After a frantic race that lasted 2 years, 3 months and 16 days, in which the “Manhattan Project” triumphed over the German “Uranium Project” which was trying to achieve the same end, on July 16, 1945, it took place, at Alamogordo (New Mexico), an experiment” Trinity Success.
Determining the three most important moments of the Second World War can be a very complicated task, however, the launch of the two atomic bombs by the United States of America on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be on the list of those. Moments for many citizens.
The dropping of these two bombs was the culmination of the US-led Manhattan Project, which included the United Kingdom and Canada. The ultimate goal of this project, which arose from a letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt warning him that the energy released by nuclear fission could be used by the Germans to produce bombs, was to develop the first atomic bomb. After a frantic race that lasted 2 years, 3 months and 16 days, in which the “Manhattan Project” was victorious over the German “Uranium Project”, which was trying to achieve the same end, on July 16, 1945, held in Alamogordo (New Mexico), the successful “Trinity” test .
A few days later, two bombs named “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”, respectively, were detonated over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Little Boy” was based on U-235, an isotope so rare that it must be separated from the common uranium isotope, U-238, which is not suitable for making atomic bombs. The “Fat Man” bomb used the isotope plutonium Pu-239. Isotopes are atoms of the same chemical element whose nuclei have the same atomic number (the number of protons in the nucleus) and a different mass number (the sum of neutrons and protons in the nucleus). Therefore different isotopes of a chemical element differ in the number of neutrons.
In most history books, one can read that scholars the size of Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence, Louis Walter Alvarez, Hans Bethe, and John von Neumann, among many others, took part in the “Manhattan Project”. However, one of history’s greatest scientists is rarely highlighted: the American atomic and nuclear physicist Glenn Seaborg. Their role was clear: to collaborate on the design of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Specifically, Seaborg and his collaborators produced enough plutonium-239 to produce Fat Man.
After the Manhattan Project, he returned to the university where he collaborated on the discovery of more than a dozen chemical elements, including californium, einsteinium, fermium, nobelium or seaborgium.
This physicist played a key role in the discovery of iodine-131 (I-131). The radioisotope I-131 is a radioactive isotope of iodine produced by the nuclear fission of uranium and plutonium and has been shown to be highly effective in treating thyroid cancer. The use of I-131 has a curious and inspiring history. Glenn Seaborg’s mother was one of the first thyroid cancer patients to benefit from radioactive iodine! Years after the discovery, his mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer which was cured due to the investigation of her son.
Physics or chemistry, like other scientific disciplines, is neither “bad” nor “good”. It all depends on the use in which they are put. The same scientific principles that can cause global disasters save millions of lives. The last word belongs to man.
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