Burriss: Wanna build an A-bomb?


Hey buddy! Wanna learn how to build a Hydrogen bomb in your basement this weekend? Well, let me sell you this book I just bought on-line. It's called "Building the H-Bomb," written by physicist Ken Ford.

From the title, you might expect detailed diagrams and explanations of how to insert tab A into slot B, and tighten bolt C snug, but not too tight. Well, if that's what you're looking for, you're going to be sadly disappointed. But the Department of Energy is taking the book so seriously it's asked the author to make multiple changes and edits.

The author admits the book contains information that at one time was classified, but is now publicly available, so it is hard to see what the Department of Energy is concerned about this particular publication.

Actually, the book is simply a memoir by one of the original scientists to work on the H-Bomb in the 1950s. To be sure, it's an interesting, well-told story, but many other books, including Richard Rhodes' "Dark Sun," and even Tom Clancy's "Sum of All Fears" have a lot more technical details.
For years the government has tried to keep the lid on supposed secret nuclear information. In 1950, the magazine "Scientific American" published two articles about the hydrogen bomb. The first was written by a physicist who had no connection with nuclear weapons. The second was by a scientist who had worked on the bomb. Both articles carried much the of same information, but the Atomic Energy Commission censored the second article while leaving intact the identical information from the first.

So it's probably ok for me to say something like "radiation pressure," but because the author worked on the bomb, the D-O-E would perhaps he didn't.
The hardback version of the book isn't out yet, but it is available on the Internet and in at least one e-book format. The author has said he won't give in to the department's requests, but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.