The History of the Atomic Bomb Blow, Micheal (New York 1968) pp. 64 The Atomic bomb has always been a very interesting topic of discussion at my house. All I would think about every time I heard something on television or heard anything about nuclear weapons was what exactly was the MANHATTON PROJECT. I had other questions as well, like what makes the bombs explode, and exactly what was its devastating affects? I also wondered what is the difference between the Little Boy atomic bomb and the Fat Man atomic bomb and what keeps the bombs from going off before they reach their target? The book I read, The History of the ATOMIC BOMB, by Michael Blow explained all of these questions to me in great detail.
This report will answer these questions and give some additional facts about the atomic bomb. The first question that this paper will answer is What was the MANHATTON PROJECT? The truth is that what the MANHATTON PROJECT did was to accomplish the design and building of the atomic bomb. The book explained how the main research in nuclear weapons was done by the project in 1942. The scientists that lead the research where Enrico Fermi, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Harold Urey, and Major General Leslie Groves. These men took a new look at the current warfare and created the most powerful weapon the world has ever known.
The United States federal government provided all of the necessary funding for this developmental project. This meant that there was no limit to funds. Without that funding and flexibility the atomic bomb may not have been invented for a much longer period of time. The next question that I wanted to have answered was What creates the explosion and what were its affects? The answer to that question was told in the first two chapters of this book. The main reason that an atomic bomb explodes is due to the creation of an unstable amount of plutonium or uranium-235.
This causes a chain reaction and splits the atoms in the bomb creating a dangerously large output of energy. The text explained that in order for critical mass to be reached with uranium-235 you would need a piece about the size of a baseball. What bothered the scientists about this discovery was how would it be possible to do the impossible and create a stable weapon with an unstable piece of uranium? In order to fix that problem the scientists put together a design, which contained two separate pieces of uranium. On impact they would fuse together, then by one being fired at the other they would create the baseball size piece needed for a critical mass explosion thus the resulting destructive chain reaction. That chain reaction created a blast that was equivalent to twenty thousand tons of TNT.
The book broke down the blast zone into five sections. The first area being the vaporization point. In this area a 98% fatality rate exists and everything reaches 3000 c. The second area is up to 1 mile away from the blast site and is called the total destruction zone. In the second area we can see a rate of 90% fatalities. The third area is the area mapped from the blast site to up to 1.75 miles away which is called the sever blast damage area.
The third area carries a rate of 65% fatalities and 30% injuries. The fourth area is described as the severe heat damage area. The fourth area is measured from the blast site to 2.5 miles and we can expect a fatality rate of 50%. The book explained that in the fifth and last area we can expect to find sever fire and wind damage, which would cover an area 3 miles from the explosion. In this area most of the affects are death, burns, or suffocation from the fires. The last question that I had hoped would be answered was what was the difference between the bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man, and what keeps the bombs from going off before they reach their target?
The book gave a very detailed description of these bombs. The deference was that Little Boy was a uranium bomb and Fat Man was a plutonium bomb. This means that their construction was completely different. The book gave a specific very detailed description of both bombs. Little Boy was created very simply due to the fact that they needed a surefire mechanism to start the chain reaction to create supercritical mass.
So they used a gun type detonator with two pieces of uranium shaped to perfectly fit together. The two pieces would then be shot together on impact creating the explosion. Fat Man however was created using plutonium instead of uranium due to the abundance of plutonium in comparison to uranium. The book explained how plutonium is less fissionable than uranium so the scientists had to find a way to reduce the plutonium's critical mass from 16 kilograms to 10 kilograms by surrounding the plutonium with a U-238 isotope that is a more abundant resource. The bomb was designed as a sphere with plutonium evenly spaced on the outside and inside was a mixture of beryllium / polonium mixture. This mixture would release neutrons into the sphere.
The sphere was designed to implode on impact causing the desired atomic reactions. Although both of the bombs are considered to be altimeter bombs, or high altitude bombs, they are different. This book explains the differences but also explains that though they may be different their safety features are the same. They both have lead shields to protect the technicians from radioactivity, as well as removable fuses. These fuses do not go in the bomb until minutes before launch to guard against premature detonation, not to mention the neutron deflectors that keeps the bomb from reaching critical mass prematurely. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in World War II or atomic warfare.
It taught me a lot more than I had expected to learn. I have had a hard time keeping this paper to five pages. I found all of the answers to my questions about the history of the atomic bomb and the bomb itself. I would also recommend this book for its information value as well as some interesting facts that not everyone knows about the atom bomb. Prior to reading this book I had some false impressions about this weapon, but this book cleared them up very well.