When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan and then another on Nagasaki in 1945, the world began to change in many ways. The initial reaction to this deadliest of all weapons was one of great fear, but this was not the only reaction. Atomic energy was the most powerful source of energy man had harnessed to date. The five years following the dropping of the atomic bombs were a confusing time when people didn t know what to think of the fact that atomic energy had been harnessed. In Life magazines December 2, 1946 article it was iterated that humankind had discovered a great tool like fire in discovering atomic energy (Peacetime 97). At first this new fire was theorized to be able to completely revolutionize a person s everyday lifestyle.
Much of this was initial hype, but some of the initial predictions held great truth. Atomic energy could destroy the human race, and it could also be used to improve the human race. Fire was once guilty of contributing to the destruction of the human race when it burnt the forests they lived in (Peacetime 97). Fire was then discovered to be an extremely useful tool when controlled. Fire could burn people, but it could also be used to keep people warm, allowed humans to endure new climates, and sanitized food when it was used for cooking.
Atomic energy was mankind s new fire (Peacetime 97). Mankind had already been burned by the atomic bomb, and hopefully had already learned their lesson. Now it was time to put this new energy to use in ways that would improve, not destroy, society. At first the improvement atomic energy was to make on society was blown out of proportion. It was theorized that atomic energy would completely revolutionize a person s everyday lifestyle by being part of it. According to Paul Boyer in his book By the Bombs Early Light, initial theories said that cars, household appliances, heated city streets, and melting polar icecap were some of things atomic energy would be used to accomplish (Boyer 112-115).
These were soon found to be unwise uses of atomic energy. Atomic energy is so powerful it would not be safe for everyday use in the hands of the public because of its highly unstable properties. As stated in Boyer s book: If an atomic-powered taxi hit an atomic powered streetcar at Forty-second and Lex it would completely destroy the whole Grand Central area (Boyer 115). Destruction of city blocks was not what scientists had in mind when they started putting atomic energy to practical constructive use. The constructive and truly feasible uses of atomic energy include its use in power plants, and its use in the medical field. As early as December 2, 1946 Life printed articles which detailed future atomic peacetime uses.
Successful experiments had already been done using atomic energy to produce electricity, and radioactive isotopes had been used to study the process of life in rats (Peacetime 97, 100). Plans were being laid out for the first atomic power plant to be used to supply the people of Oak Ridge Tennessee with electricity (Peacetime 99). Unlike the untrue predictions that came early on after the dropping of the atomic bombs, these uses of atomic energy were a reality. People would soon have more electricity because of atomic power plants, and people would live longer thanks to the use of atomic energy in the medical field. The dropping of the bombs in Japan was not the only thing that had come from the discovery of atomic energy. Soon after the atomic bombings in Japan people realized that atomic power could destroy the world, but atomic power began changing people s lives for the better at the same time.
Within five years of the dropping of the bomb, atomic power was producing electricity. Like fire humankind had been burned by atomic power, but after being burned society was finding advantageous ways of using atomic energy. Hopefully people will not need to be burned by atomic power again, and it can be looked back on as a positive turning point in the course of human history. Works Cited Boyer, Paul, By the Bombs Early Light. The University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Peacetime Uses of Atomic Energy. Life 2 Dec. 1946: 97-103.