User Input

User Input: Damn The Torpedoes

Both seemed like a good idea at the time.

Years ago, with no consideration whatsoever for the hindrances of fear or common sense, my dad and I decided to undertake the project of an engine rebuild on my ’64 Rambler. It had sat for far too long before being fired up again, and […]

Big Complicated Machines, Geeky Physics

Big, Complicated Machines #14 – The Calutron


184” (184 inch) Cyclotron taken in 1942. Image: LBNL

Good morning everyone.

Today we’re going to talk about on odd offshoot of the cyclotron, actually it’s an odd offshoot of a cyclotron, it’s called a Calutron and it’s a device used to enrich uranium.

The calutron (I hate that name, just despise it) is another invention of E.O. Lawrence. Remember Ernest Eddy? I briefly talked about his invention of the cyclotron back in BCS #13, among other things. Anyway, Lawrence never intended to build any such device, he wanted to build bigger and better cyclotrons and had been doing just that throughout the 1930s. He and his associates built a string of them starting with the original 9 inch cobbled-together device, to a 27 inch 4.8 MeV device (a big improvement), a 37 inch 8 MeV device, and a 60 inch 16 MeV device. The experimenters that used the things just loved them and were discovering all sorts of new things, first of which is that the machines got inordinately larger (and more expensive, of course) as the power output increased. The sizes indicate the diameter of the acceleration chamber, not the size of the cyclotron itself. For example, the 60 inch device required the use of a 220 ton iron electromagnet, a picture of the device is after the jump.

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Atomic Awesome

America’s Secret Government Town Part Deux

Construction of the K-25 Plant with one of the original homes in the area.

Within 3 years, the government had built a bustling city. One that technically didn’t exist, yet was important to our understanding of the atom. Technically called the Clinton Engineer Works, the name Oak Ridge was chosen in 1943 to give the town a more civilian sounding name.
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Atomic Awesome

America’s Secret Government Town

In east Tennessee is the idyllic town you see above. It looks like any other small town in America. In 1945 it had a population of 75,000. Ten schools fed children’s brains. Seventeen restaurants and thirteen supermarkets fed their bellies. A library, churches, parks, sporting facilities adn even a symphony orchestra make it hard to distinguish from any other small town. Except for one big thing.
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Startup: Slick Inventions

This is thread seal tape – created as a replacement for pipe dope to help seal and lubricate threaded pipes in plumbing. Keeps ’em water tight, but still easy to open. How? Because it’s coated (like so many things) in Teflon. Polytetrafloroethylene (PTFE), like many great inventions, was accidentally created. In 1938 DuPont was […]


Startup: Destroyer of Worlds

On today’s date in 1967, J. Robert Oppenheimer passed away at the age of 62. The scientific director of the Manhattan Project, he famously quoted from the Bhagavad Gita shortly after the first successful test of an atomic bomb:

“If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one… Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

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