Going Nuclear – The Science Of Nuclear Weapons – Part 1 – Just a Theory

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Going Nuclear is a multi part series where I go into detail on how nuclear weapons work, looking deep at the science and explaining how some curious discoveries in the early 20th century lead to the most powerful weapons ever used in war, and how those were tuned and evolved into the smaller, more powerful modern weapons.

Part 1 covers the early experimental discoveries and how they provided the theoretical underpinnings to show that Atomic chain reactions would work and how that might lead to a new form of energy.

Music is ‘Tranquility Base’ by Kevin Macleod / Incompetech.com


Ben Quinney says:

It’s not nitroglycerin

Peter Wexler says:

Someone who seems to know what he's talking about! Thank God. It's RARE.

BTW, Szillard first described the uranium atom as splitting the way a water droplet may split into two. It was not Meitner.

Also, Szillard actually got the idea of the possibility of an atomic bomb after reading HG Wells's, The World Set Free. This, according to Richard Rhodes, the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, as well as three other books on the subject.

I read The World Set Free (and The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun). Though not precise, Wells's work on the subject of atomic bombs is visionary, especially considering that it was written just after WWI, nearly thirty years before the Trinity Test Shot at Alamagordo.

Andrew Christensen says:

Does the accelerator experiment splitting really fully prove that getting energy out of nuclei is possible? The incident proton is relativistic, and therefore has more energy than its rest mass by a decent factor. I don't know enough about the experiment to say exactly how much more energy this is, but it likely more than makes up for the change in rest mass caused by the nuclear reaction. The changes in rest mass for nuclear reactions are generally of a lower order than the gamma factors (minus one) of particles in an accelerator. Footnote – To make this argument reference frame independent, consider that no frame exists where neither the proton nor the lithium are relativistic.

Jerry Rupprecht says:

I was under the impression that the transformation of U235 to U236 is what caused the reaction because U236 is so unstable. Well I guess you learn something every day.

Klaas Kramer says:

I thought this was a game simulation of buildig an atom bomb or something

nagualdesign says:

(6:21) Alfred Einstein?! :-/

kurtu5 says:

4 Possibilities? Can't the neutron also decay? I know the probability of this 4th action is probably much less than the other 3, but I wonder what that probability is.

GodAtum says:

i bet a lot of ISIS liked this lol

saberline152 says:

"the energy they were creating was significantly smaller than went into the reaction" sounds a whole lot like the stage we're now at with fusion….

Sergio Barrera Oro says:

Hello Scott, have you seen the 1984 movie threads. Do you know a movie that better portrays the effects of a nuclear war?

MrAkurvaeletbe says:

So Einstein is really a villain responsible for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, huh, didn't know that.

Baxter Van West says:

6:22 did you just call Albert Einstein Alfred Einstein?

Allekatrase says:

Thank you! Drives me crazy every time I see people talk about accidental detonations of nuclear bombs. It's ridiculous that technology that is as old as nuclear weapons and that has played such a large role in international policy and politics remains so poorly understood by the majority of people. Not that it doesn't deserve respect, but people treat it like the bogeyman and it's ridiculous.

Steven Utter says:

0:49 whats that you say , get to design them as part of the game, I pause, look around for the name of the game , I look all over the games UI then scroll down the comments to see if anyone mentions it, then when I finally scroll back up I see it right in the middle of the screen. Children of a dead earth. Facepalm.

cjhs77338 says:

Take a look at Molten Salt Reactors. They were more efficient and self regulating. Same with Thorium reactors. They were cleaner then our current reactors but were never funded because the byproducts cannot be used for nuclear munitions.

Kbdgaming3 says:

hi nsa, pls don't arrest me for being a terrorist. ty in advance

TheReaverOfDarkness says:

Making uranium achieve fission is similar to making iron achieve fission. We don't typically worry about iron near us achieving fission! The only difference is the amount of energy released if it ever did happen. Since it's not realistically going to happen, it's like worrying about monsters under the bed being more dangerous than pink fluffy unicorns, even though they're both about as likely to be spotted in your bedroom at night.

PiezPiedPy says:

Simon from the daily mail is going to have a field day with this video

Player Name says:

Wow Scott, didn’t take you to be a sheep….pretty naive huh? Should have known….children’s toys and video games…

Timon Henze says:

You successfully butchered Lise Meitner's name.

Vince Osborn says:

I love these history type videos, though I struggle to understand things i can relate to some (isotopes 238 refined to 235 in Factorio for example!)

Fartonaut says:


country farmer420 says:

a hydrogen bomb isn't nuclear?

Sędziwój says:

Atomic bomb, as was at begin, not current type, was easy to detonate, it was 2 half sphere to join and bum. But they change this technology, and know is not so easy.

Terry Wilson says:

8:53 …I dunno why, but it's somehow so much funnier when Scott Manley reads it than when I read it myself. Probably a good thing since if I laughed that hard at my public library, I'd probably get dragged away by security, and not for reading a book on atomic bombs.

Palpatine001 says:

3:12 Dont tell the Americans about Lithium 7 and Hydrogen Bombs. Yep Castle Bravo and how that went from 5MT to 15MT 😛

Karl Adams says:

Excellent work – and I look forward to the rest of the series. One (minor) exception to your initial point about the immunity of nuclear weapons to rough handling would be the Violet Club / Green Bamboo 'Interim Megaton Weapon' – an oversized fission warhead comprising more than one uncompressed critical mass of fissile material, it relied on unfavourable geometry (the core was fashioned into a thin-walled sphere) to remain subcritical – so was regarded as a bit hairy when it came to accidental damage. Naturally without the core being properly compressed by the HE you'd get more of an 'unintended criticality incident' than an explosion – but I dare say it could probably ruin your entire day…

Palpatine001 says:

Any chance on how the civilian nuclear power industry was born (mainly thanks to the UK opening the World's first nuclear power station) as an offshoot from the weapons program please

Joshua Landry says:

Should be called electromagnetic bombs…

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