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Einstein and Oppenheimer

Deriving Doom: Einstein and the Atom Bomb

Einstein's doom equation for the energy for the atom bomb can be calculated easily from the special relativity transformation for mass (1). The figure on the right pictures this function for the proton, electron and massless photon. Differentiating this below we get equation (2).

To evalutate the energy, we integrate using standard expressions for force and momentum. Elementary calculus substitutions then cause the complexity to drop out of the equations leaving a very simple expression for the total energy representing the difference between the actual mass and the rest mass. The total energy bound up in the rest mass is then given by.

We can then use the difference in rest mass between uranium 235 and its fission products to calculate immediately the energy released in a nuclear explosion.

The Love Life of Albert E.

Despite deriving the equation which made nuclear fission possible, and being regarded as the 'father of the atomic bomb", Einstein was not directly involved in the development of the bomb. Einstein was also a peson who had a somewhat prolific but secretive love life. His daughter remained an ephemeral and not fully acknowledged offspring. His trysts with women have become a continuing topic of debate.


This secretivenes is expressed in surprising form in the release of letters between Einstein, only in 1998 revealing a long-standing affair wih a putative Soviet spy just as the first bombs were being developed. Einstein was then 66 and Margarita Konenkova 51, the wife of Russian sculptor Sergei Konenkov. She introduced him to the Soviet vice-consul Pavel Mikhailov.

NZ Herald/ Reuters 1 Jun 98

"What remains surprising however is how he managed to have a long-standing love affair with a Russian woman and somehow to have kept it completely from public view."

Although she was mentioned by Soviet spy master Pavel Sudoplatov, her activities were to influence scientists at Princeton. She was thus seeking Einstein's moral influence which at that time was massive - a collossal figure in the twentieth century.

"... everywhere here reminds me of you" Almar's shawl, the dictionaries, the wonderful pipe that we thought was gone, and really all the little things in my hermit's cell; and also the lonely nest."

However it is unlikely he gave away secrets to the Soviet bomb program. Despite declaring his love for her, Einstein appears to have remained steadfast in not endorsing the Soviet system.