“Atomic Explosion Stopped at Millionths of A Second”: Media Microtemporalities and Time Synchronisation

Antoine Prévost-Balga


From 1945 to the early 1960s, the US government undertook numerous atomic and hydrogen bomb tests. These full-scale explosions were recorded on film from various angles, and at different speeds. Indeed, it soon became required to obtain images of the very first milli-seconds of the expanding phase of the atomic fireball. Ultrahigh-speed cameras able to produce such images were specifically developed for that purpose. This article explores the different “media-temporalities” that intersect in those images. I focus on the “micro-processes happening on a technical level that are very fast,” and more specifically the ones that go into the “Rapatronic camera” designed by Harold Edgerton (head of the US national defense contractor company EG&G) to record the atomic fireball early formation. The scientific slow-motion films and high-speed photographic images operate at the junction of the micro-scale temporality of the atomic explosions’ early phases, and the macro-scale temporality of the political and ecological implications of these explosions. I argue that these films are the objects and inscriptions of micro-temporalities, macro-history and geological times.


High-Speed photography; Media Temporality; Micro-Processes; Synchronization

DOI: 10.6092/issn.2280-9481/10328


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Copyright (c) 2020 Antoine Prévost-Balga

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