This week's quibble comes from the Sept. 2, 2011 edition of Geek Trivia, which asked which Manhattan Project scientist won the group's infamous 'doomsday' betting pool?TR member George_Butel didn't so much quibble as demand extra backmatter:
I would like to see more details about who was worrying about worst-case scenarios of Trinity. I would also like to see citations for the 'side bet.' What were the other pool options—earth's crust cracks, atmosphere catches on fire, or what, besides 'only' wiping out New Mexico?I couldn't track down additional side bet details — believe me, I really wanted to — but member RG Bargy had info on the main doomsday pool:
What we should all stand in awe of is that at Fermi's insistence, the team decided that before the test shot, they should try to work out whether the "chain reaction" they hoped to initiate would ever stop - i.e. would the first bomb be the last, because it destroyed the entire planet. The team members set to the task (headed by Teller) did all this without computers. See "Edward Teller - The Real Dr. Strangelove" by Peter Goodchild (pub 2004) at page 104. The side bet is recorded (with Teller and Oppenheimer's predictions as well as Rabi's) lower down on the same page.
The side bet details are vague, but apparently Oppenheimer thought the first bomb would have a yield of less than a third of a kiloton. Talk about a pessimist. Thanks for the info, and keep those quibbles coming!
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.