“The Sound of Science” is a podcast that lets you hear the voices behind the scientific breakthroughs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Celebrating 80 Years: Meeting the Needs of a Changing World
In the first part of our 80th anniversary series, you heard how the Manhattan Project helped end World War II with the development and use of the world’s first nuclear weapons. The success of this top-secret endeavor ushered in a new era of nuclear science. The expertise used to build the atomic bombs was applied in peacetime to a range of nuclear-inspired research. This research would spawn significant advances in existing fields like chemistry and materials science, and establish completely new ones like neutron scattering and health physics. In this episode, we'll explore the lab's growth and evolution in the decades that followed the war.
Soundbite: Lessons and Legacy - Oppenheimer and The Manhattan Project
As you heard in the last episode, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is celebrating its 80th anniversary. The lab was born out of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret mission that would bring an end to World War II with the production of the world’s first nuclear weapons. Clandestine sites across the country worked unique pieces of the puzzle that would become the atomic bomb. While sites in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington, studied and produced the material for the weapons, scientists in Los Alamos, New Mexico, were focused on the design and assembly of the bomb. Those efforts in Los Alamos were led by renowned physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer – a name that should sound particularly familiar this summer. Oppenheimer was the Manhattan Project mastermind behind the atomic bomb, and now his story is the focus of a new blockbuster film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. As part of the 80th celebration, Kai Bird recently visited ORNL and joined us for a discussion on the legacy of Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project.
Celebrating 80 Years: Top-Secret Science
Eighty years ago, the U.S. government embarked on a secret mission that would change the world. The Manhattan Project was a massive effort that resulted in the world’s first nuclear weapons and the end of World War II. But its legacy extends well beyond the war, as it laid the foundation for groundbreaking science for decades to come. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is one of the facilities born out of the Manhattan Project. Over the past 80 years, its mission has evolved and expanded to become a world leader in supercomputing, materials research, isotopes, clean energy — to name a few — but to this day is still strongly associated with its Manhattan Project roots. In this episode, you'll hear the story of the lab's top-secret origin from Alan Icenhour, the lab’s recently retired deputy for operations.
HFIR: Leading the World in Isotopes and Science
For nearly six decades, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, or HFIR, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been one of the world’s most powerful research reactors. It has played a critical role in making isotopes for a range of applications, including space exploration, periodic table discoveries and life-saving cancer treatments. However, isotope production isn't HFIR's only claim to fame. The versatile reactor boasts world-class capabilities for neutron scattering, materials testing and analyzing samples at the atomic scale. In this episode, you'll hear from the scientists and engineers who help carry out these missions and ensure the reactor will run for decades to come.
FRIB: Bringing Cosmic Elements to Earth
When the universe was formed billions and billions of years ago, the building blocks of life were forged with it. Hydrogen, carbon, iron, nitrogen, calcium, oxygen are just a few of the elements born from the cosmos that make up life on Earth. There are currently 118 known elements and we use the periodic table to organize and understand them. But straightforward as the periodic table seems, it contains a lot of mysteries. Scientists have catalogued more than 3,000 known isotopes and speculate there are thousands more yet to be discovered. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, also known as FRIB, has come online at Michigan State University to help researchers in their quest to create new isotopes and study their exotic behavior. FRIB has been years in the making. In fact, several of the instruments and detectors used originated from a historic facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In this episode, you'll hear from several scientists who have been along for the journey about the history and future of this new facility – and what it means for science and society.
Exascale: The New Frontier of Computing
In May 2022, history was made at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Frontier, the lab’s newest supercomputer, officially did what no other computer in the world had done before — it crossed the exascale barrier. If you're not familiar with the field of supercomputing, an exascale computer is an incredibly powerful system that is capable of a quintillion calculations per second. Frontier’s arrival marks a new era of computational performance that will help enable scientific breakthroughs never before possible. But this milestone didn't happen overnight. The journey to Frontier has been years in the making, with plenty of challenges and dramatic moments along the way. In this episode, you'll hear a behind-the-scenes account of what it took to launch the world’s first exascale computer.
GIS Episode was Great
Thanks for highlighting a great way this big data application to use for both disease mapping and disaster response. As a big lab, some people, young scientists, may be afraid their skillsets are not applicable to a place known for their nuclear contributions to the wider population. Keep it up!
Kudos to your team for putting so much time and effort into this podcast - it shows in the final product for sure. Really enjoying these quick listens into the work of your Lab.