Plutonium: A History of the World's Most Dangerous Element

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9780801475177: Plutonium: A History of the World's Most Dangerous Element

When plutonium was first manufactured at Berkeley in the spring of 1941, there was so little of it that it was not visible to the naked eye. It took a year to accumulate enough so that one could actually see it. Now so much has been produced that we don't know what to do to get rid of it. We have created a monster.

The history of plutonium is as strange as the element itself. When scientists began looking for it, they did so simply in the spirit of inquiry, not certain whether there were still spots to fill on the periodic table. But the discovery of fission made it clear that this still-hypothetical element would be more than just a scientific curiosity―it could be the main ingredient of a powerful nuclear weapon. As it turned out, it is good for almost nothing else. Plutonium's nuclear potential put it at the heart of the World War II arms race―the Russians found out about it through espionage, the Germans through independent research, and everybody wanted some. Now it is warehoused around the world―the United States alone possesses about forty-seven metric tons―but it has almost no practical use outside its role in nuclear weaponry. How did the product of scientific curiosity become such a dangerous burden?

In his history of this complex and dangerous element, noted physicist Jeremy Bernstein describes the steps that were taken to transform plutonium from a laboratory novelty into the nuclear weapon that destroyed Nagasaki. This is the first book to weave together the many strands of plutonium's story, explaining not only the science but also the people involved.

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From the Back Cover:

"None of Jeremy Bernstein's devoted New Yorker readers were surprised that he brought J. Robert Oppenheimer to life in his compelling biography, Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma. But bringing plutonium to life-making the 94th element as interesting as 'the father of the atomic bomb'-is science writing that borders on literary magic."-Martin J. Sherwin, coauthor of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

About the Author:

Jeremy Bernstein was a staff writer at the New Yorker for thirty-five years and is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Stevens Institute of Technology. His books include Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma.

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Descrizione libro Cornell University Press, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. When plutonium was first manufactured at Berkeley in the spring of 1941, there was so little of it that it was not visible to the naked eye. It took a year to accumulate enough so that one could actually see it. Now so much has been produced that we don t know what to do to get rid of it. We have created a monster. The history of plutonium is as strange as the element itself. When scientists began looking for it, they did so simply in the spirit of inquiry, not certain whether there were still spots to fill on the periodic table. But the discovery of fission made it clear that this still-hypothetical element would be more than just a scientific curiosity--it could be the main ingredient of a powerful nuclear weapon. As it turned out, it is good for almost nothing else. Plutonium s nuclear potential put it at the heart of the World War II arms race--the Russians found out about it through espionage, the Germans through independent research, and everybody wanted some. Now it is warehoused around the world--the United States alone possesses about forty-seven metric tons--but it has almost no practical use outside its role in nuclear weaponry. How did the product of scientific curiosity become such a dangerous burden? In his history of this complex and dangerous element, noted physicist Jeremy Bernstein describes the steps that were taken to transform plutonium from a laboratory novelty into the nuclear weapon that destroyed Nagasaki. This is the first book to weave together the many strands of plutonium s story, explaining not only the science but also the people involved. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780801475177

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Jeremy Bernstein
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ISBN 10: 0801475171 ISBN 13: 9780801475177
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Descrizione libro Cornell University Press, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. When plutonium was first manufactured at Berkeley in the spring of 1941, there was so little of it that it was not visible to the naked eye. It took a year to accumulate enough so that one could actually see it. Now so much has been produced that we don t know what to do to get rid of it. We have created a monster. The history of plutonium is as strange as the element itself. When scientists began looking for it, they did so simply in the spirit of inquiry, not certain whether there were still spots to fill on the periodic table. But the discovery of fission made it clear that this still-hypothetical element would be more than just a scientific curiosity--it could be the main ingredient of a powerful nuclear weapon. As it turned out, it is good for almost nothing else. Plutonium s nuclear potential put it at the heart of the World War II arms race--the Russians found out about it through espionage, the Germans through independent research, and everybody wanted some. Now it is warehoused around the world--the United States alone possesses about forty-seven metric tons--but it has almost no practical use outside its role in nuclear weaponry. How did the product of scientific curiosity become such a dangerous burden? In his history of this complex and dangerous element, noted physicist Jeremy Bernstein describes the steps that were taken to transform plutonium from a laboratory novelty into the nuclear weapon that destroyed Nagasaki. This is the first book to weave together the many strands of plutonium s story, explaining not only the science but also the people involved. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780801475177

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