The Manhattan Project and The Atomic Bomb
Joe Mckibben was a physicist at Los Alamos; he was the last person to leave the test sight of the first atomic bomb. He witnessed the first explosion of a weapon that would eventually cause more than 200,000 deaths and change the circumstances of war forever.
The Manhattan Project was the scientific study that produced the atomic bomb during World War II. Without it, the Japanese may have never surrendered in World War II and war may have raged for years after. On the other hand, the use of the atomic bomb now could be the end of all human beings. The Manhattan project was started in a letter sent to the president, continued in the research done by scientists like Marie Curie and Neal’s Bhor, and still plays a big part in world dynamic today. A clear understanding of the project and its implications is required to be able to judge the morality of the atomic bomb in historical and present day situations.
Start of the Manhattan Project During World War II, German scientist were dedicating immense amount of research to the development of weapons (pbs.org). In 1939, they had already developed nuclear fission and were steps away from coming up with the atomic bomb. The only reason that the Germans did not already have an atomic bomb was because they chose to dedicate resources to other weapons, but it would only be a matter of time till they did have a bomb. Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi, two renowned scientists who knew about the German research, fled Nazi Germany to the United States to avoid getting drafted (UShistory.
org). The two shared concerns that the president of the US must be warned of the impending threat of the Atomic Bomb and the mass destruction it could cause. Enrico Fermi tried pleading with Congress to make them see the need for the project, but failed. Einstein, still worried about the mass destruction of the atomic bomb, wrote a letter to the president urging the development of a nuclear research project. President Roosevelt did not see the need for the project but agreed to go ahead with development anyway. Thereafter, started the project to build the atomic bomb, code named The Manhattan Project.
Accomplishment of the Project Many well accomplished scientists worked on the Manhattan project. Even though he started the project, Einstein played a very little part after that. In contrast, Enrico Fermi, who started the project with Einstein, played a bigger part in the development of the bomb. He took his place at the University of Chicago and solved many problems in the Manhattan Project. People like Aage Niels Bohr also made contributions through research on the atomic nucleus. Similarly, Marie Curie’s research on radiation gave necessary knowledge to the Manhattan Project.
In the end, the combined work of many accomplished scientists gave way to the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb is based on a scientific process called nuclear fission (Moore 346). Fission is the splitting of heavy isotopes into smaller fragments releasing energy. The two elements that most readily undergo fission are Uranium-235, and Plutonium-239, therefore those materials made the base for the two bombs. The equation for the fission of Uranium is U235 + n ? fission + 2 or 3 n + 200 MeV (atomic archive).
In brief, Uranium collided with a neutron creates fission, 3 more neutrons, and 200 million electron-volts of energy. However, if you do the math, some of the mass from the original elements is missing. The missing mass is the cause for the power of the atomic bomb. Energy from fission put into an explosive is the basis of the atomic bomb. The first test of the bomb was at the Trinity Site, Los Alamos, NM. 51,000 workers for 27 months had gone into developing the bomb and July 16, 1945 at 5:29:45 am the bomb exploded.
It blasted with force of 18,000 tons of TNT, heated up to 750oF, and blew windows out 120 miles away. That is like having a bomb dropped on Chicago and feeling the blast in Bloomington. The bomb that exploded was name “The Gadget”. After the blast a scientist said, “I am become death, the shatterer of worlds” (qtd. Seattle Times), summing up the horror that he felt at the blast site of the atomic bomb. Nuclear Weapons in History and Today After the first test of the bomb, the United States came up with a military use for the Atomic.
On August 6th, 1941, the US dropped the “Little Boy”, a Uranium based bomb, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima killing 138,000 people (Adams 58). A few days later, a second bomb, “fat man” (a plutonium based bomb) was dropped on Nagasaki killing 73,000 people. The two bombs were 2,000 times more powerful than any other bomb. Total, the estimates of people killed total by the bomb including the deaths by radiation are over 200,000 up to 400,000. That is more Japanese than Americans killed in all the battles of WWII gone in a matter of just three days. When the power of this new weapon was demonstrated on those two cities, it brought about a new era of warfare.
As America entered the cold war against communism and the Soviet Union, an arms race started. The Soviet Union had developed their own atomic bomb by August 29th, 1949. It became a race to develop the most advance bomb and then to get as many of them as possible. Two more very dangerous weapons came out of this, the Hydrogen Bomb (Thermo-nuclear Bomb), and Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). Both of these weapons came as a result of the first atomic bomb and could still pose an apocalyptic threat for all of human civilization. Since the time of the cold war, the world has agreed that nuclear weapons are too dangerous to use in many situations (armscontrol.
org). Today, the world powers are working to eliminating their nuclear storages. Even though there is no international law against nuclear weapons, the International Red Cross says that using nuclear warfare is against humanitarian law. The only countries that maintain their nuclear storage or continue to develop bombs are Pakistan, North Korea, and India. Conclusion In conclusion, the Manhattan Project was the immense project started during World War 2 and led to the atomic bomb, the “Most powerful of all weapons” (qtd.BrainyQuote.com). The project was started by Albert Einstein in response to German research and came up with a weapon based on nuclear fission. The atomic bomb played a big part in World War II, the Cold War, and still poses a threat today. References “Atomic Bomb Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore.
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