Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wartime Manhattan's Projects : big Little Boy versus the tiny ampoule that saved little Patty Malone

The Little Boy atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima was a very Big Bomb indeed : 5000 kilograms , 300 cm long, by 70 cm wide and 70 cm deep.

Long and thin : hence Little Boy.

 Big Science needed tens of thousands of workers to build it.

By contrast, the tiny ampoule of natural penicillin that saved the life of  little baby Patty Malone was only 5 grams in weight, .7cm by .7 cm by 3 cm in size.

It was thus 100 times shorter in length and width and thickness, though it too was long and thin in appearance.

 And since its density was also surprisingly similar to that of Little Boy, it appropriately weighed 5 grams : a million times less (100 x 100 x 100 = 1 million).

Small science indeed.

Particularly when we recall that natural penicillin is actually made in a fungus factory that weighs about 70 pico grams (pico : one trillionth of a gram !) .

That is about a billion trillion times less the weight of what it would require for humanity to  make the basic machinery and basic chemicals for chemists to synthesize penicillin.

The fungus only requires a bit of dirty water and a bit of decaying organic debris.

America's big bombers carried both the Little Boy bomb and the ampoules of penicillin : one went off to Hiroshima, the other also went all over the world  to save lives.

 However its first mercy run was from Brooklyn New York to Macon Georgia, to save Anne Shirley Carter.

A mighty big plane and a mighty long journey for such a small little ampoule but if any taxpayer complained, they were very careful not to do it publicly.

Could any two projects - anywhere - anytime - have been more different ?

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