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June 18, 2013
John Coster-Mullen is a truck-driver with minimal college education who taught himself how to build the most detailed replica of an A-bomb ever made. "The secret of the atomic bomb is how easy they are to make," admits Coster-Mullen.
Last year, Motherboard visited Coster-Mullen to talk with him about his life project--reverse engineering the atomic bombs America dropped on Japan. His findings are available in a book he continuously updates and publishes himself called Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man, which has received rave reviews from the National Resource Defense Council, which says of Coster-Mullen's project that "nothing else in the Manhattan Project literature comes close to his exacting breakdown of the bomb's parts."
Coster-Mullen gives an intensely technical history of the atomic bomb, which is centered around a detailed explanation of how the bombs were built, including exact dimensions and configurations, inside and out. For almost ten years, Coster-Mullen painstakingly analyzed photographs and interviewed more than 150 scientists, engineers, and others involved in their development. The result is an unprecedented and highly accurate recreation of the bomb on paper, both in its mechanics and history.
Coster-Mullen's ambitious project is certainly a neat example of the ingenuity that led America to be the first to develop the atomic bomb. But it's also a stark reminder that our most powerful technologies can end up being reworked and used in other ways, by people much less friendly than truck drivers with lots of time on their hands.