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Movie Analysis: “Fat Man and Little Boy”

Updated on June 28, 2017

The video ‘Fat Man and Little Boy’, which was produced in 1989, follows the creation of the first atomic bombs during ‘‘The Manhattan Project’’. This particular movie will act as a reference point for our discussion whose aim is to try and define scientific boundaries in relation to scientific research in the areas of genetics, cloning, irradiation of food products and stem cell research. The movie has drawn analogies with scientific activities which are considered gray areas in research as they exceed the threshold of morality. The issues of whether this type of scientific research is ethically right or wrong should be at the core of this discussion. Science as a discipline has a set of international Code of Conduct for scientists which tries to set clear boundaries of how a scientist is supposed to carry out his research activities. The ‘‘Manhattan Project’’, which was the theme of this video, clearly raises questions about ethical aspects of science especially in areas of scientific engineering and manipulations of the human genetic makeup including plant and food cellular compositions. I will go further and try to find out how scientists should better prepare themselves for the research they will have to undertake later in their careers.

To achieve this goal, I have organized my work into three main sections. The first section is going to introduce the science of genetics, cloning, irradiation of food products and stem cells research. The second section is going to deal with the moral aspects of this scientific research. The third section is going to deal with the subject matter of how scientists should better prepare themselves for the research they are going to undertake later in their careers citing examples from the video which is my point of reference. These examples are going to act as supporting evidences for my postulations. Finally , I will end my discussion with concluding remarks.

Introducing the Science of Genetics, Cloning, Irradiation of Food Products and Stem Cell Research

Genetic engineering is a scientific study that deals mainly with the manipulation of genetic composition of animals and plants to produce desired traits which are used to solve certain problems facing man (Donnellan). However, there are some moral and ethical issues which are associated with this practice. This area of scientific study and research is considered a gray area especially when it comes to the extent in which science should cover. This type of genetic modification involves a set of technologies where genes are transferred from one organism to another within the same species or across the boundaries to other species to produce improved model organisms. Stem cells can also be used in this process of genetic modification as they are special kinds of cells which can be transferred from one organism to another because of their flexible nature. Such organisms are known as genetically modified organisms (GMO) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination (WHO) . This is a process that can be used in cloning of organisms (WHO).

Food irradiation on the other hand, is the process where foodstuff is exposed to ionizing radiation in order to preserve it. This process helps to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, delay ripening or sprouting and also the spread of invasive pests. This radiation can be electrically generated or emitted by a radioactive substance. There have been concerns about the use of this method as regards its safety. It is usually confused by aspects in the nuclear industry associated with radioactive contamination. Food irradiation exposes food to the equivalent of 30 million chest x-rays. Irradiation creates new chemicals in foods called radiolytic products. Some of these products are known cancer causing substances (WHO).

Many countries accept this form of processed food and consider it safe for human consumption.

All these areas of genetic sciences have had ethical and moral issues from different spheres of society. This is because most people believe that the manipulation of the genetic composition of animals is morally wrong both religiously and socially. A key ethical issue especially with genetically modified food is that they are alleged to trigger diseases and allergies in humans. The gene could be extracted from an allergenic organism which could then lead to allergic reactions. It is has been proven that indeed ‘‘genes from an allergenic plant could transfer this unwanted trait to the target plant’’ (Union of Concerned Scientists). Other envisioned ethical issues relating to GMO foods are environmental damage and cross pollination. There are possibilities that the genes of plants and other GM food to spread to other crops and plants and this can lead to the development of resistant weeds which could prove uncontrollable.

This controversy about GMO foods is actually healthy since it brings to the fore the various issues which make this area of research a gray area in terms of where boundaries must be set. Should the manipulation of genes be controlled to only those aspects that work for the common good or should scientists in this field be given a freehand to explore this field further regardless of the consequences? The issues of right and wrong ought to be comprehensively articulated to set out limits for this study which is shrouded in too much secrecy and stigma. Can these areas of study be regulated to make them safer for humanity? It has also been difficult to assess the long term impact of genetic engineering on humans, plants and animals and the problems they might cause to human health in general. The question is where the line between right and wrong should be drawn.A comprehensive definition and reevaluation of this field is needed in order to save humanity of effects that have yet to be established.

How Scientists Should Better Prepare Themselves for Research in their Careers

A career in science is a very challenging one and as such an aspiring scientist has to prepare adequately especially if he wants to pursue a career in any of these fields. As science develops the need to define some of the controversial areas in science would become mandatory and this is where scientists who are prepared will be required. Preparation goes further than physical preparation but also entails aspects of character and morality. Research scientists, especially in the areas of genetics, must understand the true implications of their careers. Are they morally upright to perform their duties without contravening ethical issues? The video Fat man and Little Boy portrays the life of a scientist as one that has many moral issues at stake. Fat Man and Little Boy refer to the two atomic bombs that were built and dropped in Japan. Little Boy is the uranium bomb and Fat Man is the plutonium bomb. The moral questions that scientists have to wrestle with since the bomb that was dropped in Japan reinforces the fact that a scientist has to choose between his beliefs and what he is required to do for the common goal of the profession even if it goes against his beliefs. The main objective of the Manhattan Project was Americans arms race with the Germans. But the project did not stop even after the Germans surrendered and the scientists were forced to work even harder to come up with the bomb obviously for political reasons. This shows the type of situation that might occur in the course of a scientist’s duty or research work. Many external influences may try to force you to work in a certain way. The true character of a scientist who is morally upright and strong enough to defend what is good by denouncing unethical practices should be exhibited here.

The scientists on the video represent the struggles and experiences that most scientists have to undergo. The issue of morality is regarded as of prime importance. The Manhattan Project dealt with radioactive materials used in scientific work for the wrong reasons. The movie is a compelling drama about how bankrupt scientific pragmatism is. The sight of a scientist dying horribly of radiation poisoning, as was the case in the movie, is too hard to bear. It is not the morality of the atom that is of issue here but rather the morality of the organization which carries out those researches. This clearly shows how ethical aspects are a central part in the performance of duties as a scientist. A well rounded scientist is not expected to be ‘‘ethically bankrupt’’but one with strong moral foundations and able to resist any persuasions to engage in unethical practices for the sake of a particular common goal.

Sometimes the lack of moral responsibility can lead to disastrous results like what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the movie. This are issues that are of concern even to genetic scientists whose work is subject to critical analysis regarding their long term effects on humans and the environment. It also has a bearing on the safety of the scientist themselves who are exposed to harmful elements that they work with. Scientists must, therefore, be prepared to live sacrificial lives owing to the nature of their duties. This requires a high level of moral character and responsibility which will be greatly tested in the course of their duties. As depicted on the video ‘Fat man and little Boy’ , one is awed by the life a scientist must live. A life of isolation and sacrifice and this is something that an aspiring scientist must be prepared for as he chooses which career path he is going to take. The life of a research scientist is non-rewarding as is clearly seen from the movie where you see how the scientist live in isolation from the rest of society and their families and the types of difficulties and tribulations they have to go through. Those were the events that were surrounding the scientists and the life that they are forced to lead.

That scientists are faced with a myriad of difficulties is not to be overemphasized. This then requires individuals who are not only physically prepared for the job, but also those who have the character to cope with the various challenges that the profession presents. The movie is about the making of bombs and the difficulties faced by the scientists and how politics factored into the equation. This statement shows clearly how a scientist has to grapple with many external influences in the performance of his duties. This requires strength of character and a high level of sacrifice. In this movie, the scientists at Los Alamos, in the movie, chose to focus on solving the problem at hand and conforming to the group's goals and aims and failed to see the larger picture of the ramifications of the atomic bomb. They did solve the technical aspects of the bomb but were awed when they saw the effects of the bomb when it was dropped in Japan. This should therefore not be the case for the genetic science researcher who should always look at the bigger picture instead of only confining himself on the research at hand and the common goals of the scientific group that he represents because it might end up like what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


The work of a scientist especially in the areas of genetic research, cloning, irradiation of food products and stem cell research is of a controversial nature that requires to be defined in order to set up scientific boundaries which will resolve the ethical aspects related to this field of study. The area needs a scientist who is morally upright and liberal minded with a strong character and able to handle any external factors that might influence his work.


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