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Engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have obtained declassified films of many of the nuclear tests performed by the U.S. from 1945 to 1962 and are digitally scanning them and preserving them for posterity.
Conducted by LLNL weapon physicist Greg Spriggs and a team of film experts, archivists, and software developers, the project’s goal was to track down as many as possible of the ten-thousand 2,400 frames per second reels of film. This was because the cine film, and its immense historical and scientific value, was in danger of being lost for all time. The reels were mostly of acetate stock that was not stored under anything like ideal conditions and was slowly decaying or being attacked by fungus and microbes.
“You can smell vinegar when you open the cans, which is one of the byproducts of the decomposition process of these films,” says Spriggs. “We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing to the point where they’ll become useless. The data that we’re collecting now must be preserved in a digital form because no matter how well you treat the films, no matter how well you preserve or store them, they will decompose. They’re made out of organic material, and organic material decomposes. So this is it. We got to this project just in time to save the data.”
You can view a number of the films at the second link above. I have embedded below the fold just one, from Operation Teapot in 1955. This was a series of 14 tests in Nevada. In this particular video the explosion occurs in the air, and you can sense the incredible force of the explosion when the shock wave hits the ground and bounces back, producing the mushroom cloud. Not much would have survived that impact.