Santa Fe Institute

Legacies of the Manhattan Project: A Case Study in the History of Science and in Consequences of Conflict

Working Group

May 12, 2012 - May 13, 2012
Collins Conference Room

This working group of physicists, historians, social scientists, systems theorists, and writers will examine the long-term legacies of the Manhattan Project in a timely discussion of an important event in world history that influences science and society today. The group will discuss new information, review original records, and mine the memories of project participants to present a case study in conflict from an important period in scientific history.

The panel includes:

Harold Agnew, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory who was part of the Manhattan Project from the beginning. He was a member of Enrico Fermi’s research group that initiated the first controlled nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago in 1942, and served as a scientific observer on a plane that escorted the Enola Gay.

Stan Norris, was a senior research associate with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC. His principal areas of expertise include writing and research on all aspects of the nuclear weapons programs of the United States, Soviet Union/Russia, Britain, France, and China, as well as India, Pakistan, and Israel. His biography of General Leslie R. Groves has been widely acclaimed.

Jessica Flack, an SFI External Professor and co-director of the Center for Complexity and Collective Computation in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, whose research focuses on the emergence of multi-scale, hierarchical structure in biological and social systems and the role of conflict in these complex adaptive systems

Gregg Herken, an expert on the political forces that drove the Cold War and author of Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller

Murray Gell-Mann, distinguished fellow at the Santa Fe Institute and recipient of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles

Ellen Bradbury-Reid, a Manhattan Project historian and director of Recursos de Santa Fe

Gino Segre, a nuclear physicist and author of several books on the history of science, including Faust in Copenhagen, which won the American Institute of Physics Award for Best Science Writing.

Topics to be discussed include:

  1. The scientific legacy of the Manhattan Project, including its influence on setting scientific agendas, our cultural understanding of scientific research, and subsequent developments in physics and complex systems modeling
  2. The political legacy of the project, including the Cold War, MAD, the hydrogen bomb, and the politics of funding scientific research
  3. The project’s philosophical and cultural legacies, including the long-term implications for who we are as a society and what science is and has become.

Many of SFI’s founders were senior fellows at Los Alamos National Laboratory. As the Institute has emerged as a leader in complexity science, particularly in the field of conflict management, the Manhattan Project has become an important case study for understanding conflict as a mechanism for evolutionary change. The project’s history also illustrates the occasional tension between pure theoretical research and applied science.

SFI is collaborating with the Nuclear Diner to bring the discussion to you live on Twitter and Facebook. You can participate in the online discussion before, during, and after the event on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #bomblegacy or by following @nucleardiner, or on Facebook. During the event, you can ask questions of the participants here or here.

Purpose: Research Collaboration

SFI Host: Linda Cordell, SFI & SAR and Ellen Bradbury-Reid, Recursos de Santa Fe

  • * SFI community lectures are free, open, & accessible to the public.
  • * Other SFI events are by invitation only.

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