Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 179: Lifting the shroud

National Archives/Courtesy John Coster-Mullen

A sixty-one-year-old truck driver from Waukesha, Wisconsin, named John Coster-Mullen, who was once a commercial photographer (and never received a college degree) has created the most accurate reconstruction of the first atomic bomb. He is making this information, which has been historically confidential, available to us all. This week's New Yorker details the history of his project in the article Atomic John.

Coster-Mullen's interests are not purely nuclear, but seem triggered by opportunities to problem-solve and conduct minute detective work that will later add up to a whole. He has taken great efforts to ensure that all his findings are made available to others through numerous updates to his book, "Atom Bombs". For this reason he has fans that range from scientists at the country's most prestigious national laboratories to readers happening upon his book on Amazon.com. "After a period of mild equivocation, he decided to publish all the details he had uncovered about the mechanics and production of the bomb, even though the subject remains classified. ‘I was acting like a classification officer,’ he recalls. ‘ “I can have the truth and you can’t.” Who am I to say that?’

Still, his book is highly coded, full of mechanics and "mind-numbing" details. Whether this information will ever be taken to by the mainstream is doubtful, yet towards the end of the article, author David Samuels, artfully proposes why people (myself included) might still interested, obsessed, or willing to dedicate so much life and energy towards this topic, "We remain fascinated by the story of the bomb, in part, because it shows us who were at the exact moment that we became the people we are now."

In this sense, it appears that we still have much to learn.

1 comment:

pisces76 said...

I stumbled upon this article yesterday and meant to tell you about it. We can talk more in person very soon - see you in 3 short days. -m