Ideas for Projects
Here are a number of half-formed ideas for projects. This list is
designed to give you some topics to ponder. Your final project
certainly need not be limited to what I've put down here.
- Famous People: There are lots of interesting characters
in Rhodes book. Feynman, Szilard, Bohr, Einstein, Groves, Truman,
Meitner, Oppenheimer, Teller, Wigner, Fermi, Pauli, Heisenberg, Pauling.
There are excellent biographies about many of these people. (Pauling
may be especially interesting. He won a Nobel prize for chemistry and
a Nobel peace prize for his anti-nuclear weapons work in the '50's.
There's lots written by him and lots written about him.)
- Not so famous people: What about the "ordinary" people
who helped make the bomb? Workers at Los Alamos, Hanford, and Oak
Ridge. What was their experience like? Of particular interest might
be looking at the experiences of the women who worked on the
- Oral Histories: There are lots of folks to interview.
WWII Vets. A bunch of the people who worked on the bomb projects are
still alive. Fran Day knows some people at Oak Ridge. And we may be
able to find some physicists to talk to.
- City of Hiroshima: What happened to Hiroshima, and how did
Japan rebuild the city?
- Big Science: How did the Manhattan project help establish
the culture of "big science?" How did it establish funding patterns
and how did it change the perception of science in the eyes of the
public and policy-makers? To what extent is, say, the Human Genome
Project, the grandchild of the Manhattan Project?
- The Decision: Should we have dropped the bomb? Why did we
drop the bomb? Was it necessary? Who made the decision?
- The Narrative of the Decision: What do we believe today
about the decision? How did policy-makers (and others) choose to tell
the story of the decision to drop the bomb? How has this story
evolved over time?
- The Enola Gay Exhibit Controversy: Examine the remarkable
controversy over how to present an exhibit of the Enola Gay at the
national air and space museum. Why was it so controversial? How did
the conflict get resolved?
- Gender Gap: Studies show that men and women have
remarkable different perceptions of atomic weapons. Why is this?
- What is Science: Lots and lots and lots of people have
written on this. Perhaps a panel discussion of COA and Jackson lab
scientists would be interesting.
- The Bomb in Fiction and Art: Themes/Images of the bomb in
art: prose, poetry, visual art, etc.
- Textbooks: How is the Manhattan project and the decision to
drop the bomb presented in different history textbooks? An
examination of some non-U.S. texts could be particularly
- Newspaper Accounts: How was the bomb presented in early
newspaper accounts? Maybe look at archives of Bar Harbor Times, or
the local newspaper for your hometown.
- Arms Race/Cold War: How did the events of 1945 help start
the cold war? What role did nuclear weapons play in the "logic" of
the cold war?
- Alternative Visions of Science: One of the legacies of the
Manhattan project is a particular style (on the societal level) of
viewing, funding, and supporting science and technology. What
alternative models are there?
- Psychological Effects of the Bomb: How did the bomb effect
its victims. Also, how did the scientists, General Groves, Paul
Tibbets (pilot of Enola Gay) handle their decision after the fact?
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