something that would have derailed that post if i put it on there but is important to note anyway: the bombs dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki were not thermonuclear hydrogen bombs (H-bombs), as they were not yet developed. (the first hydrogen bomb was tested in 1951.)
thermonuclear weapons utilize a two-phase design, an initial fission bomb which ignites a higher-yield fusion bomb. hence the usage of hydrogen as a fuel.
(this used to confuse me a lot, how fusion yielded energy from some elements and fission from others. iron-56 is the lowest energy state for a nucleus. making a nucleus closer to iron-56, by fusing lighter atoms or splitting heavier atoms, thus yields energy. hence hydrogen as a fusion fuel and uranium as a fission fuel.)
the bombs dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki were simply atomic bombs. hiroshima’s was a gun-type uranium bomb, which basically shoots one piece of sub-critical mass uranium onto another so that their sum mass is critical, creating a runaway fission reaction. nagasaki’s was an implosion-type plutonium bomb, which compressed a plutonium sphere until it reached a critical density, creating a runaway fission reaction.
there are two reasons this is important to note.
- it gives an important context to the US government’s decision to drop the bombs. nuclear weapons were still very much in development at this point in history, and it is very likely that the desires of military scientists to test the devices in “uncontrolled environments” contributed to the decision to use not just one bomb, but two bombs of different types. (this reason, of course, is inextricably tied with the fundamental underlying racism that permitted even the consideration of such an abhorrent disregard for human life.)
- it serves as a powerful reminder that hiroshima and nagasaki were targetted by some of the smallest nuclear weapons ever produced. all that devastation was caused by weapons which are significantly smaller than other nuclear weapons, and dwarfed by thermonuclear weapons.
so when people nowadays talk about the specter of nuclear weapons spread around the globe in the hands of imperial states like the US, Britain, France, Russia, and Israel, remember that the caliber of all those weapons sitting around still wired up and ready to go is of a class even greater than the horror unleashed on japan in 1945.