Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by martyb on Friday March 27 2015, @05:12PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the bah-dah-BOOM! dept.

The atom bomb — leveler of Hiroshima and instant killer of some 80,000 people — is just a pale cousin compared to the hydrogen bomb, another product of American ingenuity, that easily packs the punch of a thousand Hiroshimas. That is why Washington has for decades done everything in its power to keep the details of its design out of the public domain. Now William J. Broad reports in the NYT that Kenneth W. Ford has defied a federal order to cut material from his new book that the government says teems with thermonuclear secrets. Ford says he included the disputed material because it had already been disclosed elsewhere and helped him paint a fuller picture of an important chapter of American history. But after he volunteered the manuscript for a security review, federal officials told him to remove about 10 percent of the text, or roughly 5,000 words. “They wanted to eviscerate the book,” says Ford. “My first thought was, ‘This is so ridiculous I won’t even respond.’ ” For instance, the federal agency wanted him to strike a reference to the size of the first hydrogen test device — its base was seven feet wide and 20 feet high. Dr. Ford responded that public photographs of the device, with men, jeeps and a forklift nearby, gave a scale of comparison that clearly revealed its overall dimensions.

Though difficult to make, hydrogen bombs are attractive to nations and militaries because their fuel is relatively cheap. Inside a thick metal casing, the weapon relies on a small atom bomb that works like a match to ignite the hydrogen fuel. Today, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are the only declared members of the thermonuclear club, each possessing hundreds or thousands of hydrogen bombs. Military experts suspect that Israel has dozens of hydrogen bombs. India, Pakistan and North Korea are seen as interested in acquiring the potent weapon. The big secret the book discusses is thermal equilibrium, the discovery that the temperature of the hydrogen fuel and the radiation could match each other during the explosion (PDF). World Scientific, a publisher in Singapore, recently made Dr. Ford’s book public in electronic form, with print versions to follow. Ford remains convinced the book “contains nothing whatsoever whose dissemination could, by any stretch of the imagination, damage the United States or help a country that is trying to build a hydrogen bomb.” “Were I to follow all — or even most — of your suggestions,” says Ford, “it would destroy the book.”

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27 2015, @05:54PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27 2015, @05:54PM (#163257)

    Build one, and die violently.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by DeathMonkey on Friday March 27 2015, @06:58PM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Friday March 27 2015, @06:58PM (#163284) Journal

      Re:More Scab Pickens flamebait
       
      How so? This story has intrigue, science, censorship and explosions. It's like the nerd-news trifecta.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by fliptop on Friday March 27 2015, @09:29PM

        by fliptop (1666) on Friday March 27 2015, @09:29PM (#163334) Journal

        nerd-news trifecta

        Wouldn't that be a quadfecta?

        --
        It's crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 28 2015, @02:35AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 28 2015, @02:35AM (#163398)

      They contribute no intelligence to this site.

      ...and, once again, we see someone using a word that he doesn't understand. scab [google.com]

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Friday March 27 2015, @06:14PM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Friday March 27 2015, @06:14PM (#163261)

    1. Get a lot of hydrogen
    2. Compress it.

    Should I be expecting a visit from my local FBI agent?

    --
    If at first you don't succeed use a bottle opener. It's probably not a screw off cap.
    • (Score: 4, Funny) by bob_super on Friday March 27 2015, @06:21PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Friday March 27 2015, @06:21PM (#163266)

      You could have detailed it a bit more:
      2a) Get a lot of refined U
      2b) Compress it near the H.
      There's also that tricky business of not letting the U going critical disperse the H rather than compress it.

      Brb, someone's at the door.

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Saturday March 28 2015, @01:29AM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Saturday March 28 2015, @01:29AM (#163378)

      That's not really how it works. What you do is get a bunch of deuterium ("heavy hydrogen"), and put it next to a fission bomb. The heat from the fission bomb (1E7 K, IIRC) is great enough to cause the deuterium to fuse into helium, releasing far more energy.

      I had a college class that went over the basics of how A-bombs and H-bombs worked for a day or two; this stuff isn't that complicated, and it's not a secret. Otherwise they wouldn't teach it to college kids in engineering school. What's hard is actually getting the materials and making it all work. Deuterium, in particular, isn't that easy to get: it naturally occurs in water, but only of course at very tiny concentrations, so harvesting it usually requires giant buildings and a lot of industrial apparatus. Same goes for the A-bomb: you need Uranium-238, not the regular isotope U235, so you have to get your hands on enough Uranium and then enrich it, which is easier said than done.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by wonkey_monkey on Friday March 27 2015, @06:39PM

    by wonkey_monkey (279) on Friday March 27 2015, @06:39PM (#163274) Homepage

    its base was seven feet wide and 20 feet high

    Seven feet wide? No wonder mine didn't work. I made it six feet wide.

    Thanks, Dr. Ford!

    *kaboom*

    --
    systemd is Roko's Basilisk
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by kadal on Friday March 27 2015, @10:17PM

    by kadal (4731) on Friday March 27 2015, @10:17PM (#163345)

    This nuclear history blog has good insight: http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2015/03/27/h-bomb-headaches/ [nuclearsecrecy.com]

    What can they do to Ken? Well, technically, they probably could prosecute him under the Atomic Energy Act, or potentially the Espionage Act. But I’m pretty sure they won’t. It would be a public relations nightmare for them, would probably result in the release of even more information they deem sensitive, and Ken is no rogue agent. Which just goes to highlight one of the points I always make when I talk to people about secrecy: from the outside, it can look like government institutions are powerful and omnipotent with regards to classification. But they are usually weaker and more frail than they appear, because those who are bound by secrecy usually end up losing the public relations war, because they aren’t allowed to participate as fully as those who are on the outside.

    The blog is worth following.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Friday March 27 2015, @11:48PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Friday March 27 2015, @11:48PM (#163361) Homepage Journal

    Richard Rhodes provides fairly detailed information about how hydrogen bombs work in "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" - including a photograph of the first one, with a man standing next to it. I expect he gives lots more details in "Dark Sun" but I haven't read it yet.

    There is a lot of history of the atomic and hydrogen bomb in the UC Davis Library. I read an article in 1980 that described an experiment that was intended to determine whether any fusion was taking place at all.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
  • (Score: 3, Disagree) by kaszz on Saturday March 28 2015, @02:17AM

    by kaszz (4211) on Saturday March 28 2015, @02:17AM (#163392) Journal

    Why is it necessary to release this kind of information? seems it can only do harm in the long run.

  • (Score: 1) by kstox on Saturday March 28 2015, @03:34AM

    by kstox (2066) on Saturday March 28 2015, @03:34AM (#163416)

    As long as he has shown the material is all publicly accessible, the government really doesn't have a leg to stand on.

    The interesting thing about fusion warheads is that precision means a lot, or you have to build them really big. A little
    off, and it wont light.

    The scary thing is how many of the fine details have been forgotten. In one recent incident, they had forgotten how
    to make the foam which was crucial to one design. They since have figured it out.

    We really should allow an occasional test of one of these puppies. People seem to be forgetting how incredibly powerful
    and horrendous these weapons are.

    And finally, the scariest thing. You can scale fusion devices. In theory, tertiary devices can be built that would have yields approaching a gigaton.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 28 2015, @04:26AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 28 2015, @04:26AM (#163435)

      > As long as he has shown the material is all publicly accessible, the government really doesn't have a leg to stand on.

      I wouldn't be so sure. I'm too lazy to dig up all the specifics. But there is a working process for classifying the synthesis of public information. The idea is that a variety of independent facts are not sensitive on their own. But the act of combining them is a potential means of revealing classified information. It isn't the facts, it is the organization. Kind of like how all the letters of alphabet don't mean anything individually, but combine in certain groups with a specific order they can communicate a lot more information.

      Whether that would apply here is another question. I'm just pointing out that the combination of facts can be more revealing than the just the facts on their own.

  • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Saturday March 28 2015, @04:13AM

    by tangomargarine (667) on Saturday March 28 2015, @04:13AM (#163433)

    But after he volunteered the manuscript for a security review,

    “My first thought was, ‘This is so ridiculous I won’t even respond.’ ”

    Not sure whether these two mistakes are mutually exclusive, but WTF.

    First the guy voluntarily brings it to the attention of the feds BEFORE publishing it, and then somehow it's a good idea to ignore the feds? "Oh they must be joking." I can't imagine anyone in the government enjoys being laughed at.

    --
    "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
  • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Saturday March 28 2015, @04:43AM

    by Geotti (1146) on Saturday March 28 2015, @04:43AM (#163439) Journal

    Sputniknews [sputniknews.com] (amongst others) has an article about a recently declassified document from '87 that implies the capability of Israel to develop a hydrogen b*mb (at least nowadays).

    Here's [cryptome.org] the actual report. Page III-4 contains the quote about the 'codes.'

  • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Saturday March 28 2015, @10:12AM

    by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Saturday March 28 2015, @10:12AM (#163492) Homepage
    For values of "American" equal to "Austro-Hungarian".
    --
    I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Sumtingwong on Saturday March 28 2015, @12:26PM

    by Sumtingwong (3592) on Saturday March 28 2015, @12:26PM (#163511)

    If removing 5000 words is going to destroy a book, were the other words really that necessary?

    And once he decided to work for the USG at Los Alamos, it is kind of required that he submit all writings for review. It would appear that he is betting his age or some other factor will get him off. The fact that he worked for the USG gives whatever he says credibility and the purpose is to neither confirm nor deny.

    It will be sad to see this guy go to jail or pay a hefty fine so late in life. He knew better and is challenging the man, the same man who paid his paycheck for awhile.

    --
    Things are more like they are today than they ever were before.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 28 2015, @05:19PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 28 2015, @05:19PM (#163589)

    so you can fill a balloon with air and drag it underwater.
    because of buoyancy it will want to rise to the surface.
    however if you move it far enough underwater it will compress (the air) until a point is reached where it (the balloon plus air) weight more then the water volume it displaces ... and it will now continue to sink.
    now it seems that if you shot a ton of x-rays at some (cold) solid object it becomes compressible, like whatever holds the atoms together as a solid suddenly forget their job and if you now compress this solid object to a certain point it will collapse under its own weight, like the the balloon under water only now it is happening in time-space itself?
    'tis from reading the 12 pages?