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Inside a nuclear bomb: the plutonium pit


Believing in nuclear testing
Jeremy Bernstein Scientist
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The whole experience at the time made me extremely foolish. I came to the conclusion for no reason at all, except that I felt empowered, because I held this pit, had seen this explosion, that somehow this testing was a useful thing. I don't know how I got this impression. And I had a girlfriend in Lake Forest, Illnois. Francis… we drove back. Francis, I drove back... sorry dropped me at her place in Lake Forest. Her mother said, 'You know, tomorrow; we're going to go somewhere where Adlai Stevenson [II] is, an old friend. We're going to see Adlai Stevenson.' I said 'Oh gee', because Adlai Stevenson was running against Eisenhower on the proposition that nuclear tests should be stopped. And.....I thought well you know...I had this... I thought they shouldn't be stopped. I don't know why I had this idea, this very, very stupid idea. I went over and... I was introduced to Adlai Stevenson. 'This is Jeremy Bernstein, he spent the summer at Los Alamos. He saw these tests, he thinks the testing is a good thing'. Stevenson took one look at me and turned around and walked away. He had no interest in talking about anything with me and he was right. He lost, I voted for him. Anyway... that was the summer of '57.

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: Operation Plumbbob, Lake Forest, Illinois, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Francis Low, Dwight Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson II

Duration: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: 15th June 2011

Date story went live: 07 September 2011