Who first put forth the idea that splitting atoms would make a powerful weapon

Has today in 2024? Sure. Had then in 1944 or whatever when the knowledge suppression was in full swing? Not really.

The US was in a mad race to build the bomb and really had little idea which tidbits the enemies had and which they did not. They assumed the enemies were neck and neck with the US when in fact they were a lot behind. I hindsight that made the US haste seem misguided, maybe silly even.

A standard POV in security classification is that you can’t know which pieces of your jigsaw puzzle are unknown to the enemy, nor which are key to them figuring out the big picture, etc. So you protect every piece; both the (seemingly to you) prosaic as well as the profound.

I’m not sure how I got roped into that, but you’re right that would make a great band name. :wink:

In the same vein, Tom Clancy wrote an extremely-detailed depiction of an atomic weapon’s design in his famous chapter “Three Shakes” in The Sum of All Fears, but deliberately inserted some errors into the design to hide how a real nuke works. He says in the afterword in his book something to the effect of, “I distorted the details so that I wouldn’t be liable/culpable in case someone tries to use the info for bad purposes, not like it actually will make a difference.”

No, but it’s sometimes surprising how far you can go with a totally bogus model of the universe as long as you’re careful to match observation and you get the math right. Even now, we can’t really say the ether doesn’t exist, since you can come up with a sophisticated version of it that is consistent with experiment. It’s just not necessary.

Caloric theory is another one that’s wrong, but nevertheless made some good predictions and can be strung along for a surprisingly long time.

I believe it was Heinlein’s “Solution Unsatisfactory” which described a dirty bomb, and incidentally predicted the Cold War standoff. It doesn’t take much to build a dirty bomb if you have the radioactive materials.

In 1941.

I wonder if Campbell as clever as he was put two and two together when the FBI came calling? I don’t recall reading about his reaction.

H,G, Wells’ The World Set Free acknowledged his inspiration in Frederick Soddy’s book The Interpretation of Radium. Soddy (1877-1956) is a largely forgotten British physicist and radiochemist who saw the power and heat released by transmutation of elements through radioactive decay, and thought it would be a good power source and weapon, even if he didn’t have the idea of a Chain Reaction. I suspect we have his popularization of the possibilities inherent in radioactive elements, especially radium, for all the appearances of “radium bullets” and radium-powered lights in a lot of pulp fiction of the early 20th century.

You might be interested in this then:

Thank you.