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Friday, September 16, 2011

MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS - THE MAKING

War is a neccessary evil they say. Somewhere in the world now (and then) powerful nations are planning and brokering wars be it at regional or global scale. The game is now in the middle East and Indian subcontinent - Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The spoils or war are too tempting for the would be winners to stay quiet - enemies annhilated, weapons tested, boundries changed, new countries and allies created, resources grabbed, greed satisfied at least temporarily as testified after the two World Wars.

After WWII the British partitioned Palestine to reclaim or regain what they lost in the crusades, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Outreme. But the Jews violently drove them out at the expense of the Arabs too till now.

World War II leaders - Allied forces (L, Churchill far right) vs Axis powers (R, Hitler).

WWII dragged on too long and resources getting limited. The Allies were winning in many fronts though, West and East.

To end war they need something big to destroy the enemy. The two sides knew what they need, the mother of all bombs, the atomic bomb and the first to use it will annihilate the other. The technology was developing fast and the race for the atomic weapon was fast.


The mushroom signature of an atomic bomb - French testing on Bikini Island in the Pacific.


Einstein, a German Jew in 1905 came up with the theory of relativity, interconversion of matter and energy, E=mc2. Since then, physicists in Europe were experimenting to release the 'frozen energy' indicated in the formula.

Einstein fled to the US in 1934.


In 1932, Chadwick, a British physicist discovered neutron, a new atomic particle with no electric charge. In 1937, Ferni, an Italian physicist using neutrons experimented bombarding Uranium-235 with neutrons but it was 2 years later that Lise Meitner, an Austro- Jewish refugee from Hitler and Otto Frisch provided the correct explanation of the outcome.

The U-235 nucleus, absorbing the neutron, splitted into two fragments ie. fissioned. In the course of such event, more neutrons are emitted.

By the summer of 1939, German physicist Werner Heisenberg commented there were 12 people who knew an atomic bomb could be assembled.

By 1941, the race for an atomic bomb was going neck-to-neck between the US and Germany. By 1945, by all accounts Germany had lost the race mainly because many of its nuclear physicists had fled to former.



On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb, code-named Trinity, was exploded at Alamogordo, New Mexico. The code-named Manhattan Project, headed by Robert Oppenheimer took 3 years to make it happen.

Oppenheimer was stunned by the sheer magnitude of the blast. 'I am become death, shatterer of worlds', a passage from a Hindu scripture came across his mind.

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