Thursday, January 24, 2013

Masonry design and nuclear bombs

I have always been intrigued by the effort of the Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first nuclear bomb.  In particular, I have been fascinated with the geometry used by the scientists to achieve critical mass.  Oddly enough, this effort may be seen as one of the earliest uses of “geodesic” masonry.

For this nuclear fission bomb to work, a precisely defined shockwave occurs which squeezes together the radioactive material at the center of the explosion.  Radioactive material is surrounded by a series of explosive charges (called ‘lenses’) which all go off at the same time; the high energy shock wave of the surrounding high-explosive charges squish the radioactive material into itself so much that it reaches critical mass and a nuclear explosion results.

The shaped explosive charges used in the “Fat Boy” bomb built by the Manhattan Project were configured as a truncated icosahedron, like a soccer ball (pentagons and hexagons).  It was critical that the shapes were located precisely around their nuclear target, for a shock wave to be evenly surrounding the target nuclear material, and so that a focused delivery occurred simultaneously from all around the target.

I could write more about this interesting subject, but I fear that I will end up on some top-secret list or will be sought out by terrorists for my cunning expertise in nuclear weapons design.  I’m just kidding guys!  I am not an expert in nuclear weapons design.  Really.  Truly.

I wonder if the scientists assembling this weapon thought of themselves as masons?  Probably not!

1 comment:

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