Wednesday, July 24, 2002

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Every evening, since July 13, with the exception of two nights (tonight being one of them), I have been reading The Making of the Atomic Bomb. This is a thrilling and compelling saga about the discovery of nuclear fission, and how that jump-started the building of the atomic bomb. I plan to write a more thorough review when I'm done (I'm on page 318; 470 pages to go).

But I must share the part that made me laugh out loud. I'm at the part of the book after President Hoover formed his Advisory Committee on Uranium. The nuclear scientists are meeting with the Navy and Army weapons "experts". During the lengthy discussion about how to harness a chain reaction into a bomb, the Army expert said, "In Aberdeen, we have a goat tethered to a stick with a ten-foot rope, and we have promised a big prize to anyone who can kill the goat with a death ray. Nobody has claimed the prize yet."

I burst out chuckling. How contemptuous! But can you blame him? To him, these scientists were dreamers! A chain reaction from atomic particles? What did that mean? Of course, we all know how it turned out.

This history of discovery is sure to be the best book I'll have read this year.

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