APL Colloquium

January 15, 2021

Colloquium Topic: Section T, the Smart Fuse, and the Founding of APL

Drawing from a vast array of “fresh” archival documents, Jamie Holmes’s new book 12 Seconds of Silence tells the origin story of the Applied Physics Laboratory. In August of 1940, as scientists were beginning to organize, a small team of physicists, working in a secretive organization known as Section T, took on one of the toughest engineering puzzles of World War II: a new “smart weapon” that could help shoot enemy aircraft out of the sky. Against overwhelming odds and in a race against time, mustering every scrap of resource, ingenuity, and insight, the scientists of Section T would eventually save countless lives, rescue the city of London from the onslaught of a Nazi superweapon, and help bring about the Axis defeat. A holy grail sought after by Allied and Axis powers alike, their unlikely innovation ranks with the atomic bomb as one of the most revolutionary technologies of the Second World War.

Colloquium Speaker: Jamie Holmes

JAMIE HOLMES is a writer living in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in print or online in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Slate, the Christian Science Monitor, the New Republic, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, USA Today, and the Daily Beast. Jamie is also a Future Tense Fellow at New America. His first book, Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing, explored the psychology of confusion and uncertainty. Published by Penguin Random House in 2015, it was translated into five languages.

He holds an M.I.A. from Columbia University’s School of International Affairs (SIPA). After SIPA, Jamie worked at New America as a Policy Analyst in international development. Previously, he was a Research Coordinator at Harvard’s Department of Economics, where he focused on behavioral economics. He’s been writing full-time since 2012.