Work By N.Z. Scientists
NOTABLE VICTORY IN "BACK-ROOM WAR"
FIGHT AGAINST TIME
Success Follows Research Over Many Years
The dropping of the first atomic .bomb on a Japanese city represents "the greatest victory yet scored by the "backroom boys" of Britain and America —scientists whose achievements in the war years stagger the imagination. Their victory lies not only in the success of the weapon they have created but in their conquest under conditions s»of intense strain and anxiety. What President Truman described as "the battle of the laboratories" was a very real battle. The scientists engaged were probably known to the enemy because of their pre-war activity in the particular field of research and they were thus in real personal danger. They knew also the terrific responsibility, upon them, for this was no exclusive development field. Germany's greatest scientists were also working "all out." It developed over the latter stages into a race against time. Germany's V-3 weapon was expected to have its greatest feature in the use of an atomic explosive. Would German scientists get there in time? Or would Allied advances in Europe, combined with air concentration against development laboratories and production factories achieve prior victory? The result is now known, but at the time of Von Rundstedt's "breakthrough" in the Ardennes there was considerable anxiety. From the point of view of the Allies the atomic bomb would be the number one weapon against Japan,, So it seems it is now to prove. New Zealandcrs Participate In this war project (with great peacetime possibilities), New Zealand had a major interest, for it was New Zealand's greatest scientist, the late Lord Rutherford, Cavendish professor of physics at Cambridge University, who made the initial experiments leading to the present results. Many of the scientists concerned were his pupils. In addition, though names cannot yet be mentioned, it can be revealed that four young New Zealand research workers, members of the staff of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, were sent to America to take part in the Allied scientific effort. Dr. E. Marsden, director of the Department, was also associated with the late Lord Rutherford in his atomic investigations.
New Zealand has an interest in the subject also from the point of view of later developments in the use' of atomic energy. In this connection it can be pointed out that the establishment of p'ants in America for the production of the bomb are at Tennessee, near the major T.V.A. source of electric power, and in New Mexico, with its major hydro-electric works on the Colorado River. Hydro-, electric resources will play a considerable part in the development of at mic energy in the future and New Zealand's South Island resources are unlimited. Atomic Research Work The initial experimental work in regard to the "breaking of the atom" and the harnessing of the terrific forces holding together the minute atom with its surrounding electrons, was done by Lord Rutherford in the Cavendish Laboratory, the first transformation being made in 1919. His work then showed that "bits" could be broken off the nucleus of the atom artificially, which meant that the possibility of control was brought nearer Natural disintegration of the atom actually occurs in radio activity, but it is uncontrollable. To demonstrate however, the terrific power thus given • off a quotation can be, made from Professor J. Chadwick, of Liverpool University, wfto stated that "during its whole life one gram of emanation (from radium) would emit the equivalent power to that supplied by an engine working at 157 horsepower for one day." Since Rutherford's original experiments, work has been going on in a number of countries. The invention of the cyclotron by Professor E. 0. Lawrence, a leading American physicist, was a major step forward in- this field with its continual "bombardment of the nuclei." It was found that some nuclei could actually be-split into more or less equal parts and that in this process a great deal of energy was available relative to the size of the particle. It was found that some particular atoms were nearly unstable and when bombarded with particles called neutrons these nuclei became definitely unstable and split. Solution of Problems This process was known before the war and the problems which the war scientific teams had to solve included (a) to find the best substance for treatment; (b) to carry out treatment in a controlled fr.shion, and (c) to harness the
energy released in a designed manner. These problems have currently been solved in some degree at least, although much research work is obviously still necessary. One of the elements which in prewar experiments were known to respond to this treatment was uranium — the parent atom of radium. Interest, therefore, attaches to the reference made by President Truman to the necessity for large supplies of uranium. Catastrophic Release Apparently a mechanism has been produced for use in the new bomb which, when it reaches its objective, sets in motion a process releasing atomic energy in catastrophic form. The actual explosive will be only partially, if at all, controlled. To use the same energy in a productive way would need complete control, in the same way that explosions in a petrol gas engine arc controlled. The quantity of active matter contained in any one bomb would be minute. It has been calculated as a graphic illustration of the power of atomic energy that "one could put in one's vest pocket sufficient to drive the Queen Mary across the Atlantic." "They can now control it to some extent," said Professor F. W. Burbidge, Professor of Physics, Auckland University College, this morning in expressing gratification at the scientific advance referred to in the news. "The process can now be released at a given time and place. This is a good example of applied science. For a period of 27 years physicists have been working on the nucleus and now at last the utilisation of nuclear energy appears a distinct possibility for peaceful purposes."
Tremendous Sustained Roar When First Test Made i STEEL TOWER VAPOURISED Rec. 1.30. WASHINGTON, Aug. 6. "The final assembly of the atomicbomb was begun on July 12 in an old ranch house. The various components were assembled and put together. One false move would have blasted the scientists and their efforts into eternity. During the final stages some bad minutes developed when the assembly of an important, section was delayed. It was tooled to the finest measurement, but wari apparently wedged tightly and would not go further. However, Dr. Bach°r of Cornell University, overcame the difficulty. The assembly was completed," continued President Truman. "On July 14 the unit which was t» r, "t.ermine the success or failure of the entire project was elevated to the top of the steel tower. All that day and the next the preparation went on. In addition to the apparatus necessary to cause detonation, the complete instrumentation to determine pulse beat and all reactions of the bomb was rigged on the tower.
"At the appointed time there was a blinding flash lighting up the whole area brighter than the brightest daylight. A mountain range three miles from the observation point stood out in bold relief, then came a tremendous sustained roar and a heavy pressure wave which knocked down two men outside the control centre. Immediately after, a huge multi-coloured surging cloud boiled to an altitude exceeding 40,000 feet. The cloud in its path soon disappeared and afterwards sub - stratosphere winds dispersed this now grey mass. "The test was over. The project was a success. The steel tower had been entirely vaporised and where the tower stood there was a huge sloping crater. Dazed But Relieved "The scientists were dazed but relieved at the success of their tests. They promptly marshalled their forces to estimate the strength of the new weapon. "Major - GeiYeral Leslie Groves, head of the atomic bomb project, said: 'First came a burst of light of a brilliance beyond any comparison. We all rolled .over and looked through dark glasses at the ball of fire. About 40 seconds later came the shock wave, followed by a sound, neither of which seemed startling after our complete astonishment at the extraordinary lighting intensity. A massive cloud was formed which surged and billowed upwards with tremendous power, reaching the substratosphere in five minutes. Two supplementary explosions of minor effect occurred in the cloud shortly after the main explosion. The cloud travelled to a great height, first in the form of a ball, then it mushroomed, changing into a long trailing chimnev-shaped column. It was finally dispersed in several directions by variable winds at different elevations.' " The Office of War Information immediately began broadcasting to Japan Mr. Truman's statement on the atomic bomb from San Francisco. Hawaii and Saipan. It is expected it. will dominate the American broadcasts to Japan for the next few days. The Psychological Warfare Department will include Mr. Truman's t'i'cmcnt in the leaflets dropped over Japan.
Permanent link to this item
Work By N.Z. Scientists, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 185, 7 August 1945
Work By N.Z. Scientists Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 185, 7 August 1945
Using This Item
Fairfax Media is the copyright owner for the Auckland Star. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence . This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Fairfax Media. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.
This newspaper was digitised in partnership with Auckland Libraries.