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DECEMBER 8, 2012
Science Saturday - The Atom Bomb

The atom bomb is the most deadly weapon in the world.  The beginnings of the bomb can be traced back to a German chemist Otto Hahn who discovered when uranium is placed next to a radioactive element the uranium atoms will split in two.  This discovery came at the beginning of World War II so when Oppenheimer, a US physicist, heard about the discovery he realized this power could be harnessed for a super bomb. 

The race was on!  Which country would create the bomb first? President Roosevelt started the Manhattan project after a letter from Einstein warned him of the German discovery and research to create an atomic bomb.  Another complication to the research project was the use of spies.  Many countries were working on creating an atomic bomb and also using spies to steal research from other countries.

The most complicated part of the procedure was to refine uranium.  In the natural state it is not fissionable, aka it can't split atoms in two.  Columbia University scientists came up with a method using gaseous diffusion and Berkeley scientists invented magnetic separation.  

On July 16, 1945 the bomb was tested in Los Alamos, New Mexico.  The force of the explosion turned the sand in the dirt into jade green glass.  The blast created a crater 10 feet deep and 1,100 feet across.   Many scientist on the project were concerned about the potential for destruction of such a weapon if it were ever used.  Oppenheimer quoted Hindu scripture, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."  The scary part?  The atom bomb only uses 1/10th of 1% of it's explosive potential.

Want to know more?  Check out this new book on the Atom Bomb: 
The Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Deadly Weapon by Steve Sheinkin


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