The Curve of Binding Energy

Is the story of Ted Taylor, one of the cleverest of the very clever men who designed nuclear bombs. He designed the largest bomb ever set off by the US, and the smallest. He once used a nuclear bomb to light a cigarette. And in the early 1970s, he was very concerned that terrorists could build a nuclear bomb.

He talked about this topic to anyone who would listen, and one of the people who listened was John McPhee. McPhee is one of the best wordsmiths out there. When he wrote for the New Yorker, it was always good, and frequently awe-inspiring.

The Curve of Binding Energy, available at fine bookstores everywhere, challenged the idea that building a nuclear device would take another Manhattan Project. Fortunately, to date, Taylor has been shown to be pessimistic, but you would be too, if you knew what he knew.

1 Comment on "The Curve of Binding Energy"


  1. I read Curve in 1975 and it gave me nightmares. Today, the primary design criterion of Taylor’s clandestine nuke is downright eerie: a device big enough to knock down one tower of the World Trade Center. I wonder what 30 years has done to the costs involved. IIRC, Taylor figured that $5000 would get everything but the Plutonium, which would have to be stolen. Today, perhaps the hardware cost has tripled, but what’s more scarey is that one might might be able to just buy the Pu.

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