The Development of the Atomic Bomb (Fall 2012)
The Atomic bomb played a massive role in the outcome of World War Two. It is apparent that without the development of the atomic bomb, the war could have ended very differently. Although it is unknown just how the war would have ended, it is needless to say that the development of the atomic bomb was one of the most important breakthroughs in science and technology that the world has ever seen. The project to develop the atomic bomb required many of the nation’s top scientists, and a large amount of funding from the government. This project was known as the Manhattan Project. It involved purifying uranium 235, which was a very difficult task even to the top scientists of the world. After the bomb was finally developed, it also needed to be tested before use. After going through billions of dollars and many hours of work, the atomic bomb was finally ready to be used against the enemy in World War Two. The development of the atomic bomb correlates directly to the science and technology history force, as well as the politics and government history force. The government made the Manhattan project top priority, whilst America’s top scientists were constructing the bomb. Both history forces were very influential on the development of the atomic bomb, and both prove to be important in the outcome of World War Two.
Just before the beginning of World War Two, Albert Einstein signs and sends a letter written by physicist Leo Szilard to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This letter had informed the President that efforts were being made in Nazi Germany to purify the element known as uranium-235. This element could be used to develop an atomic bomb. After hearing news of this, the United States government began the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. This project would end up costing around two billion dollars, and it would create roughly 130,000 new jobs. One of the biggest challenges that the scientists would face is how exactly they would purify uranium-235. In this time, the task was very difficult, as uranium consists of over 99% uranium-238, as opposed to the less than 1% needed uranium-235. Uranium-238 was also completely useless in the development of an atomic bomb; therefor the two must be separated. Shortly after the beginning of the Manhattan project, it was found that uranium-235 could be created by gaseous diffusion. It was also found to be able to be purified by electro magnification and by using thermo chemistry. These discoveries lead scientists to believe that the development of an atomic bomb is inevitable.
In order to develop an atomic bomb, the isotopes uranium-235 and plutonium-239 were chosen by scientists. This is because these two isotopes could readily undergo something known as fission. Fission is when the nucleus of one isotope collides with a nucleus of another isotope, which splits the nucleus and releases an unfathomable amount of energy. Fission such as this is also a chain reaction, which means that it will continue to sustain itself. It does this because the already split nuclei collide with more nuclei, which results in the splitting and reacting of many more nuclei. Using the scientific concepts behind fission and chain reaction, what was next needed to develop the atomic bomb is a critical mass of fissionable material. The more fissionable material you have, the more likely that a chain reaction will occur, creating a more powerful explosion. This explosion was expressed well by Albert Einstein’s equation, E=MC2. This expression shows how a very miniscule amount of mass can release tremendous amounts of energy. This was overwhelming explosion was proven in later testing, and later usage of the atomic bomb.
Finally after about 6 years of struggling and racing to complete the atomic bomb, it was developed for the first time ever in the United State of America. This development had not come for free though; it cost around two billion dollars, which would be around 25.8 billion dollars in today’s society. Most of this money was spent on building factories and attaining the resources needed that were very scarce in the world. Also, there had been nuclear accidents in the lab, resulting in radiation sickness in many scientists and even deaths. It was a very high priority, expensive, and dangerous project, but it will prove to change the entire world. The development of the atomic bomb by the United States did not go unknown however. Soviet atomic spies ended up penetrating the security behind the development, and found out that they had been beaten in developing the bomb. The first bomb developed was nicknamed “the gadget,” and it was produced in Los Alamos. This bomb would either be the world’s largest dud, or end the war.
At 5:29 on July 16, 1945, “the gadget” was unleashed upon an area between New Mexico and the Jemez mountains. This ushered the atomic age, as an orange atomic fireball began shooting upwards at around 360 miles per hour. This mushroom cloud of radioactive material would end up spreading about 30,000 feet. Underneath this mushroom cloud remained the ground, which was colored green by the mass amount of radioactive glass which had been scattered everywhere. This blast was so massive and bright that residents from local neighborhoods had reported that they had sworn to see the sun come up two times that day. Upon witnessing this explosion, controversy was created between the scientists who created it. Isidor Rabi felt as if human kind had just created a major threat to the very planet in which they inhabit. Robert Oppenheimer was ecstatic about how successful the testing had gone, yet he said himself, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” After the overview of the results of this testing, several people signed petitions to lose to this overwhelmingly devastating monster that they had created. Although their efforts were ineffective, as that site in New Mexico would not be the last place to witness an atomic explosion.
The atomic bomb has only been put to use twice in history. The very first atomic bomb to be unleashed upon human civilians was against Hiroshima, Japan during World War II after Japan refused to surrender to the United States. It was a uranium bomb known as “little boy.” This bomb was dropped upon Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. The specific target of “little boy” was the Aioi bridge, which was one of the 81 bridges connecting the seven-branched delta of the Ota River. At 0815 hours, the bomb was released, missing the target by about 800 feet. One minute later at 0816 hours, in the blink of an eye, 66,000 people were obliterated and about 69,000 were injured by this 10 kiloton explosion. Within a diameter of two and a half miles, every single flammable object burned. At the outer edge of the blast near the three mile diameter mark, the ground and everything was also blazed by the bomb.
The second use of the atomic bomb was used against Nagasaki, Japan after they had refused to surrender after the first bombing. The date was August 9th, 1945. This bomb was nicknamed “fat man,” and was a plutonium bomb as opposed to the “little man,” which was a uranium bomb. After the bomb had been released from the aircraft, it had soared down to the ground, missing its target by about a mile and a half. Even though it missed its precise target, it still completely leveled half of Nagasaki. In a split second, the population in Nagasaki declined from about 422,000 to 383,000. There were also over 25,000 people injured by the blast. The most horrific fact about these two explosions is that physicists predicted the bombs only produced about 0.1% of their overwhelming capabilities. The initial blast isn't the only destruction laid upon Japan by these two bombs. Rain that follows any atomic detonation is contaminated with radioactive particles. Many of the civilians in both cities were greatly sickened by the radiation that was emitted. This radiation was also known to cause Leukemia, which was passed down through generations, essentially causing the destruction of future people born in the cities affected. The detonation also releases an electromagnetic pulse for about 50 miles, which disables electronic capability within its radius. All of these devastating effects of the atomic bomb are the reasons that Japan did end up surrendering, ending World War Two.
One of the history forces that goes behind the development of the atomic bomb is science and technology. The discovery of the Neutron was where it all started. From here, the discovery of splitting the Uranium atom led to the ideas of developing a weapon that could harness this mass amount of energy. These two discoveries in science lead to one of the largest scientific breakthroughs that the world has ever seen, being the discovery of the atomic bomb. This breakthrough in science and technology would prove to change the world forever. After the first bomb had been released upon Hiroshima, the world had entered the atomic age. An age that is very frightful, and very tense. At any given moment, there are enough atomic weapons on earth to obliterate the existence of the human race. Even more so, the discovery of this great weapon of mass destruction lead to the development of more nuclear weapons, some of which were even more powerful than the original atomic bomb. The atomic bomb ties directly into science and technology as a history force because it opened the doors of science to new ideas while astonishing the entire globe with its mere existence.
The second history force that could be tied directly into the development of the atomic bomb is the politics and government history force. Although this devastating creation was developed by scientists, it was for the use of politicians and the United States government. The Manhattan project was also issued by the government, and was put to a very high priority. Even the beginning of the project was sparked by the mere knowledge that another government had possibly been in the process of creating nuclear weapons with uranium. After the creation of the atomic bomb, politicians and governments around the world all had different views about it. There were many news plans employed by different governments to begin studies or continue studies on the development of nuclear technology. The entire sense of global security had been somewhat threatened by the release of the first atomic bomb, which caused many nuclear weapon ban proposals. All of these facts support that the politics and government was directly tied into the development of the atomic bomb.
In conclusion, it can be said that the history of the development of the atomic bomb was a tense and expensive process, which would prove to forever change the world as we know it. This breakthrough in science and technology influence the politics and government of nations around the entire planet. At the very least, it can be said that the world is a different place since that development, making the world that we inhabit a very scary and dangerous place. Although, it can also be said that the discovery of the atomic bomb may have saved more lives than it actually took on those fateful days.
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