“We Knew That If We Succeeded, We Could At One Blow Destroy A City”

A final interview with the most controversial father of the atomic age, Edward Teller

On October 31, 1952, Halloween was just getting rolling in California when, half a world away on the South Pacific island of Elugelab, the firing circuits closed on Ivy-Mike, the first practical test of the prototype hydrogen bomb. Ghosts and goblins roamed the Berkeley streets as Dr. Edward Teller, the driving force behind the new weapon, sat quietly in a darkened basement, patiently scanning for subtle, indirect evidence that he had irrevocably altered the world yet again.

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The Time Of The Great Fever

U-Boom on the Colorado Plateau

Gold is where you find it, goes the old prospectors’ saw. But uranium, according to at least some members of that grizzled and vanishing breed, is where you dream you’ll find it, where your bones and your hunches tell you it hides—no matter what some government geologist or petroleum industry big shot thinks.Read more »

A Demonstration At Shippingport

Coming on Line

From the beginning it was clear—in this case the beginning was December 2, 1942, the day the first man-made nuclear reactor was nudged to criticality in a squash court beneath the west stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field and incidentally the first day of wartime gasoline rationing—that the fissioning atom radiated heat energy and that such energy might, in the fullness of time, be applied to make electricity for power. Fifteen years would pass before nuclear electricity was generated in any quantity in the United States.Read more »