What does it feel like to see a nuclear bomb explode in person?

2019-01-26T11:53:18.000Z Honest Cash

One of the reasons I fell in love with physics was a famous physicist of the 20th century - Richard Feynman. I read through his biography and lectures when I was in high school and it gave me this amazing feeling as though I can really understand the rules behind the universe and it inspired me to learn more - to study the subject.

I've seen a question on Quora "What does it feel like to see a nuclear bomb explode in person" back then when studying physics at the University of Heidelberg. Originally posted on Quora few years ago, I think it's time to bring it here:

One of this century's greatest scientific minds, Richard Feynman, American physicist, assisted in the development of the atomic bomb. He is telling about it in his biography.

They gave out dark glasses that you could watch it with. Dark glasses! Twenty miles away, you couldn't see a damn thing through dark glasses. So I figured the only thing that could really hurt your eyes (bright light can never hurt your eyes) is ultraviolet light. I got behind a truck windshield, because the ultraviolet can't go through glass, so that would be safe, and so I could see the damn thing.

Time comes, and this tremendous flash out there is so bright that I duck, and I see this purple splotch on the floor of the truck. I said, "That's not it. That's an after-image." So I look back up, and I see this white light changing into yellow and then into orange. Clouds form and disappear again--from the compression and expansion of the shock wave.

Finally, a big ball of orange, the center that was so bright, becomes a ball of orange that starts to rise and billow a little bit and get a little black around the edges, and then you see it's a big ball of smoke with flashes on the inside, with the heat of the fire going outwards.

All this took about one minute. It was a series from bright to dark, and I had seen it. I am about the only guy who actually looked at the damn thing--the first Trinity test. Everybody else had dark glasses, and the people at six miles couldn't see it because they were all told to lie on the floor. I'm probably the only guy who saw it with the human eye.

Finally, after about a minute and a half, there's suddenly a tremendous noise--BANG, and then a rumble, like thunder-- and that's what convinced me. Nobody had said a word during this whole thing. We were all just watching quietly. But this sound released everybody--released me particularly because the solidity of the sound at that distance meant that it had really worked.

The man standing next to me said, "What's that?"
I said, "That was the Bomb."

Richard Feynman: A Biography (English Edition)

Responses


RE: What does it feel like to see a nuclear bomb explode in person?

by @UnstoppableCash

Quite the story! Basically one of a kind!

My first introduction (about 20yrs ago) to Feynman was reading his book: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a curious Character). Check it out! Besides being brilliant, he was quite a practical joker/prankster and so MUCH more!