Sunday, July 16, 2006

July 16: Trinity Day

Today is the anniversary of the birth of the nuclear age. On July 16, 1945 at 5:29am, a mushroom cloud rose into the sky above the New Mexico desert.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project, named the test "Trinity" based on John Donne's Holy Sonnet 14, whose first four lines read:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

The test, which took place in total secrecy, resulted in a blast that was equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT, more than two times what was predicted by Los Alamos scientists. The blast completely vaporized the 800 yard tower the bomb was placed on before the test. The bomb's mushroom cloud rose seven and a half miles into the sky, and the bomb's shock wave was felt 100 miles away.

260 people, sworn to secrecy, witnessed the test. The official press release attributed the explosion to an ammunitions dump accident. On August 6, 1945, the world learned the truth as the atomic bomb, code named "Little Boy," was dropped on Hiroshima killing an estimated 80,000 people instantly.

Before the test J. Robert Oppenheimer used religious imagery to name the Trinity Test, and he returned again to religious literature to describe his reaction to the test's success. He said a line from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita came to his mind as he watched the rising mushroom cloud:

I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Today's Challenge: Special of the Day -- Food Idioms

Describing the atomic bomb's explosion as a mushroom cloud is not the first time that English speakers have turned to food items as metaphors. See if you can fill in the blanks in the two-word food idioms below:

1. __________ ears

2. Adam's ________

3. ________ train

4. Couch _________

5. Dead ________

6. Duck ________

7. Smart ________

8. _______ counter

9. _______ days

10. Cold _______.

Quote of the Day: The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country. --J. Robert Oppenheimer

Answers: 1. Cauliflower 2. apple 3. Gravy 4. potato 5. meat 6. soup 7. cookie 8. bean 9. salad 10. turkey

1 - The Manhattan Project, An Interactive History. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of History & Heritage Resources.

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