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The invention of the nuclear bomb

newscientist.com

Szilard's eureka moment

Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-born Jew, fled Germany for the UK two months after Adolf Hitler became chancellor.

At the time, James Chadwick just discovered the neutron. Not long after, Cambridge physicists split the atom by bo...

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  • Szilard's idea did not gain traction until 1938, when German physicists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman (opponents of the German regime) bombarded uranium atoms with neutrons. They found traces of the element barium in the debris.
  • Hahn wrote about it to Austrian chemist Lise Meitner, w...

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After the discovery of Fermin, Szilard joined him in New York. Together they figured that a kilogram of uranium would make energy similar to 20,000 tonnes of TNT. However, Szilard knew that this discovery could be disastrous and feared that the Nazis would soon figure this out to...

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In March 1940, German physicists Rudolf Peierls and Otto Frisch wrote to the British government in their Memorandum on the Properties of a Radioactive 'Super-Bomb', urging them to take action. It led to the British bomb project, codenamed Tube Alloys.

The US govern...

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In 1942, a pile of uranium and graphite was assembled in a squash court underneath a stand on a football field in Chicago. Then, on 2 December 1942, the first man-made nuclear chain reaction was created. Once confirmed, Szilard shook hands with Fermi and said, “This will go down as a black da...

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