"There will one day spring from the brain of science a machine or force so fearful in its potentialities, so absolutely terrifying, that even man, the fighter, who will dare torture and death in order to inflict torture and death, will be appalled, and so will abandon war forever." Although spoken in 1922, Thomas Edison's words tell ominously of what is to come. The exploitation of the atom altered the world forever, changing the nature of war, giving us a new source of electric power, and providing new capabilities in medical research and imaging.
After the United States used the atomic bomb in Japan, a great change overtook the concept of war. Before the atomic bomb, cities took much preparation to destroy. The atomic bomb could be deployed from a single plane, and annihilated everything within a twelve mile radius. This large area of destruction meant that one shot could kill hundreds of thousands of people.
The atomic bomb was designed to be a weapon to end all wars, and in many ways, it did. Japan promptly surrendered after the use of it upon their nation, and its devastation is still remembered today.
Nuclear power is a relatively new source of clean energy. Obtained by nuclear fission, or the process of splitting an atom, there are virtually no "greenhouse gasses" produced. The only side effect is the nuclear waste, which is toxic for about 10,000 to 20,000 years. Nuclear power is very convenient, also. One atom of Uranium235 produces as much power as a million gallons of gasoline, or about 200 million electron volts. Since the size of the fuel is so much smaller, it is the energy of choice onboard nuclear submarines and some aircraft carriers.
Medicine also benefits from harnessing the atom. In hospitals, patients undergo radiation therapy...