Stuntman And Lover Of Cheese

by Dan Bostonweeks

Book: The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Well, I finally finished reading The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. I’m just going to start out by saying that was one heck of a weighty tome. At more than 760 pages of small type and with very dense subject matter it took me a while to read through it. I’m glad I did though since it was a gift last holiday from some friends. The first thing I will say about The Making of the Atomic Bomb is that it is thorough. Rhodes covers every detail needed to tell the story of the men and women that developed the first atom bomb. He starts farther back than just the Manhattan Project with the discoveries about the principles of matter that were built upon and led to the great discoveries like neutrons and fission. At points the detail was almost too much. While great and fascinating discoveries there was so much to get through that I actually ended up putting the book down and reading something else twice. That was good because trying to push that much information in when I’m not needing it (like say when I was in school or for work) just isn’t fun and for me reading is fun. It’s an extracurricular activity. I like to enjoy what I read and with Atomic Bomb I knew there would be a big payoff. As I got farther and farther into the book I started to meet up with the more modern giants of research. Seeing how their lives were effected and shaped by the world around them and the political atmosphere of the time certainly gives me a new found respect for them. Escaping political persecution and facing the real possibility that those bent on world domination could have obtained the bomb must have been an unprecedented stress and motivational factor in pushing some of these scientists forward. As the book moved through the early stages of the war and into the founding of the Los Alamos lab things seemed impossibly slow to me. I realize I’m looking at the events from the successful side, but the way the government seemed to drag it’s feet was incredibly. To the credit of everyone involved they did seem to pick up the pace and move with appreciable speed as discoveries progressed. I was significantly impressed with the speed at which the government finally did get production plants and research moving. The last third of the book was the most exciting. The building of the bomb, the development of the implosion devices, the testing of the theories, all of it was nearly nail biting. The hurdles those men had to overcome were fantastic and they still did it. The descriptions of the bombing of Hiroshima were quite fantastic and horrifying. I am saddened that any group of people, in war time or not, had to experience such devastation and destruction. I understand the motivations for using such awesome weapons in that situation, but thankfully no one else has had to go through an atomic blast and hopefully no one ever will. Discussions on the secrecy of the projects involved were also particularly eye opening. Seeing the scientists that were used to an open scientific society having to close off from even family and friends was eye opening. The need to keep certain parties from building on discoveries they made was paramount, but I think it only harmed the general scientific community in the long run. Lessons from then have been wrongly applied to today in the wake of “terrorism” and a supposed call for security where some research has been squelched and information redacted. All of these secrecy things do nothing but cause wasted effort in research and limit the good benefits of certain fields. All in all I loved the book. I’m looking forward to getting Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb also by Richard Rhodes, however I’m going to wait a bit on that one since it’s just a thick and dense as Atomic Bomb.