Introduction: Ignorance and the Community of Knowledge

Three soldiers sat in a bunker surrounded by three-foot-thick concrete walls, chatting
about home. The conversation slowed and then stopped. The cement walls shook and
the ground wobbled like Jell-O. Thirty thousand feet above them in a B-36, crew members
coughed and sputtered as heat and smoke filled their cabin and dozens of lights and alarms
blared. Meanwhile, eighty miles due east, the crew of a Japanese fishing trawler, the notso-lucky Lucky Dragon Number Five (Daigo Fukuryū Maru), stood on deck, staring with
terror and wonder at the horizon.
The date was March 1, 1954, and they were all in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean
witnessing the largest explosion in the history of humankind: the detonation of a
thermonuclear fusion bomb nicknamed “Shrimp,” code-named Castle Bravo. But
something was terribly wrong. The military men, sitting in a bunker on Bikini Atoll, close
to ground zero, had witnessed nuclear detonations before and had expected a shock wave
to pass by about 45 seconds after the blast. Instead the earth shook. That was not supposed
to happen. The crew of the B-36, flying a scientific mission to sample the fallout cloud
and take radiological measurements, were supposed to be at a safe altitude, yet their plane
blistered in the heat.

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