Los Alamos National Lab induces emotional chill

Visiting the birthplace of the atomic bomb is no laughing matter.

The main road into Los Alamos is a significant reason why the U.S. government chose to place the Manhattan Project there: it can be easily watched to see who's coming in.
Daniel Terdiman/CNET

LOS ALAMOS, N.M.--I spent Wednesday night and Thursday here, in the town that gave birth to the atomic bomb. And even though it's been 62 years since the Manhattan Project finished its work, its aura still pervades Los Alamos.

One of the Mitchell 35mm cameras used to film the first test of the atomic bomb design created by the Manhattan Project. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

For example, the main drag through the eastern end of town is Trinity Drive. And one can't help but understand, when driving in from Santa Fe, why the government chose to place the Manhattan Project here: among other reasons, that road is a windy, two-lane affair with a sheer cliff on the north side that made it easy for security to watch who was headed into Los Alamos.

I came here--as part of Road Trip 2007--to visit the Los Alamos National Lab and talk to folks there about the facility's nonproliferation research efforts. I expect to post a full story on that Monday.

But first, I stopped in on the Bradbury Science Museum, the lab's official museum, to get its version of the history of the Manhattan Project.

There weren't any big surprises there. But I was interested in the museum's collection of artifacts from the Trinity test, including the cameras used to document it.

Anyway, visiting Los Alamos these days isn't the security nightmare it used to be, and given that we're now in the post-9/11 era, it was remarkably easy to get to the lab.

But that didn't make the emotional chill of being there go away. If anything, it made it more distinct.