2015: Santa Fe, NM

Los Alamos

May 4


I was up early on our last full day in Santa Fe. I had created a Peanut-monster by giving him an almost-daily walk on his leash, and today he was raring to go, begging and pawing at the screen door.

This time, Mike decided to tag along and document the proceedings, and he wasn't disappointed. As usual, I didn't walk Peanut; he walked me, finding all the best weed patches, the smelly septic tank, and the barbed-wire fence he so wanted to crawl under.

We had one more place to visit before we left Santa Fe: Los Alamos, birthplace of the atomic bomb. We'd already seen a lot of information about it in the Albuquerque museum, so we needed to go see the place for ourselves.

The drive from Santa Fe took about 45 minutes. Once there, we started in the small Los Alamos Historical Museum. It had some nice documentation of how the place became the atomic city.

Surviving Ranch School building. About the Ranch School.

For 25 years starting in 1918, Los Alamos was the site of the Ranch School, whose purpose was to toughen up young men with rigorous outdoor activities while also providing a pre-college education. The building shown at left is the only one surviving from this school; it's now the home of the Fuller Lodge Arts Center. In November of 1942, after months of investigation and research, the U.S. government advised the private owner of the school that the military would be acquiring the school and its acreage to become the home of "Project Y", later to be known as the Manhattan Project.

There was a lot to read but not a lot to see in the Historical Museum, but it did spark my interest in several books offered in the gift shop. I finally chose two, both authored by women who lived there who documented their daily lives in "Box 1663", the P.O. box that was the address for everyone living in the secret city during the war years.

We moved on to the Bradbury Science Museum down the street. It had more technical information about the first atomic bombs and subsequent projects undertaken by the Los Alamos National Laboratory over the years since WWII.

How Little Boy worked. Dropping the first bomb. A whole section on plutonium. Picture of Los Alamos, 1946. Detonator for plutonium bomb.

Besides exhibits about atomic history and science, there were a few other items of interest. For one thing, did you know that scientists have been able to train honeybees to detect explosives? Fascinating, Another cool display contained a sections of vacuum tubes like those that were used in ENIAC, the world's first programmable computer built in 1946. Near that was a chart showing how the speed and power of Los Alamos supercomputers has increased over 60 years.

Mechanical calculator used by female 'computers', 1943. Bomb disposal suit. Bomb-sniffing honeybees?? Vacuum tubes from ENIAC, 1946 computer. Supercomputers, super speed.