Today in history

This Day in History
  • Demon Core Goes Critical (1945)
    The Demon Core was a plutonium core—used in nuclear testing at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico—so nicknamed because it resulted in the deaths of two scientists in separate accidents. In 1945, Harry Daghlian accidentally dropped a tungsten carbide brick onto the core, causing it to go "critical," or achieve a chain reaction of nuclear fission. Daghlian stopped the reaction, but died from radiation poisoning a month later. What happened to the second scientist nine months later? Discuss
  • Cease-Fire Declared in Iran-Iraq War (1988)
    On September 22, 1980, Iraqi forces invaded Iran, which was still struggling in the aftermath of its revolution. The resulting war—ostensibly a territorial dispute—turned into a bloody stalemate that saw the first widespread use of chemical warfare since World War I. An estimated 1.5 million people were killed in the conflict. After nearly eight years, the United Nations mandated a cease-fire. Both sides held thousands of prisoners of war for years. When were the last prisoners exchanged?
  • Leonard Bernstein Conducts His Final Concert (1990)
    Less than two months before he died, Bernstein, a highly regarded American composer and conductor, conducted what would be his final concert. He had suffered from smoking-related lung problems for years, and his coughing fit partway through the Boston Symphony appearance that night nearly ended the performance. With his health declining, he officially retired in early October, and he died just five days later. What feat in 1943 made him an overnight sensation and set his career in motion?

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