Thursday, December 2, 2010

EF Phone Home

Sixty eight years ago today, on December 2nd 1942, a group of uber-nerds and dignitaries watched as George Weil slowly removed a metal stick from a pile of black bricks. They were all assembled in the unused space underneath a squash court at the University of Chicago. Enrico Fermi, who had won a nobel prize just four years earlier, watched a set of instruments intently. When he was satisfied with what he saw Enrico nodded to Arthur Compton who waited by the phone.

Arthur rang James Conant who was back on the east coast. Using the manual switchboards of the day this could have taken several minutes.

When he finally got James on the phone Arthur said: “The Italian navigator has landed in the New World.”

James replied: “How were the natives?”

Arthur then said: “Everyone landed safe and happy”, and hung up.

Ever since that phonecall humans have known that nuclear weapons are possible.

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