Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 6 & 7

Bumming around Albuquerque

After settling into our casita, we spent the two days exploring the greater Albuquerque area. Since this was the nuclear road trip, naturally we had to visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.

At the entrance to the Nuclear Museum — Rim-2 Terrier surface-to-air missiles

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/1000sec, 24mm focal L., map

The museum had several areas aimed at giving the kids something interesting to do. The magnetic nanoparticles form rather interesting pointy shapes when manipulated with the magnets.

Experimenting with magnetic nanoparticles.

Nikon D600, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.0, 1/50sec, 48mm focal L., map

Molecule building

Nikon D600, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.0, 1/50sec, 28mm focal L., map

The electrolysis demonstration was powered by a hand crank to generate electricity, liberating the hydrogen from its bond with the oxygen in water molecules. Press the button once it lights up, and a spark ignites the separated H2 and O2 with a rewardingly sharp pop that lifts the orange ping pong ball up the tube. Maia must have done it a dozen times before moving on.

Electrolysis of water — The resulting reaction of the hydrogen and oxygen gives a satisfying pop!

Nikon D600, ISO 2500, ƒ/8.0, 1/50sec, 32mm focal L., map

Try as they might, they couldn’t get the portable TV to flicker on.

Powering a portable TV — Just not yet big enough to get the job done.

Nikon D600, ISO 3200, ƒ/6.3, 1/50sec, 45mm focal L., map

The family of prospectors

Nikon D600, ISO 560, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 29mm focal L., map

Had we lived in the late 40′s, I suspect we’d have been the family going on prospecting “vacations”. Valerie was especially keen on the outfits.

Lucky Strike Geiger Counter — You too, can strike it rich finding uranium!

Nikon D600, ISO 2200, ƒ/8.0, 1/50sec, 38mm focal L., map

I did manage to do a little prospecting in the museum. They had an area displaying common household items made with radioactive materials (Fiestaware, old camera lens, etc), but the display was unnecessarily shielded behind thick glass (probably leaded). However, this side display of radium therapy did register a bit above background through the plexiglass.

What’s especially comical about the these quack treatments is that the AMA’s primary concern was not about the daily ingesting of radioactive material for no good reason, but, that the publicly available treatments must have enough radiation to be therapeutic. Thus, the best and brightest doctors collectively decided that such devices need to dissolve at least 2 Micro-Curies of radon, lest you’d have fallen victim to charlatans.

Clickety Click — have a little “therapeutic” radon dissolved in your water.

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.3, 1/25sec, 45mm focal L., map

I’d first heard the term “Broken Arrow” from the cliché filled John Woo film bearing the name. But it’s not just a Hollywood creation, as it’s known to have happened 32 times around the world. These MK-28 H-bombs fell out of a B-52 after a catastrophic collision with a KC-135 tanker over Palomares, Spain. They came down under parachute, one landing in a riverbed, and the other went into the sea. The other two bombs on board the B-52 fell without parachute deployment, and the impact caused the high-explosives to detonate non-uniformly (i.e. non-nuclear explosion), spreading the plutonium cores around the impact area.

I was rather surprised to see these on display. It’s one thing to have these events documented for history, but, it’s another for the military to put their mistakes on display for all to scrutinize.

Broken Arrows — MK-28 hydrogen bombs that fell out of a B-52 after a midair collision.

Nikon D600, ISO 5600, ƒ/8.0, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., map

Given the proximity to the historical site our trip is pivoting around, it was fitting the museum has a mock-up of the first nuclear bomb. “Uncertainty” is what I see here. The majority of the wires you see are there to collect data in the event of failure.

The “Gadget” — a mock-up of the Trinity device.

Click photo for more info. Nikon D600, ISO 1600, ƒ/4.5, 1/50sec, 28mm focal L., map.

According to Wikipedia, the technology that enabled the first smart bomb came from a hobbyist that built televisions in his spare time in the late 50′s. With the computing power of your smart phone, it’s almost a trivial bit of software to lock onto a feature in an image. But doing so with vacuum tube technology and then fitting it into a warhead is truly amazing.

Standing in front of a Walleye TV Guided Bomb — AGM-62A

Click photo for more info. Nikon D600, ISO 640, ƒ/9.0, 1/50sec, 26mm focal L., map.

Outside, of the museum are displays of various missile systems, bombers, launchers, and some of the huge (megaton) bombs. Looking at many of the missiles on display brings back memories of visiting Kennedy Space Center as a youth. It’s easy to forget that the space race and the arms race were very much intertwined with each other; arguably the space race benefiting the most from the technology developed for the arms race. The Mercury and Gemini Programs all flew on launch vehicles that were originally designed for use as missiles.

Space ship or ICBM? — Lower stage of a Titan II rocket

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/500sec, 24mm focal L., ~341ft from prev photo, map

I have many more photos of the museum content, but, I’ll stop here and let this be taste of what there is to see.

The atomic twins vs the Peacekeeper — the business end of the LBM-118 ICBM.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/9.0, 1/320sec, 24mm focal L., map

Gett’n the wiggles out — plaza of Old Town Albuquerque

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/1250sec, 42mm focal L., ~8.0mi from prev photo, map

After the museum, we walked around to Old Town. Besides the plaza area where they flew their stamped metal airplanes from the museum gift store, the girls wanted to see what was inside the Rattlesnake Museum. It had quite the collection of snakes and other critters on display, and a fair bit of snake related art/history. All good fun, but, once you see one sleepy snake coiled up behind the glass, the other 30 start looking the all the same.

Catching a glimpse of a real plane

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000sec, 70mm focal L., map

Running circles

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/1000sec, 27mm focal L., map

Against my better judgement, taking a picture of Maia using the cannon as her personal climbing structure only served to reinforce that it must be OK. A blink of the eye later, they other 2 were doing the same.

Maia’s ready to light the fuse.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/1600sec, 45mm focal L., map

The requisite crushed penny for the occasion.

Nikon D600, ISO 4500, ƒ/8.0, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., ~432ft from prev photo, map

Hiking for petroglyphs

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/9.0, 1/200sec, 40mm focal L., ~5.1mi from prev photo, map

The next day, we packed up our stuff and said goodbye to our little casita. But, before we left Albuquerque, we paid a visit to Petroglyph National Monument. Parts of the park are literally sandwiched between tract housing developments, making it feel more like a simple open-space preserve than a federally managed park. But, the artifacts along our hike told the real story of the area.

Found some!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/400sec, 38mm focal L., map

The kids probably didn’t get any real appreciation for the significance of the “graffiti” on the rocks, although Maia was very keen to find the depictions of horses. Hopefully they look back on these pictures someday and see it with new understanding.

Navigating the ups and downs

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/1000sec, 34mm focal L., map

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/13.0, 1/100sec, 38mm focal L., map

After a quick stop at the grocery store to stock up on lunch fix’ns, we hopped in the car and took a leisurely drive to Socorro where we’d stay the night in order to be staged for an early arrival at the Stallion Gate of White Sands Missile range.

10 miles further south is San Antonia, NM, where you can find the (in)famous Owl Bar and Cafe, that, among other things, made the green chile burger famous and fed the scientists that worked on the Gadget. I’d heard of their green chile burger about a decade ago from a Socorro resident that moved to the Bay Area following work. It’s the kind of burger with just enough bun around it to keep the majority of the juice off the plate, but, not nearly enough bun to keep your hands dry past the half-way point. The burger may be over rated, you may not be able to look past the dusty walls or the indifferent service, but, the experience is worth the trip. Valerie and I both loved it and will likely go out of the way to eat there again.

The famous bar and burger joint that built the bomb.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.5, 1/80sec, 24mm focal L., ~86mi from prev photo, map

Socorro’s History Wheel — in Elfego Baca Heritage Park

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/100sec, 55mm focal L., ~9.8mi from prev photo, map

After dinner, we moseyed around Socorro and stumbled upon the History Wheel, depicting the natives helping the Spanish scouts in 1598 all the way through to the radio telescope dishes from the VLA. Sure looks like that’s an atom near the top, slightly left of center.

Tomorrow, we visit two of items depicted in the wheel!

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