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Los Alamos

Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Mexico, in the south-west of the US, has been occupied by native American populations, part of the Spanish vice-royalty of New Spain, a province of Mexico and a US territory. It has the highest percentage of Hispanic Americans of any US state, some recent arrivals and others descendents of Spanish colonists. It also has the highest percentage of native Americans, mostly Navajo and Pueblo peoples.

The landscape ranges from wide, rose-coloured deserts to broken mesas to high, snow-capped peaks. Despite New Mexico's arid image, heavily forested mountain wildernesses cover a significant portion. It is thick with cacti, yuccas, creosote bush, sagebrush and desert grasses. Part of the Rocky Mountains, the broken, north/south-oriented Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) range flanks both sides of the Rio Grande from the rugged, pastoral north through the centre of the state.

Just north of the capital Santa Fe is the town of Los Alamos, a peaceful, serene and almost insignificant place. Sixty years ago though, it was home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, controlled by the Pentagon and home of the infamous Manhattan Project, the allied project to develop the first nuclear weapons. Locals are quite matter of fact about their history and are undaunted that right here, the first atomic bomb was detonated at Trinity, the desert test site.

The laboratory was founded during WWII as a secret facility to co-ordinate scientific research. Known as Site Y, its scientific director was Robert Oppenheimer. During the Project, Los Alamos hosted thousands of employees in secret, including Nobel-Prize-winning scientists. One of the main aims was to build an atom bomb before Germany did.

In 1945, years of testing in the deserts around Los Alamos culminated in the dropping of an atomic bomb, codenamed 'Little Boy', on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It fell from the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay and killed 68,000 people. Three days later, the bomb codenamed 'Fat Man' was dropped on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered and Robert Oppenheimer adopted an ancient Hindu quotation to proclaim "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds".

These days, Los Alamos has two faces. One side is surrounded by thousands of hectares of national park, but on the other, there is still the place responsible for maintaining America's nuclear weapons capability.

The Bradbury Science Museum is the home of Los Alamos National Laboratory. It is a bridge between the laboratory and the community, helping to improve science education and literacy. It is also a window to its history and current research. Many of its displays are interactive and feature videos, computers and science demonstrations.

The Black Hole of Los Alamos, a recycler of nuclear waste, has the world's most diverse stock of used scientific equipment, electronics, laboratory supplies, nuclear by-products, surplus items and materials. Owner Ed Grothus once worked at the laboratory and has spent the last 50 years collecting by-products — bits of bombs and the materials used to make them. Ed has provided materials to over 500 universities and research institutions around the world, as well as technical props for four major motion pictures.

Bradbury Science Museum is opposed to Ed Grothus's Black Hole store and he opposes the museum.


New Mexico in the United States.


Bradbury Science Museum entry is free and it opens every day. Black Hold Museum entry is free. It is open from Monday to Saturday.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

For further information

Bradbury Science Museum
15th and Central Avenue
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Ph: 0011 1 505 667 4444

The Black Hole
4015 Arkansas,
Los Alamos, NM 87544
Ph: 0011 1 505 662 5053
Fax: 0011 1 505 662-6077

Los Alamos Meeting and Visitor Bureau
109 Central Park Square
Los Alamos, NM 87544
Ph: 0011 1 800-444-0707

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