The meson bomb was a proposed nuclear weapon that would derive its destructive force from meson interactions with fissionable material like uranium. The idea behind the bomb was rejected by most scientists, but during the Cold War, American intelligence managed to trick the Soviet Union into conducting research on this topic, which resulted in several years of wasted labor by one of the Soviet nuclear weapon research bureaus.
Mesons (hadronic subatomic particles composed of one quark and one antiquark, bound together by the strong interaction) were proposed to form a nuclear weapon as early as the 1940s. Early speculation suggested that the resulting bomb would be the most powerful nuclear weapon yet to have been developed. American physicist Ernest Lawrence used the potential military applications of mesons to obtain funding for its 184-inch (4,700 mm) synchrocyclotron built between 1940 and 1946 at the University of California, Berkeley. Soon, however, the scientific consensus was that construction of such a bomb would be impossible; and in 1968 physicist M. Stanley Livingston wrote that "no responsible scientists would attempt to justify support in this field with predictions of an 'anti-matter engine,' or a super 'meson bomb,' or a 'hyper-drive' for spaceships."
In the 1960s, however, the Soviet Union became convinced that the United States had already developed the meson bomb, and devoted considerable resources to developing its own. In 1994, Russian physicist and chief constructor of nuclear weapons bureau KB-11 (Design Bureau No. 11, set up in 1946) Arkadiy Brish stated that their work on the meson bomb was prompted by intelligence. Even though physicists Yuliy Borisovich Khariton and Yakov Borisovich Zel'dovich agreed that the reports were nonsensical, the directors of the Soviet atomic bomb project decided to pursue this line of research, which resulted in several years of fruitless labor. Brish attributed this to American disinformation.[dubious ]
- Red mercury – a similar fictional atomic weapon pursued by the Soviets and other groups
- Science News. Science Service. 1948. p. 99.
The new tests do not, in all probability, involve any radically new and novel bombs, such as the hydrogen-helium bomb or the meson bomb about which there has been some speculation.
- The Iowa Engineer. Iowa State College. 1945. p. 160.
If mesons could be produced in quantity, they might provide a "meson bomb," thousands of times as powerful as today's atom bomb.
- Vieira, Cássio Leite; Videira, Antonio Augusto Passos (2014-03-29). "Carried by History: Cesar Lattes, Nuclear Emulsions, and the Discovery of the Pi-meson". Physics in Perspective. 16 (1): 3–36. doi:10.1007/s00016-014-0128-6. ISSN 1422-6944.
- Milton Stanley Livingston (1968). Particle Physics: The High-energy Frontier. McGraw-Hill. p. 7.
- "We Copied the Charge Design, Not the Bomb Itself, Maintains Professor Arkadiy Brish, Doctor of Technical Sciences, One of the Developers of Soviet Nuclear Weapons. Interview with Professor Arkadiy Brish, doctor of technical sciences, by LITERATURNAYA GAZETA commentator Oleg Moroz" (36). Moscow: Litieraturnaja Gazieta. 7 September 1994. p. 10.