How The Manhattan Project Typifies The Concept Of Big Science Essay

Length: 7 pages Sources: 5 Type: Essay Paper: #83022171 Related Topics: World War Ii, Scientific Research, Human Being, 20th Century Published September 16, 2022
Excerpt from Essay :

Significant Historical Questions and Answers

Essay 1

In The Manhattan Project, Jeff Hughes claims that the development of atomic weapons in World War II did not create "Big Science," but simply accelerated trends in scientific research and development that had already taken place. Furthermore, he suggests that these "Big Science" trends created serious problems in the direction of scientific research by the second half of the twentieth century - problems which many argued could be remedied by moving away from (or at least softening) the stress on "Big Science."

In an essay demonstrating your knowledge of the text, analyze Hughes's argument, concentrating on the following questions: What, according to Hughes, is "Big Science," and how did the construction of the atomic bomb reflect such an approach to research and development? Do you believe such an approach was necessary? Why?

Although Hughes provides a thoughtful analysis of the emergence of big science, defined generally as scientific research and development (R&D) on a massive scale with projects that are typically funded by a national government or a consortium of governmental agencies, he fails to assign proper credit to the impact that the ultra-top-secret Manhattan Project had on this process. Indeed, the Manhattan Project was unprecedented in multiple ways that define big science, including most especially the fact that the U.S. government, in loose collaboration with the U.K., responded to a potential existential threat by recruiting tens of thousands of scientists and support staff. In other words, the Manhattan Project was the beginning of that point in modern history when national governments started throwing enormous sums of money at scientific research.

While it is reasonable to suggest that the Allies could have eventually won World War II without the atom bomb by using conventional weapons, this eventuality would have claimed far more lives, possibly running into additional tens of millions of more casualties. In fact, contemporary estimates indicated that at least one million Japanese lives would be lost and another 100,000 American lives would be claimed if an outright invasion of the Japanese homeland was needed to force Japan into unconditional surrender as mandated by the Potsdam Declaration. While most Americans celebrated the massive casualties that were caused by the atom bombing of Japan since Pearl Harbor was still fresh in the national consciousness, many observers today lament their use since they believe the war was all but over and would have ended quickly without their use. These observers are wrong.

Drawing on Einsteins discoveries and theoretical framework and fueled by billions of dollars in national treasure, the scientific team at the Manhattan Project succeeded in outpacing Nazi Germanys efforts to develop atomic weapons and used this scientific knowledge to good effect in bringing the Japanese Empire to its knees. Moreover, the drive towards big science did not end when Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki, and the U.S. and other national governments continued to heavily invest in scientific research which contributed to the creation of many of the major research organizations that emerged during the last half of the 20th century (Hughes, 2016).

This is not to say, of course, that there had never been any big science enterprises prior to the Manhattan Project. Indeed, it is reasonable to posit that ancient Egypts counterpart to J. Robert Oppenheimer, Imhotep, managed to mobilize all of the scientific resources that were available to him to at the time in order to design the Great Pyramid and the other monumental monolithic structures that have endured to modern times. This point is also made by Hughes who points out, The scale and complexity of a science must obviously be seen in the context of its time (p. 15). It is to say, though, that the Manhattan Project was the demarcation point in modern history when unprecedented sums of money were focused on a specific scientific enterprise, a process that contributed to Americans landing on the Moon in 1969 (something NASA is still struggling to replicate today) as well as the International Space Station and numerous others (Bianco et al., 2017) and the CERN Hadron Super Collider (Canals et al., 2017).

In a more general sense, the same forces that drove the creation of big…be studied, interpreted and understood by the masses. Centuries of believing in animism may have produced some spiritual benefits, but it did nothing otherwise to advance the evolution of the human species ability to negotiate a hostile world and stay on top of the food chain.

If humankinds natural condition is conceptualized as living in cold, dark caves surrounded by apex predators and raw food, science and technology in the modern world can be said to have a gradually liberating effect. Conceptualized as humankind taking advantage of every new technological innovation that can help ensure its survival, though, human beings can be regarded as already living in their natural condition. Indeed, this has always been the true natural condition of humankind as evinced by the fact that we are still around. When humans learned how to communicate with each other, make fire, their survival changes improved dramatically. Likewise, some twisted fibers produced thread and then string and then rope which provided humans with the ability to catch fish, trap wildlife and make clothes, and written language, the printing press, telegraph and the telephone as well as the Internet and global communications networks have also contributed to humankinds ability to survive in nearly all the worlds climates. In other words, this type of adaptation to innovations in scientific inquiry is humankinds natural condition.

It is important to distinguish science as a conception of nature from a means of investigation since the former depends on subjective, individualized interpretations of what the findings from science really mean and the latter which is a proven, objective method of inquiry. Although science has been unable to prove or disprove the existence of a creator, this has not stopped people of all persuasions from arguing that it does. Few people, though, would likely dispute the findings that emerge from rigorous scientific investigation since these can be replicated and proven, but here again that has not stopped many people from trying. This has especially been the case since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is alarming to see so many seemingly right-thinking people believe…

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