A 1.6 Megaton Terrible, Monstrous Sight

The Soviet Union tested a two-stage, lithium-deuteride-fueled thermonuclear device on November 22, 1955, dropping it from a Tu-16 bomber to minimize fallout. It yielded 1.6 megatons, a yield deliberately reduced for the Semipalatinsk test from its design yield of 3 MT. According to Yuri Romanov, Adrei Sakharov and Yakov Zeldovich worked out the Teller-Ulam configuration in conversations together in early spring 1954, independently of the US development. “I recall how Andrei Dmitrievich gathered the young associates in his tiny office,” Romanov writes, “… and began talking about the amazing ability of materials with a high atomic number to be an …

A Realistic View of the Way Power Gets Used by Governments

But whatever the technical originality of the idea [Stanislaw] Ulam and [Edward] Teller developed together in February 1951, John Manley concluded, the political effect was electrifying. “Teller and Ulam really won [the argument about building the thermonuclear bomb] by figuring out how to do it… You don’t really want to work on something that you don’t know how to do.” Los Alamos radiochemist George Cowan enlarges shrewdly on Manley’s point: Knowing that it was going to work sure encouraged those people to go ahead and do it. Particularly because now, whether you believed that it was a good idea or …