INT 184 – PL Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar – Weapons of Mass Destruction – Spring 2013

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Professor: Philip Lubin

Office 2015C Broida


Classes: Th 5-7 PM in Broida 3302

Class Gmail account:

User: ucsb.physicswmd

Pass: @phys…

Synopsis: This is an interdisciplinary course that is designed to explore the science and policy of nuclear weapons. This course is not designed to be a science course but rather we will explore multiple aspects of weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear doctrine upon which our policies of deterrent are based. This course is open to honors majors with a goal of bringing together students from various background in the humanities and the sciences.

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Science and Policy

Like it or not the world is filled with weapons of vastly increased destructive potential than could have been imagined even 70 years ago. For example, the total amount of Allied bombs dropped during all of WW II was about 3 MT (megatons TNT) or the equivalent of one medium sized thermonuclear device. To put this in perspective, at the height of the Cold War, the world’s nuclear arsenal was about 10,000 times larger than the total used in WW-II and most of it could be deployed in a matter of hours or less. These weapons dominate much of the geopolitical landscape of the world. In this seminar we will discuss and explore the scientific issues behind these weapons and the role of policy (or lack thereof) in preventing them from being used in anger. Being ignorant of these devices, how they work and how we make policies in light of their existence is not in the best interests of a peaceful world. At the moment they both threaten stability and enable an unstable stability. In the long term these same devices and the science behind them may enable us to explore other stars, protect ourselves from threats such as Earth crossing asteroids or pursue inertial confinement fusion but at the moment they are a threat worth understanding. Ignorance may be bliss but the consequences are too great to ignore.


If we fight a war and win it with H-bombs, what history will remember is not
the ideals we were fighting for but the methods we used to accomplish them.
These methods will be compared to the warfare of Genghis Khan who ruthlessly
killed every last inhabitant of Persia.  Hans A. Bethe

…And these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange even to the men who used them.  H. G. Wells, The World Set Free, 1914


Reading List:

The Making of the atomic Bomb

Dark Sun

The Manhattan Project

The Los Alamos Primer  (Serber)

The Los Alamos primer: the first lectures on how to build an atomic bomb – Serber, Robert edited with an introduction by Richard Rhodes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. ISBN 0-520-07576-5

Nuclear Matter Handbook

Trinity Atomic Website – excellent

Trinity Report – Historical and Technical Report on the Trinity Test – Bainbridge

Trinity – Bainbridge – detailed account and physics of July 1945 test – excellent

Designing a Fission Device – Student Guide and Spreadsheet – Reed 2010

Student-level_numerical_simulation_of_fission_bomb Reed 2010

Additional related references:

fissioncore: A desktop-computer simulation of a fission-bomb core: American Journal of Physics: Vol 82, No 10 (

Composite cores and tamper yield: Lesser-known aspects of Manhattan Project fission bombs: American Journal of Physics: Vol 88, No 2 (

A powerful graphical display of technical information: Robert Serber’s plot of physical conditions inside a nuclear explosion: American Journal of Physics: Vol 88, No 7 (

Smyth Report and Military Uses of Atomic Energy 1945

Nuclear Weapons Databook – NRDC 1984

Physics Hypertextbook – Nuclear Weapons – short but good summary with HG Wells Historical References

Teller-Ulam  1951 Description of Heterocatalytic Detonation (H bomb rad and implosion)

Global Security site – Weapons Design History and Issues

Defense Nuclear Agency 1947-1997  – DTRA History – Excellent Historical Summary

Defense Nuclear Agency 1947-97 – Excellent Summary of Nuclear Program

IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency

List of Nuclear Weapons and Tests

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons – Glasstone and Dolan – 1977 3rd edition

Searchable PDF:  (see for technical equations)

Effects of Nuclear Weapons – 1977 -3rd edition – complete

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons – short summary  (1977 edition)   (1977 circular slide rule)

Radioactivity from and Radiological Effects of Nuclear Weapons – Global Above Ground Tests and Effects

Total Residual Radiation Source Term from Hiroshima Detonation – Spriggs – 2017

World Wide Nuclear testing – World-Nuclear,org

List of Above Ground Nuclear Detonations – Nuclear Test Sheet-a

Review Of Nuclear Explosion Phenomenon for Protective Construction – Brode – 1964

Review of Nuclear Explosion Phenomenon for Protective Construction – Brode – 1964

Atomic Audit – The Cost and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons since 1940

Preserving Nuclear Test Data – LLNL Digitizing Atmospheric Test Films – Greg Spriggs

History of the Manhattan Project and Beyond Trinity

70 Years Since Trinity – The Atlantic – July 16, 2015

Talks and Interviews with Oppenheimer

UCLA 1964 – an eloquent discussion of science, politics and society – recollections of Bohr

Edward Murrow interview with Oppenheimer at the IAS – Princeton – Jan 4, 1955
Princeton 1958 Princeton Theological
CBS 1965 – was the bomb necessary

1945 lecture to the American Philosophical Society
1955 – Analogy and Science
I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds
In Hiroshima – 1965
Manhattan Project Trinity Test
Why there are new assessments of Oppenheimer – PBS
Richard Rhodes – Making of the Atomic Bomb
The Trials of Oppenheimer
A Life in Photos
Oppenheimer the Movie Ending
Univ of Colorado 1961
Physicists in Oppenheimer the Movie
Oppenheimer Plutonium Issues in 1944 and 45
1950 Talk
A Life inside the Center
Oppenheimer – 1945 Film
Brief History of John von Neumann

Tsar Bomba – Largest Nuclear Weapon Ever Tested – USSR – 50 MT (rated for 100 MT) – Oct 30, 1961

Spies and Espionage

Introductory Nuclear Physics

Megawatts and Megatons

American Promethius: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Broken Arrows – Nuclear Weapons and Related Accidents

Criticality Tests and Accidents – 1946 – The Demon Core

On Thermonuclear War

Proliferation Review – Countries with Nuclear Weapons – Institute for Science and Int Security

Iran nuclear program – Project Amad – seizure of documents – Jan 2018

N Korea Li-6 production for thermonuclear weapons:

US Nuclear Weapons – The Secret History and The Swords of Armageddon – Chuck Hansen (excellent)

The Nuclear Matters Handbook (excellent)

Detailed Weapon Designs issues

W53 – 9MT for possible planetary defense use:

Highest Efficiency Nuclear Weapons

      W41 – 25 MT –  5.2 MT/t – 3 stage:

      W56 – 1.2 MT – 5.0 MT/t  (demonstrated):

      Taylor Limit – 6 MT/t

Physics of Thermonuclear Weapons – Carey Sublette


US Warheads and Weapon Applications

Properties of Plutonium

Plutonium in use – LANL – 00818005

Chemical Complexities of Plutonium – LANL – 00818038

Nuclear Warfare – Notre Dame 2004 Course

Arsenals of Folly

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons

John Northrop Handbook of Nuclear Weapon Effects EM1 1996 BRIEF EXTRACT ONLY_text

Handbook of Nuclear Weapon Effects: Calculation Tools Abstracted from DSWA’s Effects Manual One

Why They Kill

The Plutonium Files

Undue Risk

Secret State Experiments on Humans

ISBN-13: 978-0415928359
ISBN-10: 0415928354

US Nuclear Weapons Policy

The Progressive Case – The United States of America vs The Progressive – Howard Morland

Country by Country Breakdown of Nuclear Capability and Delivery Systems

List of Nuclear Weapons Tests

EMP – Electromagnetic Pulse

Radiological Effects

External Exposure to Radionuclides in Air, Water and Soil – Eckerman and Ryman – used in LWAC code – 1993

Total Residual Radiation Source Term from Hiroshima Detonation – LWAC – Spriggs – 2017

Restricted Data Declassification Issues

Restricted Data Declassification Decisions – RDD-8 – 1946-present 2002

Missile Defense Systems

Nuclear Terrorism

Homeland Security Affairs – 2009 – Robert Harney

Inaccurate Prediction of Nuclear Weapons Effects and Possible Adverse Influences on Nuclear Terrorism Preparedness

Russian Nuclear Targets in the US and Elsewhere


The Manhattan Project – History Channel

Oppenheimer – Now I have become Death

Trinity and Beyond – The Atomic Bomb Movie

The Day After Trinity

White Light Black Rain – The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

America Atomic Bomb Tests

Day One

Critique of Nuclear Explosions depicted in Popular Movies – Greg Spriggs LLNL


Yield Estimates and Taylor Smitov singularity solution

Ted Taylor

Nuclear Weapons Effects Calculator

NUKEMAP interactive calculator (excellent – with Google Maps)

Nuclear testing Calendar

Nuclear Weapons Archive (excellent)

Nuclear Weapons Effects Calculator

Nuclear Bomb Effects Calculator – The Effects of Nuclear Weapons

HYDESim – Effect simulator

Online Calculators – PhP for many systems (laser damage calculator)

Effects of Nuclear Explosions (overview of issues)

Global Security – WMD calculator

TEDx Talk on the Affects of Nuclear War – Brian Toon – 2018

Note that the following “Nuclear Winter” effect depends on the area involved in a nuclear war as it is related to combustion products.


Nuclear Effects – Android Phone

Nuclear Above Ground Testing Films

Time Lapse of All Above Ground Nuclear Detonations

Misc Nuclear Explosion Films (Trinity)

Tsar Bomba Shot ?

Tsar Bomba Shot

Tsar Bomba Shot

Castle Bravo Shot

Castle Bravo Shot

Grable Shot

Civil Defense Films

Nevada test site