Atomic Opera

A workshop by Paul Doherty, Modesto Tamez and Jill Johnsen

August 1 and 2, 2005

The Making of an Atomic Bomb

Images of the Atom Bomb

Videos of atomic bomb explosions can be downloaded for free online courtesy of the "Wayback Machine" at

The Wayback Machine" is a great site. They archive many websites. I enjoyed looking back at my early web pages.

Search under "moving images" for "atomic bomb" here is the best movie.

You can purchase a DVD of atomic bomb explosions titled:

"The Atomic Bomb Movie" from Amazon

Also interesting are the final scenes from Dr. Strangelove.
and the scene in the movie "Fat Man and Little Boy" in which the scientists "tickle the tail of the dragon" and have an accident in which they approach critical mass.

How a Nuclear Fission Bomb Works

Nuclear Fission, an overview.

Human Model of a Chain Reaction, tossing Ping-Pong balls.

Neutron Emission Model Using Magnets, one magnet in, three magnets out.

Radioactive Decay

Radioactive Decay Model Snack, using coins.

Radioactive Decay Model Iron Science Teacher, using M+M's

Radioactive Decay Model Math Root


Day 2 The Acoustics of Opera Singing

On this day we'll use scientific instruments to disect the voice of an Opera singer. This is a common practice amoung scientists. After all, it has been said that a scientist is a person who would find out how a fine watch works by smashing two of them together and then observing the small pieces that fly out. But at the Exploratorium - a museum of science, art, and human perception - before we start we will note the beauty and emotional power of opera by asking our guest singer to sing her own choice of operatic pieces.

A recent publication in the American Journal of Physics reports that opera singer sing vowels using a different set of formant frequencies when singing than when speaking.

We'll look at the frequency spectrum produced by an opera singer when she is singing and compare the spectrum to her voice when speaking.

Opera singers also have to project their voice. We'll use decibel meters to measure the loudness of an opera singer. We'll also just appreciate the singing of our guest opera singer, Kathleen Moss.

The Spectrum of Opera Singing, we'll use spectrum analyzers to compare the vowels sung by opera singers with those spoken by non-singers.

 The Loudness of Opera, use a decibel meter to measure the loudness of an opera singer.


The workshop activities are archived on Paul's website:

Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty

© 2005

27 July 2005