ISBN-10:
0520075765
ISBN-13:
9780520075764
Pub. Date:
03/02/1992
Publisher:
University of California Press
The Los Alamos Primer: The First Lectures on How To Build an Atomic Bomb / Edition 1

The Los Alamos Primer: The First Lectures on How To Build an Atomic Bomb / Edition 1

by Robert Serber, Richard RhodesRobert Serber

Hardcover

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Overview


The classified lectures that galvanized the Manhattan Project scientists—with annotations for the nonspecialist reader and an introduction by a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian.

In March 1943 a group of young scientists, sequestered on a mesa near Santa Fe, attended a crash course in the new atomic physics. The lecturer was Robert Serber, J. Robert Oppenheimer's protégé, and they learned that their job was to invent the world's first atomic bomb.

Serber's lecture notes, nicknamed the "Los Alamos Primer," were mimeographed and passed from hand to hand, remaining classified for many years. They are published here for the first time, and now contemporary readers can see just how much was known and how terrifyingly much was unknown when the Manhattan Project began. Could this "gadget," based on the newly discovered principles of nuclear fission, really be designed and built? Could it be small enough and light enough for an airplane to carry? If it could be built, could it be controlled?

Working with Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the development of the atomic bomb, Professor Serber has annotated original lecture notes with explanations of the physics terms for the nonspecialist. His preface, an informal memoir, vividly conveys the mingled excitement, uncertainty, and intensity felt by the Manhattan Project scientists. Rhodes's introduction provides a brief history of the development of atomic physics up to the day that Serber stood before his blackboard at Los Alamos. In this edition, The Los Alamos Primer finally emerges from the archives to give a new understanding of the very beginning of nuclear weapons. No seminar anywhere has had greater historical consequences.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520075764
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 03/02/1992
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 138
Sales rank: 475,977
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author


Robert Serber (March 14, 1909 – June 1, 1997) was an American physicist who participated in the Manhattan Project. Serber's lectures explaining the basic principles and goals of the project were printed and supplied to all incoming scientific staff, and became known as The Los Alamos Primer. The New York Times called him “the intellectual midwife at the birth of the atomic bomb.” 

Richard Rhodes, author of Farm and A Hole in the World, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION BY RICHARD RHODES
PREFACE BY ROBERT SERBER
The Los Alamos Primer
1
Object
2
Energy of Fission Process
3
Fast Neutron Chain Reaction
4
Fission Cross-sections
5
Neutron Spectrum
6
Neutron Number
7
Neutron Capture
8
Why Ordinary U Is Safe
9
Material49
10
Simplest Estimate of Minimum Size of Bomb
ll
Effect of Tam per
12
Damage
13
Efficiency
14
Effect of Tamper on Efficiency
15
Detonation
16
Probability of Predetonation
17
Fizzles
18
Detonating Source
19
Neutron Background
20
Shooting
21
Autocatalytic Methods
22
Conclusion
ENDNOTES
APPENDIX I: THE FRISCH-PEIERLS MEMORANDUM
APPENDIX II: BIOG
Index

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The Los Alamos Primer: The First Lectures on How To Build an Atomic Bomb 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is excellent on at least three levels.  First it does what it was intended to do in 1943:  gives a view of the technical basics  of building a nuke and the challenges to be overcome.  The information is available in other places but not organized toward this goal.   Second is the historical context and Serber's annotations that describe in many cases how the obstacles were overcome or some aspect evolved.  Third anybody interested in the proliferation of nuclear weapons ought to be familiar with the contents of the Los Alamos Primer to begin to understand what potential proliferant nations are up against.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great resource on the physics of the book. And how the theoretical took a physical shape. Written in a style that high shool physics students would clearly understand most of the material. As a historian I was surprised at what we knew when Los Alamos was opened. It bacame the engineering center to turn the theory into reality. A short book filled with facts and verly little info on the people.