As a kid my favorite books were action stories and outdoor adventures: sea stories, searches for buried treasure, sharks eating people that kind of thing. Probably my all-time favorite was a book called Mutiny on the Bounty, a novel based on the true story of a famous mutiny aboard a British ship in the late s. I went to Syracuse University and studied communications and international relations. The highlight of those years was a summer I spent in Central America, where I worked on a documentary on the streets of Nicaragua. As a kid my favorite books were action stories and outdoor adventures: sea stories, searches for buried treasure, sharks eating people… that kind of thing.
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As word of his revelation spreads amongst the scientific community, it quickly becomes evident that splitting uranium atoms could be used to create a bomb with massive destruction capabilities.
So, as Hitler escalates the war he is waging in Europe, President Roosevelt at the behest of Albert Einstein puts together a group of physicists known as the Uranium Committee to start looking into the possibility of building a nuclear weapon—especially before Germany can do so.
One of the scientists recruited is Robert Oppenheimer , a genius physicist and chemist with antisocial tendencies but an incredible brain.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union catches wind of these developments and immediately decides that their best course of action is to steal all the work the Americans and Germans are doing in order to further their own nuclear arsenal. Why toil away in the lab when you can have a team of spies getting what you need instead? Harry Gold, a pretty average guy who works in a chemical plant, finds himself getting more and more deeply embroiled in this act of espionage after he agrees to give the Communists some seemingly harmless information in gratitude for a favor from a friend.
Japan bombs Pearl Harbor , officially giving the United States a reason to enter the war in earnest. On one end is Col.
On the other hand, we have Soviet spies like Harry Gold, Klaus Fuchs, and Ted Hall handing over top-secret plans for the science and engineering of the first U bomb. And on a third hand wait…who has three hands? By , though, the war in Europe is all but over, and the Americans have built and tested their first uranium bomb at the Trinity test site. Now they are ready to use it to end the war with Japan.
After much deliberation, President Truman who assumed the position upon the sudden death of FDR gives the order for Capt. Paul Tibbets and his crew of the Enola Gay to drop the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. When that fails to elicit unconditional surrender from Japan, the city of Nagasaki is bombed three days later. The problems are just beginning, though, for those who betrayed their country during the war. Unfortunately, this results in collateral damage when Oppenheimer gets roped into the accusations as well.
Upon seeing the devastation of what his weapon can do, Oppenheimer begins to actively argue against nuclear proliferation, making him unpopular among those in power who think atomic bombs are their best way to stay on top. This new era of communist witch hunts, a.
Sheinkin ends the book by hammering home the fact that this is our history and it still has huge ramifications today.
Nuclear proliferation, and contrarily the movement to de-proliferate, is still hotly debated in governments across the world. The weapon that Oppenheimer and his team of brainiacs created might have helped end a devastating war—but it began a new epoch of terrible possibilities.
Dun dun dun… Prologue May 22, Our story begins as Harry Gold frantically races around his apartment trying to destroy seventeen years of evidence. It even has an "X marks the spot" on a bridge in Santa Fe. Harry Gold realizes his jig is up. He decides to come clean to the agents and tell his whole story. In fact, because of his quiet, intellectual prowess, he was horribly bullied as a child.
As he grew older, though, Oppenheimer found himself a niche. Despite his tendency to be a total know-it-all, people grew fond of him for his awe-inspiring intellect. Luckily for Oppie, too, is the fact that he hit his stride during "a thrilling time in theoretical physics," when they were just discovering atoms and how they work.
He was an inspiration to behold during his lectures, as he chain-smoked and lobbed theories at his students at lightning speed. One student remarked that he was generally, amiably, regarded as being a bit crazy.
After the Great Depression hit, Oppenheimer realized that he wanted to get his head out of the clouds a little bit and participate in his community more. Then he started to pay attention to the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany starting in As a Jew who had family in Germany, Oppenheimer took great interest in the genocide-minded dictator, and he started donating a portion of his salary toward helping harassed Jewish physicists escape Nazi Germany.
And so, as the world teeters on the brink of World War II , Oppenheimer is in California, incensed about what Hitler is doing and wondering how a theoretical physicist could help bring him down. Chapter 2 A little background on what scientists know about atoms at this time: Everything in the universe is made up of tiny particles, called atoms; atoms are made up of even smaller particles: a nucleus composed of protons and neutrons packed tightly together, and then electrons orbit around the nucleus; some atoms are radioactive, i.
Hahn discovers that the force of the collision causes the uranium atoms to split in two. This just about blows his mind. Hahn immediately reaches out to his former partner, Lise Meitner , a German physicist, and asks what the heck this all means.
Then, Meitner and Frisch realize that if an atom splits in this way, it will also produce a lot of energy as it breaks in two.
This news spreads like wildfire through the theoretical physics community. A young physicist named Luis Alvarez stumbles upon one of the blurbs and gets up, mid-haircut, to run the news to Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer gets all fired up by the possibilities uranium fission could have, including using it to create a weapon of mass destruction.
They finally find Einstein and tell him about fission and the possibility of atomic bombs. He is immediately horrified at the prospect of Hitler getting his hands on such a weapon, and the three men immediately begin composing a letter to President Roosevelt.
Six weeks later, Germany launches its blitzkrieg on Warsaw, effectively taking Poland, and Britain and France declare war. Roosevelt agrees that this matter requires urgent action. Chapter 4 Tradecraft President Roosevelt forms the Uranium Committee way to come up with a creative name, Roosevelt , a group of military leaders and scientists. It consists of sixteen different teams around the country and has a budget of six thousand dollars, so progress is slow.
Einstein once again writes Roosevelt and urges him to pick up the pace. Harry Gold is a twenty-eight-year-old chemist from Philly. Edgar Hoover calls the "crime of the century. Well, more like indoctrinates him into communism, abusing how grateful Gold is to him for getting him the job.
Gold, who has a self-described "almost puppy-like eagerness to please," jumps at the opportunity to help the Soviets, as well as his friend to whom he owes so much. Every few weeks Gold travels to New York City to pass off plans and formulas for making industrial chemicals.
His contacts then go off to make copies, come back with the originals, and he heads home and returns the papers. Easy peasy. In fact, Stalin has just signed a pact with Hitler in which they agree not to fight each other. When Gold tries to stop spying, his contact, Fred, not only orders him to get a job at a weapons factory with information worth stealing , but also threatens to expose him if he ever tries to walk away.
Oh good. He educates Gold on tradecraft—the art and science of espionage—teaching him things like never to use your real name or address um, duh?
He needs time to build up their military strength, and then they will take out Hitler faster than he can say "Heil. Great Britain is withstanding horrific bombing raids every night, and while the U. He is thrilled, and he starts imagining the life he will have now that he no longer has to be so duplicitous. In June, Hitler negates the treaty with the Soviets by launching a massive blitzkrieg deep into Soviet territory.
Whoops—the Soviets realize they still need Harry Gold. Chapter 5 Rapid Rupture Semyon Semyonov has a legitimate engineering job that gives him a reason to be in the U. Meanwhile, the war continues to get worse. Germany and Japan decide to team up, expanding the arena to Asia as well as Europe. The U. The Uranium Committee is still barely creeping along.
Now he knows how he can use his genius abilities to aid the war effort: by devising and building an atomic bomb. December 7, Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese. The bombs destroy over a dozen warships, hundreds of planes, and kill thousands of American soldiers. Pearl Harbor also serves as a catalyst for Oppenheimer: Realizing the urgency needed in regards to building an atomic bomb, he gives up on his discussion groups and starts getting together a team. His first recruit is Robert Serber, a former student he convinces to move into the apartment over his garage as his assistant, a.
When Hitler invades Norway in , Knut and a few friends flip the Nazis the proverbial bird and ski into the wilderness with guns strapped to their backs and sabotage on their minds. Knut joins one of the secret resistance groups forming all over Norway and begins working as a radio operator and spy, conveying German military movements to British intelligence officers via radio that he secretly hacks into in the middle of the night.
Knut helps to concoct a plan to assassinate Vidkun Quisling, the leader of the Norwegian Nazis. Knut is able to escape into the mountains once more, though, then bicycle to Sweden, and from there, make his way to Great Britain. Chapter 7 Enormoz Georgi Flerov is a young Soviet physicist who needs a hobby. Well, a better hobby than frantically trying to read articles in the library about fission, because in early , these articles cease to be found anywhere.
By March of , Semyon Semyonov and his fellow KGB agents are on the case, trying to cultivate spies in America in order to steal information regarding the atomic bomb. Moscow is like, "Duh—go back and get all the information you can. Hiskey is subsequently transferred to the University of Chicago. Problem solved. Stealing information about the atomic bomb is such a big priority to the Soviets that the project is code named "Enormoz," which is Russian for enormous.
Step One for Enormoz is to cultivate any American scientists with ties to the bomb project who might be sympathetic to the communist cause. Numero Uno on their list of desirables is Robert Oppenheimer. Someone in D. At the school, they are taught how to care for and utilize weapons, pick locks, crack safes, set booby traps, and use poison.
They are taught how to kill with their bare hands. In other words, Haukelid is now Jason Bourne. Next they send Haukelid to Scotland for parachute school in order to train for his covert re-entry into Norway. The S. E picks five of the best men for a special mission. Of course Haukelid is part of the team—well, until an injury pulls him from the action. What happens?
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Born to Fly
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon