1-2: The Danger of the Unknown

The documentary “White Light/Black Rain,” (which can be found at www.cultureunplugged.com/play/6651/White-Light-Black-Rain–The-Destruction-of-Hiroshima-and-Nagasaki, in case it has not appeared on BlackBoard) focuses on the stories of the survivors of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, adding a powerful human element to the scientific achievement of weaponized nuclear fission. A key detail that stood out to me throughout the documentary was how novel everything to do with atomic bombs was at the time of its detonation during World War II in Japan. Not only were the pilots and crew members of the Enola Gay mission shocked at the magnitude of the devastation caused by the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs, but the fallout of the bombings was also new territory.

The discovery of nuclear fission, as well as the chain reaction which could lead to the creation of an extremely powerful bomb, was still relatively recent when the use of the nuclear weapon was implemented in 1945. The first test of the atomic bomb by the United States occurred on July 16, 1945, which was less than a month before the actual use of the bombs against Japan. The effect of the bomb in test circumstances was quite powerful, but these tests were held in desert conditions, leaving no structures or people affected in the manner they would be in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the shock of the near annihilation of these two cities showed nations what nuclear power was capable of, the world teetered more carefully around the precarious issue, taking precautions to avoid the outbreak of nuclear war. However, the consequences of the atomic bomb could not be erased. Even though the United States helped rebuild Japan’s cities, neither the Japanese survivors nor the United States aid groups fully comprehended the biological consequences of nuclear radiation, which affected the survivors in years to come. Because they knew no better, Japanese citizens continued to eat irradiated food that grew from the area and suffer from mysterious medical conditions for which science had not yet developed a remedy. To this day, a stigma, which I have personally witnessed, exists against survivors who have lasting reminders, through their health and scars, of the powerful dangers of nuclear radiation.

As science develops at a rapid rate, what is the responsibility of the world in weaponizing it? Is it better to pursue newer technologies and use them in a nascent state, even though this could lead to unintended, misunderstood consequences? Or is it more prudent to extensively study these new technologies, risking prolonged violence by not putting these weapons into effect? Using Hiroshima and Nagasaki gives us a complicated case study; had the United States delayed and researched more about what the aftereffects of the bomb would have been, they would have risked another country discovering the technology first, or risked a public outcry against using the bomb at all. After seeing the documentary for this week, what are your opinions on the research and implementations of new weapons? — Nicole