April 19, 2015

4/16/15 - Bradbury Science Museum at LANL

Ever heard of the Bradbury Science Museum? How about the Los Alamos National Laboratory? How about the Manhattan Project?

LANL (as it's abbreviated all over the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico) was a top-secret research lab established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. They're till researching, now under the Department of Energy. Still secret I suppose.

We watched the video "The Town That Never Was" about the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos from 1942-1945.  It really was TOP SECRET! People that worked and lived at Los Alamos all had the same Santa Fe PO Box (1663), traveled using aliases, had their outgoing mail censored, had driver's licenses with numbers instead of names.

There are three galleries.  History is (obviously) focused on the Manhattan Project. There's a timeline, and a lot of displays that try to cram everything in together.
This is a model of the "Gadget", the first plutonium bomb. It was detonated at the Trinity, NM, test site in July, 1945.
One whole wall and a little extra has photographs and stories of the people who worked at Los Alamos during the war. That was pretty interesting, but I didn't read them all.
The next gallery is Research, with hands-on activities as well as zillions of current projects that the National Lab might be working on.  There's a small display on nanotechnology that was a little bit interesting, but we didn't spend enough time for me to get much out of it. There are lots of videos if you want to watch them..
George liked the interactive exhibits. I think this was about how much electricity is in your body. He has more than I do (except possibly on a really bad-hair day).
I wandered around (literally) a display about historical computers.  The ones the Manhattan Project used were pretty sophisticated calculators. They have a setup where you can learn how to use it, then try it yourself. Harder than it looks.
There were displays on the vacuum tube computers of the 1940s and 50s, and on the transitor computers of the 1960s, with a bit of history on the men who developed them. 

The Defense Gallery included models of both nuclear bombs used against Japan in WWII.
"Little Boy" was the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

"Fat Man" was fueled by plutonium, and dropped on Nagasaki three days later. (I'm not going into the pros and cons of nuclear weapons. It's part of our country's history; deal with it.)

I assume the idea of a museum was a PR plan to show positive aspects of nuclear energy rather than the US just blowing up the world. It's a lot of information stuffed into a rather small space, so it was a bit overwhelming and unproductive.

NEWS ALERT:  The NPS is going to create Manhattan Project National Historical Park, consisting of three units: Oak Ridge, TN, Hanford, WA and Los Alamos, NM. Should be interesting to see what they come up with. I recommend checking out the museum at Pecos NHP.  (Few words, big print, lots of pictures--sort of like a little kid's book.)

More pictures of the Bradbury Museum and a few LANL buildings we saw in town:  Los Alamos Natl Lab   What do you suppose that thing in the last photo is???  

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