Ever since the dawn of time man has found new ways of killing each other. The most destructive way of killing people known to man would have to be the atomic bomb. The reason why the atomic bomb is so destructive is that when it is detonated, it has more than one effect. The effects of the atomic bomb are so great that Nikita Khrushchev said that the survivors would envy the dead (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 1982). These devastating physical effects come from the atomic bomb’s blast, the atomic bomb’s thermal radiation, and the atomic bomb’s nuclear radiation.
An atomic bomb is any weapon that gets its destructive power from an atom. This power comes when the matter inside of the atoms is transformed into energy. The process by which this is done is known as fission. The only two atoms suitable for fissioning are the uranium isotope U-235 and the plutonium isotope Pu-239 (Outlaw Labs). Fission occurs when a neutron, a subatomic particle with no
electrical charge, strikes the nucleus of one of these isotopes and causes it to split apart. When the nucleus is split, a large amount of energy is produced, and more free neutrons are also released. These neutrons then in turn strike other atoms, which causes more energy to be released. If this process is repeated, a self-sustaining chain reaction will occur, and it is this chain reaction that causes the atomic bomb to have its destructive power (World Book, 1990). This chain reaction can be attained in two different ways.
The first type of atomic bomb ever used was a gun-type. In this type two subcritical pieces of U-235 are placed in a device similar to the barrel of an artillery shell. One piece is placed at one end of the barrel and will remain there at rest. The other subcritical mass is placed at the other end of the barrel. A conventional explosive is packed behind the second subcritical mass. When the fuse is triggered, a conventional explosion causes the second subcritical mass to be propelled at a high velocity into the first subcritical mass. The resulting combination causes the two subcritical masses to become a supercritical mass. When this supercritical mass is obtained, a rapid self-sustained chain reaction is caused (World Book, 1990). This type of atomic bomb was used on Hiroshima, and given the nickname “Little Boy” after Franklin D. Roosevelt (Outlaw Labs).
The second type of atomic bomb is an implosion bomb.
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Analysis of the Atomic Bomb
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