The Manhattan Project
  • The Manhattan Project was a project to produce nuclear weaponry, and was one of the most significant scientific undertakings of the 20th century.
  • The result was the production of two atomic bombs that were dropped on Japanese cities that ended World War II
    • This provided a fast end to a war which may have saved many American and Japanese lives.
    • However this was at the cost of massive amounts of Japanese civilian casualties as collateral damage.
    • This also led to irradiation of habitats and contributed to developments of cancer and radioactivity in the environment.
  • After having seen the destructive power of such weapons, the period that followed was of great political tension known as the Cold War.
    • This split the world into communist and capitalist factions, and led to several military conflicts.
      • The two major superpowers of the factions were USA and the USSR
      • This includes things like the Vietnam and Korean Wars.
    • The tension was due to the prospect of mutually assured destruction
      • This is when both sides were hesitant to use their nuclear weaponry due to the fear of being wiped out through retaliation.
      • In a way, this managed to keep the peace when a traditional war would have broken out.
      • However, the world lived in constant anxiety of the possibility of nuclear warfare.
      • Events like the Cuban Missile Crisis demonstrated this fear.
    • It also led to an arms race, in which both sides aimed to rapidly develop and stock nuclear weaponry.
      • This meant there was high expenditure in the field, and thus health and education were cut back.
      • However, it also led to a further development and understanding of nuclear physics.
        • These include Nuclear fission reactors and particle accelerators.
  • Nowadays, the power structure has been greatly shaken by the prospect of nuclear weaponry.
    • Small rogue countries like North Korea or Iran and terrorist groups can now use nuclear weaponry as a bargaining chip
    • Yet this, along with the prospect of mutually assured destruction, have led to a more diplomatic approach to resolving conflict that warfare.

Assessment

Although the Manhattan project has led to death, anxiety and wasteful expenditure, the resulting nuclear stalemates have prevented several wars and thus averted many more deaths. Also, the development into nuclear physics leads to the hope that one day these could redeem its negative impacts on human society.