EXHIBITS: Blasts From the Past

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Science  10 Oct 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5643, pp. 205
DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5643.205d

The atomic age turned 58 on 16 July, the anniversary of the first A-bomb test. Don't melt down if you still haven't had time to read Richard Rhodes's mammoth histories The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun. Check out a shorter account of the nuclear weapons story at the Atomic Archive, a collection of documents, historic images, and other materials from San Diego-based AJ Software & Multimedia, which sells a jazzed-up version of the archive on CD-ROM.

A timeline that spans the years 1895 to 2003 provides a crash course on the origin, use, and control of nukes. Mini-bios introduce more than 30 prominent figures in atomic history, from New Zealand-born physicist Ernest Rutherford, who deduced that atoms have a nucleus, to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953 for passing secrets to the Soviet Union. A trove of documents includes Einstein's famous 1939 letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt warning that uranium could furnish raw material for a devastating bomb. Maps, period photos, and footage enhance the story. For example, one chart shows that fallout from the 1945 Trinity test in New Mexico barely missed Albuquerque but sprinkled on Santa Fe. Below, the mushroom cloud from “Mike,” the first thermonuclear or fusion bomb, rises over Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in 1952.


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