Total Pageviews

Thursday, July 16, 2015

THE DAY THAT COULD HAVE ERASED HUMANITY

In 1941 Joe DiMaggio had a hit on July 16 for the 56th consecutive day, a streak that still stands in Major League Baseball.  Games begin tomorrow after the All-Star Break, but, no, Joe's feat was not that fateful event that could have destroyed life on Planet Earth as we know it today.

On this day in 1945 the Manhattan Project detonated a plutonium Atomic Bomb 60 miles from Alamogordo, New Mexico.  From the then secret memo of General Leslie Groves, who was in charge of the effort (the comments in the parentheses are mine):
  • The Trinity Test bomb was not dropped from an airplane but was exploded on a platform on top of a 100-foot high steel tower.  (In those days it was not known if a plane could have survived the explosion.)
  • This ball mushroomed and rose to a height of over ten thousand feet before it dimmed.  (Photo represents the cloud 0.016 seconds into the process.) The light from the explosion was seen clearly at Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Silver City, El Paso and other points generally to about 180 miles away. The sound was heard to the same distance in a few instances but generally to about 100 miles. Only a few windows were broken although one was some 125 miles away. (Yield:  20 kilotons of TNT.)
  • Huge concentrations of highly radioactive materials resulted from the fission and were contained in this cloud.
  • The steel from the tower was evaporated. 1500 feet away there was a four-inch iron pipe 16 feet high set in concrete and strongly guyed. It disappeared completely.  (Photo of Ground Zero a few weeks later with the "Father of the Atomic Bomb" J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves.)
  • From Brigadier General Thomas F. Farrell (right) from the control shelter located 10,000 yards south of the bomb:  As the time interval grew smaller and changed from minutes to seconds, the tension increased by leaps and bounds. Everyone in that room knew the awful potentialities of the thing that they thought was about to happen. The scientists felt that their figuring must be right and that the bomb had to go off but there was in everyone's mind a strong measure of doubt. 
  • The feeling of many could be expressed by "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief." We were reaching into the unknown and we did not know what might come of it. It can be safely said that most of those present -- Christian, Jew and Atheist -- were praying and praying harder than they had ever prayed before. If the shot were successful, it was a justification of the several years of intensive effort of tens of thousands of people -- statesmen, scientists, engineers, manufacturers, soldiers, and many others in every walk of life.  (To the right, in 1963 the Father of the Atomic Bomb, Oppenheimer, being congratulated by the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb, Edward Teller.)
  • As to the present war, there was a feeling that no matter what else might happen, we now had the means to insure its speedy conclusion and save thousands of American lives.  As to the future, there had been brought into being something big and something new that would prove to be immeasurably more important than the discovery of electricity or any of the other great discoveries which have so affected our existence.  (This is Little Boy, a Uranium weapon, which was dropped over Hiroshima less than a month later with a yield of 15 kilotons.)
So if the A-Bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (right) quickly ended World War II, what is the danger to Humanity?  Well:
  • 1949:  The Soviet Union detonates First Lightning, an A-Bomb with yield of 22 kt.
  • 1952:  U.S. tests first Hydrogen Bomb, Ivy Mike (right10.5 megatons of TNY, or 10,500 kt).
    • Atomic Bomb--nuclear process used by current nuclear powerplant
    • Hydrogen Bomb--energy process utilized by our Sun and the stars
  • 1953:  U.S. succeeds in placing nuclear weapon on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • 1953:  USSR tests Joe 4, a Hydrogen Bomb (0.4 mt)
  • 1961:  Russian exploded Tsar Bomba (50-57 mt, right)
    • 67 miles away--third degree burns
    • light was visible 667 miles away
    • sound followed 49 minutes later
    • shockwave traveled around the Earth three times
    • originally designed for 100 mt, which would have been lethal for far too large an area
    • was a show of force two months after building the Berlin Wall
    • here is an incredible 8 minute clip, which also enters the realm of how close we might have been to a nuclear winter

The USA has detonated 1032 nuclear bombs, while the USSR 727.  By 1965 we had 31,139 nuclear weapons, while the Soviet Union had stockpiled 39,197 in 1985.  In 1987 Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to end this nonsense.  When the Cold War Ended three years later, the world became a better place, effectively neutralizing the arms race initiated by the Trinity Test of July 13, 1945.

The Doomsday Clock created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists perhaps best tracks what has been the potential fate of Humanity:


The lower the point, the closer to the cataclysm.  In 1953 the  clock was 2 minutes to midnight when both the U.S. and Soviet Union tested H-Bombs.  Today we are 3 minutes away mostly because of global climate change, the problem of nuclear waste and the recent fussiness of Vladimir Putin.  Frankly, I think the more recent years exaggerate the danger.  The propinquity to cataclysm has faded, in fact, disappeared.

-
Nangka has weakened into a tropical storm at 60 MPH and rolled over Shikoku Island:


As much as a yard of rain can be expected in portions of the country.  Once in the Central Pacific, long-lasting Tropical Storm Halola is at 40 MPH, but will strengthen into a typhoon, then weaken, then strengthen, and head for Japan:


Hurricane Dolores is at a formidable 110 MPH, but will weaken and turn away from Baja:


-

No comments: