The new documents show that Mr. Seborer worked at the heart of the implosion effort. The unit that employed him, known as X-5, devised the firing circuits for the bomb’s 32 detonators, which ringed the device. To lessen the odds of electrical failures, each detonator was fitted with not just one but two firing cables, bringing the total to 64. Each conveyed a stiff jolt of electricity.
A major challenge for the wartime designers was that the 32 firings had to be nearly simultaneous. If not, the crushing wave of spherical compression would be uneven and the bomb a dud. According to an official Los Alamos history, the designers learned belatedly of the need for a high “degree of simultaneity.”
Possible clues of Mr. Seborer’s espionage lurk in declassified Russian archives, Mr. Wellerstein of the Stevens Institute said in an interview. The documents show that Soviet scientists “spent a lot of time looking into the detonator-circuitry…
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