Beginning in the 1950s, American and Soviet scientists engaged in a dangerous race to see who could build and detonate the world’s largest bomb. In the Soviet Union, Andrei Sakharov was the architect of this bomb.
According to the movie, Andrei turned against the use of nuclear bombs after he estimated that just the fallout from this one bomb would eventually cause the deaths of over 500,000 people.
The largest bomb ever created and set off created a fireball that went up 40 miles into the upper atmosphere. They almost set off one twice as big, but then it would completely gone out into space, it would have been so large. As it was, the radiation mostly went up into the upper atmosphere and stayed there. Later, it came down with the rain, making it extremely radioactive. The movie tells one story of a man sleeping outside in the rain, who lost his hair from the radioactive rain, and later died of cancer.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born May 21, 1921
Died December 14, 1989 (aged 68)
Residence Moscow, Soviet Union
Citizenship Soviet Union
Fields Nuclear physics
(1953 1955 1962)
Stalin Prize (1953)
Lenin Prize (1956)
Nobel Peace Prize (1975)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1985)
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (Russian: Андре́й Дми́триевич Са́харов; May 21, 1921 – December 14, 1989) was a Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident, and human rights activist.
He became renowned as the designer of the Soviet Union’s Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development of thermonuclear weapons.
Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. The Sakharov Prize, which is awarded annually by the European Parliament for people and organizations dedicated to human rights and freedoms, is named in his honor.
Sakharov was born in Moscow on May 21, 1921. His father was Dmitri Ivanovich Sakharov, a private school physics teacher and an amateur pianist. His father later taught at the Second Moscow State University. Dmitri’s grandfather Ivan had been a prominent lawyer in Russia who had displayed respect for social awareness and humanitarian principles (including advocating the abolition of capital punishment) that would later influence his grandson.
Sakharov’s mother was Yekaterina Alekseyevna Sakharova, a great-granddaughter of the prominent military commander Alexey Semenovich Sofiano (who was of Greek ancestry). His parents and his paternal grandmother, Maria Petrovna, largely shaped Sakharov’s personality.
Although his paternal great-grandfather had been a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, and his pious mother did have him baptised, he was an atheist in later life.However, he did believe that a non-scientific “guiding principle” governed the universe and human life.
Education and career
Sakharov entered Moscow State University in 1938. Following evacuation in 1941 during the Great Patriotic War (World War II), he graduated in Aşgabat, in today’s Turkmenistan. He was then assigned laboratory work in Ulyanovsk. During this period, in 1943, he married Klavdia Alekseyevna Vikhireva, with whom he raised two daughters and a son before she died in 1969. He returned to Moscow in 1945 to study at the Theoretical Department of FIAN (the Physical Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences). He received his Ph.D. in 1947.
Development of thermonuclear devices
After the end of World War II, Sakharov researched cosmic rays. In mid-1948 he participated in the Soviet atomic bomb project under Igor Kurchatov and Igor Tamm. The first Soviet atomic device was tested on August 29, 1949. After moving to Sarov in 1950, Sakharov played a key role in the development of the first megaton-range Soviet hydrogen bomb using a design known as Sakharov’s Third Idea in Russia and the Teller-Ulam design in the United States… A larger variation of the same design which Sakharov worked on was the 50 Megaton Tsar Bomba of October 1961, which was the most powerful nuclear device ever exploded.
Sakharov saw “striking parallels” between his fate and those of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller in the USA. Sakharov believed that in this “tragic confrontation of two outstanding people,” both deserved respect, because “each of them was certain he had right on his side and was morally obligated to go to the end in the name of truth.”
Sakharov never felt that by creating nuclear weapons he had “known sin,” in Oppenheimer’s expression. He later wrote: “After more than forty years, we have had no third world war, and the balance of nuclear terror … may have helped to prevent one….What most troubles me now is the instability of the balance, the extreme peril of the current situation, the appalling waste of the arms race …
Each of us has a responsibility to think about this in global terms, with tolerance, trust, and candor, free from ideological dogmatism, parochial interests, or national egotism.”
Research and physics
After 1965 Sakharov returned to fundamental science and began working on particle physics and cosmology.
He especially tried to explain the baryon asymmetry of the universe, being the first scientist to introduce two universes called “sheets”, linked by the Big Bang. Sakharov achieved there a complete CPT symmetry since the second sheet is enantiomorph (P-symmetry), has an opposite arrow of time (T-symmetry) and is mainly populated by antimatter (C-symmetry) because of an opposite CP-violation.
In this model the two universes do not interact, except via local matter accumulation whose density and pressure would become high enough to connect the two sheets through a bridge without spacetime between them, but with geodesics continuity beyond the radius limit allowing an exchange of matter.
Sakharov called such singularities a collapse and an anticollapse, which are an alternative to the couple black hole and white hole in the wormhole theory. Sakharov also proposed the idea of induced gravity as an alternative theory of quantum gravity.
Turn to activism
From the late 1950s Sakharov had become concerned about the moral and political implications of his work. Politically active during the 1960s, Sakharov was against nuclear proliferation. Pushing for the end of atmospheric tests, he played a role in the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, signed in Moscow.
The major turn in Sakharov’s political evolution came in 1967, when anti-ballistic missile defense became a key issue in US–Soviet relations. In a secret detailed letter to the Soviet leadership of July 21, 1967, Sakharov explains the need to “take the Americans at their word” and accept their proposal “for a bilateral rejection by the USA and the Soviet Union of the development of antiballistic missile defense”, because otherwise an arms race in this new technology would increase the likelihood of nuclear war.
He also asked permission to publish his manuscript (which accompanied the letter) in a newspaper to explain the dangers posed by this kind of defense. The government ignored his letter and refused to let him initiate a public discussion of ABMs in the Soviet press.
In May 1968 he completed an essay, “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom”, where the anti-ballistic missile defense is described as a major threat of world nuclear war.
After this essay was circulated in samizdat and then published outside the Soviet Union (initially on July 6, 1968, in the Dutch newspaper Het Parool through intermediary of the Dutch academic and writer Karel van het Reve, followed by The New York Times), Sakharov was banned from all military-related research and returned to FIAN to study fundamental theoretical physics. In 1970 he, along with Valery Chalidze and Andrei Tverdokhlebov, was one of the founders of the Committee on Human Rights in the USSR and came under increasing pressure from the government. He married a fellow human rights activist, Yelena Bonner, in 1972.
In 1973 and 1974, the Soviet media campaign targeted both Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. While Sakharov disagreed with Solzhenitsyn’s Slavophile vision of Russian revival, he deeply respected him for his courage. Only a few individuals in the Soviet Union dared to defend ‘traitors’ like Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn, and those who had dared were inevitably punished.
Sakharov later described that “it took years” for him “to understand how much substitution, deceit, and lack of correspondence with reality there was” in the Soviet ideals. “At first I thought, despite everything that I saw with my own eyes, that the Soviet state was a breakthrough into the future, a kind of prototype for all countries”.
Then he came, in his words, to “the theory of symmetry: all governments and regimes to a first approximation are bad, all peoples are oppressed, and all are threatened by common dangers.” After that he realized that there is not much “symmetry between a cancer cell and a normal one.
Yet our state (and corporations) is similar to a cancer cell – with its messianism and expansionism, its totalitarian suppression of dissent, the authoritarian structure of power, with a total absence of public control in the most important decisions in domestic and foreign policy, a closed society that does not inform its citizens of anything substantial, closed to the outside world, without freedom of travel or the exchange of information.”
Sakharov’s ideas on social development led him to put forward the principle of human rights as a new basis of all politics. In his works he declared that “the principle ‘what is not prohibited is allowed’ should be understood literally”, defying the unwritten ideological rules imposed by the Communist ruling elite on the society in spite of the seemingly democratic USSR Constitution.
In 1973, Andrei Sakharov was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1974 was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, although he was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union to collect it. His wife read his speech at the ceremony in Oslo, Norway. TheNorwegian Nobel Committee called him “a spokesman for the conscience of mankind”. In the words of the Nobel Committee’s citation: “In a convincing manner Sakharov has emphasised that Man’s inviolable rights provide the only safe foundation for genuine and enduring international cooperation.”
In no way did Sakharov consider himself a prophet or the like: “I am no volunteer priest of the idea, but simply a man with an unusual fate. I am against all kinds of self-immolation (for myself and for others, including the people closest to me).” In a letter written from his exile, he cheered up a fellow physicist and human rights activist with the words: “Fortunately, the future is unpredictable and also – because of quantum effects – uncertain.” For Sakharov the indeterminacy of the future supported his belief that he could, and should, take personal responsibility for it.
The apartment building in the Scherbinki district of Nizhny Novgorod where A.D. Sakharov lived in exile from 1980 to 1986. His apartment is now a museum.
Sakharov was arrested on January 22, 1980, following his public protests against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, and was sent to internal exile in the city of Gorky, now Nizhny Novgorod, a city that was off-limits to foreigners, (as an anti-war activist).
Between 1980 and 1986, Sakharov was kept under tight Soviet police surveillance. In his memoirs he mentions that their apartment in Gorky was repeatedly subjected to searches and heists. Sakharov was named the 1980 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.
In May 1984, Sakharov’s wife, Yelena Bonner, was detained and Sakharov began a hunger strike, demanding permission for his wife to travel to the United States for heart surgery. He was forcibly hospitalized and force-fed. He was held in isolation for four months. In August 1984 Yelena Bonner was sentenced by a court to five years of exile in Gorky.
In April 1985, Sakharov started a new hunger strike for his wife to travel abroad for medical treatment. He again was taken to a hospital and force-fed. He remained in the hospital until October 1985 when his wife finally was allowed to travel to the United States. She had heart surgery in the United States and returned to Gorky in June 1986.
Most of Sakharov’s friends in the human rights movement failed to appreciate the motivation for his hunger strikes and blamed Bonner for his sufferings. Sakharov, meanwhile, claimed his human right to make decisions that he felt to be morally necessary for him personally.
In December 1985, the European Parliament established the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to be given annually for outstanding contributions to human rights.
On December 19, 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev, who had initiated the policies of perestroika and glasnost, called Sakharov to tell him that he and his wife may return to Moscow.
Left to right: Yelena Bonner, Sakharov and Sofiya Kalistratova, 1986.
In 1988, Sakharov was given the International Humanist Award by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He helped to initiate the first independent legal political organizations and became prominent in the Soviet Union’s growing political opposition.
In March 1989, Sakharov was elected to the new parliament, the All-Union Congress of People’s Deputies and co-led the democratic opposition, the Inter-Regional Deputies Group.
Soon after 21:00 on December 14, 1989, Sakharov went to his study to take a nap before preparing an important speech he was to deliver the next day in the Congress. His wife went to wake him at 23:00 as he had requested but she found Sakharov dead on the floor. He died of a heart attack at the age of 68.He was interred in the Vostryakovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.
The Sakharov Prize, established in 1988 and awarded annually by the European Parliament for people and organizations dedicated to human rights and freedoms, was named in his honor.
An Andrei Sakharov prize is also to be awarded by the American Physical Society every second year from 2006, “to recognize outstanding leadership and/or achievements of scientists in upholding human rights”.
Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center
The Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center, established at Brandeis University in 1993, are now housed at Harvard University. The documents from that archive were published by the Yale University Press in 2005.
These documents are available online. Most of documents of the archive are letters from the head of the KGB to the Central Committee about activities of Soviet dissidents and recommendations about the interpretation in newspapers.
The letters cover the period from 1968 to 1991 (Brezhnev stagnation). The documents characterize not only the Sakharov’s activity, but that of other dissidents, as well as that of highest-position apparatchiks, and the KGB. No Russian equivalent of the KGB archive is available.
PBS – The World’s Biggest Bomb; Soviet Union/USA – Free Full Length Movie; via @AGreenRoad
PBS – The World’s Biggest Bomb; Soviet Union/USA – Free Full Length Movie; via @AGreenRoad
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