How atom bomb works? and how dangerous is it?

Who invented Atom bomb:

When Enrico Fermi and colleagues studied the results of bombarding uranium with neutrons in 1934, people started to realize that nuclear energy could be used to create a bomb — any fast energy release can be turned into a bomb.

It took the Second World War to push scientists into actively pursuing the idea into reality. The Germans, under the rule of Hitler made several initial investigations into the field and were on the right path but never seemed to reach the ability to create a bomb. The allies knew about the Germans’ efforts, and actively sabotaged and undermined them.

This also prompted the United States of America, together with Britain and Canada and deliberately without the then Soviet Union ally, to create the Manhattan Project, under the leadership of Robert Oppenheimer, to specifically design and build the first nuclear bomb.

These independent efforts lead by the US were spied on by the Soviets almost from the start, it could be stated that this was the initial step for the future cold war, as the bomb would shift the geopolitical power balance. Of notice is that the Soviets had from the start been making large contributions to this specific field of physics and to a large degree managed to develop their own bomb, using only the spied data from the Manhattan Project as a verification and simplification tool to archive their goal.

How Atom Bomb works?

Atom bomb working
Credits:guernseydonkey.com

Before we can get to the bombs, we have to start small, atomically small. An atom, you’ll remember, is made up of three subatomic particles — protons, neutrons and electrons.

The center of an atom, called the nucleus, is composed of protons and neutrons. Protons are positively charged, neutrons have no charge at all and electrons are negatively charged. The proton-to-electron ratio is always one to one, so the atom as a whole has a neutral charge. For example, a carbon atom has six protons and six electrons.

Types:

There are two types of nuclear bombs, fission bombs and fusion bombs. Fission means to break apart and fusion to merge.

The fission bomb

The fission bomb works on the principle that it takes energy to put together a nucleus with many protons and neutrons. Sort of like rolling a heavy cart up a hill. Splitting the nucleus up again then releases some of that energy. Some atoms have unstable nuclei which means that they tend to break apart with little or no nudging.

Atom bomb working
Credits: atomicarchives.com

You may have heard of uranium and plutonium and that they are radioactive elements. decay. These are spaced sufficiently far apart so that the neutrons rarely bump into other unstable nuclei.These two have such unstable nuclei which causes their radioactivity. When a nucleus breaks into two smaller nuclei, a couple of neutrons shoot out. This is the radiation. Naturally occurring uranium and plutonium have atoms constantly undergoing radioactive 

When a neutron, however, does hit an unstable nucleus, just like someone bumping into a cart at the top of a hill, it causes that nucleus to break apart and send out another couple of neutrons. By increasing the concentration of these unstable atoms, the probability that a neutron from one decay causes another one increases. The concentration where the reaction sustains itself is called critical mass and the reaction then called a chain reaction.

With each step of the reaction, energy is released and another step or two is started, and so an avalanche of reactions and energy release continues until the fissile (unstable) material is spent.

The fusion bomb

The fusion bomb’s initial energy is created by heating the hydrogen up to a tremendous temperature with a fission bomb as the first stage. In the split second between the initiating fission going off and the hydrogen being blown apart, the temperature causes it to fuse into helium, releasing many times more energy.

What it can do?

The first nuclear bomb meant to kill humans exploded over Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, a second bomb detonated over Nagasaki. The death and destruction wrought by these weapons was unprecedented and might have, in another world with another race of beings, ended the nuclear threat right then and there.

In Hiroshima, the immediate effects of the blast killed about 70,000 people. In the aftermath, between 90,000 to 140,000 more people died from burns

The bomb in its stored state isn’t very dangerous, as it takes some effort to set it off. Once detonated, the explosion is extremely dangerous. Even those that survive the blast and the fires will be subject to varying levels of radiation (mostly depending on how close they were to the bomb) that can cause death, cancer, leukemia, or harm to reproductive organs resulting in a higher level of birth defects, or even complete sterility.

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