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Book Review of Cardinal Choices: Presidential Science Advising from the Atomic Bomb to SDI By Gregg Herken and A Fragile Power: Scientists and the State by Chandra Mukerji
Word Count: 1,430
Category: World History and Cultures
Word Count: 1,430
The development of the atomic bomb is widely considered the singlegreatest scientific achievement this century However it is a commonmisconception that the worlds top physicists were able to develop thisawesome force overnight in conjunction with the war effort Thereexisted a long lag between the time inspiration came to Szilard while hewas at a traffic light and when the first bomb was detonated in the NewMexico desert However there is no dispute that the bomb put an abruptend to the Second World War and has kept the peace in the second half ofthe 21st centuryDespite the complexity of the bomb itself the most difficult part wasnot the theory or even the building of the bomb but the communicationsbetween the scientists who invented it and the government that builtit Before World War II Leo Szilard at a London intersection thoughtabout the transmutation of one element into another thus releasingenough energy to create a self-sustaining atomic reaction The year was1933 By 1939 only the most basic experiments on the release of energyhad been performed Szilard and others realized that this reaction ifit could be controlled would be an incredible amount of energy thatcould be used in various applications especially military ones Withthe Germans gaining the upper hand in the war Szilard and fellowphysicists like Einstein felt that the United States needed to be thefirst to develop this Herken tells of a scientific process not in the hands of the scientiststhat invented it With the development of the atomic bomb andsubsequently the hydrogen bomb Herken describes scientists desperatepleas to government officials over responsible and moral use of thebomb In the case of the first atomic bomb to be dropped on Japanscientists argued that there should have been a demonstration Perhapsafter seeing the power of the bomb Japan would see the power andsurrender in the war without further unnecessary loss of life HoweverPresident Truman and other senior and government officials struck downthis proposal and proceeded to destroy both Hiroshima and
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