After six years of intense research and testing of the Manhattan Project, the world experienced the first and only use of nuclear weapons during wartime. On August 6, 1945, a bomb made of uranium demolished Hiroshima. Three years later, General Comics, Inc. produced the comic Adventures Inside the Atom. The comic begins by taking us back 2,000 years to ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks were uncovering the ideas of atoms and elements,which at the time sounded absurd to everyone else.After many attempts to try to make gold from other elements, John Dalton finally suggested, “Gold is itself a basic element… The atoms of each element are different from the atoms of all other elements” (Adventures).
After this discovery, the atom became more interesting to scientists wanting to look “inside the atom.” This led to Niels Bohr’s theory that electrons orbit around a nucleus. In the comic, everyone is mesmerized by the fact that an atom could be so tiny and the nucleus of that atom must be even smaller. As Ed and Johnny continue through the science exhibit, Ed explains the concepts of protons, atomic numbers, neutrons, and stable and radioactive elements. Ed continues to explain how scientists were finally able to change elements into other elements and even make new elements using a cyclotron. Ed then states, “But the greatest wonders were yet to come! The scientists who were plastering and chipping atoms were getting closer and closer to the energy locked in the atom nucleus” (Adventures). The sun’s energy amazed scientists during the 40s and 50s, fueling the research behind the atom bomb.
Albert Einstein made important contributions to the production of the atomic bomb. In 1939, Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt to “warn him that the Nazis were working on a new and powerful weapon: and atomic bomb” (American Museum of Natural History). The comic continues by detailing Albert Einstein’s theory that matter can be destroyed with energy being created in its place. Many people laughed at this theory, but some believed this theory and began testing to try to prove it. Ed explains that scientists soon discovered that only one type of Uranium atom splits. The common Uranium atom weighs 238, but the Uranium atom that splits weighs only 235 and contains 3 less neutrons. Even with this, usable energy was not produced. Usable energy was only produced by setting up a chain reaction where one U235 split, releasing a neutron that will split two more. However, in order to do so, enough pure U235 must be separated from U238. This caused many problems because they are both the same element.
The president of the United States assembled a team of industrial workers, scientists, security, and business leaders along with all the resources necessary in order to “build a tremendous new industrial city to separate U235 from its chemical twin, U238.” After describing the assembly of the factory, Johnny is shocked that all that effort was used just to make a bomb. Ed defends the use of the atom bomb by stating, “To end the war quickly no effort was too great, Johnny” (Adventures). The comic attempts to show how good the atomic bomb was and how it was necessary to the war. On page 14 of the comic, Ed shares the safety measures that are taken by laboratories and production plants to keep everyone working there safe.
The last couple pages of the comic describe the generation of atomic power. In these pages, Ed speaks about future plans whereas in previous pages, he spoke in the past tense about things and discoveries that had already occurred. Johnny then begins dreaming of all kinds of new ways to use atomic power like atomic rockets. Ed stops Johnny and describes some more “realistic” uses of atomic power. These examples include, “make new forms of plant life, use radioactive tracers to help cure disease, change elements and create new ones, perhaps power big ships and submarines, and probably generate tremendous electric power” (Adventures). The idea is to generate enough power for everyone in the world to have it. The comic ends with Ed telling Johnny how great the future will be and Johnny believing that he now understands the use of the atom a lot better than before.
I found the fact that this comic was written three years after the atom bomb had been used at Hiroshima to be interesting. It was almost as if they were trying to convince the people that the use of the atom to generate the atom bomb was good. By correlating the use of the atom to produce atomic energy, it was almost as if the publishers were trying to compare the two. For example, the use of atomic power will provide all of these wonderful effects, like everyone having power, and the atom bomb will be used as a base for how the atomic power will be produced. The comic displays many scientific discoveries that “supposedly” led to the Manhattan Project. I believe the comic’s main goal was to boost positive opinions of the atomic bomb while at the same time generating hope for the future use of the atom.
“The Manhattan Project.” AMNH. American Museum of Natural History, n.d. Web. 26 June 2014. <http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/einstein/peace-and-war/the-manhattan-project>