Why is it that splitting an atom causes an explosion?

 
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1,811 IKU
Posted on Aug. 28th, 2008

It is not splitting a single atom, but several hundreds of hundreds of millions of atoms, that causes a nuclear explosion. When an atom of Uranium (or any other atom, for that matter, the isotope of Uranium used in bombs is simply easier to do this with) is split in a fission reaction, it releases a fairly large amount of energy for something at that scale. When a whole lot of Uranium atoms are split in numbers like 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms per bomb (that's the kind of numbers we're talking about here) the energy released, even to us, is massive.

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10,663 IKU
Posted on Aug. 29th, 2008

To convert mass into energy, we need to use the famous E=mc2, where the energy is in joules and m is in grams, and c is the speed of light, which is 299,932,458 meters/sec; so even a small amount of mass that becomes energy is a HUGE change in energy level. Now, that is the cause of the mushroom kaboom!
PBS had an excellent program on this:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/einstein/experts.html

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