National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, Albuquerque NM

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One of the unused casings for the “fat man” bomb, identical to one dropped on Nagasaki. The history of the bomb is a combination of the best and worst the human mind can produce. The museum presented both sides. In addition to the work and ingenuity of the scientists and engineers, there were sobering pictures of how Nagasaki looked after the “fat man” land. 

We are not “museum” people but we did enjoy out trip to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. The museum covers the history of the atomic bomb from conception through to the end of the cold war. Included in the museum are fun exhibits designed to teach children basic concepts of physics. The children we saw ranged in age from toddlers to teens and they all seemed to be enjoying it.

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Display of how bits of black metal can be easily separated from beige coloured sand using a magnet. This was an example of the displays designed to demonstrate to children concepts such as how a centrifuge works. This was then linked to displays about how uranium is purified to make the compound needed for the bomb.

We met up with one of Dick’s old acquaintances, Jan Hauser, and he joined us. (If any of you have seen the movie Jurassic Park, you may recall the evil computer programmer who releases the dinosaurs. That character was based in part on Jan but he’s actually a very nice fellow who would not ever let dinosaurs loose.)  Dick and his friend had their own direct experiences being mentored by men mentioned in the museum or who knew people in the museum. This gave me a more personal perspective. It also made me understand how well done the museum is because my husband and his friend would spot something and then it would trigger memories and a discussion. More than once they would look at some old piece of equipment and laugh and share something about actually using it.

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Table of Elements Floor Map – My personal favourite

My personal favourite display was the entrance area had a huge floor tile set that was done up as the table of elements. Being a biochemistry major at one part in my career I had to know all these elements and seeing them spread on the floor was like encountering long lost old friends. Several volunteers were floating around who are always ready to provide more information. Many of them were veterans who lived the era and could provide fascinating stories. Another personal favourite was seeing the interior of a dismantled Jupiter ballistic missile with explanations of all the parts.

One other very nice feature is outside in the lot were a sampling of aeroplanes and other equipment used in the development of the bomb. Overall it was a fascinating trip into the past where we got to see the best of humanities ingenuity at play and the worst of our species in the creation of this most terrible of weapons. The museum was a modest $33 for all three of us to visit which included two senior discounts. We can recommend it! And bring kids.

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