You and the Atomic Bomb

This George Orwell piece was originally published by the Tribune on October 19, 1945 within two months after atomic bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan by the only country ever to have used them to kill people and destroy cities, viz., the U.S.A. Orwell had written enough about the same (re: A. Bomb) but this particular piece was exceptional for the insights it shared about the world dispensation that lay ahead in the age of atomic weaponry. In addition, it was clear that the groundwork for his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four had been completed by this writing.

“Considering how likely we all are to be blown to pieces by it within the next five years, the atomic bomb has not roused so much discussion as might have been expected. The newspapers have published numerous diagrams, not very helpful to the average man, of protons and neutrons doing their stuff, and there has been much reiteration of the useless statement that the bomb ‘ought to be put under international control.’ But curiously little has been said, at any rate in print, about the question that is of most urgent interest to all of us, namely: ‘How difficult are these things to manufacture?’

Such information as we — that is, the big public — possess on this subject has come to us in a rather indirect way, apropos of President Truman’s decision not to hand over certain secrets to the USSR. Some months ago, when the bomb was still only a rumour, there was a widespread belief that splitting the atom was merely a problem for the physicists, and that when they had solved it a new and devastating weapon would be within reach of almost everybody. (At any moment, so the rumour went, some lonely lunatic in a laboratory might blow civilisation to smithereens, as easily as touching off a firework.)

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