A Burst Of Energy

Castle Romeo
Image from Wikimedia Commons

August 6, 1945 an event happened that changed the world. A peaceful day in Japan was changed in a second by a large mushroom cloud and fire ball. I am of course talking about the atomic bomb. Nuclear bombs involve the forces that hold the nucleus of an atom together especially atoms with unstable nuclei. There are two basic ways that nuclear energy can be released from an atom. In nuclear fission scientists split the nucleus of an atom into two smaller fragments with a neutron. Nuclear fusion involves bringing together two smaller atoms to form a larger one. In both the process of fission or fusion large amounts of heat energy and radiation are given off. These large amounts of radiation and heat cause the explosion we all know. All though how the bomb works is more of physics lesson there are a few things we can tie in from class.

In 1929, Robert Atkinson and Fritz Houtermans used the measured masses of light elements to predict that large amounts of energy could be released by fusing small nuclei together. This was the first base of how nuclear fusion works. The energy released is attributed to the potential energy of atoms. There is a lot of energy in atoms. When a single free neutron strikes the nucleus of an atom of radioactive material like uranium or plutonium, it knocks two or three more neutrons free. Energy is released when those neutrons split off from the nucleus, and the newly released neutrons strike other uranium or plutonium nuclei, splitting them in the same way, releasing more energy and more neutrons.

Nuclear fusion is a reaction that releases atomic energy by the union of multiple light nuclei at high temperatures to form heavier atoms. Hydrogen bombs, which use nuclear fusion, have higher destructive power and greater efficiencies than atomic bombs. Due to the high temperatures required to initiate a nuclear fusion reaction, the process is often referred to as a thermonuclear explosion.

The activation of the hydrogen bomb can help show what we are learning in class. The hydrogen bomb requires a large amount of heat to activate it; this is similar to the activation energy that we have been discussing in class. Another class topic found in the bombs is the idea of energy conservation. When the bomb activates the act of nuclear fusion releases a large amount of energy from each atom that fuses. This is because the atoms by themselves containing lots of energy and when they are fused together they need to transfer their energy. They do this by releasing it into the surrounding area causing the large blast.

Although the ethics of the bomb are still disagreed upon the one thing we can all agree on is that the bomb helps shows the massive amounts of energy with in atoms, and how it can be displaced.

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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