Saturday, July 27, 2013

BOMB Epilogue

The Hydrogen Bomb

The Super would be a bomb that got its energy from fusion, the joining of atoms, rather than fission. The power of such a bomb would have almost no limit. 

Robert Oppenheimer tried to argue that the Super should never be produced. Another Los Alamos leader, Hans Bethe, added, "I believe the most important question is the moral one. Can we, who have always insisted on the morality of human decency between nations as well as inside our own country, introduce this weapon of total annihilation into the world?"

And yet, on November 1, 1952, the U.S. tested the world's first hydrogen bomb. It exploded with incredible force: 500 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. And, less than a year later, the Soviet Union tested their first hydrogen bomb.

The arms race was off and running.

Then, in 1954, the United States tested a massive 15-megaton hydrogen bomb on the tiny Pacific island of Bikini Atoll. To this day, the radioactive soil of Bikini Atoll makes the island uninhabitable. Still, this was followed by a 50-megaton bomb explosion by the Soviets.

Internationally, of course, other countries wanted a bomb. Great Britain got theirs in 1952. France followed in 1960, then China in 1964 and India in 1974. Finally, Pakistan in 1998 and North Korea in 2006.

If you only ever watch one video regarding nuclear explosions, make sure it's this one: Nuclear Detonation Timeline 1945 - 1998. The 2053 nuclear tests and explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998 - visually and audibly plotted on a world map.

The big question is: Will any of these bombs ever be used? By who and against whom? What do you think? 

Now that we know this story, this bit of history, what's our responsibility?

I loved how the book ends:
In the end, this is a difficult story to sum up. The making of the atomic bomb is one of history's most amazing examples of teamwork and genius and poise under pressure. But it's also the story of how humans created a weapon capable of wiping our species off the planet, It's a story with no end in sight.
And, like it or not, you're in it.

Remember how we started this story... as "story detectives"? By looking at this event from multiple, international perspectives what did you learn? What do you still want to know?

And, like it or not, where do we go from here?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Young and Yang

The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher is an awesome mystery! Part Nancy Drew and part Alfred Hitchcock, The Wig in the Window is a clever, middle grade, debut novel.

Best friends Sophie Young and Grace Yang are smart, brave, adventurous, spy-loving heroines. They stumble upon a mystery involving their school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward)... or at least, they think they do.

If you are looking for a twisting, turning, suspenseful mystery... this is the book for you.

I'm looking forward to Sophie and Grace's next adventure.

BOMB Part 4: Final Assembly

Where you able to finish Part 4 ?

That was difficult to read. I felt so anxious and sad for everyone involved. 

Did you?

Colonel Paul Tibbets hand picks the 509th Composite Group. And, at age 29, is entrusted with the successful delivery of the most frightful weapon ever devised. Have I mentioned that he was only twenty-nine?!

Then, Carl Eifler is replaced by former baseball player Moe Berg to render Heisenberg hors de combat - "out of battle". Werner Heisenberg was in Zurich, Switzerland to give a lecture, Moe Berg walks into the lecture hall ... in one pocket he has a pistol and in the other was a cyanide tablet, just in case he needed to kill himself before being captured.

I'm thinking history is crazier than fiction.

Secret messages are being sent through Walt Whitman's book Leaves of Grass; milk is used as invisible ink on news papers; and the plans for the atomic bomb are stuffed into the bottom of a tissue box. Amazing!

President Franklin Roosevelt dies, leaving vice president Harry Truman in charge, and as Germany begins to fall... American troops are grabbing all the German scientists before the Soviet troops are able to do the same. And, on April 30th 1945, Adolf Hitler commits suicide... the war in Europe is over. 

The United States and the Soviet Union will soon be the only world powers left standing.

On the morning of July16, the U.S. was ready to test the first atomic bomb. Would it work?

Zero minus fifteen minutes. Zero minus ten minutes. Zero minus two minutes. Zero minus one minute. Zero minus ten seconds, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one... zero.

"Lord, these affairs are hard on the heart."

And then, without a sound the sun was shining. Or so it looked. Then, about thirty seconds after the blast of light, came the sound. 

"It worked."

The bomb had exploded with the almost unbelievable force of eighteen thousand tons of TNT.

"Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

President Truman decided that the atomic bomb could shock Japan into surrendering and end the war in the Pacific. He later explained that, "I couldn't worry about what history would say about my personal morality. I made the only decision I ever knew how to make. I did what I thought was right."

On August 6, 1945 a uranium bomb nickname Little Boy was loaded onto Colonel Tibbet's plane, the Enola Gay. The bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. The blast heated the ground to over 5,000 degrees. After witnessing the explosion, a feeling of shock and horror swept over the crew piloting the Enola Gay.

"My God, what have we done?"

On the morning of August 9, 1945 a second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki.

And... the book isn't over yet. I am exhausted and don't think I can go on... but what of Robert Oppenheimer and his staff and their bomb making secrets...

The U.S. Army wanted more bombs. The President wanted Oppenheimer back in the lab. "Mr. President," said Mr. Oppenheimer, "I feel I have blood on my hands." He refused to build any more bombs. He knew his creation was completely - and forever - beyond his control.

How did all of this make you feel?
Proud? Sad? Angry? Frustrated? Relieved?

As for the writing of the book, I absolutely loved how it came full circle: "He had a few more minutes to destroy seventeen years of evidence." (pg. 1 and pg. 225)

Next, read the Epilogue (if you haven't already). We will discuss it tomorrow.

For now, I need to think about what the dropping of the atomic bomb means, some 68 years later.

video: The Manhattan Project and related videos on the History Channel (Einstein and the Atomic Bomb, Atomic Bomb Ends WWII, and Coroners Report: Atomic Bomb which is quite graphic. 

Also, check out this post on ENDPAPER, where Einstein confesses his "one great mistake".

Finally, you can listen to President Truman's radio address to the American people on August 9, 1945 about the bombing of Hiroshima.

Check out this interactive website on The Manhattan Project.

If you're interested in a great historical fiction book to read next, try Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. This book is a work of historical fiction about the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb and their families. It is told from the point of view of the children, who were not given many details of the highly classified project. The bomb is a looming presence in the story, though, because now you have knowledge that the characters do not. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

phone home

Today I read Better Nate Than Ever by former Broadway performer and debut author Tim Federle. 

Did I like it? Is Christine DaaĆ©'s high note pre-recorded in 'Phantom'?  ... (yes)


Nate is bullied terribly for being different.

He takes a big risk and runs away from home (Jankburg, Pennsylvania) and heads to New York City via Greyhound Bus to an open casting call for the Broadway musical version of the blockbuster Steven Spielberg movie, "E.T." 

Need I, really, say more?

With the aid of his best friend Libby, Nate's fool proof plan to escape Jankburg is set in motion.

Middle grade readers, lovers of NYC, theater fans, and anyone who has ever been bullied will love this book.

Better Nate Than Ever is proof that... It gets better.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

an ode to misfits

I just read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I read it because John Green wrote a review of it in the New York Times. John Green liked it, so I knew I'd like it. It's set in the 80s, I'm set in the 80s. It has an awesome cover, I love awesome covers. We seemed to be the perfect match. Happily, Eleanor and Park did not disappoint.

It's a great teen love story. Sometimes the world and all its conventions and narrow-mindedness and seemingly insurmountable challenges get in the way of young love. It's the perfect book about new love and star-crossed love... teen love in all its awkward glory. It's an ode to misfits.

Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”—John Green, The New York Times Book Review

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It's the way we deal with what Fate hands us...

I loved A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. I especially loved the man in the gray suit with the sideways sort of grin, a grin that suggested he knew more about the world than he was letting on.
"The man in the gray suit thought about that. 'Well, that's the thing about knots, isn't it?' he replied after a moment. 'If you don't know the trick, it's a muddled predicament. But in fact each loop of every knot is carefully placed, one end twisting right into the other in a way you might not have expected. I find them rather beautiful, really."
"There's no controlling what fate hands you,' the man went on, pulling the suitcase to his side. It was a very old suitcase, boxy and large as a small child, with worn corners and three small dimples near the left clasp. 'And in my experience, it rarely seems to give you exactly what you need at the exact moment that you need it."
"Just remember this,' he said. 'It's the way we deal with what Fate hands us that defines who we are." 

A Tangle of Knots is an interlace of fantasy and baking and magic and lost luggage.

"Life is the grandest adventure one can go on, isn't it?' the giant said kindly (he seemed to be a very friendly giant). 'What else could a person ask for than just to be alive?" 

Told in multiple points of view, this book is a magnificent talent. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

BOMB Part 3: How to Build an Atomic Bomb

So much to cover in part 3...

Scientists continued arriving... the office was a madhouse. Famous physicists were given code names: Enrico Fermi was 'Henry Farmer'. 
Like Fermi, much of Oppenheimer's scientific dream team was European, many of them Jews who had escaped from Hitler. This gave America a huge advantage in its race with Germany, but it also presented a security problem. The people of Santa Fe, a city of just twenty thousand, began to wonder why so many men with European accents were suddenly walking the streets.
Would you notice if your town had a sudden influx of European men arrive?

If you were given a code name, what would it be?

With so many construction workers working on Los Alamos, Robert Serber had to come up with a code name for the bomb. He called it 'the gadget' and the name stuck. The physics of how to get the gadget to work was to spark a fast chain reaction in uranium that would release so much energy that it would cause a massive explosion. The trick was, it had to be light and travel by plane.

Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) agents didn't trust Robert Oppenheimer. They hid microphones in his office, listened in on his phone calls, and read his mail. How would you feel if you knew you were being watched? 

Spying was ever present. Harry Gold was wearing a pair of gloves and holding a second pair in his hand; this was a signal. Klaus Fuchs was walking the streets of New York with a tennis ball... recognition that he was the spy to meet.

If you were a spy, what signals and passwords would you use? What basic rules would you follow?

The railway ferry Hydro was sunk, the Germans lost their supply of heavy water, and now Colonel Carl Eifler was tasked with the dirty work of kidnapping German physicist, Werner Heisenberg. Things were definitely taking on a strictly need-to-know basis.

Back in the U.S., Theodore Hall began making plans of his own. Do you think, like Hall did, that an American monopoly on atomic weapons would have been dangerous?

Let's get some vocabulary words out of the way, just in case they have been confusing:

physicist (pg.12), radioactive (13), particles (13), electrons (13), nucleus (13), neutrons (13), protons (13), theoretical physics (13), uranium (pg.15), atom (15), fission (pg.20), blitzkrieg (20), tradecraft (pg.22), Communist (pg.23), AlliedPowers (pg.33), Axis Powers (33), agent cultivation (pg.39), Manhattan Project (pg.48), KGB (pg.60), intelligence (pg.61), mesa (pg.67), chain reaction (pg.71), comrades (pg.78), demolition (pg.79), saboteurs (pg.87), heavy water (pg.89) ‘the gadget’ (pg.98), tamper (pg.99), Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (pg.101), censors (pg.121), U-238 and U-235 (pg.123) plutonium (pg.133), monopoly (pg.135)

The History Channel has a great short video on World War II Spy Strategy... watch double cross and double agent strategy.

Want to learn to be a spy? Check out this WikiHow: 5 Ways to be a Spy Kid.

Next... Read Part 4: Final Assembly by July 26th. It's the final push, 13 short chapters that include Trinity, Little Boy, and the Enola Gay. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

from the assassin's perspective...

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff is an amazing, thrilling, fast-paced story teens will love. 

What an exciting, political thriller. It's the story of a sixteen year old trained assassin. The main plot of the story does wrap up nicely, but...  Boy Nobody could be set for a sequel. I, for one, would love to see where this story goes. This is a great book for teens who love fast-paced, "James Bond" style thrillers.