Friday, October 29, 2010

Boy Scouts of America Nuclear Merit Badge

Back in the late 1960s, I was a proud member of Troop 210, Boy Scouts of America. On Wednesday evenings, my friend Stan and I would don our green uniforms and walk over to the old San Jacinto Baptist Church, then on 6th Street in Amarillo, Texas. There in the church’s basement was where our troop would meet. We spent a tremendous amount of time in earning, and arranging to earn, merit badges.

Merit badges have been an integral part of the Scouting program since the start of the movement in the United Kingdom in 1907. Scouting came to the United States in 1910. The BSA quickly issued an initial list of just 14 merit badges, but did not produce or award them. In 1911, the BSA manufactured the first official 57 merit badges and began awarding them. The number of badges available has been as high as 140 and, as of late 2010, is 126.

Merit badges exist to encourage Scouts to explore areas of interest and to teach valuable skills. The award of merit badges sometimes leads to careers and lifelong hobbies. Scouts earn merit badges by satisfying specified criteria. A Court of Honor is then held to present the badge.

With many parents in Amarillo working at the local Pantex Plant, one of the more popular merit badges was the Atomic Energy Badge. Approved by the BSA in 1963, it was the 104th in their series of merit badges. In 2005, the badge was renamed the nuclear science energy badge.

The badge has seven main criteria. Scouts are asked to describe the biological effects and hazards of radiation to humankind, the environment, and wildlife. The scout must be able to describe the radiation hazard symbol and explain where it should be used. He must be able to define appropriate scientific terms, name five individuals important to the field of atomic energy, and use models to explain the difference between atomic number and mass number.

The fifth criteria allows the scout to choose three projects from a list of ten, including possibly building an electroscope, a cloud chamber, or learning to detect radon. He also learns about current nuclear power plants, nuclear medicine, space exploration, and radiation therapy. The scout is also asked to investigate career opportunities in the nuclear science field.

 For those desiring more information about the nuclear science energy badge, a detailed pamphlet, Stock Number 33275A, can be obtained from the Boy Scouts of America.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Civil Defense Collection

I still remember it attached to one of the exterior walls of my elementary school, the yellow and black fallout shelter sign. Once inside there were other signs directing people to the basement. Once I was able to go down into the basement to help my teacher move some easels and there they were. Stacked neatly were big green barrels and boxes of supplies, some marked crackers, others marked medical kit.

When my teacher told me what they were for, I remember asking, "How is everyone going to fit in here?" I never got an answer. I thought that maybe the well behaved students got to the basement and the others would have to make due by hiding under their desks.

Most of those supplies were certainly placed in my school during the early 1960s, the zenith of the civil defense program during the John F. Kennedy administration. Prior to his Presidency, the Truman and Eisenhower administrations were less enthusiastic about Civil Defense. Survivability was the key issue. Would it be worth all that money for civil defense, when few if any would survive, even within the shelters?

It was the Kennedy administration which made civil defense a priority. Kennedy urged Americans "without delay" to build backyard shelters. He requested and got $207.6 million dollars in civil defense funds to identify and mark fallout shelters and to stock them with food, water, first-aid kits and other essentials. Civil Defense would now be the responsibility of the Department of Defense, Office of Civil Defense.

There was much opposition to any civil defense program. It was thought by some that no one in or out of shelters could survive an all out thermo-nuclear war, making shelters a waste of tax payer's money. Others noted that civil defense publications seemed addressed to the suburban upper classes and less for inner city populations or the poor who may not own a home. Still others argued that it would only encourage the start of nuclear war by undermining the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine.

In light of the opposition in November 1961 a decision was made that the federal shelter program would now only apply to communities or groups, not individual shelters. A decision was also made to restrict all future civil defense activity to completing the OCD shelter survey that had been funded in 1961. Eventually, this survey would identify and place shelter signs on designated buildings

In order to be designated a public shelter, a facility had to have enough space for at least 50 people, include one cubic foot of storage space per person, and have a radiation protection factor of 100. The materials division of DOD, called the Defense Supply Agency, furnished shelter supplies to local governments, which were then responsible for stocking all shelters in their regions. By 1963, 104 million individual shelters had been identified; and of those 47 million had been licensed, 46 million marked, and 9 million individual spaces had been stocked with supplies.

The museum's collection of civil defense supplies are as varied as the places and individuals they came from. There are survey instruments, water containers, medical kits, dosimeters, sanitation kits, food supplements, generators, crackers, flashlights, radios, etc. Some of the best examples are currently on permanent exhibit.

Many of these supplies still sit in shelters undisturbed all these years. You can still see yellow and black signs when driving around town. I am sure all those supplies I saw in the basement of my old elementary school are still sitting there waiting.

 Handbook for living in a fallout shelter

 Fallout Shelter Sign

Civil Defence artifacts found in the collection.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Join the Museum for "A Science A'Fair"

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History has teamed up with ABQ Trolley Co. to present the Museum’s next Pure Energy event entitled “A Science A’Fair” from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. Those who wish to attend the event and enjoy an open-air trolley ride can catch the “Atomic Trolley” at the Albuquerque Convention Center, Third Street and Tijeras Avenue N.W., in downtown Albuquerque.

The Pure Energy “Science A’Fair” event has been designed as an exciting evening of kid fun – adult style. Guests will have the opportunity to “learn by playing” with hands-on science experiments that demonstrate the basics of chemistry and physics. There will also be door prizes, science trivia contests, a “visit” by a 143-year-old woman scientist, and much more.

The ticket cost for the ABQ Trolley ride is $10, which includes admission to the Science A’Fair event. To take the Atomic Trolley, riders should be at the Albuquerque Convention Center loading zone on the west side of west complex at 5 p.m.; the Trolley will depart at 5:15. Trolley riders will also have the opportunity to win door prizes on their ride to the Museum. Tickets for ABQ Trolley may be purchased on their website:

The Pure Energy membership program caters to people who are 20 to 40 years old by providing free admission to the Museum, invitations to special member events, and much more, but the Pure Energy event, “A Science A’Fair,” is open to all ages. For this night only, Pure Energy memberships will be sold for $20. Membership benefits include free admission to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History as well as more than 300 science centers around the world.

Admission for the Science A’Fair night, for those who do not take the Atomic Trolley, is $8 for the general public and free to Pure Energy members. Refreshments will be provided and a cash bar will be available. For more information or to be informed about future events, call 505-245-2137, extension 113.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Play Reading of "Broken Hammer"

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will host a reading of Broken Hammer, a play written by Robert Benjamin, physicist turned playwright. In the play Benjamin blends loyalty and romance with stockpile stewardship. The staged reading will begin at 7:00 pm on September 21 and will be followed by a question and answer session with the author.

Benjamin began his career in play writing after 30 years as a research experimental physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Though his previously produced full-length plays focus on the relationships and secrets, Broken Hammer is different because of its emphasis on science, politics and policy, he said.

In a story where nuclear history is intertwined with intense family dynamics and romance, Benjamin tells a cautionary tale to our technological society of being deceived by computer simulations that are not extremely well validated by scientific experiments.

The reading of Broken Hammer will be preceded by complimentary refreshments and access to Museum exhibits beginning at 6:00 pm. Admission is $5 for Museum members and $10 for non-members. Seating is limited, so please RSVP at 245-2137, ext 114.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Senator Domenici Book Signing

Senator Pete V. Domenici will be signing the latest books on his vast Congressional career at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 4. The Senator will also discuss highlights of his life of service, including his current participation in the Bipartisan Policy Center. According to the publisher, one of the books, “Not Just New Mexico’s Senator: Senator Pete V. Domenici’s Leadership on Four Issues Affecting Our Nation’s Future,” “takes a more focused path, discussing four complex and critical issues of national and international importance where Senator Domenici took a leadership role developing solutions to long-standing problems.”

The authors of the books have also been invited to attend and sign books. They are:
Senator Pete Domenici’s Legacy 2008 by Jon Hunner
Senator Pete Domenici’s Legacy 2009 by Vicki Taggert
Not Just New Mexico’s Senator by Martin Janowski

Domenici serves as an honorary board member of the National Atomic Museum Foundation and was the recipient of the 2008 National Award of Nuclear Science, presented annually by the Museum to a prominent person that has had an impact on nuclear issues. Domenici is recognized for his efforts as New Mexico’s longest-serving Senator and a proponent of science and technology. He pushed for passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, intended to accelerate U.S. development of clean and renewable energy resources.

“We look forward to hosting what is sure to be an informative discussion of the Senator’s passion for public service,” said Jim Walther, Director of the Museum. “The Senator’s ability to provide fascinating insights into current and important topics is not to be missed.”

Domenici is also the author of A Brighter Tomorrow: Fulfilling the Promise of Nuclear Energy, in which he argues that after weighing the costs and benefits of energy production, nuclear power must be a major contributor toward reducing the world’s CO2 emissions and overall dependence on increasingly scarce and perilously political supplies of oil and gas.

There is no additional cost to attend the event beyond the Museum’s usual admission of $8 for adults and $7 for youth and seniors. For further information, contact the Museum at (505) 245-2137, extension 114.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

NPR Story About the Museum

Check out the story on NPR about the Museum on the 65th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Temporary Exhibit Opens!

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is hosting a special exhibition that will explore the world-changing scientific discoveries of two remarkable women: Marie Curie and Lise Meitner. The “Inspired Excellence” exhibition will deepen a visitor’s knowledge of the trials and tribulations that faced both and to showcase the spirit and contributions of each. “Inspired Excellence” opened on Saturday, July 3, 2010 and will run through the end of the year.

Curie and Meitner endured incredible challenges during the Victorian era when women were not welcome in the field of scientific discovery. Despite a lack of financial support, unsophisticated academic facilities, and little recognition of their endeavors, they persevered and triumphed.

Marie Sklodowska Curie and her husband Pierre Curie experimented together and discovered two radioactive elements, polonium and radium. They worked four years to acquire a very small quantity of radium in order to prove there really was such an element. In 1903, Pierre and Marie along with Henri Becquerel received the Nobel Prize in physics for their work and their discovery of radioactivity. In 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, for her work in radioactivity. She was the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes and the only person ever to win Prizes in two sciences.

Lise Meitner worked with Otto Hahn. She and Hahn discovered a radioactive element and named it protactinium. Although she collaborated heavily with him, Hahn, received the credit for the work. In 1938, she escaped Germany with no personal possessions, eventually relocating to Stockholm, Sweden. In 1944 Hahn would receive the Nobel Prize in chemistry for the interpretation of nuclear fission. Meitner was not mentioned, leading many to say this was the greatest oversight ever made by the Nobel Prize committee. In 1997, twenty-nine years after her death, the chemical element 109, the heaviest known element was named Meitnerium in her honor.

Visit the Museum today to learn more about these amazing women!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

4th of July Race Starts and Finishes at Museum

The 4th of July Fusion 4 Miler will start and finish at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

The Schedule:
7:00 am: A super flat and fast 4 miler
8:00 am: A kid's 1776 meter (1.1 mile).
Lots of awards and memorabilia will be handed out. All participating kids will receive finisher's ribbons. Later that day, bring your race number to the Nuclear Museum to receive 1/2 priced admission! 

How to Register and Cost:
Early Registration at ABQ Running Shop, by mail, or at by 6/20:
General: $20
ARR Members/Active Duty Military: $18
Kids' 1776 meter run: $10 

Late Registration through 7/3:
General: $25
ARR/Military: $23
Kid's 1776: $12 

Race Day Registration 6:00-6:45am at the Museum
4 Miler: $30
Kid's 1776: $15
A portion of the proceeds from the race will go to the Museum's Science is Everywhere Summer Camp.

Questions? Call the ABQ Running Shop (505) 293-2RUN

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Day

On Saturday, May 22, the Museum celebrated the cultural traditions, ancestry, and native languages represented among the ethnic groups of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Activities included Martial Arts Demonstrations, Thai Dancers, East Asian Performance, Taiko Drummers, Food Samples and Demonstrations, Origami, Calligraphy and Brush Painting, Japanese Floral Arrangement Demonstrations, Puppet Shows, Interesting Lectures, and More! Check out the Museum's Facebook page to see pictures taken at this beautiful and successful event:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pure Energy Event

Join the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History on May 12 for an exciting evening of Mediterranean cuisine, New Mexico wines, tequila tasting, salsa music DJ, and “The Art of Fashion Show” produced by Buzz Networking Abq.

5:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Admission is free to Pure Energy Members and only $15 admission for the general public.

For more information contact: 505-245-2137, ext. 113, or

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

May Lecture at the Museum

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will continue its “Robert L. Long Distinguished Lecture Series” with a talk on the on May 4, 2010, at the Museum. The lecture will be the fourth in a series of lectures on the technical, political and personal aspects of energy generation, distribution, and consumption. The lecture is entitled “How We’re Vulnerable: the Energy, Education, and Cyber Threats to US National Security.”

 Edward Bruce Held is the Director of the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the Department of Energy in Washington, DC.  Prior to his selection as Director, he was Chief of Counterintelligence at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM; reporting directly to the Sandia National Laboratories Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Al Romig.  As the Chief of Counterintelligence, Held made significant contributions to the protection and security of one of this nation’s nuclear security laboratories.  His expertise in the areas of intelligence and counterintelligence established the highest standards in the protection of the work conducted at this laboratory.

“America is preeminent in both conventional and strategic forces and will likely remain so for at least a decade,” says Held. “Potential peer adversaries have learned from the Soviet Union that it is unwise to engage the dynamic US economy in a military arms race. In this context, energy, education, and cyber may well constitute the most important asymmetric strategic threats to US national security.”
Prior to his position at Sandia National Laboratories, Held served as a clandestine operations officer in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) where he received the Intelligence Commendation Medal for “tenacity and extraordinary accomplishments during a period of hostilities.”  During his career with the CIA, Held served as the Chief of Station in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.  Held also served as Special Assistant to Anthony Lake, National Security Adviser to President Clinton, and as Special Assistant to George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence.

The lecture series is named for Robert Long, who passed away in 2009. Friends and colleagues established the lecture series to honor his long career in education and the nuclear industry and his commitment to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

The lectures cost $10 to attend ($5 with Museum membership) and the doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a 7:15 lecture.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pi Day A Major Hit!!

Last Sunday on 3-14, we celebrated Pi Day at the Museum. Coincidentally, the day is also Einstein's birthday (he would have been 131). We celebrated with birthday pi, pizza pi, and all kinds of pi related activities for kids and families.

Even older kids got in on the action. UNM student Theresa Miller recited up to 500 digits of pi while hula hooping and solving a rubik's cube.


 Thanks to everyone who came out and made the day such a success! Hope to see you next Pi Day!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2010 Einstein Society Gala at The Sheraton Uptown

On March 20, 2010  the National Award of Nuclear Science and History will be presented to Nobel Prize winner Murray Gell-Mann at this elegant and inspiring event. This award recognizes Dr. Gell-Mann's many contributions to the theory of fundamental particles, including the existence of "quarks," the tiny sub-particles from which just about everything is made. In his distinguished career he worked alongside many other figures who are themselves legends of nuclear science and history, including Einstein, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Feynman and many others. His unique perspective on nuclear science and history, together with the extraordinary breadth of his other interests, promises an exceptional evening.

The gala dinner and dance will be held at the Sheraton Uptown. For more information or to secure a corporate sponsorship, contact the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History at 245-2137, ext. 110.
Tickets are $125 each and may be purchased at the Museum store.

Monday, February 8, 2010

ZOOM Into Engineering and Science a huge success!

ZOOM into Engineering and Science 2010 was a huge success! Last Saturday nearly 700 people showed up to the annual event that promotes the development of strong science skills in children. The event included lots of fun, hands-on activities such as making ice cream with liquid nitrogen and creating a fractal to become part of a larger fractal. Other exciting opportunities for kids and their families included a display of a solar car from UNM and one-on-one interaction with engineers from Sandia National Laboratories, PNM, the Society of Women Engineers, ASK Academy, and many others. Thanks to all who came out and made ZOOM such a hit! Hope to see you next year! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ZOOM into Engineering & Science!

This Saturday, February 6, the Museum will be hosting its 8th annual ZOOM into Engineering & Science. Children of all ages will enjoy engineering with a day of fun activities designed to help them develop strong science process skills, just like engineers do on a daily basis. Engineers from Sandia National Laboratories and other organizations will lead activities such as making ice cream with liquid nitrogen, building a lighted Space Needle, and mixing potions inspired by Harry Potter. The event takes place from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and participation is free with admission to the Museum.