How two students built an A-bomb
It's one of the burning questions of the moment: how easy would it be for a country with no nuclear expertise to build an A-bomb? Forty years ago in a top-secret project, the US military set about finding out.
Dave Dobson's past is not a secret. Not technically, anyway - not since the relevant US government intelligence documents were declassified and placed in the vaults of the National Security Archive, in Washington DC. But Dobson, now 65, is a modest man, and once he had discovered his vocation - teaching physics at Beloit College, in Wisconsin - he felt no need to drop dark hints about his earlier life. You could have taken any number of classes at Beloit with Professor Dobson, until his recent retirement, without having any reason to know that in his mid-20s, working entirely as an amateur and equipped with little more than a notebook and a library card, he designed a nuclear bomb.
Today his experiences in 1964 - the year he was enlisted into a covert Pentagon operation known as the Nth Country Project - suddenly seem as terrifyingly relevant as ever. The question the project was designed to answer was a simple one: could a couple of non-experts, with brains but no access to classified research, crack the "nuclear secret"?
"If it can be done by certain humans, it can be done by other humans."