The Wikipedia Year of Science is an unprecedented initiative to improve science content on Wikipedia. Students at the University of Oklahoma are participating as part of Peter Barker’s “Cold War Science” course.
These students research the politics around weapon systems of the Cold War and beyond (1945 to the present), exploring their connections to nuclear power, space exploration, and more.
In many classes, that research would end up in a term paper, submitted for a grade, and forgotten. This class does something different. Students take these facts, cited to top quality resources, and share them with the world through Wikipedia. So far, their work has been read by 73,000 people seeking knowledge about this period in science.
One student created an article on the Green Light Teams. These Top Secret Special Forces squads were trained to detonate small-scale nuclear weapons behind enemy lines. The soldiers for this mission, which began under the Eisenhower administration, were compared to “kamikaze pilots without the airplanes.” The program, never deployed, was considered top secret until 1984.
Other students expanded articles on nuclear weapons as well, such as the RDS-37 article, about the USSR’s first hydrogen bomb, and a series of high-altitude tests by the US, Operation Hardtack I.
Another new article from this course is a History of Soviet rocket and jet propulsion. That article examines the USSR’s rocketry science from 1922 to 1991, including space exploration and military technology. The article on the UK’s “Manhattan Project,” codenamed “Tube Alloys,” is another fascinating read of how nations pursued nuclear weapons development.
The history of science is a critical field for understanding the scope of science, and developing ideas of scientific responsibility. Information about Cold War weapons technology helps inform public decisions and opinions on contemporary issues related to nuclear weapons.
These are just some of the 47 article students have contributed to Wikipedia! Thanks to these students for their hard work bringing their knowledge of science history to the rest of the world.
Photo: Soviet stamp 1968 by Bin im Garten – Own work (own picture), Public Domain.