The evil side

of the research

Adrián Carrillo García is PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Chemical engineering

Adrián Carrillo García is PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Chemical engineering


by Adrián Carrillo García

1898, a single date can turn the world upside down. That year symbolizes the discovery of radioactivity and the opening of a new research field. With every new field starts a new race; in this case the race between countries to develop the “nuclear”. 

Once the acknowledgement of the radioactivity acquired; the interest of different countries leaded to the achievement of the creation of the most deadly weapon known by mankind, the atomic bomb. This is the effect of a war, World War II, the birth of the Manhattan project that determined the fate of thousands of lives. This project was meant to develop an atomic weapon before the Nazis under the leadership of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The idea of developing such a weapon came from the discovery of Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy, which identified the fission of the atoms that contained a huge amount of energy. With it, the idea of atomic weapons was represented by H.G. Wells in a novel, and Winston Churchill who contemplated the possible use of nuclear for military implications.

This hypothesis became real in July 1945 when “Trinity”, the first atomic bomb, successfully detonated in New Mexico. A project with an initial 6,000 $ grant and a final budget of 2 billion$ created a 4 tons with a blast power equal to 12-15,000 tons of TNT. Not even one month later of the first trial, the drop of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”, two atomic bombs, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war declaration of Russia to Japan got to its latter final surrender and the unfortunate loss of more than 100,000 lives. The final description of the Manhattan project could be summarized in two words, “It worked” (J.R. Oppenheimer).

Right after the end of the war, many of the Manhattan project scientists called in vain for “international control of atomic energy” trying to avoid what would be later called the Cold War.

Invention and discovery, research and new technology are necessary to mankind; and cannot be classified as good or evil, the acts of people define them. However, the use of this new tech is still related to ethics. As J.R. Oppenheimer said: “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”