Consequences of Scientific Discoveries
The “father of the atomic bomb”, Robert Oppenheimer claims that “A scientist cannot hold back progress because of fears of what the world will do with his discoveries”. Arguably, Oppenheimer is correct in his statement that a scientist should not withhold things just because of their fears for the effects that the invention or discovery would have on the world. This is because limiting oneself to their fears will not allow an improvement in civilisation, by limiting discoveries, it is true that many negative creations would likely seize to exist, but at the same time, the progress of the development of beneficial inventions would either halt or arrive too late. Due to most inventions being building blocks towards other creations, creations that may at some point be vital for the survival of civilization or species, one should not hold back their discoveries just because of fears that it may lead to something negative.
The world-renowned scientist, Albert Einstein has shown to have contributed various findings which led to further scientific discoveries and inventions. Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discoveries, a prize given only “to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind” according to Alfred Nobel’s (Creator of the Nobel Prize as well as a renowned scientist, among other things) will which was conveyed in 1895. However, despite Robert Oppenheimer being nominated three times for his Physics discoveries, he was never able to win the Nobel Prize, this again relates to the fact that the ‘atomic bomb’ was not an invention concocted for the ‘benefit of humankind’ but rather the destruction. As a result of this, Robert Oppenheimer despite his discovery was ineligible for the award.
Einstein proved to be a huge contribution to the greater good, but at the same time, his discoveries have also proven to have brought about destructive innovations as well. The ‘atomic bomb’ arguably would not have had the theoretical basis for its creation if Einstein’s equation ‘e=mc2’ was not invented. Aside from this, in fears that Germans would beat the allies in the invention of a nuclear weapon, scientists along with Einstein urgently vouched for the development of the atomic bomb.
Personally, I believe that we should try to understand the perspective of the scientist before shifting blame. Sure, Einstein did support the development of the atomic bomb, however, he only did so in fears of the German Nazi, and let us not forget that it was not the scientists themselves who authorised the use of the nuclear weapon. The United States of America’s 33rd president, Harry S. Truman is the individual who authorised the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japanese soil which later contributed to the death of thousands collectively from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Despite this, we cannot shift the blame to President Truman either, since as various sources show Truman ‘had no choice in the matter’ as it was the most efficient way to prevent the continuation of the World War which reaped thousands of lives fortnightly itself. We can indeed question whether this was the most humane and efficient course into dimming the war? Or we can resort to questioning whether anyone is truly to be blamed for their part in the development of the atomic bomb.
The nuclear atomic bomb created by Robert Oppenheimer saw its first successful detonation on the 16th of July, 1945 ‘in a remote desert location near Alamogordo, New Mexico’. The bomb was later used as a weapon of war, when the US B-29 bomber, Enola Gay released the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945 and then Nagasaki on the 9th of August, 1945.
After Nagasaki’s bombing, America’s goal of getting Japan to surrender without taking any US military damage using the atomic bomb came out successful. The united states aspired to aim the first bomb on Hiroshima as it had never been under siege before and was thought to be a good place to test the effects of the atomic bomb, it was also home to an important Japanese military base. And Nagasaki because it was declared an important port. In the end, Hiroshima counted an approximate death toll of 140,000 deaths (out of ~350,000 individuals in Hiroshima), with 74,000 at Nagasaki. These tolls, however, exclude the deaths of the people who died from the radioactive affects of the bomb later on.
Leonard Cheshire, a British pilot who was on the planes that dropped the bomb, recalls his experience and viewing of the mushroom caused by the bomb on Martin Gilbert’s Second World War (novel);
“Obscene in its greedy clawing at the earth, swelling as if with its regurgitation of all the life that it had consumed.”
Unlike the atomic bombs’ successor, the Hydrogen bomb uses nuclear fusion which is a nuclear reaction where the nuclei of low atomic number fuse or combine to create larger and heavier nucleus’ along with the release of the atomic bomb uses nuclear fission.
Nuclear Fission was used in the atomic bomb, it used radioactive materials like uranium or plutonium, the Hiroshima atomic bomb used uranium-235, and the Nagasaki bomb used plutonium-239. Nuclear Fission uses a neutron which hits a radioactive atom’s nucleus, creating an unstable nucleus, this causes the nucleus to split and create two separate atoms and two or more separate nuclei (nucleus’) as a by-product along with the release of energy, as the main product needed for the bomb to explode. The nucleus’ which have been produced as by-products continue to break other radioactive atoms until they run out, creating a chain reaction, the stemming from this event is referred to as generations as shown in figure 1.
When the bomb hits the ground, the materials collide and create the explosion, specifically, a relatively large object is attached to the bottom of the bomb with a weak block added to stop it from colliding into the radioactive material. When the head of the bomb hits the ground, the bomb's TNT explodes and pushes the object which clashes through the weak block, entering the highly explosive material (Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239), this begins the Fission reaction, and thus, the nuclear explosion.
In the end, one cannot be blamed for making an action if it is an action taken for the moral good. This means Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, Harry S. Truman, and the Japanese government (for not surrendering prior to bombings, when warnings were received) cannot be blamed for the aftermath of the atomic bomb, they were after peace and some did so in fear or in hopes of keeping their pride. Scientific discoveries should not be withheld if they believe it is for the common good, the consequences are something that must be thought about initially though. But the decision of inventing or finding and releasing it into society is not something one should necessarily be blamed for doing, that is, however, assuming that the individual did not have sinful ulterior or principle motives that were not supplementary, instead, the decision should be under a noble priority.
· Jha, A. E=mc2: Einstein’s Equation That Gave Birth to the Atom Bomb.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 Apr. 2014, www.theguardian.com/science/2014/apr/05/einstein-equation-emc2-special-relativity-alok-jha.
· Isaacson, W. (2008). Chain Reaction: From Einstein to the Atomic Bomb. [online] Discover Magazine. Available at: https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/chain-reaction-from-einstein-to-the-atomic-bomb.
· Biography. (2015). J. Robert Oppenheimer. [online] Available at: https://www.biography.com/scientist/j-robert-oppenheimer.
· Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2020, August 27). Atomic bomb. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/technology/atomic-bomb.
· Atomic Heritage Foundation. (n.d.). J. Robert Oppenheimer. [online] Available at: https://www.atomicheritage.org/profile/j-robert-oppenheimer#:~:text=Robert%20Oppenheimer-.
· NobelPrize.org. (2019). Alfred Nobel’s will. [online] Available at: https://www.nobelprize.org/alfred-nobel/alfred-nobels-will/.
· www.nps.gov. (n.d.). Harry S Truman’s Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Available at: https://www.nps.gov/articles/trumanatomicbomb.htm#:~:text=Truman%20did%20not%20seek%20to.
· Khan Academy. (n.d.). The atomic bomb & The Manhattan Project (article). [online] Available at: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/rise-to-world-power/us-wwii/a/the-manhattan-project-and-the-atomic-bomb#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20detonated%20two.
· Bamford, T. (2020). The Most Fearsome Sight: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima. [online] The National WWII Museum | New Orleans. Available at: https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/atomic-bomb-hiroshima.
· Bbc.co.uk. (2014). BBC — WW2 People’s War — Timeline. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a6652262.shtml.
· Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 75th anniversary of atomic bombings. (2020). BBC News. [online] 8 Aug. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-53648572#:~:text=The%20recorded%20death%20tolls%20are.
· Editors, H. com (n.d.). Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. [online] HISTORY. Available at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/atomic-bomb-dropped-on-nagasaki#:~:text=On%20August%209%2C%201945%2C%20a.
· Time. (n.d.). What Is the Difference Between a Hydrogen Bomb and an Atomic Bomb? [online] Available at: https://time.com/4954082/hydrogen-bomb-atomic-bomb/#:~:text=Simply%20speaking%2C%20experts%20say%20a.
· Office of Nuclear Energy (2018). Fission and Fusion: What is the Difference? [online] Energy.gov. Available at: https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/fission-and-fusion-what-difference.
· www.sciencedirect.com. (n.d.). Nuclear Fusion — an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/nuclear-fusion.
· World Nuclear Association. (2016). Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Subsequent Weapons Testing. [online] Available at: https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/non-proliferation/hiroshima,-nagasaki,-and-subsequent-weapons-testin.aspx#:~:text=Two%20atomic%20bombs%20made%20by,War%20to%20a%20sudden%20end.