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How Did Kodak Detect the World’s First Nuclear Bomb?

In 1945, the U.S. government’s Manhattan Project detonated the world’s first nuclear explosion. This test was highly confidential and remained so for several years, and yet, Kodak figured out what happened long before the truth became public knowledge.

Derek Muller of Veritasium is famed for his insightful videos into a huge range of science-related topics, and this one brings together nuclear bombs and photography in a way that few could imagine. The details of the project and its huge explosion were kept secret, so how could Kodak possibly know what had taken place from 2,000 miles away?

The test produced some of the 20th century’s most iconic photographs: both the black and white and color imagery of the huge mushroom cloud above the Jornada del Muerto desert that emerged went on to shape public consciousness, almost mirroring the threat of nuclear war that hung over the Cold War era. You can see a series of the images over at the Atomic Archive.

Robert J. Oppenheimer, one of the lead scientists working on the Manhattan Project, quoted Hindu scripture as he reflected on the experiment: “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.”

Lead image: United States Department of Energy, public domain.


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