Episode 109 – Rain of Ruin, Part 2

For our longest (non-Q&A) episode ever, we’ll discuss the development of the Manhattan Project as the odd couple of Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer work to complete the greatest feat of scientific engineering in history.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Groves, Leslie. Now It Can Be Told.

Monk, Raymond. Robert Oppenheimer.

Sherwin, Martin J and Kai Bird. American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Smith, Jeffrey K. Fire in the Sky: the Story of the Atomic Bomb.

Media

Manhattan Project sites across the US and Canada.
Manhattan Project sites across the US and Canada.
Espionage was a constant worry surrounding the project (not that it stopped Stalin from infiltrating the project in 1943). In addition to pithy signs, harsh penalties were put into place to discourage any loose talk of work on the project.
Espionage was a constant worry surrounding the project (not that it stopped Stalin from infiltrating the project in 1943). In addition to pithy signs, harsh penalties were put into place to discourage any loose talk of work on the project.
The massive K-25 Plant at Oak Ridge, the facility which enriched the uranium used for the Hiroshima bomb.
The massive K-25 Plant at Oak Ridge, the facility which enriched the uranium used for the Hiroshima bomb.
The Hanford B Reactor. Hanford, WA was chosen as a site for the project because of its remote location. Here, the plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb was enriched.
The Hanford B Reactor. Hanford, WA was chosen as a site for the project because of its remote location. Here, the plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb was enriched.
The main gate of the Los Alamos Facility in New Mexico, the remote HQ of the Manhattan Project.
The main gate of the Los Alamos Facility in New Mexico, the remote HQ of the Manhattan Project.
Leslie Groves (left) and Robert Oppenheimer (right) were the chief leaders of the Manhattan Project.
Leslie Groves (left) and Robert Oppenheimer (right) were the chief leaders of the Manhattan Project.
Oppenheimer (left) and Groves (right) at the site of the Trinity detonation a few days later, because nobody really understood radiation poisoning in 1945.
Oppenheimer (left) and Groves (right) at the site of the Trinity detonation a few days later, because nobody really understood radiation poisoning in 1945.
From left to right: Ernest O. Lawrence, Enrico Fermi, and Isidor Rabi during their time working on the Manhattan Project.
From left to right: Ernest O. Lawrence, Enrico Fermi, and Isidor Rabi during their time working on the Manhattan Project.
Edward Teller, c. 1958. Teller defended the project to his grave as an absolute necessity.
Edward Teller, c. 1958. Teller defended the project to his grave as an absolute necessity.
Leo Szilard later in life. Szilard was haunted by the bomb and wracked with guilt for the rest of his life.
Leo Szilard later in life. Szilard was haunted by the bomb and wracked with guilt for the rest of his life.
Enrico Fermi, the man who trolled the Manhattan Project by suggesting the Trinity bomb might destroy New Mexico (and really, who would miss it). Also he did some cool science, I guess.
Enrico Fermi, the man who trolled the Manhattan Project by suggesting the Trinity bomb might destroy New Mexico (and really, who would miss it). Also he did some cool science, I guess.
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2 thoughts on “Episode 109 – Rain of Ruin, Part 2

  1. Bo Jacobs

    Just curious why only Einstein and Szilard have their religions noted, while no other person in the story does, with the exception of Leslie Grove’s father?

    1. Szilard and Einstein both fled Europe out of fear of fascism/nazism due to their religion (Szilard was Hungarian but the contemporary Hungarian government was sympathetic to and ultimately allied with the Nazis). One of the more common reasons given for the failure of the German bomb project was the mass flight of Jewish scientists — or those with close ties to the Jewish community like Enrico Fermi, whose wife was Jewish — away from Europe. In addition to the brain drain away from the continent many of these scientists later signed on to the Manhattan Project. So it’s siginificant in terms of highlighting one of their (and likely their primary) rationales for opposing the Nazis strongly enough to work on the project.

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