The Manhatten Project; It’s sad but unavoidable fact that some of humanity’s most significant achievements in science have resulted from its more destructive tendencies. For example, German chemist Fritz Haber discovered how to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere to manufacture massive bombs used to murder people during World War One. However, technology was also employed to create the world’s first synthetic fertilisers, which changed the way the world feeds itself.
Similarly, ancient Chinese alchemists discovered gunpowder, but it was improved by Europeans who exploited it to conquer half of the world. None of this is the fault of science; when we learn tremendous truths about the cosmos, it is up to us to decide how to apply them. Because they may be either boons or banes to humanity, and there is perhaps no better instance than the work done by the Manhattan Project.
Table of Contents
The Manhatten Project Doscovery
The Manhatten Project consist of the multi-national endeavour to produce an atomic bomb during WWII. To design and create nuclear weapons, it needed two billion dollars (approximately twenty-five point eight billion in today’s dollars) and a hundred percent of the smartest chemists, physicists, and engineers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
The first explosive was a test bomb, which was detonated in the desert of New Mexico. The second was a little boy, which was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, a fat guy, which was dumped on Nagasaki, Japan, and a fourth weapon, which was luckily never deployed. It is because of those bombs that we now live in a world where humans have the ability to destroy ourselves and every other living creature on the globe, and despite the fact that they successfully ended World War II.
Atomic bombs began the Cold War, which lasted over 50 years, with everyone walking around fearful that they would be annihilated at any moment. However, the Manhattan Project is responsible for humanity learning a lot about the atom in a short period of time.
All of those scientists would not have been able to collaborate on this science if it hadn’t been for this top-secret bomb development programme. Before we built atomic bombs, we discovered science that we are still learning from now. Humans used traditional bomb casings packed of explosives such as trinitrotoluene (TNT), ammonium nitrate, or a mixture of several explosive substances to destroy one other and their property.
When conventional bombs are detonated, the majority of their energy is released in the form of a blast, a wave of super-pressurized air that moves out from around the bomb at the speed of sound. That’s why they generate that big booming sound after the initial blast, which may be accompanied by a blaze depending on the material of the bomb.A vacuum is formed around the explosion site, and air rushes in to fill it, resulting in a blast wind that draws everything towards the detonation sites.
The Manhatten Project, the explosives of an atomic weapon are volatile radioactive isotopes of uranium or plutonium. When a single Neutron is fired at a single atom of one of those radioactive isotopes, it can split the atom and emit other neutrons. In a process known as nuclear fission, neighboring atoms are split, resulting in a chain reaction of split atoms.
All of this happens in around 1 picosecond, followed by an incredible amount of energy and heat that is quite potent. because it unleashes energy from the most powerful force known to physics, the properly termed strong force. Strong force is what binds an atom’s nucleus together, drawing protons and neutrons close together but also keeping them apart. To give you an idea of what it’s like when energy from this force is released, imagine a highly tense dynamic kind of subatomic push and pull.
One kilogramme of nuclear fission fuel has the potential to produce 20 million times the energy of one kilogramme of TNT. A conventional bomb blast accounts for nearly half of the energy generated in a nuclear detonation. 35% of the energy is released as heat, with the remaining 15% as nuclear radiation in the form of gamma rays, neutrons, and alpha and beta particles.
The radioactive pull generated when an atomic bomb is detonated persists after the blast in the form of nuclear fallout. The type of dust composed of unused and spent fuel that has begun the radioactive decay process Prior to 1932, no one understood that any of this was even feasible.
That’s when German Jewish physicist Leo Szilard proposed that nuclear materials could be used to generate energy in a chain reaction similar to a chemical chain reaction. Remember, this was six years before anyone even knew about fission, but Szilárd believed that the key was the neutron, which had recently been discovered. He reasoned that a neutron from one atom could be used to cause an energy-producing reaction in another atom, releasing more neutrons.
If the reaction that could free that first Neutron was discovered, someone could use a degree to construct a pretty flippin sweet weapon, thus Szilard utilised the notion to patent the world’s first atomic bomb not because he intended to make one, but because if he held the baton for it, no one else could.
Szilard Invention & Contribution in the manhatten project
In The Manhatten Project, Szilárd gave his invention to the British government in 1936 so that it might be protected by British secrecy rules and kept out of the hands of the nazis, who had taken power in Germany and were working on constructing the atomic bomb among many others.
Szilárd would later wage a furious campaign to prevent its ever being used, but from the viewpoint of many scientists particularly those who had firsthand experience of life under the Nazis and Italian fascists—not solving the scientific riddle of nuclear fission was no longer an option when World War Two broke out in Europe. A group of physicists in Berlin had validated Szilard’s suspicion that fission was feasible. So, in 1939, prominent physicists pushed President Franklin Roosevelt to launch an atomic research programme before the Nazis solved the mystery first, including szilárd Albert Einstein, a Jew who had fled Nazi Germany, and Enrico Fermi, a Jew who had recently fled fascist Italy with his Jewish wife.
In response, Roosevelt formed the Uranium Committee, which included both military and civilian experts, to conduct research on how to create weapons from uranium and plutonium, an element that does not occur naturally but can be created from uranium 238. A lot of the most impressive and challenging science that we associate with the later-named Manhattan Project was actually carried out by this committee.
They were merely attempting to figure out how to isolate enough of the appropriate kind of uranium to start the chain reaction that Szilárd had envisioned, because most of the world’s uranium does not come out of the ground ready to be used in a nuclear reactor.
Because they have varying numbers of nucleons in their nuclei, naturally occurring uranium is a mixture of two isotopes or types of uranium with differing numbers of neutrons in their nuclei, uranium-235 and uranium-238. Uranium-235 will undergo fission far more rapidly than uranium 238, which simply absorbs that extra Neutron and produces uranium 239, which is highly stable and not fissile at all. As a result, the majority of the committee’s effort and money were devoted figuring out how to enrich uranium. That is how uranium 235, which accounts for less than 1% of the world’s natural uranium, is distinguished from uranium 238.
This may be accomplished by mixing uranium and fluorine to create a gas that could be filtered to remove the desired isotope. Then they had to calculate how much uranium-235 was required to reach critical mass, which is the minimum amount of fissile material required to maintain a nuclear chain reaction. They only needed to figure out how fast a neutron had to be fired at the uranium atom to cause a reaction. As you can expect, none of this research was straightforward, but the physicists were able to answer all of those problems in just a few years by 1942.
With these early stumbling blocks removed, the project was handed over to the United States Army Corps of Engineers and relocated to facilities known as the Manhattan district. However, the research was carried out at three different facilities across the country: one in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and another near Richland, Washington. As the laboratories worked on enriching fuels and designing entirely new technology to go into the bombs.
In The Manhatten Project, The proposal eventually came together at Los Alamos, where a young American physicist named Robert Oppenheimer directed the bomb-making operation, and Los Alamos actually produced two such weapons. one powered by uranium and the other by plutonium The first bomb, a plutonium-fueled device, was detonated in the desert of southern New Mexico on July 16, 1945, and the event, codenamed Trinity, was the first atomic explosion ever to occur on Earth.
When it went off early in the morning, observers 10 miles away felt the heat of the blast and reported it was brighter than the sunrise. The test was a full success, but Oppenheimer famously stated afterwards that it reminded him of a passage from Hindu texts. In every Hindu text, including the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tries to persuade the prince to do his job and, to impress him, puts on his multi-armed form and declares, “Now I am Death, the Destroyer of Worlds,” and we all know what happens next.
Within a month of that test, a plutonium bomb and a uranium bomb were detonated on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, killing at least 185 thousand people. Soon after the war ended, the Atomic Age began, a time when you could spend every second of your day worrying about whether the world would be blown up by somebody who happened to have gotten their hands on a whole quantity of enriched uranium.
It also marked the start of the Cold War, a 50-year period during which the United States and the Soviet Union kept nuclear weapons pointing at each other at all times. Every day was terrible and anxious, but the research conducted during the Manhattan Project was critical in assisting in the development of nuclear energy, which has had its ups and downs but is an extraordinary technology. Nonetheless, the Manhattan Project is responsible for the whole area of nuclear medicine, in which radioactive elements are employed in medical imaging diagnostics and therapies, such as for some types of cancer. Even current stem cell research has its roots in the Manhattan Project.
The new understandings of the atom that we got in only a few short years resulted in significant gains in nuclear chemistry and nuclear physics that would have otherwise taken generations in the 1930s and 1940s. We accomplished the impossible. We took the smallest, most obviously indivisible particle in the universe and discovered a means to divide it all up so we could create the worst weapon we could imagine, but we’ve utilised that knowledge for a lot of good since then.