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Illustration by Bob AulLast week marked the 95th birthday of Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb. Dr. Teller lives in northern California near the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the facility he convinced the government to build for ongoing research and development of weapons of mass destruction. Dr. Teller loves his bombs. He worked on the Manhattan Project, but while all the others were working on sissified fission uranium bombs, he was working on a thermonuclear fusion "Super Bomb."
It's Dr. Teller's bombs that are on all of our ICBMs and in the bomb bays of our long-range bombers. It's also Dr. Teller's bombs that they're talking about when they say Pakistan has the bomb or that North Korea may be crazy enough to use the bomb or that Brazilians want the bomb.
Of course, Dr. Teller saw many uses for his bombs. He suggested using his bombs to create a sea-level Panama Canal. He suggested his bombs could alleviate Los Angeles' smog problem. His bombs could do all kinds of things, he said, and they were way better than the A-bomb, whose creator, J. Robert Oppenheimer, he testified against in front of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.
Edward Teller, ladies and gentleman!
By the way, he's also the guy who told Ronald Reagan that we could protect ourselves with a space-based missile-defense program. It's Edward Teller's world, people; we're just cowering in fear in it.
We asked a few people at Irvine's Jamboree Promenade, bordered on one side by Teller Avenue, how they were going to celebrate the great man's birthday.
* * *AL REYNOLDS, project manager JOHN LATHAM, construction product salesman Were you aware it was Edward Teller's birthday?Reynolds: Never heard of him. Latham: I have no idea who that is. He's the father of the hydrogen bomb.Reynolds: Oh. I'd feel a lot safer if he'd never invented that. So you're uncomfortable about the H-bomb?Reynolds: Actually, the way things are going, I don't feel comfortable today about anything, period. Latham: You know, I don't care. I live in north San Diego county, so when Newport Beach gets nuked, it won't effect us. Well, Teller is also the one who came up with the idea of a Stars Wars missile defense. Does that make you feel any better?Reynolds: Nah, not when you can just put nuclear explosives on a boat and float it into LA Harbor. No. Anyway, I just finished reading this book that said the original reason for [Stars Wars] was to protect us against alien attacks. You mean . . .Reynolds:From above. Space aliens. Like in flying saucers. Yeah, so this way, they've got it covered from both sides, above and below. Hey, what about Britney Spears. Think she's still a virgin?Reynolds: That's her business. Latham: Doesn't affect the price of my coffee.
* * *MILLIE VELASCO, freelance consultant LISA HONRADO, student Did you know that it was Edward Teller's birthday?Velasco: No. Honrado: No, I didn't Do you know who Edward Teller is?Honrado: I don't. Velasco: Isn't he the guy who just had a birthday? Right, so you do know who he is.Velasco: Yeah, he's famous, isn't he? For having climbed a lot of trees? Trees . . . ?Velasco: Yeah, and he was really into ceramics. . . . Actually, he's the father of the hydrogen bomb.Velasco and Honrado: Oooohhhh. Do you think about . . .Velasco:Weapons of mass destruction? I do—all the time. They really scare me. I don't feel safe at all. I tell my dad that, and he always tells me there are scientists who make sure everything's safe. Teller is a scientist.Velasco: I know. Honrado: I guess I'm even more afraid of biological warfare. Viruses and stuff like that. I'm really scared about that. Dr. Teller also came up with the Stars Wars missile defense. Does that make you feel more or less safe?Velasco: It doesn't concern me. Honrado: Yeah, it seems so far away that it really doesn't have anything to do with our lives. Unless they use it to watch us from above. Velasco: Now that you mention it, that's really scary. Great—another thing to be afraid of. So, do you think Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears will get back together?Velasco: I don't know. She seems like the kind of person who, once she has made up her mind, she goes with it. She's someone who goes forward—you know, been there, done that. He seems to have a difficult time getting on with it. It's like he can't move on. But he has a very good video out; you should see it. Honrado: I haven't. Velasco: You should. The special effects are kinda cheesy, but it's pretty good.
* * *JEFF RANDALL, engineer KETAN RANADE, engineer It's Edward Teller's birthday.Randall and Ranade: [. . .] He's the father of the hydrogen bomb.Randall and Ranade:[. . .] So, do you think the world is a better or worse place because of the bomb?Randall: If he hadn't come up with it, someone else would have. So, you're okay with the bomb?Randall: Of course, I don't feel safe. I don't think anybody feels safe these days. You know, Teller also came up with Star Wars.Randall:Ineffective. All you have to do is float a boat with the bomb into a harbor. Star Wars isn't going to do anything about that. You know, Dr. Teller also proposed using hydrogen bombs to create a sea-level Panama Canal and to blow holes in the mountains around Los Angeles and blow the smog out through them.Randall:Yeah, that's just absurd. Ranade: This guy Teller—tell him he should drive an electric car.