Q: You started to work on the George, in preparation of the George shot? Was that in the summer of 1950?|
MR: Yes, that probably was. There was the booster and there was also George
which were tested, I guess, in '51. I was certainly heavily working on the
booster and some work on George.
Q: When you say heavily working on the booster and some work on George, you
were doing what exactly?
MR: Well, trying to calculate the physics of what would happen and what
dimensions things should have and so on and so forth.
Q: What was interesting about George? What was special about that
MR: Well, by putting the DT outside the bomb, you were able to get very good
diagnostics of temperature, say, versus time, and to see if all the
calculations you were doing were right or wrong. So, it was the first clean
demonstration of thermonuclear burn. Not that anybody had grave doubts or
particular doubts about it, but the details of how the burning material
interacted with the outside world and so on were complicated, and there were
uncertainties in the calculations. And then, of course, the idea of pumping
the radiation out to the capsule later proved to be sort of the chief idea in
the design of the bomb. So, I think, at least my own view, has always been
that by committing to George - which didn't really have a terribly clear-cut
objective at the time it was proposed -- that started us thinking in detail
about all the physics and a lot of the pieces fell into place as to which
someone like Teller could then much more easily put together. I mean, if you
have some idea like using one bomb to set off another bomb, unless you really
sort of calculated the detailed phenomena, you don't know whether it makes any
sense. And if it is totally abstract, you may not really bother to calculate
all the phenomena, but with something like the George shot, where here was an
experiment you were going to do and it would tell you something about
thermonuclear burning, you weren't quite sure what it would do, but you had to
go through the whole business of the interaction of radiation with matter and
hydrodynamics and so on and so forth in order to understand its behavior. That
kind of familiarized people, I think, with the essential physics.
Q: What was the idea behind putting the DT outside?
MR: I think the main idea was just to make the diagnostics much better. You
can look at what was going on without looking through all this layer of metal
and outside all the HE (high explosives) and stuff like that. So, it was just
a cleaner experiment, I think was the basic motivation.
Q: Where did the idea come from with pumping the energy, the radiation to that
MR: I don't know. I think, once you are going to decide you wanted to burn
the DT outside the bomb then it was a fairly obvious idea, I mean the radiation
is what is first emitted. For example, if you waited for the shock wave, the
radiation would already have blown everything up. So, it was the first thing
that would get out before any channels and such would have time to close off.
So, once you decided you wanted this external burning, it was a fairly obvious
idea. I don't know whose it was.
Q: And that realization really came with the exact calculations.
MR: Yes, I think it did. Some of the phenomena, I am not really sure whether
some of them are classified still or not, some of them had not been thought of
until one tried to do careful calculations.
Q: Where you involved in that work yourself?
MR: Yes, that is what I was doing?
Q: So, where there moments when you were doing these calculations where you
realized that there was something new in that?
MR: Yes, several such.
Q: Can you elaborate?
MR: Well, as I say, I really don't know whether some of those things are still
classified. I didn't have any of the big ideas, but I think a lot of details
of how things would work and what dimensions and things like that one should
use, I worked out.
Q: What was Teller's reaction when you came with these results?
MR: Well, he was very interested. He followed it closely.
Q: And it was news to him, too, at that point?
MR: Yes, I think so.
Q: So, we were talking about the Teller-Ulam breakthrough, and Teller first
telling you about this. When he presented this new idea to you how did you
respond to that?
MR: Well, I guess, I really don't remember exactly how I felt, but it
certainly had a very plausible ring to it. I said well, I want to calculate
this and look at it and so on and so forth, but it certainly sounded a lot more
promising than what I had heard before. Again, from having worked on these
other things, I had some feeling for the physics involved in this new idea. It
was complicated enough, I certainly couldn't give a off-hand opinion, but it
sounded very plausible and credible.
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