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"Now I become Death, destroyer of worlds."

The first mushroom cloud in human history
The first mushroom cloud in human history
Photo: United States Department of Energy (Fair Use)

75 years ago today the Trinity atomic bomb was detonated on the USAAF Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range (Now part of the White Sands Missile Range), ushering in the Atomic Age.

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Constructed under the auspices of the Manhattan Project, the Trinity device, nicknamed “the gadget” was a plutonium implosion type, functionally identical to the Fat Man bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan just three weeks later.

Louis Slotin and Herbert Lehr with the Gadget, July 13th 1945
Louis Slotin and Herbert Lehr with the Gadget, July 13th 1945
Photo: Manhattan Project photographer (Fair Use)
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A 100 foot tall tower was constructed to house the Gadget prior to detonation.
A 100 foot tall tower was constructed to house the Gadget prior to detonation.
Photo: US Department of Energy (Fair Use)

At 0529 Mountain War Time, the Gadget detonated, releasing a blast equivalent to 22 kilotons of TNT (mas o menos). The explosion produced a crater 30 feet wide and 5 feet deep, and sand from the surrounding area was drawn into the mushroom cloud and melted, raining down on the site and forming Trinitie (also called atomsite or Alamogordo glass).

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Close-up of a piece of Trinitite, showing structure.
Close-up of a piece of Trinitite, showing structure.
Photo: Shaddack

After the explosion, Kenneth Bainbridge, physicist at Harvard and part of the Manhattan Project, said to Robert Oppenheimer: “Now we are all sons of bitches.” Oppenheimer himself recalled two verses from the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu holy book: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one ...” and that used as the title of this piece.

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Immediately after the explosion two Sherman tanks, their hulls lined with lead, trundled into the crater to take samples. Despite the lining, the tank crews received considerable radiation doses, with film badges indicating between 7 and 15 roentgens.

The same day, the cruiser USS Indianapolis left San Francisco for Tinian with the components for the Little Boy bomb on board (the Little Boy’s ‘gun-type’ design was better understood than the implosion-type, and did not require a test shot).

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