June 16, 2005

The Manhattan Project

The project
T
he Manhattan project was the code name for the US efforts during World War II to develop an atomic bomb. It was partially motivated by Germany's progress whereby it was a race to be the first to develop a working atomic bomb, and hold the trump card that would turn the fate of the world.

The Manhattan project took place over 4 years at the cost of 1.8 billion dollars - the equivalent of over $20 billion dollars today. The result of the project was more than weapon superiority, it was also a major scientific breakthrough. Its a prime example of how scientific advance is accelerated in times of war or crisis.

Three bombs were produced by the project: Gadget, Little Boy, Fat Man. Gadget was used for testing purpose, Little Boy was detonated over the city of Hiroshima, and Fat Man was detonated over the city of Nagasaki.

Causes and effects
One of the most compelling reasons for the use of atomic bombs was to keep the Soviet Union out of the Pacific theatre which served to stem the influence of USSR and Germany on post war negotiations. In a sense, the atomic bomb was the stone that struck 2 birds: it ended the war quicker before USSR can extend its influence to the Pacific and Easter Europe, and it also served to diminish the power of USSR and Germany on the barging table when World War II ended.

While the politicians saw the atomic bomb as a means of securing the power of Alliance in the the post war world, the scientists developing it saw it as the trigger of an atomic arms race. For ethical reasons they urged that the Japan be shown the power of atomic bombs in demonstrations and allowed to surrender.

However the demonstrations did not happen, and despite heavy protest from scientists, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went ahead under the guidance of President Truman.

The bombing of Hiroshima on 6th of August 1945 resulted instantly in the death of 66,000 people and over 69,000 were injured. The bombing of Nagasaki 3 days later on the 9th of August 1945 resulted in the death 39,000 people despite the plutonium bomb's greater power - it missed the city by 1 mile- with over 25,000 people injured.

Damages didn't stop there. The death toll continue to rise years after the detonation of both atomic bombs. The nuclear fallout that occurred afterward had far reaching effects. In Hiroshima alone it was estimated that between 1946 and 1951 over 60,000 people died from radiation related illness. Over all the death toll for Hiroshima was an estimated 140,000 people at the end of 1945, and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

After Japan surrendered World War II ended shortly after. In its wake the atomic arms race predicted by the scientists occurred. This is known to the world as the Cold War.

The Cold War resulted in both USSR and US spending large amounts of resources to further their own research into atomic weapons. This boosted the economy of both nations due to booms in the defence industry, and resulted in the invention of revolutionary products - spin offs of military applications.

The events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also spawned the Council for a Liveable World in 1962, a Washington based lobby group dealing with nuclear arms control and foreign policy, and the civilian control of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1946. A means of regulating atomic weapons is thus created, in the aftermath of the Manhattan project.

Lessons
Humanity has gain a power that this planet has never before seen, yet our wisdom and ethics matched not our might. The Manhattan projects serves as evidence of this. Experts agree that World War II would have ended in 1945 even with out Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands of women, children, and civilians would have been spared death and pain if only US took the power of the atomic bomb, and the responsibility it brings with it.

The following quote by General Omar N. Bradley, Chief of Staff, United States Army, in 1945 condenses the problem society faces in the present world. Whether its stem cell research, cloning, DNA engineering or designer babies - the problem remains unchanged from when the Manhattan project raised it to the present day:
"We have too many men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon of the Mount . . . The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living."

The Manhattan projected affected not only the outcome of World War II, but also human civilization and history. We are now more than ever more powerful than any before us, and how we deal with such power and those yet to come will decide the fate of the human race. We are like children playing with fire - if we show no restraint, exhibit no morals, we will ultimately be destroyed by the knowledge we so dearly gained. Science with out responsibility is the shadow over our civilization.

Sincerely,
Steve