In the months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Manhattan Project–thename given to The atomic bomb Essay program because its original offices were inManhattan–grew very quickly.
And although the Army had been involved since June of1942, it was just beginning to realize that someone was going to have to be put in overallcharge. The man chosen was Leslie Richard Groves, a 46-year-old colonel in the ArmyWhile he was a competent engineer, Groves was no scientist. He did notunderstand the science behind building the atomic bomb, nor did he pretend to. Heneeded someone who would be able to supervise the scientific side of the project. Afterdismissing a number of candidates, Groves decided on who seemed like the mostimprobable of candidate of all–38-year-old J. Robert Oppenheimer.Order now
After he was officially given the job of laboratory director, Oppenheimer planned acampaign of absolutely unscrupulous recruiting of anyone we can lay our hands on. 1 He used his charismatic personality to recruit some of the greatest scientific talent in theworld to join the project. He then helped Groves find a location for his bomb-makinglaboratory, tentatively called Site Y. A number of southwestern sites were explored.
On November 16, Oppenheimer,Groves, and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers were looking at a site atJemez Springs, New Mexico, a deep canyon about 40 mi. (64 km) northwest of Santa Fe. Oppenheimer did not care too much for the site, nor did Groves. His main objection wasthat there was no room for expansion. Oppenheimer then innocently remarked aboutgoing back to Albuquerque via the Los Alamos Ranch School.
Groves liked Los Alamos at once, and began moving quickly. He calledWashington that very evening and began to buy the land. The Ranch School was havingfinancial trouble as a result of the war, and so it was more than happy to sell out. Within aweek, the land, the building, and other possessions of the school–including 1,600 booksLos Alamos, or the Hill, as it was commonly referred to, officially opened forAll bombs, and especially those being developed at Los Alamos, release energy inA certain amount of energy, called the binding energy, is required to hold thenucleus of an atom together. This energy is relatively small for light elements and steadilyincreases for heavier elements as far as cobalt, iron, and nickel.
After that, in still heavierelements, it begins to decrease to the point that the binding energy of an extremely heavyatom, such as uranium, is less than that of many, much lighter elements. A small portion of the mass of each particle is lost when it enters a nucleus so thata proton, for instance, actually weighs less inside the nucleus than outside. It must do thisto fit in. To do this, it converts some of its mass into energy. The combined mass loss ofall the particles of the nucleus equals the binding energy.
There are two processes by which particles can be made to lose weight. One,called fission (the type of bombs dropped on Japan), happens when a heavy nucleus splitsapart into two lighter nuclei. These newly formed nuclei have a higher binding energythan their heavier parent nucleus; therefore, they demand a further weight loss on thepart of their particles. The other process, called fusion, occurs when two light nuclei fusetogether to form a single heavier nucleus with a higher binding energy. In both cases theparticles must lose mass and release energy. Certain types of atoms with many protonsand neutrons in their nucleus are radioactive; they are unstable and may break apartspontaneously.
Other types, upon absorbing neutrons, break apart. In this process, theentire nucleus falls apart into two pieces, releasing energy in the process, but only after thenucleus temporarily increases its mass number by one. Two atoms, P-239 and U-235,undergo this type of division and release energy at the same time. U-235 emits two orthree neutrons in the process, while P-239 emits many more. Either of these two atomsmay be used in an atomic bomb. After absorbing a neutron, an atom of these elementsemits several more neutrons, making a chain reaction possible.
If the surroundingstructure is properly designed, the result is an explosion. The amount of fissionable material needed to make an explosion is called thecritical mass, or the trigger quantity. Because a chain reaction would begin immediately,the .