Tales of the Atomic Age
In July of 1945, near Los Alamos, New Mexico, there existed a secret government research facility where the best minds in Physics had been assembled in order to beat Hitler to the punch, by engineering the first atomic bomb. On the morning of July 16th, the following incident occurred at this facility.
Neils Boorish, a young scientist, had been working all night at his drafting table to finish a design for a device that would be critical for the mass production of Uranium-238 and Plutonium. Just before dawn, he finally completed his drawing and rushed with it to his supervisor, Dr. Ricardo Frumenti, who was having a discussion with other physicists gathered around another drafting table. Dr. Boorish's excitement was palpable, and everyone was practically drooling in anticipation. The drawing was spread out on the table, and eager hands reached out to place heavy paperweights on the corners of the large drawing, to hold it in place.
"Gentlemen," Boorish said. "This is a preliminary design for a nuclear refracting facility that will enable us to increase our production of fissionable materials by, conservatively, a thousand percent." Neils had them at "Gentlemen."
But, Dr. Frumenti was not impressed with Boorish's drawing. He pointed at the drawing with his pipe and said, "Is this some kind of joke, Dr. Boorish?" The room went stony silent, as Frumenti ripped the drawing from the table and held it up to Boorish's face. The other scientists realized that something was terribly wrong.
"This is a drawing of a circle," Dr. Frumenti said. "Nothing more. Please explain yourself, Dr. Boorish."
Boorish, however, was not intimidated. "That is a drawing of a... cyclotron," Boorish said.
"A cyclotron?" Frumenti asked, his bushy eyebrows raised in disbelief, threatening to become airborne. "A cyclotron? Have you gone mad? This is a circle, pure and simple. Either that or a large zero. Yes, that is precisely what it is. . . a zero."
The other scientists, none of whom had ever liked Boorish, began shouting at him. Dr. Robert Kroppenheimer went so far as to tell Boorish that he was "a fooking idiot."
At this point, Frumenti placed Boorish's drawing back on the drafting table, spread it out, and rolled it into a cone shape. He then inserted the tip of the cone into a nearby pencil sharpener, and turning to Boorish, said "This is what I think of your stupid drawing, Boorish." Frumenti then began cranking the pencil sharpener, jamming the end of the paper cone into the sharpener with all his might, while his colleagues continued to heap abuse upon Boorish. The razor sharp jaws of the pencil sharpener ground Boorish's drawing into fine shavings.
At that moment, the facility was vaporized by the first nuclear explosion in recorded history. A giant mushroom cloud rose from the desert floor. It was visible in Las Vegas, over a hundred miles away. The explosion produced temperatures that exceeded the core temperature of our own Sun. The resulting heat and shock wave, bristling with radioactivity, spread out at supersonic speed in all directions, obliterating every living thing for a radius of five miles, leaving the desert floor contaminated with radioactivity for weeks to come, before it would be safe to approach the site of the blast.
To this day, that is what always happens whenever a critical mass is formed at a ground zero. Arf, arf!