Monday, November 23, 2009

Work on the Manhattan Project, Subsequent Events, and Little Known Facts Related to its Use

I was planning on doing quite a bit of work this morning when I showed up extra early at the lab, but instead, I spent several delightful minutes reading this amazing personal account of the Manhattan Project and the dropping of the bombs that ended World War II. This personal account was written by Lawrence Bartell, one of the last remaining participants of the venerable project.

Abstract: A personal account of work on the Manhattan Project in Chicago by one of the few remaining survivors of the war-time project is given, illustrating, among other things, how absurd things can happen at a time of great stress and concern.. As is well known, Los Alamos was the site specializing in the physics of the bomb while Chicago emphasized metallurgical and chemical research. Nevertheless, physics played a significant role in Chicago, as well. That is where Fermi constructed the worlds first uranium pile under the stands of Stagg field, a site at which this author got seriously irradiated. Some curious events occurring after the bomb was dropped are also related. In addition, at this time of public protest by sincere people who question the ethics of America for dropping the bomb on innocent civilians, certain facts, obviously unknown to the protesters, are presented which place the bombing in a rather different light.

It's amazing that all of the radiation and chemical exposure that he endured haven't caused him more significant health problems.

It's an amazing historical account and adds another perspective to the Manhattan Project, especially from the Chicago effort.



Anonymous said...

I recall an interview with Bethe now where he related how the moderator problem was resolved for the Manhattan Project.

He said that there was some ongoing frustration about how graphite wasn't panning out experimentally as a moderator. According to Bethe, it was Szilard who came to the rescue; that in his earlier days of more eclectic experience he had opportunities to be acquainted with varied industrial techniques.

Made aware of the moderator problem, he said forthrightly that commercially available graphite was typically laced with boron, a fact that most physicists of the time weren't likely to just happen to know or speculate about.

Doug Natelson said...

Thanks for linking to this - that was fascinating!

ZapperZ said...

You're very welcome! :)