The comic “Atoman” was published in February 1946, right after the end of World War II. The beginning of the comic depicts a short history of the atom bomb and the Manhattan Project; it shows several different scientists and their contributions to the atom bomb. Most of the scientists are made up; however, it does mention Albert Einstein and his theories on matter and energy, namely, his famous formula for the inter-conversion of the two: E=mc2.
The comic then tells the story of the bombing of Hiroshima and how the scientists waited in anticipation to see if the bomb worked. In actuality, the bomb was tested in New Mexico first, to see if the work of the Manhattan Project was successful. In short, it was. The director of the project, whose name will be forever connected to the atomic bomb, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, watching—in fascination and incredulity—the rising mushroom cloud that the atomic bomb is famous for stated, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” (“United States…”). It
strikes me that these people, these scientists, started working with only an idea that the atom might be capable of being split and giving off enormous amounts energy in the process, worked on it tirelessly in pursuit of the idea that physics can now display the power that lies at the heart of it, and created a weapon so powerful that they did not realize the implications it would have for the world and for war until it was completed.
The comic then goes into a fantastical tale of how a scientist was exposed to radiation for several years and happened to gain “atomic power” from the radiation. As a modern day reader, I know the only
thing connected with high doses of radiation is death, which is not a fascinating super power. However, if people in the 40s read this they most likely would not know the effects of radiation—or even what radiation was for that matter—so super powers might seem like a reasonable effect. Moreover, without understanding the principles behind the atomic bomb, the public likely regarded the atomic bomb as being in the realm of superheroes and magic, rather than physics.
I found myself chuckling as I read through the comic, not only because the idea of becoming a superhero with atomic power from radiation poisoning was so ludicrous, but also because it indicated the depth of ignorance concerning physics—and general science—of most of the public at that time. However, upon further examination (i.e. looking at the science of our time in relation to the public ignorance of it also), I can see that this is most likely a trend that has been prevalent for most of scientific history.
In conclusion, the development of the atomic bomb came with many consequences to society and the scientific community, some of the consequences were good and others were bad, but it was a significant scientific achievement. It opened to doors to modern physics and ushered in a new game piece for war—albeit a highly controversial one.
“United States conducts first test of the atomic bomb.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 23 June 2014. <http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/united-states-conducts-first-test-of-the-atomic-bomb>.