Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bombs, fissions and fusions - no confusion

Humans have been able to produce energy from hydrogen on planet Earth by imitating the inner workings of Sun and other burning stars.

This is quite difficult and expensive, however, and the first fruits of the research were, of course, in the field of warfare.

Using nuclear reactions instead of simpler explosives have satisfied our urgent need to kill other humans. With this learning of God's creation humanity has turned the revolutionary scientific discovery of e=mc2 into the deadliest weapons mankind has ever known.

The atomic bomb was developed in the Manhattan Project JINT (just in time) before the brilliant scientists working for Adolf Hitler got it.  It was shown to be quite effective by the United States of America as Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy to Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Another war-plane dropped the Fat Boy to Nagasaki three days later on 9 August.

The world has never been quite the same after that.

Thank God that there has been no more need to demonstrate the astronomic effectiveness of weapons using nuclear reactions in war since that fateful August. God and MAD have so far protected us from ourselves (Mutually Assured Destruction).

With the harnessed power of Sun we humans are today able to destroy not only our human enemies but all life on this ancient planet Earth many times over. How nice that science and technology have proven once again that we are almost like God!

Chain reactions
In a nuclear reaction two nuclei or a nucleus and subatomic particle collide.

The collision of nuclei is a minor thing but it can ignite a chain reaction that is either fission or fusion. This is not a minor issue.

In nuclear fission a neutron splits an atom releasing much energy. This happens all the time in the cosmos in natural radioactive decay of matter.

Learning to know it is a very significant advance in science and has even surprising civilian uses from medicine to archaeology. For example, understanding the decay rate of radioactive carbon formed in atmosphere has given us the C-14 clock for dating organic materials that can be almost 50.000 years old.

Splitting heavy uranium and other atoms and harnessing the energy in controlled chain reactions has well-known civilian uses not as scary as atomic bombs.

In nuclear fusion two atomic nuclei join forming a new heavier nucleus.

Fusion is considerably more difficult to achieve on Earth than nuclear fission but this is the fire burning in Sun.

Building upon the nuclear transmutation experiments by Ernest Rutherford, carried out several years earlier, the laboratory fusion of heavy hydrogen isotopes was first accomplished by Mark Oliphant in 1932.

During the remainder of that decade the steps of the main cycle of nuclear fusion in stars were worked out by Hans Bethe.

Research into fusion for military purposes began in the early 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project, but this was not accomplished until 1951 (see the Greenhouse Item nuclear test), and nuclear fusion on a large scale in an explosion was first carried out on November 1, 1952, in the Ivy Mike hydrogen bomb test.

Research into developing controlled thermonuclear fusion for civil purposes also began in earnest in the 1950s, and it continues to this day. Two projects, the National Ignition Facility and ITER are in the process of reaching breakeven after 60 years of design improvements developed from previous experiments.

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