From Theory to Weapon....
D. S. Thurlow | Alaska | 03/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"History Channel's "The Manhattan Project" offers a concise, nicely balanced history of the making of the atomic bomb in just under 50 minutes. This 2004 episode of Modern Marvels manages to explain the physics and the technology behind the bomb in layman's terms, while crafting a suspenseful narrative around the costly ($30 billion in current dollars) military-civilian collaboration.
"Manhattan Project" begins with the state of atomic science as the Second World War got underway in 1939, and why the United States decided it should build a bomb before Nazi Germany could. At the center of the narrative are Army General Leslie Groves and scientist Robert Oppenheimer, a yin and yang combination who together solved the technical problems of building a bomb, then in record time put together the industrial resources to provide the necessary uranium and plutonium. "The Manhattan Project" concludes with the Trinity Test of July 1945 and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
The narrative benefits from interviews with some of the surviving personnel who worked on the project. These interviews put a human face on a massive industrial effort. Some prominent historians offer a larger perspective on the project. The narrative does not shy away from the moral implications of use. Some of the concluding comments suggest that warfare has been changed forever by the invention of a weapon that could annihilate millions in a major exchange.
This short feature on the Manhattan Project is highly recommended as a concise but reasonably comprehensive survey at the popular history level of the making of the first atomic bomb.
From "The Gadget" to the end of WWII
Jason | Backwater, Alabama | 07/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In what is described in the early stages of the documentary as the journey of death - because human kind would be inventing the means to its own destruction - The Manhattan Project accurately and compellingly chronicles the scientific, moral, political, and logistical aspects of the rise of the atomic age.
With wonderful usage of authentic footage, recent interviews with informed and involved personnel, as well as the usage of intricate animations explaining and displaying how the science behind the bomb works, and how the great power of fission was harnessed to provide fuel for a bomb, there are vivid details about every aspect of the bombs' timeline. From uranium to plutonium, from "The Gadget" to Little Boy to Fat Man, the scientific data and supporting information is amplified by smooth narration, profound historical and contemporary minds providing first-hand insight, and a succint wrapup of all other pertinent and/or interesting details. There are even superb interviews with Paul Tibbets - the man who piloted the Enola Gay, the plane responsible for dropping Little Boy on Hiroshima.
Particularly impressing were the details about two of the sites involved: Los Alamos, NM and Oak Ridge, TN. The sheer numbers involved to pull of the creation and successful usage of the bombs are truly staggering. To think that Oak Ridge became the fifth largest city in Tennessee as a result of bomb production is unbelievable, and a testament to the amount of clout this project was given.
The documentary is a fair and accurate portrayal of all parties involved. Roosevelt, Truman, Oppenheimer, Groves, and the numerous scientists given credit for the astounding accomplishments, and consequent world-altering impact, are all given proper weight and historical perspective.
I highly recommend The Manhattan Project for those interested in either the science of the bomb, or the related military history."
The History Channel: The Manhatten Project
Karen A. Holly | Dolgeville, NY | 01/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I used this in my classroom while covering nuclear chemistry. I thought it was well done and gave a good description of the times. For kids taking chemistry, sometimes a different aspect can make a topic more interesting."
Loyd E. Eskildson | Phoenix, AZ. | 07/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Manhattan Project" tells the story of America's creation of the atomic bomb. It begins with a Hungarian refugee (Leo Szilard) recognizing the potential havoc Germany's research in this area might wreak (split the atom in 1938), and convincing Albert Einstein to write President Roosevelt in hopes of starting a competing U.S. effort. Roosevelt convened a study group (offices in Manhattan, N.Y. - hence the project's name), but little took place until the U.S. entered the war.
The U.S. first built a reactor (University of Chicago - 1942), while work proceeded on creating sufficient bomb-grade uranium. Three methods were used: 1)Electro-magnetic separation - calutrons produced 10 gms/day, and 1,000+ calutrons were built at Oak Ridge at the Y12 facility. 2)Gaseous diffusion, at the K25 facility - also at Oak Ridge. K25 was one-half mile long, and 1,000 feet wide - the largest building ever constructed. Considerable difficulty was incurred developing a workable diffusion media. 3)Plutonuium creation - via reactors at Hanford, Washington.
Ultimately, the first bombs were created from material produced at Y12 that was then run through the K25 process. The Los Alamos test created a 20 kiloton blast using the implosion method. The first weapon was an implosion devise similar to the Los Alamos test, dropped on Hiroshima with a 12 kt output that killed about 130,000. The second was a gun device dropped on Hiroshima; the device was not tested because of a shortage of material.
Controversy developed over the use of the weapons. A survey revealed that 83% of those involved wanted a demonstration first that would hopefully convince Japan to surrender. General Groves buried the survey and their petition, and proceeded.
Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves emerge as heroic leaders of the enormous construction (eg. 60,000 at Hanford) and research/production efforts (eg. 75,000 at Oak Ridge) involved. Since operations at Oak Ridge required 10% of electricity used by the entire nation - fortunately this was available from the TVA.
Sadly, Oppenheimer's opposition to the H-bomb led to his security clearance being revoked in 1954.
The "good news" is that Japan quickly surrendered, and the level of major-nation warfare dropped from that point on."