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Drawing uncovered of 'Nazi Nuke' 639

Posted by samzenpus
from the too-close-for-comfort dept.
ninjee writes "Historians working in Germany and the US claim to have found a 60-year-old diagram showing a Nazi nuclear bomb. It is the only known drawing of a "nuke" made by Nazi experts and appears in a report held by a private archive. The researchers who brought it to light say the drawing is a rough schematic and does not imply the Nazis built, or were close to building, an atomic bomb. But a detail in the report hints some Nazi scientists may have been closer to that goal than was previously believed. The report containing the diagram is undated, but the researchers claim the evidence points to it being produced immediately after the end of the war in Europe. It deals with the work of German nuclear scientists during the war and lacks a title page, so there is no evidence of who composed it. One historian behind the discovery, Rainer Karlsch, caused a storm of controversy earlier this year when he claimed to have uncovered evidence the Nazis successfully tested a primitive nuclear device in the last days of WWII. A number of historians rejected the claim. The drawing is published in an article written for Physics World magazine by Karlsch and Mark Walker, professor of history at Union College in Schenectady, US."
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Drawing uncovered of 'Nazi Nuke'

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  • Forget it. (Score:5, Informative)

    by FTL (112112) * <slashdot@neil.fr ... .name minus city> on Thursday June 02, 2005 @06:10AM (#12702701) Homepage
    First, if you look at the diagram [bbc.co.uk], you'll see that it plainly shows a plutonium core. Problem, Nazi Germany did not have an operational nuclear reactor. Thus they had no ability to create kilograms of plutonium. This makes the diagram a pipe-dream at best.

    Second, if you look at the diagram you'll see that it is initiated a gun-type trigger, something that is impossible for Pu. This makes the diagram look like the work of someone that doesn't know what they are doing. Maybe this was deliberate (though rather obvious) misinformation by a scientist who didn't want Hitler to get the bomb.

    Third, it is undated, and unnamed, from an unknown source. Not worth even reading.

    In any event, Germany had no means of effectively delivering such a weapon. They lacked the heavy aircraft which the USA used. The V2 rocket only had a fraction of the payload capacity needed. The best they could have done is load it on a cargo vessel and attempt to sail into someone's harbour. Or leave it behind in a city like Paris after retreating. Neither of which would have been terribly impressive, since they would be ground-bursts and not much different from a few tons of dynamite.

    • Re:Forget it. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Netsensei (838071)
      Maybe not a classic atomic bomb. But I remember reading somewhere that the Nazi bomb would have been something closer to a "dirty bomb". Which spreads radioactive material with conventional explosives.

      The effect would be more local. Instead of flattening an entire city, it would pollute a small area. But the demoralising on troops would be quite effective I guess.
      • Re:Forget it. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        dirty bombs are completly ineffective though. the us military has looked into their use. the radiation from one is confined to too small an area. ensuring, with a large enough explosion that a larger area is covered just lessens the amount of radioactive material in a given area, lessening the effect. either way it is a simple cleanup operation.
      • Re:Forget it. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hedge_death_shootout (681628) <stalin AT linuxmail DOT org> on Thursday June 02, 2005 @07:23AM (#12702939)
        I think that during WWII, if a couple of blocks of, say, London had been contaminated by a dirty bomb, people would have been relatively unmoved.
        They had more fatal stuff to worry about.
        • Re:Forget it. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Have Blue (616)
          True, but imagine what the world would be like today if there was, right now, a section of London that was abandoned and fenced off, and anyone who went in there would die.
      • Re:Forget it. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @07:54AM (#12703049)
        The effect would be more local. Instead of flattening an entire city, it would pollute a small area. But the demoralising on troops would be quite effective I guess.

        It wouldn't be. The problem is that no one would understand the effects and hence, be scared of it.

        • If they did understand the effects, they still wouldn't be scared of it. Uranium is a poor choice of material for a "dirty bomb".
      • Re: Dirty bomb (Score:5, Interesting)

        by philbert26 (705644) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @08:10AM (#12703103)
        Maybe not a classic atomic bomb. But I remember reading somewhere that the Nazi bomb would have been something closer to a "dirty bomb". Which spreads radioactive material with conventional explosives.

        In 1945 the Germans put their supply of uranium on a submarine, with the intention of delivering it to the Japanese. I imagine a dirty bomb would have been the most likely purpose. More information here [uiuc.edu].

        • Re: Dirty bomb (Score:5, Informative)

          by Cat_Byte (621676) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:52AM (#12703986) Journal
          They had a very informative special on Discovery about Germany and the nuclear research during WW2. The story about the uranium on a sub and the other story about the entire shipment of heavy water being sunk in a lake set them so far back they couldn't catch up again. Things like this in history are probably why it was unanimous to decide to do something about Iraq when they thought they were building WMDs. If Germany had waited a few short years they would have been quite a bit more lethal.
      • Re:Forget it. (Score:3, Informative)

        by RWerp (798951)
        In the '40s people were not that aware of the dangers of nuclear radiation. So the demoralising effects would be quite smaller than today.
    • Re:Forget it. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Derleth (197102) <chbarts@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 02, 2005 @06:26AM (#12702736) Homepage
      Neither of which would have been terribly impressive, since they would be ground-bursts and not much different from a few tons of dynamite.

      If dynamite caused radiation sickness and cancer, this would be exactly right. As it stands, however, even a Nazi dirty bomb would have had at least a huge psychological effect, if not a very large military one.

      It might have opened our eyes to the true dangers of radiation sooner, but I don't think so. It could be an interesting jumping-off point for an alternative history story: What if it gave other groups the idea to make their own dirty bombs in the unsettled postwar years?

      • Re:Forget it. (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bloodredsun (826017)

        You're also talking about an era where governments (US, UK and AUS amongst them) exposed their own soldiers to nuclear tests to see how they would react, so I'm not sure about the psychological effects being that profound.

        Mind you, we also had radioactive toothpaste and people bought it!

      • I gotta side with the previous 2 posters on this. It's just unlikely a "Dirty Bomb" during world war 2 would've mattered.

        I think it goes more to say that even the Nazi's wouldn't have thought about using this tactic, as WW2 was not one of psychological warfare on a populace, but total miltaristic warfare.

        Domination, defense, and blitzkrieg style warfare does not go hand in hand with guerilla style annoyance tactics.

        charred earth tactics not withstanding, but the fact "Dirty bombs" (i even hate saying th
      • You forget (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @08:10AM (#12703105)
        Nobody knew about those properties of radioactive materials in WWII. That is one of the reasons the US decided to use nuclear bombs on Japan. You have to remember that bombing was amazingly imprecise back then. If you wanted to take out military bases and industrial production in a city you pretty much leveled the city trying to do so. Bombing strategy was to drop a whole mess of bombs in the general area (we are talking like quare mile here) of your target. By chance some of them would hit it.

        So the appeal of the atomic bomb wasn't it's additonal features, those were unknown. It was just thought to be a really big bomb. Rather than needing to send hundreds of bombers and dropping tens of thousands of bombs, you could send in just one bomber and drop one bomb. You'd risk a lot less assets, eliminate targets much faster, and save lives (yours at least) and money.

        You also have to remember that, even had it been known what a direty bomb was, nobody would have been impressed. For one thing direty bombs are pretty fucking worthless militarily. Most radio active elements, but particularly the ones we are tlaking about here (uraunium and plutonium) are very, very heavy materials. This means their airborne time is very low. Well if you just spread them around, you really aren't going to cause a lot of effect. They need to get inside people to do real damage, or people need prolonged exposure. Just being externally exposed to a little uranium lying somewhere near you won't do much.

        Also you have to remember this was a very, very dirty war. It was pretty much no holds barred. Gas attacks of various kinds, of example, were used. Civilians died all the time just due to the nature of war. As I said, you'd take out an entire city to try and take out it's infastructure. So if you managed to make a few hundred people sick with radation poisining, oh well, big deal, people were dying all the time from the war.
        • Not true (Score:3, Informative)

          by theolein (316044)
          Nobody knew about those properties of radioactive materials in WWII.
          There is a well recorded event during the nuclear research in Germany during WWII where an accident happened and many researchers died of radiation poisoning. And while I don't know for sure, I assume that the western researchers also knew of the dangers of radiation, since even Marie Curie had suffered from radiation poisoning. Most probably no one expected there to be so much from a bomb, however.

          Also you have to remember this was a ve
        • Re:You forget (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Phanatic1a (413374)
          Nobody knew about those properties of radioactive materials in WWII.

          Nonsense. If that were the case, there would have been no radiation safety precautions during the project, and all the scientists and workers at Los Alamos, Hanford, and other Manhattan sites would have rapidly died of acute radiation poisoning.

          Long-term effects of varying levels of exposure were not understood, but it was certainly known that neutron activation will render materials radioactive, and that the bomb would produce signif
    • Re:Forget it. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Xner (96363) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @06:27AM (#12702739) Homepage
      Agreed, it looks more like someone's fantasy about what a 1940s era atomic weapon should look like than a real one.

      Is it possible it was a design "speculated" from spy reports from the allies? It does capture two crucial design decisions (gun assembly and plutonium core), but manages to mix them up in a single entity. Which would be an easy mistake to make if one was relying on shaky intelligence from someone close to the Manhattan project, but not too close.

      The design still looks approximated though, and does not take into account the scale or space requirements of a v2-type rocket.

    • Hittler was a spitefull little bastard , I have no doubt he would of set several of these up across germany and surrounding countrys they still inhabited to leave a little suprise for the allies when his defeat was imminent .
      on the tops of large buildings etc i imagine , Wiping out a fair few places and soldier and most likely half of germany rather than letting it fall into allied hands .
    • Am I the only one who thinks this sounds an awful lot like a combinations of Hitler's Diaries [typepad.com] from the eighties and the more recent Priory of Sion hoax [wikipedia.org]?

      Top secret documents mysteriously discovered in forgotten archives! History as we know it must be revised! Read all about it, etc.

      For all I know, the document found could of course be both genuine and significant. But when it sounds a little to good to be true,...

    • Odd, because that drawing looks like a little boy style bomb, which as we all know, contains no Plutonium at all. Just a Uranium pellet being accelerated into a much larger mass of Uranium, achieving maximum density.
    • Re:Forget it. (Score:3, Interesting)

      Third, it is undated, and unnamed, from an unknown source. Not worth even reading.

      Not worth reading, yes, but for the weak minded, it will suffice. Am I the only foil-hatted one to suspect this piece of yellow journalism was timed to sow some additional fear/causus belli over the Iranian bomb program?

      When I heard the soundbite over ABC Radio, there was absolutely no question by the news people as to its veracity, only a verbatim repeat of whatever the original source was. Thanks for nothing, press.

      An

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @07:25AM (#12702948) Journal
      Germany invested a lot in rocketry research, and the V2 wasn't the only thing the had designed.

      Ballistic missiles are known by everyone because of the cold war hype, but with that era's technology and bearing in mind that they didn't need to go all the way to america with it, a cruise missile is where it's at. I.e., a rocket with wings. You don't have to launch the thing upwards with a rocket to hit Britain from France, you can just as well launch it horizontally or on a flat arc and use wings to provide the needed lift. Like the V-1 did, for example.

      And they did research and build just that too: rockets with wings.

      The Me-163 Komet for example was an interceptor aircraft with a liquid-fuel rocket (not turbojet) engine. It reached a speed of approximately 600 mph (almost 1000 km/h) and had a maximum range of about 80 km.

      Nasty thing and more dangerous for the pilot than for the enemy, but to chuck a small bomb without a pilot across the channel it would have worked outstandingly.

      And I have no doubt that, if they absolutely needed to chuck a 4 ton bomb (the weight of the hiroshima bomb), they could have slapped 2, 3 or 4 of those engines on an airframe with bigger wings.

      It's a lot easier to design such a one-shot contraption, when you don't have to worry about being able to land safely, or about structural damage during flight. It can, for all you care, come apart at the end, as long as it does it on the other side of the channel.
    • Re:Forget it. (Score:4, Informative)

      by RDW (41497) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @07:57AM (#12703055)
      The original Physics World article [physicsweb.org] contains a lot more information, including a (modern) schematic of 'some sort of a nuclear device' (not the same as the drawing reproduced by the BBC, and not a full scale atomic bomb) that one of the authors claims was actually tested by the Germans in 1945, supposedly killing 'several hundred prisoners of war and concentration-camp inmates'.
    • Re:Forget it. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DjMd (541962)
      First, if you look at the diagram...

      Not your fault, but Thanks BBC. The partial picture on the news story is closer and has more detail, the enlarge picture (which BBC has linked and you link to directly) is of a lower quality, thus I can't read ANYthing on it...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 02, 2005 @06:12AM (#12702706)
    This is great! There might be hope after all! Maybe in 60 years the US will find diagrams of WMD in Iraq!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I know for certain that in 60 years time when people look back through my school notes, they will find doodles of teleporters, aliens, spacemen firing with space guns.

      All of which giving first proof that the UK was already a vengeful island full of vindictive alien hating super scientists.
    • Yep , probbably with a little "Made in the USA" sticker on the bottom
  • If the Nazis had completed work on the nuclear bomb / rocket nuke then the world would be a very difrent place than it is today .
    They most likely would have still lost the war , but the face of europe would be a very difrent one than it is today.
    I suppose it is about time for another "What if " ww2 movie
    • They most likely would have still lost the war , but the face of europe would be a very difrent one than it is today.

      I really don't think so. The US would have tested their A-bombs on Hamburg and Bremen instead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. War ends, a few years pass, Germans and US-Americans are best buddies. (Cue Bob Dylans "With God On Our Side")

      I suppose it is about time for another "What if " ww2 movie

      Thanks, but no, thanks.

      Kind regards, Udo Schmitz, Bremen, Germany

    • the face of europe would be a very difrent one than it is today
      yeah, for one thing it would be a lot less inhabitable, and a lot more filled with strange mutant humans [crossingeurope.at]

      Suchetha
    • Re:Scary to think (Score:2, Insightful)

      by The Ur-Grue (145015)
      Different how, exactly? They WOULD have still lost the war. There's no 'likely' about it. One atomic bomb would have made remarkably little difference.

      The material and manpower advantage of the allied armies and the Soviet Union in particular was utterly overwhelming by 1945.
    • "If the Nazis had completed work on the nuclear bomb / rocket nuke then the world would be a very difrent place than it is today."

      This is why we should all be glad that Captain Kirk allowed Edith Keeler to be run over by that car.

    • If they had the bomb early enough to change course of war on Eastern front, sure. After that, an atomic bomb wouldn't be of any use, they would have lost the war just the same.

      Besides Hitler probably wouldn't have used an a-bomb anyway. Germany had best chemical weapons developed but used none during WW2. Hitler thought Allied forces had chemicals too and feared a chemical retaliation. He also thought they are not powerful enough to change course of war. If he had an A-bomb too late in the game or he was

      • Well, you have to keep in mind in WWI Hitler was temporarily blinded by a British chlorine bomb, and spent the final days of the war in a hospital bed. Maybe he felt that he couldn't actually win a chemical battle and kept the chemicals just in case they were used against the Germans. Maybe he was afraid chemical weapons could actually hurt him.
    • There's that one movie(philadelphia experiment 2?) where a F-117 somehow magically gets transported(with a nuke) to WW2 Nazi Germany. So the Nazis take the plane, fly it over to Washington DC and nuke it, and win.

      What was neat to see was the F-117 painted in Nazi markings(with the cross + numbers).
  • Heisenberg (Score:5, Informative)

    by Underholdning (758194) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @06:24AM (#12702729) Homepage Journal
    It's no secret that Heisenberg [wikipedia.org] worked on a nuclear weapon during the WWII. However, some claim that he deliberately didn't make any real progress. There's plenty of more information here. [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Heisenberg (Score:4, Informative)

      by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Thursday June 02, 2005 @06:31AM (#12702752) Homepage Journal
      Trying or not (and some certainly were) there's little doubt that Nazi scientists were a long way from the bomb. Indeed, due to a widely circulated (and accepted) mistake in a calculation about the mass of Uranium required for a chain reaction, many believed it impossible.

      There are transcripts and tapes of British debriefings at Farm Hall [nybooks.com] after captured German scientists were informed about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and most express complete incredulity that the US scientists had succeeded.
      • Re:Heisenberg (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yes, and it is widely thought that Heisenberg delibertly made the "mistake" in the calculations to impeed Nazi efforts to create the bomb. If he did, it was a brilliant move. It made the concept of a bomb far more difficult in the design, the amount of material apparently required (Ten times as much as the US needed for Little Boy) and deployment (A Nazi bomb would have been huge, if it had ever worked. The US Little Boy wasn't exactly small as it was.)
        • Re:Heisenberg (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Vo0k (760020)
          Well, ten times or not, the draft designs of "hopefully workable" bomb were devices weighting about 200 ton. NOT transportable by plane. At best by a ship/train (but if by train, then in parts, to be assembled at the detonation site.)

          By all accounts Nazis were closer to developing a working flying saucer [unrealaircraft.com] than a working nuclear bomb...
    • Well it should be pointed out that many of the scientists at both Los Alamos and the Rad Lab were Jews who had flead from Hitler's Europe. (Teller, Fermi*, Leo Szelard many others)

      Fermi was not Jewish, but his wife was.
  • Several unexploded WW2-era bombs [unit.org.uk] are apparently being uncovered in east London. Supposedly the plan was for them to remain unexploded for a long period, then detonate, to act as Hitler's revenge long after the war was lost. Nasty.
    • remain unexploded for a long period, then detonate

      Like land mines in Vietnam and Cambodia?

    • by rapiddescent (572442) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @06:41AM (#12702796)
      several? hundreds of UXB's (Unexploded bombs) have been found in east London and the old industrial areas of the UK after blanket bombing during WWII.

      If you drop hundreds of thousands of various types of ordnance onto an industrialised area then as much as 20% will not explode. Even ordnance flung into Baghdad some 60 years later didn't all explode on impact.

      I doubt this was intentional.

      • Well, over 1/3 of bombs dropped during the Warsaw Insurrection on Warsaw by Nazis didn't explode, and that was perfectly intentional. Not intentional by Nazis though - bombs manufactured in Czech factories, by people forced to work there, were frequently sabotaged to be duds. Then the rebels would take them apart and build grenades from the explosives, using them against Germans - these "home-made" grenades were the most basic weapons for that fight, as thanks to constant supply of explosives from Czech the
    • Since the link in your post goes the website of a fictional organisation that Doctor Who belongs to [krysstal.com], perhaps the moderation of your post as 'informative' was a little misplaced?
    • by quigonn (80360) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @07:23AM (#12702938) Homepage
      I live in Linz, Austria, where the "Hermann-Göring-Werke" (a huge steel-producing factory) were (now known as "VOEST"), and the Allies (mostly US-American bombers) dropped an extremely high number of bombs there, a lot of them designed to explode after up to 144 hours. They still find unexploded bombs now and then, all over the city, and people still die from exploding bombs, like a few months ago, where one bomb exploded after building workers accidently hit it with an excavator, who were killed by that. And they had to barricade a huge area around that, because they found another unexploded bomb and feared the 144 hour timer could have been activated by the first explosion. Oh, that was the worst incident within the last year, but often enough, roads get blocked for several hours because they have to defuse some bomb they found somewhere, which happens about every one or two months or so. Very "nice".
    • Hey, U.N.I.T. is involved.... why don't they just send The Doctor back to WW2 to confirm whether these bombs were planted deliberately or not?
  • As mentioned elsewhere, the diagram is for a plutonium bomb (and according to the earlier poster, the diagram wouldn't have worked.) The Germans hadn't even gotten a fission reaction going by the end of the war, since they didn't know that purified sufficiently purified graphite could be used to produce slow neutrons, and they kept trying to use heavywater.

    The German nuclear scientists were rounded up and kept for a few weeks at Farm Hall where they were secretly recorded. The transcripts of this were de
    • There is something many WW2 historians have noticed.

      Heisenberg was not an engineer and he did not get along with engineers. Typical of most European academentia at the time (and even now) . There were very few people to actually take the "ideas" and make them "tick" on the German nuclear team.

      This is in sharp contrast with both American and Russian efforts which were done in a much more practical manner.
  • First of all, Hitler shrugged off nuclear physics as "Jewish Physics" and refused to have anything to do with it. And according to Albert Speer, Reichsminister for War and Armaments, the research to build a Nuclear bomb was in preliminary phases only. USSR knew that US was building an A-bomb and Stalin wanted one for himself too. That was the prime motive for Soviet Union's amazing drive towards Berlin. Anyway,let's be thankful that Hitler had no nukes or there would have been no Slashdot today :-)
    • Schrägstrichpunkt.com .. no we most likely would still have won , it would of just been a whole lot more of a mess afterwards .. still rather scary to think about
    • Hitler was able to shrug these things aside when it suited him. I mean, you've only got to look at the guy to see that he didn't fit into the Nazi ideal of an Aryan race!
    • "Hitler shrugged off nuclear physics as "Jewish Physics" and refused to have anything to do with it."

      Again, class, here we have yet another an object lesson in why it's a Bad Idea to let a religious position dictate the progress of Science.

      Kansas, are you paying attention? Take that opposable thumb out of your mouth this minute, and take your bipedally-evolved feet off the desk. So help me, if I see you flicking spitwads at the Separation of Church and State one more time...
  • I don't suppose anyone who (unlike myself) has some German would care to translate the captions from the BBC's version of the drawing [bbc.co.uk]?

    Thanks.
  • Nuclear Armaments (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hodge (530651) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @07:10AM (#12702891) Journal
    I am currently reading Gitta Sereny's biography of Albert Speer (Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth), who was Hitler's architect, then armaments minister during WW2.

    He claims to have stopped the scientists from developing the bomb any further - not because he was opposed to the concept if such a weapon (he certainly wasn't). The reason was that it was clear it would need much more time than was available in order to complete the work.

    What was considered feasible was the idea of an "energy producing Uranium motor" for use in vehicles, and research was switched in that direction around 1944.

    Antony Beevor's excellent book on the fall of Berlin also makes it clear that the Germans' nuclear research facilities were well known to the Russian's and were a major influence on Stalin's tactical decisions regarding Berlin. He was determined to obtain the fruits of this research.

    The book also makes clear that Heisenburg did not try to sabotage the programme but was eager to succeed. This view is also backed up by the famous meeting between Heisenburg and Nils Bohr in Copenhagen in 1941 and Hesinburg's views at that time.

    Of course even though one new where Heisenburg was in 1941 you could never tell what direction he was taking at that time.

    • I suggest you read Albert Speer's own Memoirs "Inside the Third Reich". It's a very insightful book and there's much detailed discussion about the Atomic Bomb. Also, the book by Beevor "Berlin - The Downfall 1945" is the *only* book I've read so far that talks about Stalin's motives to capture Nazi research intact. Not that I don't believe Beevor, it would be nice to see more documented proof. I've recently read Cornelius Ryan's "The Last Battle" - also dealing with Battle for Berlin and covers the Allies
  • that fascists with nuclear bombs is a bad thing...

    how about a theocracy with nuclear bombs (tehran)?

    or a tyrant with nuclear bombs (pyongyang)?

    what will it take for the world to do something decisive about these regimes and their (soon to be) nuclear arsenals? a nuclear signature over los angeles or madrid?

    i fear that to be the case
    • And what happens when we move on Pyongyang and they launch a preemptive bomb on Seoul, killing millions?
    • Did you not grow up during the cold war? You seem to have forgotten that the USSR had the bomb for decades.

      There were people screaming for blood on both sides, talking about how the other side was evil and needed to be stopped, etc etc. But, people with cooler heads prevailed, and the cold war ended in time. The nuclear threat remains- the genie is out of the bottle and can never be put back in. The only thing we can do is to encourage countries not to develop nukes.

      Its scary, but you should really st
  • World War 2 brought along radar, jet, microwaves and atomic bombs - probably much more and early computers. All in five years. That's a lot of progress. What if WW2 never happened, how would our life been?

    So what I wonder: Isn't it strange that wartime is the best time for scientific progress? Do we really need war to focus our minds and resources in this way?
    • Isn't it strange that wartime is the best time for scientific progress? Do we really need war to focus our minds and resources in this way?

      Yes we do. In a major war, losing is really, really bad. So you have an all out push to gain any advantage you can. People volunteer for, and can be directed into projects they otherwise might not have pursued. And given a blank check to get it done.

      No war? You can take your time on things. Writing papers, doing endless experiments to get it 'just right'.

      Fear is a gr

  • by Goonie (8651) <robert.merkel@be ... ra.org minus bsd> on Thursday June 02, 2005 @07:26AM (#12702953) Homepage
    It may be too difficult to read given the poor-quality reproduction on the BBC article, but if possible could somebody translate the labels on that diagram?

    From what I can tell, it looks to be a straightforward version of the "gun design" used in the Hiroshima bomb, which a) is so obvious that I think even I could have figured out the basic concept, and b) won't work with real plutonium as Pu-240 contamination will cause the weapon to blow itself to bits before enough of the plutonium has fissioned. So, even if it was true, they had a very long way to go before they could have made a bomb.

    An implosion design, by contrast, would be a much bigger deal, though as I understand it just having the idea is a very long way from making it work.

    Two final things: one of the reasons why the Nazis never got very far on their nuclear weapons project is that they could never get a reactor working; one of the key reasons for that was their supply of heavy water was kept from them by Norwegian partisans working with British SOE. Their story is a pretty amazing one [wikipedia.org].

    And finally, while it's not possible to make a plutonium gun bomb now; it should be possible in the very distant future. Pu-240 (the contaminant) has a much shorter half-life (about 6500 years) than Pu-239 (about 24,100 years). So, over (lots of) time, the proportion of the Pu-240 should gradually reduce. So maybe these Germans were just a little ahead of their time...

  • I'm currently reading Karlsch's latest book "Hitlers Bombe" which unfortunately has not been tranlated in English yet.Anyway in this book he's done very good work demonstrating that the Germans were VERY actively conducting nuclear research during the war.They even had a comittee working on the concept of nuclear weapons before the U.S had the faintest idea of what they were about (early 1939).What the germans did wrong was that instead of building a giant research/production complex (like the US did with
  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @08:18AM (#12703166) Homepage

    If you look at the diagram on this page [physicsweb.org], there seems to be what looks like a date on the upper right side. It seems to say "Halteose fur AS/12/44". Any ideas what that means?

    Also, the associated article states that the bomb appears to be a hybrid fission/fusion device, which was far more advanced than the two fission-only devices used on Japan.

    • Accoring to the Systran widget for Dashboard (God bless you and your widgets, Dashboard!) it means "Retaining eye". I guess it's a an eye for a hook of some kind.
    • A "Halteoese" ("oe" instead of German diaresis on the "o") is simply a "holding ring", and since the bomb is supposed to fall to earth on a parachute, the AS/12/44 probably stands for "AbwurfSchirm" or drop parachute.

      The date is probably the mark of the parachute type. Nothing more.
    • The fission/fusion device is actually a separate design (and was supposedly tested, according to the article). If true, there was some advanced thinking going on, but they clearly didn't have a workable full-scale nuclear weapon of any kind.
  • by Allen Varney (449382) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @01:29PM (#12706154) Homepage

    My physics professor at the University of Nevada Reno, the late Samuel Goudsmit (best known as co-discoverer of the electron's spin), was technical lead on the ALSOS project [wikipedia.org] immediately after World War II. His team went into Berlin and certain other areas shortly after the Allies captured them, in order to sieze any Nazi nuclear material and atom bomb research. They found lots of stuff, then spent a few months studying it closely.

    As described in the Wikipedia article (and in Goudsmit's 1947 book, ALSOS: The failure of German science), the Germans never got even remotely close to developing an A-bomb. Their approach to the physics was fundamentally mistaken and would never have led to anything workable. Good news for civilization, bad news for alternate-history writers and sensationalist journalists, but in any case conclusively settled. Goudsmit was a smart guy and knew his stuff.

He who is content with his lot probably has a lot.

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