The Development of Atomic Weaponry

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According to Merriam-Webster, nuclear fission is defined as “the splitting of an atomic nucleus resulting in the release of large amounts of energy” (Nuclear Fission). In the book Remembering the Manhattan Project: Perspectives on the Making of the Atomic Bomb and Its Legacy, Richard Rhodes, an American journalist and historian, states that fission was essentially discovered by accident. On December 21, 1938, German physicists, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman, were performing an experiment in which they bombarded uranium atoms with neutrons (Rhodes 17). They saw that this procedure created mutated atoms that had strange characteristics. Hahn and Strassman found that the neutrons split the nuclei of the uranium in half producing radioactive barium and krypton (Rhodes 18). Rhodes explains that the physicists observed that the reaction was extremely exothermic, producing about ten times the energy needed for the fission to occur. After publishing their findings, physicists all over the world recreated the experiment. After conducting his own fission experiment, Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist at Colombia University, said, “A little bomb like that and it would all disappear” (qtd. Rhodes 19). Many of the world’s physicists came to the same conclusion; this reaction could be used to develop an atomic weapon. According to Rhodes, this discovery made the development of atomic weaponry seem essential to many countries because the only way to defend themselves against atomic weapons was to have similar weapons of their own. In 1940 two physicists, Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peirels, sent a warning to the British government stating, “Germany is, or will be, in the possession of this weapon, it must be realized that no shelters are ava... ... middle of paper ... ...ilm Criticism 27.3 (2003): 40-52. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Nov. 2013. Rhodes, Richard. "The Manhattan Project - A Millennial Transformation." Remembering the Manhattan Project: Perspectives on the Making of the Atomic Bomb and Its Legacy. New Jersey: World Scientific, 2004. 15-38. Print. Roland, Alex. "Was the Nuclear Arms Race Deterministic?" Technology and Culture 51.2 (2010): 444-461. Project MUSE. Web. 1 Nov. 2013. Stimson, Henry L. "The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb." Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb (2009): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. Thompson, Nick. "Cuban Missile Crisis II? Not exactly, say weapons experts." CNN. Cable News Network, 17 July 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013. Vidich, Arthur J. "Atomic Bombs And American Democracy." International Journal Of Politics, Culture & Society 8.3 (1995): 499. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.
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