9 strange-but-true photos that capture Las Vegas' brief love affair with nuclear bombs.

On Jan. 27, 1951, a U.S. B-50 bomber dropped a nuclear warhead over the Nevada desert.

"A fantastically bright cloud is climbing upward like a huge umbrella," said John Kerrigan of The Washington Bulletin.

The bomb, codenamed Able, detonated about a thousand feet above the ground, illuminating the early morning sky.


The thunderous boom echoed through the surrounding mountains and woke up the sleepy desert town of Las Vegas, some 45 miles away.

It was supposed to be a government secret. But despite what you hear on TV, what happens in Vegas rarely stays there.


A mushroom cloud during early atomic tests.Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

This is the story of Atomic Las Vegas, told through nine unforgettable photos.

1. Las Vegas took advantage of its proximity to atomic testing sites and turned it into a tourism boom. (Pun very much intended.)

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

"You brace yourself against the shock wave that follows an atomic explosion. "

Instead of saying "Pardon our dust," Las Vegas, in true Las Vegas fashion, doubled down.

Within days of the first test, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce issued a press release about their latest attraction — the nuclear testing site, even describing their town as "The Atomic City."

It quickly became, "Come, admire our dust, and see a show afterward."

2. Just over a year later, journalists were invited to take in a blast for themselves. The coast-to-coast broadcasts jump-started the atomic craze.

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

"A heat wave comes first..."

Over the next 12 years, there was a detonation every three weeks, each one a source of immense pride, patriotism, and dollars for the city of Las Vegas.

3. Hotels offered panoramic views of the distant desert skyline for the optimum experience.

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

4. The Chamber of Commerce published a calendar of the bomb schedule, including the best places to see the clouds.

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

5. Tourists packed cars and drove out to the desert to get a closer look, carrying dinner in "atomic lunch boxes," of course.

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

By 1954, nearly 8 million people were visiting Las Vegas each year. In 1950, the city's population was 24,624. By 1970, that number had ballooned to more than 125,000.

6. Women sported mushroom clouds as hairdos and as costumes in beauty pageants.

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

They were found on billboards, marquees, and school yearbooks. One was even on the county seal.

7. The Nevada Test Site wasn't just a boom for travelers. The proving ground flooded the area with federal funds, and the site employed close to 100,000 men and women.

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

8. But despite the economic and population booms, there was some fallout (literally and figuratively) from the Nevada Test Site.

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

"...then the shock, strong enough to knock an unprepared man down. "

The government coordinated a very successful public relations campaign to downplay the potential danger and highlight the patriotic aims of this Cold War-era pursuit, even handing out guides to Nevada schoolchildren.

"A committee said there would be little danger to Vegas," Karen Green, curator at the Atomic Testing Museum, told the National Endowment for the Humanities. They said "if people were exposed they could take showers.”

But many working onsite and those who lived close by — who call themselves as "Downwinders" — developed serious illnesses and cancers due to exposure. Many saw their children, friends, and loved ones die prematurely as a result. In 1990, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which presented families monetary compensation and a much-deserved apology.

9. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty put an end to above-ground nuclear experiments in 1963.

Photo via Las Vegas News Bureau, used with permission.

"Then, after what seems like hours, the man-made sunburst fades away."

The tests continued underground for decades, but the public displays were complete. No more fanfare. No more pageantry and kitsch.

235 bombs later, the party — and this peculiar era in modern-American history — was over.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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