See how America developed the most destructive invention in human history - the nuclear bomb - how it changed the world and how it continues to loom large in our lives. Hear from historians and those who experienced the dawn of the atomic age.
t began innocently enough. In 1938, two German chemists accidentally discovered how to split the nucleus of the uranium atom: nuclear fission. Einstein’s E=mc2 equation predicted that the amount of energy released from just one atom would be enormous.
Physicists all over the world immediately realized that fission might make a bomb of extraordinary power — and that Nazi Germany might be capable of creating one. The fear of Adolph Hitler getting a nuclear weapon led to a race to deter him by developing such a bomb first. Thus began a chain of events that would lead inexorably to Hiroshima, the nuclear arms race, the hydrogen bomb, the Cuban Missile Crisis and some of the greatest fear and tension ever in world history.
More About "The Bomb"
"The Bomb" explores how what started as simple scientific curiosity ultimately resulted in a weapon capable of ending civilization. The invention, says historian Richard Rhodes, “Was a millennial change in human history: for the first time, we were now capable of our own destruction, as a species.”
The program recounts the bomb’s history, as well as the successes, failures and moral dilemmas of the personalities who created it. We learn how it was developed and how it quickly changed everything, from international relations to politics, culture, even sex.
No less than the discovery of fire, the bomb marks a dividing line in human history between all that came before it, and everything that follows. For the first time, humans acquired the ability to destroy themselves, and we are still struggling to learn how to live with this awesome power. Decades after it first appeared, the bomb has receded in the public consciousness — but it continues to shape our lives.
We hear from scientists, weapons designers, pilots who dropped nuclear bombs, former Secretaries of Defense and State who wrestled with the bomb’s impact on international diplomacy, witnesses to nuclear explosions, historians, and ordinary men and women who have lived and worked with the Bomb.
Since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have been detonated on over two thousand occasions for the purposes of testing and demonstration. Only a few nations possess such weapons or are suspected of seeking them. The only countries known to have detonated nuclear weapons—and acknowledge possessing them—are (chronologically by date of first test) the United States, the Soviet Union (succeeded as a nuclear power by Russia), the United Kingdom, France, the People's Republic of China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel is also believed to possess nuclear weapons, though in a policy of deliberate ambiguity, it does not acknowledge having them. Germany, Italy, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands are nuclear weapons sharing states. South Africa is the only country to have independently developed and then renounced and dismantled its nuclear weapons.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons aimed to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons, but its effectiveness has been questioned, and political tensions remained high in the 1970s and 1980s. Modernisation of weapons continues to occur.
Four countries besides the five (USA, UK, China, France and Russia) recognized Nuclear Weapons States have acquired, or are presumed to have acquired, nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel. None of these four is a party to the NPT, although North Korea acceded to the NPT in 1985, then withdrew in 2003 and conducted announced nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. One critique of the NPT is that it is discriminatory in recognizing as nuclear weapon states only those countries that tested nuclear weapons before 1968 and requiring all other states joining the treaty to forswear nuclear weapons.
Research into the development of nuclear weapons was undertaken during World War II by the United States (in cooperation with the United Kingdom and Canada), Germany, Japan, and the USSR. The United States was the first and is the only country to have used a nuclear weapon in war, when it used two bombs against Japan in August 1945. With their loss during the war, Germany and Japan ceased to be involved in any nuclear weapon research. In August 1949, the USSR tested a nuclear weapon. The United Kingdom tested a nuclear weapon in October 1952. France developed a nuclear weapon in 1960. The People's Republic of China detonated a nuclear weapon in 1964. India exploded a nuclear device in 1974, and Pakistan conducted a series of nuclear weapon tests in May 1998, following tests by India earlier that month. In 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.
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