70 Years Since the First A-Bomb, Humanity Still Lives in Its Afterglow


David Biello in Scientific American:

The nuclear problem with Iran started 70 years ago in the desert of New Mexico. July 16, 1945, was a day with two dawns: the latter powered by hydrogen atoms fusing at a comfortable remove of 150 million kilometers. The earlier one entailed a blinding flash of white light fading away as the Trinity test of an atomic bomb exploded at 5:29 A.M. local time—“Up n' atom,” as the slogan for kids went from a little later in the new Atomic Age.

One dawn means a sky smeared with pink clouds drifting in a baby blue sky, accompanied by a chorus of birds singing in a wide flat valley carved by the Rio Grande and its tributaries. The other means a deafening roar that follows in the wake of a blinding flash and the world's first nuclear mushroom cloud.

The Trinity site within the White Sands Missile Range looks the same today as it does in color footage posted by the U.S. Department of Energy of preparations for the first plutonium bomb test. Tumbleweeds skip and hop across this dry and dusty land, theRussian imports piling up against barbed wire fences. A black-and-white film records the Trinity test, the explosion of a little gray sphere covered in wires, bolts and plugs atop a giant erector set reminiscent of an oil derrick. Scrawny geeks in white T-shirts with pencils behind their ears work in the innards of the Trinity bomb before it is raised carefully, ever so gingerly into position and left overnight.

Like the sacred site of some kind of new religion, the secretive missile range opens up to show Trinity twice a year, on a Saturday in spring and fall. So on another beautiful day in the high desert, I joined a procession of cars heading out into the scrubland and queuing up in a line that stretches for kilometers to pass through the Stallion Gate at the north end of the range that stretches for some 160 kilometers to the south through the region known as Jornada del Muerte, or Route of the Dead, a name given long before the nuclear test or the establishment of the missile range. Cattle graze placidly near the road while minivans wait at the turnoff, hawking “trinitite“—the new, greenish, flecked mineral produced by sand and dirt melted by the Trinity blast—for just $20 a pebble. Protesters hold up signs like “Speaking up for those silenced by the bombs” and “We are the Trinity downwinders.”

More here.