Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2003/09/09

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Subject: [Leica] OT: German WWII Atomic Research
From: Marc James Small <>
Date: Tue, 09 Sep 2003 20:21:06 -0400

At 02:54 PM 9/9/03 -0400, Saganich, Christopher/Medical Physics wrote:
>Heisenberg didn't understand fast neutrons yield and didn't solve the
diffusion equation until a few days after Hiroshima.


It is quite a bit deeper than that.  The Germans made several mistakes, the
most obvious being the choice of deuterium as a damper when graphite was
preferable from both availability and engineering reasons.  They also
grossly over-estimated the amount of Uranium-235 necessary to make a bomb
- -- the actual amount is something on the order of 40 or 50 pounds (20 to
25kg) but the estimates prepared by Hahn indicated that the critical amount
would have to be around 2000 pounds (1000kg).  And there was only one
particle accellerator of any capability in all of occupied Europe, as
opposed to something like 10 in the US and three in the UK.  Heisenberg
informed Speer in early 1944 that it would be impossible to produce a bomb
within the time necessary to aid Germany in the War, and Speer shut the
project down, diverting the accumulated uranium for use in anti-tank shells
when the German suppy of tungsten from Spain was cut off following D-Day
and the liberation of France.

Heisenberg and his cronies were taken into British custody and were held
for a year or so after the War at Farm Hill in the UK.  Their private
conversations were taped, and the transcripts have been published.  These
make it clear that neither Hahn nor Heisenberg were avid Nazis and that
they were both shocked to learn that the US had produced a successful bomb
- -- they had thought that their incarceration was to use them to make bombs
for use against the Soviet Union.

Marc  FAX:  +540/343-7315
Cha robh bąs fir gun ghrąs fir!

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