The Curve of Binding Energy

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Richard Hull
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The Curve of Binding Energy

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Oct 20, 2004 6:04 pm

Larry has already recommended this prophetic and superb book.

"The Curve of Binding Energy" by John McPhee

This tome is stunningly amazing, and tells of the life and warnings of premier nuclear bomb designer and physicist, Theodore B. Taylor. Taylor (ex. Los Alamos) designed the smallest fission weapon ever produced, the 50 lb "Davy Crockett", he designed the "Hamlet" which was the most effieicient fission device ever made in the kiloton range. He also designed the largest fission yield device ever produced, the "Super Orally Bomb"............Menacingly clever dude!

Against this backdrop, we are led to discover just how easy it would be for a single inspired and able person to assemble an atom bomb. Maybe not a high yield one, but a physically small one and very nasty and dirty. What it would lack in explosive power, it would make up for in making the city or area of delivery, virtually uninhabitable due to long lived rad debris.

This is frightening stuff. Reported by a good author who studied and interviewed Ted Taylor at length to put Taylor's cause out there, that we needed controls in place. I say "needed" because the book is about 30 years old! Published in the mid seventies, it was a nuclear forecast of what is happening right NOW in international terrorism.

This book is not about terrorism, per se, it is about making small A bombs, and gives an overview of Taylor's life and times. He put the reality of "small" and "efficient" into the U.S. A-bomb arsenal as a conceptual weaponeer.

A fascinating combination of science and drama that will curl yer' hairs.

It is readily available, in quantity, used. (Probably from ex-hippy tree huggers cleaning out their basements.) The reason I emphasize "hippy" is that the original dust jacket for this book has a building on the cover with a stylized radiating heated core seen through the doorway, but on the outside wall is a big ole hippy peace symbol. It is hard to miss and I am sure dragged the eye of many a THC loaded "flower child" to at least examine the book at point of sale. As the book re-enforced their nuclear paranoia, I am sure it wound up in a lot of "hippy pad" libraries.

Amazingly, back in 1974, Taylor mused on page 15 of this tome....... "A piece of U235 the size of a stick of chewing gum, if fissioning only 10% of its mass, would bring down the world trade center".

Time to get frightened and FREAK OUT all over again.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: The Curve of Binding Energy

Post by 3l » Wed Oct 20, 2004 10:21 pm

Hi Richard:

Yep it is an amazing book.
That Book+ The Los Alamos Primer are scarier than any horror
Another book I am going to list is the"Project Orion : The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship " by George Dyson.
The curve of BE also details the crucial work Taylor did for the Orion Project as a weapons designer.

Project Orion : The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship
(HENRY HOLT, © 2002)

The improbable story of the wildest idea-a space craft powered by hydrogen bombs-to come out of the space race. It was the late 1950s. The Cold War was raging. Sputnik had made its voyage and the space race was on. In America, it was the age of tail fins and "duck and cover," but it was also a time of big ideas and dreams. On his way to school one day, George Dyson learned of a truly fantastical idea: massive space vehicles that would be powered by explosions of multiple hydrogen bombs. Among the brilliant minds behind this project was George's father, the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson. Project Orion chronicles this fascinating episode in U.S. scientific research, while capturing a unique time in American history and culture. The project brought together a cadre of brilliant physicists, the first such assemblage since the Manhattan Project of fifteen years earlier. In an idyllic seaside community in southern California-the very picture of 1950s suburban prosperity-a handful of scientists, tackled a massive project that required the ingenuity of an engineer and the vision of a great theoretician. Their work-ambitious but ultimately futile-took place against the political and cultural backdrop of the Cold War, when nuclear technology spelled both promise and terror. Dyson's prodigious historical and scientific research, combined with his personal reminiscences and connections, make for a lively, richly detailed narrative.

Happy Fusoring!
Larry Leins
Fusor Tech

Jon Rosenstiel
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Re: The Curve of Binding Energy

Post by Jon Rosenstiel » Thu Oct 21, 2004 1:30 am

Thanks for the report, sounds like an excellent read. I've got a copy on the way.

Jon Rosenstiel

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Re: The Curve of Binding Energy

Post by lambda » Sun Nov 07, 2004 12:41 am

Just bought this book today, and I must say it is a fascinating read, and just as scary. I found it interesting to note that the nuclear fuel plant in Hematite, MO stored several hundred kilos of weapons-grade U at any given time... especially since my backyard butted against their barbed-wire fence for 3 years! Man, how I wish I had asked for a tour back then. The plant is in the process of decommissioning now, and is also facing a slew of lawsuits for poisoning 15 or so nearby wells with industrial solvents that leaked from unlined burial pits. Tests have yet to detect any of the radionuclides also buried out in the field, but it's just a matter of time. Among the items buried: several highly contaminated trucks, TONS of waste products that were deemed unusable and were "conveniently" buried on-site, 55-gallon drums full of cancer-causing solvents, and I'll bet there's also a bunch of used 10-liter UF6 bottles.

You want to know just how easily U could be taken out of the facility back when it was running in the 50's and 60's?- A family friend tells stories of how her dad would come home from the plant and shake all the U pellets out of his jeans cuffs. He later died of cancer. SCARY.

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