First we got the bomb, and that was good,
‘Cause we love peace and motherhood.
Then Russia got the bomb, but that’s okay,
‘Cause the balance of power’s maintained that way.
Then France got the bomb, but don’t you grieve,
‘Cause they’re on our side (I believe).
China got the bomb, but have no fears,
‘Cause they can’t wipe us out for at least five years.
South Africa wants two, that’s right:
One for the black and one for the white.
Egypt’s gonna get one too,
Just to use on you know who.
So Israel’s getting tense,
Wants one in self defense.
“The Lord’s our shepherd,” says the psalm,
But just in case we better get a bomb.
Luxembourg is next to go,
And (who knows?) maybe Monaco.
We’ll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets the bomb.
—Tom Lehrer, 1965
The following is a statement by A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani entrepreneur who sold nuclear weapons internationally:
If you want to buy a thing, you place the order directly and you get it. If you don’t give me [the item] for one reason or another, I ask Tom, Dick or Harry [for] this item. Could you please buy it for me? Okay, no problem. It is a commercial deal. The guy buys from you. You are not willing to sell it to me, but you are willing to sell it to Tom. So, Tom buys from you. He takes ten or fifteen percent and he says to me that this is purely a business deal.
On January 7, 1939, Niels Bohr, his son Erik, and Bohr’s assistant Léon Rosenfeld left Copenhagen for the United States. Four days earlier, the Austrian-born physicist Otto Frisch, who had taken refuge in Bohr’s Copenhagen Institute, had told Bohr about the work that he and his aunt Lise Meitner had just done in Sweden. Drawing on experiments by the radio chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman—Meitner’s former colleagues in Berlin—Meitner and Frisch showed that it was possible to split uranium nuclei by bombarding them with neutrons. Over the years I have spoken with several physicists who were active in 1939 when this discovery was made. All of them, including Bohr, could not understand why they had not predicted it themselves. Robert Serber, a physicist recruited for the Manhattan Project in 1941 who played an essential role at Los Alamos, said to me, “How could we have been so stupid?” This was the discovery that made nuclear weapons possible.
The uranium that Hahn and Strassman used in Berlin was natural uranium from a mine. It consisted …