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Witnessing test explosions of the nuclear bomb


The security levels at Los Alamos National Laboratory
Jeremy Bernstein Scientist
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I don’t remember how I got to Los Alamos. I didn’t have a car, I’m sure but I don’t remember how I got there. I don’t remember. Maybe I took the train.

 And in 1957, Los Alamos… it was the Cold War, and Los Alamos was very tightly shut. I think security was greater in ‘57 than it was during the war. You couldn’t get anywhere near the place without clearance.

So I lived in the bachelor dormitory and I’m sure it was the same dormitory that was during the war, the conditions were the same. And we worked in the Theory Division Building, which had another level of security, and I had nothing to do. You know, nobody asked me to work on any nuclear weapons and I didn’t know anything about nuclear weapons. And nuclear weapons were being worked on, but not where I was. But a friend of mine from Harvard was there and I came with a problem, with an interesting question, and I didn’t have enough mathematical power to solve it, but he did. So the two of us spent the summer working on this problem in elementary particle physics, a very pretty problem.

And I met a lot of very distinguished guys who were there consulting, became very good friends with Francis Low of MIT, Marv Goldberger. I think Gell-Mann may have come through a few times, Ken Watson. And they were consulting on stuff.

Born in 1929, Jeremy Bernstein is an American physicist, educator and writer known for the clarity of his writing for the lay reader on the major issues of modern physics. After graduating from Harvard University, Bernstein worked at Harvard and at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton. In 1962 he became an Associate Professor of Physics at New York University, and later a Professor of Physics at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, a position he continues to hold. He was also on the staff of The New Yorker magazine.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Francis Low, Marvin Goldberger, Murray Gell-Mann, Kenneth Watson

Duration: 1 minute, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: 15th June 2011

Date story went live: 07 September 2011