The dead of the “heart of the devil”

In games on November 1, 2010 at 5:46 am

Harry k. Daghlian and Louis Alexander Slotin formed part of the scientific team who during the 1940s developed the first atomic bombs in the framework of the so-called “Manhattan Project“. The first served as Assistant to the second, and both were killed in two separate, which occurred in Los Alamos labs accidents.In both cases the scientists working on a kernel later baptised “heart of the devil” and used in the nuclear test ABLE of operation Crossroads.

After the Second World War, in which the army American volatiliz√≥ about 210 thousand people in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, scientists of the country continued to work in the development of atomic bombs s.The world is heading towards what was then known as “cold war”, and the availability of such weapons was for the generals of the time, absolutely indispensable.It was as facilities which were built in New Mexico for the Manhattan Project, conveniently expanded, remained in use for research on this type of artifacts. 

  Recreation of the “heart of the devil” (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Working with radioactive substances can be something very dangerous, and in spite of having all imaginable security measures, physicists who worked at Los Alamos constantly risked their lives to manipulate compounds used for experiments. Louis Slotin Alexander was born on December 1, 1910 in Russia, but still a boy fled the anti-Semitic pogroms of Russia along with his family to Canada. Exceptionally gifted for studies, at age 16 Slotin joined the University of Manitoba, where he received the Medal Gold both physics and chemistry.Graduated in 1932 and the following year earned his Master of Science. Shortly afterwards got a place at King’s College London.Some historians claim that you formed part of an international brigade support the troops of the second Republic in the Spanish civil war, but others say just traveled to Spain as a tourist. Earned a doctorate in physics and chemistry in 1936 and his doctoral thesis (“An Investigation into the Intermediate Formation of Unstable Molecules During some Chemical Reactions”) received an award from the University.

The core was detonated in 1946. (Navy photographer)

In 1937 Slotin began working at the University of Chicago as a research associate. Specializing in nuclear chemistry, was part of the team that built the first cyclotron United States West. His numerous articles on radiobiology determined that United States Government considers it indispensable for the Manhattan project, which had as main objective the creation of an atomic bomb.It was in December 1944 and after passing through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge (Tennessee), Slotin finished at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.His job was to make proofs of criticality in uranium and plutonium samples. Basically, what towards Slotin was lead to these materials at levels critical, very close to the point that would begin a nuclear chain reaction, to stabilize its mass.  The physicist Richard Feynman called these experiments “do tingling at the tail of the Dragon” by how close was nuclear fission.  His colleagues concerned Slotin as “the head of the United States gunsmith”, was responsible for preparing the nucleus of nuclear bombs. “Trinity“, the first atomic bomb detonated in history, was assembled by this man.

View Los Alamos, taken in 1995 air (Fastfission)

Slotin had several assistants. One of them was Harry k. Daghlian, who became the first dead inside of the Manhattan project team.In August 1945 was performing experiments of critical mass in the Omega Site Laboratory, which depended on the Los Alamos laboratory, when accidentally dropped a small brick carbide tungsten core plutonium that would be used in a pump.Bricks, used as neutrons, reflectors should be slowly placed the nucleus.When all they were instead, Mount could “enter” a nuclear reaction critical but controlled, something similar to what happens in a nuclear reactor. Security protocols dictaminaban that this work could not be done by one person, but Daghlian – working late at night – violated rules and tried to put the last block of tungsten carbide. Accidentally dropped the brick and the reaction came to the stage immediately preceding the supercritical phase. Accompanied by an intense blue glow ionizing radioactive event took place at that moment. Wise Daghlian who was dead, but still had enough mood for partially disassembling your stack of blocks and stop the reaction. He died three weeks later, victim of poisoning by acute radiation.

Slotin (Public Domain) accident recreation

Ironically, this same core, which more later scientists team renamed “heart of the devil” (“Demon Core”), would also cause the death of Louis Slotin. It may 21, 1946 Slotin was alongside seven other physical working in an experiment that required place two half spheres of beryllium surrounding who had killed Daghlian plutonium core. Slotin had his left hand on the upper hemisphere, while it maintained separate from the other half using a screwdriver that held with his right hand. Nowhere in the Protocol written for this operation included the use of a screwdriver, but seems to be a work that had already made on many occasions, Louis used this tool. None of those present should have considered this a danger, since nobody said a Word.But in a moment of distraction screwdriver slipped, and the upper hemisphere beryllium fell on the core, causing its critical reaction.Again, blue brightness associated to the emission of electromagnetic radiation from high energy was observed by everyone and they could perceive the core from heat wave.Slotin quickly lifted the hemisphere and blew it on the floor, stopped the reaction.

Location of the “Manhattan Project” (Fastfission) laboratories

Sour taste that immediately felt in his mouth and the intense sensation of burning in his left hand indicated to Slotin had been exposed to a huge dose of radiation, and at weekends practical was dead.Minutes later it was vomiting in the hallway, waiting for him to carry the hospital.It was determined that had been exposed to a dose of gamma radiation and neutron close to 2100 rems, similar to that which had been received from standing at 1500 metres from the place where detonase an atomic bomb.“Heart of the demon” had gained a new victim: nine days after the accident, May 30, 1946, Slotin died.The kernel was detonated as part of a nuclear device called ABLE, in a series of tests called Operation Crossroads.The death of Slotin served so onward, work on the nuclei of fission headwinds using robotic arms remotely controlled.


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