Category Archives: POWER

Discovery of the Atomic Nucleus

By 1899, scientific studies had established that matter is divided into char­acteristic atoms and that electrically charged components of these atoms can be ripped off and sent flying through a vacuum. These tiny, invisible components, later to be named electrons, behave as predicted by the mathematical models formulated by Maxwell and Faraday. The flight of an electron through the vacuum […]

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Atoms for Peace and Atoms for War

With the end of World War II, the furious push for nuclear development came to a sudden halt. The scientists, engineers, and technicians were tired, and as a group they experienced the depression that can come from the completion of a huge task and the unique dread of having built unusu­ally ferocious weapons. Many workers at Los Alamos, having performed […]

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A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES FROM ALBERT EINSTEIN

By 1939, the United States had acquired a large group of expatriate Euro­pean scientists, each associated with a university and engaged in research. All were unusually busy in the fast-breaking world of nuclear physics, exchanging papers, sharing experimental results, absorbing unsubstanti­ated rumors from Germany, and generally conspiring to somehow involve the government of their adopted country in large-scale nuclear research. […]

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ERNEST RUTHERFORD STARTS NAMiNG RAYS AND PARTiCLES

In 1898, Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), a scientifically talented young man from New Zealand, studied the radiations emitted from the elements ura­nium and thorium. Working at the Cavendish Laboratory of the Univer­sity of Cambridge, he found two distinct types of radiation, and he named them. The first seemed to have little range. It was easily stopped by air or by thin […]

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THE ATOMiC ENERGY ACT AND ATOMS FOR PEACE

The United States was not the only country with nuclear power ambitions. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, under the leadership of Stalin, built a new science city, Obninsk, 68 miles (110 km) southwest of the capi­tal, Moscow. On January 1, 1951, construction began in Obninsk on the AM-1 nuclear power station. It was not a highly innovative design, as […]

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THE REMOTE COLLABORATION OF OTTO HAHN (1879-1968) AND LISE MEITNER (1878-1968)

Otto Hahn was born in Frankfurt, Germany, the son of a prosperous gla­zier and property owner. He led a sheltered childhood, and at 15 he became interested in chemistry, performing experiments in the laundry room of the family home. Although his father wanted him to study architecture, Otto convinced him that industrial chemistry would be a better occupa­tion. He began […]

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THE NEED FOR SECRECY

With the U. S. formal engagement in World War II and the elevation of nuclear research to highest priority, secrecy of all aspects of the project became absolute. First, no physicist could publish papers having to do with nuclear fission, so as not to reveal to external governments that bomb research was proceeding. The sudden stoppage of any nuclear publications […]

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THE ENERGY RELEASED BY RADiOACTiVE DECAY

In 1903, Rutherford collaborated with Frederick Soddy to write an impor­tant paper, “Radioactive Change.” In this work they offered the first exper­imentally verified calculations of the energy released from an atom due to radioactive decay. The power involved in the transmutation of radioactive elements was astounding. They had found that the energy released by the decay of one gram of […]

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