Edward Teller - Historia

Edward Teller - Historia

Edward Teller

1908-2003

Físico

Edward Teller nació en Budapest Hungría el 15 de enero de 1908.

Se formó como químico y físico en la Universidad de Leipzig, y se doctoró en 1930. Cuando los nazis llegaron al poder en Alemania, Teller se fue a Estados Unidos, donde trabajó en el Proyecto Manhattan para desarrollar la bomba atómica. Sin embargo, su propio interés estaba en el desarrollo de la bomba de hidrógeno, y es ampliamente considerado el padre de la bomba H.

Después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Teller adoptó la postura de línea dura de que la supremacía nuclear estadounidense era esencial para limitar las intenciones armamentísticas soviéticas. Teller se opuso a la ratificación del Tratado de Prohibición de Ensayos Nucleares con el argumento de que vigilar el acuerdo sería difícil y que limitaba el desarrollo de misiles antibalísticos en los que creía que los soviéticos ya tenían ventaja. Teller permaneció activo como investigador y científico público hasta poco antes de su muerte a la edad de 95 años.


Edward Teller

Edward Teller (1908-2003) fue un físico teórico estadounidense nacido en Hungría. Se le considera uno de los padres de la bomba de hidrógeno.

Teller, junto con Leo Szilard y Eugene Wigner, ayudaron a instar al presidente Roosevelt a desarrollar un programa de bombas atómicas en los Estados Unidos. Teller se unió al Laboratorio de Los Alamos en 1943 como líder de grupo en la División de Física Teórica. Teller se interesó en la posibilidad de desarrollar una bomba de hidrógeno después de que Enrico Fermi sugiriera que un arma basada en la fisión nuclear podría usarse para desencadenar una reacción de fusión nuclear aún mayor. Teller continuó impulsando sus ideas para un arma de fusión a lo largo del proyecto a pesar del escepticismo de los físicos de que tal dispositivo pudiera funcionar.

Cuando Hans Bethe fue seleccionado como Director de la División Teórica, Teller se sintió frustrado y se negó a realizar cálculos para el mecanismo de implosión de la bomba de fisión. Esto provocó tensiones con otros físicos en Los Alamos, ya que se tuvo que emplear científicos adicionales para hacer ese trabajo, incluido Klaus Fuchs, quien más tarde se reveló que era un espía soviético.

Teller fue uno de los pocos científicos que observó realmente (con protección para los ojos) la detonación del Gadget durante la Prueba Trinity en julio de 1945, en lugar de seguir las órdenes de acostarse en el suelo de espaldas.

En 1954, Teller testificó contra J. Robert Oppenheimer en su audiencia de autorización de seguridad. Fue uno de los principales defensores de la investigación de usos no militares de explosivos nucleares y visitó Israel a menudo como su principal asesor en asuntos nucleares.

Contribuciones científicas

A Edward Teller se le llama a menudo el "padre de la bomba de hidrógeno". Después de que la Unión Soviética detonó su primera bomba atómica en 1949, Teller trabajó para convencer al presidente Truman de que desarrollara un programa de choque para la bomba de hidrógeno, que creía que era factible. En 1950, Truman aprobó el programa de bombas de hidrógeno y Teller regresó a Los Alamos ese mismo año para comenzar a trabajar en un diseño.

Teller colaboró ​​con el matemático polaco Stanislaw Ulam y se le ocurrió el primer diseño viable para un dispositivo termonuclear en 1951. Un año más tarde, Estados Unidos probó el primer dispositivo termonuclear en el atolón Eniwetok en el Pacífico Sur. El Mike Shot, como se le conocía, produjo 10 megatones de TNT y fue aproximadamente 1000 veces más grande que la bomba lanzada sobre Hiroshima siete años antes. El diseño, que llegó a conocerse como el diseño Teller-Ulam, aún permanece clasificado.


En su centésimo cumpleaños en 1959, Edward Teller advirtió a la industria petrolera sobre el calentamiento global.

Era un día típico de noviembre en la ciudad de Nueva York. El año: 1959. Robert Dunlop, de 50 años y fotografiado más tarde como bien afeitado, con el cabello cuidadosamente rapado, su rostro serio con gafas con montura de cuerno, pasó bajo las columnas jónicas de la icónica Biblioteca Baja de la Universidad de Columbia. Fue invitado de honor para una gran ocasión: el centenario de la industria petrolera estadounidense.

Más de 300 funcionarios gubernamentales, economistas, historiadores, científicos y ejecutivos de la industria estuvieron presentes para el Energía y Hombre simposio - organizado por el American Petroleum Institute y la Columbia Graduate School of Business - y Dunlop iba a dirigirse a toda la congregación sobre el "motor principal" del siglo pasado, la energía, y su principal fuente: el petróleo. Como presidente de Sun Oil Company, conocía bien el negocio, y como director del American Petroleum Institute, la asociación comercial más grande y antigua de la industria en la tierra del Tío Sam, era responsable de representar los intereses de todos esos petroleros. reunidos a su alrededor.

Otros cuatro se unieron a Dunlop en el podio ese día, uno de los cuales había hecho el viaje desde California y Hungría antes de eso. El físico de armas nucleares Edward Teller, en 1959, fue condenado al ostracismo por la comunidad científica por traicionar a su colega J. Robert Oppenheimer, pero mantuvo el abrazo de la industria y el gobierno. La tarea de Teller ese 4 de noviembre fue dirigirse a la multitud sobre los "patrones de energía del futuro", y sus palabras llevaron una advertencia inesperada:

Damas y caballeros, les voy a hablar sobre la energía en el futuro. Comenzaré contándoles por qué creo que hay que complementar los recursos energéticos del pasado. En primer lugar, estos recursos energéticos se agotarán a medida que utilicemos cada vez más combustibles fósiles. [. ] Pero yo podria [. ] quisiera mencionar otra razón por la que probablemente tengamos que buscar suministros adicionales de combustible. Y esto, curiosamente, es la cuestión de contaminar la atmósfera. [. ] Siempre que quema combustible convencional, crea dióxido de carbono. [. ] El dióxido de carbono es invisible, es transparente, no se puede oler, no es peligroso para la salud, entonces, ¿por qué debería uno preocuparse por él?

El dióxido de carbono tiene una propiedad extraña. Transmite luz visible pero absorbe la radiación infrarroja que emite la tierra. Su presencia en la atmósfera provoca un efecto invernadero [. ] Se ha calculado que un aumento de temperatura correspondiente a un aumento del 10 por ciento en el dióxido de carbono será suficiente para derretir la capa de hielo y sumergir a Nueva York. Todas las ciudades costeras estarían cubiertas, y dado que un porcentaje considerable de la raza humana vive en regiones costeras, creo que esta contaminación química es más grave de lo que la mayoría de la gente tiende a creer.

Se desconoce cómo, precisamente, el Sr. Dunlop y el resto de la audiencia reaccionaron, pero es difícil imaginar que esta sea una buena noticia. Después de su charla, se le pidió a Teller que "resumiera brevemente el peligro del aumento del contenido de dióxido de carbono en la atmósfera en este siglo". El físico, como si considerara un problema de estimación numérica, respondió:

En la actualidad, el dióxido de carbono en la atmósfera ha aumentado un 2 por ciento con respecto a lo normal. Para 1970, será quizás el 4%, para 1980, el 8%, para 1990, el 16%. [aproximadamente 360 ​​partes por millón, según la contabilidad de Teller], si continuamos con nuestro aumento exponencial en el uso de combustibles puramente convencionales. Para entonces, habrá un serio impedimento adicional para que la radiación salga de la tierra. Nuestro planeta se calentará un poco. Es difícil decir si serán 2 grados Fahrenheit o solo uno o 5.

Pero cuando la temperatura aumenta unos pocos grados en todo el mundo, existe la posibilidad de que los casquetes polares comiencen a derretirse y el nivel de los océanos comience a subir. Bueno, no sé si cubrirán el Empire State Building o no, pero cualquiera puede calcularlo mirando el mapa y observando que los casquetes polares sobre Groenlandia y la Antártida tienen quizás cinco mil pies de espesor.

Y así, en la fiesta de su centésimo aniversario, se advirtió al petróleo estadounidense de su potencial para destruir la civilización.

¿Cómo respondió la industria del petróleo? Ocho años después, en un día frío y despejado de marzo, Robert Dunlop recorrió los pasillos del Congreso de los Estados Unidos. Faltaban semanas para el embargo de petróleo de 1967 y el Senado estaba investigando el potencial de los vehículos eléctricos. Dunlop, al testificar ahora como presidente de la junta del American Petroleum Institute, planteó la pregunta: "¿El automóvil de mañana: eléctrico o de gasolina?" Su respuesta preferida fue la última:

En la industria del petróleo estamos convencidos de que para cuando se pueda producir y comercializar en masa un automóvil eléctrico práctico, no disfrutará de ninguna ventaja significativa desde el punto de vista de la contaminación del aire. Hace tiempo que se controlan las emisiones de los motores de combustión interna.

Dunlop continuó describiendo el progreso en el control de las emisiones de monóxido de carbono, óxido nitroso e hidrocarburos de los automóviles. ¿Ausente de su lista? El contaminante del que le habían advertido años antes: dióxido de carbono.

Podríamos suponer que el gas inodoro simplemente pasó desapercibido bajo la nariz de Robert Dunlop. Pero menos de un año después, el American Petroleum Institute recibió en silencio un informe sobre la contaminación del aire que había encargado al Stanford Research Institute, y su advertencia sobre el dióxido de carbono fue directa:

Es casi seguro que para el año 2000 se producirán cambios importantes de temperatura que podrían provocar cambios climáticos. [. ] No parece haber duda de que el daño potencial a nuestro medio ambiente podría ser severo. [. ] contaminantes que generalmente ignoramos porque tienen poco efecto local, CO2 y partículas submicrónicas, pueden ser la causa de serios cambios ambientales en todo el mundo.

Por lo tanto, para 1968, el petróleo estadounidense tenía en sus manos otro aviso de los efectos secundarios que alteran el mundo de sus productos, uno que afirmaba que el calentamiento global no era solo motivo de investigación y preocupación, sino una realidad que necesitaba una acción correctiva: “Estudios pasados ​​y presentes de CO2 son detallados ”, aconsejó el Instituto de Investigación de Stanford. “Lo que falta, sin embargo, es [. ] trabajar hacia sistemas en los que el CO2 las emisiones se controlarían ".

Esta historia temprana ilumina la conciencia de larga data de la industria petrolera estadounidense sobre el calentamiento planetario causado por sus productos. La advertencia de Teller, revelada en la documentación que encontré mientras buscaba archivos, es otro ladrillo en un muro creciente de evidencia.

En los últimos días de esa optimista década de 1950, Robert Dunlop pudo haber sido uno de los primeros petroleros en ser advertido de la tragedia que ahora se avecina ante nosotros. Cuando dejó este mundo en 1995, el Instituto Americano del Petróleo que una vez dirigió estaba negando la ciencia climática de la que había sido informado décadas antes, atacando al Panel Intergubernamental sobre Cambio Climático y luchando contra las políticas climáticas dondequiera que surgieran.

Esta es una historia de decisiones tomadas, caminos no tomados y la caída en desgracia de una de las empresas más grandes, el petróleo, el "motor principal", que jamás haya pisado la tierra. Queda por ver si también es una historia de redención, por parcial que sea.

La conciencia del petróleo estadounidense sobre el calentamiento global, y su conspiración de silencio, engaño y obstrucción, va más allá que cualquier otra empresa. Se extiende más allá (aunque incluye) ExxonMobil. La industria está profundamente implicada por la historia de su mayor representante, el American Petroleum Institute.

Ahora es demasiado tarde para detener una gran cantidad de cambios en el clima de nuestro planeta y su carga global de enfermedades, destrucción y muerte. Pero podemos luchar para detener el cambio climático lo más rápido posible y podemos descubrir la historia de cómo llegamos aquí. Hay lecciones que aprender y hay justicia que hacer.

Benjamin Franta (@BenFranta) es un estudiante de doctorado en historia de la ciencia en la Universidad de Stanford que estudia la historia de la ciencia y la política del cambio climático. Tiene un doctorado en física aplicada de la Universidad de Harvard y fue investigador en el Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs de la Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


Edward Teller, 'padre de la bomba de hidrógeno', murió a los 95 años

Edward Teller, uno de los científicos más controvertidos del siglo XX debido a su papel como desarrollador de la bomba de hidrógeno y su apoyo abierto a un arsenal nuclear inexpugnable, murió el 9 de septiembre en su casa en el campus de Stanford. Miembro senior de la Hoover Institution de Stanford, tenía 95 años.

Se desempeñó como director del Laboratorio Nacional Lawrence Livermore, una importante instalación de investigación de armas construida en gran parte para él.

Teller estaba al lado de Einstein cuando el físico firmó la famosa carta a Franklin Roosevelt instando a la construcción de una bomba atómica que condujo indirectamente al Proyecto Manhattan.

Junto con Stanislaw Ulam, Teller diseñó la primera bomba de hidrógeno. Teller también influyó en la decisión de la administración Truman de producir la bomba a pesar de las objeciones de gran parte de la comunidad científica.

Su testimonio contra el físico J. Robert Oppenheimer, las consecuencias de la disputa de la bomba H, convirtió a Teller en un paria para muchos de sus colegas, desviando aún más su carrera de la ciencia a la política de defensa y causándole un profundo dolor. Algunos viejos asociados se negaron a hablar con él durante más de 30 años.

"Si una persona deja su país, deja su continente, deja a sus parientes, deja a sus amigos", dijo Teller, "las únicas personas que conoce son sus colegas profesionales. Si más del 90 por ciento de estos hombres entonces vienen a considerarlo un enemigo, un paria, seguramente tendrá un efecto. La verdad es que tuvo un efecto profundo. Me afectó, afectó a [su difunta esposa] Mici, incluso afectó su salud ".

El modelo para el personaje principal de la película satírica de Stanley Kubrick. Dr. StrangeloveTeller se convirtió en la última mitad de su vida en el principal proponente de los principales sistemas de armas, la inspiración que guió la Iniciativa de Defensa Estratégica ("Star Wars") y un entusiasta partidario de la energía nuclear. Podría decirse que se convirtió en el científico más influyente de la Administración Reagan.

"Si de algo estoy orgulloso", le dijo a un entrevistador, "es que conseguí poner en marcha y establecer un segundo laboratorio [Livermore] con relativamente poca ayuda, y un segundo sistema de armas [la bomba de hidrógeno] que necesitábamos desesperadamente en ese momento. Livermore sigue siendo el lugar de donde seguirán surgiendo las nuevas ideas, estas nuevas armas defensivas ".

Matemáticas a temprana edad

Teller nació en Budapest el 15 de enero de 1908. Hijo de un abogado, pertenecía a una asombrosa generación de judíos húngaros que crecieron en Budapest, en muchos casos asistieron a la misma escuela, y que produjo siete de los del siglo XX. físicos y matemáticos más influyentes. Entre ellos estaban, además de Teller, el matemático John von Neumann, los físicos Eugene Wigner y Leo Szilard y el ingeniero Theodor von K & aacuterm & aacuten.

Wigner, Szilard y von Neumann trabajaron con Teller en la bomba atómica, y sus colegas se referían sonriendo a ellos como "la conspiración húngara".

Teller dijo que a una edad temprana aprendió la diversión de las matemáticas. Se quedaba despierto en la cama resolviendo problemas matemáticos, como calcular la cantidad de segundos en un día. Su padre no estaba contento cuando Teller anunció que quería ser matemático.

"Mi padre dijo que no me podía ganar la vida de esa manera, así que nos comprometimos, un poco dolorosamente, con la química. Pero hice trampa. Estudié química y matemáticas. Después de dos años, mi padre se rindió y me dijo que estudiara lo que quería ", recordó.

Todavía era un momento en que las matemáticas y la física se consideraban un campo, y el lugar para estudiarlo era en Alemania, por lo que Teller dejó Budapest para el Instituto Técnico de Karlsruhe y la Universidad de Munich.

(Fue en Munich donde Teller perdió un pie en un accidente de tranvía. Llevó una prótesis el resto de su vida, dejándolo con una leve cojera).

Recibió su Ph.D. a la edad de 22 años de la Universidad de Leipzig en 1930, escribiendo su tesis con Werner Heisenberg, el desarrollador del Principio de Incertidumbre, quien más tarde trabajaría en el proyecto de la bomba atómica de Hitler.

Teller pasó a Göoumlttingen, entonces la estrella polar de física y matemáticas del mundo, para trabajar en la estructura molecular de la materia, pero, como la mayoría de sus colegas, finalmente se vio obligado a huir de Alemania con el ascenso de los nazis.

Emigró a los Estados Unidos en 1938, ocupó un puesto en la Universidad George Washington y colaboró ​​con George Gamow en un estudio sobre la radiación, que hizo una importante contribución a la física del estado sólido.

"Su trabajo está iluminado por una profunda percepción física del tipo que pertenece a la gran escuela de física", comentó una vez el físico John Wheeler de la Universidad de Texas.

A fines de la década de 1930, los físicos de Alemania, Francia, Gran Bretaña y los Estados Unidos se estaban acercando a la capacidad de dividir los átomos y liberar la enorme energía almacenada en ellos, siguiendo las instrucciones de Einstein. E = mc2. El gran temor entre los científicos no alemanes era que Alemania, trabajando bajo las órdenes de Heisenberg, fuera la primera en tener éxito en aprovechar este poder explosivo como arma.

Liderada por Szilard, la comunidad científica comenzó a ver la necesidad de realizar más investigaciones y trató de interesar a los gobiernos británico y estadounidense. Szilard quería reclutar a Einstein, entonces el científico más famoso del mundo, para llamar la atención de Washington. En el verano de 1939, Szilard decidió visitar a Einstein en su casa de verano en Long Island. Como no podía conducir un automóvil, le pidió a Teller que lo llevara.

"Fue un poco difícil encontrar a Einstein", escribió Teller más tarde. "Varias consultas no lograron averiguar el paradero de este oscuro personaje. Al final le preguntamos a una joven que aún no tenía 10 años, con dos trenzas bastante largas, que respondió positivamente a una consulta sobre un simpático anciano con abundantes cabellos blancos . "

Einstein sirvió té y luego firmó la carta que había preparado Szilard.

Contrariamente al folclore, Roosevelt probablemente nunca leyó la carta, pero escuchó al economista Alexander Sachs, quien trajo la carta de Einstein y se la resumió. Así comenzaron los pasos que conducían a Los Alamos.

Teller bromeó diciendo que comenzó su carrera en física atómica como chófer de Szilard.

El Proyecto Manhattan

Teller fue uno de los primeros en llegar a Los Alamos en abril de 1943, ayudando a Oppenheimer a reclutar y organizar el Proyecto Manhattan. Él y su esposa, Mici, llevaron su orgullo y alegría, un piano Steinway de 100 años, en el que Teller hizo sonar a Bach y Mozart, para distracción de sus vecinos. Tenía 35 años. La mayoría de los que lo conocieron comentaron sobre su enorme bosque de cejas y los ojos intensos y fascinantes debajo de ellas.

Ulam lo describió como "siempre intenso, visiblemente ambicioso y con una pasión ardiente por los logros en física. Era una persona cálida y claramente deseaba la amistad con otros físicos".

Su relación con Oppenheimer fue compleja, y Teller lo elogió inicialmente por su capacidad para organizar lo que resultó ser la mayor colección de talento científico en la historia del mundo en un equipo productivo a pesar de todas las restricciones del secreto y la interferencia militar en el proceso. . Pero gradualmente, los dos hombres se volvieron más fríos. Los amigos dijeron que Teller estaba resentido por el control carismático de Oppenheimer sobre sus colegas, especialmente porque Teller estaba convencido, y muchos estaban de acuerdo con él, de que era el mejor físico.

Las relaciones se enfriaron cuando Oppenheimer nombró a Hans Bethe director de la división teórica, un puesto que Teller codiciaba.

Bethe y Teller chocaron repetidamente, y Oppenheimer tuvo que jugar como árbitro.

Más importante aún, todos menos Teller habían acordado que el proyecto reduciría su alcance hacia la construcción de una bomba de fisión. Teller decidió que deberían ir mucho más allá hacia un dispositivo termonuclear, una bomba de fusión.

Sus constantes intentos de conseguir apoyo para el "Super", como él lo llamó, fueron vistos por muchos, incluido Oppenheimer, como una distracción. Se convirtió en una distracción aún mayor cuando produjo ecuaciones que mostraban la posibilidad de que un arma de fisión pudiera encender la atmósfera del mundo. Más tarde se descubrió que sus cálculos estaban equivocados, y una docena de otros hombres cometieron errores similares más tarde, pero el trabajo se detuvo hasta que se encontró la falla.

El 16 de julio de 1945, se probó la bomba atómica en Trinity Site, cerca de Alamagordo, N.M.

"Estaba mirando, en contra de las regulaciones, directamente a la bomba", dijo Teller. "Me puse gafas de soldar, bronceador y guantes. Miré a la bestia a los ojos y me impresionó".

También los demás en Los Alamos. Con la guerra en Europa obviamente terminada (los alemanes nunca estuvieron cerca de producir una bomba), el único enemigo que quedaba eran los japoneses. Muchos de los científicos detrás del proyecto de la bomba eran refugiados judíos de Hitler, y aunque veían a Japón como el enemigo de su país adoptivo, no sentían la misma indignación moral contra Japón que contra la Alemania nazi. A algunos también les preocupaba la moralidad de lanzar la bomba atómica sobre un objetivo civil sin previo aviso.

Szilard propuso una petición en Los Alamos oponiéndose al inminente ataque. Durante años, Teller mantuvo que se oponía al uso de la bomba en Hiroshima y Nagasaki, y que solo se negó a firmar la petición a instancias de Oppenheimer.

De hecho, según el profesor de historia de Stanford Barton Bernstein, Teller no se opuso a Hiroshima. En una carta del 2 de julio de 1945 a Szilard, Teller escribió: "Si logras convencerme de que tus objeciones morales son válidas, debería dejar de trabajar. No creo que empiece a protestar". Dijo que el uso real de la bomba atómica en combate "podría incluso ser lo mejor, [porque] podría ayudar a convencer a todos de que la próxima guerra sería fatal".

Después de que terminó la guerra, Teller se puso a trabajar con Enrico Fermi en Chicago, convencido de que la bomba atómica por sí sola no garantizaría la paz. Continuó presionando por el desarrollo del Super.

Pero un comité de científicos de 1949, dirigido por Oppenheimer, declaró que el Super era innecesario e inmoral. Para Teller, este era un consejo peligroso.

Con la Guerra Fría latiendo a su alrededor, Truman, a instancias de Teller, anuló el comité científico y siguió adelante con el desarrollo de la bomba de fusión. Teller contribuyó con un trabajo aún secreto en el diseño.

Pero incluso aquí, sus aportaciones, tal vez descoloradas por la controversia posterior, no son claras. Generalmente se le atribuye gran parte del trabajo de diseño.

Bethe sostuvo que los errores de cálculo de Teller en Los Alamos en realidad retrasaron el desarrollo del Super.

"Nadie culpará a Teller porque los cálculos de 1946 fueron incorrectos, especialmente porque no se disponía de las máquinas de computación adecuadas. Pero en Los Álamos se le culpó por llevar al laboratorio, y de hecho a todo el país, a un programa aventurero basado en cálculos. que él mismo debe haber sabido que era muy incompleto ".

"Nueve de cada diez de las ideas de Teller son inútiles", escribió Bethe. Teller "necesita hombres con más juicio, incluso si son menos dotados, para seleccionar la décima idea, que a menudo es un golpe de genialidad".

El primer dispositivo termonuclear explotó en noviembre de 1952.

En ese momento, Oppenheimer era director del Instituto de Estudios Avanzados en Princeton y todavía ejercía una gran influencia sobre el establecimiento científico.

En diciembre de 1953, la autorización de seguridad de Oppenheimer fue suspendida por un panel especial formado por la Comisión de Energía Atómica para decidir si era un riesgo para la seguridad. Los cargos formales se basaron en parte en la entrevista secreta de Teller en 1952 con el FBI.

Oppenheimer tenía un archivo de seguridad seriamente problemático. Su esposa, hermano, cuñada y un antiguo amante eran comunistas, y él apoyó y perteneció a varias organizaciones de fachada comunista en Berkeley en la década de 1930. Pero la mayoría de los científicos llamados a testificar apoyaron a Oppenheimer, cuestionando la validez de la acusación de que en ese momento era un riesgo para la seguridad. Teller fue una de las pocas excepciones.

Al final de su testimonio generalmente elogioso, se le preguntó a Teller si consideraba a Oppenheimer un riesgo para la seguridad. Respondió con 24 palabras que desencadenaron una de las peleas más amargas en la historia de la ciencia estadounidense: "Siento que me gustaría ver los intereses vitales de este país en manos que entiendo mejor, y por lo tanto confío más".

Afirma que solo quiso decir que Oppenheimer era un personaje complejo y que no lo entendía completamente (en lo que no estaba solo), pero el efecto fue explosivo. Cuando terminó, pasó junto a Oppenheimer y dijo: "Lo siento".

"Después de lo que acaba de decir, no entiendo lo que quiere decir", respondió Oppenheimer y se dio la vuelta. Oppenheimer perdió su autorización de seguridad y se retiró a Princeton en desgracia.

Con esas palabras, Teller cambió su vida. Menos de una semana después, estaba visitando Los Alamos cuando se encontró con el físico Robert Christie, un colega de mucho tiempo. Teller extendió la mano para estrechar la de Christie. Christie miró la mano, giró sobre sus talones y, sin una palabra, se alejó.

Teller y su esposa abandonaron inmediatamente el comedor y regresaron a su hotel. Teller le dijo a un entrevistador que se derrumbó y lloró.

Décadas en el 'exilio'

Descubrió que se había exiliado de la corriente principal de la comunidad física, un exilio que duró el resto de su vida. En años posteriores, Oppenheimer tomaría el estatus de héroe popular para los científicos, Teller, el vengativo caitiff que lo destruyó.

Teller afirmó que sus acciones en el asunto Oppenheimer fueron pasivas, limitadas solo a su testimonio, pero en realidad había ayudado a comenzar el proceso. Más tarde admitió al físico-historiador Daniel Kevles y Bernstein que estaba convencido de que Oppenheimer era un comunista cuyo nombre ocultaba el Partido.

"No veo a Oppenheimer como un villano", dijo Teller una vez, "y ciertamente no lo veo como un objeto de admiración. Diré que culpo a los discípulos de Oppenheimer por mucho más de lo que le culpo a él". Cuando Oppenheimer recibió el Premio Fermi de manos del presidente Johnson, Teller estaba allí para estrechar su mano frente a las cámaras.

Se mudó de Chicago a Los Alamos como subdirector, para asesorar sobre la creación de Livermore y servir como profesor de física en la Universidad de California-Berkeley. Ocupó varios puestos en el sistema de la Universidad de California, incluido el de profesor universitario y profesor emérito, y en el Laboratorio Lawrence Livermore, que está a cargo de Cal. Se desempeñó como director de 1958 a 1960 y como director asociado de 1960 a 1975.

Si bien publicó artículos de investigación científica hasta principios de la década de 1950, concentró el resto de su vida en asuntos de guerra y paz, y su creencia de que la seguridad radicaba en una postura ofensiva y defensiva inexpugnable. Dijo que lamentaba haber dejado la física activa, pero sentía un imperativo moral en trabajar hacia un armamento nacional fuerte para la defensa.

"No puedo simplemente volver a la física porque creo que prevenir otra guerra es incomparablemente más importante", dijo.

El establecimiento militar lo encontró como un ferviente partidario de la comunidad científica, que respaldaba la mayoría de los principales sistemas de armas.

Se opuso a las conversaciones SALT con el argumento de que simplemente no se podía confiar en los soviéticos, y al Tratado de misiles antibalísticos de 1972. Apoyó Safeguard, un sistema antimisiles diseñado para proteger las armas estadounidenses del ataque soviético. Se opuso firmemente al movimiento de congelación nuclear.

"La guerra nuclear es para mí una posibilidad real y lo ha sido durante los últimos 40 años", dijo a un entrevistador de Forbes revista en 1980. "Si entramos en una guerra nuclear hoy, prácticamente no hay duda de que los rusos ganarían esa guerra y los Estados Unidos no existirían".

"Durante un cuarto de siglo hemos concebido nuestra situación como un equilibrio de terror, y el punto terrible es que el terror es obvio, el equilibrio no lo es", dijo en un discurso ante el Club Nacional de Prensa en 1982.

Armamento nuclear, le dijo a un Noticias de San Jose Mercury periodista, "no es una obsesión, es mi deber. Lo estoy haciendo porque pocos otros lo están haciendo, y es la ruta para alejarme de la dominación o la destrucción del mundo soviético".

Se opuso al secreto en el desarrollo de las armas, citando con frecuencia al físico danés Niels Bohr: "En la Guerra Fría, sería razonable esperar que cada lado use las armas que mejor pueda usar. Y el arma apropiada para una dictadura es el secreto. . Pero el arma apropiada para una democracia es el arma de la apertura ".

Dijo que mucha gente conoce los secretos de la bomba de hidrógeno para que siga siendo un secreto, aunque no estaría a favor de enviar los planos a los soviéticos.

Teller lamentó que la Unión Soviética estuviera preparada para una posible guerra con una extensa infraestructura de defensa civil, mientras que Estados Unidos no lo estaba. Su influencia sobre los políticos en la década de 1950, en particular Nelson Rockefeller, llevó a muchos de los procedimientos de defensa civil, incluidos los refugios, que se desarrollaron entonces. Creía que se podía ganar una guerra nuclear, por calamitosa que fuera.

Sus posiciones no le permitieron recuperar a ninguno de los amigos que perdió en el asunto Oppenheimer. El Nobelista I.I. Rabi dijo una vez que Teller era "un peligro para todo lo que es importante".

Teller favorecía los planes para utilizar explosiones nucleares con fines pacíficos, como cavar canales, y con frecuencia se burlaba de los críticos que afirmaban que incluso el nivel más bajo de radiación de tales explosiones era peligroso.

En la década de 1970, hizo una cruzada por la energía nuclear y sufrió un ataque cardíaco después de Three Mile Island. Más tarde apareció en un anuncio de página completa en el Wall Street Journal culpando de su corazón a Jane Fonda y otros críticos de la industria nuclear. El anuncio fue pagado por la empresa que produjo la válvula que se atascó en la planta.

Su creencia en hacer marchar la ciencia y la tecnología al servicio de la defensa nacional lo llevó a su firme apoyo a la Iniciativa de Defensa Estratégica, particularmente en el desarrollo de armas láser. A Teller generalmente se le atribuye haber convencido al presidente Reagan de la eficacia de "Star Wars".

Incluso eso, por supuesto, generó controversia, con varios científicos, incluidos algunos en Livermore, donde se realizó la mayor parte del trabajo, acusando a Teller de manipular sus datos para convencer a los políticos. Teller y sus partidarios en Livermore y el Departamento de Defensa negaron rotundamente los cargos.

Pasó una cantidad considerable de tiempo dando conferencias y debatiendo "Star Wars" y sus posiciones de defensa en sus últimos años. Muchos de los debates fueron con físicos de Stanford y el Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). Su posición frecuente era que sabía más que ellos sobre tecnología de armas, un punto que se negaron a dar.

"Si supieras lo que yo sé, estarías de acuerdo conmigo", dijo una vez en un debate con el entonces director del SLAC, Wolfgang Panofsky.

"Sé lo que él sabe y no estoy de acuerdo con él", replicó Panofsky.

"Creo que el extremismo puede no ser el pecado más mortal", admitió Teller una vez, "pero el más extendido, y ocasionalmente, me atrapo en él".

Friends dijo que albergaba cierta amargura por no haber ganado un premio Nobel por sus primeros trabajos en física, que incluso sus críticos admiten que fue brillante e innovador. Culpó a la política y al hecho de que era conocido como el "padre de la bomba de hidrógeno". His protégé, Lowell Wood at Livermore, said that if it were not for the bomb "chances are two to three he'd get the Nobel Prize. He's commented to me that if he reared up on his hind legs and denounced the U.S. government, he'd be a good candidate."

But his critics could not let even that go by unchallenged. Marvin Goldberger, who had been a student of Teller's, Caltech president and twice-removed successor to Oppenheimer at the Institute for Advanced Study, once called him a "very good physicist, extraordinarily imaginative, creative person. He was about as close to the Nobel Prize as our cat."

Teller traveled extensively, even after a triple bypass operation, and was constantly in demand as a speaker, the scientific voice of the military establishment. He taught Hebrew school in his later years in a local synagogue, and spent as much time at his beloved piano as he could.

Still, his exile from his colleagues and friends, which he felt was the price of speaking his conscience, left a deep melancholy.

"I am not a loner," he told a Descubrir magazine reporter. "I like to work with others. I have friends among physicists today, outside of Livermore as well, but not very many. And those I do have I don't see very often.

"You know, an intellectual is not necessarily a man who is intelligent, but someone who agrees with other intellectuals. He is a man with whom it is acceptable for other intellectuals to associate. I lost my membership card in the club."

Teller won numerous awards, including the Fermi Prize, the National Medal of Science and, in July, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Nuclear Society and a member of the scientific advisory boards of the U.S. Air Force and various businesses.

He published more than a dozen books on subjects ranging from energy policy and defense issues to his own memoirs.

Teller is survived by his son Paul, daughter Wendy, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Joel N. Shurkin is a former science writer for the Stanford News Service.

© Stanford University . Reservados todos los derechos. Stanford , CA 94305 . (650) 723-2300 .


Fechas importantes

January 15, 1908 Birth, Budapest (Hungary).

1929 – 1931 Research Associate, University of Leipzig.

1930 Received Ph.D. in physics, University of Leipzig, Leipzig (Germany).

1931 – 1933 Research Associate, University of Göttingen.

1933 – 1934 Rockefeller Fellow, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Copenhagen.

1934 Lecturer, London City College.

1935 – 1941 Professor of Physics, George Washington University, Washington (D.C.).

1941 – 1942 Researcher, Columbia University.

1942 – 1946 Researcher, Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory (1942-1943) Leader of Hydrodynamics of Implosion and Super Theory Group (1943-1944) and Leader of General and Super Theory Group (1944-1946), Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

1946 – 1952 Professor of Physics, University of Chicago, Chicago (Ill.).

1948 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

1949 – 1952 Assistant Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

1952 – 1960 Consultant (1952-1953) Associate Director (1954-1958) and Director (1958-1960), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore (Calif.).

1953 – 2003 Professor of Physics (1953-1975) and Emeritus Professor of Physics (1975-2003), University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley (Calif.).

1956 – 1958 Member, General Advisory Committee, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

1960 – 2003 Professor (1960-1975) and Senior Research Fellow (1975-2003), Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, Stanford (Calif.).

1962 Received Enrico Fermi Award, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

1982 Received National Medal of Science.

1994 Received Middle Cross with the Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.


BIBLIOGRAFÍA

Teller’s archival collection, The Papers of Edward Teller, 1946–2003, is held at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Archives Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

WORKS BY TELLER

“The Rate of Selective Thermonuclear Reactions.” Physical Review 53, no. 7 (April 1938): 608–609.

“On the Polar Vibrations of Alkali Halides.” Physical Review 59, no. 8 (April 1941): 673–676.

With Allen Brown. The Legacy of Hiroshima. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962.

With Wilson K. Talley and Gary H. Higgins. The Constructive Uses of Nuclear Explosives. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.

Better a Shield Than a Sword: Perspectives on Defense and Technology. New York: Free Press/Macmillan, 1987.

With Judith Shoolery. Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2001.

OTRAS FUENTES

Galison, Peter, and Barton Berstein. “In Any Light: Scientists and the Decision to Build the Superbomb, 1952–1954.” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 19, no. 2 (1989): 267–347.

Herken, Gregg. Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller. New York: Holt, 2002.

O’Neill, Dan. The Firecracker Boys. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.

Phodes, Richard. Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Transcript of Hearing before Personnel Security Board and Texts of Principal Documents and Letters. Foreword by Philip M. Stern. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971.

York, Herbert F. The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller, and the Superbomb. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989.

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The many tragedies of Edward Teller

Edward Teller was born on this day 106 years ago. Teller is best known to the general public for two things: his reputation as the “father of the hydrogen bomb” and as a key villain in the story of the downfall of Robert Oppenheimer.

Edward Teller was born on this day 106 years ago. Teller is best known to the general public for two things: his reputation as the "father of the hydrogen bomb" and as a key villain in the story of the downfall of Robert Oppenheimer. To me Teller will always be a prime example of the harm that brilliant men can do - either by accident or design - when they are placed in positions of power as the famed historian Richard Rhodes said about Teller in an interview, "Teller consistently gave bad advice to every president that he worked for". It's a phenomenon that is a mainstay of politics but Teller's case sadly indicates that even science can be put into the service of such misuse of power

Ironically it is the two most publicly known facts about Teller that are also probably not entirely accurate. Later in life he often complained that the public had exaggerated his roles in both the hydrogen bomb program and in the ousting of Oppenheimer, and this contention was largely true. In truth he deserved both less credit and less blame for his two major acts. Without Teller hydrogen bombs would still have been developed and without Teller Oppenheimer would still have been removed from his role as the government's foremost scientific advisor.

The question that continues to dog historians and scientists is simple why did Teller behave the way he did? By any account he was a brilliant man, well attuned to the massive overkill by nuclear weapons that he was advocating and also well attuned to the damage he would cause Oppenheimer and the scientific community by testifying against the father of the atomic bomb. He was also often a warm person and clearly desired friendship with his peers, so why did he choose to alienate so many who were close to him? The answers to these questions undoubtedly lie in Teller's background. Growing up in progressive Hungary at the turn of the century as the son of a well to do Jewish father, Teller was part of a constellation of Hungarian prodigies with similar cultural and family backgrounds who followed similar trajectories, emigrated to the United States and became famous scientists. Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and John von Neumann were all childhood friends.

Sadly Teller became a psychological casualty of Hungary's post-World War 1 communist and fascist regimes early in his childhood when he witnessed first hand the depredations visited upon his country by Bela Kun and then by Miklos Horthy. The chaos and uncertainty brought about by the communists left a deep impression on the sensitive young boy and traumatized him for life. Later when Teller migrated to Germany, England and America he saw the noose of Nazism tightening around Europe. This combined double blow brought about by the cruelties of communism and Nazism seems to have dictated almost every one of Teller's major decisions for the rest of his life.

The fear of totalitarianism manifested itself early, leading Teller to be among the first ones to push for a US nuclear weapons program. He was Leo Szilard's driver when Szilard went to meet Einstein in his Long Island cottage and got the famous letter to FDR signed by the great physicist. Along with Szilard and Wigner Teller was the first one to raise the alarm about a potential German atomic project and he lobbied vigorously for the government to take notice. By the time the war started he was a respected professor at George Washington University. Goaded by his experiences and inner conscience, Teller became one of Oppenheimer's first recruits at Los Alamos where he moved at the beginning of the Manhattan Project in the spring of 1943.

Oppenheimer and Teller's meeting was like one of those fateful events in Greek tragedies which is destined to end in friction and tragedy. Perhaps the most ironic twist in this story is how similar the two men were brilliant physicists who were both products of high culture and affluent families, interested in literature and the arts, envisioning a great role for themselves in history and sensitive to the plight of human beings around them. However their personalities clashed almost right from the beginning, although the mistrust was mostly engendered by Teller.

Not all of it was Teller's fault however. By the time Teller met Oppenheimer the latter had established himself as the foremost American-born theoretical physicist of his age, a man who could hold sway over even Nobel Laureates with his astonishingly quick mind, dazzlingly Catholic interests and knowledge and ability to metamorphose into adopting whatever role history had thrust upon him. But men like Oppenheimer are hardly simple, and Oppenheimer's colleagues and students usually fell into two extreme camps, those who saw him as an insecure and pretentious poseur and those who idolized his intellect. Clearly Teller fell into the former group.

The friction between the two men was accentuated after Teller moved to Los Alamos when Oppenheimer made Hans Bethe the head of the project's important theoretical division. Teller understandably chafed at the choice since unlike Bethe he had lived with the project since the beginning, but Oppenheimer's decision was wise he had sized up both physicists and realized that while both were undoubtedly scientifically capable, administering a division of prima donnas needed steadfast determination, levelheaded decision making and the ability to be a team player while quietly soothing egos, all of which were qualities inherent in Bethe but not in the volatile Teller.

Teller never really recovered from this slight and from then on his relationship with both Oppenheimer and Bethe (with whom he had been best friends for years) was increasingly strained. It wouldn't be the first time he let the personal interfere with the professional and I think this was his first great tragedy - the inability to separate personal feelings from objective thinking. It was also during the war that the idea of using an atomic bomb to ignite a self-sustaining fusion reaction caught Teller's imagination. Teller confirmed Oppenheimer's decision to hire Bethe when he refused to perform detailed calculations for the implosion weapon and insisted that he work on his pet idea for the "Super", a diversion that was undoubtedly orthogonal to the urgent task of producing an atomic bomb, especially one which was necessary to light up the Super in any case.

After the war got over Teller kept on pushing for the hydrogen bomb. History was on his side and the increasing encroachment of the Soviets into Eastern Europe followed by major events like the Berlin airlift and the testing of the first Soviet atomic bomb firmed up his conviction and allowed him to drum up support from scientists, politicians and the military. Sadly his initial design for the Super was fatally flawed while an atomic bomb would in fact ignite a large mass of tritium or deuterium, energy losses would be too rapid to sustain a successful fusion reaction. Even after knowing this Teller kept pushing for the design, taking advantage of the worsening political situation and his own growing prominence in the scientific community. This was Teller's first real dishonest act.

His second dishonest act was withholding credit from the man who actually came up with the first successful idea for a hydrogen bomb - Stanislaw Ulam. An exceptionally brilliant and versatile mathematician, Ulam first performed detailed calculations that revealed holes in Teller's original Super design and then thought of the key process of radiation implosion that would compress a batch of thermonuclear fuel and enable its sustained fusion. Teller who had been smoldering with rage at Ulam's calculations until then immediately saw the merit of the idea and significantly refined it. Since then almost every hydrogen bomb in the world's nuclear arsenals has been constructed on the basis of the Teller-Ulam model. Yet Teller seems to have denied Ulam the credit for the idea even in his later years, something that is especially puzzling considering that he downplayed his own role in the development of hydrogen bombs in the waning years of his life. Was this simply a ploy engineered to gain sympathy and to display false modesty? We will never know.

The act for which Teller became infamous followed only a few years later in 1954. Since the end of the war Oppenheimer had been steadfast in his opposition to the hydrogen bomb, not just on a moral basis but also on a technical basis. This did not go down well with the establishment, especially in the face of the increasingly dire-looking international situation. Oppenheimer was hardly the only one opposing the project - prominent scientists like Enrico Fermi and Isidor Rabi were even more vocal in their opposition - but Oppenheimer's reputation, his role as the government's foremost nuclear advisor and his often casual cruelty and impatience with lesser men made him stand out. After the Teller-Ulam design came to light Oppenheimer actually supported the project but by that time he had already made powerful enemies, especially in the person of Lewis Strauss, a vindictive, petty and thin-skinned former Secretary of the Navy who unfortunately had the ear of President Eisenhower.

When the government brought charges against Oppenheimer Teller was asked to testify. He could have declined and still saved his reputation but he chose not to. Curiously, the actual testimony offered by Teller is at the same time rather straightforward as well as vague enough to be interpreted damningly. It has an air of calculated ambiguity about it that makes it particularly potent. What Teller said was the following:

What is interesting about the testimony, as explained by Freeman Dyson in his autobiography, is that it's actually quite undramatic and true. Oppenheimer had lied to army officials during the war regarding an indirect approach made to him for ferrying secrets to the Soviet Union. He had refused right away but had then concocted an unnecessary and bizarre "cock and bull story" (in his own words) to explain his actions. That story had not gotten him into trouble during the war because of his indispensable role in the project, but it certainly qualified him as "confused and complicated". In addition after the war, Oppenheimer's views on nuclear weapons also often appeared conflicted, as did his loyalties to his former students. Oppenheimer's opinions on the hydrogen bomb which were quite sound were however also interpreted as "confused and complicated" by Teller. But where Teller was coming from, Oppenheimer's actions fueron hard to understand, and therefore it was clear that Teller would trust opinions regarding national security in someone's else's hands. Thus Teller's testimony was actually rather unsurprising and sensible when seen in a certain context.

As it happened however, his words were seen as a great betrayal by the majority of physicists who supported Oppenheimer. The result of this perception was that Teller himself was damaged far more by his testimony than was Oppenheimer. Close friends simply stopped talking to him and one former colleague publicly refused to shake his hand, a defiant display that led Teller to retire to his room and weep. He was essentially declared a pariah by a large part of the wartime physics community. It is likely that Teller would have reconsidered testifying against Oppenheimer had he known the personal price he would have to pay. But the key point here is that Teller had again let personal feelings interfere with objective decision making Teller's animosity toward Oppenheimer went back years, and he knew that as long as the emperor ruled he could never take his place. This was his chance to stage a coup. As it happened his decision simply led to a great tragedy of his life, a tragedy that was particularly acute since his not testifying would have essentially made no difference in the revocation of Oppenheimer's security clearance.

This inability to keep the personal separate from reality exemplified Teller's obsession with nuclear weapons for the next fifty years until his death. At one point he was paranoid enough to proclaim that he saw himself in a Soviet prison camp within five years. I will not go so far as to label Teller paranoid from a medical standpoint but some of the symptoms certainly seem to be there. Teller's attachment to his hydrogen bombs became so absolute that he essentially opposed almost every effort to seek reconciliation and arms reductions with the Soviets. The Partial Test Ban Treaty, the NPT, the ABM treaty and sound scientific opposition to Reagan's fictional "Star Wars" defense all met with his swift disapproval even when the science argued otherwise, as in the case of Star Wars . He also publicly debated Linus Pauling regarding the genetic effects of radiation just as he would debate Carl Sagan twenty years later regarding nuclear winter.

Sagan has a particularly illuminating take on Teller's relationship with nuclear weapons in his book "The Demon- Haunted World". The book has an entire chapter on Teller in which Sagan tries to understand Teller's love affair with bombs. Sagan's opinion is that Teller was actually sincere in his beliefs that nuclear weapons were humanity's savior. He actually believed that these weapons would solve all our problems in war and peace. This led to him advocating rather outlandish uses for nuclear weapons: "Do you want to find out more about moon dust? Explode a nuclear weapon on the moon and analyze the spectrum of the resulting dust. Do you want to excavate harbors or change the course of rivers? Nuclear weapons can do the job". Teller's proposal to excavate harbors in Alaska using bombs led to appropriate opposition from the Alaskan natives. In many of these scenarios he seemed to simply ignore the biological effects of fallout.

But as much as I appreciate Sagan's view that Teller was sincere in his proposals I find it hard to digest Teller was smart enough to know the collateral damage caused by nuclear weapons, or to know how ridiculous the idea of using nuclear weapons to study moon dust sounded when there were much simpler methods to do it. My opinion is that by this time he had travelled so far along the path which he chose for himself after the war that he simply could not retract his steps. He clung to dubious peacetime uses of nuclear weapons simply so that he could advocate their buildup in wartime. By this time the man was too far along to choose another role in his life. That, I think, was another of Teller's tragedies.

But in my view, Teller's greatest tragedy had nothing to do with nuclear weapons. It was simply the fact that in pursuit of his obsession with bombs he wasted his great scientific gifts and failed to become a truly great physicist. Ironically he again shared this fate with his nemesis Robert Oppenheimer. Before the war both Oppenheimer and Teller had made significant contributions to science. Teller is so famous for his weapons work that it is easy to ignore his scientific research. Along with two other scientists he worked out an important equation describing the adsorption of gases to solids. Another very significant Teller contribution known to chemists is the Jahn-Teller effect, a distortion of geometry in certain inorganic molecular complexes that impacts key properties like color and magnetic behavior. In nuclear physics Teller again came up with several ideas including the Gamow-Teller rules that describe energy transitions in nuclei. Even after the war Teller kept on thinking about science, working for instance on Thomas-Fermi theory which was the precursor of techniques used to calculate important properties of molecules.

But after 1945 Teller's scientific gifts essentially lay undisturbed, stagnating in all their creative glory. Edward Teller the theoretical physicist was slowly but surely banished to the shadows and Edward Teller the nuclear weapons expert and political advocate took his place. A similar fate befell Oppenheimer, although for many years he at least stayed in touch with the latest developments in physics. Seduced by power, both men forgot what had brought them to this juncture in history to begin with. In pursuing power they ignored their beloved science.

Ultimately one fact stands apart stark and clear in my view: Edward Teller's obsession with nuclear weapons will likely become a historical curiosity but the Jahn-Teller will persist for all eternity. This, I think, is the real tragedy.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Thermonuclear bomb

Nuestros editores revisarán lo que ha enviado y determinarán si deben revisar el artículo.

thermonuclear bomb, también llamado hydrogen bomb, o H-bomb, weapon whose enormous explosive power results from an uncontrolled self-sustaining chain reaction in which isotopes of hydrogen combine under extremely high temperatures to form helium in a process known as nuclear fusion. The high temperatures that are required for the reaction are produced by the detonation of an atomic bomb.

A thermonuclear bomb differs fundamentally from an atomic bomb in that it utilizes the energy released when two light atomic nuclei combine, or fuse, to form a heavier nucleus. An atomic bomb, by contrast, uses the energy released when a heavy atomic nucleus splits, or fissions, into two lighter nuclei. Under ordinary circumstances atomic nuclei carry positive electrical charges that act to strongly repel other nuclei and prevent them from getting close to one another. Only under temperatures of millions of degrees can the positively charged nuclei gain sufficient kinetic energy, or speed, to overcome their mutual electric repulsion and approach close enough to each other to combine under the attraction of the short-range nuclear force. The very light nuclei of hydrogen atoms are ideal candidates for this fusion process because they carry weak positive charges and thus have less resistance to overcome.

The hydrogen nuclei that combine to form heavier helium nuclei must lose a small portion of their mass (about 0.63 percent) in order to “fit together” in a single larger atom. They lose this mass by converting it completely into energy, according to Albert Einstein’s famous formula: mi = metroC 2. According to this formula, the amount of energy created is equal to the amount of mass that is converted multiplied by the speed of light squared. The energy thus produced forms the explosive power of a hydrogen bomb.

Deuterium and tritium, which are isotopes of hydrogen, provide ideal interacting nuclei for the fusion process. Two atoms of deuterium, each with one proton and one neutron, or tritium, with one proton and two neutrons, combine during the fusion process to form a heavier helium nucleus, which has two protons and either one or two neutrons. In current thermonuclear bombs, lithium-6 deuteride is used as the fusion fuel it is transformed to tritium early in the fusion process.

In a thermonuclear bomb, the explosive process begins with the detonation of what is called the primary stage. This consists of a relatively small quantity of conventional explosives, the detonation of which brings together enough fissionable uranium to create a fission chain reaction, which in turn produces another explosion and a temperature of several million degrees. The force and heat of this explosion are reflected back by a surrounding container of uranium and are channeled toward the secondary stage, containing the lithium-6 deuteride. The tremendous heat initiates fusion, and the resulting explosion of the secondary stage blows the uranium container apart. The neutrons released by the fusion reaction cause the uranium container to fission, which often accounts for most of the energy released by the explosion and which also produces fallout (the deposition of radioactive materials from the atmosphere) in the process. (A neutron bomb is a thermonuclear device in which the uranium container is absent, thus producing much less blast but a lethal “enhanced radiation” of neutrons.) The entire series of explosions in a thermonuclear bomb takes a fraction of a second to occur.

A thermonuclear explosion produces blast, light, heat, and varying amounts of fallout. The concussive force of the blast itself takes the form of a shock wave that radiates from the point of the explosion at supersonic speeds and that can completely destroy any building within a radius of several miles. The intense white light of the explosion can cause permanent blindness to people gazing at it from a distance of dozens of miles. The explosion’s intense light and heat set wood and other combustible materials afire at a range of many miles, creating huge fires that may coalesce into a firestorm. The radioactive fallout contaminates air, water, and soil and may continue years after the explosion its distribution is virtually worldwide.

Thermonuclear bombs can be hundreds or even thousands of times more powerful than atomic bombs. The explosive yield of atomic bombs is measured in kilotons, each unit of which equals the explosive force of 1,000 tons of TNT. The explosive power of hydrogen bombs, by contrast, is frequently expressed in megatons, each unit of which equals the explosive force of 1,000,000 tons of TNT. Hydrogen bombs of more than 50 megatons have been detonated, but the explosive power of the weapons mounted on strategic missiles usually ranges from 100 kilotons to 1.5 megatons. Thermonuclear bombs can be made small enough (a few feet long) to fit in the warheads of intercontinental ballistic missiles these missiles can travel almost halfway across the globe in 20 or 25 minutes and have computerized guidance systems so accurate that they can land within a few hundred yards of a designated target.


Edward Teller - History

Who Built the H-Bomb? Debate Revives
By William J. Broad

After suffering a heart attack, Edward Teller took a breath, sat down with a friend and a tape recorder and offered his views on the secret history of the hydrogen bomb.

"So that first design," Dr. Teller said, "was made by Dick Garwin." He repeated the credit, ensuring there would be no misunderstanding.

Dr. Teller, now 93, was not ceding the laurels for devising the bomb - a glory he claims for himself. But he was rewriting how the rough idea became the world's most feared weapon. His tribute, made more than two decades ago but just now coming to light, adds a surprising twist to a dispute that has roiled historians and scientists for decades: who should get credit for designing the H-bomb?


The oral testament was meant to disparage Dr. Stanislaw M. Ulam, Dr. Teller's rival, now dead, and boost Dr. Richard L. Garwin, a young scientist at the time of the invention who later clashed with Dr. Teller and now says he would wipe the bomb from the earth if he could.

The New York Times obtained a transcript of the recording recently from the friend with whom Dr. Teller shared his memories. Some historians of science praise Dr. Teller's tribute to Dr. Garwin as candid others fault it as disingenuous.

In any event, the recognition of Dr. Garwin is surprising because he is not usually seen as having a major role in designing the hydrogen bomb. In fact, he eventually became an outspoken advocate of arms control, battling often with Dr. Teller. The tribute also poses the riddle of how Dr. Garwin's work, done in the early 1950's, could have gone unacknowledged for so long.

"It's fascinating," said Dr. Ray E. Kidder, an H-bomb pioneer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which Dr. Teller helped found and once directed. "There's always been this controversy over who had the idea of the H-bomb and who did what. This spells it out. It's extremely credible, and I dare say accurate."

Dr. Priscilla McMillan, a historian at Harvard who is working on a book about the early H-bomb disputes, agreed, saying the tribute sounded right. She added that Dr. Teller might have done it to "square things with God" after his 1979 heart attack.

One of the most controversial figures of the nuclear era, Dr. Teller played central roles in inventing the atomic and hydrogen bombs, and in destroying the career of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who in World War II had run the laboratory in the mountains of New Mexico that gave birth to the atomic bomb. Afterward, though, he questioned the morality of devising an even more powerful weapon, and amid the anti-Communist paranoia of the McCarthy era, the government stripped him of his security clearance. The schism among scientists over his fate lasts to this day.

In the process, Dr. Teller became a hero to conservatives but was disparaged by liberals as the role model for Dr. Strangelove, the fictional mad scientist of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film who was fixated on mass destruction.

Dr. Garwin, during the design effort a half-century ago, was a 23- year-old faculty member at the University of Chicago who was working during the summer break of 1951 at the New Mexican weapons laboratory, known as Los Alamos. Over the decades, he rose to prominence, often advising the government on secret matters of intelligence and weapons.

In an interview, Dr. Garwin said Dr. Teller was correct to include him among the bomb's designers, likening himself to its midwife. "It was the kind of thing I do well," he said of joining theory, experiment and engineering to make complex new devices.

But he added, "If I could wave a wand" to make the hydrogen bomb and the nuclear age go away, "I would do that."

Now 73, Dr. Garwin is an experimental physicist who for decades has worked at the International Business Machines Corporation and is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan. He backs such arms control measures as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to outlaw all nuclear explosions.

A theoretical physicist, Dr. Teller is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and director emeritus of the Livermore weapons laboratory. He was an ardent advocate of the Reagan administration's Star Wars antimissile plan and, more recently, has promoted the idea of manipulating the earth's atmosphere to counteract global warming.

If Dr. Teller's version of events is right, he and Dr. Garwin were the main forces behind one of the most ominous inventions of all time, a bomb that harnessed the fusion power of the sun.

Dr. Teller had championed the goal since the early 1940's, long before the atomic bomb flashed to life. His basic idea was to use the high heat of an exploding atomic bomb to ignite hydrogen fuel, fusing its atoms together and releasing even larger bursts of nuclear energy. But no one working at Los Alamos could figure out how to do that.

The credit dispute has its roots in a conversation Dr. Teller had in early 1951 with Dr. Ulam, then a mathematician at Los Alamos. Afterward, a new plan emerged.

The idea, known as radiation implosion, was to build a large cylindrical casing that would hold the atomic bomb and hydrogen fuel at opposite ends. The flash of the exploding bomb would hit the case, causing it to glow and flood the interior of the casing with radiation of pressure sufficient to compress and ignite the hydrogen fuel.

No one knew whether the idea would work. And studies of it were slowed by ill will between Dr. Teller and Dr. Ulam, as well as debates at the weapons laboratory over whether building a hydrogen bomb was ethical and smart, given its potentially unlimited power.

Dr. Garwin arrived at Los Alamos in May 1951 from the University of Chicago, where he had been a star in the laboratory of Enrico Fermi, the Nobel laureate and arguably the day's top physicist. Dr. Garwin had been at Los Alamos the previous summer and, intrigued by the work, had come back for another atomic sabbatical.

In the interview, Dr. Garwin recalled that Dr. Teller had told him of the new idea and asked him to design an experiment to prove that it would work - something the Los Alamos regulars failed to do. "They were burnt out" from too many rush efforts to build and test prototype nuclear arms, Dr. Garwin recalled. "So I did it."

By July 1951, after talking at the weapons laboratory with physicists and engineers, he had sketched a preliminary design. Of its features, Dr. Garwin said, "There is still very little I'm allowed to say."

He continued working on the design until he went back to Chicago that fall. Then, as momentum built at Los Alamos for the H-bomb, many experts joined the design effort, which was finished in early 1952.

The prototype bomb stood two stories high. In November 1952, it vaporized the Pacific island of Elugelab, a mile in diameter. Its power was equal to 10.4 million tons of high explosive, or about 700 times the power of atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Unlike its atomic predecessors, the hydrogen bomb theoretically had no destructive limits. Its fuel was cheap, and its force could be made as large as desired. Scientists talked of doomsday weapons big enough to blow the earth's atmosphere into space, or to raise ocean waves that crushed whole nations.

Many books and articles were written about the dark feat. Most mentioned Dr. Teller and Dr. Ulam and their rivalry. Few if any mentioned Dr. Garwin's role. All details of the invention were shrouded in secrecy to try to keep Washington's foes in the dark.

The backdrop to Dr. Teller's testament is the reactor accident in Pennsylvania at Three Mile Island in March 1979. As the nation panicked, Dr. Teller, an ardent backer of nuclear power, went on a public relations blitz to insist that the crisis was one of politics, not technology. In May 1979, he stressed the point to Congress.

The next day, Dr. Teller, then 71, suffered a heart attack.

"He called me from the intensive care unit," recalled Dr. George A. Keyworth II, a friend of Dr. Teller's at Los Alamos who later served as President Ronald Reagan's science adviser. He said the elder physicist began the call with two assertions: "Heart attacks are painful, and I have discovered that I am not immortal."

Dr. Keyworth recalled: "He was frightened, like a child."

Upon release from the California hospital, Dr. Teller came to Los Alamos to recuperate. He sat down with Dr. Keyworth in September 1979 to detail his H-bomb views. A copy of the transcript, which Dr. Keyworth recently gave The New York Times, ran to 20 pages.

It was a long rebuttal of the idea that Dr. Ulam played any role in developing the hydrogen bomb. Instead, Dr. Teller asserted, he alone made the key theoretical breakthrough after a decade of work. Then, he said, he told Dr. Fermi's star pupil about it, "and I asked him to put down a concrete design" and make it "so hard that there should be the least possible doubt about it."

"So that first design was made by Dick Garwin," Dr. Teller said. "It was then criticized forward and backward. In the end, it stood up to all criticism."

Dr. Teller said the scientists who worked out the details of the design were Dr. Marshall Rosenbluth and Dr. Conrad Longmire. After Dr. Garwin went back to the University of Chicago in the fall of 1951 and Dr. Teller returned to Los Alamos in December 1951 to check on progress, "I found that the calculations came out just as I had expected" and that "the design remained unchanged."

"And therefore, as far as I'm concerned, the preparation for the hydrogen bomb was completed by Dick Garwin's design."

In an interview, Dr. Keyworth judged that Dr. Teller's memory at that time "was as good as it gets," and he said Dr. Teller put no restrictions on how to treat the testament. "He simply had a near-death experience," Dr. Keyworth said, "and was thinking of his place in history."

Two years later, at a meeting in Italy of a dozen scientists including Dr. Garwin, Dr. Teller alluded to the younger man's role in public. "The shot," he said, "was fired almost precisely according to Garwin's design."

After that, Dr. Teller and Dr. Garwin clashed for years over Star Wars, which Dr. Teller helped create and Dr. Garwin criticized as a dangerous fantasy.

Silence ruled afterward. Dr. Teller, in his 1987 book, "Better a Shield Than a Sword," did not mention Dr. Garwin's design in a long account of the H-bomb's development. Nor did Dr. Teller's biographers, Stanley A. Blumberg and Louis G. Panos, authors of "Edward Teller: Giant of the Golden Age of Physics" in 1990, though they had a transcript of the testament.

In an interview yesterday, Dr. Teller stood by his 1979 portrayal. "He filled in the details very effectively," he said of Dr. Garwin. "He made the design and that was it." And Dr. Teller denied slighting Dr. Garwin in earlier accounts of the breakthrough. "He was a good man who did it in record time."

That judgment was lost to history, however. In 1995, Richard Rhodes, in his book "Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb" found that Dr. Teller actually delayed the bomb's development and made no mention of Dr. Garwin's role.

In an interview, Mr. Rhodes said that in praising the 23-year-old outsider, Dr. Teller was "essentially saying the guys at Los Alamos couldn't cut the mustard." And that assertion, he said, was false.

But Dr. McMillan of Harvard disagreed, saying that while Dr. Teller could be combative and vindictive, he was also generous and fair. The testament, she said, should probably be taken at face value.

Few players in this drama survive, making it difficult to clear things up.

Dr. Jacob Wechsler, who was a young man on the hydrogen bomb team, said the Los Alamos regulars, not Dr. Garwin, were the real stars. "We had to hit this with a sledge hammer," he said.

Dr. Rosenbluth, a main H-bomb designer at Los Alamos, said his own role was underplayed in the testament but that nevertheless he substantially agreed with Dr. Teller. "Dick understood physics," Dr. Rosenbluth said, "and certainly produced the embodiment thatwas actually constructible."

He added that Dr. Garwin was virtually unique at Los Alamos in his ability to bridge gaps between experts in different fields.

"I was a pure theorist, and there were a lot of experimental engineering types, but there weren't many people able to serve as a link between the two," Dr. Rosenbluth said. Dr. Garwin was probably the project's intellectual glue, tying many ideas into the successful device, he said.

"He's an extremely brilliant person and has this rare combination of talents," Dr. Rosenbluth said. "Fermi had them. But in the generation after Fermi, Dick may be the best exemplar."

Over the decades, Dr. Garwin said, he spoke publicly of his role in the hydrogen bomb on more than one occasion.

But he added that he was advised early in his career, "You can get credit for something or get it done, but not both."


Edward Teller

Edward Teller was a Hungarian-born American nuclear physicist who was instrumental in the production of the first atomic bomb and the world’s first thermonuclear weapon, the hydrogen bomb. He is also known for his extraordinary contributions to nuclear and molecular physics, surface physics and spectroscopy (particularly the Jahn–Teller and Renner–Teller effects).

Early Life and Education:

Edward Teller was born in Budapest on January 15th 1908 into a rich Hungarian Jewish family. His mother was Ilona Deutsch, a pianist, and his father, Max Teller, was an attorney. He left Hungary in 1926 and moved to Germany. As a student in Munich he lost his right foot under a moving streetcar requiring him to wear a prosthetic foot and leaving him with a life-long limp.

Teller graduated with a degree in chemical engineering at the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in particle chemistry from the University of Leipzig, Germany in 1930.

Contributions and Achievements:

After working for two years at the University of Gottingen, Teller left Germany in 1933 and moved to Copenhagen for a year working for Niels Bohr.

In 1934 he married Augusta Maria) Harkanyi. They went on to have two children, Paul and Wendy. Teller moved to America in 1935 accepting the position of professor of physics at the George Washington University. His work here included predicting the Jahn-Teller Effect which distorts molecules in certain situations. He also contributed to surface physics and chemistry with the Brunauer–Emmett–Teller adsorption isotherm equation.

Teller became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1941 and became a part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, working on the first atomic bomb with J. Robert Oppenheimer. Teller was also interested creating a fusion weapon (hydrogen bomb) and pressed as hard as he could for its development.

In 1946, Teller left Los Alamos to work at the University of Chicago, returning in 1950 when work on developing a hydrogen bomb was finally approved. Teller worked on the hydrogen bomb project, helping devise the Teller-Ulam two stage thermonuclear bomb design. The H-bomb was successfully tested in the Pacific in 1952.

In 1952 Teller accepted the positon of professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, a position he kept until 1960.

Teller also became associate director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1954 to 1958, and from 1960 to 1965, being the director for two years from 1958 to 1960.

Teller was a recipient of the the Enrico Fermi Award, Albert Einstein Award, the National Medal of Science and the Harvey Prize from the Technion-Israel Institute.

He was an active campaigner for civil defense from the 1950’s. Teller also worked as a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institute, where he studied the international and national policies of energy and defense. A few of the notable books he has written include “Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics Better a Shield Than a Sword”, “Pursuit of Simplicity” and “Energy from Heaven and Earth”.

Later Life and Death:

Edward Teller died in Stanford, California on September 9, 2003. He was 95 years old. The same year he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


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