TV Club: Manhattan tickles the dragon’s tail

Tickling the dragon’s tail sounds like a fun game. The dragon in this case is a ball of radioactive plutonium that’s naturally decaying. The game is about encasing it in a neutron-reflective wall, brick by brick, so that the escaping neutrons reflect back on the plutonium and create a self-sustaining nuclear reaction. Well, you don’t actually want to get to that point. I think the goal is to see what happens as long as you can keep the experiment under your control. It’s Price Is Right rules. You want to get to the brink without going over.

It helps that we get to see Frank play the game, so we recognize what’s happening in the end when Frank leads every last scientist—at least, that’s the plan; Jim maintains plausible deniability by sort of standing with them but sort of just watching from afar …

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