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The idea of the equilibrium super


Worries as John von Neumann confirms Ulam's calculations
Edward Teller Scientist
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The calculations of Ulam and the excellent people he- who worked with him, was worrisome, but to my mind were not conclusive. At the same time however, Johnny von Neumann, with recently improved and greatly improved computers, repeated the calculation and his results were similarly negative. And that now, toward the end of 1950, looked really like evidence that the most radical versions of the hydrogen bomb would not work. The worries of that led me some time, a few weeks before Christmas, to a very definite new approach. You see, in the original discussions of the hydrogen bomb the problem was, you may remember, that too much energy went into radiation and not enough energy remained for making nuclei collide in a sufficiently close fashion to make them react. All this had happened before - was really planned and discussed - before we came to Los Alamos.

The late Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb and provided the theoretical framework for the hydrogen bomb. During his long and sometimes controversial career he was a staunch advocate of nuclear power and also of a strong defence policy, calling for the development of advanced thermonuclear weapons.

Listeners: John H. Nuckolls

John H. Nuckolls was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1988 to 1994. He joined the Laboratory in 1955, 3 years after its establishment, with a masters degree in physics from Columbia. He rose to become the Laboratory's Associate Director for Physics before his appointment as Director in 1988.

Nuckolls, a laser fusion and nuclear weapons physicist, helped pioneer the use of computers to understand and simulate physics phenomena at extremes of temperature, density and short time scales. He is internationally recognised for his work in the development and control of nuclear explosions and as a pioneer in the development of laser fusion.

Duration: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008