Los Alamos – Cradle of the atomic age

Amid all the natural beauty of the Southwest sits the town that saw the birth of the atomic age, Los Alamos, New Mexico. It was here that a group of brilliant scientists were secretly brought together during the Second World War to develop an atomic bomb. The product of that research, two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, put a definitive end to the war. It also launched the nuclear age, the arms race and the “cold war” of the second half of the 20th century.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory is the evolution of what was started in Los Alamos in 1941 under the code name The Manhattan Project. Today, the LANL is still responsible for the United States’ now aging nuclear weapons. Its scope has grown to include biological and chemical weapons and, on the research side, it does work on energy, the environment, infrastructure and health.

The Bradbury Science Museum is the LANL’s museum. It’s small but very well designed. I was surprised at the extent of the information provided. Can they really share all this information?

I found the history section very interesting. It walks you through the events leading up to the first atomic bomb testing and the attack on Japan. A part of the exhibit features then-and-now pictures of scores of people who lived and worked in Los Alamos during those years with anecdotes in the person’s own words telling what it was like, whether they were scientists or labourers.

In the research section, there was an exhibit that made me proud. It displayed a Canadian-made “bomb suit” an outfit meant to protect the person attempting to neutralize an explosive device. The accompanying video said that best suit available is Canadian. If you’ve seen the movie the Hurt Locker, you know what the suit looks like.

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