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LEARN NC is evaluating its role in the current online education environment as it relates directly to the mission of UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education (UNC-CH SOE). For all the role of science, mathematics, and new inventions in earlier wars, no war had as profound an effect on the technologies of our current lives than World War II (1939-45). We can point to numerous new inventions and scientific principles that emerged during the war. The entire technology of radar, which is the ability to use radio waves to detect objects at a distance, was barely invented at the start of the war but became highly developed in just a few years at sites like the “Radiation Laboratory” at MIT. By constructing complex pieces of electronic equipment that had to be small, rugged, and reliable, radar engineering also set the foundations for modern electronics, especially television.
While penicillin itself is still used today, it was also the precursor to the antibiotics that we take today to keep simple infections from becoming life-threatening illnesses. Chemical labs cooked up a host of new technologies, from new types of explosives to incendiary bombs (including napalm, a form of jellied gasoline heavily used in Vietnam, but first used on the Pacific island of Tinian against the Japanese), flame throwers, and smoke screens.
This diagram of Hanford, Washington, was created to show its strategic location for creating plutonium. And of course we’re all familiar with the Atomic Bomb, two of which were dropped on Japan to end the Pacific war in 1945. Again, as in earlier eras, perhaps the most profound impacts of World War II were as much great ideas as they were pieces of hardware.
A woman works on the nose of a bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California in 1942.
Any discussion of the scientific and technological advancements during WWII must acknowledge the important developments in the field of training.
It was not just scientists, mathematicians, and engineers that utilized math and science during WWII.
In conclusion, World War II was the first “high tech war,” if we define that modern phrase to mean a war fought with new technologies that were specifically invented for that particular war.
The fields of science and math and the technology that their study produces is not restricted to any one country or side in a war. Search LEARN NC for more resources on World War II, atomic bomb, food, mathematics, medicine, military, science, and technology. LEARN NC, a program of the UNC School of Education, finds the most innovative and successful practices in K-12 education and makes them available to the teachers and students of North Carolina - and the world. YAYAs organize their communities in support of farm workers, educating people and institutions about the conditions facing farm workers and mobilizing them to support their campaigns for justice.
YAYAs organize and participate in a diverse array of activities, such as letter writing campaigns, peaceful marches, lobbying,and awareness events. Every summer, when my family made our annual trip to North Georgia from South Florida, my mom insisted on stopping at the peach orchards and loading down the car with bushels of peaches.
Grilled peach slices on arugula salad with goat cheese, pecans and white balsamic vinaigrette.
When shopping for fresh peaches, choose peaches that are on the firmer side-they travel better- and allow them to ripen in a paper bag at room temperature.
By allowing people to “see” remotely, at very long distances, radar made the idea of “surprise attack” virtually obsolete and vastly enlarged the arena of modern warfare (today’s radars can see potential attackers from thousands of miles away).
Radar signals could also be used for navigation, as a ship or airplane could measure its distance from several radar beacons to “triangulate” its position. Meteorologists, for example, could track storms with this new technology—a crucial skill to have when planning major military operations like D-Day. Penicillin was not invented during the war, but it was first mass produced during the war, the key to making it available to millions of people (during World War II it was mostly used to treat the venereal diseases gonorrhea and syphilis, which had been the scourge of armies for thousands of years). Medicines against tropical diseases like malaria also became critical for the United States to fight in tropical climates like the South Pacific.
The look and feel of 1950s America – a “modern” world of molded plywood furniture, fiberglass, plastics, and polyester – had its roots in the materials innovations of World War II.
In the United States, scientists worked to identify which vitamins and minerals were most essential to a healthy body and in what amounts.
In a pioneering effort, the United States mobilized a massive cadre of scientists, engineers, and industrial plants.
But without the huge commitment of resources that the American government offered its scientists, they barely got out of the starting gate.
Before the war, scientists were professors who ran small laboratories with students, with small amounts of money. It was one thing to design and build thousands of new, high-tech weapons and produce wondrous new medicines, but without people trained to use them, they would be worthless.
Early in the war, some British scientists recognized that a great deal of effort was being put into making new weapons (what they called “developmental research”), but not very much scientific thinking was going into how to use them in complex, real-world military operations (hence “operations research”).
Average soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines were regularly called upon to use math and science skills, often newly learned, to accomplish their missions. Cooking meals for thousands of men meant using math to formulate amounts of ingredients, determine cooking time, and appropriately plan an effective schedule for getting meals out on time.
The Nazi Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews and millions of other people “undesirable” to the German state were murdered, ranks as one of the foulest crimes in human history. The atomic bombs were but the most visible of thousands of small inventions, from materials in the home to training films to new ways of seeing the enemy that contributed to the war effort.
Central Florida Earth Day will draw both committed environmentalists and those who want to learn more about how to protect our health, the planet, and its inhabitants.


Through our work, we build relationships with farm worker groups as well as leadership within our own organization. As a huge fan of this fruit and a resident of the Peach State, I think it’s fitting to devote at least a blog post to this decadent summer treat. We all thought she was crazy, but no one complained when we were enjoying sweet, juicy peaches for weeks after we returned. My current favorite breakfast is Atlanta Fresh ginger peach Greek yogurt, sliced fresh peaches and ginger granola.
For a quick, easy and healthy version of this summer favorite, simply slice a few peaches, drizzle with a touch of honey, top with your favorite granola and bake at 350 until warm and bubbly. The V-1 or “buzz bomb” was an automatic aircraft (today known as a “cruise missile”) and the V-2 was a “ballistic missile” that flew into space before falling down on its target (both were rained on London during 1944-45, killing thousands of civilians). Radar allowed nations to track incoming air attacks, guided bombers to their targets, and directed anti-aircraft guns toward airplanes flying high above.
A system for radar navigation, called LORAN (long-range navigation) was the precursor to today’s satellite-based GPS technology. When weapons designers discovered a way to place tiny radar sets onto artillery shells, the proximity fuse was invented. Pesticides like DDT played a critical role in killing mosquitoes (although the environmental impacts of DDT would last a long time; a famous book about DDT, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), would help found the modern environmental movement). Companies manufacturing consumer goods (such as silverware) converted to manufacture military goods (such as surgical instruments). Studies were conducted to determine how many calories were burned doing various activities.
The Atomic Bomb was like radar in that a small number of devices could make a major impact on military operations, so the new invention could have an effect before going into full scale mass production. Before the war scientists were looking into fundamental principles of the natural world, without much regard for practical applications, and they rarely attracted the attention of national governments.
New technologies – from moving pictures to new kinds of projectors and even simulators – allowed the military to train thousands of men and women quickly and efficiently (and formed the predecessors to modern technologies like PowerPoint presentations). A classic problem was hunting Nazi submarines in the Atlantic Ocean that were sinking Allied ships. Taking measurements for firing artillery weapons, reading maps and compasses, determining air speeds and altitudes, setting timers on fuses, these tasks and countless others required a fundamental understanding of many math and science rules. The average soldier may not have understood how an atom bomb worked—they didn’t need to know that—but for day-to-day operations, using math and science skills wisely could make a big difference on the battlefield.
The organization of this great war of invention had lasting effects, setting the stage for our “national innovation system” to this day – where the country employs the talents of scientists and engineers to help solve national problems.
Both sides poured national resources into developing new and better weapons, materials, techniques for training and fighting, improvements in transportation, medicine, nutrition, and communications. A chronic bacterial disease that is primarily contracted through sexual intercourse, although it can also be passed from the mother to the fetus. My appreciation for this fruit has only deepened with time, as I become a more adventurous cook and eater. While we are moving away from a focus on publishing, we know it’s important that educators have access to these kinds of resources.
The “rocket team” that developed these weapons for Germany were brought to the United States after World War II, settled in Huntsville, Alabama, under their leader Wernher von Braun, and then helped to build the rockets that sent American astronauts into space and to the moon. Researchers not only constructed the radars, but also devised countermeasures: during their bombing raids, Allied bombers dropped thousands of tiny strips of tinfoil, code-named “window” and “chaff” to jam enemy radar. The science and technology of blood transfusions were also perfected during World War II, as was aviation medicine, which allowed people (including us) to fly safely at high altitudes for long periods.
Proper food preparation, storage and handling, and preservation became a top priority for the military.
By contrast, most conventional weapons took so long to mass produce that if they were not at least on the drawing board when the war started they often arrived too late to impact the war.
During World War II, science became mobilized on a grand scale; many of these professors and their students dropped everything to work on war-related challenges and initiative.
At the end of the war, one frustrated Nazi general remarked that he and his fellow officers were not surprised that American industry could mobilize for war as quickly as it did. You only have so many airplanes, and they can only fly for so many miles before they need to refuel. More complicated operations, like navigating an airplane, ship, or submarine, interpreting radar signals, or even fixing a broken tank could require intense and sophisticated training. Nazi race “science” purported to show “scientifically” the superiority of the white “Aryan” race over all other peoples, complete with measurements, classifications, men in white coats, and fancy-sounding scientific theories (later shown to be completely false). Moreover, the inventions of World War II can be found in so much of our daily lives, from Saran wrap to computers and large-scale production and shipping of industrial products. Sweet, savory, fresh or cooked…the peach is a wonderfully versatile fruit, and an easy way to jazz up just about anything. Electronic computers were developed by the British for breaking the Nazi “Enigma” codes, and by the Americans for calculating ballistics and other battlefield equations. By the end of the war, proximity fuses had became a critical component in many anti-aircraft shells. Studies of night vision, supplemental oxygen, even crash helmets and safety belts emerged from aviation medicine. These industrial modifications required rapid and creative engineering, transportation, and communications solutions.


Soldiers’ rations were carefully formulated to supply the maximum amount of nutrition and energy, while providing for variety and taste. It is notable, however, that the speed with which new weapons systems came on-line, from the drawing board to the factory floor to the battlefield had never before been seen. What was surprising and ultimately a major element of Germany’s undoing was how quickly American industry and the American war machine could train its people. What is the best way to organize the search patterns for these airplanes to have the most likelihood of finding these submarines? When the Nazis formally decided to systematically murder the entire Jewish population of Europe (at the Wannsee conference in 1942), they carried out their malevolent ideas by applying industrial methods borrowed from factories—everything from assembly-line-type organization of killing factories to IBM-punch-card machines keeping track of every last detail. Even our education system, the very way we train people to use new technologies, finds some of its origins in World War II.
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That said, we’re directing our resources into our newest efforts, so we won’t be adding to the archive or updating its contents. Numerous small “computers”—from hand-held calculating tables made out of cardboard, to mechanical trajectory calculators, to some of the earliest electronic digital computers, could be found in everything from soldiers’ pockets to large command and control centers. Because of the need to put most resources into the war effort, consumers at home experienced shortages and rationing of many basic items such as rubber, gasoline, paper, and coffee (the country imposed a national “Victory” speed limit of 35 miles per hour to save wear on tires—natural rubber being in short supply since the Japanese had occupied much of Southeast Asia).
Meeting these challenges meant working first in the laboratory before working in the kitchen. In Hanford, Washington, the city was chosen for its 500,000 acres of isolated land bordering the Columbia River. The paradigm of these efforts was the “Manhattan Project” which put thousands of physicists together with Army-scaled logistics and designed, built, and manufactured the first atomic bombs.
Mathematicians got hold of this problem and formulated in mathematical terms, using statistics and probability, which were then solvable for optimal solutions. Sometimes it might seem lamentable that so much of our noblest energy – scientific and engineering creativity – goes into humanity’s most destructive activities. It is only when people apply their actions, desires, intentions to that science and math that they have an opportunity to use them for positive or negative purposes.
This means that as the North Carolina Standard Course of Study changes in the future, we won’t be re-aligning resources. Early control centers aboard ships and aircraft pioneered the networked, interactive computing that is so central to our lives today.
Other laboratories included the so-called “Radiation Laboratory” at MIT which developed radar. The new “science” of operations research—applying mathematical principles to flows of materials—was then used on a whole variety of wartime problems, from dropping bombs on enemy cities to calculating the flow of goods through a factory production line. Similarly, Nazi “high tech” weapons of new rockets and buzz bombs were used to attack civilians in a futile attempt to awe them into submission.
Each generation of humans can then examine those uses and decide for themselves as a society and as individuals if that science and math was used wisely or not.
Our full-text and tag searches should make it possible for you to find exactly what you need, regardless of standards alignment. Women’s skirts were made shorter to save material and bathing suits were made out of two pieces (these later became known as “bikinis,” named after an island in the Pacific where the army tested atomic weapons).
The “D” ration was a high-calorie emergency ration that came in the form of a fortified chocolate bar. Atomic weapons are so complicated, in terms of the physics, and so difficult to build, in terms of the technology, that two different types of weapons were built, to increase the chances of getting at least one of them right. Numerous other laboratories focused on everything from electronics to medical research to psychological testing. Similar techniques are used today in everything from scheduling airliners to running the “supply chain” at Wal-Mart. Had these technologies and techniques and the vast resources put into the Nazi death camps been used to actually fight the war, rather than simply for malicious acts of terror, the Nazis might have stood up more strongly to the U.S.
The 3M company felt compelled to run advertisements apologizing to homemakers for the scarcity of Scotch tape in stores across the country; available supplies of the product had been diverted to the front for the war effort. A three-portion package of these bars would provide a soldier with 1,800 calories of energy. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a uranium-type bomb, and the one dropped on Nagasaki used plutonium. By the end of the war, the atomic bomb made it clear that science had, in the words of one scientist, “lost its innocence” – that is it was now a critical tool of military power, and was given government money for research at many thousands of times the pre-war levels.
Scientists became advisors to presidents on the most pressing issues of national and foreign policy.
The Nazis proved that a “scientific” mindset could well be applied to methods that were themselves mad, but their “rational” approach was undone by their irrational rage. By the end of the war, millions of these rations had been produced in the United States and delivered around the world, along with billions of other rations for the military. Ever since World War II, the American government has mobilized science, mathematics, and engineering on a vast scale, whether in large government laboratories, by funding research in universities, or by purchasing high-tech products from companies in industry.



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