On August 13, 1945, at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico, the " demon core " was ready. That's the name scientists put on a sphere containing refined plutonium being held here.
Just a week ago, the US Air Force released Hiroshima's " Little Boy " , followed by " Fat Man " in Nagasaki. The two bombs wiped out at least 160,000 people, or one-third of the population, at the moment it exploded.
The time and consequences of radioactive contamination will lead to millions of victims, but Japan has yet to surrender.
In the United States, a second "Fat Ma n" complex is waiting to be loaded with " demon core" . This mass of 6.2 kg of radioactive material is the heart that brings destructive power to it.
With the power compressed in the sphere less than 9 cm in diameter, the " demon core " should have awakened a square kilometer hell gate directly above the Tokyo Palace, crushing the whole city and sucking it down. at least one third of the population.
But history has finally turned to another branch. On August 15, 1945, Japanese radio broadcasted a recording of Emperor Hirohito, announcing the acceptance of surrender unconditionally to the Allies.
The " demon core " was kept in the Los Alamos Laboratory to continue serving a project called Y. It was during this time that successive incidents of plutonium erased the original " Rufus " code that people called it.
From here, Rufus transforms into " demon core ".
The first accident happened less than a week after Japan surrendered, only two days after the third atomic bombing mission was canceled. Although not dropped into Japan, the energy block trapped in Los Alamos still found a chance to kill.
Its first victim was Harry Daghlian , a 24-year-old young physicist. Daghlian has been involved in experiments to build atomic bombs since 1943, when he was a student studying at Purdue University.
Along with other scientists in the Manhattan project, Daghlian knew that both US bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not fully developed their inherent capabilities. Only a small part of the bomb core exploded, to charge the rest of the nuclear fuel.
At that time, the United States was the only country in the world to successfully develop a nuclear bomb. But they also knew that this unique position would not last long, when the Soviet Union was also promoting its own nuclear programs.
In order to continue to take advantage, Manhattan Project scientists must make their bombs more effective.
And they built the " devil core " to test that, a refined plutonium and gallium sphere at " - 5 cents ", 5% lower than the critical mass - the smallest amount of material. Fission is needed to maintain a stable nuclear chain reaction.
Daghlian's mission and scientists at the Los Alamos Laboratory is to try to get closer to the supercritical state of "the devil's core" - when neurons are released from a nucleus that can activate neurons to eject from another nucleus, creating a chain reaction that leads to the explosion.
To illustrate the danger of this type of experiment, they nicknamed it " tickle the dragon's tail ". Try to imagine a sleeping dragon, your task is to come from behind it, tickle your tail several times to determine the dragon's tolerance before it wakes up.
Although you have calculated to know how much is enough, if you unfortunately do too, the dragon will wake up and immediately burn you to ashes. That's exactly what happened to Harry Daghlian.
On the night of August 21, 1945, Daghlian returned to the lab after dinner to do the experiment himself. No other scientist oversees him but a security guard. This obviously violated the safety protocols at Los Alamos.
To be able to " tickle the dragon " and bring the " demon core " closer to the critical state, Daghlian placed bricks made of tungsten carbide around it. Because the bulk of tungsten is very dense, it can reflect back to neutrons emitted from the " demon core " back to itself.
This will cause the rate of neutrons to hit the atom and the percentage of atoms separating in the core increases, breaking the fragile safety level " - 5 cents " is preventing the chain reaction from happening leading to the explosion.
It was a very dangerous act, so in order to know when to stop, Daghlian turned on a radiometer while putting each tungsten tile around the "demon core" .
When the wall was over 25 cm high, the counter turned violently and closed to an uncontrollable level. Daghlian knew that he needed to quickly pull a tungsten pill out. But a frantic moment made him drop it right on top of the " demon core ".
A blue spark flashed with a wave of heat emitting the same radiation explosion. The counting machine hissed at every turn. Daghlian frantically grabbed the tungsten on top of the "demon core ", but his hand was hot and once again dropped it.
Trying to overturn the whole table but too heavy, Daghlian finally fought against the flow of radioactivity, using his hands to pick up each piece of tungsten around the plutonium block.
The chain reaction finally stopped, the radioactive counter was silent. Unfortunately, everything was too late. One minute is enough time for Daghlian to be exposed to the deadly dose of radiation. His hand was used to pick up the burnt and blistered tungsten.
Within hours, Daghlian began to feel the first symptoms of radiation, he was nauseous and was taken to an emergency hospital. After three painful weeks, Daghlian fell into a coma and died on the 25th day after the accident with the "demon core ".
Security guards on duty that day with Daghlian were also exposed to radiation but were lucky to escape. Even so, the harmful effects of radiation are enough to cause him to develop acute myeloid leukemia, a form of blood cancer and die 33 years later.
" Devil's core " killed two men, one of whom was the one who created it. But they are not the last sacrifices.
After the accident that led to Daghlian's death, the Los Alamos Laboratory tightened up nuclear safety regulations. But this change is still not enough to prevent a similar accident that occurred 9 months later.
On May 21, 1946, physicist Louis Slotin - one of Daghlian's colleagues, was trying to repeat the " tailed dragon tail " experiment. Without using tungsten bricks, this time the Slotin wanted to create a reflected neutron stream by covering a beryllium dome just above the " demon core ".
Beryllium is also a reflective material for neutrons, and to avoid repeating Daghlian's mistake by pushing the plutonium to a critical level, Slotin has a screwdriver under the beryllium arch. The screwdriver is responsible for maintaining a small slit, acting as a safe exhaust valve that allows neutrons to have a way out.
Earlier, Slotin had done this experiment many times, until the fateful day that day, the screwdriver slid out and the beryllium dome fell down.
Raemer Schreiber, a scientist standing with Slotin in the room to witness the experiment, described the moment. As soon as he heard the sound of the beryllium arch collapse, he felt a stream of hot air bounce at him and saw a blue light flash.
" The flash of blue light is clearly visible in the room, although it is flooded with light from windows and ceiling lights ," Schreiber wrote in the report after surviving the accident. "The total duration of the flash does not exceed one tenth of a second. Slotin reacted very quickly to flip the screwdriver off."
But the "demon core" still reached the supercritical state for the second time in a year. The accident was much more serious than the previous explosion, with the other 7 people in the room witnessing the experiment together.
Six scientists, a photographer and a security guard were exposed to radiation. Slotin is the heaviest, with a lethal dose greater than Daghlian. The moment he walked out of the lab, he began to experience nausea and headache.
Slotin was admitted to the hospital for treatment. However, the situation quickly deteriorated and he lost weight a few days later. The pain tormented Slotin for 9 days before he showed signs of psychosis and died.
Soon, the person closest to Slotin in the room at Los Alamos, the physicist Alvin Graves was also hospitalized. Despite being shielded by the Slotin, the amount of radiation still caused Graves to suffer from prolonged health problems such as loss of vision and death 18 years later due to radiation-related complications.
Marion Edward Cieslicki, another physicist present during the experiment, also died at the age of 42 due to acute myelogenous leukemia, at 19 years after the accident. Photographer Dwight Smith Young died after 29 years, because aplastic anemia was also associated with radiation.
The two deadly plutonium accidents just a few months apart eventually pushed the Los Alamos Laboratory to the point where it had to re-establish the entire process of radioactivity. Manual tests with plutonium are required to terminate completely.
Instead, scientists are now forced to use remote control machines, and are only allowed to manipulate the radioactive core indirectly at a distance of hundreds of meters. They also stopped calling the plutonium core ' Rufus '. From then on, it was only called the " demon core ".
After Slotin's accident caused the radiation level of the " devil core " to increase, scientists thought they should not touch it anymore. The plan to put this " devil core " on a nuclear bomb and test it at Bikini Atoll was also postponed.
Instead, plutonium was melted and put into US nuclear stockpiles, to recast other cores as needed. The second and the last time, it was refused to explode.
While the death of two scientists cannot be compared to terror if the " devil core " is used to attack the Japanese nucleus for the third time, it is understandable why scientists give it a name. superstition like that.
Followed by many strange and coincidental details about the deaths around it. Both Daghlian and Slotin were killed by the " demon core " on the 21st Tuesday of the month. They even died in the same hospital room.
Of course, that is merely a coincidence. " Devil core " does not really bring the devil's curse. If so, it is only a curse created by humans while hastily making a terrible destructive weapon.
And the real horror - besides the terrible effects of radioactive poisoning - is that 20th-century scientists cannot protect themselves from the constant dangers of experiments like jokes. .
Although with their knowledge and lessons learned, they know fully about the risks that may be encountered. Yet Stolin can still casually poke a plutonium core with a screwdriver.
Schreiber was there on the fateful day, to hear the first words that Slotin uttered after slipping his screwdriver: " Well, it's hard to bear it ." It seemed like Slotin wanted to tell his colleague, Daghlian.
He knows what will happen after that. And he casually accepted.