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Atomic bombs (1945)

Atomic bombs (1945)

The atomic bomb is one of the most destructive weapons in human history.

History

Keywords

atomic bomb, Oppenheimer, mass destruction, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Los Alamos, Manhattan Project, Leo Szilard, Enola Gay, Alamogordo, Paul Tibbets, nuclear fission, nuclear, weapon, bomber, Little Boy, Fat Man, uranium bomb, chain reaction, world war, John von Neumann, Edward Teller, history

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Questions

  • Where was the center of the American Nuclear program?
  • Is it true that the bomb in Hiroshima killed nearly 90% of the people in a 1 km (0.62 mi) diameter circle around the explosion?

Scenes

Horrible end to a horrible war

The first nuclear bomb was developed by an American research team in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
The codename of the program was ‘Manhattan Project.’ It was launched in 1939, initiated by the Hungarian-born Leo Szilard (and by the fear of the Nazi nuclear program). The team of American, English, and Italian scientists, including John von Neumann and Edward Teller, was led by Robert Oppenheimer. The first nuclear bomb (a plutonium bomb) was detonated on July 16, 1945 on the test site near Alamogordo.

The European events of World War II ended in May 1945. In the Far East, however, Japan refused to surrender, therefore the USA decided to deploy weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 (‘Little Boy’: a uranium bomb) and on Nagasaki on August 9 (‘Fat Man’, a plutonium bomb). The first bomb was dropped by the 393d Bombardment Squadron B-29 Superfortress bomber, Enola Gay, commanded by Paul Tibbets.

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‘Little Boy’

An atomic bomb is a kind of nuclear weapon. There are two basic types of nuclear weapons: those which derive their energy from nuclear fission (atomic bombs), and those which use fusion (hydrogen bombs).

In atomic bombs (fission bombs), heavy nuclei (plutonium, uranium) split into lighter elements when exposed to radiation by neutrons, starting a chain reaction. Due to the release of the binding energy of nuclei, atomic bombs have enormous destructive power. This manifests as air pressure, electromagnetic impulse (such as heat radiation, light) and radioactive radiation.

Little Boy’ was the codename of the Mk-I atomic bomb, the first nuclear weapon ever used in war. It was about 3 m (10 ft) long and 71 cm (28 in) wide. Inside the nearly 4 tonne construction, 64 kg (141 lb) uranium-235 was placed (only 0.6 g or 0.02 oz of it converted into energy).
The ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; its explosion had a yield of 13-18 kilotons, it destroyed the city and killed 140 thousand people.

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  • radar antenna

‘Fat Man’

An atomic bomb is a kind of nuclear weapon. There are two basic types of nuclear weapons: those which derive their energy from nuclear fission (atomic bombs), and those which use fusion (hydrogen bombs).

In atomic bombs (fission bombs), heavy nuclei (plutonium, uranium) split into lighter elements when exposed to radiation by neutrons, starting a chain reaction. Due to the release of the binding energy of nuclei, atomic bombs have enormous destructive power. This manifests as air pressure, electromagnetic impulse (such as heat radiation, light) and radioactive radiation.

The fission bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 was possibly named after Winston Churchill. The bomb was 325 cm (128 in) long and 152 cm (60 in) wide, it measured 4,600 kg (10,141 lb) and it contained plutonium-239. The plane that dropped the bomb, Bockscar (piloted by Charles Sweeney) was assigned to the 393d Bomb Squadron, just as the one that bombed Hiroshima. The explosion that had a yield of 21 kilotons killed 39 thousand and injured 25 thousand people in the Japanese city.

  • stabilizing tail fins
  • radar antenna
  • stabilizing tail fins
  • radar antenna

Narration

The destructive power of nuclear bombs comes from nuclear fission - nuclei split while emitting neutrons and thereby release energy. Though it is rare, nuclear fission can occur spontaneously, or it can be generated by neutron bombardment.

It was Leo Szilard who suggested that if an atom absorbs one neutron, it will split and release several neutrons, starting a chain reaction. The uranium isotope with an atomic mass of 235 and the plutonium isotope with an atomic mass of 239 are the most suitable for this, as 2 or 3 neutrons are released with each fission event.

The precondition for a chain reaction is that the fissile material should enter a super-critical state, that is, its mass and density should be greater than a minimum value. Neutrons released by spontaneous fission collide with nuclei and cause them to split. Thereby further neutrons are released and a chain reaction is started.

In uranium bombs, the fissile material is placed in several separate smaller pieces. When these pieces are pushed together by explosives, their combined mass exceeds the critical mass and a detonation occurs.

In plutonium bombs, the fissile material is compressed by explosives to start the chain reaction.

The Manhattan Project was an American research program for the development of an atomic bomb. The team of physicists was led by Robert Oppenheimer. Nazi Germany also attempted to develop an atomic bomb, but fortunately failed. Oppenheimer and his team achieved their goal in 1945, they built a uranium bomb named Little Boy, and a plutonium bomb named Fat Man.

On July 26, 1945, the Allies sent an ultimatum to Japan, calling for its immediate surrender to end World War II. When Japan rejected the ultimatum, the two bombs were deployed: a bomber called the Enola Gay dropped 'Little Boy' on Hiroshima on August 6, and a B-29 bomber called Bockscar dropped 'Fat Man' on Nagasaki on August 9. The two attacks caused terrible destruction, altogether more than 300 thousand civilians died. Even several generations later, children were born with severe congenital disorders due to radiation-induced mutations.

The deployment of the nuclear bombs forced Japan to its knees. The Instrument of Surrender, marking the end of World War II, was signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.

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