am 10. Oktober 2009
Dieses Buch gibt einen fantastischen Überblick über die Hintergründe der Entwicklung der Atombombe und der Anwendung am Ende des zweiten Weltkriegs. Einerseits werden die wissenschaftlichen und technischen Hintergründe sehr gut und fundiert zusammengefasst, von der Entwicklung der Relativitätstheorie über die Entdeckung des Neutrons bis zu einer groben Übersicht über die Funktionsweise. Andererseits werden auch die historischen und politischen Hintergründe sehr fundiert widergegeben. Dies einerseits über die Entwicklung des Krieges zwischen Japan und den USA aber vor allem mittels der Biographien der involvierten Personen wie Robert Openheimer, Lise Meitner, Harry Truman und anderer bekannter oder weniger bekannter Wissenschaftler und Politiker. Wer sich nicht scheut an ein umfangreiches englisches Werk heranzugehen (eine deutsche Übersetzug gibt es meines Wissens nicht) und an Wissenschaft und Politik interessiert ist, dem gibt dieses Buch einen hervorragenden Einblick in eines der bedeutensten Ereignisse der Menschheitsgeschichte.
am 7. April 1999
I recommend this work to you for two reasons: first, I believe it important for a citizen of the world to understand the development and initial employment of this "gadget" (as its creating physicists designated the bomb), and second, this is a fine read: significant history with minimal political taint. This is a story more fascinating than Clancy's best, due simply to its veracity.
No wonder this won the Pulitzer! This is well-written and captivating history.
Rhodes includes dialog and writings to allow his reader to meet the physicists, soldiers, and politicians. His technical descriptions of the involved science satiate me, a chemist, yet he supplies the definitions and background to permit ready comprehension by readers not versed in nuclear theory. Finally, his account of the events in the two decades prior to and during the Manhattan Project educates without boredom.
Much of this work concerns the men and women discovering the constituents of the atom and of its potential to be affected for some utility. The science is not overwhelming, but well-written and clear.
This is written as a historical text book, with documentation galore. I concur with my fellow reader who remarked on their amazement that one man could compile this. What a tome of research!
I shall limit my complaints to two. I found the account to be heavy on the early days and developers of nuclear theory. I also tired of reading Bohr's philosophy on the need to share science with the world.
Anyone interested in the history of the 20th Century or in atomic weapons would not regret reading The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
What struck me most?
How quickly the industrial capability of the United States put this into motion, once committed. Trinity, the first test shot, was July 16, 1945. Less than one month later, Little Boy dropped. Los Alamos was established for only two years prior to the first bombing.
These men and women were not evil: they were giants and pioneers in science. Many of the key players were European, serving their adopted nation to beat the enemy to discovering a bigger stick. Several were forced to leave their home lands due to some Jewish blood in a spouse. They were chilled to observe the power they had made when they watched Trinity through their welders glass, several miles distant. Hitler, the Japanese, and the Russians were working on atomic weapons of their own. Would the world be a better place if they had beaten the US in this race? Some seem to forget that the conventional fire bombings, poison gases, flame throwers, and concentration camps were also unspeakably horrible.
Remarkable prescience: as these scientists were assembling their first bombs, they realized that a policy of mutual deterrance via escalation in the US and USSR would ensue.
I was humbled to read of the brilliance of so many involved. I do not consider myself to be a pessimist, but I think there remain few men and women like these men and women.
Imagine a place
Where it all began
They gathered from across the land
To work in the secrecy of the desert sand
All of the brightest boys to play with the biggest toys--
More than they bargained for. . .
"Manhattan Project," Neal Peart, 1985 (Rush, Power Windows)
am 4. Mai 2016
Für Technik- und Geschichtsinteressierte ein sehr kurzweiliges Lesevergnügen.
Insbesondere dass, nicht wie in den meisten Büchern zum Thema der Entwicklung von Atombomben, hier nicht kurz vor der ersten erfolgreichen Kernspaltung 1938 gestartet wird sondern die Entwicklung der Kernphysik seit Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts auch für den interessierten Laien verständlich beschrieben wird.
Sehr interessant ist auch die der Umfang von Physikern/Chemikern/Erkenntnissen die man normalerweise nicht im direkten Zusammenhang mit der Entwicklung der Atombombe gesehen hat.
am 13. Mai 1999
As noted by Rhodes, the book encapsulates Bohr's notion of the complementarity of the bomb. The question becomes then, what is the complementarity of the bomb and how does it enter into the debate over nuclear proliferation and national security in the years when the bomb was first developed? The complementarity of the bomb is best understood as a paradox, a theory which epitomizes the danger of unintended consequences of technology. In Bohr's memorandum to President Roosevelt, he laid out his theory as a new language that is born out of the harnessing of nuclear power but necessary to grasp what such capabilities entail. According to Bohr, the bomb, ironically, was not so much a weapon as a threat. The magnitude of such a threat entailed that, "when nuclear weapons spread to other countries, as they certainly would, no one would be able any longer to win. A spasm of mutual destruction would be possible. But not war."(532) In this way, the idea of the bomb paradoxically destroyed the concept which it was designed to dominate long before it ever came to fruition. It destroyed the old conception of war and supplanted it with a possibility which was much darker, more ominous, and ultimately eschatological.
Rhodes explains that in a world of international anarchy where nations compete for self-interested goals, war had been the method of final negotiation. The bomb created a situation where this old construct could no longer work because when applied the bomb would subvert the goals it was intended to meet. The power it contained was ultimate as Rhodes describes it in divine proportions. Under the old framework of arms build-up each new bomb would quantitatively increase security. However, because this new power was so ultimate it would in fact accomplish the opposite. "Because there would be no sure protection against so powerful and portable a mechanism, in the course of time each additional unit added to the stockpiles would decrease security by adding to the general threat..."(533) Simply, this paradox is reduced to the realization that "total security would be indistinguishable from total insecurity."(533) Paraphrased, the magnitude of this technology was such that it polarized the possibilities in war. There would be only two choices, precarious and nervous "peace" or total death. So what to do?
It is in answering this question that the optimistic side of Bohr's quote, "...would offer quite unique opportunities to bridge the international divergencies," becomes clear. Faced with the new prospectus created by the bomb, Bohr thought that a constant and eternal standoff could be avoided by recognizing the logic that the bomb created, deciding not to continue production, and negotiating peace. "Negotiating peace rather than allowing the deus ex machina inhumanly to impose standoff might show the common threat to contain within itself, complementarily, common promise."(534) The common promise of which Rhodes speaks is that of a consortium of nations which would not only collectively and universally agree not to pursue nuclear proliferation but also would open themselves up to the eyes of the world in order maintain confidence that they are in compliance. There would be a collective of knowledge which would far outweigh the benefits of a perpetual yet temporary upper-hand in an arms race. In many ways, then, it seems that the bomb itself was neutral and it was the way in which humans attempted to understand it which presented such contention. The complementarity of the bomb had less to do with the actual bomb itself but the way men(and it seems that it was just men) and nations handled it. Men, in response to knowledge of the bomb, could eliminate inequality "by destroying rich and poor, democratic and totalitarian alike in one final apocalypse," and complementarily, could alleviate inequality by opening up the world to knowledge which represented a threat to world security.(535) The analogy is played out in the game of tick-tack-toe (from War Games fame). With full knowledge, it is impossible to truly defeat the opponent. Thus, the game is not fit for play. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, however, chose to do otherwise.
In trying to understand why Churchill and Roosevelt "spoke another language" a view of the magnitude inherent in the notion of the complementarity of the bomb is revealed. Bohr, it seems, was suggesting an entirely new world order, one where the old rules of war no longer applied. He saw the realities and the logic of the bomb as an opportunity to make an unlikely yet incredible advancement in international relations, worldly social structures, and equality. According to Bohr, it was logical. However, when put into context, it also required a leap of faith. The world leaders worked on the old model of competition, of traditional warfare, of détente. They were Claude Fisher's "telegraph men" (from America Calling) who did not fully recognize the merit of their product.
am 22. Dezember 1998
...deserves a narrative documentary of the highest quality. Fortunately for us, Richard Rhodes was up to the task.
He delves into the physics that made the bomb possible and the personalities who nearly made it impossible. For instance, he has the courage to move Albert Einstein slightly off center-stage of 20th Century physics and to give credit more to the ensemble effort that led to the creation of the bomb.
The bomb was really the product of industrial might (backed with an enormous commitment of finances), military resources and discipline, scientific wit and intelligence, human creativity and imagination, and political will. That all of these things could be focused and brought into convergence is almost unthinkable in today's terms. As a subterranean national priority, very few of the general public had the foggiest notion that it was going on. Simpler times.
The author has managed to assemble the diverse research that was obviously necessary in a way that is comparable to the building of the bomb. That would have been enough for the record, but Mr. Rhodes exceeds himself in the quality of his writing, never slipping into the tempting morass of techno-jargon. Rather, he actually manages to explain all the key elements that renders the subject understandable by the layperson. Not least of all is his effectiveness in showing the protaganists as three-dimensional humans. He raises the important ethical and social consequences of the development without much of a rhetorical bias one way or the other.
Close the windows, lock the doors and read this book.
am 2. März 2000
From the first paragraph (see below), it is obvious that this is an exceptional work. It reads like a novel, but goes deeper into the nature of reality than any novel can ever hope to. Read this book for the story and gain a first class education in physics, history, history of science and the politics of the past century. While I was reading this book, during my long nights operating the world's largest telescope, visiting astronomers would continuously pick up the book and begin reading... more than one went to the web and bought their own copies when I asked for mine back. This is as good as non-fiction gets.
"In London, where Southhampton Row passes Russell Square, across from the British Museum in Bloombury, Leo Szilard waited irritably one gray Depression morning for the stoplight to change. A trace of rain had fallen during the night; Tuesday, September 12, 1933, dawned cool, humid and dull. Drizzling rain would begin in early afternoon. When Slizard told the story later he never mentioned his destination that morning. He may have had none; he often walked to think. In any case another another destination intervened. The stoplight changed to green. Slizard stepped off the curb. As he crossed the street time craked open before him and he saw a way to the future, death into the world and all our woe, the shape of things to come."
am 3. März 2000
This is a big book (almost 800 pages), covering the history of atomic physics from late the 19th century discoveries of the atomic nucleus and radiation to the 1945 atomic bomb strikes and the immediate post-war developments. The most amazing part of the story concerns the (almost unbelieveable) rapidity of scientific advance in this field during the early 19th century -- then again, perhaps people 75 years from now will be saying the same about computer or DNA knowledge during our era (I'm certain the same won't be said of my field).
I enjoyed this book, and recommend it highly. Anybody with a rudimentary understanding of nuclear physics (e.g., who can understand the meaning of the terms electron/ neutron/ proton) and early 20th century history will have no problem with this book. I gave it 4 stars out of 5, because I reserve 5 stars for books that, when I'm finished, I wish would continue: this is a very fine book, but I was ready to move on by the end. If I were the author, I would have included a section on the long-term costs of the US atomic program -- i.e., the environmental cleanup costs we are paying today as a consequence of the "victory now at any cost" mindset of 50 years ago (yeah, I know, I just implied that it's already too long -- but it really isn't).
am 15. Juli 1997
We respect a written work for many reasons:
style, wit, accuracy, information, its ability to captivate us and transport us to a new world. How then can we judge one book that does even more than that?
This important book by Richard Rhodes is a model of scientific history. The tracing of thought and experiment in nuclear chemistry and physics is flawless. It stands on its own as a landmark in the history of science
And yet there is in addition the small, compelling biographies of some of the most original thinkers of the 20th century: Szilard, Rutherford, Bohr, Fermi, Oppenheimer. Rhodes goes beyond them as individuals to show how they all worked together, the power of their collaboration.
And still, this is only the subtext of the work, the foundation on which Rhodes builds a story of tension, risk, and above all horrible power. This is the only description of the power of nuclear weapons that compels, the awful, painful, detailed recounting of "the end of the world".
One who wishes to be a citizen of this century should do nothing more before reading this book
am 23. August 1998
When I was an undergraduate in physics at Harvard, a professor once told us that this book should be required reading for all budding physicists. Having read the book now, I agree absolutely. The individuals involved in the distinguished beginnings of 20th century physics and their stories are as engrossing as the consequences mortifying. I am a reader who believes in the counterfactual argument that the bomb prevented a horrific invasion of Japan. However, the idea of one smallish weapon killing tens of thousands (millions, if you count later bombs) must continue to terrify us and all of humanity forever. During the war, events were as terrifying as the bombmakers could imagine. At Los Alamos, the physicists were working for one purpose -- to get the bomb before Germany. That they were mostly Jews makes the quest that much more sobering. This is an account of events with a complicated reality, a very troubling legacy and a cast of truly fascinating individuals. Rhodes has done a service by telling us this story so elegantly.
am 17. Dezember 1999
Everyone seeking to understand the 20th century, its history, its politics, its scientific development, must read this book. Not only does it illuminate one of the foundational events of our time far better than any other source, it definitively sets forth modern science, its ethical dilemmas, its odd combination of unbelievable explanatory power and the utterly (humanly) unfathomable reality science suggests. Rhodes traces the development of the atomic bomb to its scientific roots, which he demonstrates are inextricably intertwined with the people pushing the scientific developments at an ever increasing speed and for a long time had no idea of the potential their theories carried. Rhodes manages to do all this with complete lucidity, allowing the reader totally unfamiliar with quantum mechanics to follow along with reasonable comprehension. At the same time, the psychological, ethical and political dramas Rhodes describes make this the hands-down most thrilling, most exciting book I have ever read