The 1930s had seen monumental advances in atomic science and radiation research and the spectacular discovery of nuclear fission in 1938 was overshadowed by the outbreak of war just a year later. But physicists were quick to realize the devastating potential of their new
Albert Einstein co-signed a letter to then president Roosevelt with a warning: "It is conceivable that extremely powerful bombs of a new type... may thus be constructed." So the US developed their own bomb before any other nation could. The test was considered a great success and just 21 days later the United States dropped a similar atomic bomb, the so-called Fat Man, on the city of Nagasaki, Japan.
If it had not been for the deadly pressures of war nuclear science may have followed a very different and likely slower path. The exploration of the atom, one of the tiniest particles of matter, had until then been little more than a curiosity, the domain of at first philosophers and then gentlemen scholars.
Small improvements in experimental methods and equipment brought small breakthroughs until the fateful revelation that atoms and their nuclei were indeed not the end of the Russian doll. A discovery that led directly to New Mexico and then Japan.
As the glow from that first nuclear explosion faded it left behind a new thirst to understand what our universe was actually made of and how it came to be. That journey, the quest to discover what makes up everything, would see scientists delve ever deeper down a rabbit hole of matter and mass of fields and particles and even further back in time in a century-long quest to answer the immortal question: What is at its most fundamental level everything, and perhaps even more importantly is any of it really real at all?