The Scientists Who Pee Plutonium

Nat Geo Education Blog

SCIENCE

Members of the exclusive UPPU Club lived and breathed radiation . . . literally. (War is Boring)

See the club’s group project here.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Manhattan Project scientists Louis Slotin and Herb Lehr help assemble the Trinity “Gadget”—the world’s first atomic bomb—in 1945. Once you know what you’re looking at, the big round bomb on the left is less evocative than the small, cylindrical “slug” sitting on the wooden crate on the right. That slug is made of uranium-238, and it’s heavy—hence the two-handled carrying mechanism. The uranium slug carried the plutonium sphere that ultimately reached “critical mass” and caused Trinity’s chain reaction—a nuclear explosion.  Photograph courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory Archives. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Manhattan Project scientists Louis Slotin and Herb Lehr help assemble the Trinity “Gadget”—the world’s first atomic bomb—in 1945. Once you know what you’re looking at, the big round bomb on the left is less evocative than the small, cylindrical “slug” sitting on the wooden crate on the right. That slug is made of uranium-238, and it’s heavy—hence the two-handled carrying mechanism. The uranium slug carried the plutonium sphere that ultimately reached “critical mass” and caused Trinity’s chain reaction—a nuclear explosion. 
Photograph courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory Archives. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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