• Emeritus Professor
    • Hans Wilschut
    • University of Groningen
    • Nuclear Physics

How to Build an Atomic Bomb

On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb exploded in the desert of New Mexico. It was the result of a chain reaction of about 80 steps in less than a microsecond, releasing an energy blast of about 20 kt TNT (20 GWh). Scientists, that are now household names in physics participated in its development.

In this talk, I will discuss the chain of discoveries and developments. The essential role of the French and British scientist leading to the Manhattan project and the less successful attempts of the German scientists will be elucidated. Some basic nuclear physics and the “secret formula” - as the popular press calls it - will be discussed.

When World War II started all research became classified and spying became an important factor of nuclear proliferation. Not only Klaus Fuchs, the most prolific nuclear spy, but several others were involved.

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