You’re both right!
I was gonna “Why not both” it, but I decided against it.
I didn’t know there was video of Oppenheimer’s famous words so thank you very much for posting it here. Just hearing it gives me the shivers every time but, seeing him, you can feel him wrestling with his burden.
"Imagine a man
Where it all began
A scientist pacing the floor
In each nation, always eager to explore
To build the best big stick
To turn the winning trick…
…But this was something more"
ooof. I’m sorry I even posted this. This movie was always brutal to watch of think about, but now that I have two young kids, just seeing the thumbnail makes my stomach turn and my head swim.
I finally had the emotional resilience to watch that last year… been on my watch list for over a decade.
Well worth it.
One of my formative experiences was talking with a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing when I was in high school. He had been a young boy of around 7. His words were far more powerful than The Day After Trinity and The Day After combined.
Is the ephemeral blue sphere at the center of the blast that fades by about half way through the footage some kind of Cherenkov radiation? It’s kinda that color.
THEM! proves that one can make a first-rate sci-fi flick without CGI eye-candy. Great story, acting, and sound effects!!
Gives me another chance to recommend richard rhodes’ book.
As a scientific demonstration, it doesn’t get much cooler than that. Can you imagine? A peaceful world where everyone is getting along great and the physics-motivated group comes up with this new discovery, “Hey everyone, check this out”
And it’s obvious that this stuff is dangerous and no one wants to get hurt, right?
So, thinking about the environment too and all, maybe every 20 years is an O.K. interval to demonstrate the raw power of nuclear technology. What do you think? Too often, not often enough?
Of course the humans of the 1950’s weren’t so enlightened. Power this great you’ve got to study as much as possible. Detonate these things as fast as you can manufacture and stockpile even more.
People growing up after the dawn of atomic energy have this whole new thing to consider, and I don’t know if any of us here can truly “relate” to a person from before that time. A sudden introduction of a new and dire variable in society, it’s no wonder we’re swimming in such a global shit show today!
Make that three of you!
And another opportunity for us to agree!
My in-laws lived that, more or less.
They were adolescents in the Kansai region of Japan when the war ended. My father-in-law got by raiding gardens of neighbors and stealing root vegetables. Had the war dragged on a month or two longer, it was doubtful either of them would have survived.
I tried watching that film a second time in August 2015, when TV-Japan showed it on the 70th Anniversary of the surrender. My wife and I couldn’t get through 15 minutes without turning it off.
Few people really take into account the effects of the bombing and blockade on Japanese civilians. If we invaded Japan or let the blockade go longer, millions of Japanese civilians more would have died.
I doubt it.
Cherenkov radiation is created when particles move faster than the phase velocity of light in a given medium. It’s observed in the water used to cool some nuclear fission reactors because the refractive index of water is fairly high at 1.333 and so the phase velocity of light is significantly lower than some fast moving electrons and protons.
The refractive index of air is much lower 1.0003, so the phase velocity of light is much higher, nearly the speed of light in a vacuum we all know and love.
Cosmic gamma rays striking the upper atmosphere can generate sufficiently fast charged particles to produce Cherenkov radiation, but I doubt a thermonuclear explosion would produce enough sufficiently fast charged particles to generate visible Cherenkov radiation.
A more likely cause of the visible blue glow is florescence of the ionized atmosphere as it falls back into an unexcited state. The glow from air ionization looks coincidentally very similar to Cherenkov radiation. A recent example of this was the blue glow over New York from
the release of Gozer the Gozerian the explosion of a power transformer at the Con Ed plant in Astoria, Queens.
All that said, nuclear physics is not my specialty and I could be wrong about the production of suffciently fast charged particles from a thermonuclear bomb.
Hope that, er, sheds some light on the question.
Yeah the stats are mind-numbing.
“Between 1946 and 1958 alone the U.S. Government detonated 67 atmospheric nuclear weapon tests in the Marshall Islands. Equivalent to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every single day for twelve years.”
-Dr Holly Barker of the National Nuclear Commission for the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Here’s a great presentation of every test by the artist Isao Hashimoto:
I’m no expert but there’s some evidence that makes me skeptical about claims that more Japanese civilians would have died if the bombs weren’t dropped.
The U.S.'s own Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946 states unequivocally that Japan would have surrendered even if the atom bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War), 1 July 1946, bottom of p.26
The National Archives in Washington chart Japanese peace overtures from as early as 1943. In a cable sent on May 5th 1945 by the German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the U.S. Reveals that the Japanese were desperate to settle for peace, in capitulation, even if the terms were hard. ( Los Angeles Times, January 9, 1995, p.5 )
In his diary U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson frankly explained a different reason for the assault than forcing surrender. The bombs were dropped, in Stimson’s words, “to persuade Russia to play ball.” 5/16/45 memorandum
And then there’s Dwight Eisenhower:
“Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary. … I thought our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of “face”. The secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude, almost angrily refuting the reasons I gave for my quick conclusions.”
-Dwight Eisenhower, The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 (New York, 1963), pp.312-3
I find this illuminating explanation delightful! As though a light-bulb went off over my head. I am literally bathed in your enlightening aura.
Who was the insane person who saw this and asked “Not bad. Can you make it bigger?”
Just to give a flip side to the doom and gloom:
Europe hasn’t had a major conflict since WWII. You can’t name another part in history where Europe has been peaceful for this long, even with tension among some of their neighbors. This is directly due to war suddenly being too costly due to the magnitude of destruction. Indeed, man is living in some of the least violent times since the start of civilization. All over the world, deaths due to war are down.
Then you are failing to take into account the blockade had on food importation and bombing’s effect on internal transportation within Japan. Japan relied on heavy importation of food before the war. With their merchant marine fleet completely smashed by blockade and submarine warfare, imports were reduced to nothing. Bombing destroyed the railways which transported food from the agrarian southern regions to the more populated centers in Honshu
BTW if the war didn’t end by August 1945 Russia’s entry would have included an invasion of Hokkaido. We would have been looking at a partitioned Japan like Korea and Germany. A partitioned Japan means that the UN would not have it as a staging area for the Korean war (which was inevitable).
We would have been looking at millions more Japanese dead, a Communist North Japan and a Communist Korea. A far worse outcome for the world.
The dustups between Serbia and its neighbors in the wake of the breakup of Yugoslavia would be a notable exception. Granted, those didn’t spread to most of the continent like WWI/WWII, but they were horrible enough.
I might be mis-remembering this, but wasn’t there also something of a behind the scenes power struggle between the Emperor and some of the generals on continuing the war? Seems like the Emperor was interested in surrendering and some generals were not (or was it the other way around?). Either way, I’m positive that the historiography points to Japan looking to surrender prior to the bombs, but they dropped them for just the reason you note - sending a message to the Russians.