You can light up a cigarette in a variety of ways, right? However, not many can relate to lighting a cigarette using a method that was devised by a Cold War physicist. Ted Taylor lit his cigarette using a nuclear bomb explosion!
Ted Taylor, a theoretical physicist, relied on the blinding flash of an atomic explosion for lighting a cigarette back in 1952. Taylor was the first one to come up with this idea according to the Richard L. Miller – author of Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing that was published in 1999 and detailed the incident for the readers.
Ted Taylor lit his cigarette during Operation Tumbler-Snapper – a series of test blasts that were carried out by the US Military at the Nevada Test Site. The operation took place during the throes of the Korean War. Government officials had code-named the test explosion or shot in question as ‘George’ as it was the seventh in a series and G is the seventh letter of the alphabet. The purpose of the test was not to light up a cigarette, of course. The research team of the military had a 3,000-pound nuclear-bomb design that was termed as Mark 5. It was placed on top of a 300-foot-tall tower in order to test new blast-triggering technology as per the Nuclear Weapons Archive.
Ted Taylor found a spare parabolic (cup-shaped) mirror as per Miller’s book the day before the test shot. He was able to set it up in a control building ahead of time and knew where to place the mirror exactly so that it would be able to collect light from the test explosion and then focus it onto a particular spot. Taylor then hung a Pall Mall cigarette on a wire so that its tip would be in front of the focused light beam. On June 1, 1952, Ted Taylor, along with other weapon experts, entered the control building near Area 3 of the Yucca Flats weapons test basin in Nevada.
The bomb was set off. Miller writes, ‘In a second or so the concentrated, focused light from the weapon ignited the tip of the cigarette. He had made the world’s first atomic cigarette lighter.’