Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First Hydrogen Fusion Bomb Test, 1952: a Video

"Nuclear Bomb - First H Bomb test"

jpnovak, YouTube (July 2, 2006)
video, 2:19

"Ivy Mike was the first H Bomb test, it was exploded at 7.15 am local time on November 1st 1952. The mushroom cloud was 8 miles across and 27 miles high. The canopy was 100 miles wide. Radioactive mud fell out of the sky followed by heavy rain. 80...."

I'll skip the conventional hand-wringing about how nasty war is and how nice it would be if everybody would be nice. You've probably heard it a thousand times. I'll also skip the agonizing over how we're all gonna die in a nuclear holocaust, or have to deal with giant mutant frogs. (Would the Lemming kid about something like this?)

Oh, Dear: Why Post Something This Dreadful?

I've got two reasons:
  1. History
  2. Language
The Lemming saw this video in a Wired article today:

"Classified Recordings of First Fusion Bomb Test Found in Old Safe"
Wired Science (January 11, 2010)

"The long-distance scientific recordings of the blast wave from the first hydrogen bomb test have been rediscovered in a formerly classified safe at Columbia University.

"On November 1, 1952, physicists created the second fusion explosion the solar system has ever known. The first occurred around 4.5 billion years ago and ignited the ongoing fusion reaction in the sun. The second, the Ivy Mike experiment, was shorter lived and detonated on an atoll in the South Pacific. This 10-megaton blast was five times more powerful than all the explosives used in World War II combined, including the nuclear-fission bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"The blast set off a low-frequency sound wave beneath the human hearing range, which was recorded halfway around the world at special listening stations designed by the Lamont Geological Observatory in Palisades, New York, for monitoring just such an event. The microbarographs measured changes in atmospheric pressure, and were particularly well-suited to detecting a nuclear explosion. As the wave passed, the ink-filled needles of the instruments scribbled on paper rolling around a drum.

"It was the first time a nuclear explosion had been detected from such a long distance and it marked the beginning of international test monitoring, a key element of nuclear non-proliferation plans...."

Lamont's former security director Ray Long found the paper recording while cleaning out the safe, and worked with Air Force brass to get them declassified. That wasn't as easy as it sounds. The American military does this according to procedures - and there wasn't one for handling this particular sort of record.

Anyway, the Wired article includes this video, a photograph of the squiggles that were recently declassified, and a brief discussion of nuclear test monitoring technology.

For me, it's interesting both from the technical and historical point of view.

Your experience may vary, of course.

Yes, there was color film in 1952

Some documentary directors have the habit of reprocessing just about any motion capture done before about 1980 into grainy sepiatone. That may give some of the younger generation (for me, that's anybody under about 35) the impression that color film didn't exist back then.

It did.

Announcers really did talk like that, though. Remember, this recording is something like 57 years old. American English may not have changed all that much: but fashions in broadcasting have.

Pay attention, the next time you listen to the news on television or radio. Not the words: the way the people say them. Odds are pretty good that they don't talk like that when they're on coffee break: and I'm guessing that you don't either.

In 2067, you (or your grandkids, if you're my age) may think video of the CBS Evening News from this year sounds funny, too.

Vaguely-related posts:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

"Ssome documentary directors" Just your friendly neighborhood proofreader. ^_^ And awesome post.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

Sssay, thatss ssome misstake that you sssaw.

You've notissed, how sssibilant Englissh iss?

Thankss!

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