The Los Alamos Primer — An Introduction

“The [Los Alamos] Primer is an extraordinary document. Perusing it gives one a sense of being there at the start of the Los Alamos project. In its 24 pages, Serber both adroitly summarized the state of existing knowledge and laid out a prescient road map for the work ahead and the challenges that might arise.”

Cameron Reed — Professor of physics at Alma College in Michigan

Robert Serber on Tinian in 1945, just before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The ‘Los Alamos Primer’ is perhaps the most important single document of the 20th Century. Yet, it is a rather simple document that could have been written by many others “elsewhere”, and possibly several years earlier. Thus, the History of this world could have been drastically different. In the next few months, I will discus each section of the document, one at the time. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

Robert Serber was recruited for the Manhattan Project in 1941. When the Los Alamos National Laboratory was first organized, Oppenheimer decided not to compartmentalize the technical information among different departments.

This increased the effectiveness of the technical workers in problem solving, and emphasized the urgency of the project in their minds, now they knew what they were working on.

So it fell to Serber to give a series of lectures explaining the basic principles and goals of the project. These lectures were printed and supplied to all incoming scientific staff, and became known as The Los Alamos Primer, LA-1.

The 24-pages document was declassified in 1965 and an annotated version has been released by the University of California Press.

A copy of the original 1943 edition was at one time available online from the Los Alamos’ website, but was removed shortly after the September 11th attacks for “security reasons.”

World’s First Atomic Bomb – Manhattan Project Documentary

The Manhattan Project was a research and development job that made the very first nuclear weapons throughout The second world war. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and also Canada.

From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers; physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was the supervisor of the Los Alamos National Lab that developed the actual bombs.

The Army element of the job was marked the Manhattan Area; “Manhattan” gradually superseded the official codename, Development of Alternative Materials, for the entire job. In the process, the job absorbed its earlier British equivalent, Tube Alloys.

The Manhattan Task began modestly in 1939, but expanded to employ greater than 130,000 individuals as well as cost almost US$ 2 billion (about $26 billion in 2015 bucks). Over 90 % of the price was for developing manufacturing facilities and generating the fissile materials, with less than 10 % for growth and also manufacturing of the tools. Research and production took place at greater than 30 websites throughout the United States, the United Kingdom and also Canada.

Two kinds of atomic bomb were developed throughout the battle. A relatively simple gun-type fission tool was used uranium-235, an isotope that comprises only 0.7 percent of all-natural uranium. Given that it is chemically the same to one of the most usual isotope, uranium-238, and has virtually the very same mass, it proved hard to divide.

Three methods were used for uranium enrichment: electromagnetic, gaseous as well as thermal. The majority of this job was executed at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In parallel with the work on uranium was an effort to generate plutonium.

Activators were created at Oak Ridge and Hanford, Washington, where uranium was irradiated and altered into plutonium. The plutonium was after that chemically separated from the uranium.

The gun-type layout showed not practical to make use of with plutonium so a more complex implosion-type tool was created in a concerted style as well as renovation initiative at the job’s primary research and also style laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Through Procedure Alsos, Manhattan Job workers served in Europe, often behind enemy lines, where they collected nuclear products and papers, and also assembled German researchers.

Despite the Manhattan Job’s tight protection, Soviet atomic spies still penetrated the program.


Revisiting The Los Alamos Primer — Physics Today

The Los Alamos Primer — Original pdf


The Los Alamos Primer — Introduction

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