In the dusty sands of the New Mexico basin, the world was changed forever.
A group of the best and brightest minds sat atop a small hill overlooking a broad salt pan. Big names. Richard Feynman, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi. A small tower, hooked up with all sorts of esoteric technology, was barely visible, but yet still the object of their focus. A mere speck in the dry and cracked land. The sun was just barely beginning to rise over the stout mountains in the distance, painting the land in a lifeless, pale blue hue. No birds were chirping, and there was hardly a plant in sight.
Many of the men began to pull on dark goggles with reflective outer coating. Darker than sunglasses, darker than welding goggles, barely more than opaque. One man sat in a truck, assuring the military sergeant that sat next to him that the glass of the windshield would sufficiently protect their eyes from the coming event.
Then, the countdown. Calmly spoken over an intercom.
A dazzling, blinding flash overwhelmed the scientists. Some of them fell to the ground, some of them shielded their eyes, some of them stood still, overwhelmed with emotion.
Miles away, where that tower once stood, hell broke loose. Atoms themselves were gutted and gluttoned. The intrinsic forces that held their cores together were overpowered and their shells blasted away, their remnants turned into such intense energy that our fundamental notions of matter and structure break down. The thin tower was instantly vaporized. The sand around the tower was seared into glass and flung away by what could only be described as the fist of God.
That morning, at precisely 5:29 AM on July 16, 1945, the Trinity nuclear test was conducted, marking the start of the nuclear arms race that would shape the world for the next 50 years. The scientists that stood and watched had run the numbers thousands of times by hand, utilizing the greatest computer ever devised - the human mind. No calculators to assist them, no adding or multiplying machines beyond a slide rule and tables of square roots.
If only there was some way, they wondered, to make the math so much easier.Up Next: Atomic Inspirations II