An American physicist who helped develop the hydrogen bomb—many times more powerful than the atomic bomb that killed some 80,000 people in Hiroshima—has ignored an order from the Department of Energy to cut significant portions of his memoir, The New York Times reports.
Well, 88-year-old Kenneth W. Ford is publishing his book, Building the H Bomb: A Personal History, despite the government’s wishes. But his move opens the doors to a possible (though not probable) lawsuit from the feds and garnishing of profits from the book, The New York Times reports.
The H-bomb is considered one of the deadliest weapons in any country’s nuclear arsenal, packing a wallop many times more powerful than an atomic bomb. It’s easier to create and refine than the nuclear weapons used at the end of WWII, as it used nuclear materials to super-heat hydrogen gas.
After Ford submitted his manuscript to the government, the DOE asked for 5,000 words worth of cuts. Some of the proposed cuts went beyond cutting technical details (like the rough size of the chamber used to test the bomb) to eliminating descriptions of the purely scientific processes involved, such as thermal equilibrium. This is the match between the temperature of the radiation and hydrogen during explosion—an important part of how scientists determined that the bomb could work in the first place.
Ford’s case demonstrates the delicate balance between state secrecy and publicly available information, especially as the U.S. makes foreign policy pushes to prevent other countries from developing nuclear weapons. The information was already out there—it seems that the Department of Energy took issue with the ways it was put together.