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Scientifically testing the calculations


Discussing the compression ideas with Ulam
Edward Teller Scientist
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A few weeks later - I believe it was my 43rd, 43rd birthday, the 15th of January of 1951 - we had a session with all the senior people present that made the final decisions on what the tests that were to be made within a few months in the Pacific, what they would consist in. Bradbury said- Prior to those tests we should not think of any new approaches. It was a peculiar statement. I had discussed my novel ideas with a few people around me, but not in general. I wanted to present it at that meeting and Bradbury said- No. Tests first. No new proposals in the meantime. And there it stood, with one little exception; that within a few weeks Stan Ulam came to me with suggestions to use the nuclear explosion in order to compress some materials. That was not the first time that such a suggestion was made, but it was the first time that in a discussion with Ulam I took it very seriously. I told Stan- Indeed, you could compress and there are other methods to compress, which I will promptly- which I will very soon describe and that can then lead to the actual working of the hydrogen bomb. I'll write a paper and we'll publish together. And that is what happened.

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, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008