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The Manhattan Project

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Before the Manhattan Project, in the beginning there were many advancements in understanding made in the world of physics. These resulted in the recognition of nuclear fission and its potential as an energy source and as a potential weapon. Of these advancements none was more central and important than the development of the nuclear model of the atom, which by the year of 1932 contained a nucleus containing most of the mass of an atom in the form of two particles, protons and neutrons. This nucleus was surrounded by an electron shell. Previously it was thought that atoms were the smallest form of matter therefore ultimately stable and indivisible. However, in 1919 Ernest Rutherford was able to break apart the nucleus of nitrogen with alpha particles from a radioactive source.

Following these discoveries research in the area of nuclear fission took off as scientists and physicists around the world were bombarding atoms with alpha particles. Consequently rapidly advancing knowledge on the subject. In 1933 Hungarian physicists Leo Szilard proposed that if an atom split and released more neutrons than it required to split it that an expanding nuclear chain reaction could be the result. After some experimentation, he discovered that on average the fission of uranium resulted in the release of two or more neutrons. At the time he kept this secret, as it was a real possibility that this information could be used by fascist governments as a weapon with massive destructive potential. Many governments quickly realized the potential for producing energy or military weapons with the harnessing of nuclear fission. During this same time though numerous political change was occurring throughout the world. Notably in 1933 Adolf Hitler ...

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...m bomb. The plutonium bomb reached critical mass through an implosion-style detonation. With this method a sphere of plutonium is surrounded by explosives, which compress the inner sphere of plutonium to critical mass. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki and the famous Trinity test were all conducted using this type of bomb.

Bibliography

Hoddeson, Lillian, et al. Critical Assembly. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Hevly, Bruce, and John M. Findlay. The Atomic West. New York: University of Washington Press, 1998.

Hughes, Jeff. The Manhattan Project. Ed. Jon Turney. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Walker, Gregory. The Nuclear Weapon Archive. 13 Mar. 1999. 26 Mar. 2007 .

"The Manhattan Project." Atomic Archive. 31 Dec. 2006. 26 Mar. 2007 .
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