Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Wikileaks Releases Early Atomic Bomb Diagram

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the some-assembly-required dept.

Hardware 429

An anonymous reader writes "Wikileaks has released a diagram of the first atomic weapon, as used in the Trinity test and subsequently exploded over the Japanese city of Nagasaki, together with an extremely interesting scientific analysis. Wikileaks has not been able to fault the document or find reference to it elsewhere. Given the high quality of other Wikileaks submissions, the document may be what it purports to be, or it may be a sophisticated intelligence agency fraud, designed to mislead the atomic weapons development programs of countries like Iran. The neutron initiator is particularly novel. 'When polonium is crushed onto beryllium by explosion, reaction occurs between polonium alpha emissions and beryllium leading to Carbon-12 & 1 neutron. This, in practice, would lead to a predictable neutron flux, sufficient to set off device.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Well, (5, Funny)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765194)

I have tried to make a bomb with this diagram and I have had no problems with the designs. I guess it must b[NO CARRIER]

Re:Well, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765576)

NO CARRIER is so 80ties - today we call that TTL Exceeded...

Goatse (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765196)

Goatse. Fuck you. [twofo.co.uk]

And don't forget to pay your $699 license fee you cock-smoking tea-baggers.

Slashdot Please Stop (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765198)

Ok we get it, wikileaks has a lot of cool shit to check out, but this is getting redundant.
It's not news to say "Hey look wikileaks has XXX up". People can goto wikileaks themselves and see without you guys posting it like its real news.

Re:Slashdot Please Stop (3, Funny)

MR.Mic (937158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765546)

"wikileaks has XXX up"

No shit? CHECKING IT OUT RIGHT NOW!

Nuke IRAN !! Do it TODAY !! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765200)



Jiiiiihhhaaaaddd !! Nuke IRAN !! Do it TODAY !!

Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (3, Insightful)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765206)

But I thought the mechanics of such a device were pretty well understood? Don't they just divide a sphere with sufficient critical mass into "pie" pieces and then just use explosives to force all the pieces together at the appropriate time? (I'm sure it's not quite THAT simple.)

Cheers,

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (4, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765248)

Yeah, and you'd think a country like Iran would have other ways to get this kind of information. Like, I dunno, stealing it from Pakistan [cbsnews.com] .

The nuclear cat is out of the bag, and as long as the US has a single nuke, they have no place to lecture others about non-proliferation.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (4, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765286)

Yeah, and you'd think a country like Iran would have other ways to get this kind of information. Like, I dunno, stealing it from Pakistan.
Yes, most of the information is public domain [nuclearweaponarchive.org] at this point. Although, I've never seen a sketch with specific weights in the wild before. Those you would need to "steal" from Dr. Khan [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765330)

The nuclear cat is out of the bag, and as long as the US has a single nuke, they have no place to lecture others about non-proliferation.

Possession is not equivalent to proliferation. As long as the US isn't trying to sell the tech to other countries, I don't see the hypocrisy in this particular instance. Maybe the US is doing just that, I don't know.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (4, Insightful)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765492)

That's a contorted argument designed to win a cheap point in an argument. You know exactly what the GP meant: The point of proliferation is that it leads to possession. A country possessing nukes cannot argue against proliferation without being a hypocrite - it is specifically arguing that other countries should not be able to do what it has.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (3, Insightful)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765598)

Sorry , I just cant agree. This argument assumes all regiemes are equal. Equating the US to Iran or North Korea is ludicrous in the extreme, and you know it.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (3, Insightful)

dfetter (2035) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765618)

Absolutely right. Neither Iran nor North Korea have waged wars of aggression in the past 50 years. If you're alleging that the US hasn't done so, you're being extremely naïf.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765684)

Ah, the reductive argument to develop a US slam. You only sit at +3 as of this posting, but I expect my Slashdot brethren to see the power of your intelligences and give you the +5 you deserve.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (2, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765702)

Really? so Iran hasn't overthrown their own government in the last 50 years? North Korea may have a semi stable government but the people are starving.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (1)

Welsh Dwarf (743630) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765642)

Yes exactly, I'm sure that the Iranians know as well as you do that they deserve to have the bomb more than the US, after all it would only be for defensive perposes, and it's not like they've ever used one

#Note for the sarcasm impared
I hate nukes, and would rather they didn't existe, but had to point out the blatent xenophobia of the parent

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (4, Insightful)

DaHat (247651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765668)

If you think it a hypocritical stance or a double standard you don't understand the standard very well.

Lets consider a simpler example... I am a gun owner who is very pro-gun and support the second amendment... does that mean I'm a hypocrite because I am all for the barring of certain people from legally owning firearms?

In this country we limit the rights of certain people... such as minors and felons, people who we as an ordered society have deemed either not yet mature enough to handle the responsibility or have shown themselves to be irresponsible through the commission (and conviction) of a very serious crime.

The same thing is seen when the United States (and others) try to stop other countries from developing/processing nuclear weapons. We don't do it arbitrarily and say "Nyeh, we want to be the only ones with the bomb"... instead we do it to generally unstable nations who are less likely to act responsibly with it.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (2, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765522)

Possession is not equivalent to proliferation.

Proliferation is how others come into possession. Banning proliferation is saying "we can have X but you can't", which is not a stance that carries any moral weight.

Under the NPT, the nuclear nations had an obligation to work seriously toward disarmament. They chose to ignore it, and at this point, it's too late for nonproliferation. Everyone will have the bomb within fifty years.

I think the best end result we can hope for is every nation with just one or two nuclear weapons as a deterrent, and an international agreement that any government to engage in first use of WMD becomes the enemy of the world and loses its sovereignty.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (2, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765722)

The nuclear cat is out of the bag, and as long as the US has a single nuke, they have no place to lecture others about non-proliferation.
If you believe that nuclear weapons proliferation invariably decreases worldwide stability, then you should be all in favor of any nation, including the United States, attempting to dissuade other nations from trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (3, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765268)

To quote the analysis by Wikileaks:

This diagram is not really a secret to foreign intelligence services; nobody is going to be surprised by this design, just by the fact that it's appeared in public. Open sources have speculated on these matters for a long time (see nuclear weapons design article in Wikipedia), and this just confirms that they were right. (The structure of the neutron initiator is elegant, and interesting, however.)

This is a crude, but effective, plutonium based design. Devices that are orders of magnitude more efficient are possible. A disclosure of, for example, the plans of the W-88 or a Russian equivalent, would be far more threatening, as there are actually real secrets involved there not known to all the NWS (the Big-5 + India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea) or Virtual NWS (Germany, Japan, Sweden, South Korea, Canada, Ukraine, Taiwan, Italy, Spain...to name a few) intelligence agencies. After 1949 or so, disclosure of this would not have been a real threat to U.S. national security.

The real problem about building one of these designs is the rarity (at least outside of NWS nuclear facilities) of plutonium and polonium, as well as the ability to fabricate sophisticated high explosives to exacting specifications. We're not talking about IEDs here. To build a nuclear weapon requires a state.
I do still think (as they say) that it is interesting that the documents have surfaced at all. I am very impressed with the even handedness that Wikileaks shows in providing possibilities for a hoax but also potential evidence to the contrary - it's somewhat of a breath of fresh air compared to much of the sensationalism that we are often subjected to on subjects much more trivial than this.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765302)

you take a ball of uranium and shoot it with a bullet made of uranium...

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765394)

you take a ball of uranium and shoot it with a bullet made of uranium...

You just described the "Little Boy" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_boy/ [wikipedia.org] ). The document in question describes the "Fat Man" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man [wikipedia.org] ), a wholly different design.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765472)

No. Not nearly that simple.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (4, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765654)

Exactly, nothing particularly novel about the initiator.

The world and its dog knows that it is Be + Alpha emitter. In fact, the first time I read it was in high school.

Po is not the only option here. Ra will also work, so will a few others. In fact if anything makes me doubt this document is exactly this. The Hirosima and Nagasaki bombs were manufactured before the radioactive isotope industry came online. In those years everything was geared towards plutonium and U235. Very few resources were devoted to other stuff. So I would have expected to see Ra there, not Po because Ra was retrieved as a byproduct of the mining and did not require special manufacturing. IIRC the Kurchatov's first Russian bomb was with a Ra/Be initiator, not Po/Be.

Re:Perhaps I'm just not clever enough.... (4, Informative)

mikerich (120257) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765674)

The Trinity design, and by extension the first Soviet and British weapons, was a solid sphere of plutonium at the centre of which was the neutron source known as the initiator, or by its designers - the Gadget. There was a subcritical mass of plutonium in the bomb, but if it was compressed it would become supercritical and explode (compressing, reduces the distance between nuclei making it more likely that a neutron from one fissioning nucleus will hit another and propagate a chain reaction).

The compression was achieved using a sphere of high explosive lenses which when detonated acted to symmetrically squeeze the plutonium core into a tiny fraction of its original volume. At the same time, the initiator would be crushed, rupture and begin spilling additional neutrons into the core of the bomb. The timing here is crucial, there is actually only a tiny tiny fraction of a second for the bomb to reach optimum conditions for fission, so even though the initiator spits out billions of neutrons, only ten or so are present at the crucial moment!

The Trinity design was pretty much obsolete in the US from about 1948 when the US exploded a series of bombs in Operation Sandstone. These weapons used a so called levitated core - a hollow core of plutonium rather than a solid core. The hollow core allows for much greater compression and allows plutonium to go much further. It also led to smaller, lighter weapons that could be put on a missile.

The broad design of Trinity has been known for some time now, but what has been much less understood are the designs of the explosive lenses, the detonators for the lenses and perhaps most secretive - the initiator.

Knowledge of the initiator design was crucial for the Soviet Union to explode Joe 1 in 1949, they got that from spies within the Manhattan Project, including Klaus Fuchs who had been on the initiator design team. When the US excluded the UK from nuclear weapons research (despite the UK providing them with many of the key technologies), Fuchs and co. went on to help design the first British weapon, Hurricane, which was detonated in 1952 a few days before America exploded Mike, the first true hydrogen bomb.

Hmmm (2, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765212)

Excellent!

Now where did I leave my spare polonium?

Re:Hmmm (4, Funny)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765298)

I think some guy may have drunk it.

Re:Hmmm (3, Funny)

ByteSlicer (735276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765358)

Seems like someone [wikipedia.org] found it...

Re:Hmmm (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765440)

In the anti-static negative cleaning brush in your photo darkroom.

rj

*Yawn* (4, Insightful)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765218)

Having the plans, and having the tooling and know-how to actually follow the plans to get a working device are two hugely different matters.

Re:*Yawn* (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765250)

Not that anyone said anything else than that most obvious fact.

Re:*Yawn* (1)

multi io (640409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765446)

The common terrorist next door hell-bent on building a bomb himself probably wouldn't use this anyway. Something like the "gun design" (used in the Hiroshima bomb, and obsolete ever since) is, in all likelihood, a lot easier to get right.

Hackaday (1)

garlicbready (846542) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765220)

Now all we need is someone to come up with a working design on Hackaday and we're all set
hmmm I wonder if distilling the Americium from fire detectors for a Dirty bomb would be better

Re:Hackaday (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765448)

I thought the whole dirty bomb idea had been largely debunked as an effective weapon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_bomb/ [wikipedia.org] That is, aside from the psychological, panic-inducing effects related to the prospect of 'radiation clouds' spreading over a city.

Re:Hackaday (2, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765590)

It's the psychological, panic-inducing effects the terrorists are really for. Yes, they kill people, but what they are really after is the fear of the surviving people.

Re:Hackaday (5, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765614)

It's the psychological, panic-inducing effects the US Government are really for.


There, fixed that for ya.

Oooookay then.... (1, Insightful)

Wulfstan (180404) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765222)

...am I the only one who thinks that this sort of information is a little too important to "leak"? I mean, I'm all in favour of free information and stuff but surely there comes a point when you have to exercise a little bit of judgement?

This probably isn't going to go down well in these parts - but there are some people out there who really don't need any more encouragement in this direction than they already have. Surely this is the engineering equivalent of child porn...

Re:Oooookay then.... (1, Insightful)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765284)

I would have to agree. How many of us grew up with that one kid who was in love with the Anarchist Cookbook? Don't you think he is bored with emptying shotgun shells by now? Oh, don't get me wrong, I was that guy, and I have every intension of reading this article and although Nuclear Physics I suspect is way over my head I am still interested. Now I don't have anything like the motivation or attension span that it would require to build something like this, but still, it would be cool to glace at the power of God.

Re:Oooookay then.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765290)

Surely this is the engineering equivalent of child porn...
Won't somebody PLEASE think of the engineering equivalent of the children!

Re:Oooookay then.... (4, Insightful)

smackenzie (912024) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765308)

Actually, very specific information about the Fat Man is widely available. For example, wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man [wikipedia.org] -- but you can do even better with a quick search.

Having the schematics is a nice start, but even if you manage to collect the components, handle the components safely and actually construct something similar to the Fat Man, you end up with an ENORMOUS device that is relatively weak compared to the nuclear devices of today. Your going to have trouble sneaking this monstrosity, say, through the Holland tunnel into NYC.

Now, schematics for a suitcase nucleur device made from readily available and cheap components... that would raise my eyebrows.

Re:Oooookay then.... (4, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765480)

You're going to have trouble sneaking this monstrosity, say, through the Holland tunnel into NYC.

I don't need to transport it anywhere. A "Fat Man" exploding in a house bought for the purpose years ago anywhere in Brooklyn or Jersey City will still be devastating to New York... Especially, if you scale the project and blow up several of these in different locales.

Re:Oooookay then.... (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765508)

I think that any group capable of assembling the various components and materials needed for a Fat Man, actually putting it together and getting it to go off can, by definition, can do better than Fat Man on their own.

Re:Oooookay then.... (1)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765626)

I think that any group capable of assembling the various components and materials needed for a Fat Man, actually putting it together and getting it to go off can, by definition, can do better than Fat Man on their own.

And yet having the Fat Man's design handy would help them a lot.

Anyway, I was just responding to someone, who claimed there is no problem in the assholes' ability to assemble a "Fat Man", because they would not be able to transport it anywhere. There is no need to transport...

Re:Oooookay then.... (1)

krygny (473134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765572)

Then why is this a "leak"? One, who may have access to sensitive information, does not have the unilateral authority to declassify that information for any arbitrary reason (e.g., they fundamentally disagree with its intended use). Legitimate whistle-blowers are fine (and necessary) but I'm troubled that people just anonymously release Government secrets because of political orientation. That's sometimes the difference between mere espionage and treason.

Of course, if this is deliberate DISinformation, never mind.

Re:Oooookay then.... (5, Insightful)

bignetbuy (1105123) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765320)

Writing a new Godwin's law, are you? See some information you don't like then equate it to child porn and get it banned?

The design is over 50yrs old. Sheesh.

Re:Oooookay then.... (2, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765664)

Well..

Beware of the trinity : KNOWLEDGE, MEANS, and INTENT.

In order to do anything, you must have knowledge, means, and intent. There are plenty of governments with the intent on making an impression on the global political front by any means necessary including posing a nuclear threat. Some of those governments have the means to accomplish this and lack the knowledge, while others may have the knowledge but not the means.

The trick to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons is to keep the government with the means from being able to cooperate with the governments with the knowledge, especially when they both share the same intent. This means trying to limit the flow of information, funding, and materials using any means necessary.

Writing a new Godwin's law, are you? See some information you don't like then equate it to child porn and get it banned?

Nice job of trivializing the need for secrecy by equating the information to build a nuclear weapon with child pornography.

Re:Oooookay then.... (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765720)

I thought the new Godwin's law was to use any discussion as a starting-off point to complain about Bush.

- RG>

Re:Oooookay then.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765354)

Come on, this is Slashdot. The Second Amendment guarantees our rights to bear arms, and a nuclear weapon is just another type of armament, clearly protected, just like hand grenades, land mines, automatic rifles, rocket launchers, etc.

You should be jumping with fervor to protect our rights to own such a device, since, you know, it would be unconstitutional to interpret the Second Amendment as it might have been by the people who wrote it, and instead decide that they clearly anticipated all of these weapons as valuable in the hands of ordinary citizens not part of any militia.

No, I agree. (2, Insightful)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765360)

No, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

The Slashdot love for Wikileaks seems childish and immature. I understand that "information wants to be free" and that "censorship is bad", but I think we need to recognize that there is a limit to the healthy release of this sort of information. There's a reason you can't find this kind of material in a library, and it's not because they want to "repress your thoughts" or make you into a "(insert favorite conspiracy theory here) drone".

Obviously we would have little problems if these were plans for a gun instead of a nuclear device, and both kill people. But it seems like we should exercise some judgment before we decide that all information about everything should be available to all people all the time. "Woah! Cool! Nuclear Weapons plans! I bet we'd get a lot of press if we released THOSE!" seems like poor justification for wanting to distribute material of this kind.

I'm uncomfortable with this, and I'm sure others are too. There's a difference between sharing with P2P, sharing scientific information, and sharing nuclear weapons plans, especially on a site called "Wikileaks". The first I can justify by saying, "Lots of good stuff is shared on P2P". The first I second justify by saying, "Although these journals may technically hold the copyright on this information, the American people paid for it and it's ultimately good to release scientific information to the public." The third is ultimately pretty tough to justify. If Wikileaks was instead a book about "Engineering the World War" and parts of the plans were released to diagram how the allies used particular types of circuitry, I think I'd be okay with it. But simply releasing plans like this for no other reason than attention whoring seems at best like an incredibly severe lapse in judgement. And I'm ashamed to be part of a community that is supporting it.

Re:No, I agree. (3, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765512)

I understand that "information wants to be free" and that "censorship is bad", but I think we need to recognize that there is a limit to the healthy release of this sort of information.

How can we have any meaningful discussion on arms control if we don't know how difficult or easy it is to build nuclear weapons?

Iran and North Korea already know this stuff. It's to our benefit to stop pretending that engineering knowledge can be kept away from the "bad guys", and get everything out in the open.

Re:No, I agree. (2, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765612)

This is all getting a bit silly. The drawing in question is obviously a sketch, and is just as obviously not intended to be a final document ready for delivery to the machine shop. I won't take issue with the weights given, but that is part of where the interest (such as it is) in this document lies.

We might pompously sound off about "using judgement" yada yada, but the simple fact is that if anyone (say a born-again christian jihadist, for the sake of an inflammatory example) wanted to kill a lot of people in one go, there are plenty of easier and cheaper means available to do so.

My personal interest in the document (if genuine) is in its historical aspect, more particularly in the context of showing part of the process - from the engineers' point of view, in the context of contemporary procedures and technology - in the design of this bomb.

Re:Oooookay then.... (2, Insightful)

MLCT (1148749) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765364)

Wikileaks seems to have a very crude (and some would argue wholly unintelligent) sense of right and wrong. Their philosophy lacks any nuance - all they seems to trump is that everything and anything should be published. If anyone says otherwise then they start screaming like an impudent 5 year old - CENSORSHIP - CENSORSHIP - I AM BEING GAGGED - THIS IS SUPPRESSION - THIS IS AN OUTRAGE.

Some of what they put out has a rightful place to enable anonymous whistleblowing. However they seem to be unable to discriminate between something that is rightful and something that is completely wrong. They will eventually find themselves far far on the wrong side of the law and will disappear. The shame in that is that the route for anonymous whistleblowing will then have been removed due to their inability to make good judgements.

Re:Oooookay then.... (5, Informative)

lilmunkysguy (740848) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765400)

It's popular information already. To quote from the discussion page:

Everything in this picture is basically public knowledge. There is no misdirection OR direction here. One can deduce this much about the interior of Fat Man from the wikipedia articles. The barriers to entry in the implosion nuke market are not basic diagrams of the interior of the weapon, its the fissile material, precision manufacturing, math, detonators, and overall massive infrastructure required to pull a working example OF the design of. Its all well and good having a diagram of the space shuttle to, but you still need the expertise, technology, and industry to build it. Hell NK apparently got one to go pop but they couldnt make it go BANG. Most third world nations would have a much easier time building a gun type weapon (IE little boy), but these weapons are relatively weak, large, and very wasteful of fissile material. They are also inherently dangerous. South Africa purportedly built a few in the 70's (check dates) I believe but dismantled them. Not nearly as hard but not nearly as effective a technology. Diagrams also exist of the little boy setup, but im yet to see Iran test one.

Re:Oooookay then.... (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765458)

am I the only one who thinks that this sort of information is a little too important to "leak"?
No, but no one with a moderate understanding of nuclear physics would agree with you. This is a very primitive bomb design. The principles under which it operates are very well understood and have been in school textbooks for decades. If you had a supply of weapons-grade fissionable materials then this would not provide you with any information on how to build a nuclear weapon than is already available from other sources. In fact, significantly more efficient designs are also fairly easy to obtain. Getting hold of the raw materials to build such a device is significantly harder - it's expected to take Iran 5-10 years to do so with a government-backed project.

Fission bombs are easy to build. Building them in the '40s, without computers to perform simulations on and without a huge amount of published research to build on was hard. Now it's very expensive but not particularly hard. If you're a terrorist, you are almost certain never to have the resources required to build such a device, although you might already have the required knowledge. If you want a nuclear bomb for terrorist use then finding out where some of the ones that vanished from the USSR when it broke up is likely to be a lot cheaper than building your own. If you are a nation state and want one then you probably already have the knowledge required to build one and just need the materials. Building the facilities to refine them without the international community noticing is likely to be very hard, however.

This document is, however, very interesting to military historians. It's not the sort of think Wikileaks usually carries, since it has very little (if any) relevance to modern events, but for someone researching the history of the Manhattan Project or the end of World War II it's a valuable resource (although less so than it would be if it could be validated for authenticity).

Re:Oooookay then.... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765670)

The principles under which it operates are very well understood and have been in school textbooks for decades. If you had a supply of weapons-grade fissionable materials then this would not provide you with any information on how to build a nuclear weapon than is already available from other sources. In fact, significantly more efficient designs are also fairly easy to obtain.
More importantly, competent physicists and engineers and duplicate the work. Even if the idea of a polonium-beryllium initiator was not already public knowledge any nuclear physicist assigned the problem of developing a nuclear weapon would think of it quickly. The same goes for all the other basic design ideas. Suppressing this stuff merely delays the other side a bit. What are worth hiding are the tweaks and improvements that have resulted from tests and supercomputer simulations.

Re:Oooookay then.... (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765490)

[conspiracy theory] What if the leak was posted with the intent of tracking the people who loaded it? Now that the US has fibretapped the internet pipelines to the mideast, they could easily track who's looking at this leak in that region. [/conspiracy theory]

Or maybe it's just not classified enough for anyone to really care?

Re:Oooookay then.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765498)

Surely this is the engineering equivalent of child porn...
It's fascinating that pictures of underage sexual activity (or to many, even pictures of topless teenage girls) can be considered equivalent to plans for building a device which can kill millions of people.

Re:Oooookay then.... (4, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765530)

Surely this is the engineering equivalent of child porn...

Ah, you mean a mostly artificially manufactured boogie-man, the mere mention of which instantly trumps any reasoned debate? Then yes, it probably is that.

I don't really get your "encouragement" argument, though. Do you really think some totalitarian dictator of a god-forsaken country is going to roll out of bed one morning, see this, and go "Whelp, time to start a 20 year plutonium enrichment program"?

This information is nothing new to anyone with any kind of semblance of the resources necessary to make any use of it.

Re:Oooookay then.... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765544)

...am I the only one who thinks that this sort of information is a little too important to "leak"? I mean, I'm all in favour of free information and stuff but surely there comes a point when you have to exercise a little bit of judgement?


Don't they teach this stuff in schools in the US? My Higher Physics textbook when I was in 5th year had fairly detailed and specific information about nuclear bombs. One of the worked examples was calculating the approximate energy release of the Hiroshima bomb.

Re:Oooookay then.... (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765692)

Seeing as you can go to just about any library and get the necessary information to build an even more modern and refined device these days without even using the Internet (just from books), then yes you might be the only one who thinks that way.

a short.. (1)

cosmocain (1060326) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765228)

...word on the matter of atomic bombs:

boom.

Any publicity is not always good publicity (2, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765254)

I'm not terribly happy seeing nuclear weapons plans on the internet. Even if all this stuff is theoretically "already known," I'd be happy with a layer of security through obscurity; it's now "known" to about half a billion more people than it had been. But I did look at it.

I expect that this is going to get Wikileaks a lot of publicity, but I think it may be harmful publicity-- whenever they try to claim that they're doing a useful service, people are now going to point at this and say "yeah, and also publishing plans for weapons."

Re:Any publicity is not always good publicity (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765488)

Exactly zero of those people who now have access to the plans also have access to the materials and tools necessary to build the bomb. Where's the harm?

Re:Any publicity is not always good publicity (2, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765516)

it's now "known" to about half a billion more people than it had been. But I did look at it.
In sixth grade, I did a report on nuclear power, and had a nice diagram explaining the chain reactions taking place, and understood that if you don't keep the chain reactions under control, the power plants goes boom. Back then I realised that I could put the stuff in a box, drop it from the sky, set the chain reactions off, and deliberately not control them.

Just something to worry about ;)

Re:Any publicity is not always good publicity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765518)

>> Even if all this stuff is theoretically "already known," I'd be happy with a layer of security through obscurity; it's now "known" to about half a billion more people than it had been.

Think of it this way: if you have the tech and money to build such a nuclear bomb, and if you wanted to build one, you could easily find out how. Having the thing on wikileaks changes nothing, it might spare you, like, a week of research? People don't build a nuclear bomb in their basement on a rainy sunday afternoon, and having half a billion more people know how to build a nuclear bomb is not going to change that. The people who you should be afraid of already know.

Re:Any publicity is not always good publicity (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765550)

Even if all this stuff is theoretically "already known," I'd be happy with a layer of security through obscurity; it's now "known" to about half a billion more people than it had been.
That depends, if this material was already well known to those that are interested in making an atomic bomb then this means half a billion more people now know that they know. There are plenty subjects I don't know anything about because I have no interest in finding it out, but there's no security in that. Think of a kitchen recipe, it's not exactly a "secret recipe" if anyone that wants to make the dish can find it, I just don't know it because I never wanted to make that dish.

At any rate, the chance that any terrorists (which is obviously the big scare here) will build a bomb from the ground up is incredibly remote. The basic concept of a nuke was covered in some early physics class, the difference between U235, U238, plutonium, compression through high-powered explosives etc., it's not that part that's difficult it's getting all the right components. To continue the recipe analogy, it's like it's full of truffles [wikipedia.org] , saffron [wikipedia.org] and so on. It doesn't really matter if the recipe is "throw everything in a pan and stir fry".

Re:Any publicity is not always good publicity (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765656)

I'm not terribly happy seeing nuclear weapons plans on the internet. Even if all this stuff is theoretically "already known," I'd be happy with a layer of security through obscurity; it's now "known" to about half a billion more people than it had been.
But how many people actually understood it? I was disappointed with the plan I really was expecting something better.

~Dan

Well, the truth is ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765256)

that mass quantities of crude fission weapons have their uses. For example, if we ever get invaded by technologically-advanced, elephantine aliens, we'll need them as fuel for our gigantic spacegoing attack platform.

Sounds like a short-lifed design (5, Interesting)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765264)

"When polonium is crushed onto beryllium by explosion, reaction occurs between polonium alpha emissions and beryllium leading to Carbon-12 & 1 neutron. This, in practice, would lead to a predictable neutron flux, sufficient to set off device."
Wikipedia gives the half-life of the most commonly used Polonium isotope with about 138 days:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polonium [wikipedia.org]
This may be fine for a bomb that is to be used shortly after manufacture, but not for a warhead that is supposed to sit in a missile silo for years. Of course, the USA wanted to use the bomb on Japan, so long-term storagewas not an issue ;-)

Re:Sounds like a short-lifed design (5, Funny)

MWoody (222806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765420)

I think you win for the most wildly inappropriate use of the winking smiley in Internet history.

Re:Sounds like a short-lifed design (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765504)

Thanks, that almost made my day.

Re:Sounds like a short-lifed design (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765468)

You're right - but I think it's a myth that nukes and their delivery systems can be set, waiting without maintenance for years until somone just presses the button. Maybe that's the real reason there aren't any space-based weapons.

In practice (I'm no expert, but this is the internet!) when you take the serviceability of weapons, missiles, communications, bunkers and all the other pieces into account, I'd be surprised if more that 1/4 of any major nuclear force could be launched on any particular day, unless there was a lot of build up time to get all the parts reassembled and tested. Just look at how long it takes to get a satellite launch vehicle or the scuttle ready to go.

That does lead to the rather worrying question of just how many nukes are in transit between their SILOs and the (re)manufacturing facilities on any given day.

Re:Sounds like a short-lifed design (2, Informative)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765712)

Partly why Gen. Groves wanted to drop it after it was put together. That and politics as well. He wanted to show Truman that his device could do what he promised and convince Truman not to commit on the invasion.

Novel? (5, Interesting)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765270)

What exactly is so "novel" about the description of the neutron initiator? This design of the "urchin" has been known for decades and hasn't been novel since the 50's. No one even uses them anymore due to unpredictability, all implosion weapons use pulsed neutron generators based on fusion of deuterium with tritium. If anything, the document merely serves to confirm that we've been right about our ideas on how the thing originally worked.

Re:Novel? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765382)

Mod up. This poster is right. Alphas + beryllium = neutrons is about the most basic thing in nuclear physics. It is why neutron radiation used to be called "beryllium radiation". There is nothing particularly novel about it.

Uh oh (1)

TinheadNed (142620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765610)

I wouldn't back up your argument with technical theory on the Internet! Apparently it's the engineering equivalent of child porn . . .

Home made atomic bomb (5, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765272)

Back in the mid 70's, Electronics Australia (hobbyist HAM radio and electronics magazine - now defunct) did a mock project that showed you how to make a non-portable atomic bomb. The design was based on firing a large uranium bullet at a uranium target. The target was encased with several tonnes of concrete in order to contain the critical mass long enough for an explosion to occur. In the article they talked about how construction of the bomb would basically kill the workers, which at the time seemed stupid, but in these days of suicide bombers seems reasonable.

I think I'll wait.... (4, Funny)

acehole (174372) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765274)

...until the design which involves a pringles can is available.

Propaganda (3, Funny)

einar2 (784078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765340)

"...atomic weapons development programs of countries like Iran"

Starting to believe in your own propaganda can be an indicator that there is something in your tap water.

Aha! (5, Funny)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765408)

Now that Wikileaks has the bomb, people will think twice about trying to shut it down!

- RG>

This is probably from a Russian spy (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765426)

This isn't complete. It omits an important detail that has never appeared in US open publications but has appeared in some materials from the former USSR.

What this looks like is close to what Klaus Fuchs gave to the Russians when he was spying at Los Alamos. A similar rough sketch was published decades ago, but not one with dimensions.

Re:This is probably from a Russian spy (2, Insightful)

echucker (570962) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765652)

And since you seem to be "in the know", what might this detail be? If you're going to call out the document, at least back up your assertion.

Analysis of WIkiLeaks' action (3, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765436)

Wikileaks has released a diagram of the first atomic weapon, as used in the Trinity test and subsequently exploded over the Japanese city of Nagasaki, together with an extremely interesting scientific analysis.

Thank you for contributing to nuclear weapons proliferation... Looks like you did...

Wikileaks has not been able to fault the document or find reference to it elsewhere.

Hopefully, there is, indeed, a fault in there somewhere, which Wikileaks were either sincerely unable to find or are simply lying about having missed.

These — along with their recent run-in with the judge — raises important questions, however. Are there secret documents in existence, that WikiLeaks would refuse to make available if given?

I mean, if it is not an ancient (though just as deadly) nuclear bomb design, but something more recent? How about plans for America's invasion of Iran or North Korea? What about the plans for our defense of Taiwan — there must be some uncomfortable answers to ugly questions in there...

What about civil government? A police-department's plans for riot-prevention, or a coordinated anti-drug raid?

What about "personal" secrets? How about a politician's diary? How about that of a CEO of a big corporation — he may have recorded private thoughts in there, such as whether his secretary is genuinely more affectionate to him, than his wife?

When does "strong transparency" turn into treason, obstructing justice, or invasion of privacy?

Re:Analysis of WIkiLeaks' action (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765526)

your post is silly & ignorant

Re:Analysis of WIkiLeaks' action (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765556)

You might want to be more upset over widespread avaibilaty of high-speed computing and high quality machine tools if you are worried about 'weapons proliferations'

Re:Analysis of WIkiLeaks' action (3, Insightful)

Goonie (8651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765562)

Thank you for contributing to nuclear weapons proliferation... Looks like you did...
I doubt it very much. There doesn't appear to be anything at all new here, just a pencil sketch of the basic implosion design that's been known for many years.

The hard part of making a nuclear weapon is getting the raw materials and the means to shape them precisely enough.

Re:Analysis of WIkiLeaks' action (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765600)

Thank you for contributing to nuclear weapons proliferation...

When I was in high school (that's over 14 years ago), my physics schoolbook had the basic information on how to build an atom bomb. Any high school physics curriculum will explain how it works... Basically, it's just "make sure that critical mass isn't achieved until you really really really want it".

Re:Analysis of WIkiLeaks' action (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765672)

Hopefully they have a board of moderators to tell the difference between 'gossip' and 'leak'.

Everything else you quoted should be leaked, the good and the bad.

Has absolutely nothing to do (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765548)

with the return of Battlebots. Absolutely, positively nothing at all. Move along, gents, these aren't the plans you're looking for.

the secret that exploded (5, Interesting)

peterxyz (315132) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765554)

for all of those complaining about the publication of this, you're about 30 years behind the times.
In a high-profile First Ammendment case Howard Morland and the Progressive tried to publish Fusion-bomb (aka "Hydrogen bomb") design details in 1979. The government eventually dropped its case

Here's the book; http://www.amazon.com/Secret-That-Exploded-Howard-Morland/dp/0394512979 [amazon.com]
and a background artcile by Howard on his deductions and something of the legal case http://www.fas.org/sgp/eprint/cardozo.html [fas.org]

oh yeah - even Greenpeace seem to have pretty pictures - wouldn't trust those guys to assemble one though http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/nukes/fig05.gif [greenpeace.org]

peter xyz

Could be real (1)

CBob (722532) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765560)

Very archive looking draft sketch, but if you've got the infrastructure, it's a start.
(that's a BIG if)

A U235 design would be more interesting, if only from a "KISS principle" pov, but then again, the main problem is where to get useful amounts of fissionables.

Re:Could be real (1)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765660)

The U235 gun design was super simple. All they had to do was figure out the precise velocity in which the uranium pieces would go critical without premature detonation or fizzling. The downside to this design that it was a very poor design when it comes to generating a criticality with a minimal amount of material. An inefficient design in comparison to the "Fat Man" device.

Not New Information (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765596)

http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Uk/BritishBombPlans.html [nuclearweaponarchive.org]

People interested in nuclear weapon design, like the author of nuclearweaponarchive.org have had a copy of that picture for quite some time. The layout of the explosives is actually a truncated icosahedron, so the diagram is a 2d simplification of a 3d idea.

Appears to be from Penney report... (5, Informative)

Goonie (8651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765632)

Ah, found it. It seems to be from the Nuclear Weapon archive [nuclearweaponarchive.org] . It doesn't appear to be an American document at all, rather something that a British scientist, William Penney, prepared to inform the British government what would be required to build its own bomb.

Re:Appears to be from Penney report... (2, Interesting)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765676)

Penny's design was a copycat from the Teller/Oppenheimer implosion design. In reality there was no way possible to improve upon perfection with the materials they had at the time. When the 50's rolled around, they simply took the basic sphere design and added more heavy metals and "tampers", added a cyclotron called the "zipper" and turned it into a 3 stage Hydrogen or "Super" device. It took awhile though.

Re:Appears to be from Penney report... (1)

tivoKlr (659818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765696)

Strong research work my friend. Too bad Wikileaks wasn't able to replicate said research before "leaking" this onto the internets...

Heh heh.

trap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22765646)

Either to discredit wikileaks (Bait taken), or trace people who are interested in these types of plans.

Fear mongering even at slashdot.. (1)

traveller604 (961720) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765662)

Iran's nuclear ambitions.. yeah whatever. I hope this helps them to build that bomb so the US can't attack them.

What foolishness! (1)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765682)

There was a book with diagrams of the basic design of both the gun type bomb (Hiroshima) and the implosion bomb (Nagasaki) in the library at my High School around 72, 73. They used to have a rough diagram of the Trinity bomb at White Sands National Monument along with some of the green glass formed by the blast.

Oppenheimer (2, Informative)

aitikin (909209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765706)

It's a shame this development came 40 some years after J. Robert Oppenheimer's death. He pushed to have this controlled by the U.N. and, because the American Government was so open minded, he lost all of his security clearance.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?