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The Manhattan Project: Big Science and the Atom Bomb (Revolutions in Science)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Manhattan Project: Big Science and the Atom Bomb (Revolutions in Science).pdf | Language: ENGLISH

I am become death, destroyer of worlds'. Robert J. Oppenheimer. Established in 1942 at the height of the Second World War, the Manhattan Project was a dramatic quest to beat the Nazis to a deadly goal: the atomic bomb. At Los Alamos and several other sites, American, British, Canadian and refugee European scientists, together with engineers, technicians and many other workers, laboured to design and build nuclear weapons. With their huge experiments, complex organisations and lavish funding, these institutes represented a new form of scientific organisation: 'Big Science'. Their efforts produced 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Man', the bombs that ultimately destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. In The Manhattan Project, Jeff Hughes offers a lively reinterpretation of the key elements in the history and mythology of twentieth-century science.

To set the parameters of his analysis of the Manhattan Project, Hughes homes in on two pictures: one of physicist Ernest Rutherford at his table-top particle-detecting apparatus, and another of a building-size detector used in a modern particle accelerator. The milestone between the two is invariably said to be the crash development of the atomic bomb. Construction of the bomb, seen as the nexus between science, industry, and the military, had antecedents reaching back to Rutherford himself, argues Hughes. His labs as well as those of physicist Ernest Lawrence in the 1930s increasingly relied on industrial funding even as the British military simultaneously funded various scientific organizations. In Hughes' view, the Manhattan Project accelerated trends rather than created them, which may not be an earth-shaking conclusion, but Hughes develops his thesis in interesting fashion. His essay is free of technical jargon but will be most accessible to readers familiar with the bomb's history and with huge, expensive installations such as CERN or Fermilab. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. "Hughes develops his thesis in interesting fashion. His essay is free of technical jargon but will be most accessible to readers familiar with the bomb's history and with huge, expansive installations such as CERN or Fermilab." -- "Booklist" "Hughes develops his thesis in interesting fashion. His essay is free of technical jargon but will be most accessible to readers familiar with the bomb's history and with huge, expansive installations such as CERN or Fermilab." -- Booklist "Engrossing and information-packed." -- Marjorie C. Malley, "ISIS" Engrossing and information-packed.--Marjorie C. Malley"ISIS" (01/01/0001) "Hughes develops his thesis in interesting fashion. His essay is free of technical jargon but will be most accessible to readers familiar with the bomb's history and with huge, expansive installations such as CERN or Fermilab." -- "Booklist"

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Book details

  • PDF | 176 pages
  • Icon Books Ltd (April 9, 2003)
  • English
  • 6
  • History

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  • By R. Albin on April 21, 2013

    A very concise and adequate discussion of the historic roots and nature of "Big Science." The latter is exemplified by increasingly large accelerators used in high energy physics, demanding not only enormously expensive and centralized equipment but also enormous teams of scientists and engineers. Hughes provides a nice discussion of the Manhatten Project as the historic model, particularly within the USA, for these kinds of enterprises. The Manhatten Project exemplified the confluenced of academic science, industrial support, and military backing typical of many post-WWII Big Science Projects. Hughes is careful to point out that the Manhatten Project approach did not arise in a vacuum, pointing to prior trends in both British and American physics and astronomy, and the effects of smaller scale but significant efforts during WWI. Hughes may have missed another important precursor. German industry and academic centers long exhibited strong ties and the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes (now the Max Planck Institutes) were founded before WWI.Hughes makes a number of good points about Big Science. He defines its semi-industrial features well. In addition to its post-WWII ubiquity, he also points out that different Big Science projects had somewhat different features. The Human Genome Project, for example, was more decentralized that particle physics projects which depend on a very large and very expensive single piece of hardware. He states correctly that Big Science is a permanent feature of the scientific landscape though its character will vary among projects and disciplines.This book was published a few years ago, and subsequent events add some useful perspectives. Now that CERN has been successful in the search for the Higgs Boson (or a particle very similar to that predicted), its possible to make some kind of judgements about the collapse of the American SSC. The effect has largely been what supporters of the SSC predicted at that time, a significant policy error that harmed American science. An interesting feature of the Human Genome Project is that the fact that it generated a series of tools that ultimately facilitate smaller scale science, a key difference from big accelerator projects. Finally, Hughes leaves the impression that physics is dominated by these big projects. But, a lot of truly exciting work in physics, quantum mechanics, for example, has been "table top" experiments.

  • By Louise on December 4, 2012

    I had to read this book for my HIST 103 class and I loved it. As a physic major and a lover of history this book combined everything I could have wanted. Hughes proves his point early on and is very clear and concise, and the book is fairly short so it's a quick, but informative read. The amount of work he put into getting all of his facts straight is astounding. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the Manhattan Project and/or Big Science. Some basic knowledge of chemistry/physic is helpful though.


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