The Manhattan Project:
A Lethal Weapon
You are playing in your house with your friends and family. Then you hear planes rushing by. They are so loud that you canít hear yourself talking. As the planes rush away, you look out the window and see a massive explosion destroying everything in its path. You, your family, and friends run in the basement and hope that the explosion doesnít hit your house. This would be the experience of nuclear war.
Nuclear bombs were a big part of World War II. Americaís development of the atomic bomb was called "The Manhattan Project." It was named after a 1942 section of the army code-named "The Manhattan District." The Manhattan project was an extremely top-secret program.
In 1939, two scientists in Berlin, Germany, successfully created part of an atomic bomb. Believing that Germany would successfully create an atomic bomb, Albert Einstein and other physicists kept trying to get President Roosevelt to set up a small research program.
In June 1941, the office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) was created to direct all government sponsored scientific efforts. This included the work on an atomic bomb. The OSRDís fission project expanded, involving teams at a number of universities including Columbia, Princeton, California, and Chicago. By the spring of 1942, these teams had confirmed that atomic fission was possible.
Information on the Atomic Bomb
The first atomic bomb exploded on July 16, 1945, in New Mexico. Each bomb produced as much energy as the detonation of a stack of explosives the size of the Washington Monument.
The blast wave from the atomic bomb moves through air at speeds greater than the speed of sound. As the blast wave travels away from the point of the explosion, it creates high pressure in the atmosphere. The blast pressure knocks down buildings and produces great destruction.
TNT explosives produce a temperature of a few thousand degrees. Atomic bombs produce a glowing ball of fire that may reach temperatures in the millions of degrees. The energy that is released during the explosion of an atomic bomb travels out from the middle of the explosion as fast as the speed of light. Radiant energy can cause many diseases like Leukemia, or cancer of the white blood cells.
Radiation released at the time of the explosion is called prompt radiation. This radiation from the atomic blast sends out a great flash of neutrons and gamma rays. The neutrons can break concrete and other solid substances.
Radiation that is not released until after the blast is called delayed radiation, or fallout. When an atomic bomb explodes near the earthís surface, dirt is sucked into the fireball. This dirt becomes coated with radioactive material. Radiant energy can cause many diseases like Leukemia, or cancer of the white blood cells.
The fact that a single plane could deliver such a destructive device changed warfare, and the world entered the atomic age. Old weapons, techniques of warfare, and military strategy became outdated because of the bombs vast power.
The Book of Knowledge. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Inc, 2001.