INT: And what were they grilling you about?
HY: Well, the public demand, the demand from the press, the demand from much of the Congress, the news, the military etcetera was the United States should be doing more than it's doing. I mean, what are you guys waiting for? I mean, why haven't we solved this Sputnik problem already? I mean, what's the delay, what's holding you up? And of course, what was holding us up was that it's not easy to turn the whole defence programme round on a dime, it takes time, it takes energy, it takes planning, furthermore, you don't want to do it wrong, you don't want to just take every idea that's coming and ideas were coming in from everywhere. We had to sort through these ideas, find out what was the right thing to do and then go about doing it. So we were going remarkable fast for a government bureaucratic agency. Really I don't know another situation where things moved as rapidly as they did in ARPA in the spring of '58. But nevertheless, people could still say why aren't you doing more? Why aren't you faster on this? So, I was being grilled... Well, I didn't think of it really entirely as a grilling. I mean, basically, they were asking me proper questions. What's ARPA doing? And the questions had a bite to them, which was, you know, why aren't you doing it... why aren't you doing it more and faster. But basically it was an informational news programme, designed to expose to the public what ARPA was doing.
INT: Excellent. Final two questions. Throughout the fifties there was talk and there've been a lot of reports written about the organisation known as Rand, discussing for things like games theory. What was meant by that and what influence did it have on?
HY: Well, I think Rand had a lot of influence, but game theory had very little to do with it. The centre of Rand still in the fifties, was a group of technical people, who were working on ideas about airplanes, rockets, thermo-nuclear weapons and things like that and that group produced a lot of the best studies on space, on how what kind of missiles we ought to build, what characteristics they ought to have and in fact Rand Report Number 1 is entitled 'And Earth Circling Space Ship', it's the very first American report on satellites. But it was technical, it had nothing to do with game theory. It did have to do with what we call systems analysis and strategic analysis to a degree, but it really was heavily hardware oriented and the kind of analysis that ties directly to the hardware, how it should be built and so on. Now they were involved in the early stages of game theory. John van Neumann, who's one of the inventors of game theory, was a consultant at Rand and often visited there and a lot of the early ideas about the prisoners, the (unintelligible) and so forth came of those early visits of van Neumann to Rand and out of Rand on its own. They then added more and more social scientists at Rand, they did study such things as the questions of hardening, survivability and so forth, sometimes using systems analysis and games theoretic methods. But I don't believe that during the fifties, the game theoretic side had anything to do with the important things coming out of Rand. Rand was important, but for reasons of their involvement in certain hardware questions as an air force contractor, rather than what they were doing in the soft sciences, including games theory.
INT: Is there a simple explanation of games theory and the prisoner's dilemma?
HY: Not for me...!
INT: In 1961, the Soviets dropped a fifty eight megaton weapon. What was your feeling when you heard about that?
HY: In 1961, after a moratorium that had lasted for almost two and a half years, the Russians suddenly broke the moratorium by testing many nuclear weapons at various nuclear test sites, including at Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean. Among those tests was a bomb that had a yield of fifty eight megaton. It was a relatively clean bomb and we thought at the time, and I think it's been confirmed by the Russians since, that if that bomb had been built in a standard fashion, if there had been no attempt made to reduce the radioactivity, it would have yielded a hundred megaton, so we always thought of that and still do think of it as the only test essentially of a one hundred megaton bomb, even though its actually yields only fifty eight. It's still the largest explosion ever. It played an important role inside Russia that we've only come to learn about later, because we now know thatSakharov tried to prevent the explosion of that bomb. In fact, Sakharov tried to talk against the whole breaking the moratorium, the whole series of tests in general and he tried to persuade Khruschev away from doing that particular test in particular. And Khruschev apparently said, you're a brilliant scientist and you understand those things, but I understand politics and I can tell you, the Americans only understand strength andso we're going to shoot these big bombs. But it was the end of the moratorium that Eisenhower and Khruschev had put together and that Kennedy and Khruschev had continued for at least a few months. Kennedy's response is also interesting. When the Russians made the first explosion, Kennedy resisted the idea of an immediate American response, that is an American test and even after the second nuclear explosion, Kennedy was still looking for ways to get back to the status quo (unintelligible), to get the Russians to stop right then in a situation where we wouldn't have to respond. Eventually that became obvious that the Russians just... there was no containing them, they were shooting not just this big bomb, but lots and lots of them and we essentially did the same thing. We went and, you know, we got bombs from wherever we could find and took 'em to Nevada and shot them just in order to respond to these Russian tests. It was a crazy period.
INT: What would a hundred megaton bomb do?
HY: Well, it would do what ten megaton bomb would do, only more so. That is to say... and we have had ten megaton bombs in the stock pile and the Russians, we believe, had twenty five megaton bombs in the stock pile, so it's like that, only more. They would cause devastation over hundreds of square miles, of ordinary structures over thousands of square miles. Exploded high in the atmosphere, they might very well set fires of tens of thousands of square miles - that's an untested hypothesis. But they would cause enormous damage and destruction, particularly of cities and soft targets, they would be very heavy and difficult to deliver to say military targets. They are so big that we used to talk about them as blowing out the top of the atmosphere, which meant not something serious, the atmosphere wasn't... not serious in the sense that the atmosphere would disappear, but that that would limit the damage, because instead of the damage spreading out... you explode it somewhere above the ground, damage spreading out sideways, as the shock wave goes up, it essentially gets to the point where the atmosphere runs out and it blows a hole up there that releases the energy and actually limits, in some way, the horizontal spread. That again is all hypothetical, there's no good experimental, you know, experiments never been done. Thank heaven!
INT: Finally. What was, as you mentioned earlier, the British H-bomb in '57, was there much exchange about the development of these weapons?
HY: In 1957, the British tested their first hydrogen bomb staged out of Christmas Island and exploded it over Molden Island. I happened to be there as one of two American representatives, there were also two from New Zealand, two from Australia and two from Canada. We were not at all privy to the design of the bomb, there was no exchange of detailed information whatsoever. There was exchange of information relating to the outside configuration, so that, you know, bombs could be carried on different airplanes or fitted to different missiles, some exchange of information on effects and so on, but not on nuclear weapons design in 1957. So I tried to estimate the yield of the bomb, the British didn't even tell us that and I did the best I could with a very poor and crude method of trying to put my hand out and measure with my fingers the size of the fireball, because I did know how high it was and how far and I could get the angle for how far away. So I did my best to measure the fireball. And I was surprised at how small it was and therefore how small the explosion was, at least according to my estimate. Much smaller than our first hydrogen bomb explosion. And so I formed the opinion that the British were not on the right track, that they hadn't yet got what we call the Teller-Ulam design, they hadn't understood it, that they were doing something similar to what the Russians had done in 1953, which was not a bomb capable of unlimited yield. I later learned I was wrong and that the British were on the track and they just simply had built it too small and it was now, I believe, a quite sophisticated approach to the question.