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Today, bombs are a part of life. People hear about bomb explosions, or a story related to bombs, almost daily. No one is really in harm today because of the strict regulation of bombs. The United States government as well as many governments all over the world have limited the use of bombs. Since the atomic bomb was introduced, the only thing that the world has been able to relate to it is destruction. This, of course, is due a great deal to World War II. The “famous” bomb that was dropped in Japan was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There is a plethora of information on the negative effects of the A-bomb and topics that relate to the atomic bomb: its origins, its effects on the environment, and its effects on humans.
First of all, a brief outline of nuclear history can tie up loose ends of the life of radiation. In 1789, Martin Klaproth discovered uranium. Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays in 1895. One year later, Henri Becquerel, a French scientist, discovered that some atoms give off energy in form of rays; uranium gives off radiation. In 1899, Ernest Rutherford concludes that radiation can be divided into two types, alpha and beta rays. One year later, Pierre Curie observes another type of radiation, the gamma ray. In 1905, the first food irradiation patents are issued in the U.S. and Europe. This is a method for processing foods by treating them with radiation. (It does not make the food radioactive.) This time line shows how quickly radiation came to be in relation to uranium to the effects of the radiation it gives off. This is an important idea to note because it forecasts the speed at which the atomic bomb was later created.
The scientific development surrounding the A-bomb has been a pivotal point in the world’s history, launching the world into the Atomic Age. The discovery of the nuclear atom dates back to 1911, but its potential power was not realized until the late 1930’s. Both the idea and study of atoms as a weapon originated in Germany. Albert Einstein even had knowledge of atomic weapons. He wrote a letter to President Roosevelt to inform him of the potential power of them.
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July 16, 1945: this is an important date in atomic history because it is the date of the first atomic bomb explosion. The bomb was named Fat Boy and was tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. If this date looks familiar, that is because it is in the World War II time frame. Before the bomb was tested, President Harry Truman had already made the decision to use it on Japan. Even though the war was almost over, Truman still decided to use a weapon of such large devastation. He made this decision based on the facts that the loss of American lives would be too great not to; Americans wanted revenge for the Pearl Harbor incident and the treatment of American prisoners; and the development of the bomb would cost two billion dollars, too large of a financial investment not to actually use the bomb.
An a-bomb’s destructive capabilities on the surrounding areas are phenomenal. Effects on the surrounding area caused bye the bomb can be broken up into four general categories: damage caused by the atomic blast, damage caused by heat rays which produced high temperature fires, fallout, and black rain. The atomic bomb creates a huge amount of energy; about half of this energy is used in producing a blast wave. Huge amounts of explosive power from an atomic bomb is released in only a fraction of a second and creates a powerful blast effect which travels through the air at a speed that is greater than the speed of sound. The blast creates mass destruction. At only 0.5 kilometers away from the hypocenter, strong iron-framed buildings are crushed and roofs are blown off and walls are knocked over. At two kilometers away from the hypocenter, major damage to all brick buildings two stories and higher can be seen. The heat rays and high temperature fires also cause major damage. Compared to a TNT explosion, which produces a temperature of about a few thousand degrees, an atomic explosion produces a glowing ball of fire, which can reach up to millions of degrees. The radiant energy travels at the speed of light and includes visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. The rays cast permanent shadows of railings onto roads. They also caused ceramic roof tiles to bubble. The surfaces of granite stones were bleached white and became rough with the popping of quartz in the stone. Wooden fences and clothes hanging off clotheslines within two kilometers of the hypocenter spontaneously combusted. Everything within two kilometers of the hypocenter was completely burnt.
Fallout from an atomic bomb produces several damaging effects. Fallout occurs soon after the atomic bomb has exploded, or it can occur weeks, months, or years after it has exploded. Dirt is sucked up into the fireball when an atomic bomb explodes near the earth’s surface. This dirt is then coated with radioactive fission fragments and is carried aloft in the mushroom cloud (the ball of fire). The radioactive debris then drifts back to earth after the explosion. The height of the mushroom cloud determines how long the debris will take to fall back to earth. If the mushroom only reaches the lower air, the debris will touch down in a month. If the mushroom reaches the upper air, the debris won’t return for years.
Black rain is another element of the atomic bomb that has dangerous effects. Twenty to thirty minutes after an explosion, black rain will fall in a wide area. Large amounts of fallout, called “ashes of death”, are contained in the rain in the form of soot and dust. They cause radiation contamination in remote areas far from the hypocenter.
An atomic bomb has the capability to damage the human body as well. Harm caused to the body can be classified in four general ways: burns from heat rays and fires, broken bones and lacerations, damage from acute radiation, and damage due to the after effects of the radiation.
A-bomb burns can be classified as primary burns and secondary burns, depending on the exposure of the skin to the heat rays. Within three kilometers of the hypocenter, burns affect the surface of the skin. Within two kilometers of the hypocenter, direct exposure can result in severe, incapacitating burns. Within about 1.2 kilometers of the hypocenter the body can be burned through the skin and into the tissue below; even internal organs can be damaged.
Two groups of injuries result from atomic blasts; primary injuries (caused by the blast itself) and secondary injuries (caused by collapsing structures knocked over by the blast). People can be hurled into the air by the blast. Clothes can burn and blow instantly into tatters. If any skin is left, it can be completely stripped off the bone or left hanging in strips. Glass windows shatter and glass can pierce bodies.
Acute effects of radiation are radiation related symptoms that appear immediately after the bombing and subside around five months afterward. Acute effects include: digestive tract disorders-nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea; nervous disorders-headache, delirium, insomnia; fatigue-loss of energy, weakness; bleeding-blood in vomit, blood in urine, blood in stool, purpura; infection-fever, stomatitis, skin infections; blood disorders-loss of red or white blood cells; and reproductive disorders-zoospermia, menstrual disorders. These effects usually happen in a certain order. First nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, fever, and diarrhea hit. After about two weeks, victims’ hair begins to fall out for one or two weeks. Bleeding and blood disorders are very common.
After effects come long after the acute effects have subsided. These problems start anywhere from two to ten years after the explosion. Several effects threaten survivors long after the blast. Keloids are painful swellings caused by direct exposure to the heat rays within two kilometers of the hypocenter. Leukemia is a malignancy in the blood. Young white blood cells reproduce uncontrollably, losing their function. Cancer of the thyroid, breast, lung, salivary gland, and other cancers show. The more radiation that is absorbed, the higher the risk of malignancy that occurs. In-utero exposure has many devastating effects on fetuses. Some are born normally and are unaffected, but many die within the womb. A common problem is microcephaly, a smaller than Norman skull. These problems are normally accompanied with retardation.
Anyone can see that the effects of an atomic bomb are definitely dangerous. The bomb affects everything from humans to the environment. Of course the major part of an a-bomb's effects are negative. However, humans have used the atomic bomb for their own selfish and destructive purposes and have therefore created greater hardship for our world.