The Blast!

August 25, 2017

Upcoming Events at the Museum


For information on events, education, museum tours, intern and docent programs, call 702.439.8438 or email

Family Fun Day: Journey Through Japan

Please join us TOMORROW for Family Fun Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  We look forward to presenting a day of Japanese culture!

This event is suited for children of all ages, and will include Origami, Japanese vocabulary lessons, kite-making, a Taiko drum demonstration, and the chance to hone your chopsticks skills, along with much more!

Family Fun Day is free, but museum admission is not included.  Kids participating in the day’s events will have the chance to earn free museum admission by completing a “passport” of activities.  We hope you’ll join us for this fun event!


NATM to Present Matheatre’s “Curie Me Away!”

The National Atomic Testing Museum, in partnership with the Clark County Library District, will present the new Matheatre musical, “Curie Me Away!,” on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, at the Windmill Library.  This event will be FREE, and is scheduled for 3 p.m.

“Cure Me Away!” is a radioactive musical based on the science, life and legacy of Madame Marie Curie, a pioneer in the field of physical chemistry. From growing up in occupied Poland, where higher education of women was forbidden by law, to becoming the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, her life story is one laced with tragedy but ultimately a triumph over seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Core chemistry concepts compounds and reactions, groupings on the periodic table, transmutation,  and radioactive half-life are reinforced through lyrical metaphor in a biography of discovery. Developed in consultation with a chemistry professor, scientific content underscores a broad relevance extending into the realms of history, social studies and women’s studies departments. With emotional range, a powerful message for women in STEM and their collaborators, and lots of science–it’s the radical story of a persistent woman who changed our understanding of the universe.

We are thrilled to add this production to our education outreach programming for 2018, as it is unique in that it integrates arts into traditional STEM education, and puts specific emphasis on women in STEM careers.  We hope you’ll save the date for this performance and bring the whole family with you!

NATM joins CSN Planetarium for Eclipse Party

The National Atomic Testing Museum participated in the College of Southern Nevada Planetarium’s Solar Eclipse Party on Monday, Aug. 22.  Though thunderstorms obscured the view of the eclipse from Las Vegas, a livestream of the total eclipse was showed to party-goers, and they had to chance to visit tables from other community organizations.  Curator Natalie Luvera hosted the museum’s table.

New Employees Join NATM Team

We’d like to extend a warm welcome to Montrice Ray and Benard McKinley Jr., who recently joined the NATM team.  Montrice and Benard will be working in the Museum Store and ticket office, and, in the future, they’ll also be giving guided museum tours.  Please say hello to them next time you’re in the museum.  We’re thrilled to have them on our team!

New Films Rotating Play in Theatre

We are now playing six films on rotation throughout the day in the museum’s new theatre space.  In addition to the Smithsonian-produced “A Bombs Over Nevada” that has been playing in the theatre, we’ve added a feature on the history of spy planes, a film with specific focus on the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a shorter film on the Desert Rock exercises, another on offsite monitoring of fall out, and a feature called “The Test.”  The Area 51 and radiation focus of these films are designed to complement the forthcoming permanent Area 51 Exposed and World of Radiation exhibits that will be housed inside the theatre in the coming months.

NATM Partners with Kidscademics for Nuclear Energy and Tech Workshop

We are thrilled to partner on an upcoming education outreach program with Kidscademics, a non-profit STEM educator dedicated to teaching kids through innovative programming designed to entertain and captivate young minds.

We will be hosting a four-session workshop in September focused on radiation and nuclear energy, where students will tour the museum, learn the basics of radiation, and then work together to build tech projects such as websites and apps related to the topic.  The sessions will take place on September 9, 16, 23, and 30 (all Saturdays) from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the museum and are geared for students ages 9 and older.  Each session will be hands-on, encourage creativity and teamwork, and will culminate in students presenting their projects in the final session.  Museum docents will join us for these session to help guide participants and answer their questions as they innovate their tech projects.  Kidscademics is offering this workshop for $125 if you register before August 15; registration is available here.

NATM License Plates Available Now

Atomic Testing Museum charitable license plates are available through the Nevada DMV, and you don’t have to wait until your current plate expires to get one! Just take your current registration and license plates to your nearest DMV and ask for the Atomic Testing Museum license plate. There will be a one-time fee of $62, and a one-time admin fee of $6. Atomic Testing Museum license plates can also be personalized for an additional cost. The museum receives $25 for each new license plate, and $20 for each year you renew, and you get the tax deduction. It’s an easy (and stylish!) way to support the museum. For more information, visit the Nevada DMV website here.


Museum Store Product Highlight:
Miss Atomic Hats

Keep the sun out of your eyes with our pink Miss Atomic hat, a great souvenir of your visit to the museum, as she captures the essence of the Atomic Age and Las Vegas in the 1950s.  This hat retails for $12 and shipping is free.

You can purchase your hat online here.  Your purchases in our store go directly to supporting the museum’s programs and mission–we appreciate your support!

In the News

To help keep you up to date on local and global current events in the nuclear world, we share links to relevant items in the news.  The National Atomic Testing Museum does not endorse any views or opinions expressed in these stories; we are sharing for informational purposes only.

The New York Times writes about whether North Korea’s missiles can carry a nuclear weapon and reach the U.S. mainland.  Read the full article here, and for more on North Korea, read this edition’s Spot On column below.

Las Vegas’ Channel 8 ran a story about the history of a naval artifact on the Test Site.  Watch and read the story here.


It is our mission at the National Atomic Testing Museum to document the history of and current events in nuclear testing. We never take a political stance on any issue; rather, we do strive to keep you informed.  In each newsletter, my Spot On column will highlight history and happenings in the nuclear world and at the museum.   

Michael Hall

North Korea Update 17: Thinking Like a North Korean

How do the people of North Korea think? More importantly for the current crisis-how does Kim Jong Un think?  The latter question may never be answered; however, following are four key impressions on which a consensus of North Korea analysts can agree.

First, North Koreans, right down to the peasants in the fields, have a sincere and deep sense of national pride. This goes beyond the state indoctrination they receive from childhood. They love their country just as most Americans do. Similarly, as we did in our own nation in the 1950s, they accept the fact with pride that their country has nuclear weapons. For the North Koreans, nuclear weapons are now an important part of their national identity. These weapons foster a sense of deep accomplishment. North Koreans, let alone their DPRK leaders, will never consider under any circumstances abandoning them. The days of nuclear weapons being on the negotiation table are long gone, and that is a fact with which America must come to grips.

Secondly, the North Koreans believe that the United States and, to some extent, their allies pose an imminent threat to their country. That is, of course, an untrue assessment, although it is a very rational belief-in their eyes. The mindset that they are in a state of perpetual war with the United States is indoctrinated into all North Koreans virtually from birth. If we grew up in North Korea we would feel the same because that is what we would be taught. Many times when we start to think as the North Koreans, we do not like what we learn. However, when we diminish what other people believe, we do so at our own hubris. Americans have a very short historical attention span. Asian people, and especially the North Koreans, because of their ideology and government-enforced indoctrination, have a very long memory. They know that more than 10 percent of their population died during the Korean War. Virtually every city in North Korea was leveled. Their dams were destroyed causing massive flooding, and their industry eliminated. These are facts, and it is also a fact of history that the Korean War never resulted in a peace treaty, only an armistice. So, for the North Korean people, the war never ended. On an emotional level, it is still going on for them.

What we also forget is that in the 1970s and 1980s North Korea had an amazing resurgence in their economy. There was a point when they were trying to put the Korean War behind them. This had been a challenge because the peninsula remained divided and the South has historically had the best ports, industry, and farmlands. North Korea is extremely mountainous and colder; yet, they have important mineral resources (excluding oil) that helped fuel a two-decade economic boom. The big problem came with the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The USSR had been a key supporter and trading partner with North Korea. They had been North Korea’s chief supplier of oil. When they failed, the North Korean economy tumbled.

Since then, despite a long-standing “Juche” policy not to become too heavily dependent again on China, North Korea has rekindled an important connection with that country that literally went to war for them in October 1950 when the Chinese Army crossed the Yalu. Mao Zedong’s eldest son died in that war along with a half a million Chinese-many of whom, including Mao’s son, are buried in Pyongyang. So there is a shared history, and the DPRK government in recent years has gained much technical assistance, in addition to trade and now oil from China. In the past year, despite sanctions, North Korea’s economy has been showing significant signs of improvements. The North Korean people now heavily rely on China in a new relaxed hybrid market style economy-none of which except seafood transactions have been impacted by the most recent UN sanctions.

This leads to the third observation, which is that the DPRK government and its North Korean citizens have a deep sense of history. They see themselves in the daily framework of history. “Selective” history lessons and government indoctrination from a very early age ingrain common beliefs into all classes. Justifiably, they have seen themselves dominated by Europeans, Japanese, Russians, Americans and even Chinese-all at great costs. In more modern times, in their eyes, they have observed other countries like Iraq and Libya fall to “American aggression.” That is, of course, propaganda, but what we Westerners fail to see is that they believe that propaganda. Furthermore, they have analyzed how Iraq and Libya failed, and in their mind it comes down to one common denominator. Those countries did not have nuclear weapons. Or, that is at least how they rationalize it. They also recall Douglas MacArthur’s desire to use nuclear weapons on a broad scale during the Korean War. As soon as he was fired by President Harry Truman, General Mathew Ridgway replaced him, and one of the first public statements he made was that he wanted to use dozens of tactical nuclear weapons against the North Koreans. Truman did not censor him. Then the new President Elect, Dwight Eisenhower, subtly made it known that he would consider using nuclear weapons to bring an end to the Korean War.

These are all facts of history, and they have never been forgotten by the North Koreans. In their eyes, they see a strong argument for having the security of nuclear weapons.  Whether it is a valid argument or not is not the relevant point. They believe it to be so. And now they have them. And this is the reality of where we are now. North Korea is a nuclear power.

Taking a moment to look at how people perceive events and how history provides analogies is not an idle exercise. The truly successful and forward-thinking leaders have all had a strong respect for history, as well as the ability to open their minds to how different people view the world.

The First World War still remains an interesting study for many such progressives. In the summer of 1914, a high degree of confidence existed that the Balkan Crisis would not lead to a general war. Serbia would be taught a lesson, and life would go on in a world dominated by three great powers and associated allies. Many key leaders were on summer vacations, and as the rhetoric intensified it was all too easy to either ignore it or idly add to the war of words. Many statements akin to “Fire and Fury” were being thrown around. Preemptive actions or some mobilization as a precaution may be necessary, but a large-scale war, certainly a long one, was unthinkable.

The greatest and most exhausting war to date then followed. The element that soon made World War I so unprecedented centered on the weapons. They surprised everyone. The generals and admirals were confident they understood the machine gun and the use of large dreadnoughts, and all marveled how both land and naval forces trained in the use of massive new arsenals of artillery pieces. Obviously, cavalry would make this a mobile and short-lived war. It would be over by Christmas. Of course, that all proved untrue. The truth was that no one, especially the generals, really understood how deadly modern weapons would be and to the extent they made existing war plans obsolete.

Like in 1914, in 2017, most of the armies of the world have never really used the weapons they possess in an actual war. The United States has made great advancements in computerized or smart weapons systems and has gained some experience after almost two decades of excursions in the Middle East. All countries train and have exercises. However, what would a large-scale war look like if it came? Most wars have proved that the weapons systems developed between various wars never end up being used as intended. The tank, even in the late 1930s, promised to be effective only in close support of the infantry. Yet, that is not how it ended up being best employed in World War II. The biggest and most expensive arms race in history did not involve nuclear weapons. It was rather an arms race that culminated in the largest and most heavily-armored naval fleets the world had ever seen in World War I.  The number of battleships built actually dwarfed what was seen in World War II. However, the weapon that came to make the biggest impact at sea was not the battleship but the submarine, which had been ignored up to that time. Submarines had a huge impact on commerce raiding, and became far more relevant in sea warfare than the handful of naval engagements that involved almost a hundred dreadnoughts. Dreadnoughts were in fact so expensive and time consuming to build that admirals were actually afraid to use them.

If war comes to Asia, will it be limited to North Korea? Westerners confidently assure Kim Jong Un that if he goes too far”his country will be destroyed.” They admit the DPRK can cause a lot of damage while the United States and its allies “take him out,” but few doubt the final outcome. How many times have we heard that? “North Korea cannot survive a war.”

The problem is no one ever considers what countries like China or even Russia might do. In the past, they have intervened in the affairs of Korea and prevented a collapse of North Korea. We put a lot of emphasis on nuclear weapons in this current crisis. We fear them, and we also speculate they might actually solve the crisis either as a deterrent or by limited use. Real war, however, might actually prove the nuclear arsenals as unwieldly as the expensive and precious battle fleets built prior to World War I. They may not even come into play. Certainly, if history proves anything, the war plans and weapons technology going into the next war will not end up being used as intended.

This indirectly brings us to the fourth and most important point that needs to be understood in order to “think like a North Korean.” The biggest issue now among the DPRK is the Allied military exercises that occur twice a year. This is also becoming a very sore point with China. The exercises are regularly held by America and South Korea to assure that if war comes they will have a good handle on how to use modern weapons in the next war.

To the North Koreans, however, these exercises are a threat or an actual practice run for an invasion. Relevant or not, the point is they believe it to be so. It is not propaganda; it really is what they think. That is one of the main reason China keeps telling the United States that their joint military exercises with South Korea are so extremely dangerous. The problem is we do not want to hear this, so we don’t hear it.

So, that is likely to be the next big story to receive attention as a new round of exercises begin on August 21. In recent days, South Korea has also added to the complexity of the overall situation with statements warning the United States against independently initialing unilateral military action against North Korea. Few are paying attention to statements from China that indicate they will not tolerate preemptive military action and they are now moving naval ships into the Yellow Sea to better monitor the situation. Meanwhile, Russia is warning that any military response will lead to a “colossal tragedy.” “Fire and Fury” continues to be given attention through media soundbites. And although the U.S. Administration is declaring a great victory over the Guam crisis, Kim Jong Un has been relatively somber these past days. What you do not hear the Administration saying is that the most recent satellite photos show movements of numerous mobile missile launchers around North Korea.

The game of chess is not over, and it would be interesting to be able to know how Kim Jong Un thinks. Experts seem to agree on only one fact when it comes to his thinking and that is summed up in one word: unification. It has been the consistent long-term goal of his father and grandfather, and it is most assuredly his. Kim is far more patient and calculating than people appreciate, and his dynasty has seen many U.S. presidents come and go. So as of this date, the war of words goes on just as it did more than 100 years ago this summer. Then, in 1914, it had been almost exactly another hundred years since the last major war with the defeat of Napoleon. In 1914, no one thought such a thing could happen again. Yet no one took the time to understand how each side thought, nor appreciate the possible effects of new technology. We need to use lessons of the past to better understand the future.



A very warm welcome to our New Members!


Fran Abbott
David Carlson
Paul Guss
Vincent Johnson Jr.
Michael Phelan
Colette Qualls
Bethany Schneider
Amy Smiecinski


Andrea Cohen
Tanya Hopkins
Mila Warren

A continued and grateful THANK YOU to our renewing members!


Arthur Hicks II
James Page


Louis Ciavarelli
Bernard Eubank
David Grier
Melva O’Neill
David Rowell


Ronald Barnak
Carol Billigmeier
Robert Brownlee
Merrily Graham
Steven Kowalkowski
David Lloyd
Glenn Mara
Marie McMillan
Sheryl Lynn Pfeuffer
Robert Pritchett
Marsha Rees
Judith Schill
Roger Stenerson
David Swindle Jr.
Betty Van Vliet

To become a new member or renew your existing membership, please call. 702.794.5151 or visit our membership page.

You may also purchase a gift membership from the Museum Store and have it sent with a recent copy of The Blast, the museum’s newsletter. For more information regarding museum memberships, please visit our FAQ page here.


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The National Atomic Testing Museum
755 E. Flamingo Road
Las Vegas
NV 89119-7373
Inquiries 702 794-5151

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