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Suggested Answers to Discussion Questions for
Learning Guide to FAT MAN & LITTLE BOY

1.  [Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film]. [No suggested Answers.]

2.  Why did the scientists object to General Groves' security restrictions? How does secrecy affect the work of a scientist? Suggested Response: The scientific method requires, among other things, open discussion and the competition of ideas so that the best idea can prevail. Nothing can be secret. A scientist publishes a paper describing his/her experiments and the results. Other scientists can then try to duplicate the experiment and build upon the discoveries of the first scientist. Secrecy retards the growth of scientific knowledge. The military, on the other hand, often depends upon secrecy.

3.  Describe the use of explosion and implosion in the two bombs dropped on Japan that ended WWII. Suggested Response: These refer to the method of putting the critical mass together. The gun type uses conventional explosives to push one part of the critical mass toward the rest. The implosion method has the radioactive material surround a central point like the shell of a sphere. The explosions push the radioactive material toward the center, at which point it attains critical mass.

Social-Emotional Learning


1.  Could the Manhattan Project have succeeded without teamwork and how does this question relate to the success of the Allies in the Second World War? Suggested Response: The Manhattan Project and, in fact, all major undertakings require the coordinated work of many people. One of the reasons that the Allies won the Second World War was their mastery of the art of making complex organizations work smoothly and attain their goals. Another reason was the cooperation of people from many different countries and different cultures within the U.S., e.g., the cooperation between Groves, who came from a military culture and Oppenheimer who came from a scientific culture; another is the cooperation of scientists from many different countries.

Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.

The Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War shows how to examine the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in light of the Six Pillars of Character and the ethical analysis suggested by Character Counts.


(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)

1.  Now that we have cruise missiles that can take out a particular address and the entire world knows the power of nuclear weapons, is there any excuse for using a nuclear weapon on any country? Suggested Response: Two of the reasons given for bombing civilian population centers in WWII were that the military installations were mixed in with the civilian population and that the other side didn't understand the power of nuclear weapons. These were major factors in the decision to bomb populated centers to end WWII. They are not true today.

2.  Which elements of the Responsibility Pillar of Character were applied by characters in this film? Give an example of each and explain why. Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer. The answers should show an understanding of the elements of this Pillar of Character.

Last updated December 19, 2007.

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