Manhattan

Project

By: Joanna Summerlin

My name is Jane Taylor and the last thing I remember is walking home and finding a
mysterious watch on the ground (which has mysteriously appeared on my wrist). I woke up on
the floor, feeling groggy and confused about what happened. I started to sit up to get a sense of
where I was and what was going on. The first thing I noticed was that I was in a dark room with
hardwood floors. As I tried to stand, the room started swaying and I tripped and hit the wall.
Objects started falling to the floor and rolling around the small space. As everything started
settling down and got quiet, I hear footsteps coming towards the door. My heart was in my
throat and beating so loudly that I thought they were bound to hear it.
As I was standing there not daring to move or breath, the door slowly opened and in
walks a guy wearing a grey sweatshirt, white pants, and tan sandals. His clothing looked like
they were made about eighty six years ago. He has thin, greying hair and a small mustache and
crinkles around the eyes.
“Oh, hello. What are you doing in here?” he asks with a slight confused look.
I slowly exhale and cautiously respond, “I don’t know, I just woke up on the floor
wondering what was going on.”
He starts looking me over with a scrutinizing glare in his eyes. After a few minutes of the
awkward staring, I timidly ask “Who are you, and what is this place?”
Slowly he blinks and looks down the hall as if to check to see if someone is coming down
the hall. After looking down the hall for a few minutes, he says “My name is Albert Einstein and
we are on the Westernland Steamship heading to New York. Who are you? Where did you come
from?”
“Well, my name is Jane Taylor and I was on my way home from school and decided to
take a short cut through an ally when something caught my eye. I picked up a watch, put it on,
blacked out, and then I woke up in here on the floor.”
As I finish telling him what happened, he swiftly turns and starts heading down the hall. I
stand there not knowing what to do until he stops and turns around to looks at me. I assume he’s
waiting for me to follow him, so as I start walking towards him he continues to trek down the
hall.
All the doors in the hallway looked very similar, the only difference were the numbers on
the door. “Don’t mention any of what you’ve told me to anyone, most people would not take it
lightly.” Albert had a serious look that said you better listen or I’d regret it.
We continued down the hall, tuned left then entered into room 36. The room was quite
small with two berths, two feet wide, one above the next to the wall to the right, a small sink on
the wall across from the door, and a small desk and chair in front of the wall to the left. The
room itself was only about 10 by 10 and was lit with smoky oil lamps.
I sat down in the chair and wondered aloud “So you’re the famous Albert Einstein that
spoke at many different places about physics. But I thought you lived in the US, why are you on
a boat to go to New York. And didn’t you die in 1955?”

He gave me an astonished look and started to explain what was going on. “I am still alive
because it is the year 1932 and I did not always live in the United States. I was born in Ulm
Germany, but I did travel the world to discuss the Theory of Relativity to many different
universities. I am currently heading to New York because Germany scientists want me to help
them make an atomic bomb. We will be reaching New York tomorrow evening and then I will
make my way over to New Jersey to work at Princeton.”
I always thought that the United States created the atomic bomb. “What are you going to
do about Germany creating the atomic bomb?”
“Well, personally I think the United states has a right to know Germany is working on
creating an atomic bomb. Enough about what is happening with me, we need to figure out how
to get you back home. Let me see that watch you found on the ground.”
I go to take the watch off when I finally notice how unusual it looks. It has the body of a
watch, but the face is like nothing I’ve seen before. Instead of numbers going around the face,
there are three different dials and little screens next to each of them. The screens currently say
March 16, 1932, I wonder why someone just left this on the ground in the alley.
I hand Einstein the watch and he studies it for a few minutes before finally saying, “The
first dial looks like it controls the month you would travel to, the second dial looks as if it’s for
the day, and the last dial looks like the year. Just turn the dials to the correct date, then you
should be able to get back home.” He hands me back the watch and I put it on my wrist and set
it to November 9, 2026.
I sit and wait to be sent back home, but after a while nothing happens. I try to search for
a button or switch to activate it, but I couldn’t find anything. I move the dials around to see if it
would work, but sill nothing. I take the watch off to see if there’s anything on the back of it that
would make it work. Suddenly, the room goes dark, the world spins, and I can’t get any air into
my lungs.
I wake up sprawled on a comfortable bed thinking about the weird dream I just had. I
look over to see what time it is, but the only thing on the side table is a vintage looking lamp. I
sit up to see where I am and notice that instead of my bedroom I’m in an old time room that
looks like it came out of a vintage magazine. I am on full size bed, with a white comforter and
four fluffy pillows, that sits on top of a bed frame made out of cherry wood. To the right is a
dress with four drawers and a window behind it, to the left is a door I’m going to guess is a
closet, and in front of me is an open door that leads out into a hallway. I get off the bed and Walk
over to the window. It seems as if I’m on the second level of the house and am in an old
neighborhood with ranch style houses. I walk out into the hall and see black and white pictures
with married couple. I take a closer look and notice that the man looks like Albert Einstein, but I
don’t recognize the woman.
I hear a noise from downstairs, so I slowly and as quietly as I can make my wat over to
the stair to see what is going on. As I make my way down the stairs I am able to see a guy,
wearing a grey sweater, white pants, and tan sandals, standing with his back to me looking out

the window. “Einstein?” I gasp “I just had a weird dream about you, or at least I thought it was a
dream. But if it wasn’t a dream then what happened was real. That means I saw you like 10
minutes ago. But, where are we? Why are you looking out the window?” I start rambling very
fast out of confusion.
He suddenly turns around and gives me a bewildered look. “What do you mean you saw
me 10 minutes ago? The last time I saw you was about 13 years ago.” Einstein momentarily
stops so I look down at the watch and see that it says January 14, 1946. As I’m reeling from this
fact, he continues on with his explanation. “To answer your other questions, we are in my house
in New Jersey and I am looking out the window because of what happened last year. Now tell
me, how did you end up here? I thought you went back home.”
It takes me a moment to let everything sink in before I’m able to tell him what happened.
“I was talking to you on the Westernland about what happened in Germany. Then I ended up in a
room upstairs. At first, I thought I was home but I noticed that the room looked to vintage. I
think I ended up here because after the watch didn’t work when I put in the date for when I
needed to get home, I fiddled with the dials to get it to work. I ended up taking the watch off and
that’s when I got transported here.”
Einstein seemed to be contemplating my words before he responded. “It sounds as if the
only way for the watch to work is to take it off after you change the date.”
Interesting, I finally look around at what appears to be a living room. Behind Einstein is
a big full length mirror with white and golds curtains. Throughout the room there are green sofas
and chairs arranged for comfort and conversation. In the middle of the room was a coffee table
that was made out of mahogany wood. On the floor is a rug with different shades of brown and
amber with floral designs throughout the rug. To the left on the wall is a fireplace with a mantel
that has more pictures of Einstein and a woman that I would wager is his wife.
I sit on the couch and ponder what has happened in the past 20 minutes (or what is 20
minutes to me). “So what’s happened since the last time I saw you? Were you able to tell the US
about Germany wanting to create the atomic bomb?
Slowly with a look of thoughtfulness, Einstein perches upon the chair across from me.
After a couple of minutes of silence, where Einstein has a look of contemplation, he finally
replies, “When I got to New Jersey E. Fermi and L. Szilard told me about some work they did
that led to the atomic bomb. In 1939, I sent Franklin Roosevelt a letter warning him about the
development. I even have a copy of it.” He gets up and goes to what I assume is his office and I
hear him rummaging in a drawer. When he comes back into the living room, he hands me a
folded piece of paper and sits back on the chair across from me. I unfold the piece of paper and
begin to read:

Sir:
Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which
has been communicated to me in manuscript,

leads me to expect that the element uranium may
be turned into a new and important source of
energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of
the situation which has arisen seem to call for
watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the
part of the administration. I believe therefore that
it is my duty to bring to your attention the
following facts and recommendations:
In the course of the last four months it has been
made probable -- through the work of Joliot in
France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America -that it may become possible to set up a nuclear
chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which
vast amounts of power and large quantities of new
radium like elements would be generated. Now it
appears almost certain that this could be achieved
in the immediate future.
This new phenomenon would also lead to the
construction of bombs, and it is conceivable -though much less certain -- that extremely
powerful bombs of a new type may thus be
constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by
boat and exploded in a port, might very well
destroy the whole port together with some of the
surrounding territory. However, such bombs might
very well prove to be too heavy for transportation
by air.
The United States has only very poor [illegible] of
uranium in moderate quantities. There is some
good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia,

while the most important source of Uranium is
Belgian Congo.
In view of this situation you may think it desirable
to have some permanent contact maintained
between the Administration and the group of
physicists working on chain reactions in America.
One possible way of achieving this might be for
you to entrust with this task a person who has your
confidence and who could perhaps serve in an
unofficial capacity. His task might comprise the
following:
a) To approach Government Departments, keep
them informed of the further development, and out
forward recommendations for Government action,
giving particular attention to the problem of
uranium ore for the United States;
b) To speed up the experimental work, which is at
present being carried on within the limits of the
budgets of University laboratories, by providing
funds, if such funds be required, through his
contacts with private persons who are willing to
make a contribution for this cause, and perhaps
also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial
laboratories which have the necessary equipment.
I understand that Germany has actually stopped
the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian
mines, which she has taken over. That she should
have taken such early action might perhaps be
understood on the ground that the son of the
German Under-Secretary of State, Von Weishlicker

[sic], is attached to the Kaiser Wilheim Institute in
Berlin where some of the American work on
uranium is now being repeated.
Yours very truly,
(Albert Einstein)
After I finish reading the letter, I ask, “After you sent the letter was Roosevelt able to stop
Germany?”
“After I sent the letter, a few universities started to do research, of them were Columbia
University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California at Berkeley. In early
1940, L.J. Briggs, director of the National Bureau of Standards, headed a committee to supervise
the research. By late 1941, he project was put under Vanneyar, who headed the direction of the
Office of Scientific Research and Development. After the United States entered into War World
II in 1942, the War Department had to help with the responsibility of the project. Later that year,
the project got the code name of The Manhattan Project. For the atomic bomb to work, they had
to separate the isotopes from Uranium-238 and Uranium-235. At the end of 1942, Enrico Fermi
was able to produce a controlled nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago with the
help of a group a physicist. After that, Nuclear facilities were built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and
Hanford, Washington. The main plant was built at Los Alamos, New Mexico, there Robert
Oppenheimer was in charge.
“Oppenheimer had to oversee the development of creating methods of reducing the
fissionable products to pure metal and fabricating the metal to require shapes. This laboratory
had to develop methods of reducing the fissionable products of the production plants to pure
metal and manufacturing the metal to required shapes. The method of bringing together amounts

of fissionable material to achieve a supercritical mass and the construction of a deliverable
weapon that would detonate at the proper moment in the air after being dropped from a plane.
“Throughout the production of the atomic bomb, different scientists helped invent it.
Among them were: Robert Oppenheimer, David Bohm, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, Otto
Frisch, Rudolf Peierls, Felix Bloch, Niels Bohr, Emilio Segre, James Franck, Enrico
Fermi, Klaus Fuchs and Edward Teller. Finally, last year on August 6 and 9, the United States
dropped bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
We sit in silence as I let all that information sink in and then I notice that Einstein didn’t
mention himself in the creation of the project. “What did you do for the project, I thought you
were part of it?”
“I didn’t directly contribute to the project. They thought I was a safety risk and wouldn’t
let me work on it. All that I did was warn Roosevelt about Germany starting to create the atomic
bomb and created the equation e=mc2 to explain the energy released in the atomic bomb.” He
sits back and closes his eyes and relaxes.
“Well, I should get going. I need to get back home; it was nice talking with you again. I
hope you have a good rest of the year.” I stand up and am about to set the watch to the correct
date, when Einstein suddenly stands up and gives me a hug. It’s unexpected and I don’t
automatically wrap my arms around him. But, after the shock wears off I hug him back; after all
that’s happened anyone would want a hug.
Before letting go he tells me, “It was nice talking to you too, I really needed to talk to
someone and get everything off my chest. Have a safe trip home.” When he lets go, I yet again

set the watch to November 9, 2026. This time I know what to expect and take a deep breath
before taking the watch off my wrist. The room goes dark and I feel the world spin again.
This time when I wake up, I am back in my room on a familiar bed. Or so I thought.

Works Cited
Bellis, Mary. "The Atomic Bomb Aka The Manhattan Project." About.com Inventors. About.com,
20 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 May 2016.
"Chronology of Einstein's Life." Albert Einstein. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2016.
Einstein, Albert. "American Experience: TV's Most-watched History Series."PBS. PBS, n.d.
Web. 14 May 2016.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Manhattan Project." Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 14 May 2016.
"The Manhattan Project." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 14 May 2016.