a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Oppenheimer changes his mind about the H-bomb


Computing and the H-bomb. Marshall Rosenbluth, John Sheldon
John Wheeler Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Computing the progress of a thermonuclear combustion presented quite a challenge, because there was not the simplicity of geometry that one had in the A-bomb. This was quite something. We had the helpful advice of Marshall Rosenbluth, who is still, even now, a leading figure in thermonuclear physics. He had had a lot of experience in computing and advised us on the kinds of formulas that would be of the most use. But where to get the computing done? We didn't have any computing engines. And we called on the IBM people in New York, John Sheldon there was wonderful. And the computer people at the University of Pennsylvania, with John Mauchly, and we were also using the National Bureau of Standards computer. Here it was, using the substantial fraction of the computational facilities of the United States for this work. And I still feel like a 'piker' when I think of how I never put in these thirty-six hour stretches that so many of the lads did, getting their calculations done. But John Sheldon proved the value of that training at a later point in his life, when he drove from Florida to California, across the country, without stopping to sleep.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008