My new story for scientificamerican.com looks at an ongoing project to find, scan, analyze and declassify thousands of films depicting America’s nuclear weapons tests from the 1950s and early 1960s. Atmospheric testing was banned in 1963, and since then, physicists have had to design computer simulations to “test” the efficacy of weapons in the current U.S. stockpile. Now, they can compare the simulations against baseline data in the recently declassified films and make sure that the weapons’ potential detonation would occur as advertised. Of course, Dr. Greg Spriggs, the physicist leading the project, hopes that day never comes.
Spriggs walked me through the nuclear reactions taking place in each of the four films embedded in the story. His explanations appear as captions for the movies. Take a look!