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July 29, 1950

THE BURN PROBLEM IN ATOMIC WARFARE

JAMA. 1950;143(13):1143-1146. doi:10.1001/jama.1950.82910480001006
Abstract

An atomic bomb explosion is accompanied with the release of enormous quantities of kinetic energy, at least 80 per cent in the form of ordinary heat, commonly recognized as infra-red, visible and ultraviolet radiation. Although it is now well known that the temperature in the immediate vicinity of the bomb burst may rise to several million degrees, the biologic importance of the thermal component of an atomic bomb explosion has been largely obscured in the lay and professional mind by the widespread fear of the seemingly more mysterious gamma and neutron radiations. Even civilized man fears most that which he understands the least.

Professional medical interest in atomic bomb explosions accordingly has centered on the hazard of gamma and neutron radiation, immediate or delayed. The underwater atomic bomb burst at Bikini, immediately followed by wide public discussion of the fearful aspects of the lingering death that might come from the

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