Atomic Energy: Harnessing the Atom
New inventions are created daily; however, it is those that truly change the world that are remembered. The use and discovery of atomic energy negatively impacts the world because of the danger it entails. Many people across the world believe that the use of atomic energy is a mistake based off of past events that have occurred such as the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The abuse of atomic energy has been proven to damage society’s morale, population and could potentially destroy entire populations.
Scientists from earlier times helped influence the discoveries that lead to the development of atomic energy. In the late 1800’s, Dalton created the Atomic Theory which explains atoms, elements and compounds (Henderson 1). This was important to the study of and understanding of atoms to future scientists. The Atomic Theory was a list of scientific laws regarding atoms and their potential abilities. Roentagen, used Dalton’s findings and discovered x-rays which could pass through solid objects (Henderson 1). Although he did not discover radiation from the x-rays, he did help lay the foundations for electromagnetic waves. Shortly after Roentagen’s findings, J.J. Thompson discovered the electron which was responsible for defining the atom’s characteristics (Henderson 2). The electron helped scientists uncover why an atom responds to reactions the way it does and how it received its “personality”. Dalton’s, Roentagen’s and Thompson’s findings helped guide other scientists to discovering the uses of atomic energy and reactions. Such applications were discovered in the early 1900’s by using Einstein’s equation, which stated that if a chain reaction occurred, cheap, reliable energy could be produced (Henderson 4). This would occur by using fission, the process by which atoms are forced together and create energy as a product. “When anxious physicists approached Albert Einstein, he wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning him of the destructive potential of nuclear energy” (Henderson 5). Roosevelt did not realize the possible danger that could occur. Scientists began working on a reactor that would create a self sustaining fission reaction (Henderson 5). The reaction will occur when two atoms are forced together and give off electrons and energy. This breakthrough was the start of an atomic revolution.
The plan to build an atomic bomb, was introduced by Roosevelt, and called the Manhattan Project. Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, an upcoming scientist, was a main force of the Manhattan Project. At a top secret Uranium conference, Oppenheimer successfully calculated the amount of Uranium isotope needed to create an atomic bomb (Scherer and Fletcher 52). This information was key to the creation of an atomic bomb. Oppenheimer committed himself to doing “all that he could to help build the atomic bomb” (Scherer and Fletcher 52). It was his dedication, along with several other scientists, that led to...