The Mother of all Pearls

29 02 2008

On the 16th of July 1945, the first nuclear weapons test was conducted by the United States Government.  The ‘gadget’, working on the same engineering principals of Fat Man, the infamous bomb dropped on Nagasaki a few weeks later, was detonated in the New Mexico desert 35 miles out of Socorro.

The site was named Trinity– probably because of the bad-ass, ninja, leather clad, cyber-hag, character in Matrix.

At 5.29am ‘the gadget’ was detonated.  The explosion was equivalent to 20 tonnes of TNT and left a crater over 10 feet deep and over 1,100 feet wide.  The mushroom cloud, now synonymous with mass destruction, violence and apocalyptic war, rose 7.5 miles into the morning sky.

The rest, as they say, is history.  But…

When the massive, fuck-off, cataclysmic, man-made bomb was detonated merely 20 metres above dear mother earth to increase its yeild and destruction (as hoped would happen over actual cities full of people in coming weeks), something intensely beautiful was created.

 The truly unnatural heat created by the explosion melted the desert sand (mostly silica) producing a greenish, radioactive glass.  True to form, the narcissistic American generals and their scholar minions imaginatively named this desert glass, Trinitite… after the test site, Trinity… get it?

Some Trinitite contained more than just silica and a lot of ‘T’s; some fused with the iron pylon holding supporting the bomb producing a blackish colour and some fused with the ‘gadget’ itself (made of copper) producing a redish colour.

Despite the context in which Trinitite was formed and subsequently named, it is a beautiful material.   What adds to its beauty is its form; besides the lumps fused together by the massive force of heat smacking the desert floor, some sand was dragged up by the updraft of the ensuing fireball, miles into the burning sky.  Molten silica rained down on the test site like Vesuvius’ ash upon Pompeii, some setting during the decent.

If anyone knows how they used to make lead shot for old guns, it was like that… sort of.  Tall tower, molten lead at the top, pool of water at the bottom to catch the then solid spherical drops of lead at the bottom without denting.  Clever.

Anyway, the balls of skyward silica became Trinitite before hitting the ground, rendering them spherical also.  Now known as Trinitite Pearls, there is something inherently romantic about their delicate form from such a violent creation.

So, this mothers day, buy your Mum a [slightly] radioactive Trinitite Pearl as an extra special Thank You – what are you waiting for?!

NB: In 1952, the crater and its Trinitite contents were bulldozed over by the US Atomic Energy Commission.  Fuckers.

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