Duck and Cover

Wil Wheaton (who is one of the top contenders for President of the Nerds' Union, and whose nerdy blog is nerdier than mine could ever be), linked yesterday to a really fascinating piece - Dark Miracle - about a visit to the Trinity Site near Los Alamos, NM, where the first atomic bomb was detonated. It's great reading, and you should check it out.

As I was reading it, I thought a lot about a movie I watched in 8th grade science class. That was a long time ago, and most movies you watch in junior high don't really stick with you that long, but I still remember this one pretty clearly. It was about the bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, and it featured old 8mm footage shot by the sailors as they blithely boated into the area in which they had detonated a NUCLEAR FUCKING BOMB mere hours before. This is followed by footage of them being swept by a geiger counter upon returning to the ship, and their shirts hanging on a clothesline alongside a sign that says "Radio Active."

This movie was made in the early eighties, and also featured interviews with the surviving sailors from the Bikini Atoll tests. Pretty much to a man, they were all suffering from cancer, and many in quite grotesque ways. One image that still haunts me is a man in a wheelchair whose hand looked like a catcher's mitt.

It's really quite astounding how much power the early atomic pioneers were unleashing without even remotely understanding it...