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The Manhattan Project

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The Atomic Bomb

The research for the first Atomic bomb took place in the United States, by a group of nuclear engineers; the name of this research was called, “The Manhattan Project”. On July 16, 1945, the detonation of the first atomic bomb was tested near Los Alamos, New Mexico. As the atomic bomb was detonated, it sent shock-waves across the globe, which demonstrated that nuclear power would forever change the meaning of war.

To create a nuclear bomb, nuclear fission must occur. The process of nuclear fission was splitting the nucleus of an atom. Splitting an atom was caused by neutrons firing through one atom and then that atom’s neutrons shoot off into other atoms, starting a chain reaction. In October of 1934, Enrico Fermi, and Italian physicist, discovered how to successfully split an atom. Soon after, this led the atomic bomb to use the same techniques of nuclear fission.

Nuclear fuel goes through fission when struck by free neutrons and then generates neutrons when it breaks apart. Only U-235 uranium atoms, a nuclear fuel, could be used for the chain reaction. This was because it was able to be obtained in large enough quantities to even be useful.

Little Boy was the codename of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The design of Little Boy used the gun assembly method, by shooting one piece of the uranium into the other to create a chemical explosion. Another atomic bomb codenamed Fat Man was detonated over Nagasaki. Fat Man was an implosion type bomb. It was a design in which the plutonium-uranium combination was enclosed by high explosives to compress it.

The Manhattan Project brought together a cast of specialists that would redefine the use of atomic power. Through government oversight, specifically the defense department, they created the nuclear weapon.

Robert Oppenheimer, known as the “father of the atomic bomb”, appointed scientific director of the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer had named the first tested nuclear explosion “Trinity”. This test was for the implosion-design plutonium bomb, which had the same design as Fat Man, dropped on Nagasaki. After the successful testing of Trinity, Oppenheimer quoted from the Bhagavad Gita, “If radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Leo Szilard was a Hungarian Physicist who dedicated himself to learning how to create a successful chain reaction to make an atomic bomb before the Germans had a chance to do so. Szilard convinced Albert Einstein to help research with him on how to create an atomic bomb. The “Einstein-Szilard” letter, sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt led to the foundation of research into nuclear fission by the United States government. This ultimately encouraged the development of the program, the Manhattan Project.

Albert Einstein wrote a letter to the Belgian Ambassador to stop selling uranium to the Germans so they could slow their progress on the atomic bomb. He also wrote a letter to President Roosevelt announcing the importance of the United States to create the bomb before other countries. Other than writing and signing letters, Einstein himself did not play a role in developing the atomic bomb.

Enrico Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938 for his work on radioactivity, and he was also



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