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The next meeting of the Los Alamos Geological Society will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Christian Church, 92 East Road. The featured speaker will be Dr. Robert Hermes of Los Alamos National Laboratory. His talk is entitled, “Trinitite — The Atomic Rock.”
The world’s first atomic explosion at the Trinity Site, N.M. on July 16, 1945 was the culmination of the Manhattan Project. The explosion left a green, glassy material composed of melted arkosic sand, which was highly radioactive due to both fission products and neutron activation of the sand alluvium from the Oscuro Mountain range in southern New Mexico.
The topics covered will include the discovery of microtektites in ant sand obtained from the Trinity Site, the theory of how trinitite was actually formed (not like everyone thinks), residual radioactivity, micro XRF and petrographic analysis, numerous photographs and a display of interesting types of trinitite from Hermes’ personal collection (which will soon be included in a new Trinity Site display at the Bradbury Science Museum). The topic of nuclear forensics will also be discussed, and in addition, Hermes will bring a Geiger counter and samples of the glassy material obtained from the first Russian atomic bomb, which was a carbon copy of the “Gadget.”
Hermes grew up in Las Cruces, and received a bachelor’s degree in biology from New Mexico State University in 1973, but started collecting rocks as a youngster. He came to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in 1974 and worked for the Geochemistry Group (Coal and Oil Shale) before leaving for graduate school in 1982.
He received his doctorate in polymer science in 1986 from USM, and returned to Los Alamos National Laboratory as a postdoc in 1986. He had an independent interest in collecting ant sand before meeting “Mr. Bill” Strickfaden, as a result of his ant sand display at the annual LAGS gem show (circa 1998).
Strickfaden and Hermes collaborated on the trinitite work before Strickfaden died in 2007. This talk is dedicated to his memory.