of Japaneses women who when schoolgirls were trained to try to kill enemy soldiers using bamboo spears?

              Noone of those cited, but McArthur, were commanders on the field. All the typical Washington bureocrat who never saw a real, bloody battle in the Pacific. And all in search of a political career, and saying later "the bomb looked the only option then" was not what people wanted to hear...

        3. Youngone Silver badge

          Re: Bombing Japan

          I'm pretty sure there would have been a land invasion of Japan, it was planned to go ahead in October 1945 and was called Operation Downfall.

          My Father at the time was in Rome, having fought the Germans since early 1940 including a nice swim at Dunkirk.

          He was sure he would have been ordered to Japan, as his unit was experienced. He was less sure that he would have obeyed those orders.

          I'm sorry for the Japanese people who died in the atomic bomb blasts, but I'm happy they were used. They saved many lives.

      3. Havin_it
        Joke

        Re: Bombing Japan

        >Just thank heavens it wasn't first delivered in the hands of the most psychopatic leader of the time...

        Ralph Nader?!

        <shudder>

      4. Wzrd1

        Re: Bombing Japan

        "...(and there were no TV, youtube or twitter than to show everybody the event)."

        The very first television station began broadcasting television in 1928.

        Hell, the BBC broadcast Armistice day in 1937, live outside, a first for the era.

        Of course, only the wealthy could afford the bablebox, then WWII interrupted things a bit and a post-war boom made the medium popular.

    5. nijam

      Re: Bombing Japan

      > before the war fizzled out

      The Japan vs. USA part of the war was showing no signs of fizzling out at that point.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Bombing Japan

        Russians were moving troops & equipment from West to East to Fight Japan when they defeated Germany (with allied help). In the short time after Russia could start shipping stuff east, till the Bomb was dropped, the Russians killed more Japanese troops than the Americans.

        The Bomb drops on Japan were as much a message to Stalin.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Bombing Japan

          Russia declared war to Japan *only after* the first bomb detonated on Hiroshima, on August 8th, 1945. They didn't declared war in May, after the defeat of Germany. They were in no hurry to help US and British troops in the Far East, the more they would have had to fight, the more they would have been weakened, and probably, an invasion of mainland Japan would have required to move troops and weapons from Europe to the Pacific - just like the invasion of Europe required to move them the other way, weaking the defences in Europe. Then, trying to take advantage of the situation, i.e. taking control of more areas of Germany, could have been feasible, or start communist revolts in countries like Italy.

          Although Stalin was probably aware of the bomb, probably he wasn't sure it was already ready for prime time, and when Hiroshima was hit, Russians had to scramble to obtain something before the war was over.

          That's why Japaneses consider Russian jackals even today.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bombing Japan - @Charles Manning

      The downvoters are invited to read Max Hasting's book on the war in the Pacific. He agrees with you; there was an inevitability that the bomb would be used, especially with Truman determined to prove that he was as big a President as Roosevelt.

      My father was out there ready to be part of the invasion of Japan (having survived D-day; getting through one pile of shit just qualified you to have a front row seat for the next one) so my views on this are mixed. The atomic bombs overall killed fewer people than would have died in an invasion, I'm sure. But without an alternative world to test on we don't know what might have happened in alternative scenarios. I'm just pointing out to the downvoters that you are just demonstrating your ignorance of history, and those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it.

    7. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Bombing Japan

      Don't forget that 2 of those bombs had to be dropped before Japan surrendered.

  6. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    No Joke

    ...the detonation was heard hundreds of mile away.

    One of my landlords while I was in grad school in NM worked at Los Alamos during the war. He was a construction worker then. He said when the people running the show got ready to test, they gave him and everyone he worked with some spending money and then sent them off to Las Vegas, NV. That's a little under 700 miles from where the bomb was detonated. He said they all heard it go off.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: No Joke

      What was amazing was how little word got out even though so many people had at least a little idea of what it was. When everything is on the line people can be remarkable cooperative. Still I call BS on hearing it 700 miles away (unless there was perhaps some kind of focusing off the cloud cover). Tsar Bomba maybe at that distance but we are talking 5000x higher yield. Still blows your mind to think Krakatoa was heard 4000 miles away.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. O RLY

      Re: No Joke

      Are you sure he didn't mean Las Vegas, New Mexico? A lot shorter trip and more reasonable place to evacuate Los Alamos. And more likely to have heard it from there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No Joke

        Big aside Las Vegas New Mexico is more breaking bad than Albuquerque. That place has a drug cartel city feel more to it than any other city I have ever been in in the US.

      2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: No Joke

        Are you sure he didn't mean Las Vegas, New Mexico?

        Yes, on that point I am sure. I was going to NMHU at the time, which is in Las Vegas, NM, and he was specific about that. As to the rest... well, I wasn't there and the man told a good story, but a lot of the stuff he said that I would have put down to being tall tales I got independent verification on, so I am inclined to believe him. He might have left out a detail or two, but on the whole I take what he said at face value.

  7. Grikath Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Leonard of Quirm....

    "But mylord.. No-one would ever actually use such a device. It's too terrible to use!"

  8. stizzleswick
    Pint

    "miscalculations tripled that energy output"

    That was not a miscalculation, but ignorance. At the time, nobody knew that Li-7 (a 60 % part of the secondary charge) was highly reactive, hence the runaway reaction: Li-7, being fed Neutrons by the primary charge, more or less amplified what had been intended, by fissioning into fusion fuel. Had they used mostly Li-6, the calculated result would have been achieved.

    Before the Castle Bravo test, nobody had known this, hence nobody could calculate the effects correctly. So... OK, a miscalculation, but due to missing data. I would say that makes it a case of ignorance over a miscalculation, since a miscalculation is usually what happens when you have correct data input and still get a wrong result.

    I'm thankful that I can sit here and talk about such grand failures of engineering (because that was more or less an engineering problem, not a physics one; the phyiscs underlying the process had been worked out a decade earlier...) and have a beer while not being at undue risk of being incinerated. Pint of Doom Bar, please...

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: "miscalculations tripled that energy output"

      Teller also was all butt hurt about that bomb and refused to participate. He knew it succeed though by watching a seismograph in California.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "miscalculations tripled that energy output"- Teller also was all butt hurt

        Teller was by all accounts such a ghastly piece of shit that no matter how butt hurt he was, he couldn't possibly have been butt hurt enough

  9. Alan J. Wylie

    Personal connection

    My first job was working for Laser-Scan in Cambridge, a company founded by Otto Frisch. He died shortly after I joined, however my colleagues knew him very well. His and Rudolf Peierls' 1940 memorandum worked out how only a small amount of fissionable material was required and described the effects of the blast.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frisch%E2%80%93Peierls_memorandum

  10. hplasm Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Whatever happenned to the good old says?

    "At Los Alamos no one discriminated on the ground of where you came from, or if you were a Christian or a non-believer," Brownlee explained. "The only thing they discriminated against was to be dumb – and it was a top priority to show you weren't."

    If only some things stayed the same- where would we be now?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whatever happenned to the good old says?

      With politicians with a modicum of brains?

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Whatever happenned to the good old says?

      >If only some things stayed the same- where would we be now?

      Well if he had let nuts like Teller run everything our milk would now be chunky from all the Strontium 90.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whatever happenned to the good old says?

        "Extra Strontium Yogurth! Now with added isotopes!"

        I am sure the DU babies left after US wars would approve.

    3. dbtx Bronze badge
      Coat

      Re: Whatever happenned to the good old says?

      "The only thing they discriminated against was to be dumb – and it was a top priority to show you weren't."

      If only some things stayed the same- where would we be now?

      Probably on a forum, fishing for upvotes.

  11. IT veteran
    Mushroom

    The Manhattan Project

    The amazing thing is that the Manhattan Project developed not one but two different atomic bombs (Fat Boy and Little Boy) as well as the theory behind thermonuclear bombs, In 3 years. The Germans didn't get beyond developing a primitive nuclear pile (which the Americans did in 1942). When German scientists were told about the bombing of Hiroshima, they couldn't believe that it was an Atomic bomb, insisting it must be a dirty bomb.

    Icon: well, someone had to...

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: The Manhattan Project

      Because "at Los Alamos no one discriminated" - Nazi fanatics had the "bright idea" of discriminating everybody, without understanding many of their brightest minds were among those who they were discriminating most and trying to destroy wholly. Also, they could not attract minds from anywhere, but other fanatics like them. In a horrible way, it was good, because Germany lacked first the human resources, then it also lacked the material ones.

      That's what happens when very dumb people can get the full support of many other people who decided to be very dumb and believe them blindly.

      The Manahattan Project was able to collect the best people around - although there were also some working for the next Nazis, the Soviets...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Manhattan Project

        "Also, they could not attract minds from anywhere, but other fanatics like them."

        The V2 rocket project suffered similar political effects that slowed it down. Otherwise the V2 would have been unleashed earlier in the war - and even an ICBM might have been developed for use against the USA. Both the USA and the USSR plundered that project of people and materials in the light of their forthcoming post-war enmity.

        Even the first operational jet aeroplane - the Me262 - was produced primarily as a light bomber because Hitler could not admit the need of a defensive fighter. The British jet fighter development project was never fully supported until it was too late to have any effect on the outcome of the war.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: The Manhattan Project

          IIRC German planned the A9/A10 two stage rocket to hit US soil. Just, without a very destructive payloads, all V-weapons were more expensive than destructive. Thanks to heaven Germany couldn't make a nuclear weapon, and put it atop a V-2, or a larger version...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Manhattan Project

            "Thanks to heaven Germany couldn't make a nuclear weapon, and put it atop a V-2, or a larger version..."

            The V2 technology forcibly exported to the USA and USSR no doubt was used for that purpose?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: developed in 3 years

      Yes, it is quite amazing what a group of truly intelligent people can achieve when the situation calls for it.

      However, they did not start from scratch. They started with all the documents that German scientists had brought them, and they had some leading German scientists to continue the work.

      Not that that diminishes their achievement in any way.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Manhattan Project

      You also have to remember allied bombing / sabotage and supply shortages played a big part in slowing down the German efforts. The US had no such issues.

  12. Anonymous Blowhard

    In a month we can celebrate 70 years of not using nuclear weapons in anger.

    Then, hopefully, we can make it another 70 years and take it from there...

  13. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Devil

    What worries me...

    Is the whereabouts of all the nukes that were stationed in the former USSR. Have they been safely gathered and decommissioned? Are they still in their silos, rotting? Are any missing and if so, where did they go?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: What worries me...

      I believe even the Russians are very scared an atomic devices can end in some uncontrollable fanatic hands. Helping Iran to get one may work and bring money in, letting a bomb loose is something I guess they don't want, especially because there are also some terrorists who would blow up the Kremlin as well, if only they could - and once you lost one bomb to people just looking at the money, you can't really know where it ends up.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: What worries me...

      "Have they been safely gathered and decommissioned?"

      Most of them have been used to power USA reactors - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megatons_to_Megawatts_Program

      The russians were strapped for cash and paying them to dismantle the bombs was beneficial all around.

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: What worries me...

      Are they still in their silos, rotting? Are any missing and if so, where did they go?

      Really, it's a mess...

      Who are the nuclear scofflaws

      Given all the frothing by hawkish U.S. Senators about Iran’s possible development of nuclear weapons, one might think that Iran was violating the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

      But it’s not. The NPT, signed by 190 nations and in effect since 1970, is a treaty in which the non-nuclear nations agreed to forgo developing nuclear weapons and the nuclear nations agreed to divest themselves of their nuclear weapons. It also granted nations the right to develop peaceful nuclear power. The current negotiations in which Iran is engaged with other nations are merely designed to guarantee that Iran, which signed the NPT, does not cross the line from developing nuclear power to developing nuclear weapons.

      Nine nations, however, have flouted the NPT by either developing nuclear weapons since the treaty went into effect or failing to honor the commitment to disarm. These nine scofflaws and their nuclear arsenals are Russia (7,500 nuclear warheads), the United States (7,100 nuclear warheads), France (300 nuclear warheads), China (250 nuclear warheads), Britain (215 nuclear warheads), Pakistan (100-120 nuclear warheads), India (90-110 nuclear warheads), Israel (80 nuclear warheads), and North Korea (10 nuclear warheads).

      Nor are the nuclear powers likely to be in compliance with the NPT any time soon. The Indian and Pakistani governments are engaged in a rapid nuclear weapons buildup, while the British government is contemplating the development of a new, more advanced nuclear weapons system. Although, in recent decades, the US and Russian governments did reduce their nuclear arsenals substantially, that process has come to a halt in recent years, as relations have soured between the two nations. Indeed, both countries are currently engaged in a new, extremely dangerous nuclear arms race. The US government has committed itself to spending $1 trillion to “modernize” its nuclear facilities and build new nuclear weapons. For its part, the Russian government is investing heavily in the upgrading of its nuclear warheads and the development of new delivery systems, such as nuclear missiles and nuclear submarines.

  14. Kingston Black
    Mushroom

    "test explosions should be resumed and held regularly with the world's politicians watching"

    And, as seems to be the protocol at major political events, the leaders get to sit front and centre, nice and close...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "test explosions should be resumed and held regularly with the world's politicians watching"

      As has been seen in the past - chop off the head of an all-powerful leader and often like the Hydra many more sprout up to compete in the power vacuum.

      Without Tito Yugoslavia disintegrated into civil wars along ethnic lines. So did Iraq without the iron grip of Hussein. Ditto Libya and Gaddafi. Syria is following a similar trajectory.

      It is best to avoid precipitating such a power vacuum.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: "test explosions should be resumed and held regularly with the world's politicians watching"

        Do you remember how Heracles killed the Hydra? Burning each wound after each head was cut to hinder the creation of others. I guess a nuclear explosion is really good at burning hydras...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "test explosions should be resumed and held regularly with the world's politicians watching"

          "I guess a nuclear explosion is really good at burning hydras..."

          The competitors who attempt to take advantage of a power vacuum fall into four categories. The regime's underlings; the suppressed oppositions in the country; the exiled oppositions; other countries who want land or resources.

          Iraq was an example of pretty much all four.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. The last doughnut

      Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

      From what I read on Wikipedia (I know, I know) the neutron bomb is just a version of the thermonuclear device where the tertiary fuel (non-enriched uranium) is omitted. The neutron radiation burst is about the same but the explosive yield is reduced. Perhaps the terror of this weapon was exaggerated somewhat?

      1. Grikath Silver badge

        Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

        NO, no... It was most definitely not exaggerated...

        The disadvantage of a "standard" nuclear device was that it destroyed *everything*.. Which was, and still is, deemed a waste of precious resources. The neutron bomb caused *much* less damage, but instead turned everything into ( mostly) extremely short-lived radioactive hell. It's an "anti-personnel" device, killing *slowly* through radiation poisoning.

        It was, and still is, the ultimate genocide device.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

          >It's an "anti-personnel" device, killing *slowly* through radiation poisoning.

          >It was, and still is, the ultimate genocide device.

          No the ultimate genocide device would have been the Cobalt bomb that Phillip K Dick as so scared off. Still have to agree that big amounts of Cobalt 60 is some really nasty stuff.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

          The neutron bomb was intended for use against armoured targets. The problem with tanks is that they are really rather robust and not terribly flammable. So to destroy 10,000 soviet tanks rolling across Germany you have to do rather a lot of damage to Germany.

          The idea of the neutron bomb is that the neutrons pass through the tank armour and terminally inconvenience the crew - without having to waste rather a lot of energy melting the tank.

          The soviet solution was to wrap the fuel tanks, containing rather a lot of hydrocarbons, around the crew. Hydrogen has a good capture cross section for neutrons.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

            "The soviet solution was to wrap the fuel tanks, containing rather a lot of hydrocarbons, around the crew. Hydrogen has a good capture cross section for neutrons."

            They were supposed to survive long enough to get their rounds off at the invading NATO forces, that's all. The USSR was afraid of a NATO invasion preceded by a surprise neutron bomb attack. Limited neutron protection is no good for an invading force - they'll still die in a few hours - so this was just one more piece of evidence that the USSR was actually frightened rather than aggressive.

            1. asdf Silver badge

              Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

              The USSR was actually frightened AFTER Stalin died (FIFY). That made all the difference in the world. If he lived another decade there might well have been a nuclear war.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

                "If he lived another decade there might well have been a nuclear war."

                But he wasn't going to, was he? He was raving bonkers by 1952. Krushchev killing Beria was possibly the most significant event. Krushchev was no idiot, and he had been involved in rescuing the USSR from Stalin's earlier incompetence during WW2.

                In fact the US appeared to be planning to invade the Soviet Union during the 1950s, with the development of tactical nuclear weapons. American politicians seem to have a long term inability to perceive how their actions look from the other side, perhaps because the US has never been invaded and the only serious attack on US territory was a long way away in Hawaii (the twin Towers attack would have been considered a minor event if it had happened in Germany or Russia during WW2, with "only" two or three thousand people killed, whereas Pearl Harbor actually had strategic consequences.) They aren't unique in this but as the possessors of the largest military in the world their lack of empathy is particularly noticeable. I suspect one of the problems that the US has with Putin is that he acts as if he was an American President, destabilising and trying to establish puppet governments. Who does he think he is? Ronald Reagan?

                1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

                  Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

                  Putin destabilising and trying to establish puppet governments

                  The worst thing is that this is not even the case.

                  Meanwhile, Kiev's chocolate king oligarch has nazi troopers and tourist islamists trying to cause serious trouble. Europe still has a few yearsdecades of fun times ahead.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

            "The soviet solution was to wrap the fuel tanks, containing rather a lot of hydrocarbons, around the crew. Hydrogen has a good capture cross section for neutrons."

            Water is even better and it doesn't have the inconvenient tendency to catch fire.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

              "Water is even better and it doesn't have the inconvenient tendency to catch fire."

              There isn't much room in a tank to begin with and making it larger makes it more, not less, vulnerable to conventional attack.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Water is even better

              Land submarines - attack!

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

        "but the explosive yield is reduced."

        Over that of a thermonuclear bomb, yes.

        It's still a nuclear weapon and still highly destructive in the immediate vicinity out to 2-3km.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No mention of the neutron bomb?

      Thumbs down for a Repo Man quote? What's wrong with you people?

  16. ukgnome Silver badge

    Maybe the Reg should send a reporter to the Atomic Testing museum in Las Vegas. Truly a terrible, terrifying and informative place. Maybe it's just me, but they seem almost cocky about dropping bombs on Japan. Even though it was quite clear that the wind had gone from Japans sails.

    Reading anything about the blasts and testing upsets me. Its an avenue best left well alone.

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas

      I have been there. Twice. I can attest that the horrific and devastating results of nuclear bombing are not downplayed. They do take the position that dropping the bombs was to save lives vs. direct invasion of Japan. A small theater displays a film with some RahRah political aspects,etc, but the bombs are only PART of the full story in this museum. There is also significant space devoted to nuclear energy for electricity and research. To me, the most interesting parts were the exhibits devoted to human naivete surrounding radiation and its effects. Much of the museum is intended to demystify and set right any misconceptions about all things nuclear - bombs AND energy production AND scientific/medical research. The present the Bad and the Good and at least attempt to strike a balance between the two. I do hope they update their energy production section with more recent info on newer reactor designs.

  17. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I can

    think of several dozen politicians/world leaders who need a practical demostration of a nuclear weapon and the ensuring results.

    In fact they should be given a close up tour of the bomb an hour before its due to go off to see just how small it is and how cleverly designed it is..... did anyone remember to reset the firing clock from summer to winter timBOOM

  18. David Pollard
    Pint

    Pugwash and the Russell-Einstein Manifesto

    Cheers to the memory of Jo 'Prof' Rotblatt, who did as much as anyone to curb nuclear proliferation and, together with scientists across the world, to explain to politicians and military chiefs that mutually assured destruction would be the inevitable result of nuclear war.

  19. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    low background steel

    Anybody know if pre-bomb cast iron is worth more than just its scrap value?

    I have about a mile of 9 inch and half a mile of 4 inch pipe laying around.

    1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      Re: low background steel

      It has to have been well shielded - hence the Scapa Flow metal

  20. Stuart Ball

    The only way to win, is not to play.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "Hmmm... this software has bugs"

  21. LDS Silver badge

    Even Roman sunken ships are exploited for pre-bomb metals.

    One detector IIRC placed in a laboratory under the Gran Sasso mountain was built using lead ingots found in the wreck of a Roman ship sunk in the Po delta, exactly because of their very low radiation levels, having being extracted two thousand years ago, and since then "stored" in the sunken ship.

    The ship items are now in a permanent exhibition in Comacchio (not far from Ravenna, the last capital of the Roman Empire, and one of the main harbours of that era), while the wreck is in a special container to preserve the wood, but not yet visible to the public.

  22. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi even took bets on the likelihood that the bomb would ignite the nitrogen in the atmosphere and cause a global catastrophe, before he was asked to stop because it was making people nervous.

    Fermi had a reputation for his jokes/sarcasm

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Yup Fermi could always bring things down to his level....

      Sorry!

  23. LesC
    Mushroom

    You can always get a bigger bang..

    Kuran's Trinity & Beyond, Nukes in Space and Atomic Journeys (Welcome to Ground Zero) should keep all nuclear device afficionados happy for a few hours in all their digitally restored goodness... there's also some Nat Geo which repeats fairly often called the "World's Biggest Bomb" using footage culled from the above. Narrated by William Shatner. Available from all the usual sites.

    Quest is running Treasure Quest which has the Odyssey Explorer hunting for low alpha lead, amongst other stuff like gold coins and old Roman wine.

    Nuke, well, as that's what they are!

    LC

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You can always get a bigger bang..

      The 1989 film "Fat Man and Little Boy" is quite interesting, and mostly factually correct, although they did take some liberties with some of the timing/dates, mostly regarding events surrounding the Demon Core.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_core

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man_and_Little_Boy

      Note that it is possible to build as large of a nuclear weapon as is desired, simply by stacking more and more stages together in a Teller-Ulam/Sakarov design.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermonuclear_weapon

      The scariest aspect, though, is that of "enhanced radiation devices", which primarily concern Neutron Bombs and Salted Bombs (e.g., Cobalt Bomb):

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_bomb

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salted_bomb

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobalt_bomb

      As far as is officially known, no such Salted Bombs have ever been built.

      However, decades ago, I personally talked with an Army NWO (Nuclear Weapons Officer), who shall remain nameless (mainly because I simply can't remember his name after this many decades), who made some claims that were highly disturbing, such as "I could shoot a nuke over a valley, and you wouldn't be able to see any damage in that valley, but if you tried to march through it, you'd be dead from radiation poisoning before you could reach the other side." (Remember that this was back in the era of Atomic Annie and Davey Crockett.).

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M65_Atomic_Cannon

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_%28nuclear_device%29

      ("Hi guys/gals!" And, I really don't remember that NWO's name. It's been about 4 decades ago, and, given that he was an old guy back then, he's most surely dead by now anyway.).

      Anon Y. Mous

      P.S. Does anyone else find it strange that the Trinity test site:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_%28nuclear_test%29

      was located in an area known as the Jornada del Muerto, which translates to Journey of a Dead Man:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jornada_del_Muerto

      ?

  24. John Robson Silver badge

    Scientific rigour

    "As scientific experiments go, the Trinity test wasn't even remotely rigorous – the scientists had little idea what the strength of the explosion would be and ran a sweepstake on the final result. Some thought it would be a fizzle, while others had more dire predictions."

    Aren't most good experiments the ones where you don't know what's going to happen. What's wrong with a sweepstake (I particularly like Fermi's plan...).

    1. Tony Haines

      Re: Scientific rigour

      Yes. If you know what the outcome will be, then it isn't an experiment at all.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        Re: Scientific rigour

        Paraphrased (don't know original source):

        If you what you are doing you are not doing science.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Scientific rigour

        There are two kind of experiments, one to confirm an expected outcome, another to look for something you still don't know. Look at the LHC - it was used to confirm the Higgs boson, but now it's looking at what happens at those energies, and nobody really know what we could find, because nobody has been there, yet.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How big a nuke is actualy needed

    When you have take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  26. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Or as Billy Bragg put it...

    In the Soviet Union, a scientist is blinded...

    By the resumption of nuclear testing and is reminded...

    That Doctor Robert Oppenheimer's optimism fell...

    At the first hurdle.

  27. Sporkinum

    I wonder if the Japanese surrender would have been different had the emperor been in one of those 2 places when the bomb dropped? I would guess their ground intelligence in Japan was not very good then, and they really had no way of knowing the whereabouts of the emperor.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I wonder if the Japanese surrender would have been different had the emperor been in one of those 2 places when the bomb dropped?"

      Not a good idea because then there would be nobody to tell the Japanese to surrender. In Germany the death of Hitler allowed the more sensible generals to make peace. In Japan the death of the emperor would have caused the less sensible generals to fight to the last man.

      1. Sporkinum

        I think the Americans were smart enough to know that, but I was wondering if they had had the bad luck to have him get incinerated if it would have been a much longer and bloodier war.

  28. julianh72

    "highly unlikely that such destructive devices would ever be used"

    "It is the power of thermonuclear devices that convinced Dr Brownlee that test explosions should be resumed and held regularly with the world's politicians watching the spectacle first hand. Once you have witnessed something that powerful, he explained, it would make it highly unlikely that such destructive devices would ever be used in anger."

    Witnessing a nuke might be all a rational person needs to convince themselves that such weapons must never be used, but for megalomaniacs and dictators, the evidence that it CAN be done is all it takes to fund a program to develop one of their own.

    Anyone remember "The War to End All Wars", dynamite as a weapon so terrible that it would never be used ...

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